Archive for the '“Summer Love”' Category

27
Mar
10

Summer Love Lives?

One thing I’ve regretted on this site has been my inability to finish the serial novel, Summer Love, that I was serializing here when I launched. As I’ve said before, the main problem I had was Percy Jackson. Great books. Too similar to things I had planned. The story died.

But now…

I make no promises, but I think I have a way to fix this. I’ll have to throw out some of the stuff I already have written and change all my previous plans, but this could work. I may even have a new title, finally.

I do promise this: unlike last time, I will not attempt to share this story until it is FINISHED. I’ve learned my lesson.

30
May
09

What I’m Reading: The Lightning Thief

LightningThieftI’ve mentioned it here before but it bears repeating: I really love Greek Mythology. As you guys have already seen in detail here on the site. But a couple of months ago, one of my fellow teachers recommended this book to me, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The premise sounded intriguing and I always like new series fiction — especially if the series in question is finished and I don’t have to worry (not to sound crass) about the author dying and never finishing. So upon my friend’s recommendation, I picked the book up and cracked it open, finishing just earlier today.

The Lightning Thief is the first volume in a five-book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Percy is a sixth-grade student who has spent his life bouncing from one boarding school to another, none of them able to handle a genuinely good kid who nonetheless constantly seems to find himself in trouble. This year, that trouble starts getting worse — as in the “monsters and mayhem” kind of trouble instead of just flunking an English test. One of the nastiest encounters leads him to a strange summer camp full of other kids just as extraordinary as he himself is, and Percy finds the truth: the gods of Greek myth are real, are alive, and one of them is his long-lost father.

I didn’t really pay attention to this book when it was released, shelving it mentally with the dozens of Harry Potter clones that were being put on shelves at the time. Having read it, I still think I was partially correct in that assessment. Structurally, this first book is very similar to Harry Potter — Percy has two friends who accompany him, the mentor characters are suitably mysterious, and the school setting is swapped for a summer camp. However, the more I think of it, none of those elements Percy and Harry have in common were really originated by Harry anyway. There are a lot of elements that Percy has unique to himself, and that’s what makes this book easy to recommend. Riordan has a really interesting social structure in place here, with the gods capable of playing both ally and antagonist as the situation demands. He uses the classic Greek deities, monsters, and symbology to great effect here, crafting a story that is singularly exciting. Percy is quite different from Harry in personality, carrying a bit of a god’s temper in him. As for his friends — well, Annabeth does seem to have a dash of Hermione, but considering who her sire is, that’s only natural.

On a personal note, I have to admit reading this book startled me, because Riordan actually overlaps once or twice with things I have done (or was planning to do) with my own work-in-progress Summer Love, but as both stories employ Greek myths, that’s really unavoidable. My story is drastically different from Riordan‘s, as is my interpretation of the Olympians. It was a little hard, still, to divorce my own ideas from what I read here.

Once I was able to do that, though, I really did enjoy this book. It’s a very strong beginning to the series, and I intend to hunt down book two, The Sea of Monsters, ASAP.

BONUS REVIEW:

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a member of the Amazon.com Vine Program, which gives me a chance to read and review books before they are released. I just finished a really great mystery novel by Lyndsay Faye entitled Dust and Shadow, about Sherlock Holmes and his effort to capture Jack the Ripper. If you’re interested in my review, you can read it here: Dust and Shadow review.

20
Mar
09

A little bit of everything

I’ll be heading out in a few minutes for another one of Carl’s Lenten Seafood Feasts (plus poker night), so I’ll just throw a few random tidbits at you on my way out the door.

School Stuff

I had a bit of the Awesome yesterday morning. I was standing around on duty (which basically means I’ve got to get to work a half-hour early, stand in the midst of 1,200 teenagers, and hope nobody starts a fight), when a girl I taught two years ago came up to me out of the blue and told me that my class was her favorite that year and one of the best classes she’s ever had. There’s no reason for her to tell me this — I’m not her teacher anymore and, unless I get bumped to 12th grade next year (damn unlikely) I won’t be again. Plus, she was the kind of kid who was so quiet I was never really sure if she was engaged in the class or not. And to top it off, since she was in my class two years ago, that means she was part of my first class ever, and let me tell you, nobody ever know what the hell they’re doing their first year teaching. Take all the classes you want, it won’t prepare you. You’ve just got to survive that first year and learn from it.

So hearing that just about made my day.

Comic Stuff

The first issues of Boom! Studios’ Incredibles and Muppet Show comics are hitting stores next week. I’m really glad they priced the comics at $2.99. Most Boom! comics are at the $3.99 price point, which is where I have drawn the line, and therefore, I don’t get any of them. With these — books I reallywant — they’ve given me a break. Expect me to review ’em both at Comixtreme.

Book Stuff

So I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman‘s Newberry Award-winning novel The Graveyard Book. As I’ve come to expect from him, it’s a wonderfully imaginative, inventive novel that has totally captured my attention in a way few other books are doing these days. Glad to know the Newberries still stand for quality.

TV Stuff

So who watched The Office last night? Holy crap, huh? Talk about an ending I didn’t see coming. I’m sure this sets up the final run of the season, but I’ve got no idea where the writers are going with this one. And speaking of writing…

Writing Stuff

Work continues on Summer Love. I managed to get over  700 words written today (which, sadly, is above average lately), and I’ve gotten over a couple of the stumbling blocks I think were slowing me down. It’ll still take me some time to finish, but getting that train moving again was the important part at this stage. Plus, the week after next is Standardized Testing Week, which requires me to read instructions for two minutes then sit down for an hour doing essentially nothing. I got a ton of writing done that week last year. In fact, that’s when I began Summer Love, so I’m hoping to get a big chunk of the conclusion done this time around. In the meantime, who read Chapter One of Lost in Silver? What’d you think of it?
11
Mar
09

Someone is reading “Summer Love!”

So yesterday, despite all expectations, I got a post here from Kathy asking where the heck the latest chapter of Summer Love is. Thank you, Kathy — I’ve got to be honest, I had half-convinced myself nobody was paying attention to it at all. I am, if nothing else, a feedback whore.

So here’s the deal: although I haven’t been posting, I have been working. Summer Love is progressing, albeit much more slowly than I thought it would when I began the project. I launched last year with a sizable buffer of new stuff, but after not getting to work as much as I expected during the summer, the buffer dwindled quickly. Since then, it’s been a constant game of catch-up. Despite that, I’ve been mostly happy with the story.

When we last left our heroes, Adam had recruited the legendary Odysseus to help him overthrow the god of the dead, which you’ve got to admit, it a lot more interesting than whatever you did last weekend. In classic three-act structure, the story is beginning Act Three. Everything that happens from here on out is part of the road to the finale. Act Three is actually probably going to be longer than Act Two (which began when Adam began his journey to Hades), and there’s going to be a lot more action in it as well.

