Monday, September 28, 2009

61. Promethium



"No thank you," Prometheus said. "I don't smoke. It leads to lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and any number of pregnancy-related health problems."

"I didn't offer you a cigarette!" I declared.

"You were about to." Prometheus rattled his chains complacently. "I know these things."

"Actually, the reason I'm here," I said, "is to—"

"—ask me just a few questions for the readership of Mythology Today. I know, I know." He sighed. "Yes. No. Yes, of course. He's my own brother—how did you think I'd feel? Of course. Never. Well, you folks looked so wet and miserable that I couldn't help feeling sorry for you. Yes. I never look back—that's simply not my 'thing,' if I might be forgiven the vernacularism. No, never. I try to maintain a philosophical frame of mind. Also, I'm a vegetarian."

"Wait!" I said, scribbling madly. I lost track. Which questions was I about to ask?"

"If you can't be bothered to keep track yourself, why should I?"

"Well, for the sake of our readers, if nothing else. There's a great deal of sympathy for your plight—chained to this mountain, tormented by an eagle that eats by day your liver which, fiendishly enough, grows back by night. That, and the fire thing. We're all very grateful for fire."

"Like heck you are. I employ a clipping service. For every headline reading 'Fire—What a Marvelous Thing!' there are a hundred 'Nuns and Innocent Children Killed by Fire!' and the ilk. You're wasting your time talking to me about gratitude. Come to think of it, you're wasting my time whatever you say."

I had to admit, the guy was beginning to get my goat. I glanced about at the bleak, night-clad mountain. "You had something better to do?" I asked sardonically.

"Yes. Working on my memoirs, for one. Looking forward. Thinking about the heat-death of the universe. Having my liver eaten. Oh, there are a million things to do!" He turned his gigantic head away from me and stared nobly up at the stars. Then, with a sidelong glance at me, "Any of them preferable to be bothered by a second-rate hack like you."

"Damn it, you could at least pretend to be polite!"

"I don't see why," Prometheus said coldly. "The article you're going to write will be downright snotty."

Then it was dawn, and the eagle came again and began to eat his liver, and of course there was no talking to him then. So I left.

Down from the mountain I stamped, fuming with every step.

Gods, what an arrogant creature! No wonder he was chained on that cliff! I'd've done it myself. Zeus was probably just waiting for the excuse.

Damn right, my article was going to be snotty!

© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.

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