a one way ticket to the underworld | [kathie rivera]



Angelo Robles hardly knew the consequences of procrastinating his third novel.  The computer screen was on and empty.  He observed his watch, then he grabbed a book from his shelf, but he didn’t really read anything.  He simply scanned the pages and then he left his home office and went into the kitchen to get some ice, cold water.  Angelo drank as the observed heaps of bills, all of them overdue.  He was nervous and tired.  He was scared and didn’t know what to do.  It had been four years since his last novel and after his wife’s affair and divorce he just couldn’t seem to get a single word on a computer screen.

“Crap,” he blurted to himself and went back into his office.  He hoped that the water helped, but it didn’t.  He felt the pressure and the voice of his agent in his mind.  His agent always said that he didn’t want to pressure him, but somehow the effect was always the opposite.  However, he sat down on his chair for hours until he accepted that nothing was ever going to come out of him again.  He walked to his living room and turned on his flat screen TV.  It seemed to be his only source of entertainment and company nowadays.  He couldn’t even get himself to read a good book, not even his favorite one. 

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

Angelo hadn’t heard it at first and he continued to watch his program.  He was watching one of those shows where people fought and shared their intimacy with the world.  It wasn’t Jerry Springer, but it was something like that.  The sound repeated, but this time he heard it and he turned off the TV. 
Scratch, scratch, scratch.

“What is that?” he asked himself.  He got up as the scratching continued and he chased the sound.  It was coming from his office.  As he entered he heard it louder than before.  Something about it, disturbed him and his heart skipped a beat.  Then he saw a figure emerge from the shadows in the corner of his room.  It was a tall, pale man with a long dark tunic.  He had curly, dark hair that covered his entire face.  Angelo was perplexed, his heartbeat punching out of his chest and his muscles betraying him frozen.  The tall figure glided unnaturally towards him and grabbed him by the neck.  Angelo wanted to scream, but couldn’t.  He wanted to fight off whatever this hideous thing was, but didn’t have the courage.  Beads of sweat curled down his glistening and cold forehead.  The dark stranger raised him up until he could no longer feel the floor on his feet and he hung in the air.
“Angelo Robles!  I am so tired of your laziness and your lack of respect.  I can’t take it anymore,” the man said.  His eyes blazed with a red fire and he had a large scar that vertically crossed his cheek to his mouth.

“No Hades, please I’m begging you,” said the voice of a woman appearing from behind.  Hades tilted his head and watched a beautiful young lady wearing her hair in a large bun with flowers surrounding it and a long white tunic.  She had sunflower, blonde hair and deep blue eyes.  Her lips were rosy red and her cheeks were well rounded.

“Please don’t,” she said and Hades dropped Angelo to the floor.  He fell on his buttocks, hurt and confused.  However, he couldn’t move an inch, he couldn’t even rub his buttocks to relieve the pain.  He was in shock.

“I have waited for four years Calliope, four years!  And what has he done?  Nothing.  I haven’t seen a page, a word or a single Phoenician letter on his screen.  All he does now is to sit on his chair, watch that disgraceful box of moving pictures and mope around.  I’m done waiting and if he won’t write here I might as well kill him and take him with me to the Underworld.”

“The what?” Angelo murmured.  Hades tilted his head ready to discuss some more, but Calliope stopped him.

“Hades, please.  He will write again… eventually.”

“But when and for how long must I wait?  No Calliope, I can’t wait for him anymore.  He is done and as long as he lives he torments me with the expectation of a book that will not be done.  I’m through with this nonsense, I’m through with him and I’m certainly through with you!”

“I don’t…” Angelo said and Hades gazed at him.  In his eyes Angelo saw the spectrums of tortured souls, people being whipped, burnt and drowned.  He couldn’t even finish his sentence afterwards.  He didn’t know what to say or how to say it.  As Hades intended to glide towards him once again, Calliope grabbed his dark tunic stopping him.

“Hades, wait, please don’t kill him.  It is not his time.”

“I have seen many who have arrived before their time and they have paid and done what they must in my Kingdom.  It is irrelevant to me.”

“Please give him one last chance, please,” Calliope begged.

“If you kneel down for him I will do so,” Hades said and so Calliope knelt down and placed her hands together in prayer and begged.  Hades smiled with satisfaction as he fed off her fear and anguish.

“Very well.  I will give him a chance, one chance.  However, you will be responsible too if he fails,” Hades said.

“Excuse me… um, but… what’s going on-” Angelo mumbled and Hades floated towards him and pulled him up.  However, Hades was now floating in the air, making him taller and more frightful than before.

“You will write me a book in seven days!”

“Seven days?  But that is absurd Hades, no man can write a masterpiece in seven days, much less a book,” Calliope cried out.