But now I find myself struggling with a bit of a moral quandary. I’ve felt bad about the gaps in the schedule of Summer Love, but I feel worse about coming back for one or two episodes, then falling off the wagon again. I’d prefer to keep working for the next couple of months, get Act Three finished and ready to go, and then run the whole thing without interruption, a chapter a week, like I always intended. I honestly don’t know how long it’ll take to get it to that point, but I find it preferable.

But let me ask you — what would you prefer? Should I post a new chapter whenever one is finished, or would you rather I wait until everything is ready and do it without risk of a gap? The comment section is here for you, friends. I honestly want you to tell me what you want, and if it seems most people would rather get the story a piece at a time, I’ll go back to doing it that way.

And again — if you’ve got a suggestion for a better title, I’m all ears. Every time I type Summer Love, I hate it more.

09
Feb
09

Summer Love Chapter 24: You’re Never Gone

Chapter 24

You’re Never Gone

I spent the night in a sort of sleepless fugue. Something about being down here in the underworld was affecting me. I was tried, but not as tired as I should have been; hungry, but not as hungry as I should have been; thirsty, but… oh, you get the idea. Instead of getting any substantive sleep, I spent the night staring out at a veil of stars that was as artificial as the world’s best planetarium and alternately marveled at the fact that I’d just allied myself with one of the greatest warriors in history and wondered how in the hell I expected to survive any of this.

When the sun crept up, perhaps a bit earlier than I expected, I wasn’t surprised to find Odysseus already on his porch, sipping a goblet of something that smelled heavenly and biting into a thick, juicy pear. He smiled when he saw me. I returned the smile and hoped I wasn’t staring too longingly at the pear juice dripping down his chin.

“Adam, my lad, did you sleep well?”

“Yes, your majesty.”

He gave me a skeptical look. “Listen, son, if we’re to be comrades-in-arms, you’ll need to do away with this ‘your majesty’ foolishness.”

“Oh. Yes your… um…”

“’Captain’ will suffice.”

“Right, right, oh captain my–”

I didn’t stop babbling until he stopped laughing. Even then it took me a few seconds to realize he’d been making a joke. He just laughed – he had a way of putting you at ease immediately – and clapped me on the shoulder. “Relax, lad. Just because we’re going into peril doesn’t mean we can’t keep the edges of our mouths curled, eh?”

“Sure. My grandma always said the same thing.”

He laughed and clapped me on the shoulder. That’s what made him the legendary hero and me the obscure cartoonist – he got my joke right away. He took one last bite from his pear and tossed the core over his shoulder. It vanished into the lush grass and I had no doubt it would never be seen again. There was something particularly efficient about this place.

“Come on. We’d best begin to arm ourselves.”

He led me down to a storeroom held in place by a huge wooden bar, which he lifted away with ease. With a simple tug, he pulled the door open and I had to shield my eyes. The sunlight filtering in from behind me struck upon an enormous collection of armor, shields, swords and other weapons, all brilliantly polished. With weapons like this you wouldn’t need to out-fight your enemy, you could just blind them.

Odysseus laughed again as I covered my face. “Ay, they were never quite so brilliant in the world of the living, Adam. I suppose it’s part of the wonder of Elysium. Everything here is always pristine.”

“So I see,” I said, blinking. Odysseus picked up a piece of chest-armor and held it up to me, then put it aside. He did this a few more times before finding one he thought looked appropriate, then he put it aside and turned his attention to the swords. As he handed one to me, he frowned.

“Eh… Adam, I know you said you aren’t a warrior in your land, but you have used one of these before, haven’t you?”

“Um… Does waving a plastic lightsaber at a midnight movie count?”

“I have no idea what that means.”

“No, I’ve never used one.”

Odysseus shook his head, then lifted a different sword, this one thinner, like a foil you’d see a fencer use.

“Sorry.”

He put it down and picked up a longish dagger. I just shook my head.

“Ye gods, how do they teach you to defend yourselves in the modern world?”

“Litigation.”

He put the dagger away and picked up a spear, then handed it out to me. “You just aim the sharp part at whatever you want to make dead, all right?”

“I think I’ve got it.”

I swished the spear around in a fashion that I immediately decided was embarrassingly juvenile. Odysseus waited with the look of a parent who wasn’t upset with his child, but wasn’t going to tolerate his antics much longer. I sheepishly put the spear down. the ancient king helped me strap myself into the chestplate he’d picked out, which I didn’t argue over even though it seemed clear I wouldn’t need it.

“Looks good on you, son.”

I smiled. If there was one thing about war I did know, it was that you never let the enemy know about any sort of surprise advantage you may have. I was a pudgy dude stumbling around on legs with all the musculature of Vienna sausages. If I could somehow avoid letting them know I couldn’t be hurt, it may be the only advantage I had.

Odysseus strapped on his own armor and chose a shield to keep by his side. A sword followed, and a spear. Just when I was about to ask what else he could possibly carry, he pulled a loaded quiver from the pile, and slung it across his back. “Come now,” he said, pushing shut the door to the storeroom.

“Um… nice arrows, Odysseus, but don’t you need a bow for them to do any good?”

“My bow holds far more honored a place than this, Adam.” He turned away and started to walk and talk at the same time. He did this often, I would find. Odysseus was a man who always seemed to be in a hurry. “The bow of Odysseus is a sacred thing, Adam. It’s an enormous weapon, a tool that can only be bent by one hand: mine.”

“Sounds spiffy.”

“Aye. Now the bow has a place of honor in my bedchamber. I did not bring this bow on my last great journey. I shall not neglect it again. And here, Adam, is where you wait.” He’d brought me back to the door on his porch, where I’d first met him. “I have accepted you as a companion, but no one enters this chamber save myself and my queen.”

“You’re into privacy. That’s cool.”

He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. I waited quietly, patiently, for a long damn time. Finally, I looked straight at the door and said, “How long does it take to get a bow?”

“When the relationship between the weapon and the wielder is that of my husband, a good time.”

“Queen Penelope! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.” She was sitting on the porch, looking out across the sea of grass. And she was smiling at me, a simple gesture that somehow seemed to mean everything in any world.

“It’s all right, Adam. Odysseus has not fired that bow in thousands of years. The last time he did was after an absence of twenty. Now, as then, he has to commune with it. He has to feel it… flex the wood, pluck the string… be certain that it will have all the strength and vitality he will need to carry it into battle.”

“Will it?”

“Of course it will.” She looked away from me and back out onto the veldt. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Lovely,” I said honestly.

“Adam… I meant what I said to him. You’re a good soul with a just cause, and I believe that joining you in your quest is the right thing for him to do.”

“Back home I would say I sense a ‘but’ coming.”

She smiled again, and although it was no less sincere, this time there was something empty in her eyes. “Your words are strange, but your meaning – if I ken it – is correct. I have more to say. Your cause is just, Adam…” she sighed, and it seemed her entire body deflated slowly. “But this place will not be paradise without him.”

I knelt by her. “If it’s in my power, I swear, I’ll see to it he comes home to you. I’ll give my own life first.”

“And you mean that, and that’s why I know joining you was the right thing. But you don’t know my husband as I do, Adam. Every soldier he lost in Troy, every sailor he lost on the journey home… he felt each death as if it was his own. And he’s had a very long time to regret each and every one of those deaths. If the choice comes down between you and he, just as you will try to save your king, so shall he try to save you.”

