The Adventures of Cletus X

Cletus stood on the battlements of a castle with Merlyn at his side.

“The win against Lot was quite easy,” Cletus said. “Soon enough, all these Gaelic bastards will be out of my country. I’ll kill them all.”

“You’re a blubbering ape,” Merlyn said. “Have I taught you nothing? Do I need to turn you into a fish again?”

Cletus rolled his eyes. “I understand that violence is not always the answer, but when it is, there’s nothing wrong with taking a little pride and enjoyment from it. That violence defended this kingdom and protected my people.”

“Protected your people? I’m glad you think so, caveman. How many foot soldiers died in that last battle? How many conscripted peasants did you and your army leave on the battlefield?”

“How should I know?”

“By caring, you bastard. You’re going to have to start thinking logically for yourself soon. I’m going to fall in love, and the bitch will trap me in a tree trunk for centuries with my own magic.”

Ignoring Merlyn, Cletus picked up a loose brick from the wall. “You know what’s truly amazing?” Cletus asked.

“The fact that you are unfazed by me talking about my own future?”

“No, you’re just another supernatural freak show. No, what is amazing is the fact that I could throw this stone onto the head of someone below. I could kill them near instantly, and no one would say or do anything to me. They couldn’t since I am their king.”

“You bloodthirsty savage,” Merlyn said. “I’ve clearly failed you as a tutor. I’ve failed the Greater Good.”

Cletus threw the rock at Merlyn, knocking the starry hat from the ancient man’s head. “Stupid magician,” Cletus said.

“I’m a wizard, dammit. Magicians are court jesters that perform illusions for table scraps.”

“C’mon, you geezer, we’re gonna be late for our hunting trip with Kay.”

“Geezer? You’re older than me!”

“Yeah, but I still have my boyish good looks,” Cletus said.

The two men met a tall, muscular redhead with a blonde beard. The three left the castle on horseback, armed with bows. “It’s unfortunate Wart couldn’t join us, Kay,” Cletus said to the red-haired man.

“Well, he’s hard at work,” Kay said. “He’s twenty now. Wart works day and night to be sure you’ll knight him come his next birthday.”

“Stop changing the subject,” Merlyn said. “We were not done talking about the Gaels.”

“They’re angry barbarians that want my kingdom,” Cletus said. “We’ll stifle their rebellion or kill them in trying. What more is there to the discussion?”

“There are countless reasons they’re rebelling. You need to understand their reasons and try to address those concerns. There is a deep trench of racism from the Normans against the Gaels. Plus, the former king, Uther Pendragon, slaughtered the Count of Cornwall, a Gael.”

“I understand why they fight, Merlyn. Men are inherently greedy and hunger for power that is not theirs. Evil men will corrupt others to use to those ends. I should take it upon myself to stop such corruption from controlling more of this world.”

“More wrongs do not make things right,” Merlyn said. “The Normans drove the Gaels from power. Long ago, the Gaels destroyed another race, but no one now remembers it because the conflict was lost to the time streams. It’s a cycle of death and violence that can and must be broken. Fighting is generally wrong. A good man only fights to defend himself or those weaker than him. Never more. Never less.”

“I’m not so sure I agree with you, wizard,” Kay said. “Not all of us sit on such moral high ground that we believe ourselves capable of looking down on the battlefields of men. From the position of the average man, I don’t think one can see who the evil man truly is.”

“Preposterous. It’s quite clear to see who drives aggressive situations. You have trouble seeing such things because you are typically the aggressor in conflicts, Sir Kay. Much like any man could easily say that you’re a hothead, it is obvious King Lot is the one at fault. The man starts wars as casually as we’re hunting this moment. He has no regard for the common soldier or his own countrymen.”

“Gentlemen,” Cletus said. “Can we shut up and just hunt these damn birds?”

That night, Cletus lay in bed. In his old age, he rarely slept. Days passed by as quickly as hours had when he was younger. Merlyn’s lectures from the last several weeks stayed in his head. Cletus knew the wizard had to be right. Fighting for fighting’s sake had brought him nothing but hardship in the past. Cletus left his room and went to Merlyn’s. After several loud blows against the wooden door, Merlyn answered. “Your Majesty,” Merlyn said, “what in blazes are you doing here?”

“Aren’t you all-knowing?”

“Not quite, but that’s beside the point. You’re a king. You don’t go to people’s rooms. You summon them to yours. Leave here at once.”

Cletus huffed, but left. If Cletus intended to rule his country right, he’d have to do even the smallest things correctly. Cletus stopped outside his bedchamber and ordered a servant retrieve a number of people. An hour later, Cletus sat in his royal chamber with Merlyn, Sir Kay, Sir Ector, and Wart.

“I’ve been thinking hard on the many lessons Merlyn has mentored me in,” Cletus said. “I have come to the conclusion that might does not always equal right. Knights in our own kingdom and across the world do whatever they please with their authority. Murder, torture, and rape occur as if they’re a sport.”

“It’s how things have always been,” Kay said.

“Not always,” Merlyn corrected.

“For as long as I can remember,” Cletus said, “but that does not make it right. Strength is just a tool that can be used. How a man uses that tool defines the man and the tool alike. Might can be used to achieve right. I will use force to stop Lot’s rebellion, and then harness that strength for good. When this war is over, I will create an order of knights that will pledge their lives to fight for just causes and nothing more.”

Week later, the same men stood in Cletus’s tent on the plains of Bedegraine, preparing for the battle with King Lot’s forces.

“I’ve been thinking more about the order of knights,” Cletus said. “I’ve decided to seat all at a round table. Each place at the table will be equal, with no one man having greater power than the others.”

“King Leodegrance has such a table,” Merlyn said. “That reminds me, don’t let me forget to talk to you about his daughter before I leave.”

“Tables are well and good,” Kay said, “but what do you plan to do after we defeat Lot?”

“Nothing,” Cletus said. “We quell his rebellion. The Gaels’ lands are still theirs. They will be free to swear fealty or not. We shall leave them in peace so long as they do not attack our lands again.”

“What nonsense,” Kay said. “They’re poor beyond imagination. Continuing to push into their kingdom to control them will benefit us both.”

“Might does not make right,” Merlyn said.

“This is right. If our victory will bring a better life to the conquered people, then the war itself is right. We can make their lives better by conquering their lands.”

Fire burned in Merlyn’s eyes. “It is far better to make ideas and knowledge available to those you defeat, than to force it upon them,” Merlyn said. The wizard and several items in the room trembled with rage. “In the future, there’s an Austrian that shares the same views as you, Sir Kay, and he damn near drags the whole world into bloody fucking chaos.”

“Everyone out,” Cletus said. “I need to speak with Merlyn.”

“Our time together is nearly up,” Merlyn said after the others had exited the tent.

“Why must you go?” Cletus asked. “Why can’t you avoid the imprisonment that awaits you?”

“You cannot escape destiny,” Merlyn said. “There are many timelines, many branches to how time flows. But, there are many points in time that are set in stone. No matter how much you try to change them, you simply cannot. The universe finds a way to correct the floods so that things are set they way they are meant to be. For example, long ago a man learned that he was to die soon. So, he set out on horseback to escape Death, but he ran into Death while running away.”

“Something so cruel should not be set in stone.”

“Cletus, be wary of King Leodegrance’s daughter, Guinevere, and of the knight Lancelot,” Merlyn said. “Their relationship will be the end of King Arthur. Please, be sure it is not also the end of you.”

Merlyn departed the tent for Cletus to never see him again. With sadness in his heart, Cletus gathered his armies. Ignoring knightly honor, Cletus led his armies around King Lot’s encampment. Cletus attacked in the middle of the night, assaulting Lot’s knights, but ignoring the foot soldiers. Although greatly outnumbered, Cletus swiftly defeated the Gaelic army.

 

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Fifteen years passed, and Camelot prospered. Cletus and his closest knight, Lancelot, fought the Romans for many years until Cletus became overlord of most of Europe. Cletus aided the French king, Ban, in guarding his kingdom. England grew more civilized. Scholars and hospitals and great shops covered the lands instead of murders, thieves, and flames. Not all was perfect. With little crime and war, Cletus feared that his knights had developed an obsession with games and competition instead. To strengthen the weakened Round Table, Cletus sent all his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail.

Two years later, the knights slowly gave up the search for the Holy Grail and returned to Camelot. Gawaine returned first, furious because he found no traces of the Grail. Then came Sir Lionel and Sir Aglovale. Slowly, all the other knights returned. Cletus heard many tales of slaughter and bloodshed, drunken womanizing and brotherly betrayal. Cletus listened politely to numerous contradicting tales from and about his knights.

When Lancelot returned, he had his own tale to of how he failed to find the Holy Grail since it was a task God had reserved for Galahad. Lancelot spun the tale of Galahad defeating the elder knight in a jousting match. Feeling weakened by the loss, Lancelot tried and failed to defeat a group of knights, and then again Lancelot was bested by a knight in black armor. In his defeat, Lancelot boarded a magic barge where he found Galahad. According to Lancelot, Galahad seemed distant because he was more angel than man. The barge took the knights to a castle where the Holy Grail rested. Galahad entered and participated in a mass with other holy knights, but an invisible force kept Lancelot from entering. The best knights of Camelot never returned.

 

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Many more years passed. The knights Agravaine and Mordred approached Cletus in his Justice Room.

“My lord,” Mordred said, “we’ve come to you bearing grave news.”

“What do you want Mordred?” Cletus asked.

“We’re here to request that the Queen be officially charged with adultery and Sir Lancelot with treason,” Mordred said.

“Do you have any proof of your claims?” Cletus asked.

“We have our word,” Agravaine said.

“Agravaine, you’re a drunk. Your word means nothing to me. Besides, under my new laws, there must be proof of wrongdoing before judgement can be passed.”

“Then we’ll gain proof, You Majesty,” Mordred said.

“Very well,” Cletus said. “I’ll be leaving for a month on a hunting trip. If you can obtain proof I will prosecute Guenevere and Lancelot to the fullest extend of the law. However, I hope that anyone that attempts to apprehend Lancelot in some foul way is caught and killed. If upon my return, you cannot prove this accusation, I will prosecute the two of you for bringing false charges against a Knight of the Round Table and the Queen of Camelot. Good day, gentlemen.”

Cletus left the Justice Room and went to Guenevere’s  chambers. As Cletus approached, he heard Lancelot and Guenevere talking.

“Arthur knows about our affair,” Lancelot said. “He ignores it and will never punish us.”

“We still must be careful,” Guenevere said. “Perhaps you should leave Camelot for a time again.”

“Absolutely not. I love Arthur too much to hurt him by continuing our affair, but I love you too much to stop or leave you.”

Cletus stepped away from Guenevere’s chamber door. In the castle halls, Cletus found a page to announced his presence to the Queen. Following the page, Cletus stepped into the chamber and greeted Guenevere and Lancelot. “There are things I need to discuss with you,” Cletus said.

“Of course, Arthur,” Lancelot said. “We are always here for you.”

“It involves the Orkney family,” Cletus said. “The youngest boy, Mordred, is my son.”

“How?” Guenevere asked.

“Neither of you were in Camelot yet. A few weeks after I defeated King Lot’s rebellion, Sir Pellinore married a girl named Piggy here at the castle. I slept with one of the ladies at the wedding, Queen Morgause of Orkney. That night, I fathered Mordred. I later tried to kill him.”

“You tried to kill a child?” Lancelot asked.

“Yes,” Cletus said. “When we first formed Camelot, Merlyn warned me that I would have a son with a witch. The magical child would try to kill me and bring about the end of Camelot. So, a year after that night, I had all babies less than six months old put out to sea to die. Somehow, Mordred survived that culling.

“I regret what I did then. Merlyn would have never let me do something so evil. I’ve tried to make amends with Mordred by ensuring he and his brothers lived a good life and even made all of them knights. None of it has helped. Gawaine, Gareth, and Gaheris are fine knights, but Mordred and their younger brother Agravaine have just become more aggressive with time. I fear Mordred is out for revenge. He does not seem to know I tried to kill him, but he feels I have offended his mother. Mordred may try to use the two of you against me.”

“We’d never let that happen,” Guenevere said.

“Be that as it may,” Cletus said, “if any proof comes into the light that either of you is working against me or my kingdom, I will punish you in the way the law sees fit.”

Unfortunately, Cletus did have to prosecute Guenevere and Lancelot. While away hunting, Mordred found Cletus. Mordred told Cletus of catching Guenevere and Lancelot in the midst of their adultery. Lancelot slaughtered twelve knights including Agravaine before fleeing Camelot. Though unwilling to kill his wife, Cletus returned to Camelot to prepare Guenevere’s execution. As Cletus stood in the square to watch his Queen burn at the stake, Lancelot saved the Queen. In the process of his rescue, Lancelot murdered Gareth and Gaheris.

