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It was for Cerberus

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

It was both a good and a bad day for Hades, in… Hades. The god and the place were all rolled together, like Walt Disney in Disneyland

It was good because there had only been three new admissions to the Underworld that day, and one of them had proven most useful. The man was a confirmed Peeping Tom, and Hades had been able to clout him with his staff and sentence him to a next-day-blinding. Then confiscate his binoculars.

Binoculars that Hades was now using to spy on Cerberus, his Hellhound. It had all worked out perfectly. Except for the fact that…. well, Cerberus still looked down in the dumps, in the depths, in the sludge of sadness. Even as a blurry, brown lump, Hades could see that his three heads were hung low.

Hades hummed anxiously as he fiddled with the focusing knobs on the binoculars, and Cerberus turned into a more sharply focused beast, stood side-on, at the bottom of the right gate post, three sets of amber eyes cast down to the rocky ground.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” muttered Hades.

Worse, now Cerberus was going down, like a building in a quake, back legs tucked under him, front paws stretched out, serpent tail curling around him, in a tight arc.

“Oh no, oh no.”

Hades turned his back on the doleful beast and strode away from the gates, towards the slow-flowing river, the Styx.

Stood on the bank, he scuffed at the grit with the toe of his sandal and watched clogs of debris float past. Reeds and sticks, meshed with human conveniences - straws and crisp packets and coffee cups and carrier bags.

“Damn you humans. Damn you to hell. Damn it, damn it.” He tossed the binoculars into the water and dropped his chin to his chest. It was all too much for a good guy like him to bear. His wife hated him. His brothers hated him. And now...his dog hated him too. Resented him at the very least. Blamed him. And it wasn’t even really his fault. What was he supposed to have done?

Heracles’ great-great-masses-of-greats grandson had begged to re-create the 12 labours. Wrestling Cerberus up into the mortal realm was the clincher. The final one. What was he supposed to have said to him? No? No you can’t. You shan’t. Then he’d have hated him too.

“Cerberus was fine with it last time,” Hades muttered, twirling his beard into a point. Though admittedly he had been a much younger dog. Hades sat down on his butt, adjusted his toga around his knees and rested his big head on his kneecaps. Maybe he could have Cesar Milan killed, and have him come down here to work with Cerberus? Get Cerberus back on track, and give Cesar a nice plot in the Elysian Fields for his efforts.

Hades sat back up and rubbed his neck.

“Yoohoo boss!”

Darn it. There was Charon, rowing around the bend of the river. Hades slapped on a smile and gave him a half salute. Charon’s boat was empty of passengers. Still a blessedly quiet day then. So why did Charon have to go rowing about, bothering him?

Charon waved, with an arthritic-looking hand, then gripped his oars again and rowed faster, until he was level with Hades.

“Want a ride boss? There’ve been no passengers for hours. I’m bored off my nuts.”

“Sure, sure,” Hades said, removing his sandals, and wading out to the boat, then levering himself in. Once he was wedged in, at the opposite end to Charon, he watched as Charon leaned out precariously, and plucked at a black strap that had wrapped itself around the tip of the oar. Charon hauled his catch into the boat and plonked it between them.

“What tosser tossed these in then?”

Hades blinked down at the wet binoculars and rubbed his eyes.

“Bloomin vandals. Litterbugs. You know what…” Charon mumbled.

“Can you row me over to Lethe?” Hades cut in.

“Can bears eat honey? And then go shit in the woods?” Charon sculled the boat around and then rowed them away from the gates. Away from Cerberus.

Hades studied Charon through narrowed eyes. This day really was more bad than good. Look at this man, in his grungy uniform. They were a laughing stock down here. Mucky. Or moping. Everybody needed cleaning up. Waking up. Shaking up. He needed to take charge here!

But with the dumped binoculars lying there, between them, accusingly, he wasn’t exactly shining with virtue himself. He stifled a groan. He was a terrible boss. Terrible husband. Terrible dog owner.

He sighed through his nose.

“Bad day?” Charon asked.

Hades grunted. Then grunted again.

