Liril draws a picture in crayon. It looks like a person. But it has no neck. It has no real torso. It has no arms. She hangs it on the refrigerator.
“Who’s that?” Micah asks.
“It’s a picture of you, ” she says. “See? Micah!”
He snorts. “I have a neck, ” he says. “I have a torso. I have arms.” He takes the picture down. He draws them in. “See?”
Liril sighs. “It’s a better picture, ” she says. “But it’s not Micah any more. You should chop it up into little bits and feed it to demons.”
“It’s good art,” he says.
“It’s wonderful,” she says. “But it doesn’t have a soul.”
“Can’t one have both a soul and a neck?”
Liril frowns dubiously. “I guess.” She brightens. “It’s sunny. I’m going to go outside and play.”
“I am going to make finger sandwiches and tea,” Micah says.
Liril goes outside. She plays near the front door. A car pulls up. She watches it. Three men get out. They’re wearing suits. They have sunglasses. They walk up to the door.
“I can see what’s inside you,” she says quietly. “You’re not people.”
One of them turns to her. His name tag reads “Anakopto.” Below that, it says, “Cessation.”
“Stop,” he says.
She stops. She does not move. She stands there, frozen, as they enter her house.
Micah’s in the kitchen. He’s making finger sandwiches and tea. He does not seem surprised when the three things enter the house.
“Michael,” they say.
He turns. “Would you like sandwiches?” he says. “Or tea?”
Anakopto blinks. Then he smiles. “How gracious,” he says. “What a well-behaved child.”
“I’ll bring them out,” Micah says. “One moment.”
They sit down. Micah brings out the sandwiches. He brings out the tea. They eat. They drink. Micah looks at their name tags.
“Arpazo, Anakopto, Kyrievo,” he says. “Collection, Cessation, and Love. Would it be rude if I said that these do not match?”
Kyrievo smiles at him. Micah’s face goes white and his teeth grit together.
“Child,” Arpazo says. “Michael. Tell us a story while we eat. Then we must take you back.”
“I’ll tell you of the House of Atreus,” he says. “It begins with Tantalus. The gods came to his house to feast. To test their omniscience, he served them his own son, Pelops.”
Arpazo regards his sandwich.
“It’s tuna,” Micah says. “It doesn’t have my son in it. I’m pre-pubescent.”
Arpazo takes another bite. “Good,” he agrees. “I should not like it if you played tricks on us, Michael.”
“I’m surprised,” Micah says. “I’d think you’d know the taste of Tantalus’ meal.”
“We are nearly gods,” Kyrievo says. Again, as he speaks, Micah’s face whitens. “But,” Kyrievo finishes, “we are not gods yet.”
“The gods restored Pelops to life, and punished Tantalus to live without meat or drink in the land of greatest plenty. Pelops chose Hippodamia for his wife, and, to claim her, murdered her father. They had two sons, Thyestes and Atreus. Atreus took the throne of Mycenae, so Thyestes seduced his wife, stole his golden fleece, and fled.”
Anakopto finishes his sandwich. He drains his tea. He sets down his tea. He looks up. “Stop.”
Micah stops, midword.
“Do you know why we are taking you, and not the girl?” he asks.
“I’m the one who defies you.”
“Yes,” agrees Arpazo.
“Could I have a nametag with that?” Micah asks. “Micah. Defiant?”
“The problem, Michael, is that you have no power to do so. I hold out my hand, and you stumble towards me. Anakopto speaks, and you stop. And Kyrievo—you love him, do you not?”
“More than I’d expected,” Micah says. It’s a minimal answer.
“You understand what must be done. Come outside. Get in the car. We’ll take you home.”
“Why do you call me Michael?” Micah asks.
“In renaming you,” Anakopto says, “we remake you.”
“I see,” Micah says.
The four of them rise; and Arpazo, Anakopto, and Kyrievo proceed to the car; and they drive away; and after a time, Liril recovers herself, and enters, and sees Micah slumped upon the floor.
“Micah!” she says.
He looks up.
“What happened?” she asks.
“I chopped up the picture,” he says, “and fed it to demons.”
“Oh,” she says.
“I think its name was Michael.”
“You’re ruthless,” she says, and goes to look out the window.
In the car, on the road, Anakopto asks, “What happened to Thyestes?”
There’s a shape huddled in the back seat. He’s indistinct. His name is Michael. “Thyestes returned home, thinking himself forgiven, and Atreus ordered Thyestes’ children slain, and fed them to his brother on the welcoming feast.”
“Ah,” Anakopto says.
“Stop,” Michael says, and Anakopto’s hands freeze on the wheel, and the car drives into a mountain, and is still.
In the living room, Liril helps Micah up. There’s a salt scent in the air, but they do not know its reasons.
“I feel sorry for him,” Liril says.
“He was just someone they made up with their expectations,” Micah says. “He was what the monster would want me to be. He probably won’t even manifest outside their heads.”
Liril folds a paper crane. She writes “Michael” on its wings. She takes it to the window.
“Go,” she says. “Be his soul. Help him be more. Help him get free.”
She looks at Micah. He scowls at her. He looks away.
“Do it,” he says.
She throws the crane into the wind; and for a moment, the wind catches it; and then it falls to the garden, to the footprint of Arpazo in the flowers and the grass.
“See?” Micah says.
Liril stands on her tiptoes and looks out the window at the crane. Then she shrugs, and turns away.