Author Topic: Death Takes a Vacation  (Read 1580 times)

Alexander1222

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Death Takes a Vacation
« on: October 25, 2009, 05:29:43 PM »
This is from this original fiction universe that I've been playing around with. In this universe, the gods exist as archetypes, and so select the names that appeal the most to them. Since they're gods that govern the entire universe, they govern planets other than Earth, resulting in some gods with alien names. They also do not have real bodies and just project images in the minds of mortals, so humans see them as human-formed and other races would see them as resembling members of their race etc. Their real forms are known to be incomprehensible and have been known to drive mortals mad with just one look. Since they are archetypal representations, they don't exactly act like the gods of one certain myth, but have characteristics of all gods within their archetype.

Gods featured or mentioned here

Thanatos: Chief God of Death/The Grim Reaper. Has been overwhelmed with work the last billions of years, so he's stuck in his office and rarely goes out to show his creepy Grim Reaper visage to people anymore. Since all Heavenly Departments are bureaucracies, he is stuck filling out the paperwork while his subordinates do the actual reaping He is secretly jealous of Hypnos because his brother can relax. As his name suggests, his primary power is to cut people down and reap their souls. He chose his Greek name because he thought it had a properly terrifying effect.

Hypnos: Thanatos' twin brother. Chief God of Sleep, Dreams, and Narcotics. He spends most of the time asleep, with his office doubling as a bedroom. His surroundings are literally shaped by his dreams, which is why the Sleep and Dream Department usually looks like a scene from Alice in Wonderland. It takes a coffeepot filled with super-energy nectar (sort of like Godly coffee) to wake him up, and even then he acts lethargic, lazy, and kooky. While awake, he often forgets names and directions. His brother chose his Greek name for him because he was asleep at the time. His primary power is to use his magical sand to send people to sleep.

The Three Judges (Rhadamanthys, Minos, and Aiacos): The three gods that send people whose souls are reaped to either one of the heavens or one of the hells. They also determine which planet and/or which species a soul is reborn into. Like all the other higher ups, they spend long periods of time glued to their chair, filling out paperwork, and passing sentences. They are found of using legalese and having discussions about judgements. Rhadamanthys is the fair one, Minos is the strict one, and Aiacos is the nice and emotional one. In terms of human equivalents, they are like the lower courts. They chose their Greek names because they were the best known. They have general shinigami powers including generating weapons/armor, and beating the snot out of guilty souls.

King Yen-Luo: The King of the Department of Death and Rebirth and the Chief of all Death Gods. He is more of a judge than a king, and even walks around in the uniform of judges from various countries or planets. He has a bad temper with people who are found in contempt of court and often orders corporal punishment to discipline them. He is very fair and rules only over the most important of cases, leaving the bulk of the judgements to the Three Judges. He chose his Chinese name because it reflected his job the best. His power has yet to be seen, but the Judges have been known to be terrified at his rage.

Anubis: God of enbalming and autopsies. Thanatos' assistant, who is in charge of waiting on his master hand and foot and taking Thanatos' tantrums at full force because Thanatos is too busy to leave his room. He chose his Egyptian name because nobody else had a god that did his job. He doesn't get chances to show his powers, but he does threaten to pull people's brains out their noses when angry.

Athena: Goddess of Intelligence. She is a mad scientist who is responsible for creating at least half of the mythological monsters via her experiments. She wants to help sentient species across the universe, but does not think the well-being of individuals or even individual races matter. She has been known to inspire inventors across the universe when she needs a certain invention mass-produced or field-tested. She chose her Greek name because the epithet "glaukopis" makes her giggle. Her mind is capable of analyzing any one thing upon multiple levles, translating speech to mathematical equations to colors to time units. She loves death rays and her weapon of choice is a massive cannon that can get bigger depending on what she wants to add to it.

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Chapter 1: Death needs a break

Thanatos growled as he stared at the pile of paperwork on his desk. It was times like these that he wished beams of fire could spout from his eyes and incinerate all of them. However, staring never got the work done, so he heaved a heavy sigh and started to fill out all of the forms. By themselves, they were nothing important, just daily reports of the souls collected in the various districts. However, as the God of Death (one of them, anyways), he needed to review each and every form to make sure nothing was wrong: all the souls that were scheduled to die on that day were duly collected, and there had been no extra or missed souls. The only thing that might break the monotony was a work-related call from one of his subordinates or superiors, which invariably meant more paperwork was on its way over. It was a tiring job. Such was the price he paid as the Chief of the Soul Collection Division of the Death Department. It was so much easier when the universe had first formed, and the first beings were just being created. Back in those days, there were very few souls to reap or judge, so few that he was the only Reaper needed to collect them. Those had been the good old days, when he got to go out in the fields and wield his terrifying scythe instead of being cooped up in a musky old office all day. Now, he was stuck in a boring administrative job. Had he been mortal, he would have already grown huge pressure ulcers on his butt just judging from how long he had sat there. When was the last time he had taken a vacation or even moved from his chair? The answer was “never.” In the world of the gods, one was immortal, invulnerable…and unable to take a vacation. Had he been a workaholic in the mold of Minos or Rhadamanthys, he probably would have been fine with the workload, but as it was now, he was very close to having a divine nervous breakdown.

Sometimes, Thanatos wondered if he should ask to trade jobs with his brother. The very thought of his brother’s “job” made Thanatos want to snap the lazy bastard’s neck. Hypnos was the God of Sleep: his job included little more than sleeping, dreaming, snoring, soiling his sheets (admittedly a rare occurrence), and imbibing various hallucinogenic/narcotic substances. It helped that the rest of his workers were either as crazy or lethargic as Hypnos himself. Also, while Thanatos worked under King Yen-Luo and the Three Judges, Hypnos was the head of the entire Sleep and Dream Department, so he didn’t have to answer to anyone. In short, Thanatos worked his ass off day and night…and Hypnos got to kick back and enjoy his rest.

