DOINK. DOINK. DOINDOINDINDOINK.
I’m writing. This is the sound I hear emerge from the computer.
HOLY APPLESAUCE WHAT THE-?
It’s my inbox alerting me. There are new messages.
Go ahead, delete one email from your inbox.
I triple-dog-dare you.
Go ahead. Think you’ve vanquished the beast? You haven’t. It’s only getting warmed up.
Two more messages arrive.
Wait for it…
DOINK. DOINK. DOINK. DOINK.
Once upon a time in ancient history this demigod Hercules messed up, went crazy (probably a Black Friday Sale thing) and massacred a bunch of people.
He couldn’t walk around with that on his conscience, so he went shopping for redemption, and got tasked with ten, then twelve, Great Labors to restore his mind, none of which involved sucking down chocolates and sleeping.
Off he went Doing Right and Making Good by traipsing around the world mostly slaying things. And Bad Guys.
Eventually he got to this swamp and arose out of it a beast called the Lernean Hydra, which sounds like an educational toy, but it wasn’t.
The Lernean Hydra was a squelchy, smelly swamp monster with hygiene issues and green and yellow blinky flashy eyes. It chomped people. It had nine serpent-heads.
So Hercules, not being too intellectual about anything, just drew his sword and swiped one of the heads off, like you do. No biggie, right?
Wrong. In its place grew TWO MORE HEADS.
Hercules in battle-mode wasn’t too swift. He kept doing this.
For every head he lopped off, two more grew in its place.
DOINK. DOINK. Two more heads pop up to take the place of the old ones.
His best friend and nephew, Iolaus, being a little less inclined to repeat mistakes, watching this whole thing remarked:
"Hey. Not to mess up your flow or anything. But it looks like what you’re doing isn’t exactly working. You’re making it worse. Hey! Are you listening to me?"
The alert-tone for my inbox sounds so cheerful.
It’s sounding on my cell phone, too.
Huh? More sales announcements. And a newsletter.
I’m pinging down the messages like it’s Asteroids Day, but there are still more. And more.
DOINK. DOINK. DOINK.
Buy this. Buy this. And this. And thisandthisandthisandthis.
Donate money here.
DELETE. DELETE. DAMMIT. DELETE.
Give us money.
Give us money, give, give,give, gimme, gimme, gimme.
"Discussions happening on our site, don’t miss out!"
100. 200. Five BILLION discussion threads you’re missing if you don’t log on right now! Holy crap, what are you doing?
DELETE. (sobbing) DELDELDELDELETE.
God help you, you haven’t checked in on Tumblr see the posts on Tumblr and look what’s trending on Twitter don’t be left out don’t be the only one left in the social void because you don’t know what’s trending hahahahahahahahahahahaha!
"Hey, stop swinging, you’re making it worse," Iolaus shouted, only in ancient Greek, which made it sound more effective and cool.
"What is it you are saying, my noble nephew?"
"I said," Iolaus, whom I imagine is as cool as Denzel Washington in a hostage-negotation scene, says, "What you’re doing. Is. Not. Working."
"One swipe. Two more heads. Every time. See?"
Hercules scratches his…well, let’s say “head”…in a thoughtful fashion. “So, what you’re saying is—-?”
"We have to rethink this."
What the hell-?
I turned off the computer volume, but these messages keep popping up in the corner of my screen. I can still hear the cell phone two rooms away.
I turn off the volume on that and get back to writing.
"Mom? Mom! There’s an email!"
That’s my youngest, cell phone in hand, standing in the doorway. She’s waiting for someone to call for a playdate. I turned off the cell phone alert, but she’s checking it every five minutes just in case.
"Mom, it says ‘60% off on selected pro ducts.’" She says it like that. I wonder if there are discounts on ANTI-ducts as well.
"So," says Hercules, switching in to present tense because he’s a demi-god, dammit. "I swing the sword."
"Uh-huh," Iolaus is infinitely patient. He has to be. When Hercules gets pissed, he slaughters.
"And the head comes off…"
"But then there are…"
"Two more. In its place. So what you’re saying is…I am not winning?"
Iolaus smiles. He likes his uncle. He understands it takes him a while to catch on. But Uncle’s listening.
"What…should I do? Cut faster?" Hercules raises his sword and starts going after Hydra like a fan blade through a herd of gerbils.
"NO!" shouts Iolaus
Why isn’t my box emptying out? I’m flicking the button.
I’m flicking the…and here’s the youngest child again. And the landline telephone’s ringing.
WWWAAAAAHHHHHH! I’m spiralling. I’m spiralling…
"What, then?" Hercules asks, lowering his mighty sword, now that the Hydra has, now, about a hundred heads.
Iolaus sighs, draws in a breath, musters every bit of patience he can possible gather. “Let’s see. Maybe if we work together, you follow?”
"And start at the base of the problem?"
"Of the neck. Where it starts."
Hercules wrinkles his brow for a moment, then nods uncertainly.
"You cut. And let me see…"Iolaus takes out his Lil-Giant-Pocket-Zombie-Incinerator-Torch and flicks the flame to "scorch". "Let’s say I clean up."
The two of them lay into the beast, For the rest of the afternoon, Hercules slashes at the base of the Hydra’s necks,and Iolaus torches the stump so it cannot regrow. At the end of the day, the Hydra is just one big old barbecue of a former menace.
Then, exhausted by their efforts, they feast.
I can’t stop the phone.
I can’t stop the computer.
I can’t stop freaking looking because when it’s too quiet for too long I think maybe the world’s ending or the zombie apocalypse arrived and I’ll be the only one who doesn’t know about the 60% savings on the Lil-Giant-Pocket-Zombie-Incinerator-Torch “The One Iolaus Endorses”.
I have to find the beast’s base.
Up the stairs I race, to the top of the Tower of Awesome Officeness.
There it is, the gleaming green and yellow eyes blinking at me. Before it can snap, I have the cords in my hands…ha! Have at thee, wi-fi connection!
But I am not finished. I, like Hercules, need help. I could rip out the cell phone battery or figure out how to turn it off, but there are those pesky emergency calls I get that actually really do need to get through.
"Mini-imps, to me!" I cry, and the youngest and the eldest child come running.
Well, sauntering, in a defiant and resentful way.
To the eldest I hand the cell phone. “Guard you this well, Teen Imp, and see that if the playdate person calls, then and only then shall you interrupt me in the midst of my Herculean tasks upon this day.”
To the youngest, I say, “And you, Mini-est Imp, shall take responsibility for the landline telephone, taking messages and consulting with your elder sister should anything dire arise.”
All is well in the Castle of Us-ness. The Beast has been thwarted and harmony restored. Very soon I will undertake my tasks once more.
But in the meantime, we feast.
Best of luck vanquishing the hydras sucking the life out of your creative time. Cheers!
Elizabeth Ellen Everson
P.S. For the REAL tale of Hercules, check out The Labors of Hercules.