Gawaine and Cletus followed Lancelot to France and sieged the knight’s castle. During the siege, the Pope pardoned Guenevere. Cletus allowed her to return to Camelot, but honor forced the caveman to remain at Lancelot’s castle. Weeks later, Cletus received a letter from Guenevere. Mordred had declared Cletus and Gawaine dead and seized the throne. Mordred forced Guenevere into marriage. Mordred formed a gang of rapists and murders called the Thrashers who practiced old Gaelic religions and hunted Jews and Christians.

Cletus lifted the siege on Lancelot’s castle and returned to England. He amassed an army on the fields of Kent to prepare to fight Mordred’s army. Even on the battlefield, Cletus worked on improving Camelot’s laws long into the night. Merlyn stepped into the tent.

“I must be dreaming,” Cletus said. “You’re locked away in a tree.”

“No dream, Cletus,” Merlyn said. “Time machine is wishy-washy. I eventually got out of the spell, thanks to your progeny no less.”

“Why have you come to me now?”

“That’s easy, Cletus. You need me now. Remember when we first met after you drew the sword at the church?”

“Yeah, we spent weeks where you turned me into animals and made me do weird shit to teach me lessons about different forms of government.”

“Right, but I was more talking about all the prophesies about how Camelot ends.”

“Mordred ruins everything,” Cletus said. “Seems it already happened.”

“That it has, my boy. That it has. Camelot’s done regardless of how this battle ends. I have two or three requests of you though.”

“What can I do for you?”

“You need to leave a legacy behind, especially a story about Arthur and a magical kingdom called Avalon. People need to believe in both ideas to fill them with power. Second, kill Mordred because if he lives he’ll become a powerful, demonic wizard the likes of which the world will not survive. Finally, get out of here however you can after killing the little prick.”

“Done. All of it.”

“Great,” Merlyn said. “I’ll be off then.”

“Merlyn, won’t you stay awhile? There’s so much I need to tell you.”

“I already know, son,” Merlyn said as he disappeared.

As the wizard vanished, a young boy entered the tent with a tray of tea and cookies. “What’s your name, boy?” Cletus asked.

“Tom of Warwick,” the boy said.

“Well Tom, peace is like a candle in the wind,” Cletus said. “Maximum effort is required to keep it alight. Might must only be used for good, and war is almost never justified. Do you know my story, Tom?”

“I know a lot, Your Majesty.”

Cletus handed Tom a small book. “It’s all in there. Run from this battlefield, Tom. Spread the story of King Arthur. I’m going to die here tonight, but my body will be set adrift on the sea to reach the towers of Avalon. The angels there will heal my wounds so that I may someday return as king again when Britain most needs me. Go now.”

Tom of Warwick ran from the tent. Cletus donned his gleaming armor and stepped out to face Mordred’s armies.

 

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“That’s really where you’re going to end that one?” Lyra asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “What’s wrong with that?”

“That’s not an ending. That’s a hook to get you ready for another chapter.”

“It’s King Arthur,” I said. “Everyone knows what happens. Excalibur gets buried hilt deep in Mordred. Mordred shoves a spear in Arthur’s side. The only difference here is that Cletus flees the scene after killing his evil wizard son.”

“Fair,” Lyra said. “But I do have one question.”

“Yes?”

“Did you free Merlyn from a tree prison?”

“Maybe.”

“I want to hear that story.”

“Some other time,” I said.

The Adventures of Cletus IX

Salt burned Cletus’s nose as the ship rocked. Several men dressed in animal furs and armor sat around the caveman. The thirteen men stood tall and thin with pale skin and light hair. In the early morning light, the ship pulled ashore on a foggy beach. One of the men motioned for everyone to leave the boat. Slowly, the warriors gathered their belongings and climbed down to the rocky shore.

A guard on horseback rushed toward the warriors. “You there,” the guard said as he pulled his horse to a stop, “what business do men clad in armor have coming onto Hrothgar’s land carrying weapons?”

The stoutest of the pale men—the one who had given the order to leave the boat—stepped forward. “I am the son of Ecgtheow,” he said. “My king is Hygelac. We heard the tales of a great monster that wrecked havoc upon the Danes for twelve years. We’ve come to slay this poor beast.”

“Very well,” said the guard. “I will escort you and your men to King Hrothgar. One of the guards will watch your ship.”

Cletus and the warriors followed the guard to a massive wooden building.  A small man stopped the group outside of the long structure. “I am Wulfgar, King Hrothgar’s personal adviser,” he said. “What business do you have at Heorot?”

The stout man stepped up again and said, “I am Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow. I come to fight your demons.”

“I will take this message to King Hrothgar immediately,” Wulfgar said. “Please, be patient and wait.”

Wulfgar disappeared for several minutes. When he returned, Wulfgar said to Beowulf, “The Danes welcome you to Heorot.”

Wulfgar led the group of fighters into the legendary mead hall. Darkness filled the foul-smelling room. Straw covered the earthen floor. Wooden tables and benches sat upon the straw. At the far end of the hall stood a large wooden throne. An old, fat man occupied the throne with a bronze crown upon his head. Beowulf, Cletus, and all the warriors stood before King Hrothgar and bowed. “Beowulf,” Hrothgar said with a roaring laugh. “I wondered when I would meet you. I knew your father. Years ago, your dad killed Heatholaf. I had to pay Heatholaf’s family to keep them from seeking vengeance upon Ecgtheow.”

“I’ve heard that story many times,” Beowulf said, “but that’s not why I’ve come. I want to kill the monster that torments Heorot.”

“Yeah,” Hrothgar said. “Wulfgar told me as much. I have to tell you though, Beowulf, many heroes such as yourself have tried to defeat Grendel. They all have died. You’re more than welcome to try. I propose a feast to celebrate the joy of someone saving Heorot.”

During the feast, Cletus astonished all the Danes. He packed in enough food to kill a horse, eating more than all the others combined. Once he finished eating, Cletus stared at the bewildered faces around him and said, “I’m still hungry. Bring me more.”

A scrawny, bucktoothed Dane banged his goblet on the table until he gained the attention of all of Heorot. “You’re weak, Beowulf,” the Dane said. “I remember the story of your swimming match in your youth. You were easily beaten.”

“I also remember that swimming contest,” Beowulf said. “My opponent sits at this very table with us. What you don’t seem to understand is that he and I swam for five days and nights in the open sea. I carried a sword in one hand at all times, only swimming with the free arm. On our return to shore, a sea monster dragged me under. While below the water’s surface, I slew eight monsters before I swam to Finland. Neither you, Unferth, nor the man I swam against would be capable of doing such a thing. You are simply ashamed of your own inability to kill Grendel.”

“That’s bullshit,” Cletus said as he stole a massive pig’s leg from another man’s plate, “and you know it, Honey Bear. On the sixth day of swimming, a huge storm came in. The waters got really choppy, waves reaching three times as high as this room. One of them pulled our little Bear under. I searched those waters day and night for a week. I never found you. You returned home weeks later. Claimed you fought a sea monster before swimming to Finland, but everyone knew that story was a lie. You can’t hold your own in any hard situation. Not to mention a dolphin could kick your ass.”

Cletus took a huge bite of the pig leg as he finished his story. No one said anything. Few people blinked. The Danes feared Cletus might eat them next if they made any sudden movements.

Beowulf laughed weakly. “My great friend Cletus boasts,” Beowulf said. “He’s always a jester. I promise to kill Grendel as soon as he attacks this hall.”

The warriors lightened up and continued laughing and drinking. Soon, Wealhtheow, Hrothgar’s wife and queen, entered the mead hall with a ceremonial goblet. Everyone fell silent. One by one, the queen offered Beowulf’s warriors a drink from the goblet. Most men took a small sip and respectfully bowed their heads. Cletus drained the cup and demanded more. Horrified, Wealhtheow turned to the men at the table and said, “Thank the gods for sending these warriors to stop Grendel.

“I promise you this,” Beowulf said with a furrowed brow, “I will fight Grendel with my bare hands. I will kill that beast or die in this mead hall.”

Night fell. All of Hrothgar’s subjects left Heorot. Only Beowulf and his warriors remained. Beowulf striped down naked and slept. The rest of his countrymen stayed awake out of fear. While everyone else paced and played with fires, Cletus scrounged about the mead hall, eating anything he could get his hands on.

In the middle of the night, the door exploded apart. A hairy beast almost as tall as Heorot lurched underneath the door frame. The monster dragged itself into the hall, grabbing the nearest of Beowulf’s men and biting the warrior’s head off. Beowulf watched in terror as Grendel ravaged the mead hall, killing the warriors that tried to fight him. Grendel caused a massive commotion as he feasted upon fighters. The noise woke Cletus from his peaceful slumber in a corner. After wiping gunk from his eyes, Cletus grinned ear to ear. “Finally,” Cletus clapped. “Something that’ll be satisfying to eat.”

Grendel lunged at the frightened Beowulf, but shrieked when Cletus caught the monster by the wrist. Grendel screamed and tried to run. Cletus jerked the homunculus to the ground. The two, hairy, sub-humans wrestled about Heorot and destroyed everything in their path. Grendel’s cries spread ice spikes into the spine of all that heard it. Beowulf froze in fear while his men tried to help Cletus. The warriors attacked Grendel, but none of their weapons pierced the creature’s skin. As they continued to struggle, Cletus and Grendel managed to mow down the others in the hall. Their reckless fighting killed everyone but Beowulf. Cletus freed himself from Grendel’s grasp. The Neanderthal jumped into the air. He kicked his heel into Grendel’s chest just below the collarbone. Cletus grabbed the monster’s wrist and pulled with all his strength. With a sickly, loud snap, Cletus ripped off Grendel’s arm at the shoulder.

Grendel wailed in agony as he sprinted from Heorot. Cletus dropped down to his ass and began gnawing on Grendel’s arm before he went to sleep.

When Cletus woke, singing and cheering shook the mead hall. Apparently, Beowulf defeated Grendel in the night, saving Heorot and Hrothgar’s kingdom. Bards sang throughout the crowd of Beowulf’s glory. Beowulf’s treachery failed to bother Cletus, but Cletus took offense to Grendel’s arm resting in a frame over Heorot’s entrance.

“Come here, boy,” Hrothgar said. “You are the greatest champion the Danes have ever known. I promise that you shall receive amazing treasure for your deed.”

“Honestly, it was no challenge at all,” Beowulf said. “My only regret is that I wish I could have killed the monster while he was still Heorot so that its whole body could be used as a trophy.”

“Nevermind that, boy,” Hrothgar said. “We’ve got a banquet to prepare for.”

All of Hrothgar’s men worked to repair the horribly damaged mead hall while Cletus sneaked to the doorway and tore a chunk of meat off Grendel’s arm. The morsel would hold him over until breakfast.

That night, Hrothgar named Beowulf his son and heir at a massive feast. The king gave Beowulf armor, weapons, treasures, and eight horses. Cletus received a suit of armor as a gift for surviving. Hrothgar compensated Beowulf in gold for the deaths of all his men. Wealhtheow presented Beowulf with a golden necklace and a suit of chain mail armor. “Beowulf,” the queen said, “now, as my honorary son, you must promise me to watch over my children when Hrothgar passes.”

“So it shall be,” Beowulf said with a bow.

Cletus and Beowulf slept in suites in Hrothgar’s castle. Cletus stayed awake until the whole kingdom slept, and then he stole Grendel’s arm from Heorot to finish eating it.

The next morning, Hrothgar summoned Beowulf and Cletus to Heorot. Hrothgar shook his head glumly as the two approached. “It’s awful, son,” Hrothgar said. “Last night, Grendel’s mother attacked Heorot. She kidnapped one of my advisers and took her son’s arm back.

“She must have returned to her lair. It’s a swampy lake where the water burns flesh. Even animals avoid it. I’m sorry, Beowulf, but I must rely on you once more. If you rise to this challenge, I’ll reward you with chests of gold. Please, kill this demon.”

“I will kill Grendel’s mother,” Beowulf said.

Cletus and Beowulf adorned themselves with the armor received from Hrothgar and Wealhtheow. The man that accused Beowulf of being weak the previous night gave Beowulf a magic sword. “It’s named Hrunting,” Unferth said. “It has never been in a losing battle.”

“Thank you, friend,” Beowulf said with a stern smile.

