by Nicolas Valenti
“Nuts! I overslept!” exclaimed Frank as he looked at his watch. He had exactly five minutes to get to work, and he wasn’t even showered. He decided he didn’t have time and would have to just get dressed and go. Frank grabbed a banana and sprinted out of his apartment. After racing down a flight of stairs, climbing into the driver’s seat of his trusty Honda, and backing out of his parking spot, he was on the road and approaching a stop sign. Unfortunately, he didn’t see it, for if he did, this story would be much different. He blew through the stop sign, heard the honk of a horn, and everything went black.
When Frank came to, he saw a tall man. He wore winged sandals, a winged cap, and had a wand. It wasn’t like a Harry Potter wand, or a fairy godmother wand, but it was his own signature sort of wand. Actually, now that I think about it, the only wand-like thing about it was its length. We’ll say it was a wand.
“Shall we be going?” he asked good-naturedly.
“Huh?” asked Frank, still slightly dazed from the crash. “What happened? Who are you?”
He smiled. “Well, I can imagine you are quite confused. To make a long explanation short, you just got hit by a semi.” The way he talked seemed so natural, thought Frank. Then the reality hit.
“What? How did I survive?”
Once again he smiled. “You didn’t.”
Frank gasped. He turned around and saw two things: skid marks on the road and his crushed Honda. Actually, “crushed” may not be descriptive enough. His Honda was totaled. It was decimated. It was completely obliterated. You get the idea; it was the pretty beyond repair. But, it was what was inside the car that made him speechless: his body. He slowly walked over to the car. Dark red defined his stone cold figure. His legs were bent at an exactly 76-degree angle in the wrong way, his shoulders nearly touching each other. And he wore the same shocked expression that he did when he first heard that horn. He turned around again. “Who are you? What’s going on?” demanded Frank.
“I am Hermes, god of merchants, thieves, and all others who live by their wits. I’m here to take you to the Underworld.” Again he smiled.
“You mean I’m going to hell?”
Hermes chuckled. “No, you’re not going to hell. You see, most people assume the Underworld is hell. It’s not; it’s where all dead souls go once their time has come. The good and bad all go to the Underworld. Didn’t you ever study Greek Mythology?”
“No, I never did. Is that what religion you are from?”
Again he smiled. “Yes, I suppose it is my religion, when you put it that way.”
“So there’s no place for good people and no place for bad in the underworld?” asked Frank.
“Yes, there is. Someone will explain everything to you once you get there.”
Not entirely reassured, Frank followed Hermes. For some reason, he blindly trusted him.
I’m going to skip their trip to the underworld and the idle conversation that went with it; I’m almost certain you don’t want to hear it. I’m going to skip right to the part where Hermes sees him off.
Frank looked into a huge gaping tunnel. Stalagmites and stalactites defined it. “Where do I go from here?” inquired Frank.
“You should just keep going straight. Oh! I almost forgot.” Hermes reached into his pocket and pulled out a coin. “Don’t lose this coin.”
Frank eyed it curiously. It looked like a Chuck-E-Cheese’s token. “What do I need this for?”
“You need it to get into the underworld. Give this coin to Charon, the ferryman, to get across the river. If you don’t, you will be stuck inside the tunnel for all eternity.” He smiled. “Enjoy yourself.” Hermes flew off, probably to guide the next soul to the underworld. Frank took a deep breath, and proceeded through the tunnel.
After walking for about an hour, Frank saw a river and a ferryman at the bank. He walked over. “Are you Charon?”
The man spit on the ground. He had a straw hat, an oar, some tattered pants, and not much else. “No, I’m Lindsey Lohan.” He started laughing very hard to himself. Frank waited for the man to stop politely.
“I’m here for the ride across,” Frank mumbled.
“No! I thought you were here to audit me!” spat the man, and proceeded to laugh harder than last time, his Adam’s apple shaking with each “ha.” Frank again waited for the man to stop laughing.
“This coin will do, right?”
“No, I only accept Greek coins.” Frank froze for a moment. “I’m just getting your goat, lad!” He roared with laughter. He almost fell out of his boat, he was laughing so hard. Once he finally calmed down, Frank stepped into the boat.
“So,” inquired Frank. “Um, can you tell me a little about the underworld?”
Charon suddenly grew very solemn and serious. “Well, once I drop you off, you will be tried before the three judges of the underworld, who determine which part of the underworld you will go to. There are three parts: Tartarus, where the evil go to be tortured for eternity, Elysium, where the virtuous go to party for eternity, and The Fields of Asphodel, where most ordinary folks go, and where you’ll essentially be bored for eternity.” Frank gulped, his gut telling him that he would go to Asphodel. “I wouldn’t worry too much: you seem like a real charmer!” He started to chuckle, apparently back to his normal self.
