“I want block three cleared this afternoon, there’s a midnight rush coming in from a shipwreck! Someone get those children a room! Midred! What are you doing? Tortured goes to level 7! Is anyone reading the map?! I made it big enough for you all! Come on people we haven’t got all decade! I want to see movement!”
Hades yells filled the main chamber, clambering to be heard over the pounding of footsteps and the volume of voices. There were wails of children, shouting of men, arguments and consolations. The God was stood on top of a fine wooden desk, the likes of which had yet to be made, a long scroll was in his hands and his suit looked rumpled and distressed. Lower spirits rushed around him, formed out of grey and black smoke, they were distinct shadows in the gloom of the underworld. Hades lifted his scroll to one of the few candles lining the hall, squinting at it as he tried to place the next group.
Across the hall a commotion began as a group of shining new silver spirits tried to enter, only to bump into the queue of spirits waiting to be sorted. A dozen lines like this were dotted all around, a desk at the front of each one where two or three harried black spirits were double checking names and sending the spirits in different directions. There were several portals, filled with a black smoke that the sorted spirits were being sent though (or pushed), these led to the Levels. Each one was different type of afterlife, some for the good and some for the bad.
Into this mess stepped a black robed figure. It was the only solid creature in the underworld apart from Hades and its very presence created a rush of silence. Every eye was looking at it. Even Hades lowered his scroll. There was a sense of wrongness, a feeling like you had gotten an A on an exam when you hadn’t learnt the subject of. The feeling of cheating, or being cheated. Escaping a tiger only to find yourself facing a lion. And it was hungry.
“Who are you?” He asked.
‘We should talk in private,’ there was no voice, only the suggestion of one, a whisper of movement from under the hood. All eyes turned to Hades. The god glanced around, and seeing no help would come began the process of clambering down from his desk.
“Right, er, come this way then. What are you looking at! Get to work! Midnight shipwreck remember!” He yelled, pushing his way through the crowd to a small plain black door at the back. Instantly the noise began again. Some other spirit clambered onto the desk, picked up the scroll and began loudly directing everyone.
Hades slammed the door behind them, cutting the noise off. The small room they were in was a very untidy office. A far plainer desk was sat facing the door, the chair behind obscured by mountains of paper work and hundreds of files. Two high backed wooden chairs sat in front, but they too had fallen victim to the onslaught of filing. The walls were a bare brown stone, the floor carpeted with only a threadbare rug. Though a fire was lit on one side, the room was still dark. Hades quickly shoved the paper onto the floor and gestures for the creature to sit. As it did, politely folding it’s sleeves on its lap, Hades rushed around lighting candles with a match from the fire.
“Sorry about the light, one of the main problems of living underground. I’m thinking of getting some skylights in. Don’t know how I’ll do it but I’m assured they’re all the rage in the future.” He chattered nervously. Once he was finished the creature raised its arms, allowing it’s sleeves to drop down and reveal skeleton hands, then it dropped it’s hood.
Hades let out a little scream.
‘I assure you Lord Hades, I mean you no harm.’ It said, or seemed to say.
“Oh no, I’m sure you don’t. Just quite a dramatic reveal,” He laughed nervously, “You must be Death, or Lord Death? Sir Death? Do you have a title?”
‘No, Lord Hades, I am simply Death.’ An involuntary shiver ran down Hades back.
“Right, right, of course, I don’t suppose you get many people who grant you titles just before they die.” Somewhere inside Hades brain a little voice was telling him to shut up before it made him sound any stupider.
‘Oh, some try. They seem to believe if they bribe me they may live longer.’
“Don’t suppose it works?”
‘I have no use for titles, Lord Hades. I tend to get recognised wherever I go.’
“Right, right, yes of course. So if I’m not dead why are you here?”
‘You created spirits that guide souls to the afterlife.’
“Yessss,” Hades nodded, “They help control the flow of traffic. Otherwise they all come in through the front door.”
‘My point is, that before your father granted you a realm, none of this existed. I did the job you now do.’
“Oh.” Hades wrung his hands in a nervous gesture. “I suppose this is the part where you tell me to get out and get my own job?”
‘Oh not at all Lord Hades, in fact, I’d like to train your spirits to do my job.’
‘You see, Death is immortal, yes. But I do like a break, and your spirits have given me the change to have the first break in millennia. All I have to do it go and cut the thread as it is. Your spirits do all the rest of the work. So I’d like to take some of your spirits and teach them how to cut the thread too.’
“Right. So they’d be training to be death. Deaths in training.”
‘Well, you’ve already called them reapers. And what to reapers do but cut the stem of corn, much like cutting the thread of life.’
Hades nodded for a moment, lost in thought. Death sat patiently, a still form in a room of darkness. Finally Hades seemed to come to a conclusion.
“Well Death, sir, I mean, yes. Yes, I agree for you to take control of however many reapers you would like to serve under you and fulfil your purpose. With the agreement that the souls will be sent to the underworld to be sorted for their afterlife’s properly. “
‘Unless one is suited for reaping.’
“Really a human soul?”
‘It has been known to happen, on occasion.’
“Alright, accepted.” Hades stuck out his hand and had the privilege of being the first creature to shake hands with Death. It was a horrific feeling, especially when the bones moved.
Death left the way he came, another rush of silence filling the hall. Hades slumped against the wall. It had been an interesting morning, that was for sure. Sadly though, his peace was not to last. For the next day he received another unwelcome visitor. This time a messenger from Zeus. He had been summoned to Mount Olympus.