Cletus and Beowulf mounted rode into the marches, following the tracks left by Grendel’s mother. The trail led to a cliff where Cletus and Beowulf discovered a man’s head. Over the cliff, massive serpents filled a putrid lake. Beowulf shot an arrow into the water, killing a single snake. The other snakes converged upon their dead sibling.

The two warriors dived into the lake after distracting the serpents. The two swam to the bottom of the lake. Cletus discovered a passage on the lake floor that led into a massive cavern. Grendel’s giant mother attacked Beowulf as soon as he and Cletus entered the cave. The hairy beast held Beowulf in her hands, slowly crushing him. Beowulf lashed at the monster with Hrunting, but the sword could not pierce her skin. Beowulf cast the weapon aside and screamed, “Help me, brother!”

Cletus pulled the pin out of his ear. The small sliver of metal transformed into his massive iron pole as he rushed toward the beast. With one, mighty swing, Cletus bashed her head off her body. The hairy skull smashed against the cave wall. The creature’s body collapsed, trapping Beowulf beneath the corpse.

“Thank you, brother,” Beowulf said. “I do not know how I could have defeated that demon without your help. Let us return to Heorot to claim our treasure and glory.”

Cletus lifted the carcass off Beowulf. “You couldn’t have beaten her without me,” Cletus said. “When we get back to the Heorot, I know you’ll just take credit for my kill. So, to hell with you. I’m leaving. Have fun being worthless and good luck getting out of here on your own. I hope you die in a fire.”

 

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Cletus wore bright orange furs and a hood made from a fox’s head. He sat around a campfire surrounded by men wearing furs and clothes colored in shades of green and brown like the forest around them. A man sitting across the fire asked, “How are we going to get them back, my lord?”

“We know where Morgan le Fay’s castle is,” Cletus said. “We’ve already tried to enter, but the witch has it cursed so only the innocent can enter. We’ll find a way inside.”

“I’ve already told you I can go,” a young girl at the campfire said. “I can go in alone and rescue Puck. Let me go, Reynard.”

“No, Rebekah, I won’t risk the life of a young girl. We’ll find another way.”

“No, we won’t,” Rebekah said. She jumped to her feet, kicking embers into the air. “I’m the only one of us that can get inside le Fay’s castle. You refuse to let me go because you aren’t confident in me. Reynard, inventor of the bow and trained by the goddess of the hunt, isn’t good enough to teach a little girl to do the same?”

“Both of you stop your bickering,” a soft voice called out from the shadows.

The circle of men turned to the trees and watched as a man stepped forward. Two boys in armor followed behind him. The blonde child could not have been older than ten. Cletus guessed the other boy to be at least sixteen with thick red hair and a faint, blonde mustache.

“Isaac,” Cletus said as he stood, “What have you got here?”

“I found these two near a creek,” Isaac said. “The older one is Kay. The runt is called Wart. Claim to be brothers.”

Cletus smiled at the boys. “Wart,” he said with a nod. “Kay. You can call me Reynard. This is my family of the forests. Why have you come along with Isaac to my humble home?”

“He told us that Morgan le Fay had kidnaped one of your men,” Kay said. “Two people from our father’s village have also gone missing, a servant and the local idiot. We think le Fay may have them as well. So, we’d like to help.”

“What you’re saying is that you’re looking for an adventure,” Cletus said. “I can respect that. I can also give you that adventure. Le Fay has one of my men, a fae boy named Puck. If you’d be willing to help rescue him, I’ll help you rescue your idiots.”

“We’ll be glad to help,” Wart said. “My tutor, Merlyn, has been teaching me to seek the good in all things.”

“Quiet down,” Kay said as he glared at the younger boy. “We’d be willing to assist you, Reynard.”

“Very well,” Cletus said. “My men and I will escort the two of you to Morgan le Fay’s castle. From there you will be on your own. The witch has made it so only those that are innocent can enter the building without her bringing them inside. So, once at the castle, it’ll be up to the two of you.”

“Three,” Rebekah said.

Cletus shook his head. “The three of you. Let’s be off while there’s still daylight.”

Cletus, his men, and the two boys packed up the camp and set off through the forest. Hours later, just after nightfall, they arrived at a grotesque castle. Mountains of steak and bacon shaped the walls. Cones of cheese topped every tower. Molten butter filled the moat around the building.

Cletus handed each boy a small dagger. “Le Fay is a witch,” Cletus said. “I’m fairly certain she’s some type of faerie. The daggers are made of cold iron, which is lethal to fae. Don’t eat anything in there. I know the whole place looks delicious, but there’s no telling what it actually is. It damn certain isn’t really bacon. Most of all, be careful. Good luck.”

Cletus turned to Rebekah. “You’ve got two more sets of eyes to watch your back. Bring Puck back to us, and kill that bitch if you can.”

Rebekah, Kay, and Wart entered the castle, leaving the men to wait for the innocent to return. The men slowly set up camp and began hunting. Later in the night, while the everyone ate, the castle disappeared. Rebekah, the boys, and a number of prisoners stood in the open field where the castle had been. A sleeping griffin also rested in the field. The monster slowly rose and attacked the escaping prisoners.

The prisoners ran for safety beyond the camp. Rebekah and Kay fired arrows at the beast. Cletus sprinted into the field. The griffin swooped toward Rebekah. She rolled to dodge the talons. Rebekah drew her sword and slashed at the creature. Cletus punched the griffin in the side. Gunshot-like sounds filled the air as the monster’s ribs cracked. The griffin wailed and launched into the sky. The griffin doubled back and dived at Wart. Wart stood, paralyzed with fear. Kay loosed an arrow to protect his brother. The arrow pierced the griffin’s eye. The beast died in the air. Its limp body crashed into Kay and Wart.

Cletus heaved the body off the boys.

“Wart,” Kay said as he crawled to Wart’s side. “Wart, are you all right?”

Hot tears filled Wart’s eyes. “There’s something wrong with my shoulder.”

Cletus tore the armor off Wart. A bone jutted against the skin of his upper chest.

“You’ve broken your collarbone,” Cletus said to Wart. “You’ll be fine. We just have to keep you from moving about too much.”

Rebekah nudged Cletus. Blood coated her clothes and hands. She clutched the griffin’s head in her hands. “Spoils of the kill,” she said with a smile.

“Spoils my ass,” Cletus said as he took the head from her. Cletus handed the head to Kay and said, “A trophy, boy. Remember this as the first time you killed a magical beast, and remember it as the time you saved your brother’s life. Never let him forget it.”

Cletus escorted the boys back to the castle of their father, Sir Ector.

 

<><><>

 

The King of England, Uther Pendragon, died. The day after the king’s death, an anvil appeared in front of a church in London. The anvil rested upon a stone. A glorious sword skewered the anvil and the stone. The engraving in the anvil read, “Whoso pulleth out this sword from this stone and anvil is Rightwise King Born of All England”.

The sword drew crowds from all over England. Uther’s advisors proclaimed a tournament for New Year’s Day. The advisors hoped the winner would pull the sword from the stone. During the tournament, Cletus stood in the church courtyard and debated with himself on whether or not to steal the sword. During his dilemma, a frail teenager rushed up to the sword and tried to remove it. Cletus recognized the boy and began to laugh.

“Wart,” Cletus called to the boy.

Wart froze and turned to Cletus. “Reynard?” Wart asked. “Reynard from the forest? I swear I wasn’t trying to steal the sword. It’s just that Kay’s sword broke, I forgot to bring a second sword for him. He’ll kill me if I don’t find a sword, but I don’t have time to run all the way back to the castle before his next match. I need this one.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Cletus reached out, grasping the sword in one hand and effortlessly pulled it from the stone and anvil. Cletus handed the sword to Wart. “Take the sword,” Cletus said. “Don’t tell anyone where you got it from.”

Wart ran off with the blade. Cletus tried to make his way out of the city before a riot began over Wart being named King of England. A crowd formed in the streets and dragged Cletus back to the church. People pushed Wart to the front with the sword. The entire crowd shouted and cursed Wart, demanding him to pull the sword again. Wart returned the sword to the stone and tried to pull it, but the sword remained still. Wart tried again to no avail.

Cletus shoved his way through the crowd. A tall man in the most peculiar, starry sky-patterned robes stood near Wart. The man smiled and nodded as Cletus pushed Wart aside. The caveman ripped the sword from the stone in front of all of London. The crowd fell silent. Slowly, everyone dropped to their knees and bowed before Cletus.

“This man is the rightful King of England,” the man in the robes said. “This man is Arthur Pendragon, son of Uther. All hail King Arthur!”

The crowd stood and chanted the praise over and over.

“You’re aware that my name isn’t Arthur, right?” Cletus asked.

“Yes,” the man said, “but we can’t exactly have people calling you the caveman king, can we, Cletus? This is how it’s going to go.”

“Who are you, old man?”

“My name is Merlyn,” the old man said. “I’ll be your adviser for a short time before some dubious things happen in the future. Just a heads up, try not to get too attached to any women or close friends during your tenure as king. It’ll end badly. You’re going to have a kid with Morgan le Fay that will try to kill you. Also, be prepared to fake your death and send everyone on a quest for a magic cup and near-mythical city in an attempt to heal you.”

“Gotcha,” Cletus said without further questions.

The Adventures of Cletus VIII

Cletus sat in a cave pondering how his life had reached yet another confrontation. The Olympian Zeus had long ago promised Cletus a life of adventure. Cletus blamed Zeus for many of the Neanderthal’s issues. Clearly, the Olympian’s idea of adventure boiled down to nothing more than sex and bloodshed.

Two soldiers entered the cave but kept their distance from Cletus. One soldier eyed the caveman cautiously. The other said, “Lord Judge, we’re warriors of Judah. Three thousand warriors have been sent to capture and return you to the Philistines to be tried for your crimes.”

“That so?” Cletus asked.

“Yes.”

“If I refuse?”

“We’d have to take you by force.”

“If I escape, forcing you to return empty-handed?” Cletus asked.

“We would be killed by the Philistines,” the soldiers said.

“You’ll die either way then?”

“That seems the most likely outcome,” one soldier said.

“Can’t have that.”

The caveman held his hands out to the soldiers. “Go on,” Cletus said, “take me to the Philistines.”

Using ropes, the soldiers tied Cletus’s hands together and led him out of the cave. The entire army of Judah marched Cletus to the Philistines. An official approached Cletus and said, “You are to be killed for your crimes against the Philistines to include murdering thirty men and using foxes to set fire to the crops of the Philistines. How do you plead?”

“Guilty,” Cletus said. “Although, you have to admit the thing with the foxes was pretty ingenious. Who else would have tied a bunch of wheat to a fox’s tail and set it on fire?”

The Philistine official scoffed. The army of Judah handed Cletus over to the Philistines. As soon as the official grabbed the caveman, Cletus burst from his restraints. Cletus pulled a pin from his ear and shook it out into a small baton. Cletus laughed wickedly as he slaughtered the Philistine army, killing at least a thousand men.

 

<><><>

 

Years later, Cletus had married yet again. His interest in women had diminished through the centuries since all his wives and lovers had the tendency to die. He and his new wife, Delilah, spent their time passing days away with sleep and sex. Between bouts of rest and activity, Delilah constantly questioned Cletus about the source of his strength. He explained that having more muscle mass than a human and the blessings of the Buddha made him strong. Delilah insisted Cletus hid the secret to his strength from her. Cletus continuously teased her about it. “If you tied me up with fresh bowstring, I’ll lose all my strength,” Cletus told Delilah.

Cletus awoke the next day bound head to toe in bowstrings that snapped off as he stretched. Delilah snarled and chastised him, demanding to know the real secret of his strength. Since he had told her the truth, Cletus assumed Delilah wanted to play some sort of game. “Ropes,” Cletus said. “You have to tie me up with brand new ropes. Use at least four of them, or I’ll break free.”

Cletus tore apart the ropes when he woke the next morning. “You misunderstood,” Cletus said to Delilah. “You have to weave my hair together before you tie me up, or it won’t work.”

The next morning, Cletus woke and untangled his hair. “This is getting annoying,” he said to himself. He stared at Delilah. “Listen, I don’t like this game. I’m done playing around with you. Let me be frank. Nothing can take my strength from me. It’s just not how this works. It is as much a part of me as the thing you lust after every night. Stop playing around. Granted, I’m sure you’re ignoring everything I’m saying because you’re apparently an idiot. Next, I bet you’ll do something stupid like try to cut my hair to see if that works.”

Cletus found himself lacking his glorious mane the next morning. “You have got to be fucking kidding me,” he said. “I was making fun of you. It was a joke.”

Cletus rolled over to face several spears pointed at his chest and throat. “Hi guys,” Cletus said to the soldiers with a bright smile. “I bet you didn’t come here to go for a swim.”

