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And so the Gods drew straws for who would reign over each realm. Poseidon drew the Sea, Zeus, the Heavens. This left Hades with the short straw: The Underworld.
“Hades, I want to go home.”
“As do I”
“Shut up you lot!” Hades wearily shouted, hunched over, elbow on knee, fingers massaging his temples as he sat on his throne of skulls. “This is your home!”
“No, I live in Athens.” retorted one of the dead.
“Yes, you lived in Athens. You are now dead, and in the Underworld.”
“But I’m not dead.” he replied stupidly.
Hades looked up, sighed, and clearly exasperated, said, “Then please, tell me, how did you get here?”
“Well,” considered the dead, “the last thing I remember, I was rolling a boulder up a hill, and it starts to slip, see, and then next thing I know, here I am.”
“Well there you go, that boulder killed you.”
“Yes, yes it did. Why else would you be as flat as you are?”
“It’s a hereditary condition, I was born this way!” he indignantly replied.
“When can I go home then?”
The dead one looked morose over this news. Hades went back to his rubbing his temples. Suddenly, the dead one lit up. “Wait, I heard Sisyphus left!”
“No I didn’t!” A voice called from somewhere down below. “Still right here!”
“Shut up you, get back to moving that boulder!” shouted Hades.
Hades was not always this weary, this grouchy or this unpleasant. Hades had not wanted to be the Ruler of the Underworld. Upon escaping from Kronus’ stomach, he intended to be Ruler of the Heavens or perhaps a chef. But as Fate dealt him, he was subject to rule the Underworld, which was more tiresome than he could have ever guessed.
“I want to die.”
Hades looked up from his magazine to the source of this perplexing statement. “. . . Excuse me?”
“I no longer want to live in this wretched place, I want to die.” sadly moped one of the damned.
“You do realize that you’re already dead, right?”
“Yes, of course I do. What do you take me for, some kind of idiot?” the damned replied. “I’m miserable here, I can’t go on living like this. I want to die.”
“Good luck with that, let me know how it works out.” skeptically retorted Hades, returning to his magazine.
“I will then!”
“Tell me,” asked Hades, “where do you think you will go after this?”
With an air of determination the damned soul replied, “well then, I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”
With that he took a running leap into the River Styx.
A few moments passed.
“Oh no!” a voice echoed from somewhere down below. “This is just as bad as where I was before, except it’s even worse: it‘s dark here!”
“You’ll get used to it.” said Sisyphus.
The normal constant fixture of the sound of the damned crying calmed to a hush. All eyes went to the man currently crossing the River Styx. He was a fierce looking, scarred-up individual, who seemed to be unable to express any emotion other than constant anger by way of a jagged toothed snarl.
Meanwhile Hades busily filed away at his nails.
A halo of space cleared upon the arrival of this individual to the shores of Hades. He slowly turned his head, surveying the new place, as if sizing it up. He grinned.
The individual slowly made his way before Hades, amazed gazes of the damned followed his every step.
The individual reached the throne. He stood there for a moment staring at Hades. He then cleared his throat as if to capture his attention.
Hades continued to file his nails.
The individual, looking annoyed at the lack of attention he was receiving, cleared his throat again, this time louder than the first.
Hades stopped filing his nails and slowly looked up.
“May I help you?” Hades asked in a bored tone.
The individual smiled. “Yes, I think you might just be able to. For you see I am Stratoninious Timon.”
“Really, are you now?” Hades asked, as he returned to filing his nails.
This angered Stratoninious. “Do you know what I’ve done to earn my keep here?!”
Hades slowly shook his head. “Nope.”
Stratoninious saw his chance. “I’ve killed seventeen people.”
“Is that all?” Hades countered.
Stratoninious was bewildered. “Is. . . is that all? I’ve killed seventeen people! With a sword!”
“Forgive me,” Hades stated, “I am simply unimpressed.”
“How could you be unimpressed?”
“Do you see that man?” Hades said, pointing to a stout, balding man sitting by his lonesome on the shore.
“Him?” Stratoninious released a deep laugh. “What could he possibly have done that could in anyway compare to my crimes against humanity?”
“Well,” Hades leaned forward, whispering into Stratoninious’ ear. Stratoninious’ beet-red face slowly drained of all color as he listened to what Hades told him, growing a look of shock and disgust.
“. . . Really? Him, he did that?”
“With just a fig branch?”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” said Hades, “I think there are some gentlemen over there who request your presence.”
Behind Stratoninious stood seventeen angry men. Stratoninious’ eyes grew wide as he slowly backed away off of the podium, and made a run for it with the mob in pursuit.
Hades went back to filing his nails.
“I want to get in!”
Hades lazily looked at the man standing on the shores of the other side of the river. “Do you have the two pence?”
“No sire, I’m broke!”
“Well then you simply can’t come in. To cross The River Styx you must pay the toll. You don’t have it, so tough luck.”
“But it’s cold out here!”
“There are snakes out here too!”
Hades returned his head to its hunched over position, rubbing his hand over his scalp.
“I think they are poisonous!”
“Why don’t you go haunt some people up in the Realm of the Living? I hear it is nice and sunny up there.”
“But who am I to haunt?”
Hades looked out at the corner of his eye, “I don’t know, haven’t you got friends, or family, or something?”
“No, if I did, I wouldn’t be stuck out here, now would I?”
Hades discreetly tossed two pence to the man across the river.
“Hey, I saw that!” called Sisyphus.
“No you didn’t.” returned Hades.
“Yes, yes I did! You gave that man two pence. What is the point of a toll if you are just going to go about paying it for everyone who doesn’t have the money? Soon word will get around, and nobody will bring any money at all, and then you, sir, will be broke!”
Hades snapped his fingers, there was a distant boom followed shortly by a scream.
“Well now, you didn’t need to go and do that!” shouted Sisyphus.
“Excuse me! Mr. Hades, sir!”
Hades turned to the damned across the river. “What? What do you want now?”
“Could you spare another pence? I dropped one.”
It was going to be a long eternity.