Meet Cute #10: Zeus and Hera

I had a crush on my older sister the first time I saw her. I know it’s creepy. But creepy is relative when you consider that I had to cut her from my father’s stomach along with four of my other siblings.

So if there’s a real perv in this story, it’s Dad, not me. The guy swallowed his kids.

According to Mom, Dad had always been real paranoid about one of his kids overthrowing him as king of the universe. There’d been a prophecy: Just as he, Kronos, had usurped his father, the great surveyor of the sky Uranus, so one of his own children would usurp him, etc. etc.

So his solution was to snack on each of his kids as soon as Mom gave birth. This pretty little scene was played out first with my oldest sisters Demeter and Hestia, then Hera and Hades and Poseidon.

By the time I came along, Mom finally got wise.

She couldn’t hide her pregnancy from Dad, because she was Rhea, Earth Mother — not exactly the type who could keep a pregnancy invisible. So what she did instead was tuck me away in a cave on sun-drenched Crete, not too far from their house.

To trick Dad, she gave him a big stone wrapped in swaddling.

Dad was a busy guy, what with ruling the universe and all, so he just gulped fake-me down without asking any questions. I guess after eating five kids, the whole ritual had become pretty routine.

I lived in my cave until I came of age. That cave was a real trip. My nursemaid was a half-goat, half-lady named Amalthea. She was a bohemian type — wore her funky goat hair in a big bun on top of her head. She was constantly throwing parties where she’d invite over this band of male dancers called The Kuretes.

No, not that kind of male dancer.

The Kuretes were holy and worshipful male dancers, and dressed in gold armor. They’d get drunk and sing loud songs, and dance these jerky, spastic moves all over the cave for hours at a time. Later I found out they were part of a cult that worshipped Mom. She’d asked them to hang around in the cave and make noise so Dad wouldn’t hear me crying or talking.

When I came of age — which back then meant about 14 — Mom came to the cave and asked The Kuretes to can it for a few minutes. She pulled me aside.

“Zeus,” she said, “you have five brothers and sisters. Your father ate them. I want you to free them from his stomach.”

She never was one to mince words.

“Ma,” I said. “How do you know they’re still alive?”

“Because they’re gods, silly. Immortal, like you.”

“Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”

“And also,” she went on, “because your father’s stomach has gotten really big and I can see stuff moving around in it. He has stomach aches all the time.”

“Yuck, Mom. Why do I have to do it?”

She stared at me: Another dumb question. “To prove your heroism and manliness, of course. And your loyalty to your mother.”

Mom scrammed, and Amalthea and I stirred up a potion of mustard water. Or actually I did the stirring; Amalthea smashed the seeds with her goat hooves. The idea was that we’d make Dad throw up. Nice and easy, minimal bloodshed.

The Kuretes danced around and sang a dumb song about the long-delayed “liberation of the Olympian progeny.”

“Could you give us a few minutes’ peace?” I asked.

But they made that into a song, too:

A few minutes’ peace, bless’d son of Rhea requests

A few minutes’ peace to free what his father ingests…

They really were insufferable.

When I had my potion ready, I left the cave disguised as a medicine man’s apprentice. I wore a red tunic and carried a sack of little bottles and pots — fake remedies.

When I arrived at Mom and Dad’s castle a mile or so away, I knocked on the door and Mom answered.

“You call this heroism?” she said, casting a disapproving glance at my costume.

“Ma? Dad’s master of the universe, and I’m 14. Cut me some slack.”

She ushered me into his bedchamber. Dad was in bed, holding his stomach and moaning. It was the first time I’d seen him. He was an ugly guy: Nose like a big purple eggplant, gaping mouth, snakes for hair.

He barely gave me a second look as he took my potion and gulped it down.

What happened next wasn’t pretty.

There was a huge explosion, a geyser of cosmic gunk erupting from the bed. It splattered the ceiling and spattered the walls.

But when the gory shower tapered off, there — standing before me — were the naked figures of my brothers Poseidon and Hades. They were youngest siblings aside from me, so they’d been first regurgitated.

They gave each other a high five. Mom told them to run, pushing them out the door.

Dad continued to writhe for a few more seconds, but his moaning lessened and he sat up. Getting rid of those first two kids must have made him feel better.

He fixed me with a murderous glare. “Rhea!” he bellowed to Mom. “Who is this child?”

That’s when he lunged for me, taking a swipe with his table-size hand. I just barely managed to step back far enough to avoid his yellow talons. I pressed myself against the wall, quivering.

“Zeus!” Mom yelled. “The axe, behind you!”

I turned my head and saw, mounted on the wall, a giant iron axe. I reached up and tore it down, surprised at my own strength. I heard myself chanting one of The Kuretes’ favorite songs, “Rhea Earth Goddess Whose Children Shall Inherit the Earth.”

Dad’s voice was like thunder. “Rhea! You’ve betrayed me!”

He reared back and was ready to take another giant swipe.

“His stomach!” Mom yelled. “Aim for his stomach!”

I ducked at just the right moment, evading his talons once more. As his arm withdrew, I had a clear view of his distended stomach. I could see the angles of limbs beneath the skin and even, for a fleeting moment, the contours of a face.

Wild with fear and adrenaline, I swung the axe toward his belly. There was a great gush of blood and guts. His screams were ear-splitting.

Roaring, he fumbled with the two flaps of skin that had once been his belly, trying to purse them back together. But it was no use. My three sisters elbowed and clawed their way out. First Demeter, then Hestia, and finally…


Even covered with entrails and gore, she was beautiful. She was probably three or four years older than me, with full, pink breasts and a heavenly sweep to her hips.

I stood gaping at her until Dad — wounded but more nimble now that he was liberated of his burden — stood up. His whole body was red with blood. The mouths of his snake-hairs spurted venom.

“Let’s go, dork!” Hera said. “Out the window!”

Mom and my two other sisters were nowhere to be seen. I hoped they’d fled, but for all I knew they were cowering in a corner somewhere, trapped, doomed to meet Dad’s wrath.

Dad stumbled toward us.

“But — what about Mom and the other girls?” I asked. “Shouldn’t we –”

Hera shoved me in the chest and I tripped backwards. “Window, dork!” she cried. “I’ve only just met you, and already you’re worried about other women?”

All at once we were falling backwards, out the window and through the sky. And I had no fear because I was immortal and this beautiful girl squished in my arms.

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