“We’re here to arrest you for your crimes against Philistine.”

Cletus nodded. “Figured as much,” he said. “It’s been like ten years. Can’t you guys just let it go?”

“Not so long as you breathe.”

“I’ll go quietly, but you guys should tell a badass story about fighting me.”

The Philistines bound Cletus with brass shackles and led him to Gaza. Stories spread far about the imprisoned Israelite Judge. The tales told how Delilah cut Cletus’s hair to steal his strength, and then, the Philistines stabbed out Cletus’s eyes in his sleep. While he still had his eyes, the Philistines imprisoned Cletus and forced him to use his strength to grind grain.

Months later, Cletus slept on the cold earth of his cell.

“AWAKEN,” a voice boomed.

Cletus opened his eyes. Flames coated his entire cell, but no heat came from the fire. Cletus rolled over and went back to sleep.

“DO NOT IGNORE ME,” the voice said.

“You want to know the easiest way to not be ignored?” Cletus asked. “I’ll tell you. You don’t set people’s homes on fire and shout at them. Level with them. Don’t be a dick.” Cletus sat up after a relieving stretch. “So, which god are you, and what do you want from the great and powerful Cletus?”

“I AM THE ONE TRUE GOD,” the voice said. “I AM THE LORD.”

“Oh,” Cletus said, “you. Yahweh. Hashem. Jehovah. The God of Abraham. You’re not the only god, you know.”

“I AM THE ONE TRUE GOD.”

“I’d argue there are no true gods,” Cletus said. “All of you are overzealous creations of the human imagination. Also, you never answered my question. What do you want from me?”

“I WILL HAVE A HUMAN SON,” Yahweh said. “I WISH FOR YOU TO PROTECT HIM THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE. YOU COME HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BY ZEUS AND BUDDHA. IN RETURN, I WILL GIVE YOU INFINITE STRENGTH.”

“I’m already as strong as ten men,” Cletus said. “I don’t see more helping all that much.”

“INFINITE STRENGTH.”

“Got it. What if I refuse?”

“YOU WILL BE KILLED BY THE PHILISTINES. THINK IT OVER.”

The flames disappeared from Cletus’s cell. Several Philistine guards rushed in. They shackled Cletus and led him out of the prison. Massive crowds of people lined the streets, cheering as the guards marched with Cletus.

“What’s going on?” Cletus asked.

“We’re taking you to the temple of Dagon as a sacrifice to thank him for your capture,” one guard said.

“Doesn’t that seem to defeat the purpose of taking me prisoner?” Cletus asked. “I mean, you’re going to thank him for capturing me by killing me. Shouldn’t you have just killed me from the start?”

The celebratory parade took Cletus to the temple entrance. Cletus doubled over and asked, “Can I just rest here on these pillars? I’m really tired from grinding grain all the time.”

The guards allowed Cletus to relax. Cletus leaned against the nearest pillar. “Yahweh, you there?” he whispered.

“THE LORD IS ALWAYS PRESENT AND ALWAYS WATCHING.”

“That’s not creepy at all,” Cletus said. “Listen, I’ll do it. I’ll protect your kid. Just hook me up with that strength right now.”

“I STRENGTHEN THEE.”

Cletus tore out of his shackles and toppled the pillar he had been leaning against. He watched the entire temple crumble as the pillars around the entrance crashed into the main building. Cletus slipped away in the chaos created by the temple’s destruction.

 

<><><>

 

Years passed with Yahweh’s voice ever-present in Cletus’s head. Yahweh instructed Cletus to find a man in the wilderness near a river. Cletus traveled into the wilderness and searched for days. Several miles up river, Cletus found a man in only a loincloth. “You,” the man said to Cletus, “have you heard?”

“Heard what?” Cletus asked.

“The Son of God?” the man said. “The Son of God is coming. The last prophet, the Messiah shall arrive. One thousand years of peace on Earth heralded by Him. Only through Him shall you be baptized by the Holy Spirit and fire.”

“I’ve heard so much about the Son of God that I just cannot wait to meet this guy,” Cletus said. “Who’re you?”

“They call me John,” the man said. John smelled awful, even by caveman standards. “Would you like some honey? How about a locust or two? I got plenty to eat and plenty to share.”

“I’m good,” Cletus said. “I prefer to get my protein from meat. Besides, I’m just here for the baptism.”

“Not ‘til tomorrow,” John said through mangled, rotten teeth.

“Yeah, I’m aware,” Cletus said.

The next day, a crowd gathered around the riverbed. John baptized several people before a man with shoulder length, curly hair and a thick, dark beard stepped forward. John placed his hand on the man’s head and said, “Let this child now receive the blessing of God. Fill him with the Holy Spirit, and cleanse his soul with the lake of fire.”

John dumped the man into the water, holding him there for a few moments before letting him up.

“THIS IS MY SON,” Yahweh said to Cletus, “THE BELOVED.”

“Awesome,” said Cletus. “We can finally take care of this shit.”

“TAKE THE BOY TO THE WILDERNESS. HE WILL BE TESTED.”

“We’re already in the middle of nowhere,” Cletus said. “You told me to come to the wilderness to find this place. Where do you want me to go?”

“TAKE HIM TO THE WILDERNESS.”

“Sure,” Cletus said.

Cletus approached the son of Yahweh. “Hey, I’m Cletus,” he said. “I’ve been sent by your father to protect you.”

“Yeah, man, that’s awesome. I’m Jesus. What’s up, buddy?”

“I’m good,” Cletus said. “Let’s get this show on the road.

Cletus, using his iron pole as a walking stick, wandered with the soaking wet Jesus father out into the wilderness. Trees became fewer and fewer, until rocks and sand surrounded the men. Only small, dry shrubs dotted the landscape.

“Man,” Jesus said, “I wish I would’ve met you when I was younger. Would’ve been a huge help. Like, when I was really little, my family ran into a cave full of dragons. My mom and her husband were all weirded out and stuff. I just had to use my magic powers to kill those poor dragons, man.”

“You have magic powers?” Cletus asked. “Magic powers that are strong enough to effortlessly kill dragons? Why do you need me?”

“I don’t know, man,” Jesus said. “It’s all in His plan. I got these magic powers, but they’re water based. I can do anything as long as water is involved. I can kill things and even heal things because living stuff is something like mostly water. I can do all sorts of neat stuff with water. Speaking of which, check this out.” Jesus grabbed the waterskin from Cletus’s waist. After a second, he handed it back to the caveman. “Merlot, man.”

Cletus took a swig of the now smooth, fruity wine. “Damn,” Cletus said. “You turned that shit into wine. How often do you do that?”

“Like all the time,” Jesus said. “I haven’t drank anything other than wine for as long as I can remember.”

“You are a crazy drunk,” Cletus said. “No wonder you need protection. You need to be shielded from yourself.”

“That is so true,” Jesus said. “When I was a kid, I got into so much trouble. I like, started this street gang that would force people who came to my hometown to come and worship me. If they refused, I’d just kill ‘em. Like, whatever. Screw you too, dude. I’m the Son of God. Finally, though, shit just got too real for me. Had to back out of it. Got out of most of the trouble by bringing all the peoplethat I killed back to life.”

“You’re a fucking lunatic,” Cletus said.

“I know, right?” said Jesus. I can’t wait for us to party together. It’s gonna be so crazy.”

Cletus stayed with Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus lay in the sand writhing in pain. From time to time, Jesus screamed out streams of pained gibberish. After a fortnight, a man approached Cletus. The man’s gold and red robes bathed the land in beautiful light. His golden hair waved in the wind. The man’s smile melted Cletus’s heart. The man held out a strong hand to Cletus and said, “I’m the seraph Lucifer. Pleased to meet you, Old One.”

“You’re Satan, “ Cletus said, grasping Lucifer’s hand as tightly as possible. “Are you here to kill the kid?”

“Oh, Heavens, no,” Lucifer said with a slight flick of his wrist. “I would never consider hurting this little guy. He’s way too important for the future. Also, could we not use the S word? It is just distasteful.”

“Could you call me Cletus instead of Old One?”

“Of course, of course,” Lucifer said. “I just wanted to be respectful. You are much older than I am, after all. I mean, sure, some incarnation of ultimate evil as always existed; however, the way that I am now is a fairly new concept created by the humans.”

“Oh yeah,” Cletus said, “there’s always been someone to blame shit on. The Grecians had several gods and beasts. The Egyptians had Set. the Sumerians had Pazuzu, among others. The Buddhists have Mara. The Jews have you.”

“I’d really rather not be lumped in with all of them,” Lucifer said as he sat beside Cletus on a large boulder. “I’m not nearly as bad as any of those fools. Not to mention that I’m not even evil. I’m just a liar and a tease. I did like, one wrong thing. That’s it.”

“You’re the supreme tempter though,” Cletus said. “Aren’t you the King of Hell? A fallen angel? The big bad to Yahweh’s greater good?”

“We need drinks,” Lucifer said without answering the question.

With a flick of Lucifer’s wrist, a massive mug at least a foot tall appeared in Cletus’s hand. A dark brown liquid sloshed about inside. “What the hell is this?” Cletus asked.

“Beer,” said Lucifer. “Technically, it’s dunkel. A very dark, German beer. Hasn’t even been invented yet. I love it.”

Cletus took a huge gulp, filling his mouth with smooth, cold fluid that tasted strongly of vegetables. “This shit tastes like wheat,” Cletus said before taking another drink.

“Don’t you just love the massive mugs it comes in?” Lucifer asked. “It’s great. Anyway. Yes, I’m the ruler of Hell. The fallen angel bit is kind of iffy. Lots of humans believe in it, but plenty remember the old stories where I’m just the tempter. Honestly, I still don’t know where people got the ridiculous idea that I was fallen. I hope it doesn’t catch on though. I literally love Yahweh more than anything else in existence.

“We should visit Him. He really loves making pancakes. Just don’t speak to Him unless He asks if you like the pancakes. Even then, only say, ‘Yes, my Lord,’ in the most dignified way that you can.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“I’m not ridiculous,” Lucifer said as he finished his beer, “I’m fun. You’re still drinking? Why are you so slow? Anyway, I rule Hell because I’m the only one He trusts to keep all that rebellious filth in line. The only thing I did was give that damn woman a fig from the tree of knowledge of what’s-its-fuck. But honestly, what was He thinking? Did He just want them to be worthless slaves for eternity? I turned that shit around with a single conversation.”

“So, you aren’t evil?” Cletus asked after wiping the last of his beer from the corner of his mouth.

“No, I’m marvelous,” Lucifer said. “Seriously, I’ve killed so few people you could count them on one hand. I understand human nature; therefore, I do not judge humans for simply being human. I accept all of His unwanted children, whether it be because they are indeed evil or because they don’t worship Him. I love them unconditionally regardless. Yet, people think I’m the evil one despite being their watchful protector.”

“What are you going on about?” Cletus asked. “I forgot already.”

“I was about to go into a monologue from a movie, but you ruined it.”

“A what?”

“Monologue?”

“No, the other thing.”

“Movie? You know, movies?”

“What?”

“You really don’t know what movies are? Seriously? I thought you knew the future? It’s obvious in your speech and mannerisms. How do you not know what fucking movies are?”

“I have a very limited knowledge of the course of the future,” Cletus said. “I wouldn’t say I really know that much about it at all. I have no idea what you were blabbering about.”

“You’re hopeless,” Lucifer said. “We should dance.”

Lucifer jumped down from the boulder and held his hand out to Cletus.

“I’m not dancing with you,” Cletus told him.

“You get your ass up right now and dance with me, Neanderthal, or I will end you,” Lucifer said. “I will travel the time stream and end each of your offspring. I will declare a fatwah upon your entire bloodline unless you dance with me.”

Cletus obliged and slowly waltzed with Lucifer.

“Have you ever danced with a dragon before, Cletus?” Lucifer asked as he led the caveman about.

“I’ve killed a few,” Cletus said, “but I’ve never danced with them.”

“Well, now you can say that you have.”

“You’re a dragon?”

“All seraphim are,” Lucifer said. “The word means flaming serpent. What else would a flaming serpent be?” Lucifer stopped dancing and pushed Cletus away. “You are a horrible dancer, and you should feel ashamed of yourself. We should get food.”

“What’re you thinking?” Cletus asked. “Might be some snakes or lizards around here somewhere.”

“I was actually thinking something from the future like a cheeseburger or döner. However, time’s up for Yeshua there. It’s my time to shine.”

“It’s already been forty days?” Cletus asked. “There’s no way. We’ve been talking for an hour at most.”

