There is a story he remembers reading once - a Greek myth. After the gods defeated the Titans, they imprisoned or punished them all. Atlas, one of their generals, was sent to the edge of the world to hold the sky and the earth apart. He can never leave, never stop unless his burden is taken on by another. Hercules did it once, providing a moment’s rest, but the sky was given back to Atlas, his burden to carry for eternity.
Oliver feels like Atlas.
Sometimes he wonders if prison would be better than this weight he carries. Felicity was reading a book series recently about Greek mythology, and she’d told him about some of the gods and monsters.
“Y’know, a lot of people think Hades is the god of death, but he’s actually the god of wealth and underground places, the Underworld specifically. Thanatos is the actual personification of death.”
Sometimes he wonders why Death seems to follow him like a shadow.
“The Greeks even came up with the idea of Tartarus - this giant pit of evil, the origin point for all monsters and the prison of the Titans. It’s filled with horrible stuff - it’s like a whole new level of hell.”
He’s been there. He doesn’t think she realizes how personal this is getting, but it’s ok. She’s just talking, spilling her thoughts out loud, and he’s just glad she trusts him to listen.
“It’s an awful place - why would this author even send his characters there? It’s kinda cruel.”
She keeps talking. He learns about Akhlys, or Misery, whose face was on Hercules’ shield.
“It’s Heracles, Oliver, Hercules was his later Roman name.”
He learns about the Erinyes, spirits of vengeance known often as the Furies, and the Arai, spirits of curses. He wonders how many curses follow him.
“Oliver? You listening?”
He’s drawn out of his thoughts, his burden blurring to the background when he focuses on her face.
“Have you heard the story of Atlas?”
“I have, actually.”
He knows it all too well.
“You remind me of Atlas sometimes. Not the evil-Titan-trying-to-overthrow-the-gods bit, but the punishment. Holding up the sky at the edge of the earth. You’ve got your own weight to carry. And I know you think you have to carry it alone, but you don’t. You have us - you have me.”
He knows. It makes the weight of the sky just a little bit lighter, and maybe he can see a few more stars.