Thanatos wondered what the humans and other species throughout the universe would say if they saw him now, the once-fearsome God of Death, driven to the brink of madness by being cooped up in an office and overwhelmed with paperwork. The one known as Azrael to Christians, Thantatos to the Greeks, Mors to the Romans, The Grim Reaper to the common folk, Mictlantecuhtli to the Aztec, Tuoni to the Finns, Ankou to the Bretons, and a variety of names to a variety of cultures, had been brought this low. However, he doubted that any of them would even be able to think of this situation. As far as he knew, the sentient and even non-sentient species around the universe were still terrified of him. In their collective psyche, he was still a horrifying figure looming in their shadow, ready to cut them down at any time. Some comic artists had even done comics about him, showing him as something comforting, yet mysterious and frightening—the classical representation of death. To his knowledge, there was at least one comic that had shown him as a girl, and at least one Earthling (Japanese, probably, he didn’t remember it very well) had featured him in his Greek incarnation as some sort of armored man. His amused assistant had brought him a few copies of those comics, but they were in a drawer, gathering dust. He never had the time to read them.

The more Thanatos thought about it, the more it was unfair. Aiacos got to throw parties and get drunk. Morpheus and the Dream Gods got to sit down together and have a nice cup of tea. Athena…well, she buried herself in her work because it wasn’t work to her—creating giant robots and stowing them beneath human cities was her way of relaxing. Hathor got to sleep with whoever she liked. Hell, even the All-mother and All-father had taken a second honeymoon once. Thanatos just sat their, his butt stuck seemingly permanently to the chair, filling out forms.

“I need a vacation.” He groaned to himself. Then the idea hit him. It was as if the All-father, pitying him, had thrown down a bolt of inspiration. If he wanted a vacation, why didn’t he just ask for one? He had never before thought of it, but now it seemed all too clear—all he had to do was ask, get the proper forms, fill them out, and then he could kiss this post goodbye for at least one day of mortal time. It would certainly do some good for his sanity as well as his powers to get out of the office once in a while. With this thought in mind, he pressed the button to dial the Judges’ number.

“What?” Rhadamanthys’ impatient voice came through the speaker. At any other time, Thanatos might have felt sorry for the lead Judge. After all, Rhadamanthys had at least as much work as Thanatos himself, seeing how he had to judge at least one third of the cases that Thanatos turned in, if not more because Aiacos was slacking on the job. But currently, Thanatos only cared about getting some rest.

“I want a vacation. Do you know how I could get one?”

The effects of those words were immediate. Rhadamanthys dropped into a stunned silence. Thanatos could hear the noises of Minos choking on something and Aiacos bursting into laughter in the background. After a while, there was a loud thump, which meant at least one of the Judges had fallen to the ground. Thanatos didn’t care which as long as the other two granted him his vacation.

“V-vacation, you say?” Rhadamanthys finally recovered enough to stutter something through the speaker.

“Yeah, I need a vacation, really. I’m stuck here with nothing but papers and super-energy nectar. I haven’t been out of my office since the population of the universe boomed. I haven’t seen my own twin brother for 78 million years. I can’t even recognize my subordinates because I’m cooped up in my office doing nothing but paperwork. I only know what districts there are because they’re all entered into the computer in my room. The only thing that interrupts my endless marathons of paperwork have been the work-related calls that I’ve been getting. I’ve been working without rest for eons. My scythe is rusting in the corner of my room because I haven’t used it for so long. If I were mortal my ass would have grown into this chair considering how long I’ve sat in it. All my subordinates get at least short breaks between shifts, but I’m stuck working even then. I can’t even get up and walk out to get a drink like you three…” As he enumerated the reasons he needed a rest, Thanatos felt the pressure of his post come crashing down on him more and more. As he spoke, he could remember more experiences that he missed, more stresses that had been piled upon him over the years. By the end of his tirade, he was a sobbing mess. “…Please, please give me a vacation. I feel like I’m going to go mad, if gods could do such a thing. I need rest badly. It’s not fair—my brother gets to sleep all over the place and I’m stuck here. Please, please, please let me go on vacation. One mortal day, one mortal hour, hell, five mortal minutes so I can get up and stretch. That’s all I ask. Please…”

A few minutes passed before the Judges could reply to the sobbing God of Death. “Well, why don’t we just give the poor bloke a vacation?” This was Aiacos, who had finally stopped guffawing.

“Are you crazy?” Minos hissed. “We need him to check the reaped souls in every district. If he misses even one soul, the world could plunge into chaos. Do you know how much time he wasted just now? He’s put us all behind!”

“Objection. If he has a divine breakdown, he could theoretically miss more than just one soul. In fact, going crazy would render him ineligible to further perform his task. It will be a fortiori that the universal order would be rendered null and void.”

“Objection to Aiacos’ objection. He is judging the situation a priori. We would never allow other gods to shirk their duties with such circumstantial evidence.”

“Objection overruled. This is an ad hoc situation. Thanatos has performed his duties faithfully over the millennia and has never before applied for a vacation.”

“Objection. Aiacos made a mistake in his legal terms again.”

“Objection. Minos just used an ad hominem.”

“Overruled for both of you. I believe Thanatos does have compelling evidence that he requires a vacation to perform his work at full capacity.”

“Ha! The court rules in favor of the defendant!” Aiacos crowed triumphantly. “I motion that we give the poor bloke a vacation for the duration of one Earthling week, effective immediately after he fills out the paperwork.”

“Seconded.” Rhadamanthys stated.

Minos grumbled somewhat about being voted down, but still uttered a grudging “I vote in favor of the motion.”

“Thank you, oh thank you.” Thanatos sobbed. “Did I tell you how grateful I am? I’m really grateful. I won’t ever trouble you like this again. Thank you! Thank you!”

“You have only one Earthling week of vacation. We will send you the appropriate form. Once you fill it out, your vacation begins. If you are not back at your post within the appropriate time, you will be punished as according to Heavenly Law. Rhadamanthys out.” The speaker clicked and fell silent. A short while later, Thanatos’ computer displayed the paperwork he needed.

Thanatos wiped away his tears and signed the forms in the proper spots as fast as he could. He could barely wait to send it out so he could finally be free, for however short a duration of time that it might be. Once the paperwork was done, he pressed the button to send a message blaring over the intercoms of every district of his division.

“Attention, maggots, as of now, I have filed a form requesting a vacation the length of an Earthling week. In other words, for an entire week, I will be absent from my post as the head Grim Reaper. Substituting for me will be my assistant, Anubis. You will submit all paperwork to him and consult him with any questions that you may have. For extra questions, all of you, Anubis included, may consult my twin brother Hypnos. Do not disturb my vacation, or else you will know why I am your boss. I expect everything to be in perfectly working order when I get back. If there is any hint of chaos at all, heads will roll.” A noise from his computer screen informed him that he had received a reply on his request, and sure enough, it had been approved. “As of this time, my request has been approved. Hasta la vista, assholes!”