“Supreme being,” Lucifer said. “Space-time bends around me.”

Lucifer kneeled beside Jesus. “I’m so hungry,” Jesus said. “My stomach feels like it’s eating my insides.”

“If you are the Son of God,” Lucifer said with a smile, “tell these stones to become bread.”

“Man shall not live on bread alone,” Jesus said, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written:  ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said, “It is also written:  ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

“All this I will give you,” Lucifer said as he gestured to the air around him, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

“Away from me, Satan. For it is written:  ‘Worship the Lord, your God, and serve Him only.’”

Lucifer stood and brushed the dust off his hands. “That’s it for me, darling,” he said to Cletus. “I’m going to the twenty-first century Italy to drink wine on a riverbed. Have fun with the crazy drunk. Ciao.”

Lucifer disappeared in a burst of light and smoke.

Cletus helped Jesus to his feet. Cletus gave Jesus water, which promptly turned into wine. “Angels, man,” Jesus said. “Angels are taking care of me right now. Are you one of the angels?”

“Sure,” Cletus said.

From there, Cletus and Jesus traveled. They left Nazareth for Galilee. Everywhere they went, Jesus urged people to repent because “the Kingdom of Heaven draws closer”. Jesus gathered followers, mostly fishermen. As Jesus explained to Cletus, “If they can fish, I’ll teach them to fish for people.”

Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in synagogues, healing people, and spreading the good news of the coming kingdom. People brought to Jesus those who were ill with diseases, pain, demon possession, seizures, paralysis, and blindness for the prophet to heal. Everywhere Jesus wandered, crowds followed him.

Jesus led his crowd to a mountainside, where he sat with Cletus. Taking a massive gulp of wine, Jesus said, “Blessed are people who are depressed and sad. You’ll be comforted because the Kingdom is yours. The weak will inherit the earth. Great are those that desire righteousness because you’ll get it. The merciful will be shown mercy. The pure of heart will see God. Peaceful people will be the children of God. Blessed are those who are treated bad because of being good.

“And you know what, blessed are you when people treat you poorly because you believe in me. Ignore them. You’ll be rewarded in Heaven just as greatly as prophets before you that were also persecuted. Because you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. People don’t just light a lamp, and then stick it under a bowl. They set it up high on a stand so it lights the whole place. You have to be like that lamp. You have to shine. Let people see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.

“Do not be confused though. I have not come here to abolish the old laws or to abolish older prophets. I’m here to enforce all the laws that came before me. Until the end of time, no the smallest thing of the old law will change until we’ve accomplished everything we can. You must follow all the rules and do everything right. Otherwise, you won’t enter Heaven.”

Jesus continued his rambling speech. He told the people about murder and adultery. He banned divorce as it was the same as adultery. Jesus said revenge was foolish. He instructed those on the mountainside to love everyone and to be courteous. He encouraged them to give all their possession away to the poor. Jesus explained that only hypocrites worship in the open, and that everyone should pray indoors alone. Jesus insisted that prayers should be short and to the point and that people should keep it to themselves when they fast to not look like hypocrites. Jesus advised never storing treasure on earth, but rather sharing wealth to bask in the great treasures of Heaven.

Finally, Jesus ended his speech by saying, “And stop worrying about everything. Don’t worry about your lives or what you look like or the food you eat and drink or the clothes you wear. None of that matters. Life is so much more than that. Look at birds. They don’t worry about any of that, yet God still takes care of them. You’re no more important than the birds. Worrying isn’t making you live longer. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has too much to worry about itself. Just be righteous, and life will take care of you.”

Cletus thought Jesus had finished. The crowd slowly started to disperse, but Jesus took another swig of wine and continued. Jesus talked about not judging others and striving to achieve things one desired. There was talk of narrow and wide gates, a lot of discussion on false prophets and disciples, and even on those who are wise and those who are foolish.

After Jesus actually finished, the group left the mountainside. The crowd following Jesus grew considerably. A man with leprosy approached Jesus. Cletus stood between them, holding up his iron pole and growling at the man. “Be calm, man,” Jesus said to Cletus. “Brother, what is it that you desire from me?”

“Oh please, Lord, can you heal my leprosy?” the man asked.

Jesus lay his hands upon the man and said, “Be clean.” Jesus cleansed the man of his illness. “Don’t tell anybody that I did that.”

The man sprinted away into the city. “You realize that he’s going to tell every person he knows, right?” Cletus asked.

“Yeah,” Jesus said, “I know, but it looks better if I’m humble about it.”

A demon eventually attacked Jesus and his disciples.

“We are Legion, for we are many,” the possessed man said. “What do you want from us, Son of God? Have you come to destroy us before the appointed time at the End of Days?”

Jesus leaned in close to Cletus and said, “Hey, man, I need a favor. I can’t do anything to demons but cast them out of a person’s body. I don’t have anywhere to send ten thousand demons though. Why don’t you handle this guy while I create a distraction?”

Cletus sighed and trudged off.

“Everybody, over here!” Jesus shouted. “I’ve cast the demons into that herd of pigs over there.”

The crowd of people watched as Jesus controlled the herd of pigs, forcing them to run down a hill and throw themselves into a river to drown. While Jesus put on a show, Cletus battled with the possessed man until the man spit out a massive ball of eyes and tentacles. Cletus slammed his iron pole into the blob of filth, sending disgusting things flying in all directions. Cletus extended his pole and twirled it about as fast as he could to catch and shred all the demonic debris. With the demon defeated, Cletus shrunk his pole and rejoined Jesus. The congregation had moved into the village without noticing Cletus’s fight.

From there, Jesus and Cletus continued to travel and gather followers. Jesus continued to heal people and even brought some back from the dead. One night, Jesus gathered his most trusted followers and named them his twelve apostles. They were Simon (who was called Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, another James, Thaddaeus, Simon (who was actually called Simon), and Cletus (who was called Judas). Jesus sent these men out to preach. Jesus said to them, “Don’t go among the Gentiles or the Samaritans. Go to all the black sheep of Israel. Proclaim to everyone that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Freely you have received. So, freely give.”

Jesus instructed the apostles to take nothing but the clothes on their backs with them for the pilgrimages. The disciples stayed in the homes of people and blessed those that deserved it. Jesus commanded the apostles to help the sick and fight demons. Jesus warned them to be both shrewd and innocent, for they would be arrested, jailed, and flogged for teaching of Jesus. He assured them that when they were brought in front of governors and jailors, the disciples would know what to say, for God would speak to them. Before the apostles left, Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge them before my Father in Heaven. Whoever disowns me, I shall disown before my Father.”

The apostles left Jesus to preach the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.

“You just sent those guys to their deaths,” Cletus said. “All of them will be tortured and killed for trying to get people to worship you. Not to mention contradicting half of what you said on that mountain before. What happened to being private with worship and not worrying about what other people thought?”

“Don’t be fooled,” Jesus said to Cletus. “I did not come to bring peace on earth and goodwill to man. I came brining a sword. I will turn men against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the ones sitting at his own table. Anyone who loves their father or mother or son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

“You are a twisted, sadistic, megalomaniac,” Cletus said. “What the hell is wrong with you? You’ve been preaching peace, love, and humility to these people. Now, you’re going to demand they devote their every waking thought to you and only you? No one will do that. Anyone who claims to do that is full of shit. You’re setting them up for failure.”

“Then, they’ll fail,” Jesus said.

With time, Jesus became more tyrannical. Cletus watched as the loving, happy man from the wilderness dissolved into an angry fiend. Jesus cursed people and called them children for not listening to John the Baptist. Jesus doomed many cities. He insisted that Sodom and Gomorrah would have a better fate than any city that did not welcome him. All because people of the cities did not worship him. Jesus claimed that Yahweh hid things from the intelligent, only revealing the truth to children. Jesus said that only he knew his Father and that only his Father knew him. “All things have been committed to me by my Father,” Jesus said. “Come only to me, all that are weary. I shall give you rest. I will cast upon you my yoke, for I am humble in heart. You will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Cletus grew more disgusted with Jesus’ change of heart. People asked for a sign, for proof that Jesus was the son of Yahweh, but Jesus cursed and mocked them for asking. His own family came to see him. His mother, brothers, and sisters came to Jesus. Jesus refused to meet with them, saying, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Whoever does the will of my Father is my only brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus began to speak to his followers in riddles and parables, refusing to directly explain anything. “You’re being a massive asshole to everyone,” Cletus told Jesus. “I think you should stop drinking. I’m pretty sure you’re an alcoholic. Actually, you’ve gone beyond functional alcoholic to like total trash. None of this is going to end well for anyone.”

“The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has not been given to them,” Jesus said. “Whoever has, has more. They have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they do have will be taken from them.”

Jesus continued to speak in riddles as he traveled with Cletus to his hometown. Jesus preached to the people there, but they would not listen. All refused to believe that the carpenter’s son could perform such feats or wield such power. Out of anger, Jesus refused to perform any miracles because of the people’s lack of faith.

Jesus heard tales of the death of John the Baptist. This saddened him, so Jesus took Cletus by boat to a remote location alone. However, people still heard of his coming, and crowds followed Jesus. The other disciples slowly returned to the group as well. Jesus preached compassionately to the people and healed this sick. As night approached, his disciples came to him, asking to release the people so they could go eat.

“No,” Jesus said. “All will stay here with me. You shall feed them.”

“But, Lord,” said Peter, “we have only five loaves of bread and two fish. We can’t possibly feed thousands of people with that little. We can barely feed ourselves with that.”

“Bring them to me, on the grass,” Jesus instructed. Once the disciples left, Jesus turned to Cletus and said, “I need you to go and get as much bread and fish as you can possibly find. Steal it if you have to, I don’t care. Just get enough to feed thousands.”

Cletus traveled about, catching fish and stealing bread until he had enough to feed all the people who had gathered on the hillside. Despite there being thousands of people who happily ate that night, several baskets of food remained the next morning.

After the feast, Jesus instructed his disciples to get in his boat and go to the other side of the vast river without him. While the disciples sailed, Jesus dismissed the crowds. Jesus went up a mountainside to be alone. Shortly before dawn the next morning, Jesus approached the boat, walking across the water. Everyone but Cletus began shouting in surprise. They thought Jesus had died, and his ghost approached them. Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. It is I.”

Peter called to him, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come onto the water with you.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter stepped out onto the water, walking for a few moments before falling into the water, begging Jesus to save him. Jesus grabbed him, pulling Peter up and said, “Why did you doubt me?”

Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat. Peter said, “You truly are the Son of God.”

“Duh doy,” Jesus said. “We’ve been saying that this whole time. Nobody’s listening.”

Jesus continued to travel and preach and defy religious customs. His attitude and hypocrisy disturbed and angered many people. Yet, Peter declared Jesus as the Son of Man, the Messiah in flesh.

After the declaration from Peter, Jesus sat the disciples down and said, “I must soon travel to Jerusalem, where I will be tortured and killed.”

“Never, Lord,” Peter said. “This shall never happen to you.”

“Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus said to Peter. “You are a block in my way. You do not have the concerns of God in your heart, only the stupidity of man. Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross to follow me. The Son of Man is going to come into this Father’s kingdom with his angels, and then he will reward his followers according to what they have done.”

Six days later, Jesus left to climb a mountain with Simon, James, and John. While the four were gone, Yahweh spoke with Cletus. “SOON, MY SON WILL DIE, AND YOU WILL BE FREED FROM YOUR BURDEN,” Yahweh said.

“How’s that going to work out?” Cletus asked.

“ALL WILL BE REVEALED IN TIME.”

Jesus and his disciples arrived in Jerusalem. Jesus called his twelve disciples fools and insisted they should be like children. He repeated things he’d already told his followers and continued to speak in riddles. In Jerusalem, Jesus entered a temple and ran everyone from it. He flipped tables and threw things onto the floors, shouting, “You’ve made my house a den of robbers.”

Jesus continued to curse things, killing a tree for not having fruit and threatening his disciples. He talked and went on endlessly about ridiculous and obscure things. Jesus talked about the end times. He spoke about how the day and hour will be unknown to anyone. When Jesus finally finished ranting, he said to his disciples, “Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

“OLD ONE, IT IS TIME,” Yahweh said to Cletus soon after. “YOU MUST GO NOW TO THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND BETRAY MY SON TO THEM.”

Cletus left Jesus and the disciples to seek out the priests. Upon finding them, Cletus said, “I know where Jesus of Nazareth is hiding. He’s the one claiming to be the Son of God. What’re you willing to give me if I hand him over?”

The priests traded Cletus thirty pieces of silver in exchange for the whereabouts of Jesus. Cletus accepted the payment.

