The Hades Connection
by Gabriel S. Timar
part 1 of 2
Dedicated to Mookie: my inspiration, my love, my life.
The last things George Pike remembered about his life on Earth were the suntanned, streamlined, naked body of Lynn, the report of a gun, the bullet hole in the wood paneling, and his blood on the white carpet next to the black towel.
The next thing he knows, he’s being welcomed to the Third Dimension, where he has a choice not only of afterlifes but of accommodations and a new body, as well. George signs up with Hades, Ltd., a corporation that seems to be the best of a dubious lot.
George very much enjoys being welcomed by Arabella, who is not only highly efficient but something of a race car driver. And yet she has asked one question he cannot answer: how he died. Neither he nor anyone else seems to know. Now George must meet the head of Hades, Ltd., a certain Mr. Lucifer... and prepare himself for a career as a double agent in interstellar intrigue.
The last things I remember about my life on Earth are the suntanned, streamlined, naked body of Lynn, the report of a gun, the bullet hole in the wood paneling, and my blood on the white carpet next to the black towel.
I slowly started slipping into oblivion. I don’t know what part of my body or intellect staged the fight for survival. Was it a motor reflex or the nervous system? Was it an automatic reaction of the mind? Could it have been my immortal spirit hanging on to its shell? I don’t know, and perhaps nobody knows.
I was completely immersed in a fight to regain consciousness. For the time being, I was winning, and I stopped at the opaque brink of perception. It took all my strength to maintain the status quo. I did not think, because I knew if I diverted even an infinitesimally small portion of my powers to thinking or reasoning, I would slip into the dark hole of oblivion from where, I was sure, there was no return.
Just as an arm-wrestler gives way when overpowered by the strength of a vastly superior opponent, a great surge of power pushed me over the brink, and suddenly a piercing beam of white light painfully penetrated my field of perception. The pain was intense, but mercifully short.
Then my opaque world and marginal existence exploded into a kaleidoscope of pleasing colors. There was no need to fight, think, or resist. My exhausted spirit relaxed. I was curiously satisfied, even though I knew I was dead.
The sharp boundaries of the lively colors slowly faded into pastel washes, and like a comforting cloak, a cool green light covered my field of perception. My mind broke free, and I could think and reason again!
Suddenly, I sensed a presence; someone was trying to talk to me! I didn’t know if it was vocal communication, or a telepathic link, but the message was coming in loud and clear.
In all my life on Earth, I was very perceptive when it came to women. Apparently, my instinct stayed with me after death, as I sensed the nearness of a feminine being. Apparently, she was trying to communicate. Honestly, it was weird.
“Welcome to the third dimension, Mr. Pike.” She sounded like an air hostess welcoming the passengers on board.
My thoughts were not exactly complimentary, but I suppose she was used to it and did not react at all.
“Sir, this is your moment of truth,” she continued. “As your soul has been graded at one hundred and sixty Bertons, you must decide now who should represent your immortal spirit in the future. Several corporations are eagerly awaiting your call.”
“She means this is the final judgment,” I thought. “Someone will decide whether I’m going to Heaven or Hell.”
“Not exactly.” She came on strong. “You and you alone should make that decision. A compatible management firm would represent the souls rated one hundred Bertons or lower. The Board would select the firm, making sure that it has the same ideology as the soul had during its life in the first dimension. The soul has no immediate choice, but later it can ask for a Board of Trade review. However, highly rated souls like yours must make the choice for themselves.”
“She must be joking,” I concluded. “She’s just tormenting me. I was taught in school and church that your fate after death would be decided on the basis of your sins and good deeds.”
“That sounds like the illicit advertising campaign of some unscrupulous soul management corporations,” came the message from my distant lady friend. “I represent the Board of Trade, Mr. Pike. My job is to make sure that you decide on your own without undue pressure or interference.”
“Very kind of you,” I replied. “May I ask what my options are?”
“I can give you the names of the corporations, describe their place on the ideological spectrum in a manner similar to the ways in the first dimension, and give you a short definitive statement about each of them. A lifetime of influence and the information I give you should be enough to make up your mind. If I said anything else, you might construe it as interference. Rest assured, sir, irrespective of your choice, you will be pleasantly stimulated.”
“Good Lord,” I growled, “this is just like a goddamned election!”
“Exactly, Mr. Pike,” came the prompt reply, “just like an election.”