“A short story then, of twenty-five pages and nothing less.”

“Hades, please-”

“Silence!  That is the agreement.  If you do not write this story for me in seven days, you will die and I will make sure that you’d be dragged into the Underworld and drowned in the lake of lamentations.  No boatman will come for you!  You will have to swim to arrive.  I will order Cerberus to eat your fingers and hands during the eternity of your stay and you will never, ever write a single word ever again,” he said and dropped him on the floor once again.

“As for you, Calliope.  You are responsible for him.  If he does not accomplish his mission, I will submit you to my will and you will marry me and serve me when Demeter is gone.  Your husband and offspring will be as good as dead.  You will not return to this Earth to serve as a muse for men.  That is the agreement.”

“Zeus nor Apollo will permit such a thing and neither can I.  I must return to this Earth to serve imagination on the men.  That is my purpose.”

“Fine, you can come to Earth to do your purpose, but the rest remains untouched.  Do we have an agreement?” Hades asked and Calliope nodded as a tear brushed itself down her cheek. 

“Then it is agreed,” Hades said.  He floated once more towards Angelo who was still shocked with fear, grabbed his hand and dipped his nail on his skin.  Angelo cringed to the feeling of the nail as it penetrated his skin and blood rolled off his hand.  As he did the mark a pale blazing light seemed to seep through the cut and suck out the blood out of his hand.  He felt a substantial amount of bile, but swallowed it back and as he felt himself go dizzy Hades finished whatever he was doing with his hand.  Angelo looked at it and saw a white scar with the number one written on it.  Then he peered up and the creatures in the room were gone.  Angelo panted and fainted with trembling fear.

***
“Wake up Angelo, wake up,” said a voice from afar.  He couldn’t distinguish it at first, but then he recognized it.  It was Calliope.

“Wake up Angelo, wake up,” she repeated and Angelo opened his eyes and gazed at his office.  The light was on, all of his books were in place, his computer on and empty like he had left it and his chair was where he had left it last, tucked in and away, next to his desk.

“Where are you?” He whispered bewildered and at the same time he wondered if he was nuts.

“I’m over here, next to your computer, dumbass!” She said and Angelo scampered toward his desk to see if it was true.  Right there next to the computer was the tiniest woman he had ever seen dressed in the toga he had seen earlier.  She was so small that she could fit in the palm of his hand and he suspected that maybe it was a new figurine of some sorts and not a real muse at all.  Whatever it was, it didn’t matter.  He suddenly seemed to have been inspired almost immediately.  He took out his chair, sat down and got to writing.  He had no interruptions since people had stopped calling him to see how he was.  He didn’t have a family anymore because he was divorced and alone.  For some strange reason that he didn’t fully understand, he just sat there and the words flowed out of him, nonstop.  He wrote and wrote and wrote for that day and the rest of the week.  He had written not twenty-five pages, but thirty pages nonstop, re-wrote and revised.

However, there was something disturbing about the night shadows of the house, the loneliness of his big house.  He didn’t know why, but he thought in some instances that he was being watched.  Angelo also suffered from strange nightmares during the night about that strange apparition that he had witnessed.  Hades would come at night and attack him in his bed.  He’d shout profanities and remind him of the strange deal he had made with him.

“The manuscript must be finished before the seventh day or Cerberus will bite off all your fingers and hands for all eternity and never again will you write, ever!”

Angelo would wake up every night with cold sweats and panic attacks.  He’d reach a point where his heart felt like if it had exploded and then he would rush to the bathroom and throw up all of his fears and anxieties.  By the fourth day of these strange events he inevitably called his ex-wife to talk about this.  He didn’t have anybody else to talk to nor did he want to express these strange occurrences thinking that maybe people would suspect him of being crazy.

“Angelo, you’re just stressed because you haven’t written for a long time.  Maybe it’s your own subconscious talking to you and trying to reach you.  Have you ever thought of that?” she said.

“Yeah, maybe, but why seven days?” Angelo answered with another question.

“Are you kidding?  You know that the number seven is a sacred number and apparently a very important one.  Maybe your subconscious is giving you a goal.  Maybe it means that something great will happen if you write your story in seven days,” she said.

“You think so?” Angelo asked her.

“I think that you should do it.  I think that you should go ahead and finish that story of yours or at least the first draft,” she said.  Angelo nodded.  It was so nice to hear her voice again. 

“You don’t think I’m going crazy or anything?”

“No, I don’t think so.  I know you Angelo.  I know how hard you are on yourself,” she said and then he heard her husband’s voice over the phone remembering that he was the son of a bitch who ruined his marriage in the first place.