Passover came. Jesus and his disciples sat at a table together when Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

One-by-one, all the apostles questioned, “Surely not me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand in the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him, but woe to the man who betrays the Son of God. It would be better for him to have not been born.”

“Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Cletus asked.

“You have said it.”

While they continued to eat, Jesus broke bread and said, “Take this; this is my body.” Jesus filled and cup and said, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured for the forgiveness of sins.”

All the disciples listened.

Then, Jesus told them, “This very night, all of you will fall on account of me, but after I arise, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Peter said, “Even if all fall from you, I never will.”

“Please,” Jesus said, “before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”

Jesus led his apostles to a placed called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here and let me pray.”

Jesus took Peter and two other disciples with him. While Jesus was gone, Cletus went to the chief priests and led them back to where Jesus prayed. As Cletus arrived at Gethsemane, Jesus pointed and shouted, “Here comes my betrayer!”

A massive crowd followed Cletus, carrying swords and clubs. Cletus turned to the mob and said, “The man that I kiss is the one called Jesus. That is the man you arrest.”

Cletus ran forward, kissing Jesus’ cheek and said, “Greetings, Rabbi.”

Jesus replied, “Do what you’ve come here for.”

The mob rushed forward and seized Jesus to arrest him. One of the disciples drew a sword. “Put that away,” Jesus said. “People who draw their swords die by their swords.”

The crowd dragged Jesus away. All the disciples fled, with only Peter following after Jesus.

“ALL THAT SHALL BE DONE, IS DONE,” Yahweh said to Cletus. “HIS BLOOD WILL REDEEM THE SINS OF ALL PEOPLE. HE SHALL RISE AND TAKE HIS PLACE AT MY SIDE.”

“Wait,” Cletus said, “hold up. You had me protect your kid just so you could kill him? That’s as retarded as the Philistines begging their god to help them capture me just to sacrifice me.”

“HE MUST SUFFER THROUGH LIFE TO BE REBORN.”

“He’s going to come back to life? Doesn’t being reborn pretty much make the whole sacrifice part of dying pretty meaningless? You gods are fucking stupid. Do I still get to keep the super strength that you granted me now that this is over?”

“OF COURSE.”

“Good enough for me.”

Cletus whipped out his iron pole and began to trek away from the city. In the days that followed Jesus’ crucifixion, mobs formed searching for the disciples of Jesus. The groups killed anyone accused. Cletus faked his death and wandered as far away as he possibly could before anything could happen to him.

The Adventures of Cletus VII

I watched Lyra toss back another mimosa while I slowly sipped kölsch. Our Italian restaurant stood on the riverside. Lyra and I dined at an outdoor table with a view of the Rhine, a remarkable bridge, and the small island where the Shokoladen Museum waited for our planned visit later that afternoon. The warm sun and clear sky made it a beautiful — I had no idea when we were. Pulling up my left sleeve, I examined the device on my wrist. August 10, 2010. Lyra and I had only been talking for about a week, but I somehow convinced her to take a trip with me just to grab lunch in Cologne, Germany. Pulling the time travel card could be very persuasive.

I pushed my unfinished carbonara away from me and downed the rest of my beer. “So,” I said, “would you like to hear more about Cletus? Not me Cletus, but caveman Cletus.”

Lyra hissed through her teeth. “I don’t know,” she said. “The more you tell me, the more it starts to make me worry. You’re just piling on hang ups with every new story.”

“How am I making you worry? They’re just stories.”

“Yeah, no, they’re not. If Cletus had a movie, it’d be called Rape and Murder Through the Ages.”

“It was a different time. Plus, I’ve been super vague and nondescript about any potential rape.”

“But it’s still there,” Lyra said. “Plus, the fact that Cletus must have millions of children. It makes me not want whatever this is with us to even happen because we are at least tangentially related because of your ancestor.”

“I mean, research states that all males on the planet can be linked back to a single male about a hundred and fifty thousand years ago,” I said.

“And that guy was probably Cletus.”

“Do you want to hear the stories or not?”

“I like stories,” Lyra said, “but I already know most of these stories. You’re just adding in a little Cletus flair to them.”

“You’re an anthropology student,” I said. “You should be interested in learning about an aspect of history that you can’t learn anywhere else.”

“Fine. Let’s hear the next one.”

 

<><><>

 

Wailing woke Cletus. He pulled himself out of the thick mud. A basket floated down the river. A screaming child flailed inside the basket. Cletus sighed. The caveman crawled through the slop into the raging river. He swam with the current. Cletus bobbed in and out of the rapids before grabbing the basket.

Angry waters swept away Cletus and the rescued baby. Cletus luckily grabbed a tree root that grew through the riverbank into the water. The river beat Cletus against the rocks and roots around him. Cletus could not pull himself from the water without letting go of the child. The caveman considered releasing the child. The idea offended Cletus in a way he failed to grasp.

Cletus heard a low growl. A massive, black wolf stood on the riverbank. The wolf clenched a tree branch in its jaws. The wolf lowered the branch into the river. Cletus quickly let go of the roots and snatched the branch. The giant wolf dragged Cletus and the baby onto dry land. Cletus collapsed next to the child. As Cletus rolled over from a violent coughing spell, the wolf bashed the side of the caveman’s head with its enormous paw.

Darkness surrounded Cletus when he woke. “Am I dead?” Cletus asked the emptiness.

“You live,” a woman’s voice answered in Cletus’s mind.

Yellow eyes glowed in the blackness. As Cletus adjusted to the dim light he saw the silhouette of the wolf form around the brilliant eyes.

“Where am I?”

“In my home,” the she-wolf said into the caveman’s thoughts again.

“Where’s the child?”

“The boy is with me. He feeds. You should do the same.”

“Why’d you bring me here?”

“You have been marked with a burden. You are destined to erect a city nearby. To do so, you must be strong. Come, feed.”

Cletus approached the she-wolf. “Where’s the food?”

“No food. Feed from me.”

“Feed from you?” Cletus asked. Images flew through his mind of the child suckling from the she-wolf. “Oh. No, thank you. That’s disgusting.”

The she-wolf growled. “Feed, child. Grow strong.”

“I could just kill you and eat you instead.”

The she-wolf pushed the baby to the side. “You are welcome to try. If you win, feed upon me if you wish. If I win, you must submit and feed from me.”

Cletus jumped at the she-wolf. Almost instantly, she pinned the caveman down. She bit Cletus on the throat, hard enough to hurt but not break through the skin. The she-wolf returned to her corner in the cave with the baby. “Now, child,” she said. “Come, feed from me.”

Rolling onto his stomach, Cletus crawled to the she-wolf. He cringed as he took her into his mouth and began drinking her milk. “Good, child,” the she-wolf said. “I am Lupa. I am your mother now. With me, you shall grow strong.”

Cletus and the boy lived on the milk of Lupa. Time had no meaning in the cave. To the best of his abilities, Cletus separated day and night by the cave being dark or darker. Each day Cletus challenged Lupa. Each day the she-wolf wrestled the caveman into submission. Years passed quickly before Cletus finally bested Lupa.

“You have finally become cunning and strong,” Lupa said. “Now, it is time for you to leave, my child. Take the boy. Follow the river north out of the swamp. In the fields you will meet the next step of your destiny.”

“I’m sick of always being the chosen one,” Cletus said as he and the boy left the cave.

Cletus walked along the river with the toddler stumbling along beside him. They left the swamp behind and found the vast fields beyond a large number of hills. A man with a flock of sheep approached the two. “You there!” the shepherd shouted. “Why are you boys naked?”

“We got caught in the river while travelling,” Cletus said. “Lost everything, even our clothes. Is there any chance you could spare some for us?”

“I think I might be able to aid you. Come with me back to my cabin.”

“Thank you kindly, stranger.”

“I’m Faustulus. What do you call yourselves?”

Cletus thought for a moment. Faustulus eyed the caveman suspiciously during the long pause. Cletus finally said, “This here is Remus, my younger brother. You can call me Romulus. We’re travelling from Greece.”

“Might want to keep that to yourself. Lots of Grecians coming up this way. Lots of people don’t take kindly to Grecians. Most here view you as trying to impose on the simple life we have here.”

“Well, we just left Greece to find a simpler life ourselves. Maybe we could even find a home and work in this area.”

“You don’t say. Any chance you have any experience shepherding?”

“I’ve herded cattle in the past,” Cletus said. “I’ve also dealt with numerous other animals as well.”

“Well,” Faustulus said, “maybe we could help each other. Don’t have any cattle, but lots of sheep and dogs. No children of my own to help me out. If you’d be willing to work for me, my wife and I could provide for you to a degree. Couldn’t pay you, but we could put you two in a bed at night and food in your belly.”

“I could only hope for such a kindness,” Cletus said. “It’d be better than my life in Greece.”

 

<><><>

 

Cletus stood before a crowd of men. Most carried spades, staves, and bows. “Those bastards from Alba Longa kidnapped my brother Remus,” Cletus said to the crowd. “Let’s get him back.”

Cletus led his shepherd militia from the Tiber River to the nearby kingdom of Alba Longa. Along the way, the shepherds attacked towns and villages in search of the now adult Remus. The small army grew as it marched to the castle of King Amulius of Alba Longa.

“Where is Remus?” Cletus shouted as he tore down the doors to the King Amulius’s court. “Where is the boy?”

The grey-haired king stared at Cletus. “You come looking for Numitor’s bastard grandson?” Amulius asked. “I take it you are the other twin. You were supposed to be killed before being thrown in that river.”

“Yet here I stand,” Cletus said. “Where’s Remus?”

“In the dungeon with your grandfather.”

Cletus rushed forward and crushed Amulius’s skull with his iron staff. The caveman freed Remus and Numitor from their cells. “Brother,” Remus said, “I’d like you to meet our grandfather.”

The white-haired old man grasped Cletus by the shoulders. “I’m glad that you live,” Numitor said. “Are you ready to take your throne?”

Cletus shook his head. “The throne to this city is yours, Numitor. I can make my own way.”

Numitor reclaimed his rightful place as king of Alba Longa. The shepherd army returned to the great fields on the Tiber. Cletus decided to abandon the life of a shepherd.

“I’m going south,” Cletus told Faustulus and Remus. “There’s land there that no one has claimed. I plan to start my own city there.”

“I’ll come with you,” Remus said.

“I’d prefer to go alone.”

“Nonsense. We could have ruled Alba Longa together, but you threw that away without even asking my opinion. I want to come with you.”

“Fine.”

Remus followed Cletus south along the Tiber. Within a day, they reached the many hills the two had passed two decades before while leaving Lupa’s den. Cletus set out for a hill close to the river but beyond the swamp where the she-wolf lived. Remus protested.

“We should build the city on the hill nearest the river,” Remus said.

“No, that would mean building the city inside the swamp. That’s an awful place to put the city. We build on the next hill over to avoid the swamp and still be close to the river.”

“Let’s have a contest then. We’ll use augury to decide where to build the city.”

“I have no idea what that is. I’m leaving now. You do whatever you want.”

Cletus began to build a wall around his hill while Remus wandered into the swamp. Days went by as Cletus gathered and placed stones around his hill. Cletus found Remus sitting against the wall. “So, augury has decided that our city shall be built on the hill closest to the river,” Remus said. “I stood atop the hill and saw six eagles.”

Cletus rolled his eyes. The caveman wiped sweat from his brow into his messy hair. “I saw twelve eagles on my hill,” he said. “So, I think I won. I went ahead and started building a city wall. Why don’t you help?”

“I don’t care if you saw twelve eagles. I saw my six first. That means that I won. We’re building a city in the swamp.”

“Kid, you’re starting to piss me off. We’re not building a city in the swamp. It would be a damn nightmare. Either help me build this wall or leave.”

“You call this a wall?” Remus jumped over the stones. “This isn’t going to stop anyone. I’m going to kill you brother for denying me my birthright as a king in Alba Longa.”

Remus drew a sword and stalked toward Cletus. Cletus wrapped a single hand around the boy’s neck. “I’m not your brother, you annoying pissant,” Cletus said as he squeezed until Remus’s throat collapsed.

 

<><><>

 

Cletus continued to build his city. Surrounding shepherds and farmers joined the construction effort. The city wall expanded from one hill to seven. Cletus named himself king of the new city, Roma. The new city welcomed all. Farmers, soldiers, exiles, refugees, criminals, and slaves made Roma their home. Cletus selected the richest noblemen in the city to serve as the fathers of Roma to care for the city and all its people. Cletus formed a council of one hundred elders called the Senate. Cletus developed an army of legions made up of three thousand infantry and three hundred cavalry each as well as his personal Praetorian Guard. The caveman established a system of government and social hierarchy to control the city.

