Never Let Me Down

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 29

Challenge #13*: David Bowie Day. Write a story including a character in mourning and exploring the theme of religion. It must include at least three David Bowie film titles, a swan song, and a character who speaks to the audience only in David Bowie song titles.

Everyone had been sad about it, naturally. To so suddenly lose a figure so beloved to so many. But it had struck Hades more than most. To him it was deeply personal, somehow. It shouldn’t have been—until it had happened, he’d never even been in the same room—but it was. He bet Baal never had to put up with this sort of sacrilege.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” said Virgil to the reader.

That was Virgil’s imaginary friend: “the reader.” Hades wasn’t sure when it had started, but he suspected it had something to do with his still-alive friend Dante waltzing off to Purgatory and leaving him stuck here. That or the linguine incident. That had been hard on everybody. Hades himself didn’t much like to think about it. He turned his attention instead to Charon, still trying to lift the deceased into his tiny little canoe.

“Have you tried using a lever of some kind?” yelled one of the shades.

“For the last time, Archimedes, enough with the levers!” Hades yelled back, then turned to Charon once more.

He didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.

“Actually…” Hades shouted across the Styx. “Have you tried using a lever?”

“You keep asking me that and I keep asking you: where am I supposed to get a lever big enough?” Charon bellowed back.

“I don’t know! It’s been almost eleven years! Surely you could have nipped off and found something by now?”

“But every time I suggest that you say—”

“I don’t want to hear excuses: just get it done!”

Charon went back to pushing.

Virgil rolled his eyes. “I pity the fool: it ain’t easy!”

“It would be a lot less hassle if it was just people that came down here, and not abstract concepts too,” grunted Charon.

“Gee,” said Hades, “ya think?” Then he considered that such sarcasm might not come across as suitably godly, so he added: “Shu’up!”

It didn’t seem to improve matters.

Neither did Charon shut up. “I hear Microsoft’s killing off MS Paint,” he said off-handedly.

“Do not start. Do not even start! They said they weren’t going to do that! It was in their blog!”

“Yeah, but that thing’s been around for…what? Thirty years? Pretty old for a bit of software.”

“If Paint gets down here, I will top myself. I’m not kidding. The entire place would look like a bad webcomic.”

“Might be an improvement, if you ask me,” put in another shade.

“Nobody’s asking you, Jeeves! That’s why you’re here!”

“And that’s quite a shame, sir, as I might have an answer to your rather large problem. Were you to ask.” He waggled his butlery eyebrows.

“Alright, fine, go on then.”

“Well?” Jeeves smirked.

“Fine, Jeeves! I’m asking you: how do I get a 13,030,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilogram ball of rock across the Styx, huh? You got any tips? Or should I grab Jacob Marley through MSN Messenger and get him to send me a telegram?”

“Little wonder all the young dudes do anything you say,” said Virgil.

“Shu’up!” snapped Hades. He turned back to Jeeves. “Well?”

“Permit me to answer your question with another question, sir: who do you know who’s good at pushing big rocks?”

Hades thought for a bit. Plato? Socrates? Ada Lovelace? Most of the really famous people he knew seemed like they’d be absolute beginners when it came to pushing big rocks. “George Stephenson?” he suggested. It sounded dumb, but maybe the dude could build a train or something to do it for him.

“Socrates?” suggested Charon. He’d stopped pushing, Hades noted. Hades gave him evils for it.

“Sisyphus,” announced Jeeves.

“Was he the guy who got locked in that labyrinth?” asked Charon.

“No, you idiot!” Hades slapped a palm to his forehead. “He’s the guy I forced to push a massive boulder up a hill for eternity!” Then he slapped his forehead again, because actually now that he said that in so many words his George Stephenson suggestion sounded super dumb in comparison. “Just get Sisyphus.”

“Hang on to yourself,” said Virgil.

Sisyphus came bounding down the hill he’d been stuck on for the past eternity or so, eager to do anything but push a really big rock.

“Yo, Sisyphus,” said Hades, one he and Charon had arrived. “Be a dear and push this even bigger rock, will you?”

“Eh.” Sisyphus shrugged. “A change is as good as a rest!”

It turned out that Sisyphus really was the guy to ask when it came to pushing really big rocks, because he had this one moving in no time at all.

“Sure is easy when it’s downhill like this!” he announced, as Charon’s boat vanished beneath an astronomical quantity of rock and ice.

Hades had figured that the boat would be okay, on account of being magically fortified and totally unbreakable. He had neglected to consider that the ground beneath it totally wasn’t.

With speed as unsettling as it was unstoppable, Sisyphus’ burden rolled right on into the Styx where it began to sink beneath the surface of the chthonic waters. Soon, it had vanished, leaving behind only a trail of mighty, thundering bubbles that Hades liked to think could be considered a sort of swan song, but really looked and sounded a whole lot more like unrestrained flatulence.

“At least it’s out of the way now, hey?” said Charon.

Hades slapped a palm to his forehead once again. “This never would have happened if they’d just let Pluto stay a planet.”

“Move on,” said Virgil, sagely.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

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