It was silent in the glen, the kind of deep, almost hollow silence that makes the stillness of space sound as loud as a set of bagpipes broadcast through a vuvuzela.
Echo liked it that way. It gave her less work to do.
Suddenly, and to her horror, she heard a voice say “Hello?”
“Hello?” she replied, having little option. Anytime you think that your job is dull, try imagining hers.
A woman was walking towards her. She was incredibly beautiful, and clad in a long white gown tied with a golden belt, with one shoulder bare. She didn’t actually have “I am a Goddess” written on her forehead, but she might as well have had.
There was silence for a while. Echo, to whom the phrase “don’t speak until you’re spoken to” was more than just advice from her mother, waited patiently.
“I am Thethalonika,” said the woman eventually. “Goddeth of Lithpth.”
Echo sighed, and took a deep breath. “I am –“ she began.
“We don’t have to keep that up,” said Thessalonika, “since there are no humans around. You can stop behaving like a budgie, and I don’t have to sound like Harry Potter speaking parseltongue.”
“Fine,” said Echo. “Why are you here?”
“Aphrodite sent me,” said Thessalonika. “I’m here because of your boyfriend.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” muttered Thessalonika. “Anyway,” she continued, “we saw how he dumped you, being more in love with himself, and how you pined away here until only your voice was left.”
“And what do you think?” asked Echo.
“Frankly, we think you’re a bit of a wimp,” said Thessalonika, “but sisterhood must stick together, blah, blah, et cetera, so we’ve decided to get him back for you.”
“Good luck with that,” said Echo. “He sits by the pool all day, staring adoringly at his own reflection. It’s the perfect relationship, really – they’ll laugh at the same things, grow old together, and his reflection will never argue with him. I can’t compete with it.”
“Says the girl who repeats everything anyone says,” said Thessalonika. “Anyway, we’ve an idea. Come with me.”
They went through the woods and emerged at the pool. Narcissus was facing away from them, kneeling on all fours and gazing lovingly down at himself.
“Wow,” said Thessalonika. “Nice arse.”
“Nice arse?” said Echo furiously. “And that wasn’t echoing, by the way, that was ‘that’s-my-boyfriend-so-butt-out-admiring-his-butt’-ing”.
“Sorry,” said Thessalonika. “Anyway, watch this.” She took a round stone and skimmed it across the pool. Eventually its journey ended, and a widening circle of ripples spread from where it softly sank.
The ripples slowly reached the reflection, and on reflection, though a different sort, it is surprising that this had never happened before, that raindrops, or wind, or Zeus landing as a shower of swans, had never disturbed the tranquillity of the water’s surface.
Perhaps that was why the effect was so powerful. Narcissus cried out in horror as the face in front of him suddenly distorted, as if it had just tried to eat a wasabi-and-grapefruit yogurt. He stood and backed away from the pool, and with the spell of his self-absorption broken, Echo slowly re-materialised.
Narcissus turned and saw her there – seeing and truly noticing, as if for the first time, the beauty of her face, the radiance of her smile, and, because he was as shallow as the pool, the size of her boobs.
“Echo,” he said. “I’ve missed you.”
Echo looked at him – seeing and truly noticing, as if for the first time, their likely future – their house like a Hall of Mirrors, his anguished cries at his first grey hair, his hiding indoors if he developed a zit.
“Get stuffed,” she said.
“Get stuffed?” he echoed. She smiled at him. “Welcome to my world,” she said. “Tedious, isn’t it?”
Narcissus turned and walked off into the forest, taking a comb from his pocket every few yards to make sure his hair was perfect. Echo turned to Thessalonika.
“Thank you,” she said, “for setting me free.” She patted at her arms, then at her face, and grinned. “And for giving me some body to love.”
“That somebody was supposed to be him,” said Thessalonika.
“Yes,” said Echo, “but as you can see I’m better off without him. He’s completely narcissistic.”
“That’s not actually a word, is it?” groaned Thessalonika. “Thit.”