Dinlas makes his first collar as a bounty-hunter, the cash from which enables him to begin building his business properly. In the midst of his preparations however, he falls into one of the depressive episodes he is prone to experience. Harkening back to the worst mistake he ever made, he finds himself wallowing once again in remorse over his actions in destroying the city of Lamark and slaughtering the innocent citizens therein. As he always does, Hades searches for Dinlas to bring him home, so someday he might heal.
By Wayne Davids/originally published July 8, 2019
I never turned my head at the crunch of gravel behind me. I knew who was standing there as I stared out on the barren plain of jumbled scrub and broken rock.
“What are you here for, Uncle?”
Hades cleared his throat and replied, “Nobody could ever sneak up on the Guardian of Lamark.”
“I see. You’re just here to taunt me.”
“No,” answered Hades, “no, that is not why I am here.” I grunted but didn’t reply. Instead, I reached over and patted the wolf Jealousy on the head. Hate stirred at my other hand.
“How are you doing, Dinlas?” he continued.
“I’m fine. You came a long way to ask me that.”
Hades edged forward, just into my peripheral sight. He glanced at me, then turned and looked out onto the plain.
“How long have you been here, Dinlas?”
“Thousands of years,” I replied.
“I meant this time.”
“I don’t know. Maybe two mortal days.”
Hades sighed. “Three weeks, Dinlas, you have been out here three weeks. Your business has barely launched and your people are wondering where you have disappeared. They are not the only ones. Zeus is looking for you.”
“Yeah? What’s he want?”
“He is wondering why no one is working on his fancy new office tower. Work has stopped, and the contractor says no one has shown up for over a week. Your grandfather is furious. He came back to the modern world to make a splash and be relevant, not to do any hard work.”
“Oh, yeah, the Romans. They are renovating my warehouse. Apparently this guy I brought in, Eddie Pastorini, was important in something called a ‘union’ for construction workers. When I put him away, I hired his former crew. They had some contacts and brought the construction workers over to work on my warehouse renovations.”
Hades stepped forward again. He now stood in front of me, blocking my view of the accursed plain. Impeccably dressed as always, he wore a tailored suit and polished oxfords. In his hand he held a cane. His sharp attire provided a stark contrast to the otherwise broken and jumbled landscape around us. He took off his sunglasses and looked down at me sitting on the ground.
“Let it go, Dinlas. What is done, is done We cannot change it now. We all made mistakes about Lamark and there is blame to go around. You were the tool, but we all wielded and manipulated you. For my part in that I am sorry. If I could go back in time and change the things I did and said there, believe me I would.” He paused when I didn’t respond, then finally added, “Is it Morpheus? Are you having nightmares again?”
I shrugged. “Not as much as a few thousand years ago. But I still get them.”
Hades brushed at a mote of dust on his trousers. “Morpheus loves to drive gods and mortals mad. Morpheus knows our desires, our fears, and knows just how to use it against us.”
I forced a chuckle. “Uncle Hades, have you ever, in your existence, had a nightmare?”
Hades furrowed his brow for a moment before he replied, “No, actually, I have not. You know, I count mortal souls all day long and when I go to bed, I sleep like Dionysus after a weekend in a winery. But I am not the topic here, you are. If you are going to survive these modern times, then you must put the past behind you.”
I looked down to pull myself together for a moment. Once I was back in control, I responded.
“Morpheus has no interest in driving anyone insane. Madmen pay no heed to nightmares. They can’t even tell the difference between wake and sleep. No. Morpheus is a beast. A beast that drives a man to the edge, to the brink of insanity, but never willingly pushes him over. Morpheus is like a new lover. Exuberant and energetic the first time, riding you over and over with enthusiasm and passion. Dreams and nightmares spring up at every nod of sleep for hundreds of years on end.” I stopped, and Hades looked at me over the top of his sunglasses, waiting to hear more. I lowered my voice and continued, “Then the dreams stop, when you crack. Like a practiced courtesan rides you to the edge, then stops. She works, almost imperceptible, while she watches you try not to explode. Like the lover who smiles and straddles you, brushes her lips against yours, but barely strokes, always keeping you on the edge. That maddening razor’s edge between self-control and total abandon. There you are, trapped in anguished ecstasy. Forced to endure the eternal struggle between trying to pull back and regain control or giving in and surrendering to the madness. So easy it would be to give myself over and become lost forever, mired in the dreams, spells, and nightmares of blood and gore. Embrace the screams and wails, then sing along to the begging and pleading of the citizens that Cerberus and I slaughtered.”
I paused and removed my glasses to pinch the bridge of my nose.
Hades cut in before I could continue. “Dinlas, I really did not understand. I am sorry it has been like this after all these years. Stop punishing yourself, you are the only one opening the door for Morpheus one-night stands.” He tapped the side of his head and continued, “Until you fix what’s in here, Morpheus will keep coming back for those occasional strokes whenever Morpheus feels like it.”
I nodded my head, replaced my sunglasses, and looked back out at the desolate plain. Once a thriving city of healers and physicians, now there was no sign it ever existed.
“You are right, Uncle. I will rid myself of this unwanted menace.”
Hades nodded. “I will speak to Morpheus, but you know Morpheus answers to no one. In the meantime, you must go see Zeus. Do not delay. His anger grows with every moment that his giant tower, his monstrous… concrete phallus, is not complete. As far as that goes, I have delivered his dispatch, the rest is on you.”
I nodded my understanding and stood to dust my pants as Hades watched me. I tapped a cigarette out of the pack and lit it, inhaled deeply, then asked as I exhaled, “Uncle Hades, tell me truthfully, do you have any regrets? Regrets that have eaten at you for thousands of years?”
For the briefest of moments, a pained look crossed his face. It was the look of love lost, love abandoned, and love forsaken.
“No, Dinlas,” he responded when the moment passed and his face hardened again, “I have no such regrets. Now go. Zeus is waiting, and his patience is at its end with you.”