I’ll just skip Frank’s trial before the judges; it was very long and tedious. It probably would have been taken up twelve pages, too. In short, he was sent to The Fields of Asphodel. Upon arrival, the door was shut, and it vanished into thin air. Frank began to scan his surroundings. It was a withering grass field, with gray skies and, most noticeably, tons upon tons upon tons of people. All he could see in all directions were people and dead grass. Suddenly, a guy walked up to him. “Hi. I’m Bill. Are you new here?”
“Yeah, I just got here.” Frank eyed Bill suspiciously. He was about 5’ 11”, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He was wearing a polo shirt and some jeans and had a pretty casual look to him. It looked like he was fresh out of college. He looked like the last person to ever wrong anyone, let alone Frank.
“What do you do for a living? Or, um, did do for a living.” He smiled nervously. “I’m a little new myself.”
“I’m, uh, Frank. I pushed pencils.” Bill shook his hand.
“Nice to meet you; I actually just graduated. I was a theology major.” This man just seemed incredibly friendly, Frank thought. He soon reasoned there was nothing wrong with this guy; he had been too paranoid.
“So, what’s a nice guy like you doing in the Fields of Asphodel?”
“I can’t say I know myself.” He smiled again. “I’m sure there is a good reason.”
Soon two weeks had passed, and Frank and Bill were really getting to know each other. After a month’s passing, it seemed like they had known each other their entire lives; they were practically brothers. That changed one day. One day, very seriously and solemnly, Bill finally said it. “I know a way out of here.”
Frank was stunned. “What?” he gasped. “Out of the underworld?”
“No, I mean out of Asphodel. Remember how I said I was a theology major?” Frank nodded. “Well, I studied Greek Mythology. And according to theologians of the time, Tartarus, The Fields of Asphodel, and Elysium merge together.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” asked Frank.
“It means that we could theoretically walk to Elysium. We suffer no fatigue, and we’re going to be down here for all of eternity, so might as well spend it walking. Think about it.”
Frank absorbed this. Bill was absolutely right. There was just one problem. “What if we get caught?”
“We won’t get caught. Trust me.” He said it in a voice that one-hundred percent sure.
Frank smiled. “Let’s go for it.”
Now, once again I’m going to make a skip. But this skip is different. The skip I’m about to make is massive compared to the previous ones. The trip to the underworld took about two surface days, and Frank’s trial a quarter of that. This time I’m going to skip surface centuries, perhaps millenniums. Do you really want a chronicle of their journey? I didn’t think so. Anyway, one day Frank and Bill came to a wall. It was a pretty average wall with extraordinary height. “I thought they were supposed to merge together,” said Frank.
“Hey, I’m just as surprised as you are,” explained Bill. “Give me a boost and I’ll see what’s up there.” Frank helped him up.
Upon reaching the top of the wall, Bill smiled. It wasn’t his usual smile, but a very evil smirk. “Finally! I’m finally here!”
Frank faced soured. What’s going on? he thought to himself.
“Do you know how long I’ve waited to finally reach Elysium? Do you?” He started laughing; one could say he was cackling. It reminded Frank of Charon, except Charon’s laugh was good-natured. Then he regained control. “Do you remember the first time you asked me why I was in Asphodel? Huh? Do you? I wasn’t originally in Asphodel in the first place, and you’re a fool for thinking it! And that’s the exact reason I chose you.” Bill pointed at Frank with a malicious grin. “The reason I was in Asphodel was because I’m an escapee from Tartarus! No, what you should have asked, ‘Frank’, was why I was sent to Tartarus, and anyone with the IQ of a waffle iron could have figured out that I was! And the answer to that question was because that, according to the judges, I always put myself before everyone else! I can’t say I disagree with them. Once I got here, the only one I needed was a bonehead like you to help me up against the final wall!” Frank’s heart sank. Is that all their friendship was? A hoax?
Suddenly, there was a noise. It was like a hiss, a bark, and caw combined. Frank clutched his ears as Bill turned around to see a horrible demon, which he knew was one of the three furies. It had the head of a hideous woman, body of a raven, and tail of a scorpion, and had razor-sharp talons. It grabbed Bill’s legs. He gasped, and was pulled under the wall. Frank couldn’t believe himself; he instantly realized what had happened.
They had gone the wrong way. Bill was back in Tartarus.
After another skip of surface centuries, Frank went back to the center of Asphodel. He found his girlfriend from the surface, but of course she had changed much since the two skips ago he had seen her last. He was pretty happy for being in Asphodel. It was almost like he had made it to Elysium anyway.
“William John Crosby, will you please rise?” said one of the three judges. Bill stood up. “You have been sentenced to a lifetime of extreme torture in Tartarus. Have you anything to say?”
“No, your honor.”
“Very well.” Bill was led to a jail cell and locked inside. Binding chains wounded around his body. They grew very hot. They actually grew searing hot. His jail cell became a giant gas cooker. Outside of the cell, Bill saw children playing in the snow and eating ice cream. Of course, it wasn’t real. Bill screamed in agony. It hurt so much.