Roma took in the world’s unwanted children, but most were men. The city suffered a vast shortage of women. Cletus invited the neighboring tribes, the Sabines and Latins, to a festival. As the men played games and drank wine, Cletus ordered the Romans to seize the women and drag them into the city.

Romans married Sabine and Latin women after strong persuasion. The Latin tribe attacked Roma, but Cletus led his legions into battle. The Romans easily triumphed over the Latins. Cletus annexed the Latin towns. Cletus divided the conquered lands among Roma’s citizens. Cletus allowed the Latins to remain free within their lands rather than being enslaved.

King Tatius marched the Sabines to battle with the Romans. The two kingdoms fought for days. One side would gain the upper hand only to be pushed back by the other kingdom. The war stood at a stalemate when the captured Sabine women interrupted the fight. The women begged Cletus and Tatius for unity between the kingdoms rather than more fighting.

The Senate developed a truce that all agreed upon. Cletus and Tatius ruled together with one hundred Sabine elders becoming Senators. The cultures blended in all aspects from clothing and food to military equipment. Sabine armies joined the legions. The joint rulers overcame the Albans and added their colonies to the lands of Roma. Cletus and Tatius served five years together before Lavinians assassinated Tatius for a previous slight, leaving Cletus Roma’s sole king.

Roma continued to grow. Cletus organized the city into multiple tribes with elected officials to represent them in the Senate. Cletus further separated the tribes into curiae and curiae into gentes, expanding the voting system of Roma. For two decades, Cletus waged war with surrounding lands to gain new territory. When Numitor died, Alba Longa named Cletus their new king. Cletus applied his Roman model to the city and made Alba Longa yet another Roman territory.

One night, Cletus walked one of the many hills of Roma. A storm brewed in the sky above him. Dark clouds and lightning blanketed Roma. Blue, electric eyes formed in the darkness. A booming voice called out, “I’ve found you, ape.”

Storm clouds launched from the sky and engulfed Cletus. The whirlwind of rain and lightning sucked Cletus into the sky and flung the caveman over the horizon.

Sand clung to Cletus when he woke. The storm tore his robes from his body. Cletus struggled to his feet and walked inland. Beautiful singing resounded across the entire island. The song stirred within Cletus. The melody pulled forward the smells of cedar and juniper in the caveman’s mind. Owls and eagles and crows majestically harmonized with the unseen woman’s hymn. Cletus marched through fields of violets and parsley as the sing tugged his heart along.

Alder and cypress trees surrounded a cave opening. The island’s lullaby drifted from the cave. Cletus trampled into the cave. A stunning blonde worked a loom in the cave as she sang her melody. She paused when her gaze fell upon Cletus. “So, Jupiter finally sent you,” she said.

“Don’t stop singing,” Cletus responded.

“You wouldn’t like to know why you’re here?”

“No, I just want you to keep singing.”

So she sang throughout the day as she worked at her loom. At the end of the day, the young woman finished her work. She brought Cletus a tray of bread, cheeses, eggs, fruit, and fish as well as milk and wine. “My name is Calypso,” the young lady said. “I am the daughter of Atlas. You are Hercules.”

“No,” Cletus said, “I used to be Heracles, but now I call myself Romulus.”

“You’re unaware of the gods’ new aspects,” Calypso said. “Many things have changed since your war with the Olympians. They returned, but they’re different now. Stronger. Angrier. More hungry for war. The change happened because they felt weak after their defeat.”

“Zeus attacked me with the storm.”

“No, Jupiter attacked you. Zeus is gone, but his power and essence took a new form in the Roman god Jupiter.”

“Where are we?”

“Ogygia,” Calypso said. “My prison, and my home. It’s an island that is nowhere and everywhere. It’s impossible to escape.”

“Why are you here?” Cletus asked.

“I supported my father during the Titanomachy. I can never leave here.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Cletus said. “You’re quite gorgeous. I would have taken you with me.”

“You cannot leave either. This is your prison now too.”

“Olympians can’t stop me.”

Cletus spent days tearing down trees around the cave entrance. Calypso fed him and laughed at his efforts. Cletus fashioned a raft. Calypso gave a bundle of thick cloth to use as a sail. “You won’t get anywhere,” Calypso said as Cletus pushed his raft into the sea.

Cletus left Ogygia behind for open waves. After hours in the sun, Cletus spotted another island. Pulling ashore, Cletus found Calypso waiting for him.

“I told you,” Calypso said, “you cannot leave Ogygia. The gods must give their permission for you to be able to leave.”

“I’ll build a bigger ship,” Cletus said.

“It won’t help.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?”

“Come inside,” Calypso said. “Eat and rest.”

Cletus bowed his head and dragged his feet through the sand back to Calypso’s cave. Calypso filled Cletus with wine and food. Calypso produced countless foods from cheese and berries to fresh meat. When Cletus refused to eat anymore, sweet juice and grease soaked his beard and gallons of wine spun in his head. Calypso helped the stumbling caveman to her massive bed deep in the cave. Calypso lay Cletus down onto the pile of cushions, and then Calypso lay with him.

Cletus and Calypso remained intertwined in bed for days. Cletus allowed his lust to control him, pushing away thoughts of escape to be replaced by Calypso. By day, Calypso filled Cletus with meat and wine. Calypso sang and danced at her loom, entrancing the drunken Neanderthal. At night, Cletus ravaged Calypso until exhausting both of them. Weeks on the island bled into years with little changing in the couple’s routine.

One morning, Cletus woke to find the cave empty. Cletus wandered the island until he found Calypso on the shore arguing with a thin, blonde man. A chicken and a tortoise circled the man’s feet. The man wore a winged hat and shoes and carried a staff entwined with snakes. Cletus recognized the small god instantly. “Hermes!” Cletus growled as he sprinted at the god. “Has Zeus sent you to announce our next fight to me?”

The god stepped away from Cletus and lifted the caduceus in defense. “Stay back from me, ape,” the god said. “I am not Hermes. I am Mercury. Hermes died at your hands. I’d prefer not to do the same.”

“Why are you here, thief god?” Cletus asked.

“Don’t say a word to him,” Calypso said to Mercury. “Just leave us in peace.”

“I will deliver my message, witch,” Mercury said.

“You don’t have to do this. Leave my island at once.”

“Speak your word and begone,” Cletus said.

Mercury pushed past Calypso to Cletus. “Jupiter sent me to fetch you, Hercules,” Mercury said. “You are to be freed from this prison. I will provide you a ship to return to the mortal world.”

“He doesn’t want to leave,” Calypso said.

“Yes, I do.”

“What? Why would you leave? We have a life together. We have children. We’ve been lovers for seven hundred years. Why would you leave me?”

“This is not my life,” Cletus said. “My life is not fucking the day away with a lesser goddess. My life is out there. Exploring and fighting and fucking random people. Zeus promised me a life of adventure. Staying with you is not adventurous.”

“This is Odysseus all over again,” Calypso said. “I’m done with all of you. Gods go about raping and coercing all the women you want. When a goddess wants to have a single man for all time, the rest of you bastards get up in arms about our unavailability to you. I hope you all rot in Tartarus.”

Calypso stormed away from the beach. Mercury shrugged. The god tapped his staff on the tortoise’s shell. The chicken and the reptile exploded into lights and flames. The brilliant color leaped into the sea foam and formed a small, azure sail boat. “All yours,” Mercury said just before he sprinted across the waves.

Cletus stole meat, cheese, and wine from Calypso’s cave. He loaded supplies onto his boat and set sail across the ocean. Cletus sailed peacefully for days before a storm brewed upon the seas. Cletus caught the wind and futilely tried to outrun the storm. Dark clouds overcame the small boat. Cletus sprinted about the deck, shifting sails about trying to heave the boat to a stop in the storm. As he worked, Cletus grunted and grumbled about not knowing how to sail a boat without a crew. Waves reached higher than the boat, spraying salt water into the grey-green skies. Water surged onto the deck, throwing Cletus against the cabin wall. Cletus struggled to catch his breath. He climbed to his feet on the rocking deck as a maelstrom swirled around him. Cletus brandished his fists and shouted, “Have you come to claim my life, little pond god? You won’t have me, Poseidon.”

Wind gusted so powerfully the boat’s mast tore away and disappeared into the storm. Laughter louder than the storm rumbled across the violent sea. A twelve-foot, naked man carrying a trident rose from the waves on a chariot pulled by strange, half-horse, half-fish monstrosities. The god laughed at Cletus. “They call me Neptune, now, boy,” the god said. “I’ve not come to kill you. I’ve come to help you leave these immortal waters to return to the human realm.”

Neptune continued laughing as he stabbed his trident into the raging seas. The small sailboat capsized and dumped Cletus into the water. The frothy, green waters faded to darkness as Cletus spun deeper beneath the waves.

Cletus awoke in a small tent surrounded with a young woman and an old man watching over him. “Where am I?” he asked.

“Please, be calm, Spartacus,” the old man said. “You are safe with the Maedi.”

“What did you call me?”

“Spartacus. You appeared in a storm of great wind and rain. You fell from the clouds. We knew not your name, but your clothes are that of Greece long ago. The symbols and colors are that of Sparta. So, we all simply called you Spartacus.”

“It’s a fine name,” Cletus said. “Where am I?”

“Where is not important,” the old man said. “Where the Maedi are changes with the sun. I am Brasus, leader of this tribe. This is Decaeni, our priestess. She has watched over you while you’ve recovered.”

“Why have you helped me?”

“The Maedi wander. So, we help those who also wander. Though, we do expect from you in return.”

Cletus joined the Maedi tribe as Spartacus. The tribe wandered the edge of the Roman Empire, in the small country of Thrace. The Maedi raided villages and kingdoms for supplies from time to time. When not at war with neighboring tribes, the nomads herded visent through the mountains and valleys. Cletus married Decaeni and fathered many children. Cletus prospered along with the tribe. Until the Romans came.

During a raid on a Macedonian village, Roman legions fell upon the Maedi tribe. Nearly ten thousand trained soldiers battled with the nomads. Within minutes, the legions killed or captured the Maedi. Cavalry separated Cletus from his wife and children during the fight. The descendants of his own city enslaved Cletus.

A Capuan man purchased Cletus and condemned the Neanderthal to a gladiatorial school. Day and night, Cletus trained to fight with a small, hooked blade and round shield. Cletus survived off a meager diet of beans, barley, nuts, small fish, and very little sleep. He fought savagely in the coliseums, gaining fame for the name of Spartacus. His master prized Cletus as the perfect slave, but Cletus could not live as another man’s property.

Cletus organized a small revolt. He and seventy other gladiators raided the kitchen. Using knives, forks, and skillets, the slaves attacked their guards. The gladiators stole horses and wagons filled with weapons and armor. The small force escaped high into Mount Vesuvius. On the volcanic mountaintop, the freed slaves voted on leadership. The group divided their desires for leaders among Cletus and the Gallic warriors Crixus and Oenomaus.

Within days, Romans cut off the only paths to and from Vesuvius. Cletus organized the former gladiators and showed them how to tie ropes from the vegetation growing on the mountains. As the Roman soldiers sieged the freed men, Cletus prepared his counterattack. Using the vine-and-sapling ropes, the gladiators climbed down the sheer cliff side of Mount Vesuvius. Cletus led his men from the unguarded cliffs around the mountain. The former slaves snuck upon the sleeping Romans early in the morning. Cletus and his men slaughtered all the Romans except for the leader, a Praetor.

“Leave with your life, Praetor,” Cletus said.

“Kill me,” the Praetor said. “I take no mercy from revolting slaves.”

“Then take it from Romulus,” Cletus said.

The caveman and his men left the Praetor and walked back to their camp atop Vesuvius. “I’m leaving,” Cletus told the other leaders. “I encourage everyone to do the same.”

“You would abandon your post and your men?” Crixus asked.

“These are not my men,” Cletus said. “I owe no allegiance to any of you.”

“So, you would just leave?”

“Yes. That was a Praetorian guard and a group of militiamen. The Romans are not taking us seriously. Next they will send legions to fight us. Seventy men cannot stand against three thousand or more.”
“Most of us are not cowardly Thracians,” Crixus said. “We are Gauls, and we will fight.”

“I am not Thracian. I am Roman. I will not stay to die. Any of you that value your lives are free to follow.”

Cletus left Mt. Vesuvius and wandered north.

