The muses run Cloud 9, the divine repository of inspirations, under the benevolent dictatorship of Hermes – messenger of the gods. The Olympians, devoted nepotists, almost exclusively hire their many and varied family members. The divine and semi-divine collaborate, stock, check-out, and deliver the inspirations of Cloud 9 to the world.
Hades found Helena arguing with her half-brother, Alien Love Child, and her supervisor, Hermes. She waved her fountain pen in front of them, like a conductor of words. “Armageddon!” she exclaimed. “Don’t you see the risks?”
The iridescent alien’s skin paled to a pale green; he covered his eyes with several tentacles.
Hermes smirked. He popped some Jordan almonds into his mouth before responding. “But you said yourself that dangerous ideas can change the world in wonderful ways. We just need to be aware of the risks.”
“ARE you?” countered Helena.
“Of course,” said Hermes. “Nothing gets past me.”
Helena’s gaze raked the room. Her half-alien brother, AL, withdrew behind a large winged-back chair. Morpheus gaped at both Hermes and Helena. From behind bookshelves in the room’s far corner, a dark-haired figure grinned.
That is, until he spotted Hades in the doorway.
“Where is that misanthropic son of mine?”
All figures turned to watch the dark, imposing god that stood in the doorway. He turned flaming eyes to the far corner of the room, extended one thin finger, and bent it toward him. “Nicholas,” he said, his tone low and dangerously smooth. “Daddy has some issues to discuss with you.”
The pale boy made his way forward, a convict on his last walk to the gallows, a trail of tissues in his wake. “Yes, Father?”
“Don’t give me that,” said Hades, looming over the boy. “I know what you’ve been up to.”
“So do I,” chimed in Hermes, wearing a 14-carat smile.
“Well, I don’t!” said Helena.
“Watch it, sweetheart,” said Hermes, with a warning glance toward Hades. “The lord of the dead isn’t as indulgent of subordinates as I am.”
Now Helena’s mouth hung open, matching that of Morpheus; the god of sleep stood frozen between Hermes and Hades as though struck by lightning.
“Direct supervisor; remember?” said Hermes, with a wink.
“Nicholas,” said the dark lord, “I think you have some explaining to do.”
“Armageddon?” squeaked Morpheus, finally finding his tongue. “What in Hades-”
“Yes?” answered the dark lord. “Oh, I should have known you’d come running here to…” He made a dismissive gesture toward the room’s other occupants.
“I’m so sorry, Hermes,” said Morpheus, clutching his friend’s arm. “I had no idea.”
“But HE did,” said Helena, watching the messenger god. “You knew all along; didn’t you, Hermes?” She pulled a candy square from the recesses of her pink, ruffled sweater and popped it in her mouth.
Hermes’ self-satisfaction was evident.
Hades grinned also, but the pale, thin figure in his shadow glowered at the messenger god. “How did you know?” he asked.
Helena, Alien Love Child, and the others leaned in.
Hermes reclined behind his mahogany desk, hands behind his head. “Easy, my dear comrades. INK.”
They exchanged puzzled expressions.
“Squid ink, people… from Alien Love Child!” He shot the alien figure an apologetic look. “Sorry, buddy, but when you compose inspirations using your own ink… it’s kind of a giveaway.”
Again, puzzled expressions.
“Squid ink has a bit of an odor, doesn’t wash off well.”
Now Alien Love Child’s skin bloomed crimson.
“But I had Morpheus deliver the inspiration to you,” said Nicholas, glaring at the god through red-rimmed eyes.
“Well, the parchment he showed me… nice dress by the way, buddy.”
He nudged the god, and Morpheus blushed.
“The ink was splotched in places,” said Hermes. “I know you have issues, Nic, but if you’re planning something dastardly, make sure you don’t leak all over the evidence.”
Now it was Nicholas’ turn to blush. He shot Helena a sheepish look.
All eyes turned to the bestial beauty. “What?” she asked.
“Tears,” said Nicholas. “I… I…” He shrugged and handed her a crumpled notebook.
“The beast never lived that was as beautiful as Helena,
When I first saw her face, that’s when I fell in love-ena.”
She looked up. “I had no idea…”
“But if you loved her, why would you try to destroy everyone? I mean…,” Morpheus looked around. “She’s part of everyone; right?”
AL put a protective tentacle around Helena’s shoulder, which made unattractive, squelching noises as suckers hit pink taffeta.
“I don’t know WHY,” confessed Hermes. “But it’s obvious. He’s always moping along, giving her dopey looks behind her back…”
“He has allergies,” said Hades, meeting everyone’s startled expressions. “What! You think he cries constantly for no reason?” He looked at his son. “OK, yes, that too, but he’s allergic to fur.”
“Our love was doomed,” pleaded Nicholas, sniffling into a tissue. “If I couldn’t have you…”
“You decided to DESTROY me? Along with everyone else?”
Nicholas shrunk behind his father, who said, “My son has a taste for melodrama. His mother is muse of tragedy, after all.”
“And speaking of tragic,” said Hermes. “Fell in love-ena? Ye gods, what were you thinking?”
Nicholas lunged for the messenger god, but his father caught his jacket. “Whoa there, son!” Nicholas panted with anger and exertion. “Don’t worry, boy. You have a taste for tragedy? When I tell your mother, you’ll be starring in your very own.”
Hades turned and – pulling the struggling boy behind him – disappeared through the doorway. Little puffs of steam fell from the hankies left in their wake.
“You won’t punish my brother; will you?” Helena asked Hermes.
“Don’t worry about it, kid,” said Hermes. “It’s not his fault; he just gave it to Nic to file.”
“I TOLD YOU filing was important,” said Helena, smacking the alien, then giving him an affectionate nuzzle. Slime trailed from her furry cheeks to his own gelatinous ones.
Morpheus began, “Buddy, I…” Upon seeing Hermes, he broke out in a matching grin. “Duuuuuude! You got me!”
“True,” said Hermes, draping an arm over his friend’s shoulder. “And you know what else I got for you? The perfect woman. I told you… nothing gets past me.” He winked.
I hope you enjoyed my Friday Flash. This is the final installment of my ‘Cloud 9′ series. My intent was for each flash to stand on its own, yet fit into the larger whole. To this end, I added short introductions (that appeared before each). I realize this final story might not stand on its own, but I hope it still ‘worked’ within the larger story. Feedback is both welcomed and appreciated.
**image courtesy of UW Digital Collections via The Commons at Flickr. No known copyright restrictions.