“Aha! You’re going to swig some Lethe to forget your sorrows. Am I right? Or am I right?”

“You’re wrong. You can let me out here. I’ll take those.” He snatched the binoculars up. They felt slimy in his hand.  “I’ll walk the rest of the way.”

He needed to walk off this mood. And grab some suitable receptacles as they floated past. An old milk carton? A juice bottle. He kept his eye out, built up a stash, and finally arrived at Lethe, determined, and limping. (Even his sandals didn’t seem to be doing their job right today. Oh, the blisters!)

And by the time he’d filled up two bottles and an old tin, with Lethe water, he couldn’t face the walk back. So, he downed them, one after the other, and passed out, on his back.

He woke to a familiar voice whipping him.

“You’d better be sick or injured, or I’m going to kill you. Are you hurt?”

Hades groaned, in a way that he hoped could be taken as a ‘yes’.

He opened his eyes, just as something swished into view and connected with his cheek. The plasticky sound cracked through the air.

“Seriously!” Persephone said. “You were drinking Lethe?”

He pushed himself up onto his elbows.

“It wasn’t for me. It was for Cerberus.”

“Even better! You were going to drug your dog?”

“No, No. Just help him forget.”

“Forget what?”

Oh, shoot. He hadn’t told her about the kidnap. The taking him up to the surface and giving him a taste of…what he couldn’t have. That fresh air. Those parks. With gates. But no gates that he had to guard.

Persephone grabbed a hold of the front of his tunic, and dragged him up onto his feet until he was looking directly into her bright green eyes.

“Start talking.”

“Ummmm….”

“And what are these?” She yanked the binoculars hard, giving him a strap burn on the back of his neck.

“They’re for…looking.”

She slapped him around the back of his head, with her palm. “What good is looking if you never see!”

“I see! I see!” he protested.

“Oh?”

And it was true. He did see. He just…it was all too much.

“Cerberus could use a little vacation,” he said, nodding. “I don’t suppose we could… leave you in charge? While we go to…the Isle of Wight?” He’d heard the name. It sounded nice. Illuminating. He tried to smile, with all the pleading of a puppy dog.

“Stop it. You look like someone’s twisting your nipple.”

He nodded obediently.

“But ok,” she said.

“Ok?” He nearly fell backwards. He dug in hard with his toes and winced at the blisters. And then tried to smile in a better way.

“Not for you, Hades. For me. You’re driving me mad. And for the dog. And give me those  binoculars while you’re at it!”

Hades kissed her quickly on the cheek. He tasted rose moisturiser. He handed her the binoculars and she held them up to her nose, sniffing, and then gagging. She flicked some slime from their lenses.

Hades ran, well hobbled, away… as fast as he could…before she changed her mind.

“I have carte blanche while you’re gone! Ok!” she called after him. “I’m watching you!”

“Ok, ok,” he yelled over his shoulder and took one last look at her. Persephone was whirling the binoculars around her head. She wouldn’t let anything slip. Binoculars or not, she was a hawk. An eagle. A bird who knew how to get things done. He should have handed her the reins aeons ago.

“Chop, chop Hades. Chop, chop.” He chivvied himself along.

And before the day was out, he’d confiscated himself some sunglasses, and a little leather suitcase, filled with t-shirts and shorts. He jogged out through the gates, with all the haste of a bad shoplifter, Cerberus trotting at his side, an old tennis ball in one of his mouths.

“Good boy, good boy. What a day. What a day,” Hades said breathlessly, as they wound their way up and out. “No more guarding stupid gates. No more…Hades. No more nothing. You and me boy. You and me.”

He reached down and patted Cerberus’ bristly coat. He’d have to threaten a groomer and get the good boy pampered.

“Let’s forget this place. What do you say?”

Week 45

I was thinking about Cerberus. I even started writing a story from his POV (point of view). I named the three heads Sir, Bear, and Russ. But then I quickly got myself in a tangle, having a single entity Cerberus, and three individual heads, with mouths. Eeeek. I needed a bit more time to be able to figure that out, in a way that wasn't super confusing to read.

So I zoomed out, and Hades was in the picture, being a bit of a twerp.

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