Thanatos slammed his fist into the button to shut off the intercoms. He then slid back into his chair and sighed, feeling his newfound freedom. He placed his feet upon his desk, opened his drawer, pulled out a comic volume (it was one of the Japanese ones, decorated with some sort of stylistically-drawn, armored human with a…horse, was it, in the background), and began to read through the old, dried pages.

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Well, that was the first chapter. Tell me what you think.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2009, 02:09:12 PM by Alexander1222 »

Golden Sagittarius

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Re: Death Takes a Vacation
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2009, 03:36:51 AM »
I think this is really funny! :D I like "hasta la vista, assholes". :D

The idea is really interesting, keep up the good work! :)
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Alexander1222

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Re: Death Takes a Vacation
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2009, 12:42:59 PM »
Chapter 2: The Weight of the World

Thanatos closed the final comic book and stowed it beneath his drawer. They had been fun reads, although not all of them were accurate. For example, he definitely did not have a motorcycle, no matter how cool the comics thought it would be. He did not even have the pale horse that medieval legends prescribed to him. It really was unfair.

“Sir…?” Anubis peered into the office nervously. “It’s time to…uh…”

“I see.” Thanatos stood up from the chair and carefully stretched his body. It felt extremely relaxing after staying in only one position for billions of years. “I’ll move my stuff so you can take over.”

“T-thank you, Sir. I promise I won’t disappoint you.” Anubis found himself fidgeting worriedly as his boss grabbed the scythe in the corner and headed out.

“You better not, Anubis.” Thanatos smirked. “I’m sure you know better than to piss me off by making stupid mistakes…right?”

“Yes sir!” Anubis yelped. As Thanatos finally left his office and headed to the mortal world, Anubis could feel his entire body going soft from the shock. He had been at the receiving end of most of his boss’s tantrums and had no wish to experience those again.

***

The first thing Thanatos did after entering the mortal world, Earth, specifically, was to observe the changes from the last time that he was here. The dominant species looked completely different, and they had made great technological progress (for mortals, that is—to a god like Thanatos, their technology was still primitive). Standing upon this foreign land, he wondered what his first order of business would be. Then he realized that he knew next to nothing about the mortal realm, to say nothing of the entertainment offered.

“Well, this is embarrassing.” Thanatos muttered to himself as he wandered the streets blindly. The one good thing about this situation was that he was invisible and intangible to most mortals, which mean nobody was there to witness his confusion.

A small, almost inaudible purr caught his attention. Turning around, Thanatos saw a thin, mangy cat lying in an alley and gasping out its last breaths.

“I might be on vacation…but what the heck. Haven’t done this in quite a while.” Thanatos grinned as he hovered over the cat. “Foul creature bound to this plane. As of now, I release you from your mortal coils and carry you to receive Divine Judgment. I am Death, and I have come to reap you.” His scythe slashed down, severing the link between the cat’s body and soul. He next grabbed the soul and shoved it through the portal to the office of that area’s Underworld division.

“M-milord! I-I did not expect your august presence!” Another shinigami, who had just arrived, knelt down as he saw Thanatos.

“Hmph, you’re late.” Thantos grumbled. “It’s good for you that I’ve just been granted my vacation and am in one of my better moods.”

“P-please forgive my transgression! This shall not happen again!” The shinigami gasped, shivering with fear.

“Don’t worry. I already collected that soul. I must say—reaping a soul with my own hands after all this time was oddly enjoyable. I should lobby to be assigned more field duty…Anubis can do all that paperwork for all I care.”

“T-thank you for your great mercy, Lord Thanatos!”

“Yeah, yeah. Go back to work.” Thanatos dismissed the other shinigami with a wave. “Wait…do you have any suggestions about what I could do here on my vacation?”

“Go to Disneyland!” The shinigami blurted out. “F-forgive me, Milord. I…do not know if that would be to your taste.”

“What is this…Disney place?”

“Oh, it’s wonderful. They say it’s a land of dreams. All the Earthling children want to see it once before they move on to the next world. I’ve seen it once. It’s as beautiful as they say. It’s a huge theme park with rides and castles and cotton candy and…” The shinigami gushed.

“Well, I suppose that since I have nothing else to do, I might as well as take a quick look. Where is this place?” Thanatos asked.

“Uh…I’m not that sure…maybe you could ask Athena? She lives near here in her lab. I’m sure she has those complicated place locators. Anyway, forgive me, Milord, but I really do have to get back to work…”

“Go on then.” Thanatos muttered, stepping out of the alley and looking around for Athena’s lab. It did not take him long to find it, as it  was a tall, thin building with neon lights that said “Athena’s Lab Enter Here.”

Thanatos warily stepped up to the structure. As far as he could tell, it had no doors or window—only an ATM-like machine fused into wall. It made him wonder how it could be the entrance. Carefully, he slid his Death God badge into the slot, hoping that it would have an effect. His question was answered as a jelly-like substance enclosed him and somehow shunted him into a brightly-lit room. Suddenly, alarms flashed red while blaring loudly as huge iron gates locked with complex seals slammed shut around him. The walls around him opened to reveal gun turrets for lasers, missiles, machineguns, and chemical weapons; the arsenal was enough to blow away the entire population of a small third-world country, not to mention any intruders. For the next few minutes, the sealed-away room was filled with the sound of explosions and gunfire. However, after those few minutes, the noises ceased. The iron doors were shredded to reveal Thanatos, looking unscathed, but nevertheless somewhat miffed. When the alarm continued blaring, Thanatos simply grabbed his scythe and sliced it in half.

As he continued walking, he found that the initial “greeting room” led to a corridor, which insisted on attacking him with various robotic monstrosities or hazardous fluids. After he managed to deal with all the traps, he found that there was a wide lab at the end of the corridor. The lab was covered in machines of various shapes and sizes and tables that showed mechanical and biological experiments pulled apart, their components exposed. In one corner, a god huddled over one table, methodically putting some mechanical apparatus together.

“Athena.” Thanatos looked toward the industriously working god. “So this is what you’re occupying yourself with.”

