My fantasies aren’t always about me. I recently sat down and read the history of Hercules and his twelve labours. I was aware of them before, but only through movies. It was something to pass the time and it was interesting.
I never thought I’d have my own labours to attempt. I never thought a lot of things.
Angela and Carlie are very excited about the open mic night set to happen in at the uni in two days’ time. I however, am not.
‘Oh come on, it’ll be great!’ Angela’s on my left.
‘Yeah, you’ll rock it!’ Carlie’s on my right.
I can feel my body rejecting this idea. ‘No. It will suck because I suck.’
‘You don’t suck.’ Carlie grabs my right arm.
‘Yeah, come on!’ Angela grabs my left.
‘Absolutely not.’ I try to run. I don’t get far.
I’m eating lunch with Angela.
‘I don’t know what you’re expecting.’
I hold my hand in the air as if holding an invisible prop, ‘You, fair maiden, have the tongue of a poet.’
‘’Tis as if the angels themselves have crafted that speech to be delivered-‘ I cover my face to protect me from a handful of flying chips.
‘Jordan, seriously. It’s an open mic night. People are supposed to suck. That’s the whole point. Come on, sing like no one’s listening. We’ll all have a go and afterwards we can all laugh at each other.’
‘But why? Just let other people embarrass themselves.’
For the first time I see Angela stop and think. She puts down her burger, and leans her head on her palms, with elbows on the table, I see her brow crinkling. It was an unsettling sight for someone so impulsive.
‘Okay.’ She looks up at me seriously. ‘Remember when we first met?’
‘And you had that weird shadow thing going on?’
‘Yes… Where are you going with this?’
‘Well…’ I wait, I feel scared. ‘… You have an overactive imagination all the time, right?’
‘Uh, yeah, I guess.’
‘I’ve seen it, Jordan. You get this far-off look, like you’re aware of what’s happening but you’re not entirely there.’
‘You do it when you’re stressed.’
‘Okay?’ My mother told me I was too obvious when daydreaming. But I never thought it as a bad thing and it didn’t bother me. ‘What’s your point, Angela?’
She grinned. I could feel the panic rising in my chest. ‘Well, imagine this is something else. Don’t see the crowd. Just pretend they’re not there.’
‘It’s not… I can’t… It doesn’t work like that. Like, not even remotely like that.’
‘But it can, right? All you got to do is think of something that can make it bearable. Go.’
I enter the cave. I can feel the club in my hand, sturdy. The beast is growling at me from atop the rock ready to tear apart my body. My chest tightens as I grip the club in both hands…
… And place it on the table. ‘I can’t believe you’re making me do this.’ Angela, Carlie, Aaron and Dame were all at the table with me. Jason was currently setting up on the side stage and Jess was working the sound panel to the side.
… Encouraging me. It was only a lion. I’d tackled greater beasts before. But this one had an impenetrable hide. I wasn’t strong enough. So I reach into the pouch on my hip and pulled out a chunk of flesh and throw it at the lion’s feet. The lion sniffed, ate, then padded over to me. Its mane was softer than I expected and it’s purring was…
When Angela does this kind of thing she is aggressive but she can be kind and cute when she wants. I hated it. But all the same, one labour down.
I unclip the case of my guitar and check the strings. Anything to distract myself. Time trickles by and I honestly enjoy listening to my friends sing. Each new voice is a pleasant surprise, and each time the crowd applauds with gusto. But as each comes down off the stage I feel like…
…My footsteps are weighed down by the swamp. In here is a beast with many heads, many minds, each conjuring a way to defeat me. But I am not alone. I have someone with me. My faithful friend, who’s going to get up on stage with me. I’m not sure why, but now the only thing causing my heart to race more than looking into the eyes of the audience is knowing that Carlie is sitting next to me. I drag a stool up and get comfortable, idly strumming while Jess sets up. She whispers good luck.
I start strumming, and Carlie takes a breath. Then…
… The beast appears, rearing its many heads. But we are ready. The melody plays, the heads all begin to sway. Instead of using my strength, I used my skill. Instead of fighting alone, I fight with a friend. I am here on the stage, strumming a song while the beautiful voice next to me helps me through this. And again, instead of slaying the beast, I have tamed it. Another labour down.
I am sitting at the table, remembering the wonderful applause from the night before. I’d never before felt that way. So exhilarated. The group are all here congratulating each other. Carlie and I were sitting next to each other, the warm feeling rises in me again.
Me and my seven friends.
‘Seriously, how great was last night?’ Jess hadn’t stopped talking about it.
‘And you didn’t want to go.’ Angela stares me down.
‘It was more fun than I thought it would be. Thank you for the push.’
‘You’re welcome. I call it positive peer pressure.’
I felt Carlie lean her head on my shoulder. I glanced around at the…
… Titan who I had tricked into holding up the sky. The weight of the world seemed so insignificant now that I’d held it. But it wasn’t necessary to hold it forever. Instead, I walk away. cradling the seven apples of Hesperides. All of my labours had led to this. And here I was a wealthy man.