A/N: Soon after I started posting chapters for The Whole Truth, I received another correspondence by courier, someone who could have been the twin of the very FedEx delivery man who had given me the package from someone claiming to be Persephone, queen of the underworld. This time, I received a handwritten manuscript that is supposed to be a letter from Pirithous, the mythological character who should still be stuck in the Seat of Forgetfulness. I know. I seem to be attracting a lot of nutcases lately but I just had to share this. –E.I.
Dear Professor Isadora,
My lady Persephone has been kind enough to inform me that you have made public my dear friend Theseus' version of events. I would appreciate it if you would do the same for me as well. I would have been sentenced to a harsher eternity had the great and just god Hades not understood that my rash actions were shaped by an unrelenting and foolish lust for glory that is systematically instilled into every man since the minute the midwife declares that the baby is a boy. I do not try to justify my actions, merely to explain them so you can be empowered to quell this infectious masculine mystique in every man. This requires that I start my tale with my childhood.
Ever since I was little, I aspired to be a hero. I wanted to fight monsters and win fame like Jason, Bellerophon, or Odysseus. My mother would take me on her lap and say, "Make me proud, my son. You must bring honor to your father's name and riches to our kingdom."
My father would scowl whenever the heavy sword slipped out of my sweaty hands or I fumbled with my shield. "You. Are. No. Son. Of. Mine!" he would snarl, thrusting his sword at me with each word. This sort of training started when I was seven. Somehow the words hurt more than the blows and the desire to please my father motivated my every action. By the age of nine I was completely trained and able to beat men twice my size in a wrestling match but my father was unimpressed because other men my age had already won battles, one of them being Perseus, or at least according to the rumors. I wanted to disprove that he was truly so talented so I stole his cattle to provoke and test his strength, mostly because my father kept demanding why I couldn't be more like Theseus. As anticipated, Theseus ended up chasing me to reclaim his cattle, ensuring a one on one fight. It was a draw. We were both awed by the other's skills and from that point on, we were friends. As a commendation of our heroism and friendship we both swore to marry daughters of Zeus.
When we were twenty I brought up the issue again.
"Theseus," I started. "Do you remember that pact we made when we were little? To marry daughters of Zeus?"
Theseus roared with laughter. "We were so silly then. The only thing I knew about women was that they had long hair."
"No, I'm serious," I insisted. "A hero should marry a worthy wife. No other than one who was sired by the king of the gods himself."
"There should be plenty of them running around," my friend chuckled. I kept badgering him and he kept laughing at me until he finally realized I was serious. He looked at me with that sense of resolve that had won him my respect eleven years ago. "Let's do it."
I promised to help him acquire Helen, a beautiful princess. When I told him of the woman I wished to marry, he turned pale.
"Don't say her name!" he hissed. "This isn't funny!"
"Theseus, you swore," I said desperately. "There have been many living mortals who entered and left the underworld unharmed."
"None of them ever tried to take the queen with them!"
"You know I can't do this alone but I will if I have to."
"How far will you go for your father's approval?"
"This isn't about my father!" I snapped. But of course he knew I was lying. And of course I knew he understood. He would be at my side, as I would by his.
We managed to take Helen without too much trouble, the guards at her palace must have been incredibly underpaid and overworked. We kept her with Theseus' mother where she would be safe until she became old enough to marry. She was twelve, a very lovely little girl.
Before embarking on my journey to the underworld I visited my father, who was suffering from a fatal infection that had spread from a simple flesh wound inflicted in battle. He had refused treatment, since it was a minor gash after all, and was now paying for his machismo with his life. I looked down at his pallid face and knew that I had very little time to prove myself to him.
"Father," I bowed to him. "You shall live to become the father-in-law of none other than the queen of the underworld herself."
"Fool," he rasped. "I am already the father-in-law of Hippodamia! It was even less than what I had expected from you but I shall not have you lose everything on a suicidal quest."
"No, Father. When the goddess of death answers to me, you shall live a long and rich life." I turned to leave but he hoarsely shouted after me.
"Do not rush into the arms of death! Only failure awaits you!" I did not respond to the familiar rhetoric of discouragement and left silently. Tomorrow, Theseus and I would enter the underworld.
A/N: Challenge to all writers! Write your own story that criticizes the narrow and arbitrary standards of Greek heroism. You could be a philandering asshole but if you behead some woman with really bad hair, you're a hero! Personally, I see Greek heroes as little more than pest control since they get rid of beasts that would not bother humans if humans did not bother them. I love clever parodies, just so you know. I would prefer to see a story with a male protagonist who becomes deluded with seeking fame the traditional way once he realizes how it glorifies warfare and an unreasonable standard of masculinity. I'll put the good ones in my C2 archive.