“Well then we’ll be fine, then. He’s Odysseus. He always succeeds. As for me, I’ve never lost a wingman yet.”

“Again with the strange words.” She put her hand on mine. “But the true heart.”

“We’ll keep each other safe, your highness.”

The door to the chamber opened and Odysseus stepped out carrying the biggest, heaviest-looking longbow I’d ever seen. There was no string in it, but a leather strap lashed it to his back beside the quiver. I had no doubt that, should he need his weapon, it would be off its strap and strung into a deadly force before I could even blink.

“Are we all ready then, Adam?”

“Yes, sir.”

He stepped to his queen and kissed her. “Sooner home this time. I swear it.”

They held each other tightly and silently professed their love. It was the most honest thing I’d ever seen in my life, and it was the memory of that image that gave me the strength to do what I did when we saw Penelope next. Odysseus loaded his weapons, me carrying his spear along with my own, and we began the march out of paradise to begin our quest through Hell.

 Next: Chapter 25

 

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

02
Feb
09

Summer Love Chapter 23: With a Little Help From My Friends

Chapter 23

With a Little Help From My Friends

 

The guard was different from the Telos. He didn’t have the overbearing aura of destruction around him, for one thing. He was a massive creature, with arms like steel and a chest wide enough that the metal plate he wore looked like it was actually stretching. He had a long shock of blonde hair, and his eyes burned with a coldness altogether different from the Telos I’d encountered before. He had a sword at his side and a shield at the other, but the surprise on his face as I approached seemed to indicate he wasn’t used to needing either. He looked into me, and I felt my nerves rippling up my spine.

“You do not belong here, mortal,” the guard’s voice boomed. It felt like thunder, a tremor that reverberated throughout my body. Somehow, this figure was more frightening than anything else I’d run across in the bowels of Hell.

“Hey, um… you. Look, I need to get in there.”

The guard took a step towards me, shifting the sword from his side to his hand. “Proceed, mortal man, and I will cast you out into the clutches of the Telos.”

“Little bald guys with big, ugly swords? I think I’ll pass.”

I stepped back from the guard, teetering on the slender stone bridge. After my unexpected Styx-bath, I didn’t know if he could actually hurt me, but there was still enough of the cartoonist left in me that I wasn’t going to press my luck.

“So how does somebody get into Elysium?” I asked.

“Only those escorted by Zeus may enter the divine realm.”

“Faboo. How am I supposed to get a god’s escort?” I’d encountered a lot of gods over the last year, but Big Daddy Z wasn’t one of them. But his kids… I had palled around with a lot of his kids. And one of them promised me a favor.

The moment I thought of it, there was a warmth on my forehead, a tingling sensation, and what looked like a spotlight shone out onto the stone in front of me. In the circle, a shape began to appear – tall, shapely, beautiful. And frankly, she looked royally pissed off at me. She didn’t waste more than a few moments glaring at me before turning to the guard. “Artus, isn’t it?” she said.

The guard fell to his knees at the sight of her. “Mistress Athena! I never thought…”

“Yes, I know. Artus, you’ve been a faithful servant of my father for a long time now – millennia. And in that time, have you ever faltered in your duty?”

“Never!”

“And have you always done exactly what was asked of you?”

“Of course, Lady.”

“And did my father ever mention me?”

“Yes, Mistress. He said of all the misbegotten refuse he’s spawned over the millennia, he regretted you the least of all.”

Athena glanced over her shoulder at me. “Father went through something of a depressed period after the mortals began forgetting about us. He was never the sort to keep his pain internalized. Artus, did he mention my domain?”

“Warcraft and wisdom, my lady.”

“That’s correct. I am the mistress of Warcraft and Wisdom. And thus, when I tell you something, you know the truth behind it, correct?”

“Yes.”

She leaned in very close to him, reaching a finger beneath his chin and lifting it up so they could meet eye-to-eye. “Then believe me when I say that if you don’t let this man pass into the fields of Elysium, all my father’s dominion may fall.”

The guard’s mouth dropped, and he looked over at me. “Him, Mistress?”

“Him.”

The guard, Artus, pushed himself to his feet, then stepped aside. He reached towards the small, humble sun that burned next to him and placed a hand on its surface. The outline of the door shimmered, then darkened. Instead of looking at the surface of a star, I was looking up at a beautiful gate made of gold. As I watched, the gate rolled open.

“Thank you, Artus. When my father is himself once more, he will reward you for your service.”

Athena waved at me and I stepped through the gate. She stepped in after me, and the gate closed behind me. I found myself in a tunnel, a long pathway lit by torches several yards apart. She nudged me, and I continued walking.

“This is foolish, Adam. This is far worse than foolish. This is highly likely to end in your death, and if I didn’t think that would be insignificant to our potential success, I would send you back to Earth now.”

“Thanks, Theenie, I love you too.”

“I’m serious. It’s a miracle you haven’t died already.”

“I think I’m okay. I took an accidental dip in the Styx.”

“Did you now? Well, that will protect you from most harm. But do pay attention to history, Adam. Achilles though he was safe as well, and his hubris brought his death.”

“Thanks for the heads-up.”

“One last thing, boy.” She stopped then, and I took my cue from her. “There is a chance – a small chance, but a chance – that you may yet alter the outcome of this affair. If you’re smart. If you don’t do anything foolish.”

“Everything I’ve done since this whole thing started has been foolish…”

“Yes, I know. But you are not a fool. Adam… I am skeptical, but you wouldn’t be the first mortal I’ve seen change the course of history. I’m not giving you another boon. This was your only one. But I will give you advice. When the time comes, use your strengths. Allow your friends to use theirs. And accept what is beyond your power to change.”

She took another step down the tunnel and, when I followed her, I found myself on a cliffside. It was beautiful – the sky was the most amazing, indescribable shade of blue. The grass under my feet was emerald and flowing in a soft breeze. There were trees, and a brook of pure, clean water. And in the distance were houses – far enough apart from one another that nobody would be bothered by their neighbors, but close enough that people could come together when need be.”

“Is this it? Are we in Elysium?”

“Yes, Adam. Welcome to paradise.”

“It feels like years since I’ve been outside.”

“You’re not – not the way you mean the term. We’re still in the underworld, but this place is a sort of… pocket world, all its own. Nothing you see here is real in the sense you would imagine, but it’s real enough for the warriors who have earned an eternity of rest.”

She looked at me again, scowling. “They’ve earned their rest, Adam. You’re here to ask one of my favored champions to sacrifice that rest. More than anyone in all of Elysium, that man has deserves his peace.”

“I know,” I said, not bothering to ask how she knew who I was there to find. “But I need him. And you said it yourself – if this doesn’t work… well, I doubt there’ll be a nice place even in the brightest part of paradise if Hades gets his way.”

She didn’t say a word, and it was in that uncharacteristic silence that I knew I was right. She pointed down a road.

