Creative Mythology: Hercules (Part IV) — The mechanics of Sisyphus

Hercules had recovered from his back surgery, and within a short period of time discovered that his magic card, the one that he used to purchase things, had limits.  He needed to get a job to support himself.  Holding attention to the movements of birds, Hercules noted the auguries and landed the first job he applied for.  He discovered his gift, becoming an automobile mechanic.  Not just an ordinary auto mechanic.  Thanks to Prometheus, Hercules was never wrong.

Having a mechanic that was never wrong was sometimes a problem for management, who occasionally preferred cutting corners or inflating the need for repairs.  But Hercules was good for business and never had difficulty finding employment once he chose to move on.  His transition to modern life happened faster than he would have imagined.  And despite his excellence as a mechanic, Hercules became an invisible hero, just another average Joe who kept his end of society properly oiled and running.  No one really cared that he was the perfect mechanic.  And that was fine with Hercules, who was tired of being the hero.  Being the hero makes one a target, if not for jealous humans, then for jealous gods.  In any case, Jupiter and Zeus could never find Hercules in a world that no longer personalized their gods in the ancient way.  Since Hercules was no longer half a god, that suited him just fine.  And when he occasionally played poker, he usually broke even.

After 15 years of working for “management,” Hercules eventually figured out he would be better off working on his own.  With the money he’d saved doing almost nothing else, and going nowhere else, he was able to open his own shop.  He became his own boss.  This was a satisfactory arrangement all the way into his old age.

When Hercules was roughly 90 years old, he was still running the same shop.  In comparison with other humans as they aged, he felt lively, still able to ply his trade without inconvenience or undo difficulty.

He was in the shop working.  While cars and equipment had changed over the years, Hercules had not.  Nor had his god given mechanical ability.  He had a Ford String-Theory on the lift, a bright yellow sedan.  As usual, the car was speaking to him as he worked.

Vehicles always spoke with Hercules as he worked — just a voice that didn’t seem to come from any place in particular. When the conversation became sexual, as it always did, Hercules wondered if it was actually the mercurial Hermes speaking as if through the car, or maybe an unknown daughter of Pan. In any case, Hercules always tried to ignore it.

“That’s it big boy.  Yes.  That’s the spot.”  Even though it was weird, listening to the vehicle did aid Hercules with the repair.  “Yes, yes.  Don’t stop. Oh, you’re on it. That’s it! Oh my god, we’re almost there.  Oh god.” Hercules tightened down the last bolt, and the job was finished.  The garage bay always seemed so silent after a job was completed properly.

Why have I not been able to accomplish that sort of relationship with a real woman, thought Hercules. There had been encounters, certainly, but nothing of lasting consequence.  Nothing worth remembering or taking with himself into the next life.  Just a long string of well satisfied automotive vehicles.  What was that all about?  He began to feel like his life as a human had been a failure.  His life was overly represented with the tools of his trade, and it was too late to change.

Hercules went to lie down on a long leather sofa he sometimes called his “Completion Couch.” The couch sat like a raised throne overlooking his modern and remarkably clean mechanics garage.  It somehow separated him from the implied intimacy of mechanically moving parts.  His thoughts began to sour, until he put his legs up and fell asleep.

Hercules found himself in a dream.  At least he thought it must be a dream, because these sorts of visions did not exist in his brave new world.  He knew the figure before him: Sisyphus rolling a huge stone at the start of his day.  He was destined to push that stone up a mountain.  For what?  Once he got to the top, the boulder just rolled back down – working for the pleasure of gods and the punishment of Sisyphus.  Hercules thought the situation a waste of both time and energy.  He wanted to do an intervention.

“You must realize that you’re wasting your time, no better than a machine.  Every day the same stone, same mountain.  Every day starting over.  What’s the point?”

“This is what I do.  This is why I am.  I have no choice,” replied Sisyphus, who did not even look away from the huge stone as he spoke.

“It doesn’t have to be that way.”

“Oh, but it does.  It has been decreed by the gods.  I am a roller of stone.  That is what I am to do.  That is the work set before me.”

“At what cost?  Does your work matter?” Hercules realized he couldn’t argue Sisyphus out of his Fate.  He paused and reflected.  A transformation of consciousness seemed possible.  Sisyphus was a roller of stone. He only rolled the largest one. But there were stones and pebbles of every size – a wealth of stones.  He decided to carry out a challenge.

“You have proven you can push the largest boulder to the top of this mountain, day after day. But if you are a true roller of stone, why have you neglected the smaller stones that could also benefit from your attention?  Surely if you are a roller of stone, it is your job to roll these stones as well.  To neglect them all is to defy the gods.”

Sisyphus paused.  “I am a roller of stone.” Within hours they were playing with the smaller stones, rolling them from hand to hand and placing them into geometric patterns that pleased the eye.  In their play, Hercules found the small bowl of a split geode, and seven unique stones that spoke to him like shooting stars on a warm moonless night.  Almost instinctively, he placed them all into a pouch.

Sisyphus was throwing sand in the air and watching it fall with the wind.  “Grains of sand – they’re stones too, just really small.”  Hercules laughed.  The labors of Sisyphus had become like an art or game.

My work here is done, thought Hercules as he walked away. Sisyphus did not even notice.

The warmth of the sun seemed eternal. He could feel it deep in his belly like a pregnancy of light.  Hercules was tired and lay down onto a generous allure of Earth, staring at the sparkling light as it gathered into a circle.  It was like looking at his mother for the very first time and realizing his identity with a new body – a billion sentient grains of sand.  He had entered a dream within a dream; a sun stroked and wind blown respite from time.

Eternal is not the same as forever. He knew that he could rise like a djinn should the labors of Hercules be summoned by gods, Myth Makers, or imaginative children.

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