“Uh-huh.” Athena grunted, throwing a machine part behind her and quickly fitting another part into what she was working. “What do you want? How’d you get in, etc. Make it quick, please.”

“No ‘a pleasure to see you again?’” Thanatos muttered sarcastically. “Oh well, at least it’s better than those idiots who always want to be someone’s best friend. I’ll cut to the chase—where’s those locator devices that you use to find where you want to go? As to how I got in, I simply cut down all those traps that you set up. Seriously, all of those were overkill.”

“First off, it’s never a pleasure for me to see any of my fellow gods, except maybe for my lab assistants, and even then it’s never a pleasure to see you. I suppose this holds true for any extra-dimensional energy conscious construct or mortal. Secondly, those doors took time and effort to make. Do you know how much work I put into making those locks or calculating the angles that the guns needed to fire at? Or even just installing failsafes to make sure they didn’t take each other out? Those tunnel drones are easy to repair, but those chemicals took such a long time to synthesize. Next time, please knock or at least find a way to avoid setting those traps off if you’re not going to be affected by them. This reminds me…all those traps were geared at mortals trying to sneak in. I really have to design some anti-ECC traps in the near future…” Athena turned around, giving a frustrated sigh. “Way to interrupt my work. What might you possibly want with an Intergalactic Positioning System? How are you even here in the first place? I thought you had work.”

“I’m on vacation.” Thanatos replied. “And I assure you it is less than a pleasure to see you.”

“Meh. Guess you had to take one sometime. Someone with your personality isn’t cut out for all that office work.” Athena shrugged, opening one of the multiple drawers beneath her table. “So, which IPS shall you choose? The type that comes in a watch with multiple free gadgets such as cable TV or flamethrowers? Or the type that teleports you around to where you want to go? Maybe one of the experimental ones that lets you subspace things…although they might blow up in your face because I haven’t quite worked out all the kinks. And then there’s those…”

“Enough.” Thanatos growled. “Just give me the easiest one to operate.”

“You’ll be looking at the teleporter then.” Athena fished out an object that looked like a metal ball the size of an orange. “Have fun.”

“Don’t I get instructions?”

“Big red button right on top, says ‘on;’ can’t miss it. You will excuse me as I have to get back to work now. New subspace drawers I need to perfect.”

“I see…” Thanatos tentatively pressed the giant red button. The ball instantly opened up, presenting a screen and a pad with many buttons.

“Hello, hello, hello, my new friend. Welcome to L. Ron’s World Tour Express. What might I do for you today? Would you like to take a look at scenic Venice? Or take a barrel down Niagara Falls? What about the Violet Forests of Anaximander-2? Buy now and you get our premium package, only 19.95! That’s right, you get 50% off. That’s only 19.95! But wait, there’s more. Order within the next five minutes and you get a 3-day cruise on BB-303 absolute free! This is your only chance to save so much! Order now. Just enter the codes into this keyboard to buy.” A voice blared from the device, sounding much like a television salesman.

Thanatos stared at the IPS incredulously. After a few seconds, the initial shock wore off and he now regarded the babbling machine with distaste. “Why is it talking?”

“It’s sentient.” Athena replied without turning around. “I installed a form of artificial intelligence inside it—nothing too advanced, mind you, but enough to understand and process your requests even if you don’t know the place’s name or exact location in the known universe.”

“Are all of them like…this?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Why.” Thanatos growled, pushing the device away as it floated too close to him. “Why did you have to give them this personality?”

“It gets its message across in a way that sentient life forms are familiar with, does it not? It is clear, persuasive, and recognizable. That was what I was aiming for during construction and design.”

“It sounds like Puck when he’s making all those offers that are too good to be true. And he only makes them when he really wants you to do something, which usually turns out to be more trouble than you’re prepared to deal with…and he’ll be laughing as you walk into his trap.”

“Puck can be…very persuasive when he wants something done.”

“Persuasive? More like annoying beyond belief. Half of his victims get annoyed into doing what he wants just to get him off of their backs.” Thanatos swatted at the IPS again.

“The intergalactic positioning system cost time and effort to make. Please do not damage it lest you are prepared to pay compensation.”

“Fine.” Thanatos grabbed the IPS. “Shut up with your incessant offers and tell me where Disneyland is.”

“Disneyland, Where Dreams Come True.” The IPS sighed. “A great choice, dear customer! As of now, we are offering discount tickets to Disney theme parks all over the world. Just tell us which one and I’ll take you there!”

“The closest one.” Thanatos muttered.

“So…Tokyo Disneyland then? We are in Japan, after all.”

“Fine, fine. Just get me there.”

“Gladly.” Sheets of metal stretched out of the IPS until they formed a ball around Thanatos. With a bang and a cloud of smoke, they were gone.

***

The first thing Thanatos noticed was the noise. Humans were chattering and crying and stomping all over the place. Carnival music played loudly over the humans’ conversations while doors and rides clattered. The next thing he noticed was the sheer number of people. Hundreds of people lined up in front of each door, all waiting to purchase tickets.

“Well, ain’t this a sight.” The IPS made a whistling sound. “Should have gotten those special coupons, huh?”

“Shut up and get in line.” Thanatos grumbled, sliding behind a family of four.

***

At this time, Anubis was sitting in his (well, technically it was still Thanatos’, but since Anubis was substituting for him, it meant he got to sit in the boss chair) new office. Although gods did not actually require tables or chairs, it was required partly as a display to the mortals and partly to make work easier. He gently felt the smooth, black marble table and turned around in the swivel armchair. He had fantasized about sitting in this office many times, but had never gotten the chance to actually do so before. Finally, this place was his. Instead of standing outside the door, whimpering at Thanatos’ every command, he was now the one giving the orders.

“Sir, the new reports are in.” A shinigami called from outside the office.

“Alright…” As soon as Anubis spoke, a mountain of paperwork reaching all the way to the ceiling appeared on the desk. “By the All-father, is that what he does every day and night?” All envy of his boss was instantly replaced by pity, both for Thanatos and himself.

Quite a few hours later, Anubis was working as fast as he could to check, double check, and approve of all reports. Some were simply soul collection reports, others were requests, and still others were written citations about various maverick shinigami. He could see why his boss had been desperate for that vacation, and now felt an odd urge to pick something up and throw it at the next person to appear at the door.