“My last gift to you, Adam. The man you seek can be found that way, perhaps three miles as you would recon distance. Walk, and you’ll find the person you see.”

I nodded. “Thank you, Athena.”

“Good luck, Adam.”

She vanished, and that warm tingling that had buzzed in my forehead since she offered her boon was gone. I felt totally alone again. I just hoped it wouldn’t be a permanent condition. I turned in the direction she’d indicated, and began to walk.

The grass was green. That’s what stuck out at me, just how green it was. And not a simple dusty, well-manicured lawn sort of green, but a brilliant verdant that was so mesmerizing I was almost afraid to set foot upon it. I knew it wasn’t quite real – it was manufactured, just as the sky above wasn’t really blue… hell, wasn’t really a sky… but it too was a dazzling color that made me feel so humbled, so out-of-place, that I was almost ashamed of even being there.

He was sitting outside, the man I came to find, not on a throne or a pedestal but on a simple wooden chair, and although the home behind him was impressive, it didn’t look as regal as one might expect. It was stone, at least three stories tall, and the door the man sat near was set into the wall of a room that bulged from the side of the home, as though it were built around something. As I approached he took my measure, looking me up and down, and it was then more than any other time that I feared he would refuse to help me. Nobody looking at my pudgy frame and slight limp would think of me as a warrior, and they would be right.

He looked up at me, and he smiled. “Welcome, my friend,” he said.

*   *   *

My companion took another sip of his wine and I licked my lips. They were dry. Parched. I was growing increasingly aware that I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since Hermes picked me up back at home, but I knew that eating in the Underworld trapped you there forever. It was torture, but I refrained.

“Your story moves me, Adam,” he said, placing his goblet on the table. “And I understand what you have come here to ask, but I’m afraid I can’t give it to you.”

“Please, sir, you’re the only one who can.”

“My lady Athena told you that my rest is earned. She was not speaking figuratively.”

From the doorway, the wife appeared again. She was truly beautiful, on par with Athena herself, and had a smile that made me feel calm and welcome. “Has your friend finished his story?”

“Yes, love, and an epic tale it was. But he must be leaving us soon.”

She looked up into the sky. I’d been talking for hours, and it was starting to grow dark. She leaned over and placed a kiss on his lips. “Say your good-nights then, my love, and join me within.” She smiled at me again, and walked back inside.

“Gotta admit,” I said, “I’d find it hard to turn down an invitation like that either.”

He looked at me. “Athena was right. My rest has been earned, Adam, but not by me.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have been absent from your love – how long now? Days? She spent twenty years waiting for me. Ten while I was at war, another ten while I ran Poseidon’s damnable obstacle course across the seas. I wanted nothing more than to come home to her, but her faith… her refusal to believe I was dead, her planning and wisdom in the face of men who were ready to fight to steal my kingdom… she has earned this rest far more than I have.”

“I know sir, but that’s why I need you.”

I took a knee in front of him. “I know your stories, Lord Odysseus. Even know, you are remembered as one of the wisest, bravest warriors who ever lived. But there are a lot of great warriors here. You spent two decades trying to return to her. You twice turned down immortality and life with a goddess to be with the woman you loved.” I shook my head. “I’m not looking for immortality. I’m not even looking to be with her. She’s a goddess, I’m a man. I don’t know if that’s possible. But I know I can’t just let her spend forever trapped in his clutches.”

He stood up then, and took my hand. “Adam, you are braver than you give yourself credit for, and not least for daring to contradict me. But my travels are over.”

“No, they aren’t.”

His wife stood in the doorway again, draped in a sheet. She smiled at him. “Somehow, love, I knew you weren’t finished yet.”

“Penelope, please, this doesn’t concern you.”

“You’re refusing to help this man because you want to remain with me. Of course it does.” She walked over, kissed him. “I love you for it, you know. But Odysseus, you heard his story.”

“And you as well?”

She smiled. “You knew I was listening.”

“I know you.”

“It’s not just about him, although that would be enough if it were. Odysseus, all of creation is at stake.”

“We’re safe here. This is a land of warriors. We can stand against any invader!”

“You can stand against the gods themselves? If Hades decides to conquer all creation, not even Elysium will be safe.” She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. “Go with him. Help him. You fought for years to come home to me. Fight now to keep me safe.”

“I swore to never leave you again.”

“Three thousand years ago. We can stand a bit of a break. I love you, my Lord Odysseus.”

He smiled. “You’ve always been the wise one Penny.”

He looked back at me. “Very well then, Adam Solomon. Tonight, you stay here as my guest. Tonight, I lie with my wife once more. And tomorrow, you and I shall begin our planning to save the world.

Next: Chapter 24-You’re Never Gone

 

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

26
Jan
09

Summer Love Chapter 22: Hungry Heart

Chapter 22

Hungry Heart

Nobody expects to get a lightning bolt hurled into their chest, not even if they’re facing off against the ancient Greek god that was responsible for forging the things. But even so, the fact that Hephaestus threw the bolt into me wasn’t nearly as surprising as the fact that, somehow, it didn’t kill me. In fact, it didn’t even hurt. But it took me off guard enough for me to fall backwards. Nothing was damaged in the attack – not my heart, not my lungs, not my insurance rates – but as the electricity splashed off my chest, scattering like water sprayed against a brick wall, it forced me backwards. I was lifted right off my feet and tumbled off the edge of Hephaestus’s floating island. I plunged through the night, tumbling backwards and spinning out of control through the ink-black sky. The whole way down, I screamed. It may not have been a particularly manly thing to do, but I found it to be a logical course of action, and I’m comfortable with my decision.

I spun backwards as I fell, pitching my way past the floating islands of Hades’ underworld, and never getting more than a glimpse of any of them. There was the odd burst of flame, frequent screaming, and every so often, an enormous thing lurching through the darkness that may have been a tentacle, or a tail, or a long neck for something gargantuan and most likely unpleasant. Like everything in Hades’ realm, my fall felt like it took a very long time. I got completely disoriented and, soon, I couldn’t even tell in which direction I was plummeting. My spinning became more rapid as well, and I felt like a twirling baton when I collided, full-force, with the surface of another island.

I pulled myself up to my knees, but almost immediately fell back down, dizzy from the pinwheel fall. As the underworld continued to spin around me, I grabbed onto the ground and took deep breaths, eyes shut, trying to reorient myself. After long moments of breathing and dry heaving, I started to notice things again. For example, I noticed the ground I was clinging to in the hope that it wouldn’t hurl me back out into the void wasn’t bare dirt or rock like the other islands I had visited. I was, in fact, clinging to grass – long, soft grass with a sweet smell to it that seemed to be helping calm my churning stomach. There was a sound too, a stomping sound nearby that came right up close to me, then stopped. After a few more breaths of the grass, I opened my eyes and looked in the direction of the sound.

“Holy cow,” I moaned.