“I have to go Angelo.  We’ll talk later,” she said and hung up the phone.  Angelo wrote his heart out with a mixture of encouragement and hatred all bundled in together and intertwined in his heart and as the seven days went by, Angelo managed to write a story of thirty pages, re-written, revised and edited.  He printed the pages of his story, stapled them together and for a strange and uncertain reason he signed it.  Then he went to grab a bite to eat feeling relief and completed.  He had accomplished his goal.  He didn’t feel nauseated, exhausted or scared.  In fact, he was so happy that he headed towards his favorite restaurant and had some lunch. 

***
Angelo had left for the movies and rejoiced.  He was happy to know that after four years he was able to write again and what a tale.  It was titled Hades’ Demands and he wrote about the strange apparition he had experienced including the nightmares and the beautiful and awe striking Calliope with her golden hair and deep blue eyes.  He wondered about that woman.  Who was she?  Could she be his next, love his life, someone real and permanent this time?  He didn’t care.  He only wanted to celebrate his brand new baby.

***
Angelo arrived around ten o’clock.  After going to the movies he had a long walk around the city, then he bought a beautiful pen he had fallen in love with.  After that he went into a bookstore and read a great book that he had wanted, but could not read and purchased it for himself.  He felt great.  He carried his paper bags into the house and entered his office.  A huge, dark figure waited for him in the shadows and when he turned on the office light, he spilt his paper bags on the floor purposeless and in utter shock.  The figure had his arms crossed, his long hair covering his cheeks and his bright red eyes in flame.

“Well?  Where is it?” He asked as Angelo swallowed hard and trembled.  He knelt down in fear as he picked up his new book.  His hands vibrated nervously and the figure glided and approached him.
“Have you no respect for your fans?” He said.

“It is just my imagination, it is just my imagination,” Angelo repeated.

“Oh really?  Can your imagination do this?” Hades asked and he grabbed Angelo’s new book and turned into charcoal.  Angelo inhaled so deeply that the bridge of his nose became tiny and thin.

“Where is it?  Where is my story?”

“You… you… you?”

“Ah, say it already, I what?”

“You, you’re… real?”

“Of course I’m real.  I have visited you every night, have I not?”

“Yes?” Angelo said confused.

“So where is it?” Hades asked losing his temper.  Angelo walked around the figure who was still floating in the air and glided towards him as we walked towards his desk.

“I… I…”

“Speak already and stop your stuttering!  Where is my story?” Hades demanded.

“I… I printed it.  It’s right here,” Angelo said, but the manuscript was gone.  Hades shoved him aside and smiled waiting with expectation.  He felt that he would finally get the read that he wanted and yearned.  His favorite author fulfilled the bargain and soon he would drink in the words of Angelo Robles.  However, the desk was empty. 

“Where is it?” Hades demanded again.  Angelo went to the desk with disbelief.

“It was here… it was right here,” Angelo said.

“Are you trying to play tricks with me.”

“No, I swear.”

“Furies!” Shouted Hades as Angelo begged with fear. A large man with a sword in hand and dressed as a Greek warrior appeared on his door.

“Wait!  I saved a file.  I saved a file,” Angelo shouted when the fury grabbed his collar.  Hades extended his hand and the fury let him go.

“Show me this file then,” Hades said and Angelo turned on his computer and explained how they had to wait a bit until he could open the document.

“I’m losing my patience,” Hades said.

“God of the Underworld, I swear that it won’t take too long.  You will have your story.  I can sign it for you, if you wish.”

“Yes, I wish it,” he said.  Angelo checked the files and noticed that his work had disappeared.

“This can’t be happening to me,” Angelo murmured.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing,” he said trying to buy his time.  He didn’t know what to do.  He had written a few unpublished short stories in the past, maybe he could provide those, so he searched carefully and noticed that all of them were gone.

“You traitor and you call yourself a writer!” Hades said and ordered the fury to take him into the Underworld.

“But he will not come along with the boatman, he must swim to arrive into the Underworld,” Hades commanded and the fury grabbed him.  Angelo begged for his life and for one last chance.  He wailed and cried for mercy as the fury took him away into the pits of the Underworld.

“Calliope!” Hades called.  Calliope appeared and knelt before Hades.

“Yes Hades?”

“You have failed me.  You know the consequences of your failure,” Hades said.  She nodded.
“Very well, then I will speak with Zeus and Apollo of our arrangement.”

“I have already spoken,” Calliope said.

“Fine then.  Prepare your things and join me in my Kingdom.  You will now be the new queen of the Underworld,” he said and disappeared.  Calliope got up and walked towards the fireplace.  She took out something that bothered her from under her tunic.  She lit a match and burned a set of strange papers.  The words Hades’ Demands were printed in the front page and a lacy handwritten name, Angelo Robles.  Calliope smiled imagining a new glistening wedding ring on her finger.  Then she disappeared with bliss.

The End


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