I'm Eighty-Nine Point Seven Percent Sure I'm Dead
MY NAME is Jason Grace. Until recently, I was pretty alive, in California, going to school like every good teenager should.
And then I died a horrible, bloody death, which put a pretty big damper on my academic career.
I expected to wake up on the shores of the Underworld, or maybe in Charon’s boat, sailing across the River Styx to wait in line to be judged.
Instead, I woke up to a goat trying to eat my shirt.
I sat up with a groan, and the goat, with its gray fur and pointy horns, looked at me like Hey Buddy, give me back my lunch. It sniffed me again and apparently deemed me un-lunch-worthy because it ran off behind the giant building in front of me.
I checked over my body, finding no swords in my chest, and I was even more surprised by how immaculate I looked.
I didn’t have a mirror, but looking down, my shirt and pants looked freshly washed, and so did my hands.
The building looked like a mansion, with eight stories of gray marble and white limestone. The dark-stained wood doors were about three times as tall as me, and both of them had doorknockers with life-sized wolf heads.
I looked around. There was a tall white tree, birch maybe? that had leaves that glittered gold. A wall that was easily fifteen feet tall surrounded the property, and from what I could see, there was no exit.
Maybe I’m already in Elysium, I thought to myself as I walked up the steps of the mansion. Maybe I was so heroic that Hades decided to forego the trial completely and dump me in Paradise.
I liked the idea, but something didn’t seem right. Beyond the wall rose tall buildings and high-rises. From what Nico told me of the Underworld, there weren’t many skyscrapers in Elysium. Or any at all.
I was about to summon the winds the fly over the wall to see what’s up (‘cause you know, I can do that) when the giant doors swung inward soundlessly. Standing there, a grizzled looking man that looked like he had fought with a bear and lost was looking at me expectantly. He had a ferocious beard that looked like it housed a family of squirrels, and hair that looked quite the same, but his attire was the weird part.
He was wearing a bellhop’s uniform, complete with little white gloves and a jacket that had the interlocking letters HV embroidered on the lapel. He also had an ax at his belt, and I didn’t think that followed the policy of most hotels.
“Finally!” The man exclaimed with such gusto that I took a step back. “Come inside. Let’s get you checked in.”
I usually agree with people that have axes, so I followed him into the grand room.
I had to blink a moment to take it all in. The room looked to be twice as big as its exterior, and the dark hardwood under my feet seemed to go on for a mile. There were ships bigger than the Argo II docked inside, and a fireplace that could probably double as a bedroom if you extinguish the flames.
Man, Leo would love this place, I thought as I followed the bearded man, who called himself Hunding.
“Your Valkyrie called ahead, she was in California! That's a long ways away, but she was vacationing when she heard your soul calling, so she grabbed her spear and did her deed! Now that's what I call loyalty to Odin, huh?”
I didn't understand a word he was saying. “Who's Odin?”
“The Allfather, of course!” Hunding replied, which didn't answer any of my questions and only gave me more that this man probably couldn't answer.
We approached what I guessed was the front desk. It was a ship’s keel overturned, but there was a little bell and a man standing behind it.
His name tag was had a lot of words on it, but all I could make out was the name Helgi. He and Hunding looked like they had the same hair care (beard care?) routine, which means he did absolutely nothing to it and you could tell. His beard was gigantic (I've fought giants, and I'm pretty sure that Helgi’s a beard was more impressive), and a small squirrel seemed to be fighting its way out of it.
“Welcome!” Helgi said, turning away from the desktop computer that didn’t seem to be plugged into anything. “Name?"
"Kid, I've got three other calls I have to tell Hunding to attend to. I don't have all the time in the Nine Realms,” he said, leaning over and looking at me in the eyes. After growing up with wolves, I realized he was trying to be intimidating. It didn't work very well, what with the rodent roundhouse-kicking through the wild jungle of his hair.
"Uh, Jason. Jason Grace."
He tapped at his computer, fingers flying wildly over his keyboard. "Huh." He stroked his beard, almost punching the squirrel in the face, and went back to typing at his keyboard, muttering, "You should be in the database, but I don't understand why..."
"What's wrong?" Hunding asked. He looked nervous, but less for me and more for his own wellbeing. From the way that Helgi asserted himself towards Hunding, I guessed that Helgi usually punished Hunding for most things that went wrong.
"Hmm." He leaned back in his seat. "You're not in the database. This is kind of..." He tapped at his keyboard. "Well, that's okay. We'll put you in a suite. Hunding, Floor Nineteen."
"But Sir, Floor Nineteen is—"
"Do you want me to get the brush?" Helgi glowered, and Hunding winced.
"Oh Please, Sir, no!"
"Then lead him to his room, Hunding."
Helgi turned to me and smiled as if he didn't just threaten his coworker with extreme hairbrushing. “Here’s your key. Hunding will escort you to your room.” He smiled as he handed me a stone that looked like a domino, but instead of dots it just had a weird symbol that looked like a sideways hourglass, or maybe two triangles holding hands.
“Have a nice stay!”
And with that, Hunding led me away from the lobby and to my doom.