The cow in question was a huge, beefy animal, with a pure white coat and big, baleful eyes that looked at me while it quietly gnawed its cud. Once it had its chance to examine me, it turned its attention away and took another hearty mouthful of the grass. I pushed myself up and cautiously returned to my feet. Looking around, I saw on this island a vast field of grass, with a few other cows roaming and chewing, and a few more drinking what looked like pure spring water from a creek dribbling through the center of the island. There was a sun, too – a yellow-white globe in the air above us, giving the island heat and light, and making it feel alive while everything around us was dead. While most of the other islands I’d encountered had been horrible, nasty places, by comparison this island was a vacation paradise.

“Am I here, Bossy?” I asked the cow. “Did I really make it to Elysium?”

From the thick grass, a sad laugh simmered. A man sat up, terribly old. His hair and beard were wild and unkempt, and there was a hunger in his eyes his body seemed to reflect. I’ve never seen anyone so horribly gaunt before. His jaundiced skin looked like someone had stretched a hairy, yellow balloon over a skeleton. “Elysium?” he said. “Maybe for the cattle, but not for me.”

“Who are you?”

“My name was Eurylochus. Welcome to my hell.”

“I’ve seen worse,” I said.

“You haven’t started for three thousand years. There’s not a morsel of food on this entire damnable island.”

“What about the cows? Why don’t you butcher one of them?”

“That’s how I got here in the first place. I was on a ship that was running out of provisions, and a storm trapped us on an island. We were dying of hunger, and the island was rich with cattle. But the captain told us to leave the cows alone. They were the personal cattle of Helios, the Sun-God, he could sees all.” He laughed weakly. “He sees all.”

“What happened?” I asked, although I suspected I already knew.

“We waited. We waited until the Captain left us and slaughtered the cows. It was my plan. I told the men it was better to die by the wrath of the gods than die of hunger.” He laughed again, and this time it was a pathetic sound. “I still say our death was better. I just never stopped to think about what happened after death.”

“Geez, can these guys hold a grudge or what?”

“So now, I find myself here… surrounded by the very cows we slaughtered, unable to eat a thing.”

I wished I had some food to give the poor guy, even a tin of Altoids or something. But I suspected that, even if I did, I wouldn’t be any more successful at sating his hunger than I was at quenching Tantalus’s thirst.

“That was quite a fall you took,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone plummet like that without a mark.”

“I don’t quite understand it either,” I admitted. “And I sure don’t know why that lightning bolt just splashed off me. I’ve felt worse shocks plugging in a toaster.”

“Immune to lightning? You’ve been given some elixir? Some potion from the gods?”

“The last liquid I even touched was when I took an impromptu swim in the river on the way here.”

Eurylochus looked startled. “The river? You mean the Styx?”

“I don’t mean the 80s band.”

“That explains everything. When a person bathes in the waters of the Styx, he becomes impervious to harm! Haven’t you ever heard of Achilles?”

“The heel guy?”

“It’s what made him such a fearsome warrior. You’ve been given quite a gift.”

“The only gift I want is Stephanie back.”

“The love of a woman drives you? You sound like the captain.”

“I need to get to Elysium. I need to find help.”

Eurylochus sighed at the mention of paradise. “I was almost in Elysium. I had almost earned my reward. If not for the wrath of Helios…”

“Do you know how to get there?”

He looked at me like I’d grown an extra head. “Are you serious?”

“Of course I am.”

He turned at looked at the small sun orbiting the island. I had to squint to see it, but from up close I could tell there was a stone bridge extending from the lip of Eurylochus’s island, reaching up into the heart of the sun.

That’s Elysium?”

“It used to be bigger.”

“So I’m told.” I started walking in the direction of the bridge.

“Where are you going?”

“Across.”

“You can’t! Not without the escort of Zeus!”

“I don’t have a choice. Thanks for all the info, Eurylochus.”

As I got closer to the sun, I noticed that the light wasn’t actually getting any brighter. In fact, the closer I got, the less difficult it was to see the burning globe. It’s not that the sun was dimming, it just wasn’t blinding me like suns usually tend to do. By the time I got to the stone bridge, it almost completely filled my head-on field of vision, but it was still no task to view it at all. Halfway across the bridge, an outline appeared against the curve of the sun. It looked like a sort of box. Another 20 yards down the bridge, the outline sharpened into the shape of a door. I got closer still, and I saw someone standing outside the door, holding a staff, waiting for me.

Next: Chapter 23-With a Little Help From My Friends

 

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

19
Jan
09

Summer Love Chapter 21: I Need a Hero

Chapter 21

I Need a Hero

 

Hades was a big place. Sure, it had been a couple thousand years since anyone walked through its gates, but up until that point they’d somehow managed to find room for a few hundred million tormented Greeks. Finding someone who knew his way around would be easy. Finding someone who could help… that would be hell.

I sat on the middle of the stone bridge, looking back and forth. The poor souls toiling away behind me would be no help. With the panic draining from my mind, it was starting to dawn on me where the mound of bones I’d found outside the gates must have come from. The black-robed baldies must have left them there after an escape attempt. What was odd was that, try as I might, I couldn’t remember the face of the man who’d been vaporized after I set him off. I remembered that someone had been there, and the dried skeleton lay in the dirt as a testament to that, but I couldn’t remember his face or what he looked like… to be honest, I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was even a man and not a woman.

Behind me, on the other side of the bridge, was a much larger island, divided into sections. In the distance, I could make out a hill, where a man seemed to be pushing an enormous stone. Just as he seemed to be approaching the top, he stumbled and the boulder rolled back down. Without even a cry of frustration, he turned and began marching back down the hill again. While I was watching, a flaming wheel rolled past – a creepy enough sight, but it got even worse when I realized the howling sound it made wasn’t caused by the rolling, but because of a man strapped to it, roaring with an agony I couldn’t imagine. On the sides of the island, I saw a series of enormous, one-eyed creatures howling into the blackness.

I stepped off the stone bridge onto the enormous island, and everywhere I looked I saw someone else being tortured. A woman danced so hard her feet were bleeding, but she couldn’t stop or rest. A man was being forced to consume sumptuous cakes, meats, cheeses and food, but his midsection was split open, the food spilling out as quickly as he could gobble it. I tried to ignore the screams and moans around me and stumbled forward, slumping across the island looking for anything that could be helpful. I saw another stone bridge in the distance, so I made my way vaguely in that direction, but I didn’t have any idea if it would take me somewhere worth going.

“You… boy…”

I turned in the direction of the voice, looking up at a goblin with a sneer on its face. “Who are you?” it whispered. “You do not belong here.”

“No kidding,” I said. “Do you know–”

“YOU DO NOT BELONG!” He pulled a whip and cracked it in my direction, prompting me to run. I bolted through tendrils of smoke and dove beneath a sputtering flame cut loose from the wheel. I slipped, rolling down a slope and splashing down into a pool of water. As I pushed myself up to my hands and knees, I began cursing whatever gods were responsible for putting me here.

“Watch your mouth, lad,” someone said. “It’s not worth it for the momentary release, take my word for it.”

I wiped the water from my eyes and looked at a man standing in the pool. Above his head was a tree branch, hanging low with plump, luscious berries. Although he was in water, his face was dirty and grimy, and his body was shriveled and thin. Perhaps the worst part was the fact that he was undeniably familiar.

