Archive for August 25th, 2008


Summer Love Chapter Eleven


Cupid’s Chokehold

I pulled aside the curtains to reveal a tanned, smiling man hovering three stories above the pavement. Eric gave a wave and pointed at the window lock. “Come on, Adam, open up.”

“Oh my God,” Amber said, “he really does have wings. I mean… I know what everyone said, but…”

“Impressive, aren’t they?” Eric grinned, climbing in through the window I opened for him. The wings, enormous white-feathered things, barely fit through and they had to squeeze down in a way that made Eric wince in pain. Once he was in, the wings stretched out reflexively, bumping into a lamp on one side and Perry on the other. “They are kind of cumbersome, though, aren’t they?” He scrunched his face up in concentration, and the wings slowly receded, folding into his body and soon disappearing into the leather quiver strapped around his pack. Only the tips of the feathers remained visible. He wore only a pair of torn cargo shorts and sandals, plus the quiver. Although still smiling, he looked haggard, like he’d just come through a war zone.

“Adam, Perry,” he said, “long time no see.”

“You have wings,” Amber said.

“Yes, dear, I do.” He talked to her like a kid flummoxed by a department store Santa Claus. “And what’s your name?”

“This is Amber Jenkins,” I said. “She’s our… Perry, is ‘friend’ really an accurate term?”

“Oh, Jenkins.” Eric nodded. “I’m supposed to visit you someday, but it’ll be several more years. Just hold tight, okay?” He started to walk around, shivering. “Hey, do you think I could borrow a robe or something? You keep it like an icebox in here.”

“A robe? Who am I, Hefner?” I scrounged up a t-shirt and tossed it to him. When he pulled it down over his head, his pecs strained against the fabric enough to make me try to calculate the time since I’d gone to the gym.

He sat down on my couch, next to The Total Moron’s Guide to Greek Mythology. “Aw, Adam, you don’t give yourself enough credit.” He picked the book up and started thumbing through it.

“Look, not to beat around the bush or anything, but… who are you?”

“Who am I?” he asked. “I thought you guys were a braintrust. You can figure out Sisyphus and Tantalus, but you can’t place your old pal Eros?”

Amber smacked her forehead and Perry nodded, but I was still lost. “Eros? Who’s Eros?”

“Geez, Adam, don’t you ever read these things when you’re illustrating them? Look, I’m right–” He cut short, staring down at an illustration. “Oh, you ass,” he said. “I can’t believe you drew me this way.”

“What? I drew you? What way?”

He turned the book around and pointed to one of my cartoons, a pudgy little cherub firing a bow with heart-tipped arrows. “Really, man, this is the sort of cheery Valentine’s Day stereotype that’s been plaguing me for years now.”

“That’s you?”

“That’s Cupid. Or at least, the crappy Hallmark-ized version you doofy mortals have conjured up. That was the name the Romans gave me. I still prefer the Greek’s name. ‘Eros.’ Doesn’t it just sound more regal?” He plucked a shaft from his quiver, which he’d slipped back on over the t-shirt, and twirled it in his fingers. “Besides, it kind of sounds like ‘arrows,’ which I always thought was kind of funny.”

“You’re Cupid?” I asked. “Flies around, shoots people with arrows, makes ‘em fall in love Cupid?”

“In the flesh. Well… actually, in the rough approximation of flesh constructed to contain our godlike energies because your human brains couldn’t handle the sight of our true visage without going mad. But you get the idea.” He punched my shoulder. “You, my friend, were a hell of a project. You fell for a girl at the drop of a hat, but finding a match? Geez. I never realized the trouble it would cause.”

“You made me fall in love with Stephanie? Why the hell would you do such a stupid, destructive thing?”

“Whoa, whoa, Adam, it’s not that simple. I’ve seen all the cartoons, I know how you mortals think it works, but the rules of the universe weren’t written by Tex Avery. My power isn’t about physical attraction. Humans fall in lust with each other left and right, day in and day out. Zeus knows you don’t need any help from me.

“What I do is, I find people who have a genuine connection. People who actually belong together. Then I help them realize it. I tell you, Adam, no one was more surprised than I was when I realized I could connect a dumpy little web cartoonist like yourself with the queen of the underworld, but a match is a match.”

I almost took offense at “dumpy,” but when he stood up and various portions of his anatomy began rippling, I decided it was best to keep my mouth shut.

“I don’t get it,” Perry said. “None of the stuff you read in the books describes your power that way.”

