pushed open the large, dismal doors, which left black streaks on his hands. As he walked gangly into the room, it smelled of sulfur
and stale air. Charon’s eyes had grown accustomed to the lack of light in the underworld
, but in Hades
’ office it always seemed darker. The desk seemed to run further away with each step, and he grew frustrated. The sweet cacophony
that is the voice of Hades bellowed out with purple gale force. For an inaudible moment the mood was ambivalent, almost like a church choir
singing harmoniously yet strangely like a scream in terror. Echoes of what Hades was saying and about to say filled the cavernous office.
“The soul transference rate is down ten percent this quarter, Charon,” he roared as Charon cringed at the sound of his own name coming from the death pipe organ. Hades stared down at him while lofted in a high throne in front of his desk. Two chairs were placed ornately facing Hades, sanitary in their blackness. Charon took a seat and the chairs seemed brittle as he wedged himself in for a while.
“I am sorry sir, but I have been working just as hard as always, perhaps it is another department.”
Charon bit his lip and toyed with his feet while Hades just watched blankly. Charon was hot and cold. The moment seemed to never leave.
Hades said and nothing further merely spinning a small letter opener proficiently between his long fragile fingers. He was oddly domineering for someone who looked as if the next, or any, gust of wind would sweep him away like sand.
“Sir.” Charon hoped Hades would return to the berating, as it was easier on him than the silence.
“Leave,” he commanded.
Charon had no problem leaving and quickly scampered away kicking up dust with each foot plant. Hades let out another large shout as soon as the door shut that Charon was sure included massive amounts of flames. Sharp notes were fleeing from bones being banged against one another in the distance as Charon lowered his head and walked away. Dust kicked up and stung his eyes. They were so dry he had trouble closing them. His tongue picked up the biting taste of the dead, a heavy, wet musk, which was so prominent in the land.
The constant droop of his lower eye-lids nearly filled his face and drew the eye to follow every crevice in the dark brittle skin to its convergence with Charon’s few hairs that danced and waved on his head. He was done for the day and his gait was charred and lengthy. Charon decided to follow his typical post-work routine: Get yelled at, check mail, go to bar, go home.
Charon continued on walking the memorized path without falter. Shades in the distance turned slowly with a translucent horror and watched a wretched old corpse waving his hands arguing with himself. He decided to check his mail. A small soul danced and sang the song of silence outside of a stone building with a thatched roof, old and broken that was the mail room. It was certainly not executive, but nothing down there was. Charon squeezed into the small opening in the wall and stared at thousands of mail boxes. Every time he saw the building it boggled him. The inside seemed to be bigger than the outside, and he was sure it was ready to burst out any day now if something didn’t happen. His mailbox was an intricate system of numbers and dials that one would have to spend hours on to open, if it only worked. He neatly swung open his mailbox without problem. Charon peered inside and spied bills and bills only to be topped over by useless magazines. He leafed through a few back-issues of “Modern Centaur” before realizing that he, once again, had received Chiron’s mail along with his own. Placed carefully underneath the magazines in large discreet handwriting was a note that said “You have an appointment tomorrow at 12:45pm.” It was signed Tiresias. Charon was quite scared, for Tiresias was a very famous man, and therefore this must be quite important. The note gave him a twinge of instantaneous rapture. He felt it hard to control a smile, and his body vibrated as if something inside of him was about to leap out. It was fleeting though, of course, and his lips slowly degenerated into their normal ambivalent position. Charon stuttered and stumbled as he went over bullet points in his head why he could never take a day off to see Tiresias.
I can’t take a day off
- My Boss
- My Boss
- My clients need me
- I need the money
- Do I need the money?
- I need a day off. I can’t take a day off.
- I don’t work hard enough... I work too hard.