“You,” I whispered. “I know you. I’ve seen you before.”

“How long ago was that? A day? A year? A century? It loses meaning here.”

He bent down, reaching for the water with a cupped hand, but it drained away before he could even get a drop to raise to his chapped, bleeding lips. The last time I saw those lips, they were sucking at a cup in Perry’s coffeehouse… and didn’t get a drop out of that, either.

“You warned me to stay away from Steph—Persephone.”

“The master was not pleased with you,” he said. He looked up at the berries, easily within reach. And he raised an arm, though, the branch lifted, and the berries were pulled away.

“Who the hell are you?” I said.

“My name was Tantalus, when I was alive.”

“What are you doing here?”

“This is my punishment.” He knelt this time, trying to bring his head to the water. It was gone in seconds, without ever touching his mouth to the pool. “I was invited to feast with the gods. I tried to fool them.”

“Fool them?”

“I slew my own son… served him to the gods as meat. Only Demeter tasted of his flesh. I… I have been here ever since.”

“God almighty,” I whispered. Tantalus laughed, a sound without an ounce of mirth to it.

“Which one?” he said.

“Isn’t there anyone here who isn’t a monster or a wretch?” I said. “Isn’t there anyone in all of Hades who’s actually got his head together?”

“Not here. Not in Tartarus,” he moaned. The name struck a chord somewhere in my mind. I’d read about this place before, I knew.

“Tartarus… land of the ironic punishments?”

“Land of the just punishments,” he said, watching again as the berries were pulled from his grasp.

I pushed myself back and sat on the bank of the pool. “Dammit, I’m lost,” I said. “I’m in the middle of Hell and everyone around me is a basket case.” I looked up into a black, blank sky. All I could see were islands floating in the distance, people being tortured, punishment being meted. Everywhere I looked there was nothing but emptiness and despair. Everywhere except for the one twinkling star I’d noticed when I first stepped through the gate.

“What is that?” I asked, looking out at it. I pointed, and Tantalus followed my arm. When he saw the light, he blanched.

“Elysium!” He cried. “Its light grows smaller still.”

“Elysium?” According to the books I’d read, Elysium was where the heroes went when they died. They were escorted by Zeus himself, and set up to spend eternity like kings. “That’s Elysium? It’s still here? When I heard how Hades went nuts, I guess I thought it would have been gone.”

“Not gone… smaller.”

“How do I get there?”

“West.” Tantalus pointed to the light. “Go west. Find paradise… in the west.”

I stood up, dripping wet, and started to walk away. Tantalus bent down again, trying to reach the water, moaning. I looked around, seeing no one, and scooped up a handful.

“Here,” I said. “I suppose I owe you this much.”

As he bent over to sip the water from my hands, though, it began to dribble away. As tightly as I kept my fingers together, in seconds, I was dry.

“Sorry, dude. I guess Hades’ just punishments can’t be circumvented that easily.”

As I walked away, I heard Tantalus begin to cry – heavy, dry sobs. There was no water in his body to create tears.

*   *   *

The path through Tartarus wasn’t as bad as I would have expected. Sure, everyone nearby was being mercilessly tortured in horrifically creative ways, but for the most part they all ignored me. I didn’t see another one of the men in black – the “Telos,” I guess they were called. Maybe they only needed them closer to the gates.

I kept the spark of Elysium in sight no matter where I went. Eventually, I crept to the edge of the island that I supposed made up Tartarus. The stone bridge there was much longer, and extended so far I couldn’t even see where it led. Steeling myself, trying to remember how the reversal hadn’t been too big a deal when I slipped before, I began to move out across it.

I walked for what felt like an incredibly long time. Eventually, my steps across the bridge started to echo – a clink here, a clink there. And with each clink, I saw a spark of light in the distance. As I got closer, I saw a wave of motion just before each sound. There was someone swinging something… a hammer? A hammer was coming down on an anvil. That was the clink, that was the spark. Someone was making something. He was an enormous man, a mountain of a man, with a heavy red beard lit up by the flash of the strike. As I walked down the stone bridge to the tiny island where he was waiting for me, he smiled.

“Adam Solomon,” he said. “I’ve been expecting you.”

“How the hell does everyone down here know who I am?”

“But do you know who I am?”

“I don’t suppose you’d just cut to the chase and tell me? I’m terrible at this game.”

He held up the thing he’d been pounding on the anvil. It was a long strip of golden metal, glittering in the low light, with jagged edges that sparked as he twisted it. It looked like a lightning bolt. “How about this?” he said. “Any help?”

“Zeus?”

He laughed with a loud boom, and the stone bridge quaked. Had I still been on it, I probably would have plunged off. “Zeus? Gods, boy, are all the mortals as dense as you now?” He shook the lightning bolt at me. “Aye, Zeus used to throw these things down at you to make his point, but where do you think he got them?

I searched my memory – I did recall stories about some blacksmith that forged Zeus’s lightning bolts, but…

“Hephaestus!” he exploded. “Damn it, boy, you don’t know who you’re dealing with here?”

The name was familiar – I was pretty sure Athena had talked about this guy as one of the gods who had thrown in with Hades. The fact that he was sitting here, waiting, couldn’t possibly bode well.

“Hades knows every soul that enters his realm, boy. He knew you were here from the moment you stepped in. It’s just a question of how long it is before you wind up falling into a firepit or getting devoured by a Cyclops. But frankly, he also doesn’t want word of your presence getting back to the queen.”

“Persephone? She’s here?”

“Dense again. Hades wants you over and done with. That’s why I’m here.”

“I’ve seen this movie,” I said. “Is this one of those things where you give me one last chance to turn around and go home before something really bad happens to me?”

“Not exactly. I am the something bad.”

He pulled back and hurled the lightning bolt into my chest.  

Next: Chapter 22-Hungry Heart

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

12
Jan
09

Summer Love Chapter Twenty: Highway to Hell

Chapter 20

Highway to Hell

 

Hades was cold. Everywhere. I realized later, even when I was leaping through flames, Hades was an extremely cold place. It took a few seconds to register. After all, even though I could see my own breath the minute I set foot in the infernal realm, I couldn’t see anyone else’s. Eventually, I realized this was because no one else had breath.

The two little men in the black robes stood in the hard, white light of their swords. I looked from side to side, hoping for an escape route, but I realized the gate I’d just come through was near the edge of a cliff. The approaching men were walking across the gulf on what looked like a natural stone bridge, the only way on or off the cliff edge without turning back through the gate.

As they grew closer, their eyes appraised me carefully. After several long minutes, they lowered their swords. The first one spoke to me with a voice like stone being pulverized.

“Adam Solomon,” he said.

“Who, me? No, um, my name is Charles. Really, ask Charon.”

“Adam. Solomon,” he repeated. “Age 79.”

“Okay, wait, I know I’m not exactly Mr. Universe here–”

“Age 79. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. A long period of muscle failure, followed by paralysis, then death. It is not your time. You are not a threat.”

“Huh?”