“Uh…Sir? We…we’ve got a problem.” A shinigami carefully peeked into the room. “One of the newbies ran into this confusing case. None of us know much about it, so…uh…we were wondering if you could…?”

“Details. Now. Hurry.” Anubis ordered without taking his sight off of the paperwork.

“Well, just now, an eight-year old girl died, but her life wasn’t supposed to end. Since there was no Piper on site to guide her, her soul became lost and…”

“Section 90, article 1397, clause 27: If child’s soul dies before its time and becomes lost on the banks of the Styx, whatever shinigami on hand reports this to his superior, who immediately sends a Piper over to guide the child back to its original body. In this case, I’m authorizing you to grab the closest Piper, tell them to drop what they’re doing, and escort that soul.”

“Thank you, Sir. I’ll get right on it.” A few seconds later, the shinigami turned back. “Sir, another question for you. A soul’s proceedings took several days before it was decided to let it return to life, but the body was not kept with a preservation pill, so it decomposed…”

“Find the body of a recently deceased and send the soul into that body.”

“Yes, Sir. What about a recently deceased soul whose time wasn’t up and was scheduled to reawaken, but had another soul possess its body before because the other soul’s body has decayed.”

“That’s a difficult one…hold on, let me find some court precedents…” Anubis rifled through some files. “Aha. vs.. As seen from this case, the proper owner of the body is the original soul who was in the body at the time of death, barring spirit possession. The deceased soul whose body has decayed is to be removed and sent to the closest recently deceased body that had lived up its lifespan.”

For the next few minutes, questions continued to flood his office along with the unfinished files. Whatever envy Anubis had still held for his boss had at this time turned completely to pity. By the time this was over, he would probably need a vacation himself…if Thanatos could agree to grant him one.

“Oh, sir, this last one just came through.” The shinigami came in and handed a file to Anubis.

Anubis sighed as he read through the file. “This…I don’t know anything about this. I guess I’ll have to go ask someone then…”

***

Anubis stared nervously at the imposing gate leading to the offices of the Dream Division. Although he was feeling apprehensive about this, he had no choice but to go ask Hypnos about the case at hand. A few minutes ago, a man had entered into a persistent vegetative state. The death god on the scene had been confused about whether or not the man’s soul should be reaped or if it was scheduled to be reaped. Adding to this was the possibility that, since the man was in an unconscious state that did not include medical death of his body, he might have belonged to Hypnos’ domain, since the god of sleep watched over souls that were unconscious, but not yet dead. Anubis was unable to find any rule that solved this dilemma, so he was now stuck standing in front of another department’s door, ready to confront another god that he had never before seen. He slowly lifted his fist to knock…

“Through me is the way into the suffering city; through me the way into eternal grief; through me the way among lost humanity; Justice moved my celestial creator; I was created by Powers Divine; By supreme wisdom, and love primeval. Only eternal things are older than I; and I will forever endure. ABANDON HOPE ALL YOU WHO ENTER HERE.” A voice boomed from the door, startling Anubis.

“Wh-what…who…I-I need to get in to consult Lord Hypnos…” Anubis stuttered.

“Ah. What did you think of my littler performance then? Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inferno Canto III, lines I-IX. It was written about your department, though.” The intricate patterns carved on the door swirled into the shape of a face. “Hi there, Laertes here. I’m the doorkeeper to the Realm of Dreams, Sleep, and Narcotics/Hallucinogens. Well, I’m more of a door than a keeper, but you get the drift.”

“Well…uh…it was a very…nice little speech.” Anubis struggled to gather his words after the shock had passed. “Anyway, I have very pressing matters to consult Lord Hypnos about. Please grant me access.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m going to need to see some credentials.” Laertes clicked his heavy brass tongue, shaped in the form of a lion’s head knocker. “Can’t just let anyone in, ya know.”

Anubis mentally slapped himself for forgetting something as important as his name, rank, and purpose for coming. The last few hours had been so chaotic and stressful that he had been unable to even think correctly. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am known as Anubis, God of Mummification and Autopsies, Acting Head of the Soul Collection Division of the Death Departmnt. I am here to discuss with Lord Hypnos the case of a man stuck within a persistive vegetative state. Please allow me an audience with him.” Anubis flashed his badge at Laertes.

“Why didn’t you say so then?” Laertes chirped. “I won’t block your way any longer then.”

Laertes’ mouth stretched wide until it was several times Anubis’ size. His wooden lips stretched back, showing large, yellow teeth more wooden and crooked than George Washington could have ever hoped to cram into his mouth. A red, slimy tongue unrolled and stopped at Anubis’ feet like a rug, different from the brass tongue that had just been in place earlier. It was a soft, slippery thing with the texture of a slug, which made it seem out of place with the rest of Laeretes’ hard, wooden features. The rest of the mouth was a gaping black passage leading to some unknown location.

“So…how do I get in?” Anubis started at the dark mouth, slightly creeped out. He was unsure where the mouth led to or why it was open, staring at him with its imposing darkness.

“Shru m’ moush, goo’ shir.” Laertes slurred, squinting his small peephole eyes due to the effort needed to keep his mouth open. “Pleash ‘urry u’.”

“Okay…” Anubis winced as he stepped onto the slimy tongue. He let out a scream as he slipped and fell into the chasm of the mouth.

***

Anubis landed in the middle of a surreal landscape as he finished his long drop. The structures were constantly changing shape and color, and the gods at their stations shifted from one form to another. The sun was in the shape of a bright, pulsing spiral. A cuckoo bird with bright green feathers popped out of the sun every once in a while, attached to a wooden board and singing death metal (in Swedish, no less). Balloons of clocks floated in the air before bursting, with their pieces becoming smaller clocks which melted and drizzled onto the floor, which was shifting from the star-filled night sky to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, with the only difference being that all the human figures had been replaced with anthropomorphic waterfowl. Spiraling lattices of crystal hung in the air, but dissolved into a shower of small beetles as Anubis walked closer to them.  The sky was changing patterns, from kaleidoscope patterns based on the various protein coats of viruses to a strawberry print where the strawberries were wearing fluffy moss dresses and doing the can-can. Two trapeze artists with the heads of bulls and the bodies of geckos swung through the air and performed tricks where they contorted their bodies and switched heads on swings made of whipped cream pouring from two huge canisters held in place by surgical clamps. Flower stalks spouted from the ground, only to wilt after they bloomed into cups of tea. The tea itself united to form a giant teapot man decorated with a spinning umbrella pattern on his side, who strode off to join the other gods sleeping or putting extra-legal substances into their bodies. Anubis took a deep breath and then decided to ask one of the workers about the location of Hypnos. While the dreamscape was unsettling, he could not allow it to hamper his job.