“Okay,” I said amused, “let me have the list of the candidates.”
“Starting from the extreme ideological left, there is Red Star Company Ltd. They could be classed an egalitarian group, suggesting that you must do your best to have your needs satisfied.”
“Just like any of the Marxist groups on Earth,” I remarked. “I pass...”
“Nirvana Corporation is next,” she continued. “They are relaxed, have very few compulsory activities, but they meditate a lot.”
“I’ve never enjoyed meditation. I pass...”
“The next is Heaven, Inc.”
“I’m very curious,” I interrupted, “tell me more.”
“Most terrestrials are curious about them,” she replied and continued: “they have perhaps the most extensive advertising network in the first dimension. However, Heaven, Inc. is very dogmatic and strict. They claim the most important qualities of a soul are its level of faith, discipline, and obedience. Creativity is secondary.”
“Disappointing,” I remarked. “I was never very disciplined, but always thought creativity was important. As far as my faith in others is concerned...
“Yes or no, Mr. Pike?” she asked impatiently.
“I pass for the time being, but reserve the right to have this option explored further at a later date,” I replied.
“Very well,” she sighed, “the next one is Hades, Ltd. They encourage discussions, thrive on controversy, and rate creativity as the most important quality of a soul.”
“Just like the liberals,” I said. “They are a definite possibility. What else?”
“Seventh Paradise Inc. is on the extreme ideological right,” she continued. “They seem to appeal to people with straight-laced conservative beliefs. They demand high standards of discipline and hostility against all other soul managers.”
“No, it’s not me,” I concluded. “Anything else?”
“These are the major corporations,” she said. “If you are not satisfied with any one of them, there are several small specialist firms. I must tell you these are all subsidiaries of the big ones, but slightly adjusted to accommodate the needs of the very special souls. You could request representation by one of them. In that case, we will have to arrange another selection session. May I have your decision, please?”
“It is not going to be easy, honey,” I remarked. “If, on the spur of the moment, I elected Heaven, Inc., Father Golding’s soul may become my constant companion. I could not take that for very long. He will not let me recall my pleasant memories like the events in the back seat of a car with a cute little chick. We shall always talk about church and large donations; and he would not let me think of booze. Since I’m not much of a disciplinarian, I detest communism; and I don’t like meditation. By the process of elimination, Hades, Ltd. and I are going to get stuck with each other.”
“So, your pick is Hades, Ltd?” she asked.
“I’m afraid it is,” I sighed.
“Thank you, Mr. Pike. You have decided as a free spirit.”
Like an iron door slamming shut in my face, the kaleidoscope returned, but this time instead of the pastel the dark lively colors dominated. It was very pleasant. If I wanted, I would be able to think, but there was no need to exercise my intellect.
* * *
I lost all sense of time. I didn’t know if a day, a minute or a century had passed when suddenly a surge of purple blotted out all other colors, and again a feminine personality communicated with me. Maybe women liked me in the third dimension as well.
I could sense she was not the civil-servant type like the first one. She was an energetic gal, just like an accountant suddenly promoted to bank manager.
“I’m Arabella, Mr. Pike,” she began. “On behalf of the management of Hades, Ltd. I would like to congratulate you for your clear, logical and fair decision.”
“I really had no choice, honey,” I replied. “Perhaps it was a vote for the other poor souls I left behind.”
“It was a logical choice,” she continued. “If you’re interested, your explanation was very similar to some of the greatest souls we get from Earth.”
“Like who?” I demanded.
“Oh, like the very special ones, Julius Caesar for one. I know you’re a great admirer of him.”
“Yeah,” I grunted. “I was always fascinated with him. Caesar was the pinnacle of professional leadership, and came as close to perfection as possible. He made only one big mistake; relying on tradition hoping that everybody would observe the “no arms at the senate” rule. It cost him his life. You understand that in this respect I differ from my idol. I have no use for traditions, because I know they will always get me in trouble. What else do you know about me, Arabella?”
“There is not much I don’t know, Mr. Pike,” she replied. “I know most of your secret desires and many things even you forgot or would like to forget.”
“Like what?” I demanded.
“I don’t like being challenged, Mr. Pike,” she snapped. “I usually become very defensive, and that may have rather unpleasant consequences.”
Copyright © 2004 by Gabriel S. Timar