John’s corpse, Bill, Jeannine and Mischa walked closely together through the Underworld, all of them incurably terrified. Well, not so much John’s corpse, since he was dead and therefore incapable of experiencing emotions such as fear, but the others were terrified.
“Where is Hades, Bill? We seem to be walking around in circles,” said Jeannine, ducking quickly to avoid a passing ghost.
“Over there,” said Bill, pointing at Mischa.
“No Comrade, I am Mischa Petrovitch!” said Mischa. “I do not know why you would think I am Hades. I am not nearly intimidating enough!”
“Oh. I don’t know where he is, then,” said Bill. “Unless that’s him!”
“No Comrade, that is me again.”
Distraught, Jeannine took over as leader, a change which made very little difference. Not only were they in the most evil place in all existence; now they didn’t even know where they were going.
After another hour of aimless wandering, a figure approached them, and unlike the various ghosts and ghouls, this one knew what he was doing. Mischa shrank back, Bill didn’t see it, and Jeannine moved forward bravely to confront it.
“Who are you?” she asked shakily as the creature became more visible.
“My name is Maximilian Vandevris,” he said. “I am the greeter here, and the politest being in the universe. Welcome to the Underworld, Bill Williams, Mischa Petrovitch, Jeannine Morgan and John – oh dear me, he seems to be a bit dead, doesn’t he? A pity…a pity.”
“Yes, John is dead,” said Jeannine. “If you’ll let me explain the – well wait a minute, first of all, how do you know our names?”
“Pardon me for noticing, but you’re wearing nametags,” replied Maximilian. “Though I must compliment you on your extraordinary penmanship, Ms. Morgan.”
“Yes, in that situation, ‘thank you’ is the appropriate response. Thank you for asking me to confirm it!” said Maximilian. “I am most grateful.”
“You’re welcome,” replied Jeannine confidently.
“Welcome accepted,” added Maximilian.
“Oh, um, acceptance…acknowledged?” tried Jeannine.
“Acknowledgment recognized!” responded the greeter.
“The word you are searching for is noted. ‘Recognition noted’ is the proper response. But you did very well for a surface dweller! Now, how may I be of service?” Maximilian asked.
“Well, my companion John has been killed, and we wish to ask Hades to resurrect him,” explained Jeannine. “If you could tell us where he is, we’d really appreciate it.”
“I suppose I could,” said Maximilian, “but I must warn you, Hades isn’t in a very good mood today. He’ll probably refuse your request.”
“We’re willing to take that chance,” said Jeannine firmly. “Where is Hades?”
“You have to cross this river, the River Styx. Thence, you must find a way past Cerberus – oh, he’s an adorable little puppy! He has the cutest tail, and three heads, and he loves playing fetch,” added Maximilian after seeing the puzzled expression on Jeannine’s face. “Just yesterday he learned to roll over; it was so precious! Anyway, after him you’re more or less home free, but again, Hades is rather contentious today. I wish you all the best of luck!”
He bowed obsequiously and shot Jeannine a dirty look until she reciprocated. Satisfied, Maximilian walked away, pompous as could be.
“All right Bill, Mischa. Let’s cross this river!”
“How?” asked Mischa. “It doesn’t seem very navigable.”
“We’ll take the ferry,” answered Jeannine. “This welcome pamphlet has the schedule on it…let’s see…ah, it should be here in six minutes. We’ll wait quietly until then.”
“But what about –”