Deciding that this mail would be more exciting than his, he kept the magazines and planned to read them later. Charon exited the building and went to the Sullen Soul Saloon
Smoke wafted from every angle as Charon squinted at the dulled lights and entered the bar. His traditional post work haunt was more crowded than usual, but the normal drunkard
s were still about. Hector
and his brother Paris
were quite reduced, although Paris consumed about a tenth of what Hector did. The smell was a strong musty tobacco
mixed with last night’s vomit
, which brought Charon an uneasy comfort. Odysseus
, brazen in bronze armor which cut through the smoke, was pounding Agamemnon
in a game of chess in the corner. The rich dark marble pieces drifted easily under the hands of the generals. Agamemnon, upon conceding, rammed Odysseus's pieces with his knight and stormed off to drink more. Charon hopped onto a bar stool, which was just a little too high for his feet to touch the ground, and slammed his elbow on the bar with a slight fumble. Around such heroes, Charon often squirmed and was constantly patting down his fuzzy dancing hair. Achilles
had one eye open and the other closed with a huge smile and spittle hanging from his mouth. He could barely keep his head straight, but he stumbled over to Charon.
“Ya' know S'hroon, you’re the best poller I ever saw, and I even saw Hercules pole once,” he said while slumping onto the bar into a puddle of mead. Charon was flattered, but sure the drunkard’s comments were merely verbal diarrhea common of someone in his situation. A figure cut through the dense smoke; it was Hephaestus the bartender, who had heard the remark and added his view.
“Yeah really. You help me get to work everyday so quickly.” Charon looked around to see if other people heard that. He couldn’t tell, but they all were looking at him. Without responding, Charon bolted out of the bar. The comments, though, were not taken lightly as Charon never received such compliments.
As he walked, his plan was fired in the kiln of his mind, and probably could have stood a little more cooking time. Charon decided that he would just up and leave for a whole day to see Tiresias. Although he seemed to think about this for a long time, he was merely dreaming about what it could be, and never actually thought he could do it, take a day off. He forgot just how many years he had be doing his job and knew that, even when sick, that pole was in his hands at 4:00 in the morning.
Hooves clattered on muttered floors, then stamped as Chiron was again duped by someone who had stolen his mail. He coughed and damned Tiresias for being so tardy.
Charon approached Cerberus
, who was covered in matted, wet hair. Thick slobber dripped like corn syrup
down his entirety and a massive tan tail waved back and forth ominously. One of the few people who Cerberus liked was Charon, for he always brought three treats or three frisbee
s, whereas other people brought five or one. Cerberus’s heads often competed for prime petting time with each other, and none ended up the victor because of it. Charon tried to be fair, but it is hard to deal with a three ton puppy. Charon looked around and pulled out his raft and pole.
Styx bubbled in a sulfurous malaise for life, an oozing of corpulent polychromatic fire, which folded and undulated like so many souls that had transgressed it. Styx was lost between river and fire, a mystery to everyone including itself, for it acted like both. Charon tamed it masterfully with a fragile hand and a scorched pole. He wouldn’t mind the work, if it wasn’t for the heat, and he wouldn’t mind the heat if it wasn't for the work. He imagined people working in a cooled environment, perhaps without a pole and wondered how he even got to where he was.
A soul traversed between death and life. It was not alive, yet it was there. Charon couldn’t explain it. If it was dead, why did he have to get it from that side to the other. What if it were to fall into Styx, what would happen to it? Often times he thought of pushing one in. What would it matter? They are dead; then, would they be deader? Or dead and burnt? Charon might as well have been carting the same souls back and forth, for it just didn’t matter. They did the same thing they did on the other side, just on the new side. Floating and moaning, floating and moaning. Why did he have to sweat and get burned for a few more souls to float and moan on a different side. Who would want to conquer Hades? Sure the temperature was constant, but there was the bone chill in the humidity. Perhaps it would make the most unique wine cellar for a rich Athenian, but other than that Charon was out of ideas. He wiped his brow and pushed harder while biting his upper lip in agony. The only way out was the hardest; he had to pole harder than ever. His entire hand was a large, delicate callous, but it gripped and tugged with all Charon could muster. Charon poled up flows of living fire and eventually made it to the small tributary of the river which took him up to the real world. Charon walked out of the underworld and up into a bright world. He was temporarily blinded, for he hadn’t seen anything as bright as the sun since some idiot set a building on fire in the underworld a while ago.
