A Reflection in a Filthy Pool
I sat down, nodded to an uncaring Narcissus, and thought I’d have a try. The beautiful forest, dripping with lush growth and splendorous life, held my interest not at all. I wanted to see what I could see in his pool. I looked at him again and wondered at his absolute concentration as he seemed oblivious to Echo screaming in his ear, desperate for attention again. I became sick of her ranting, took out my gun and shot her in the face. That shut the bitch up. Now as the peaceful tranquillity of the idyllic woodland scene once more settle upon my shoulders, I returned my attention to the pool. I didn’t really understand; what were we looking at? Once more I turned my scrutiny toward Narcissus, and the spot of water he stared at so avidly, seeming to almost drool with anticipation and desire at what he could see. I was a little surprised to note that where he looked the water seemed to sheen like a polished mirror, and what he was looking at was actually his own slightly effeminate features. I snorted at the vanity and saw that my own portion of the pool showed nothing but a swirling chaotic pattern of muddy water.
Ah, I understood, the water showed the current inclinations of your soul, so Narcissus saw himself as that lovely eh, and I was all confused and unclear as to myself. This pissed me right off so I picked up a good sized stone lying innocently beside the pool, clubbed him in the head and pushed his unconscious body into the water to drown ignorant to his fate. Next I returned to my car, pulled out a can of petrol, poured it into the lake and set it on fire. I gazed once more upon my reflection and laughed as I saw a manic looking figure cackling to himself in mad glee as the flames tried to consume his features – all trace of the muddy character I had seen earlier had entirely vanished.
I was just beginning to enjoy warmth from the pretty pyrotechnics when I heard a murmured conversation coming from somewhere to my left. Intrigued that more people should be present at this remote and usually infrequently visited location I turned in that direction and moved slowly through the thick underbrush in an effort to avoid notice. When I finally reached the place the voices were coming from I peeked around the bole of a tree to see good old Cadmus kneeling before who could only be Athena. Lying beside them was the massive form of some mutant serpent, must have been a metre thick and more than twenty bloody meters long, all mangled by what I presumed had been Cadmus’ bloody sword that lie on the ground next to its half severed head
I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying but I saw her begin to pluck out the teeth from the monster (really quite gross for a pretty lass), and bestow them with some formality into Cadmus’ hand. He prostrated himself before her and she flashed off into the sky as a beam of light. At which point he raised himself from the ground, and started to make his way through the woods with a determined stride.
Interested in this situation I followed discretely as some distance until he’d arrived in a large clearing in the forest on a gentle hillock. He walked around the area for some time, apparently evaluating its qualities for whatever he planned next, or whatever Athena had instructed him to do.
Finally, he seemed satisfied with his thorough examination and returned to the hillock from where he had started. Then beginning at the centre and slowly expanding out in an ever increasing spiral he began to plant the teeth in the earth as if they were seeds. I wandered over to stand beside his as he toiled and politely inquired as to what he was doing. Not seeming to take any offence to my questioning he explained that his men had been butchered by a monster snake in the woods, which he’d managed to dispatch, but now had no people with which to people his new country. Athena had instructed him to plant the teeth where he wished to originate his civilisation and just to wait and watch what happened.
When he’d planted all the seeds the two of us moved some distance off to watch what happened next, and didn’t have long to wait. Within moments of our retreat the ground above where he’s seeded the earth commenced to heave and vibrate, and suddenly, springing in from the ground were warriors dressed in the full armour of the fighting hoplite. Cadmus clapped his hands together in delight and was about to rush forward to embrace his new population when a nagging doubt caught whispered to me and I grabbed his sleeve, hauling him back to my side. I cautioned him to pause for a moment and to allow any events about to occur unfold.
My suspicions were soon confirmed, as I had wondered at why the new citizens of some god inaugurated would appear dressed and prepared for battle. The soldiers, with a kind of mindless savagery, set at each other. Swords flashed in the air, blood spattered the ground, and men fell, hacked to pieces, all over the beautiful glade, until it was unrecognisable, and indistinguishable from a slaughter house.
Next to me Cadmus wept, and I could hear him murmuring to the goddess ‘why?’ over and over. In the end only five of the warriors remained, and I think they only didn’t murder each other because they were too tired. I sat him down and had a little chat about the rewards of attempting to promote a utopian society based on the principles of hate and murder. I continued on to suggest that a reasonable society would never be successful without some formulated tyrannical leadership structure to maintain order, then advocated some chaps who studied philosophy to be put in charge and when children were born to be classed and given roles in the city to train for, thus insuring everyone knew their place and the society had ample resources for its needs. It all seemed very logical and reminded me of something I had read in a book I read once just before throwing it in a fire to keep the chill of winter from my bones as I sheltered from some storm on some mountain a long time ago.
