The Natatorium

An emporium of oddities from around the world, complete with somewhat informative plaques that almost never match the item they are meant to be describing.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Installment #10: Advice

Hades was pacing again, chewing his fingers and rubbing his hands together anxiously just as he had three nights ago. This time, however, his excited state was brought on by elation and anticipation of the best kind, instead of dread and worry. It was dawn now, and he was circling Hypnos’ sitting room, waiting for him to return from his nightly exploits. Hades had only been here for a few minutes, but already he was growing impatient. He hoped that Hypnos was, in fact, planning on returning; he didn’t stay above during the the day very often, but once in a while he’d fall asleep with someone who was too lovely to leave alone in the hay. Hypnos had been respecting Hades’ command concerning bringing mortals down to the underworld, at least to the best of his knowledge.

Hades looked around the circular chamber, his eyes resting on the frozen nymphs who lined the walls, each lying on her own marble pedastal in a unique position of repose. They were of every size, shape, and hue, and in various states of dress and undress. The two things that they all had in common were that they were all lovely, and all in a deep eternal sleep, their bodies frozen in stasis. Hypnos considered them his art, and used them to decorate his abode. They were beautiful, to be sure; each one was an exquisite living statue. Hades knew that they must remain asleep, as the incident with Diaphona had made clear, but he wondered sometimes if it was right to have them on display like this. Hypnos would be devastated if Hades commanded him to hide each one away in a private chamber, but aside from the fact that they were living souls being used as decoration, Hades worried about their safety. Hypnos was often careless, especially when it came to respecting female creatures, and Thanatos could not be trusted at all. Hades made an effort not to let his mind explore the possibilities of what Thanatos could do to them. He seemed to recall that there used to be a nymph with rich olive skin and think black hair behind the red lounge, but she was no longer there. Hades had turned a blind eye to the twins’ business for a long time, but he was understanding more and more these days that whatever went on in his world was ultimately his responsibility. He would bring up the subject of the nymphs, in particular the olive-skinned one, with Hypnos later. For now, he needed his advice.

Hades stopped pacing and sat on the red lounge. He had only been there a moment when Hypnos pushed the heavy iron door open and trudged into the room, dragging his feat. “Hypnos!” cried Hades, jumping to his feet. Hypnos let out a cry of fright and started backwards, nearly falling over.

“In the name of Zeus himself, Hades!” he shouted, “You scared me out of my wits.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Hypnos,” said Hades, grinning, “in order for me to do that, you’d have to have wits in the first place.”

“Did you come here just to insult me when I’m trying to go to bed,” asked Hypnos, “or was there another reason why you’re staking out my home, uninvited.”

“I’m King,” said Hades, “I don’t need an invitation.”

“Very well, my lord,” said Hypnos sarcastically, “I am honored that you condescended to grace me with a visit. How may I be of service?”

“I need to talk to you about a serious matter,” said Hades, looking at Hypnos intently.

“Whatever you heard, it isn’t true,” responded Hypnos quickly.

“What are you talking about?” asked Hades, “I didn’t come here to reprimand you, if that’s what you think. Though I’m beginning to suspect you might be in need of one.”

Hypnos looked annoyed, though Hades could see a sliver of worry behind his dark grey eyes. “I haven’t done anything extraordinarily reprehensible as of late,” said Hypnos simply. “Now what is it that you do want?”

Hades paused for a moment, wondering how he should broach the subject. “I want your advice on how to make a positive impression on a goddess,” he said.

“Be a powerful god,” said Hypnos simply. “You have that one covered.”

“Yes, well, if it were that simple, Hypnos, I imagine they would be knocking down the door of my palace, but we both know that isn’t the case. There must be more to it than that.”

“Can this wait until evening?”

“No, it can’t. By the time you rise I will need to be on my way to the surface again.”

“You’re meeting her again tonight?” asked Hypnos, surprised.

“Yes,” said Hades, wondering if perhaps meeting two nights in a row had been a bad idea, “she wants to know about the Moirae.”

“That’s what she told you? That she wanted to see you again because she wants to hear about the Moirae?”

“Well, she was falling asleep, and I was afraid that she wouldn’t go home unless I told her I’d come back to speak with her some more. It just sort of happened… I didn’t plan it.”

“She was falling asleep, and didn’t want you to leave, and you sent her home?”

“What would you have done?” asked Hades. He knew as soon as he spoke the words that it was a stupid question. Hypnos looked at him like he was a simpleton, waiting for him to find the answer for himself.

“Yes, well, I am not a scoundrel like you are,” said Hades haughtily, resenting the look of disapproval on Hypnos’ face. “I don’t have the luxury.”

Hypnos rolled his eyes and started to trudge once more towards his bedchamber.

“Hypnos, stop,” said Hades, growing annoyed himself. “I’m not finished with you. I need to know how to make a good impression on her.”

“You mean how to impress her.”

“Yes, I suppose. Fine. How to impress her.”

“For one thing, stop acting like a seven-year-old girl. Start acting like the God of the Underworld. For another… let her talk about herself as much as she wants to, and act as though what she has to say is extremely interesting. Lastly, when she finally lets you get a word in, don’t ask her what she would like to do, but tell her. Tell her that the two of you shall now eat, or walk, or rest, or travel, or whatever. She may balk at first, but make sure she isn’t sorry that she went along with you, and she won’t mind.”

“That sounds… despicable…” said Hades.

Hypnos shrugged. “You asked,” he said. “And I like to think I have some credibility in the matter.” He rested his hand on the cold ankle of the nymph nearest him to emphasize his point before turning away and retreating into his bedchamber.

Hades stared at the closed door for a few moments, knowing that he would not get anything more out of Hypnos this morning, then shifted himself to his own bedchamber, on the other side of the world in his palace. He undressed slowly, reliving his extraordinary evening. He removed his rings and chain of keys, then his robe. He splashed a bit of water from his ebony basin onto his face and looked up into the mirror. He supposed he didn’t look so bad. He had heretofore kept his face clean, but now he considered growing a beard of some kind, wondering how it would make him look. He had seen some men with a thin strip of hair down the center of their chins, and others with thin mustaches. Some let the hair grow from above their ears all the way down their jawline, but shaved the rest. He would have to figure out for himself what looked best, because though he had stooped to asking Hypnos for advice on how to act with goddesses, he certainly wasn’t going to ask for grooming tips. Hypnos kept his face bare also, and it seemed to serve him well enough.

Hades said goodnight to the blue women as they lowered their flames on his mental command, and slipped into his bed. When he closed his eyes he saw my face, and for the first time sank into a truly contented sleep.

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