Charon looked quite odd as he groped around looking for a place to sit, an innocuous old shriveled blind man tripping and stumbling not even having a specific goal in mind. Eventually, Charon patted a soft patch of grass and drifted off to sleep listening to sounds that he couldn’t identify. Birds, the wind, and other unidentifiable things that used to be so normal now sounded so foreign and frightening.
Charon awoke to the sound of horse hooves slamming against the ground. He looked up and could actually see, but was nearly blinded again by radiant white steeds whose hair was short and coarse and manes were tight and trimmed. Muscles rippled everywhere from the beasts, and when they stomped their hooves, pieces of earth flew up and slammed Charon. His heart was thumping, but he didn’t know what to do. Fear was dancing around his head like fire. A pounding headache arose suddenly, which only grew as a massive figure stepped out from behind the horses. He was just as brazen as Odysseus, but twice as tall and with swept blonde hair. All fear subsided as Charon recognized him as Helios.
“Hello!” Helios said. To Charon his voice seem to come from every direction.
“Hi,” Charon got up and dusted himself off.
“Would you like a ride, I can take you anywhere,” Helios said as he groomed his horses and stared off to the horizon.
“That would be awfully kind of you, but I don’t want to be a bother.”
“Don’t worry, if you start bothering me, I will just throw you out.” There was a long pause. Helios threw his head back opened his cavernous mouth and laughed so deep that Charon thought he could feel it. Charon gave back an uneasy laugh and stumbled around to the back of the Chariot. He paced behind the great red glossy box, unsure of how to get in, until Helios picked him up by his neck and tossed him to the corner where he stayed licking a scratch on his hand.
“Where do you want to go?” asked Helios. Charon looked up at the sun, he had plenty of time before he had to meet Tiresias.
“Anywhere fun, I have time to kill,” Charon told him.
“Oh, I have a place for that,” Helios said with a wink and a smile. They lifted off into the sky, where the air was sweet and warm. Charon was enveloped in a sensation that he never felt before.
Charon landed with a huge thump and from around him light arid sand puffed up. His eyes were raw and red from the crystalline
intruders, but he looked up to see Helios glaring in his great chariot waving.
“I’ll be back in two hours, you stud!” Helios said with a wink and a flex of his muscles which were twice as large as Charon themselves. Charon looked out over the expanse of the sea, it was so large that he couldn’t even see other land. It boggled him how large the over-world was. He could be on this island and someone could be several years’ travel away. The thought reminded him of the underworld, and he cringed as he realized the responsibility he dodged. No, that couldn’t get in his way of having fun. Charon took his time through the dense forest, each leaf pink and delicate. He brushed them aside just as delicately, as if to gain trust. As he grew closer to a large rococo palace, his delicateness was shattered, and he batted the underbrush away from him. A forest of moist leaves slapped him incredulously in the face, and his body turned and thrashed back with each of his stringy muscles fighting an invisible force to make his goal. Eventually, he was free from the grasp of the forest and gasped as he entered the palace. He was hit with immense joy. From every corner hot springs bubbled and followed intricate patterns in the clay floor. Each pool was captured by an atrium which convulsed with life.
Calypso lay reading a tablet and sighed while twirling her forever curling hair. Her red silken dress shimmered with every light beam that touched and was rimmed with fantastic gold thread that followed a pattern so blindingly beautiful it had taken seventy years to make. Her nose was sharp and upturned and defied her round soft eyes, her complexity was beautiful. Calypso’s pale white skin and demeanor mocked Charon so much that he was embarrassed to be seen. In just that instant, she saw him. Her mouth turned to a giant O, but no scream emerged as Charon planned for, rather she was bored with his presence instantly. She had had hundreds of great muscle ridden heroes whose cascading ships had crashed upon their islands, only to have them die of old age, that she was spoiled. Charon couldn’t cut it, and she returned to her tablet. It was the utmost form of rejection. Charon went back into the jungle and neither battered it playfully, nor caressed it. Charon walked up and down on the beach. The sand formed fortification around his toes, only to be swept away by the sea every time. Why did it even try, each time only to fail. Charon thought that he should just give up. Maybe no one had noticed. No it was too late for that! A whisk of sand and Helios was back.