“That’s because it’s a lot more romantic to say, ‘Eros makes people fall in love’ than it is to say ‘Eros helps compatible individuals form a meaningful connection.’ The guys who wrote the history books were still writers, Perry. They weren’t above a little use of creative license.”

“Then they didn’t get everything right?” I asked. “Like the stuff Perry was reading about Persephone’s personality? How she was a… a…”

“A stone-cold bitch? No, actually, that part was true. When it was written, anyway.”

“But… she’s not now?”

“She’s mellowed. Three thousand years trapped underground in a loveless marriage with a husband who’s lost all the sesame seeds off his hamburger bun will kill the spark from most women, in my experience.” The perpetual grin he had on his face started to crack. “It’s bad down there, guys, I’m not going to lie to you. Most of Hades’ realm was never a picnic, but after new spirits stopped flowing in, Hades started to get bored. And when he got bored, he got cruel. He started to round up the Unclaimed, the aimless souls not marked for either punishment in Tartarus or reward in Elysia.”

“And then?”

“And then… he got nasty. He started looking for different ways to punish, different methods of torture. And think about that for a minute. Think about what kinds of torture you could envision with all the time in the world, and a victim who can take all the abuse you give and not die, because he’s already dead.”

“Jesus,” Amber said.

“Yeah,” Eros said. “From what I know of the guy, He wouldn’t approve either.”

“So Hades has spent a few thousand years torturing dead people?” Perry asked.

“No. Just the first few hundred. Then he started to get bored again.”

I sat down. “Why do I get the feeling I won’t like this part?”

“He started to expand. First he aimed for the Elysian Fields, but the heroes who rest there managed to band together and keep out the Army of the Unclaimed. So then, he decided to go into the seas. He started in a spot you mortals call the Bermuda Triangle, sinking ships from right underneath the ocean floor. People started to get paranoid about the place. Then he took the battle back to Greece and he tried to scale Olympus itself. The war was… intense. It spilled out all over the Earth. It lasted for hundreds of years, and a lot of our smaller battles are in your history books. You see, Hades, Zeus and Poseidon used mortal proxies to fight their own battles. The Crusades. The War of 1812. World War II.”

“World War II was one of your smaller battles?” Amber shouted.

“Our last one, in fact,” he said. “Poseidon took control of your air forces to try to blast Hades off the map. He succeeded, but he had to ride the bomb down. He… Let’s just say that we were all surprised to find out the humans had invented something powerful enough to kill a god. Poseidon especially, I suppose.”


“No kidding. Anyway, after that, Zeus and Hades signed a treaty. Zeus wouldn’t interfere in the Underworld and Hades wouldn’t interfere in the Sky. Trouble is, Earth itself is still free territory.” He flipped through the book again, landing in the “P”s. “Things have been quiet for about 60 years or so, but the last few years, Hades has been moving again. Persephone kept making her visits to Earth all this time. He didn’t really care until you, Adam.”

“Me? What’s so special about me?”

“Damned if I know. All I know is that you’re only the second person to touch Persephone’s heart since the day Hades first snatched her by her ponytail and dragged her underground. I don’t think anyone really believed it either. I mean, she’s had lovers before – Adam, don’t wince, I know you’ve been reading the books – and everyone sort of assumed you were just another toy. But then this year, when she got out, she made a beeline right back here. Looking for you.”

Amber looked over at me, then back at Eros. “Good grief, can’t you just hear his ego inflating from here?”

“Look, cut to the chase,” Perry said. “What are you doing here?”

“The lines are being drawn. Zeus is staying out of it, but the rest of us aren’t powerful enough to fight Hades alone. So we’ve been trying to band together. Apollo and Athena have been leading the rest of us. Ares and Hephaestus have both thrown in with Hades. A lot of the other lesser gods have joined one side or another. We think Persephone can be our ace in the hole. With her working with us, we may be able to get in and destroy Hades before this war of his finally destroys the world. And frankly, if we can’t stop him, I think it’ll be sooner rather than later.”

“So why are you here? We’re three ‘mere mortals’. What can we do?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Persephone has been trapped in Hades for millennia. Even with the few months she roams the Earth each year, she’s never had anything she wants before, until now. That’s where you come in, Adam.” He twirled his arrow again, then flicked it through the air. It whizzed past me, embedding itself in the wall and vibrating with a sharp twang right next to my head. “You’re coming with me, Adam. You’re our bargaining chip.”

Next: Chapter 12-Slave to Love

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Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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