The brilliant scientist, Portage McPeeve, does not want to take over the world.
He’s discovered a way to travel the stars, using them as gateways into other realities. With his Gateway Manipulator, he hopes to rule all the worlds of the multi-verse with an iron fist. However, when his beloved kitten becomes lost through the machine, he does not hesitate to cast plans for multi-world domination aside; instead, he follows her through the cosmos – encountering zombies, higher education for Supers, Greek gods, and killer ninjas along the way.
Will Portage find Mrs. Bumblefrost before it’s too late?
TEN YEARS LATER:
“Frank!” yelled Snap, pulling the tray from the oven. “Frank! Would you help me, please?” She set the cookies on the counter just as a little boy with brown hair, black rimmed glasses, and a pout waltzed into the kitchen.
“Aw, come on, mom! Do I have to?” he asked.
“Do as your mother says,” said Frank Sr., also secretly known as the caped hero, Hephaestus. “The people that donated to the shelter are here, and they can’t wait to try your mom’s fresh-baked cookies.” He moved one of her blond ponytails away from her cheek, planted a kiss, and whispered in her ear, “Have I told you today that you’re still as beautiful as the day we met?”
Frank Jr., having finished transferring the cookies to a plate, made a face and exited the kitchen.
“You mean the day I beat the crap out of you?” she said, smiling.
“Yes,” said Frank, “that day.” He kissed her. “Are you ready to renew our vows?”
“I still won’t to swear to ‘obey,’” she said, giving him a friendly peck, “but, otherwise, I’m all yours.”
Everyone took their places, and the organ music started. The ceremony may have been antiquated, but in many ways Snap was a traditionalist. As she walked down the aisle, arm and arm with Doctor Portage McPeeve, she mused on the way things had turned out. After she lost Portage to his new career as the (albeit temporary) personification of Death, she had worked more closely with Frank McSwinefeld. Once she got past his Hephaestus persona, he was actually quite resourceful and intelligent. It also turned out they had more in common than simply wanting to thwart Portage’s plans. Before they knew it, she and Frank had walked down that first aisle and exchanged vows.
Then years later, they were blessed with a beautiful little boy, successful crime-fighting careers, and a thriving, multi-million dollar chocolate chip cookie business – which made an excellent source of funds into her research on superpowers and super-skills. And, of course, they gave generously to the local no-kill dog shelter where they had adopted their two dogs, Lady and Princess. Snap and Frank were silver collar members on the shelter’s board of directors.
Frank watched as his former nemesis and unwitting rival walked Snap down the aisle. Then Portage sat down. Apparently, ten years filling in as the personification of Death agreed with him. He glowed with health and happiness. Though Snap had never been superstitious, her husband was and the idea of Death being present at their vow renewal filled him with trepidation. Still, despite the fact that Portage had nearly destroyed the multi-verse, he was Snap’s oldest friend. Mrs. Bumblefrost trotted after him on silent white paws, while the two puggles, Lady and Princess, noiselessly glared from their positions behind the groom.
The idea of Portage not attending the wedding because of his new job as Death simply never occurred to Snap. Besides, Portage had just been promoted from temporary Death to co-Death. Thanatos would share the increased workload with Portage and Mrs. Bumblefrost. After all, since the battle of the Ghost Realm, word had spread and more souls believed in – and consequently went to – Hades upon their demise.
In fact, the reception would also serve as a meetup – unknown to the unsuspecting Frank – for Thanatos, Charon the ferryman, and Charon’s new wife, Alicia. They were already in the adjacent room raiding the pretzels and hummus. They had wisely opted to forego the actual vow renewal because – though Frank was polite enough to ignore his superstition for his wife’s sake – there were limits. The dress code prohibited their attendance also. Two Hawaiian shirts, two sets of shorts, and a sundress was enough to draw attention away from the bride – especially when one of the Hawaiian shirt/short combos was donned by a skeleton with bones so white they looked like they’d been bleached; having seen the plague and other horrors, Thanatos was meticulous about sanitation.
As the bride and groom renewed their vows before the goddess Aphrodite, the actual god Hephaestus sat in the first row cradling his swollen arm. Frank had gotten his autograph before the ceremony and shook the god’s arm until the smith had thought it’d fall off. Frank Jr. stood beside his mother, retrieved the silver charm bracelets from the dogs’ collars, and handed them to his parents. Bride and groom exchanged renewal gifts to the sound of muffled sobs throughout the room. Meanwhile, Hades and Persephone stood in the back of the hall, in the shadows, unseen. The Lord Hades sniffled quietly into the hanky his wife handed him.
