Those who know Roman mythology will remember that January is named for the god Janus, patron of beginnings and endings. Here’s a story I wrote some time ago about the shenanigans he might get up to today.
It’s essential to have the right one in charge.
An earlier version of this story appeared on the Reedsy Prompts page.
“Hey, Janus, you got a minute?”
The two-faced god didn’t bother turning around to regard the being who’d just tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hi, Chronos,” he said with his back face, “isn’t that a stupid question for you to ask? After all, you’re the titan responsible for the flow of time, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, Janus, I’ve got all the time in the world. I was asking if you had any.”
Janus considered this with both halves of his self. Even though he was the god of liars and tricksters, a job he hated, by the way, he was still honest with himself. To be anything else would be just plain stupid.
“Okay, Chronos, I’ve got time for you. What do you want? Need someone to lie for you?”
The titan shook his head.
“No. I need you as the god of beginnings, endings, and transitions.”
“I’m intrigued,” Janus replied. “Do you have anything special in mind?”
“I do. The year is coming to an end, and I’ve been assigned the job of organising the New Year’s party.” He held up his hand to forestall any comments. “Yes, I know Zeus usually gets Hermes and Athena to run it, but he’s decided I should take on more responsibilities.”
He grimaced again.
“I know my son doesn’t think much of me since I tried to eat him, but I’m not that useless. I mean, I’m the one that ensures time flows correctly from the future to the past. But ever since that annoying human One Stone put out his Relationship Assumptions, I’ve been getting everything confused. Time is slower in some places than others; twins aren’t the same age. Utter nonsense, I say.”
“I think that’s Einstein and Relativity Theories, Chronos,” Janus pointed out in a gentle voice.
He usually used this tone when getting someone to do something they didn’t want to. In this case, it was trying to get Chronos to see he was, maybe just a little, over the hill. Having been around since before time began, Chronos was one of the oldest beings in the universe and tending towards senility and confusion.
Mind you, all this particle/wave gibberish of the modern world was getting him, Janus, into all sorts of trouble as the god of dualities, too.
He gave a sigh, knowing there was little he could do to avoid the job.
“What exactly do you want me to do, Chronos?” he asked.
Organising the party took a lot of work, even using the godly powers of Chronos and himself.
There were so many items to be gathered together, some of which came from ages long gone and others from eras yet to come (or not, depending on what the stupid humans chose to do).
Janus had Chronos chasing up and down the timestream like a frenetic minnow.
The day came when, finally, everything was ready. The party favours (young women for Zeus and young men for Hera, for instance), the prizes for various games (carefully chosen because Chronos already knew who would win), and ridiculous hats for everybody to wear.
And still three days to go until New Year.
Janus had a couple of extra jobs he wanted to do that didn’t need any assistance from Chronos, so he told him to take some time off and relax. Those tasks could only be done in the dead of night when all good folk (and gods) are in bed.
When the party began, all the gods and demigods were there, no matter which pantheon they represented.
Bacchus and Dionysus (considered by many to be the same god) had met up with Radegast, Liu Ling and Silenus, in fact, all the gods of booze and drunkenness. The group had started their quaffing contest early on, and they were already plastered.
In another corner, Aphrodite, Astarte, Freya, Ishtar, and the rest of the love goddesses looked about ready to start a catfight as to who was the most beautiful. Eros and Cupid were busy trying to calm things down, with little success.
In a darkened alcove, Hades, the Morrigan, Pluto and Hel sat together, commiserating with one another because, after all, who wants to talk to a Death God or Goddess. Cerberus and the Daughters of Garm fought over a pile of human bones at their feet.
Janus gazed around with approval. His planning had been exact, despite the quantum problems associated with the actions of gods and men, and it looked as if everything was going the way he wanted.
A fight broke out between Ares, Mars, Tyr and Set, and it took all the Valkyries to pull them apart again.
Janus shook his head.
Isn’t that just typical of war gods? he thought.
He just hoped it hadn’t flowed out into reality because then the chief gods would have to take notice and sort things out. It wasn’t time for that. Not yet.
Loki sidled up to him.
“Fancy having a bit of fun and upsetting some of the bosses?” he suggested.
“What do you have in mind, Loki?”
“I dunno. Maybe spike their drinks with regurgitant?” He nodded towards the drinking circle, who were all down on their elbows, staring with bleary eyes at the rest of the party.
Janus gave him a thin-lipped smile.
“I reckon, in a quarter of an hour max, you won’t need to bother. They’re almost ready to, anyway.”
Loki took a closer look.
“You’re right,” he conceded. “Or how about we cast a couple of ugliness spells over the love goddesses? That could put the cat among the pigeons, wouldn’t it?”
Just then, Venus tried to slap Freya in the face, but the goddess pulled her head back just enough for the blow to miss entirely.
Instead, it landed on Eros’ backside, just as he was trying to stop Aphrodite from pulling someone else’s hair. It knocked him forwards into his mother, who flailed around and accidentally punched Ishtar in the mouth.
In a second, the predicted catfight had broken out. Shapely limbs belonging to various goddesses were flying, and hair started to come out at the roots. More than one female deity found herself deshabillé, much to the interest of the satyrs and fauns, as well as Pan and Priapus, who gathered around to watch.
Zeus threw a disgusted glance to Odin and Hera as if to say, “Here we go again!” He disentangled himself from the beautiful ex-mortals he’d been cuddling, Marylin somebody or other and a brunette he hadn’t bothered to remember the name of. Hera dropped the hands of the Adonis she’d been sharing her couch with, which she’d been holding while staring into his beautiful eyes.
Odin heaved himself from his chair, nearly knocking over his cup of mead made from Kvasir’s blood, causing his two ravens to leap into the air from his shoulders, squawking in protest.
“Too late,” Janus said to Loki, “It’s already begun.”
He started forward to help sort everything out.
The fight spread as the spouses, lovers, and other deities associated with the battling goddesses got involved. At first, they tried to separate them, but all too soon, they were hitting one another instead. It was a general punch-up within a minute, just like every year.
Loki shrugged his shoulders and was about to leave when a sharp word from Odin told him to get involved. He leapt in and grabbed Thor’s upper arm as he tried to pull him back from where he was throttling Lugh, another thunder god. Instead, he found himself being flung around as Thor started punching his opponent.
As he stood at the edges of the melée, Janus saw with his back face a couple of mortals had sneaked in and were taking something lying beside Zeus’s seat. From the glimmer shining out from under the cloth they used to conceal it, he decided they were stealing some of his lightning bolts. It might be weeks before Zeus discovered they were missing.
He gave them a brief nod as they looked at him, and they nodded back. They’d make a pretty penny when they sold them to some of the scientists who still believed in the gods. And who knew what the technologists might make of their booty. Some kind of energy sword, perhaps?
Eventually, the fighting ended, and everybody broke apart, sporting black eyes, bruises, bloody noses, and a variety of contusions and bite wounds. They all looked embarrassed as they slunk back to their diverse homes.
Janus helped Chronos with the tidying up.
It was all going according to plan.
People often forget Janus is the god of thieves, too…!