“Excuse me, but could you please tell me where I might find Lord Hypnos?” Anubis tapped one of the gods on the shoulder.

“Aye, Laddie, he lies yonder in ‘is office, ‘e does.” The god turned, revealing he had a metallic body with a glowing orange Jack-o-lantern head and a hundred eyes. “Toppa’ the mornin’ ta ya. To get ta ol’ Hypnose, yer gotta ride the express, you do.”

A small spaceship pulled up next to Anubis. It was only then that he noticed that he was standing next to a set of model railroad tracks. “Is this it?”

“Aye, the best o’ luck ta ye.” The other god kicked Anubis into the space ship, which began chugging along the tracks. “Semper Fi and godspeed, friend.”

At first, the spaceship traveled slowly, driving through rains of candy corn and tornadoes of butterflies. The trees on either side, incense in the flavors of myrrh, sandalwood, star anise, hamala, dragon’s blood, balsam, edelweiss, or other fragrant plants drifting off their crowns and purple amethysts blooming on their branches, bent down and tried to tickle Anubis while he was crouched in the ship. However, past the aromatic grove, the spaceship sped up, jetting through fields of origami animals whirling atop tissue paper flowers. Anubis was unable to hold back a scream when it suddenly dropped down a deep tunnel, the sides of which were covered in key-shaped stalagmites and stalactites colored like a Jackson Pollock painting.  It landed on top of a lake, shimmering under a moon that was half purple and half pearl grey. On all sides of the lake were walls of fern-covered rock. An egg-like white dome peeked above the water, surrounded by a small whirlpool that pulled the spaceship in. The ship then began whirling at high speeds around the dome.

“It really is an egg.” Anubis mused as he spun around the dome, noticing flashes of yellow within a crack in the dome’s top.

Finally, after a couple hundred cycles, the spaceship finally escaped the gravity of the egg, shooting off into space like it had been fired from a slingshot. It landed on a length of track that was poised on a cloud. Before Anubis could even breathe a sigh of relief, the spaceship launched into upside-down loops and wild, jerking turns. It crashed through cumulus clouds, skirted next to cirrus clouds, and skated on top of stratus clouds. However, as it approached one turn, it finally slowed down its wild roller coaster pace and crawled to a stop. Anubis was able to calm himself and observe the pleasant yellow and orange sunset shades of the lower clouds as well as the brown and blue sunrise shades of the upper clouds. Before he had much time to ponder, a marching band of various brands of liquid cleaning products stomped up, playing instruments and juggling batons.

“Glory, glory, Hallelujah! Glory, glory, Hallelujah! Glory, glory, Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!” As the buglers played out their final notes, the cleaning products all turned themselves upside-down and spilled out all their contents in a colossal pile of foam on top of the spaceship’s nosecone. The foam shaped itself into the form of a body. The bubbles then popped to reveal a god perched on top of Anubis’ spaceship.

“Hey there, you’re here to see Lord Hypnos, right? Sorry I’m late. Was out distributing some confusing dreams; you, know the ones that have mortals sitting up in bed going ‘what the hell was that?’ Anyway, name’s Phantasos. I’ll be your guide for this trip. We’ve only got a little bit before we hit the big boss’s place, but use that time to introduce yourself. Come on, honey, don’t be shy. We’re all one big happy dreamy family here.” Phantasos rambled, popping some of the remaining bubbles with childish delight. Had a mortal heard the voice, they surely would have been confused. It was a voice both old and young, both male and female, holding an ominous echo and yet a warm, comforting tone. Compounding this was Phantasos’ appearance: flowing hair that could be best described as ripples of brocades in rich Persian patterns, swirls of wine, spots of the sun, geometric flowers and leaves in poisonous greens and magentas, spirals of silver and blue and onyx galaxies, mahogany vines wrapping tenderly around tie-dye towers, chrome gears grinding upon each other in an intricate mechanism; a face like the stone in a delicately crafted opal ring; a right eye that was a luminescent lollipop and a left eye that was a condensed cloud, shifting between the pink of conch shells and the blue-green of a cataract; the eyebrows freshly molted feathers; the nose a speckled button; the mouth a blooming red poppy with sharp lines of fogged glass as teeth; shoulders like muffins while upper arms were marble pillars and lower arms were branches of blue staghorn coral with hands that were orchids and fingers that were tiny flying fish; a chest that was a curved rose window; the waist a set of ivory whale bones; an iliac region that was a tilled and terraformed field; the upper legs plump geese while lower legs were slinking water snakes; the feet were zebra patterned nautili; around the body, there wrapped translucent webs. However, to a god like Anubis, it was no different from any other voice that he had heard or any appearance that he had seen.

“I am Anubis, the Acting Head of the Soul Collection Division of the Death Department. I have come to discuss the status of a mortal in a persistent vegetative state.” Anubis winced as the spaceship once again made a jerking turn.

“What happened to that other guy? Big boss’s brother?”

“He’s on vacation.” Anubis grumbled, shielding his face from a sudden hailstorm of twinkies. “What is it with this department?”

“Big Boss’s dreams shape this world.” Phantasos explained. “And since he has some weird dreams, it all ends up looking like this. It’s a pretty nice place though—not as boring as your place. Well, I’ve never been to your place before, but Phobetor went once. Bored him to tears.”

“How far are we from Lord Hypnos?”

“Well, we should be arriving at just about…now.” Phantasos hopped off the spaceship. “Last stop, everyone off.”
The ship had stopped in the middle of a lavishly decorated hall, seeming to be at once both corridor and garden maze. A marble fountain sprouted in the middle of the walkway, gushing with skittles. Various strange plants with bright colored berries and flowers that were almost certainly poisonous curled around the windows and the oddly shaped marble sculptures standing by them. The marble sculpture themselves were various body parts arranged and splayed out in strange ways, such as a foot intersecting with a hand. Cloths of gold and red were draped over the walls, intertwining with the plants.

“It’s just down this hall.” Phantasos led Anubis into a room with a simple gate of wood. “Through here.”

