David P. Gontar (February 2013)
As Sisyphus had again succeeded in shoving the massive boulder to the peak of his mountain, and was pausing for breath, he cast his eyes to the distance and saw the gods gathering on Olympus. Zeus sat regally in his throne of gleaming gold, and greeted each deity personally: Apollo, Hera, Ares, Hestia, Hermes, Hephaestus, Hades, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Athena, Eros, Demeter, and the others. And all could see the countenance of mighty Zeus was dark and vexed. When they were assembled and had tasted together of the sweetest ambrosia, Zeus rose from his place and spoke.
“Well know you, my friends, that the race of humans continues to chafe us with mischief and misbehavior. Even the great flood was not suffient to wipe them out, they multiply in countless numbers and make of the land a hellish conflagration. Worse, their vain ambitions once again threaten the preeminence and security of our realm. What is to be done?”
None could make an answer, and there was a long silence as these words were pondered.
Then rose princely Apollo, who gave light to everyone, and standing in the midst of the gods addressed their leader.
“Wise Father, forget not the treachery of Prometheus, who abandoned you after the wars of the Titans and Giants. It was his perversity and malice which stirred up humanity against us. The mortals joined in his rebellion, and though he languishes in punishment for his crimes, they remain free to stir up trouble. They will never reform or rejoin you.”
“What do you propose?” asked the king of the cosmos.
“Let us turn our backs on them forever,” answered Apollo. “Even now their altars have grown cold and none makes to us the sacrifices which are our due.”
To this bold statement the gods nodded their assent.
“We will fashion for ourselves a new Olympus in a world beyond all worlds, and there will we always have peace and joy. As for spiteful mankind, let them share in the fate of their hero, the renegade Prometheus.”
“Be it so!” the gods exclaimed in chorus. Apollo smiled in satisfaction.
“As Prometheus is chained to a rock, and Sisyphus has his little stone to play with, so let cruel and thoughtless Mankind likewise have its flinty isle as well, and let it be their cell, a barren region lost in endless emptiness. Hephaestus is equal to the task.”
Then rose Hephaestus, who had been humiliated by the Promethean theft of fire. And he spoke these words.
“Great King, hear what I will do. I shall restore Chaos, the primal Void, and fling across the face of vacant night a pinch of sand. On one of those tiny grains ungrateful Mankind shall be lodged. Sun and moon shall be no more, and in their stead shall be only raging fire and a frozen clod above, mocking them with dreadful heat and bone-chilling frigidity. And let them call their grain of sand “earth,” though it be nothing but a chip of dung floating in lifeless gloom. True Earth we will take with us, and to no mortals will we ever surrender it. It shall be our recreation and our happiness, and we will walk upon its bosom, recline in its grassy valleys and see it as it was in the golden age, a habitat fit for the gods. Observe then the fury of this bastard race, as it discovers through bungling Prometheus who they are and where they are. How their howls of anguish will shake the petty pebble over which they creep like so much vermin. And you will see, Lords, how war will scar their faces, and vain boasts fill their mouths, as they idly dream of conquering the vast trackless wastes surroundng them. And when they call out to us, their voices shall wither and die, without so much as an echo. For we will have withdrawn to keep our own counsel, leaving these misbegotten creatures of Prometheus to his tender mercies. As infinite nothingness will envelop them, let nothing be their conquest and their consolation. Even our laughter they shall never hear.”
“Let it be done!” exclaimed Zeus together with all the gods. And they were gone.
As he listened to this fatal declamation, Sisyphus glanced down at his brother Prometheus, who, chained to his promontory, had also heard the judgment of the gods, hanging his head in shame and sorrow. And crashing declivitously was the great rock itself, sent tumbling by the thunderous wrath of heaven.
David P. Gontar's latest book is Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays.
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