The Great God Zeus glanced
through the boardroom window at the clear blue
sky above Pantheon Headquarters, and then at the
puffy, white clouds carpeting Mount Olympus,
below. A cough from elsewhere in the room re-focused
his attention on the meeting that was about to
Around the boardroom table
sat the eleven other Olympians: Hera, Poseidon,
Demeter, Athena, Hestia, Apollo, Artemis, Ares,
Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Hermes. Before them on
the table, Dionysus had provided glasses of wine
and bunches of grapes as was the tradition for
any Olympian occasion.
A thirteenth had today
joined their number for this special meeting:
Charon, the ferryman of Hades. Charon had briefly
taken time-out from ferrying the souls of the
dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron. He had
come straight from work, had had no opportunity
to wash, and remained dressed in his reddish-brown
ferrymans uniform, giving the appearance of
a rough, unkempt Athenian seaman. His
ferrymans pole was propped against a wall
of the boardroom, kept constantly in his sight
lest it be stolen yet again by another one of
those damned damned.
I would like to call
to order this meeting of the Greek pantheon,
announced Zeus. We are here today to
discuss plans for a new Styx crossing, he
continued, and I would like to thank Charon
for taking time out of his busy schedule to join
us. Zeus looked at the ferryman.
Perhaps we can begin by asking Charon to
outline the current problem.
Charon glanced at the
assembled gods and goddesses without any trace of
awe. His world was so far removed from that of
these upper class toffs that he could
only relate to them as he would any river
passenger with politeness but with no
particular deference. The situations
gettin bloody impossible, he began.
The population of the Earth is gettin
so big that the number o' deceased souls
wantin to cross from the Earth to the
Underworld is more than I can manage.
Theres a massive waitin list for
ferry tickets, an its gettin
longer every day.
to everyone whos waiting for the ferry,
asked Poseidon, who took a particular interest in
Theyre all in
makeshift camps, according to their nationalities.
Ive bin tryin to sort-out the British
this mornin. Its more difficult for
the Brits to cross the Styx from the Earth to the
Underworld than it is for illegal immigrants to
cross the English Channel from Calais to Dover.
How are you
managing the problem? asked Athena,
recognising the injustice the situation was
avin to send a load of the dammed
back to Earth, Charon replied, to
resume their evil deeds as bankers, politicians,
Catholic priests, multi-national CEOs, newspaper
proprietors an' so on.
This clearly cannot
go on, Zeus intervened. I believe
that Hephaestus has investigated some engineering
solutions that might help alleviate the problem.
Zeus looked towards his son.
Hephaestus agreed. Ive done
feasibility studies on the construction of a
bridge-crossing and also on the excavation of a
thought a bridge over the Styx would look rather
splendid, said Apollo. It would also
symbolically mark the point where souls left the
splendour of the Living World to enter the land
of eternal gloom and despondency rather
like crossing the Severn Bridge into Wales.
isnt difficult, Hephaestus explained,
'but we wouldnt get the plans past the
environmental lobby. Theyd argue that a
bridge would destroy the historic natural beauty
of the landscape and that the banks of the Styx
are sites of special scientific interest.
Its a damp,
misty fuckin swamp! Charon
interjected, with disbelief.
particularly sensitive about damp, misty swamps,
Hephaestus replied with a sigh. It appears
that many rare and endangered species live there,
including the Lernaean Hydra.
Underworld would be a better place wivout them
bastards, said Charon. 'Many a time
Ive ad to give one a thump wiv me
What about a tunnel?
Zeus interrupted, anxious to keep the meeting on
track, but also recalling that it was he who had
created that creature - one that had not turned
out to be quite as good natured as he had planned.
A tunnel could be
possible, in theory, responded Hephaestus,
but we couldnt get the labour to dig.
Surely the abode of
Hades has got millions of tortured souls who we
could draft-in, said Hermes.
Not any more,
confirmed Demeter. As you know, my daughter,
Persephone, is queen of the Underworld - a
faintly audible collective sigh could be heard
from the others as Demeter found yet another way
to drop her daughters achievements into a
conversation - and she tells me that you
cant ask the damned to do anything these
days without falling foul of some daft,
politically correct, employment rule. For example,
Hades can only torture any member of the damned
for twenty minutes each day, and, even then, they
have to have a planned rest break in the middle.
Sisyphus complained of a bad back, Demeter
continued in her habitual, unstoppable manner,
and so the Underworld had to pay for an
electric hoist to help him get that immense
boulder up the hill before letting it run down
again. All he has to do now is press the button
on the hoist for all eternity or at least
from nine to five for five days a week with an
hour for lunch and six weeks annual holiday.
The room fell silent.
It looks like
were stuck, Zeus concluded.
one option, said Charon.
A ferry crossin' is
fine. It doesnt 'ave any o' the drawbacks
of engineering works. The problem is that
weve only got one leaky, wooden boat and
just me to punt it.
Go on, said
What we need is a
fleet o' modern sea-goin' catamarans,
Charon continued, like they 'ave
crossin the English Channel. I could train-up
some souls to captain 'em and then, wiv all me
experience, I could manage the service. Ive
already thought of a name for the company,
What would you call
it? asked Zeus.
I thought we could
call the Earth to Underworld ferry service,
StyxLink. We could use Prometheus 'aving 'is
liver eaten by an eagle as a logo. Charon
looked thoughtful. Fares would ave to
go up, o course, its bin one obel now
for the best part o' four thousand years.
Itd still be cheap though, as theyd
only be travellin one-way.
You could have films
showing on board explaining to new souls about
the Underworld, added Zeus. The
crossings could be an introduction to Hades
rather like cross-channel ferries are now.
Murmurs of approval rippled
around the table.
Ill see about
getting state-of-the-art catamarans built,
straight away, said Hephaestus.
concluded Zeus, raising his wine glass.
Heres to StyxLink, and Charon, its