Without another word, the two of them turned around and retreated across the bridge, leaving me with nothing but a particularly disturbed sensation, like I had just missed something pretty important. But since they didn’t appear to have any further interest in me (a fact for which I was extremely grateful), I brushed myself off, cinched my belt, and started to follow them across the bridge. It was too narrow to easily turn around without risking a plunge off the side, but in a straight line, I could walk relatively easy if I didn’t try to look down, which I of course was stupid enough to do almost immediately. The bridge took me out over a pit so deep and black that if it wasn’t actually bottomless, it may as well have been. From that perspective, though, I could see what I was dealing with: hundreds, thousands of cold stone islands, floating in nothing, connected to one another by way of a network of the stone bridges. Each one seemed to play host to a different form of eternal torment: the classic fire and ice were prevalent, of course, but on one island I watched men hunted by enormous beasts, consumed, and excreted whole to begin the hurt anew. Another island was underwater, and the people there flailed for air that didn’t seem to exist for them, drowning over and over, forever. There were a surprising number of islands that were totally empty save for a sole inhabitant, weeping in despair. And every so often, someone hurtled through the air, plunging past us all, vanishing into the black.

The Island I followed the black-robed men to was a work pit. People were being forced to break rocks, build small structures, turn wheels on giant machines, and were constantly beaten by snapping whips wielded by ugly little ghouls with blackened skin and blacker eyes. The people here were all fat, lazy-looking things, straining and agonizing at their labor, and I realized the purpose of their punishment: they were paying for a lifetime of sloth with an eternity of toil. None of them paid the slightest attention to me as I stumbled off the bridge. As I rolled off, though, I noticed that there was a definite path here, worn from the bridge I’d just left to another on the far side of the island. This one was relatively small, I could circle it in just a few minutes. Others seemed enormous – the side of continents. I wondered what determined the size and contents of each island floating through the depths.

Shivering, I stepped down from the bridge onto the path, which cut right through the slaving, hollow shells that used to be human. I stepped down between the rows, listening to the groans and grunts of people in pain. Perhaps the worst thing was that nobody was willing to put up any sort of a fight. They all looked utterly broken, shattered, like there was nothing left of their souls anywhere in the bleeding, bruised bodies they seemed to wear. The entire spectacle made me sick, it was utterly inhuman. But then again, I supposed that was the point.

I decided not to bother the little ghouls with the whips, and the two men in the black robes had returned to their sentry duties, one standing on the lips of each bridge that could take me off the island. I tried to focus on the one I was approaching as I stepped through the pits, trying to ignore the horrors on either side of me. I walked up to him, to where he stood at the lip of the bridge. I was not terribly surprised that he did not move.

“Um… excuse me… I’m sort of looking for someone.”

He didn’t move, he didn’t speak, he didn’t even seem to recognize my existence this time.

“Right… Um… You guys know your queen? Hades’ wife? I don’t suppose any of you would know where to find her?”

Again, no response. I tried to step past him, to go around to the other bridge in the hopes of finding someone more helpful, but as soon as I tried to make a move, he slashed out with that sword of his. It cut into my arm, but it seemed like the light, the glowing part did the actual damage instead of the blade. The pain was enormous, searing, like someone was leaching out part of my life. I stumbled back, falling down onto the road that cut through the pit, and looked up at him. He’d already returned to his position at the lip of the bridge, and if you hadn’t seen his flash of movement, you wouldn’t have known he had ever changed position.

“Son of a…” I moaned and rubbed the stinging area of my skin where the blade made contact. How had he moved so quickly and cut so deeply? And why was there no mark on my skin? “What are those things?” I asked.

“T… t… t…” One of the shades pushing a wheel nearby began to stutter. I looked up at him, watching the slow flicker of awareness spread through his eyes. It was the most alive any of these people had looked since my arrival.

“What?”I said, stepping up towards him. “Do you know what these things are?”

“Telos,” he said. Then, as big fat tears began to bubble from his eyes, he repeated it. “TELOS!” he screamed.

One of the little ghouls snapped the whip across his back, but that just caused him to scream more. He let go of his spoke on the enormous wheel and stumbled away, onto the path next to me. As he did so, as he howled and roared into the night, one of the little men in black began to move. My new friend screamed even louder, pointing at him.

“TELOS! TELOS!”

He ran then, faster than I would have given him credit for, scrambling down the path and running away from the man in the robe – Telos? Was that his name or his job? Both, maybe? Whatever, he swished past me without making contact, then drew his sword. The rest of the people in the pit took notice then, gasping in horror. That in and of itself was a terrifying sound. With everything I had seen down here already, what could possibly inspire terror in these wretched things?

He rushed in, grabbing the man by his long, greasy hair. The sword went into his back and he screamed. Remembering the agony of my quick slice on the arm, I could sympathize. It was soon obvious that what I’d gotten was nothing, though. As he screamed, I saw his body begin to shrivel, then collapse. His meaty flesh dissolved into nothing and his robes contracted onto a skeletal frame that grew more and more prominent by the second. All the skin and flesh seemed to be sucked into the blade, vanishing upon contact. Soon, the man was nothing but a skeleton, which quickly began to decay in front of my eyes. Bleached white bones grew dingy and dead, chunks of calcium fell off to the ground. It wasn’t until the skull cracked and fell from the neck that the man’s scream finally ended.

I turned around and bolted for the bridge, hoping to get across before “Telos” could catch up to me. About halfway across, I stumbled and fell, smashing my face into the rock. I gripped the stone for dear life, desperate to not plunge over the side, but rolled anyway… and I rolled, and I kept rolling. When I opened my eyes, I realized my perspective had switched. I was beneath the bridge now, but it was still underneath me, and each of the islands had another pit of torture over what had been the underside.

“Oh God,” I moaned, gasping, feeling my heart beating like the thrumming of a motorboat. “God in Heaven…” I looked back and forth at the islands on either side, wishing for some sort of clue, something to point me in the right direction.

I sat on the bridge for a long time. Finally, only one thing occurred to me.

“I can’t do this alone,” I said.

Next: Chapter Twenty-One: I Need a Hero

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

05
Jan
09

Summer Love Chapter Nineteen: Hound Dog

And, we’re back! Sorry about the break, friends. I know it’s been a while since we checked in on Adam Solomon’s little adventure, and I hope that this will be the beginning of another long streak of weekly updates. If you’re new to the ‘Realms and don’t actually know what I’m talking about, you can start reading the Summer Love saga from the prologue, or find a checklist of all the chapters to date on the Fiction From the Realms page.

Oh, and we’re still hoping someone will come up with a better title. Summer Love kinda sucks.

Chapter 19

Hound Dog

The bank of the river Styx where Charon delivered me was as blank and featureless as the one I left. As before, I simply began to walk through the void. The lantern behind me quickly evaporated, and I moved as if in some black mist, not knowing where I was going and, in fact, not entirely certain I was going anywhere at all. Eventually, though, I began to feel something in the stone beneath my feet. There was a small slope in the rock, and if I followed it just for a few feet, I came upon another going up. I realized I’d found a path, a road worn into the stone of the underworld. I began to follow it, moving in the direction I was almost sure would take me away from Charon. The path grew wider and deeper as others flowed into it, tributaries of the dead. I thought about the path as I followed it. I imagined millions of pilgrims making this same journey, wearing out the groove in the floor, on their way to meet a destiny that was, by all accounts, less than pleasant.

