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.
Morpheus lounged against a pillar, a surprisingly sincere grin across his face.
Hades looked up from the screen’s flowing text. “Well?
“Well, what?” asked the god of dreams, running his hand through golden locks.
Hades typed a few more lines, then hit ‘enter.’ He leaned back, surveying the golden youth. “I’m confused,” he said. “You haven’t complained about a thing since you got here. You’re not… what’s the word?”
Morpheus raised an eyebrow. “Angsty?”
“Nooooo,” said Hades. The lord of death steepled his fingers as he leaned across the desk. “Disgruntled?”
“You’ve been talking to Mother.”
“Not at all,” returned Hades. “But I am observant of all the citizens of my realm. You’ve obviously been discontent – yes, that’s the word – for awhile. What gives?”
“Oh, I’m still plenty disgruntled, discontent, whatever, but…” He eyed the dark lord. “Can you keep a secret?”
Hades’ grin was full of murder, mayhem, and a bit of cheez whiz that had gotten stuck on his teeth.
Morpheus leaned over the desk. “I’m playing a joke on someone.”
Hades smile faded; he rolled his eyes. “Oh, dear. Another one of Hermes’ pranks, I see.” He sighed. “You’d think, after all these years, you’d find another companion. I do believe he’s a bad influence on you, boy.”
The sound of wind-chimes filled the chamber as the golden youth laughed. “That’s just it, Uncle.”
“I’m not your uncle. My familial relationships are… complicated.”
“OK, fine. My point is, you’re like an uncle to me, so I’ll let you in on my secret.”
Hades eyed Morpheus warily but kept his silence.
“The prank is ON Hermes!”
The dark lord’s eyes flickered with amusement, twin flames that lit his otherwise darkened features. “Really? Do tell.”
“Well, I got the idea when I ran into Nicholas-”
“-and he was telling me about filing all these inspirations.”
“Yes, yes, the boy is good at his job.”
“Well… I came to Hermes in a dream – not as myself, of course. I took on the form of this nymph he fancies, but-”
“Nymph?” Now it was Hades’ turn to raise an eyebrow.
“Yes, and don’t think THAT wasn’t awkward. But anyway… I led him to this inspiration-”
“Well, yeah. He’s been looking for a way to streamline deliveries, so now he thinks he’s found this brilliant idea, and-”
“Dear, boy,” said Hades. “I know we have eternity, but even that might pass before you get to the punchline.”
“OK, listen. Hermes is always the one with the bright ideas; right?”
Taking Hades’ silence for agreement, the god continued, “I just wanted to fool him for a change, instead of being the-”
“-ACCOMPLICE!” said Morpheus, louder than he’d intended.
“Are you going to tell me this brilliant plan or should I…?” Hades poised long, slender fingers over his keyboard.
“You know how Hermes can be a bit…” Morpheus made complicated hand and arm gestures, which Hades took to indicate an inflated ego.
“Well, in the dream – I was subtle -”
Hades kept quiet.
“I led Hermes to this great idea that would save him, me, everyone really- tons of work. He’ll never suspect I-”
“-did your job by delivering inspirations?”
“I was SUBTLE,” said Morpheus. “OK?” Hades waited. “When Hermes implements it, he’s bound to brag. Then I’ll reveal it was really-”
“Yeah. He’ll have to eat crow… and the way HE brags? It’ll be quite the feast. I can’t tell you what that would mean to me.”
“We’re buds. He’ll get over it! But the look on his face when I tell him it was ME?” Morpheus smiled. “Let’s just say, it’ll sustain me for quite awhile.”
Hades considered. “And you came up with this idea all on your own?”
“Well, I’ll admit, Nicholas jogged a few braincells-”
“-that were loose to begin with,” muttered Hades.
“Oh, nothing. It just seems you could have played a less elaborate – yet equally satisfying – prank, simply by revealing yourself as the nymph in his dream.”
“The nymph…” Morpheus winced. “Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?”
Hades – despite his reputation – was not a cruel god; he bit his tongue. He asked, “What inspiration did you plant?”
“Oh, he’s going to upgrade humanity! By downloading inspirations directly into their minds, we won’t need to deliver them anymore.”
“And where, perchance, did you get this brilliant plan?”
“Well, I told you I bumped into Nicholas. Nice kid. I feel sorry for him.”
“That goes without saying. He’s my son.”
The god studied his sandals. “Anyway,” continued Morpheus, breaking the silence, “Hermes picks on the kid a bit, and Nic might get a kick out of Hermes eating crow.”
“Indeed.” Hades’ eyes smoldered. “And Nicholas gave you this idea?” The fire in Hades’ eyes burned brighter. “My misanthropic son, he of the bad hair and the never ending box of tissues?”
“Yeah, poor kid, said Morpheus. “Anyway, maybe if Hermes gets taken down a notch, he might be nicer to him.”
“Yes, the kid, I imagine, would quite like the plan you’ve so conveniently devised.”
There was more than a little pride in Morpheus’ grin.
“Indeed,” said the Hades, stroking his chin like a cartoon villain. “Tell me. Would this ‘upgrade’ apply to gods as well?”
“Of course! Gotta keep with the times. Right, Chief?”
“They do seem to call for some changes,” agreed the dark lord. “I think my son has more coming to him than he realizes.” He glowered at a startled Morpheus, who beat a hasty retreat.
In the now empty room, Hades spoke to the darkness. “I think Nicholas needs some Father-Son time.”
I hope you enjoyed my Friday Flash. This is part 5 of my ‘Cloud 9′ series. My intent is for each installment to stand on its own, yet fit into the larger whole. To this end, I added a short introduction (that appears before each installment). Does the story stand on its own? Do the characters, setting, and plot work? Feedback is both welcomed and appreciated.