As Anubis watched, Phantasos stepped through the wall toward the right of the door. “B-but…”

“The door’s fake. Big boss figured that it would be harder for anyone to interrupt him it they got taken in by the fake door.”

“Give us a hug!” Just as Anubis was about to enter the portal, a group of eclectically formed chimeras charged over, bellowing about hugs. They appeared that someone had dumped a bunch of regular Earthling animals into a blender and played mix-and-match with the various parts. There were some with the head of a dodo, the body of a rhino, and the tail of a fish. Others had elephant heads with snake trunks and ram horns with horse bodies. Some had goat legs with alligator mouths, pig heads, scarab bodies, and squirrel tails. Still others had tails of tropical birds with whale flippers, turtle shells, and mosquito heads. This troop of animals ran up to Anubis and began tugging at him.

“Now, now, honey, now’s not the time.” Phantasos re-emerged from the portal and wagged one fish finger. “This god is a very important guest. Lord Hypnos will not be very happy if he misses their meeting. I’ll give you all a hug after this is over, okay?”

“Yes, Your Highness.” The animals chorused, releasing Anubis.

“What were they?” Anubis asked as he and Phantasos stepped into Hypnos’ room.

“Eh, just some dream critters. They’re harmless—just a little clingly.” Phantasos shrugged. “Better than the fairies at least.”

“Fairies? What fair…” Anubis bit back his sentence as he saw thousands of tiny fluttering lights dancing around him. Upon closer inspection, each one of them was a tiny, androgynous, roughly humanoid form glowing in various pastel colors. “These fairies?”

“Yeah—LSD Fairies. Just…be quiet around them. They’ve got nasty tempers.” Phantasos whispered.
“Hey, did you just say something about us?” One of the fairies snapped.

“N-no…not at all. Just…how pretty you are?” Anubis replied.

“Did that guy just call us pussy girls? That’s it! Let’s get him! Show him how manly we really are!”

“I didn’t say that! I said you were all manly men. Big buff manly men. I’m jealous at how cool all of you look.” Anubis hurried to placate the fairies.

“That won’t work.” Phantasos hissed. “They’ve got all sorts of problems. They’d probably come after you even if you kept silent. The best way is to just go on your way and prepare to dodge at any time.”

“Why didn’t you…” Anubis’ words were cut short as the fairies attacked him.

“Show him what we’re made of, men!” The leader bellowed, launching himself at Anubis’ face and exploding in a shower of sparkles.

“For country and for family!” The fairies chorus as they exploded in Anubis’ face, sending him reeling backwards. He felt oddly woozy. His senses were blending together into a murky form of synesthesia, while lights and images brighter than even what he had seen in the dreamscape assaulted his sight. In his confused state, he did not even notice Phantasos blasting the fairies and then grabbing him and running.

***

When Anubis’ mind cleared, he found himself being dragged on the ground by Phantasos, a short space away from where he had been before. “W-what happened?”

“Those things aren’t LSD Fairies for nothing.” Phantasos grumbled. “They’re composed of a substance very similar to what humans call ‘LSD’ or ‘acid.’ They’re so potent that a couple of them could leave even us gods high for a while. Not that it’s a bad thing…”

Anubis sighed and looked around the hexagonal room, hoping to spot Hypnos. The place was lavishly decorated, and a little less surreal than the other parts of the department. Four heavy drapes hung around the room, each one announcing the name of one of Hypnos’ main assistants in black and gold patterns—Phantasos, Morpheus, Icelus, Phobetor. One of the walls was completely covered with a window, but it was painted black and decorated with frost flowers on the inside and outside, preventing any light from getting through. Opposite the door was a blazing fireplace, but instead of flaming embers, it threw out pastel hearts and stars. The roof was lofty, with a ring of gargoyles, which had calligraphy decorating their bodies, surrounding the ceiling and blowing forth sweet-smelling vapors. The ceiling itself was rather undecorated, featuring only a gothic arch. Four or five ottomans shaped like toadstools with wide caps and short stalks were scattered around the room. Next to the fireplace, there rested a rocking chair with a horse’s head on the back and a pile of soft, warm colored cushions in the seat, as well as a spoon shaped armchair.  A black granite sofa carved in Egyptian designs and padded with purple cotton cushions stuffed to the brim lay under the wide window. The rug, surrounded with silver tassels, was like a lava lamp, with its patterns forming blobs, drifting to the bottom, and floating back up in different shapes. Lamps of all shapes and sizes floated in the air, but few of them were lit, illuminating the room with their pale, ghostly light. The most noticeable piece in the room, however, was the giant bed standing near two of the walls. It was completely carved from ebony with semiprecious stones surrounding the sides. The four bedposts were topped with crystal knobs, inside each of them a winter scene. From the posts hung several star shaped pocket-watches, all stopped. The head and foot of the bed had boards carved with scenes from tales such as Puss in Boots or Red Riding Hood. The canopy of the bed was a moving landscape of tall mountains and black forests; dark leaves and white, glowing ghosts, were visible between the trees, and the mountains stretched to reveal trolls or curled down to return to being mountains. Next to the bed, there sprouted flower such as red opium poppies or white narcissi or the occasional purple hyacinth, all watered by snake-like aqueducts and a tipped golden goblet stuck in the wall. Still more flowers were on the bed, almost covering the sleeping figure snuggled between the soft quilts decorated with stars and diamonds and the round pillows decorated with fruit patterns. At the side of bed, in the field of flowers, another figure slept, using the poppies as a pillow. It was a room designed for maximum comfort and relaxation.

“Is that…Hypnos?” Anubis approached the bed and observed the sleeping god. While he had known that his boss and Hypnos were twins, seeing the similarity up close was still a bit jarring. The only difference between them was that while Thanatos had black hair streaked with silver, Hypnos had pale yellow hair streaked with cornflower blue.

“Yeah, that’s the big boss, all right. You can’t wake him up to talk to him right now, though—he sleeps like the dead, if you catch my drift. You have to get Morpheus to help you enter Big Boss’s dreams so you can converse there.” Phantasos kicked the figure curled by the bed. “Wakey, wakey Morphy.”