I started to whistle songs from Disney World attractions.

After what seemed like an eternity of marching (and a minimum of twelve choruses of “It’s a Small World, After All”) a pair of lights appeared in front of me. They were pinpricks, dancing against the black, but they did give me a spark of hope. It was the first sign of… well… of anything that I’d seen in forever. It was something that proved an intelligence down here, that I wasn’t just wandering through nothingness for all eternity. It was a goal.

That was about the time I stepped on the first bone.

The snapping sound jolted me backwards and I looked down at two bones, one broken, joined together at either end. It looked like a human forearm, if I remembered my Halloween decorations correctly. I tiptoed around the bones, whispering a soft apology to whomever they originally belonged to, and continued to walk towards the lights. I saw more bones as I crept along, nearly toppling over when I stepped on a thicker bone that almost rolled out from under me. It looked like the upper arm, a theory that was made more credible by the fact that a lower arm and hand were still attached to it. The bones got more plentiful, larger, and the skeletons more complete. By the time I accidentally kicked a skull away, I stopped caring. soon I’d gone from seeing a bone here and there to walking down a path that was practically paved with them.

The lights, as I got closer, were definitely moving. They were open flames, I realized, dancing in elaborate black iron sconces mounted in a stone cliff face, flanking either side of an enormous gate. I looked down from the flames at a huge form resting in front of the gate. It had been worried about this as I make the trek, remembering everything I’d read about the Greek underworld. Charon was just Hades’s ferryman. The sentinel of the underworld, the creature I saw beneath the gate, was a dog. Although his back was turned to me, I know immediately I was looking down at the original hellhound. Cerberus was a fierce beast, an enormous dog with fur as black as the grave and three gargantuan heads, each with a set of massive, razor-sharp jaws. He’d been waiting at the gates for thousands of years, tasked with making sure the dead who entered Hades’s realm couldn’t find their way out again.

Now, though, Cerberus was asleep. The thing was curled up beneath the gate, tail wrapped around it, each head pointed in a different direction… and all three of them were snoring. His legs twitched, a soft involuntary motion as he slept. I wondered, offhandedly, what a dog of Hades had to dream about.

“Good boy,” I whispered. “Sweet dreams.”

Creeping up on the dozing pooch was, not to put too fine a point on it, scary as crap. Any one of his heads was big enough to bite me in half with one snap, but I had an inkling that if one of them woke up all three would be fighting over their new chew toy very quickly. I could hear the rumbles of the snoring get louder as I approached, I could watch his gigantic hide rise and fall with each heavy breath. When I got close enough to see one of his faces, each time it exhaled I felt like I was standing in the downdraft from an open steam room. Its breath was hot, stale, moist, and so strong I was impressed I even managed to stand up straight.

“Stay asleeeeeep,” I sang softly. “Stay asleeeeeep. Stay asleeeeep, gi-ant monster. I am smaaaaall and still a-liiiiiiive, and I probably taste liiiike craaaaaaaaaap…”

I crept around him and turned my attention to the gates, looking for some sort of locking mechanism. There wasn’t one, of course – who needs a lock if you have the largest, hungriest security system in the universe snoozing at the gates? I reached out and touched the gate, tugging just slightly. To my surprise, it glided open quite easily. What was going on here? If the dog was sleeping, what was there to keep all the souls trapped inside from just bursting free? All they would have to do was slip out one at a time whenever they heard snoring like he was right now.

Like… right… now…

It was the worst possible time for me to realize the snoring had stopped.

The breathing, however, was much heavier.

I turned around slowly, feeling the blast of hot air hit me in the face. The monster was exactly as big as I thought it would be while standing up: gi-freaking-normous. It was standing up, in a crouched position like it was about to pounce, and each of its heads was sniffing at me. If anything, they were fighting over the chance to catch a whiff. They snapped at each other, then turned back to me, huffing like I was a tube of model glue. If they kept it up much longer, they were gonna smell something entirely different.

Finally, the center head came in closer, sniffing and rumbling deep in its throat. Its mouth opened, and I decided at least I wouldn’t have far to go to get to the afterlife.

Then, just like must have happened to Orpheus when he took his trip to Hades, the enormous beast flapped out its huge, pink tongue… and licked me.

“The hell?”

The dog panted – all three of its heads – and it let out a bark that could have shattered glass. The left head bent at the neck and nudged me with its snout, and the right one picked up a skull from the ground and dropped it at my feet.

“Holy crap… you’re just a dog,” I said. Sure, it was a huge, hideous malformation of nature, but Cerberus was behaving just like any other dog that was starved for attention. If Charon hadn’t had any customers for thousands of years, how long had it been since anyone had paid attention to poor Cerberus?

I picked up the skull, understanding what I was supposed to do with it. “Okay, boy,” I said, hurling it as far as I could. “Go! Go get it!”

Cerberus zipped off and came back a second later, the left head holding the skull in its teeth, the other two growling at it. I picked it up and threw it again, then again. The third time, I turned and tried to slip through the gate, but before I could make it through, Cerberus was back again.

“I really don’t have the time for this,” I said, throwing the skull again. He didn’t seem to understand – he just returned with the skull again… and again. Finally – and I did feel bad about this – I made a motion to hurl the skull as far as I could, but instead held on to it and tossed it behind me through the open gate. Cerberus took off in what appeared to be the direction I threw it, and as he looked around for nothing, I stepped through and closed the gate behind me.

I was better off with the hellhound.

Hades was not, as one might expect, all fire and brimstone. That was just a small part, far off in the distance, from which came the most horrific screams I’d ever heard. Also in the distance was a small pinpoint of light, true light, that called to me. In the pits in front of me was the hell that Stephanie must have been fleeing from. There were people – millions of people – toiling in the depths. They were all grey, like Hades’ goons that visited us at the coffee shop, covered in ash and screaming in pain. Some were tied to plots, others pushed enormous wheels, more carried picks and axes, others were working enormous smelting pots. All of them were engaged in something productive, which was a terrifying thought. The information I read about Hades’s underworld said that most of the people who went there – those not selected for special punishment or reward – suffered a vague half-life, an existence without meaning, purpose, or hope. These people, though… I didn’t know what it was, but they most certainly had a purpose.

There was an army of men keeping them attuned to that purpose: ugly men… hideous little things with bald heads and draped in long, black robes. Each of them held not a whip, but a long sword made of glittering white metal. They glowed, but not like the true light in the distance. This was something ugly… something empty. Something cold. Just like the black light in the little men’s eyes — particularly the two of them that were advancing towards me, swords drawn, their faces without expression even as their blades were being raised.

Next: Chapter Twenty-Highway to Hell

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.




Blake’s Twitter Feed

July 2020
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 312,635 hits

Blake's Flickr Photos

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.