"Come in?" he said

"Hi, I'm just making a coffee, do you want one?" said his wife.

In some houses built in the 1930's, there is a mail slot, in an otherwise strong front door, made of sturdy thick oak panels.

Nowadays, everyone wants a steel door, or at least a steel-clad door, some are so paranoid as to insist that there be no "front door" at all, but everyone should emerge through the kitchen. But this was one of these.

I was engaged in certain studies in the days following the Age of Greed, that is the late Nineteen Eighties, and the more I try to recount them, the more downright gothic it got: I lived in the home of my dead grandmother, reading tomes of math, odd bits and pieces of Medieval Literature, and science fiction, every evening until it was light. Often I'd listen to the local college stations, which tended towards playing free-form jazz, oddments of classical, the more extreme punk, new wave, and art rock, mostly stoned out of my gourd. My only companion was a cat, Elephi Pelephi, whom I'd named for a semi-famous shop cat from Greenwich Village in the early 60's, a Hemingway with a fine suit of formal clothes. Oh, yes, and did I mention that the house was haunted, according to my mother? Uh-huh. And my grandmother had just died.

In other words, I was in the right state to replicate The Raven, or any halfway-Poelike scenario...it was about 3AM, and I hear the knock.

Look, it doesn't sound like a human knock, somehow, and my blood is running cold. Most people know me as the town witch, anyway. Is it the cops, the just-dumb-enough-to-think-I'm killing children family a few houses down, or what?

I screw my courage to the sticking place and walk over to the door.

"Hi, Elephi!"

The last man in the universe was alone in his room. There was a knock at the door.

Cheerfully, Zachary Adams finished setting up the snack table and went to answer it.

"Hey, Zack," said a rather large gentleman with a bright red beard. "I brought the chips."

"Hey, Thor. Go ahead and set them on the table over there. The others should be coming in any minute."

Briefly Zach wondered if he'd forgotten anything. The floor was vacuumed, a wide variety of snacks were available, the games were ready-Had he flossed his teeth? He couldn't remember.

"What do I do with this?" said Thor, holding up his hammer.

"Oh, just put it in the umbrella stand, if you don't mind." Zach was heading for the bathroom when there was another knock.

Trying to smile without actually showing off his teeth, he answered.

"Hestia! So glad you could make it."

The woman at the door smiled and gave him a hug. "How are you, dear?"

"Pretty good, pretty good." He closed the door. "Thor's already here. Wasn't Hades coming too-"

Another knock. "Oh, sorry." He opened it, revealing an obscenely tall gentleman with the face of an owl. "Hi, Horus. Oh, Horus, this is Hestia. Hestia, Horus. I'm sure you'll have loads to talk about-"

Another knock. This time there were two people, a man and woman. The man personified the word somber, from the solemn look on his face to the way his skin was very nearly tinted gray. The woman, on the other hand, seemed to radiate vibrant life.

The man held up a couple six-packs. "I brought booze. Dio won't be making it, and he wanted to make sure we all got properly drunk."

"Hades, Persephone! Great seeing you both. Oh, Thor, come here a sec. Hades, Persephone, Thor. Thor, Hades and Persephone."

Another knock.

And so it went. Odin, Shu, Indra and both Jupiter and Zeus, all showed up fashionably late (with the latter two getting into in a rather strange looking fight over who copied who. Balder had to go in and settle them down before people started hurling lightning). The Norns, The Moirae and the Parcae, all of which spent the rest of the evening getting messily drunk with their counterparts and exchanging stories about things that hadn't happened yet.

The party was already in full swing when Azrael arrived.

"Hey, Azzy. How's it going?"

"Slow," he said grumpily. He pulled down his black hood and put his scythe in the umbrella stand next to the various swords and things already inside.

Zach grinned. "Sorry about that, but hey? What can I say?"

They walked into the den together, where a small crowd was gathered around the TV. Thor was powering the Xbox, and everyone was arguing about what game they should play. Every so often, one of them would look up to see if he was still there. When they saw he was, they nodded to themselves and went back to what they were doing.

They needed him. They all did. They needed belief to live, and as of right then, he was the only one left on the planet who could give it to them.

He smiled, watching them all squabble like children. They were almost as good as people, he thought.

There was a knock at the door. Still smiling, he went to answer.

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