“Who? What? When? Where? How?” The figure leapt up, brandishing two umbrellas. One was decorated with whimsical designs while the other was pitch black. The rest of his form was just as odd, with black spider web hair (including real spiders), bright white irises within black corneas, white skin spotted with multi-colored polka-dots, various paper collages composing the facial features, arms and legs made from white colored pencils, and hands and feet made of ice cream cones. Topping it all off was the yellow pillowcase he wore over a blue sailor suit.

“Calm down, Morphy. It’s just me.” Phantasos assure the other god.

“Oh…” Morpheus sighed in relief, his red sleep cap drooping. “Who’s the other guy?”

“This guy here’s a death god who needs to speak to the big boss. You still got some of your dream sand?”

.”Nope.” Morpheus pulled off his red night cap and shook it. “Zero, nada. I either ran out and forgot to restock, or I restocked and then snorted it all.”

“That’s okay.” Phantasos patted Morpheus on the shoulder. “I understand.”

“I’ll need to hit him with the Hammer of Drowsiness. It sends people to sleep right away, although it might cause a few odd pains in places when they wake up. But he’s a god, so he should be alright.” Morpheus pulled out a big golden hammer from his pillowcase. “Hold on, this won’t hurt…much.”

“Wait—Are you sure…” Anubis was cut off by a hammer smashing into his face.

***

Thanatos tapped his foot as he waited for the line to move. It had been more than two hours, and he was still not yet at the ticket booth. The incessant chatter of both the mortals and his IPS had been steadily grating upon his sanity, and he found himself growling a few people who were staring at him.

“Can I make you this limited time offer…”

“No. Shut up.” Thanatos snapped to the IPS. “Shut up or I’ll shut you down.”

“But of course. The customer is always right.”

“Look, just stop talking.”

“How may I help you sir.” The ticket booth worker droned. Whilst he had been bickering with his devise, Thanatos had managed to approach the ticket desk.

“One ticket to Disneyland, please.” Thanatos generated some gold in his hand. While gods were not paid , at least not in mortal currency, for their labors, they were still able to generate precious metals or bills or coins or whatever was used as currency in mortal cultures.

“You alone?” The worker asked monotonously, gazing at Thanatos.

“Yes. What is it?”

“Nothing.” The worker muttered, wondering to himself what an adult would be doing alone in this place. “You want change for that?”

“Keep the change.” Thanatos muttered. He had no desire to be dragged down with mortal objects.

“Okay, have a nice time.” The worker handed Thanatos the ticket and slid the gold into the drawer.

Thanatos grunted and entered the theme park. He could see that it was a loud, crowded place, with fake-looking buildings and gift shops everywhere. He wondered how this was supposed to make “dreams come true.”

“If you’ll kindly follow me, I can show you some of the latest attractions. Over there is…”

Thanatos swatted at the IPS. “Why are you still on? I’m here, so turn yourself off or something.”

“But wait, there’s more! I can guide you to all the got-to-try rides. You won’t have to waste time trying to see which one you should and shouldn’t go on.” The IPS chirped. “But wait, there’s more! Order now and you’ll get a guide to the best restaurants, absolutely free! That’s absolutely free!”

Thanatos sighed and decided that the infernal contraption indeed had a point. Before he could ask it where to go, a voice caught his attention.

“Well, well, what do we have here? I’ll admit, this is the last place I’d expect to see you at. And you are definitely that last person I’d expect to see here.” A being, who was to mortals an oddly dressed man, walked up to Thanatos. He was wearing a cap, orange on one half and blue on the other, with a large black plume hanging to the left side and several bells that jingled as he walked. His worn coat, patched with yellow and green striped squares, was in a beige and lilac checkered pattern. Under the coat, he had a pink blouse speckled with sea-foam green polka-dots. He had buckskin pants tucked into galoshes decorated with bunny stickers. “So, how’s it been all these years, Thanatos? I see you’ve made a new friend”

“Puck.” Thanatos crossed his arms. “Why are you here?”

“And who might this strapping gentleman be? Let me offer you one of our best deals.” The IPS started blabbing again.
“I think we’re going to get along very well.” Puck grinned at the IPS. “I just happen to be on vacation here.”

“You never do any work.” Thanatos scoffed. “Unless you call using magic to trick others and getting tricked yourself while wreaking havoc with social order a job.”

“Exactamundo, my friend. Just for today, I’m giving up all my tricks, wiping the slate clean, canceling all debts, and going straight. Since I’m usually an all-powerful trickster, I’m going to bring myself down to mortal level on vacation. This means no pranks, deals, or even magic. I’m a trickster on the job, so what better way to take a vacation than living like an honest, powerless mortal, doing an honest job?” Puck chirped.

“You wouldn’t last a minute.”

“Oh, really? Wanna b—no, let’s not bet on it. I said no deals and it means no deals. Anyway, giving up being a trickster for today means I give up all things associated with that job, including my cache of trickster names. For today, don’t call me Puck, Coyote, Raven, Anansi, Renard, or any one of those monikers since I’m officially on vacation. Besides, today isn’t even the day to call me Puck.”

“You’re always Puck on Tuesdays. Why change now?”

“Today’s Thursday. Getting your calendar days mixed up, scrambled, jumbled, and confused, buddy boy. But then again, I did say not to call me by any of my trickster names, so it doesn’t matter what you’d usually call me on Thursdays.”

“I’m the God of Death, not Timekeeping.” Thanatos grumbled.

“Anyway, will you look at the time? We’re standing here talking while there’s things to do, rides to go on, high-cholesterol food to eat!” The no-longer-Trickster grinned at Thanatos. “As long as we’re both on vacation, let’s buddy up, be traveling partners, spot each other’s backs. What do you say?”

“No thank you. There’s never anything good when you’re around.” Thanatos began walking away. “Now that you’re no longer any of your Trickster names, what am I supposed to call you?”

“We’ll think of something, won’t we?” The other god rushed to catch up with Thanatos. “So, where to first?”

“Both of you stop bothering me!” Thanatos snarled. “Has it ever occurred to you that I don’t want you anywhere near me?”

“More than once, but I wouldn’t be a good trickster if I left off every time you started getting annoyed.” The no-longer-trickster looked around the theme park. “Ooh, let’s go for the swirly cups!”

“An excellent decision! Did you know that these swirly cups can reach speeds of…?” The IPS blabbered on.

Thanatos closed his eyes and tried to pretend that this was not happening. If this was how his vacation was going to start, he was not sure that he wanted to see how it would progress.