He brightened immediately and thanked me for my advice, went over to the men, talked for a while, I think in a similar vein to what I had just told him, but I had lost interest and he was some distance away so couldn’t hear very clearly. That was the last I heard of him, although I did pick up some news, a couple of hundred years later, of the city he eventually founded. The social program I had suggested had somewhere gone amiss, and finally some chaps from Sparta had strolled in, seized the city and slaughtered many of its inhabitants.
I wandered off through the woods in search of my car and some time later came across a couple of snakes winding their way through the woods. I didn’t like the look of the two of them wiggling here and there so stepped on their heads, they wriggled a lot less after that, but well that’s life, eh…
I hadn’t found my car by the time I came across a man, clutching a harp to his chest and sobbing in sorrow over the body of a lovely young girl. I asked him what the matter was and he informed me that a snake had recently bitten his new wife and she had died here in his arms. He continued to rant and rave pathetically so I slapped him in the face a couple of time to calm him down. When he had regained what little of his manly virtues that remained I suggested the two of us pop down to the underworld and ask Hades if we could have her back. He was obviously overjoyed at my idea and soon the two of us were wandering down a long dark tunnel into the realms of the dead.
I was just starting to get hungry and eying poor Orpheus with a little saliva dribbling from the corner of my mouth when we emerged from the tunnel to the banks of a wide, slow flowing river, must be the Acheron or the Styx, so easy to mix the two up. Orpheus began to moan and weep again (I mean honestly, just a little thing like the river of the dead, and the guy breaks down like a child who’s favourite puppy has just been spattered across the road by some four by four driven by an inebriated redneck). I patted him reassuringly on the back, perhaps harder than necessary as he nearly took a plunge into the murky waters, and whistled a couple of times through my teeth.
In just a short time Charon appeared poling his flat bottomed boat across the river. In a trice I had leapt into the boat, ripped one off his skeletal limbs from his body and clubbed him to Death (who was eagerly awaiting his soul on my shoulder, as he’d been thwarted by this determined survivor for long enough), pushing his finally dead corpse into the river I settled down to crunch the bone I now held and ordered Orpheus to get to work ferrying us to the other side of the river.
We soon reached the other side, as since I had ruthlessly dealt with Charon, and while I was munching on a bone Orpheus had looked decidedly nervous and punted us across the river at a rate that soon had him sweating profusely. We alighted from the knackered old tub and started off across the wastelands of the dead, a dry and dusty place if ever I’d seen one, I can tell you.
It wasn’t half an hour later that we found ourselves at the gateway to Dis, la città ch'ha nome Dite. A now very timid and innocuous Orpheus clung to my heels like a faithful hound as I shouldered my way through fallen angels and furies alike, with the occasional course greeting to one or another I was particularly acquainted with (well, you know how they are). At the steps to the palace I cautioned Orpheus to let me do the talking as Hades could be a little, eh… irritable upon occasion. He seemed quite content to accept my lead in this matter.
Into the massive citadel we forged our way, soon to be met and led to the throne room by poor Virgil, who in helping some Italian chap had been dragooned into a brief eternity of servitude. I couldn’t help myself and enquired as to how long he had to go… I thought he might bite me.
We entered into the throne room, which lived up to all expectations with glowing reds and black metals, brooding statues and staircases leading nowhere etc… I looked up the vast stairway leading up to the gigantic thrones where Hades or Old Dad Dis as his drinking buddies used to call him sat beside that harridan of a wife, Persephone (six months a year of freedom, and worth every second I thought), she as usual considered me as some large rodent who’d managed to avoid her sweeping.
We mounted the stairway up to one of the higher levels and I bowed formally to ODD, he chuckled at my impudence and when he thought his wife was not looking wicked form his furthest eye to her (I really did wonder why he put up with her, I mean his mother in law was a pretty scary woman, and I wouldn’t like her to be angry with me, but I mean come on… ‘King of Hell!’, get some backbone).