“Tell me all about it, you stud!” Helios said as he simultaneously handled the reigns and slammed Charon on the back knocking the wind out of him.
“I’d rather not,” Charon wined in a voice that sounded mute compared to Helios’s.
“Fine, where to next?” Charon asked the shining god to take him to Tiresias.
Charon dropped, again with more sand in his mouth, into a crowded Athenian
market. He huddled up in a corner and just watched the people go by. The ragged, wrinkly old man was of no concern to the shoppers who thought he was just poor. Some even offered him money, which he gladly took. In all, Charon made more sitting against a small building in a dusty street than he would all week sweating. Charon sat there waiting for Tiresias, for he didn’t know what he looked like.
Tiresias was old and love was around him like scarlet envelope. It was platonic love of man and mankind. A tear dropped from his eyes like so many shattered dreams around the world, he felt them all. A dove was on his necklace. It was an ivory icon which hung on a thin worn leather rope, twisted gnarled and worn with rubbing against his chest. He saw all and he knew all, he couldn’t stand it and yet knew that it was his lot and duty. It was the best gift one could ever posses, except if you possessed it. He looked up at the clouds and his yellow blind eyes glowed, and from them poured out visions that wafted up to the heavens like rich blue smoke. Tiresias could see the future, and life was stale for him. Nothing came as immediate. He even wished for unforeseen tragedy, something that he didn’t expect. This old seer needed a break as much as Charon did. He recognized Charon’s presence and sat next to him. Instantly, Charon knew who he was, and Charon poured his frustrations and excitement out at once. It was odd, but Tiresias was glad to be with Charon rather than Chiron, as Chiron was too verbose and it tired him.
The two sat and talked for nearly twelve hours straight while ignoring every urge from sleeping to eating. They covered such topics from both their problems to where the world was going. They both enjoyed the conversation so immensely that as they talked about their problems, they didn’t seem so problematic. Each had advice that opened up each other’s world. It was the sort of experience that had each word held in an emerald glaze for an eternity. Time passed in half speed for them, yet around them everything was happening at normal time. The outside world was a blur, and everything made sense inside their sphere. Enlightenment seemed to be achieved with the assemblage of the two. Although it was brief in time, the meeting lived long and profound in their minds. Charon eventually had to leave and didn’t look back to see Tiresias, for he didn’t have to. Tiresias was able to clear his mind; he didn’t know what was going to happen.
Charon rode his raft down Styx with a recklessness that could only come from satisfaction
. He ran to check his mail when he got back. Maybe something had changed. His smile dripped from him as he pulled out another copy of “Modern Centaur,” and a note from Hades. Long deadly handwriting proclaimed “See Me NOW!”
Charon’s confidence failed him, and he drooped back to the office in which he had been scolded thousands of times. The door was just as heavy and the walk to the desk just as long. Hades was even madder, but his eyes were sad. Charon felt something different as Hades yelled this time. He remembered a bit of advice that Tiresias had given him. He now understood what Tiresias had meant and stood up.
“No!” He shouted, his tiny limbs outstretched, jaw thrown down and brow in a frenzy. Hades was surprised and nearly fell backwards of his chair. His long skinny fingers flourished in an effort to regain balance as his long black robe fluttered around his arms.
“I am done, I quit,” Charon said just as his friend told him to. He was sure it would work out, after all Tiresias could see the future. He wasn’t sure.
“No, you can’t quit. We need you,” Hades was broken, and his giant obelisk chair slammed to the ground, and he started groveling. “Please we need you. I tried to pole myself and nearly fell in. What do you want?” Hades was as weak as Charon had ever seen. Charon grew sick at the sight. The King of the Dead was groveling to him.
Charon demanded a raise, and he got it. Charon demanded his own office, and he got it. Most importantly though, Charon demanded a vacation for a single day a year. Hades groaned knowingly that he had to accept and eventually gave in. Miles away, Tiresias grinned with Charon.