At the reception afterwards, as guests sifted through food left behind by Thanatos, Charon, and Alicia, another couple of guests sat and talked quietly as they shared pretzels and sweet mustard. Alice had come to think of Charles as the father she never knew; though she insisted on calling him “Mr. Dodgson” despite his continued protests. They happily recalled their travels during the past decade.
“I’m not looking forward to going back home after all this time,” said Alice, dipping another pretzel into the mustard pot. “It’s been so much fun traveling with you, Mr. Dodgson. Do you really need to go back to Hades?”
Charles sighed and patted the woman’s hand. “I’ve already told you that I made a deal with Hades. It’s not that he’s forcing me-” Alice’s eyebrows went up and she glanced at the Lord of the Underworld sitting one table over. “-not that he wouldn’t, of course,” added Charles. “It’s just that I gave my word I would escort you home.”
“But Ms. Decision’s device-” said Alice.
“-is brilliant, yes. But I gave my word.” The older man smiled. “And there’s no reason you can’t go anywhere you want to after I escort you home, now, is there?” He winked. “After all, we both know with the ‘Decision-maker’-”
“Stupid name for a time-traveling device-”
“-SPACE-TIME traveling device, my dear.”
“‘Ripper’ would have been better.”
“It doesn’t matter.” He sighed. “Besides, it’s not accurate because it’s not uncontrolled tearing through space like before. It directs and refolds space around anomalies caused by-” He had been fiddling with his fingers, but stopped upon noticing Alice’s smirk. “Yes, I know my vocabulary has changed. The point is you can travel wherever and whenever you want with the, the, the device, without fear of getting lost or damaging reality… er, realities?”
“Whatever,” said Alice. “I just… when you go back to work, I’ll miss hanging out with you.”
“You can visit me whenever you like,” said Charles. “Lord Hades has been more than generous, but now that so many Underworld…uh, underlings? No, not that’s not right… Oh, dear. So many of his employees are coming back from vacations and shifting jobs and such, I think it’s time for me to finish the very first job he gave me and escort you home.”
“I see,” said Alice. And she did. He had helped to mend her torn mind over the past decade, and she knew she couldn’t talk him out of it. He felt his honor was at stake, and that was the end of it. Besides, parts of the Underworld bore a striking similarity to her earlier visions – the ones she had mistaken for Martian landscapes that she had painted so long ago in her own apartment. Anyway, she knew she’d see him again.
“Well, you can’t blame a girl for trying,” said Alice. For all her trials, she had aged well over the past decade, while he hadn’t aged at all. Must be a perk of that new body Hades gave him, she thought wryly. Besides, there’s nothing preventing me from visiting him earlier in HIS time-stream. She grinned. After all, it was just a question of knowing how to go down the right rabbit hole.
Thanatos stood in a corner, eating cake and watching the proceedings. The boy, Frank Jr., sat at a table playing chess with Mrs. Bumblefrost. The dogs barked happily in the backyard, while the ceremony’s other guests chatted and played games. Charon and his lady played dice at one table, Persephone tried to get Hades to eat a piece of fudge at another, and even Nicholas – Hades’ misanthropic son, looked less gloomy as he bent over a long parchment.
“Nice ceremony, right?” said Portage, nudging Death aside and stealing his cake. “And look how happy Mrs. Bumblefrost is! She just loves kids,” he said between bites. “Don’t you love a happy ending?”
The personification of Death wiped a bit of frosting off his Hawaiian shirt and watched the proceedings. Snap and Frank opened gifts from various guests. The gods, Hades and Hephaestus, grinned at the happy couple’s delight when they unwrapped a three-headed robot dog given them by “an anonymous donor.”
“I do love happy endings,” said Thanatos. “Doesn’t everyone?”
**All episodes listed here.
Thank you all for your support, and I hope you enjoyed the serial novel! In the next few months, I’ll be polishing the serial into one complete document before beginning my search for an agent and eventually a publisher. As always, I welcome any polite feedback.
In the meantime, I will record more My Writing Niche podcasts and continue to post other content such as weekly flash stories and writing prompts. Thank you, and have a lovely week!