I introduced Orpheus and explained his desire to have his wife returned to him, a concept that obviously seemed far beyond ODD’s comprehension, and as he raised a quizzical eyebrow at me (wonderfully expressive his eyes, could have a philosophical conversation with those eyes, he could), and I told him it’s be as a favour to me. His wife duly snorted derision (could have timed that and made a bit of money), and fortunately Orpheus actually came to my rescue at this point, offering to play then a tune or two to cheer the mood in return for his spouse, claiming they would be unable to deny his request when they beheld the depth of his love contained within his music.
ODD, good sport that he was agreed, and the old witch Peps, always seeking out something new and varied to deride, also nodded her consent. Oh, it was a joy to see… Orpheus, all pumped up with pride and confidence that his little ditties could entrance the birds in the trees, strutted up like a peacock, brandished his harp like some flashing blade and struck up a tune.
In mere moments Hades was laughing so hard he was actually crying, I truly hadn’t seen such a thing before. I myself thought the ditty worth a little foot tapping, but couldn’t be bothered, so didn’t, and only seconds later Persephone screeched out for him to give the guy his wife and offer him immortality in the bargain if it would keep him from returning here again when dead and deafening them all with his dreadful cacophony.
So it was a happy if slightly put out at the same time Orpheus and his wife, who made their way from hell and back up that tunnel towards the world above. Unfortunately, though I had warned them beforehand and while Orpheus had listened to my caution, when Medusa jumped out playing her little ‘startle the newcomers’ game Eurydice couldn’t help but look.
So in the end it was only Orpheus and I who returned to the living world while his wife became just another statue to entertain those on the long walk, a bit like Madame Torsade’s it was getting down there, with most of the same characters portrayed.
He was weeping so piteously that I felt a bit sorry for the old chap, wandered over and had a quick word with a small group of Maenads, moments later they descended upon him and kindly tore him to pieces, and after I had a chat with Bacchus they were happily at transformed into trees, enjoying the company of dogs as they did.
So well satisfied with my philanthropy I went back to searching for my car, as I had places to be and people to see…
I was just nearing full circle and returning to the pool of water where I had neatly disposed of Narcissus when who do you think I came across, trumping along carrying my car… yes, you’ve guessed it… bloody Heracles. All puffed up and chest out like a strutting cockerel as usual, all pleased with himself over the find of his new shinny thing.
“Dude, that’s my car!”
“Not any more, mine now”
“You can’t just take my stuff, man.”
“Possession is nine tenths of the law”
“Who said that; it’s rubbish?”
“I did, got a problem, little man?”
“Only with fat morons with lion skins and olive-wood clubs”
“Oh, you’re going to regret saying that”
So this is how my mouth found me fleeing through the trees being hotly pursued by an enraged psycho, famous throughout the world for randomly butchering innocent people, friends and family alike and blaming it all on poor Hera, who did little but worry about her wayward husband and his sexual gallivanting about the cosmos.
I could barely imagine how strong he must be as he’d not even dropped my car, but held it above his head with one hand and was lashing that evil looking club around with the other and roaring absolute gibberish as he came on. My car was suffering no end of a beating as when he could not pass between the [thankfully] flimsy, slim trees here he just used it to flatten them.
I felt like something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, and soon bored of my flight and sensing that I would soon begin to tire, and for the moment possessing the high ground, turned to face him.
He didn’t even stop; just ran me over and as he skidded to an eventual stop, quite some distance beyond me I tried to extricate myself from the me shaped hole now dug into the ground I found myself spread-eagled in. I pulled myself to my feet to see him putting my car, now nice and gently, down onto the ground and started towards me once more.
Right, have at him. I charged, ducking a heavy but slow swing of his club to get a good right cross into his chin, leapt back to avoid the returning swing of the club and kicked him in the nuts. He laughed, dropped his club, grabbed me by my shirt and butted my head. I realised I was now some forty feet from the three of him stomping towards me, wiped the blood from my eyes, and staggered to my unsteady feet just in time to receive a left jab that nearly took my head off and I was on the ground again, this time lying with my back to a tall elm.
“Stay down, little man”
“There’s a good puppy”
“Terhtoiphertegle, moteer fuggle!”
I just couldn’t help it; his back was to me and I’ll remain myself to the very end. I lurched to my feet, gathering up a stout branch lying on the forest floor, ran up behind him and shattered the wood to splinters over his head… he turned to me smiling… oops!
Three weeks later, resting in hospital with almost every bone in my body broken and my ligaments and tendons stretched and torn, I wondered if that last blow had really been worth it…