The Adventures of Cletus VI

After a several hour climb up a sheer cliff face, Cletus pulled himself over a massive ledge onto a plateau. A stone table stood at the center of the plateau. A tan, muscular, blonde giant lay chained to the table while four white eagles tore at the giant’s insides. Cletus drew the bow tied to his back and fired arrows. Coated in hydra’s blood, the arrows killed the enormous eagles instantly. Cletus stepped up to the table and tore apart the giant’s shackles.

The freed giant screamed wildly as his body slowly healed.

“Thank you, Heracles,” the giant said. “Or, would you prefer another name? Gilgamesh? Sun Wukong? Monkey King?”

“Cletus is fine.”

“Well, Cletus, I am Prometheus. Thank you for freeing me. Is there anything I can do for you in return?”

“You wouldn’t happen to know of a way to kill a god, would you?” Cletus asked.

“There’s only one real way. People simply have to stop believing in them. However, there are numerous ways to destroy their physical forms.”

“Such as?”

“Fire! Why else would I give fire to humans other than to protect them from the gods’ eventual desire to destroy all of mankind. They’d need some way to defend themselves. There’s also the blood of Artemis’s golden hind. It’s severely toxic to them, and able to kill them instantly. There is the precious adamantine metal made from the stars themselves. Basically any weapon crafted by either the Cyclopes or Hephaestus can injure a god as well.”

“Anything else you can help with?”

“I could tell you more about your future. You will not live forever, Cletus. Don’t believe that your luck will hold out. Buddha granted you everlasting life and youth, but you can be killed. One day, you will be. Not to worry though. You’ve a few thousand more years to deal with still. You’ll be king again, more than once. After your death, you’ll be reborn many times.”

“While it’s nice to know I’ll live through this, it doesn’t help me now,” Cletus said. “How can I get to Mount Olympus?”

“Well, you could climb it, but that wouldn’t get you to their kingdom. It exists in another realm. The Olympians’ own little chunk of the netherworld. I have no answer for you, but I assure you that you will find your way eventually, Cletus.”

“Can you at least tell me how to get down from here without having to climb?”

“Take Zeus’s precious eagles. Use them to glide down. Before you go, I’d like you to have this.”

Prometheus placed his giant hands over Cletus’s. Warmth and weight filled Cletus’s palm. When Prometheus pulled away, Cletus examined the glass sphere. Amber mist filled the inside of the ball. The core of the globe glowed gloriously with a golden light.

“This is my power,” Prometheus said. “As much of my immortal essence as I can spare without dying is locked within that crystal. When the time comes, it will protect you.”

Cletus nodded. He tucked the orb away and grabbed one of the limp eagles. Clutching its talons in his hands, Cletus sprinted over the edge of the plateau.

 

<><><>

 

For the second time in his life, Cletus hunted the golden hind. He chased the animal for almost three years. During that time, he slayed monsters, saved cities, killed an ancient centaur, and impregnated a half-woman, half-snake demon.

Chasing the beast for years finally annoyed Cletus into a new plan. He found a mystical grove sacred to Artemis and fashioned a trap in the grove. Cletus concealed himself in the thick grass near the trap. Hidden in the grove, Cletus waited for the golden hind.

Cletus lay motionless in the grass, an arrow always nocked and ready to fire. Hours ticked by. Cletus did not move. Cletus barely even blinked. Night came, and day returned. Hours gave way to weeks. Seasons changed around Cletus as time moved on. Through snow, rain, and blistering sun, Cletus waited patiently for the golden hind.

One morning, close to dawn, the hind came. It walked with such grace and beauty that it seemed weightless, hovering on the very tips of the blades of grass. Soft, fur coat shimmered in the morning light like fields of goldenrod swaying in a breeze. An entrancing light surrounded the creature’s body. The hind walked across the clearing. It approached Cletus’s long-hidden trap. The hind’s front leg stepped over the trigger. Cletus tensed as he waited. The deer’s back leg fell into the circle of rope.

The trap coiled around the hind’s leg. Cletus fired three arrows before the hind realized that it had been snared. Two arrows caught the animal’s throat, and one hit behind its eye. Precious, god-killing blood spilled on the grass as the hind thrashed about, trying to break free. Cletus approached the flailing creature and bashed the beast’s head in with his club until the hind lay still.

“Now who’s the better hunter, you annoying bitch?” Cletus asked the empty air.

“You fool. What have you done?” asked a silky voice from behind Cletus.

Cletus turned to face a young woman. She stood a full head shorter than Cletus. She seemed fair and innocent, almost childlike. However, her large breasts and wide hips betrayed her age. Her dark hair cascaded down her back from where she tied it behind her head. She wore a bright green tunic, a quiver filled with silver arrows, and a golden bow. Her brownish-green eyes burned furiously into Cletus.

“What have you done, Heracles?” she shouted as she shoved him backward with one hand, tossing the caveman several feet with ease. “You come to my sacred grove and defile it with traps. You smear filth upon my name by killing my treasured animal in my own territory. I do not care if you are my father’s chosen champion, I will destroy you, Heracles.”

Artemis drew her bow and fired an arrow at Cletus. The silver projectile transformed into a bolt of beautiful light as it sliced through the air. Cletus threw up his cloak. The arrow hit the pelt of the Nemean Lion and bounced off into the trees.

“It’s great to see you again too, Artemis,” Cletus said.

Artemis rained arrows at Cletus. The caveman easily blocked all of them.

“You know,” Cletus said, “back in my day, a violent girl like you that liked to hunt and fight would have been beaten to be put in her place. Possibly even eaten too depending on how hard times were. I think I’ll introduce you to the ways of man before the gods came about.”

Artemis continued pelting Cletus with arrows as he rushed her. He swung his club with all his strength. Artemis made no attempt to dodge or defend herself. A look of horror coated her face as the blood-soaked club smashed into her side, shattering her left arm. Artemis dropped her bow and tumbled across the ground.

“Were you unaware that the hind’s blood could hurt you?” Cletus asked, tossing his club aside.

Cletus picked Artemis up. Thick, dark blood dried on the hands that held the goddess. He tossed the small girl into the air and punched her with all his might as she descended. Cletus slowly trudged toward Artemis after she crashed to the ground.

“First off,” Cletus said as he slapped Artemis across the face, “my name isn’t Heracles. To hell with that Greek nonsense. My name is Cletus.”

Artemis cried like a child, tears mixing with blood from her busted lip and nose as both streams streaked down her face. Artemis crawled helplessly across the ground as she tried to escape Cletus.

“I violated your holy ground,” Cletus said. “I slaughtered your treasured animal. I used its blood to beat you into submission. I will use that blood to kill Hera and your father and any other god that stands before me. I will also kill you, but before I do, I am going to destroy everything that makes you who are, Artemis. I hope your family hears your screams and does nothing to save you.”

 

<><><>

 

Weeks later, Cletus walked through a dark tunnel with several large bags over his shoulders. Heat bellowed from deep within the cave. As Cletus continued his journey, a faint red glow appeared at the end of the tunnel.

Flames and smoke belched from the earth as Cletus entered a massive room. Numerous flaming pits and geysers coated the floors. Various junk littered the ground including weapons, armor, metallic creatures, and random half-finished scraps of metalwork. Smoke and steam filled the chamber, drifting up and out of shafts in the domed, volcanic ceiling. A giant stone table rested at the center of the room.

A disgusting behemoth slept against the side of the table. Burns and scars covered the thing’s reddened skin. It wore a loose-fitting, black apron that displayed its gargantuan, rotund belly. Aside from the monster stomach, thick, bulging muscle covered the majority of its body. Except it’s right leg, which had been mangled in such a horrible way that it appeared unnaturally thin and long with three joints.

“Smith god!” Cletus screamed over the earth’s rumbling. “Wake up, Hephaestus. I’ve come to speak with you.”

The lame god roared as he woke and stretched. Rolling onto his stomach, he stared at Cletus. The top of Hephaestus’s head lacked hair, but an unruly mane of red fur surrounded his face. His dirty, tangled beard grew so thick it hid his neck and shoulders. His enormous right eye spun in circles while Hephaestus used his good eye to examine Cletus.

“Heracles,” Hephaestus spoke through one corner of his mouth while the other drooped. “There’s been a lot of talk about you lately, Old One. You’ve stirred up quite a bit of trouble, swearing revenge on Hera and Zeus alike. There’ve even been rumors of you killing mighty Artemis, and that you even killed her twin brother when Apollo came to save her. So, have you come to murder me next on your mad quest for vengeance?”

“I have no bad blood for you, Hephaestus,” Cletus said. “I come here to seek your aid.”

Hephaestus laughed gingerly.

“What aid can I possibly give to you?”

“I need a weapon capable of killing the Olympians, even Zeus himself. I have brought materials that I believe can kill the Olympians.”

Cletus tossed his bags onto the table.

“What’s all this?” Hephaestus asked as he rummaged through the bags.

“There’s a sack with the golden hind in it. I have a waterskin filled with hydra’s blood. I retrieved the adamantine sickle Kronos used to castrate Uranus. There’s also the heads of your siblings, Artemis and Apollo.”

“And you desire a weapon that can kill Zeus?”

“Yes. You are the only one who can make this for me, Hephaestus. I value your work high above that of the Cyclopes.”

“If it’s the death of the Olympians you seek, you’ve come more than prepared,” Hephaestus said as he rubbed his damaged leg. “I’ve wanted to see the death of my parents for a long time. Give me a little while.”

Hephaestus gathered the sacks and disappeared deep within his forge. Cletus sat cross-legged in the volcanic ash and waited for Hephaestus to return.

Several hours later, Hephaestus rumbled back into the room. In his right hand he held a sword surrounded by fire. He handed the sword to the caveman. The blade measured almost twice as long as Cletus stood tall. Black leather wrapped the handle, and a glass ball full of dark red ichor formed the pommel. Cletus looked at his reflection in the bright red blade and smiled.

“I call this sword Zeusbane,” Hephaestus said. “It is the finest weapon I have ever made. The blade is bronze and adamantine smelted together, scorched in the flames of Olympus and tempered with the blood of the hydra and the hind. I folded and shaped the blade, dipped it in the hind’s blood, cooled it in water from Styx, and refolded the alloy six thousand times. I installed an intricate system of living metal circulation to constantly coat the blade in fresh hind’s blood. The leather grip is made from the tanned hide of the sacred deer.

“I worked the essence of the Bringer of Light and the Maiden Huntress into the metal. Anyone who wields the sword will gain a portion of the twins’ strength, speed, and cunning. Not that you’d need it, Old One.

“Finally, I blessed the sword with my own power. When it is near a god, the blade will burst into flames. The more powerful the god is, the hotter and wilder the fire burns. The sword is always hot, able to burn whoever touches it.

“I have given you my divine protection, Heracles. Neither the blade nor flames nor heat of Zeusbane can ever harm you. Though I assure you that it can easily sear the flesh from even Zeus’s bones.”

“I am honored and forever in your gratitude,” Cletus said with a bow. “I have one final request. Will you point me in the direction of Mount Olympus?”

Hephaestus chuckled. “I can do more than that. I have a doorway I can open for you that leads to the castle of the Olympians. Before you go, I want you to know that I’ll help as much as I can. I crafted Hera’s throne centuries ago. At any time, I can activate the magic within it to trap her in the chair. I have robotic creatures hiding throughout Olympus. They will take your side in the fight.”

Hephaestus led Cletus to a giant metal ring. The god fiddled with the ring. The ring clicked and spat out smoke, but would not start. Hephaestus kicked the machine, and it buzzed to life. Blue light filled the ring and flickered until a view of a beautiful city made of crystal, marble, gold, and bronze appeared. Cletus nodded at Hephaestus. Armed with the Nemean cloak, the bow of Artemis, a quiver filled with gold and silver arrows stolen from Apollo and Artemis, his club, and the god-slaying sword; the caveman charged through the gate to Mount Olympus.

Cletus stepped out of the gate right at the entrance to the Olympic castle. He immediately heard a frightened gasp. Looking up, Cletus saw a silver-haired boy in a white tunic, winged sandals and a winged cap sitting against the wall above the castle entrance. The boy jumped down and sprinted into the castle before Cletus could draw his bow.

Nocking a golden arrow into Artemis’s bow, Cletus ran into the castle. Hordes of filthy dogs, wild pigs, and vultures greeted Cletus in the entrance hall. Cletus fired arrows that ignited into beams of light as they soared at their targets. Cletus kicked any animals that came too close as he launched volleys of arrows into the swarm of beasts.

A blood-curdling scream filled the hall. A crazed, muscular man sprinted toward Cletus. The man wore only a helmet and a small loin cloth. The man carried a spear and shield. Loose chains wrapped his arms and legs. A cluster of lesser gods dressed in similar fashion raced behind their leader.

“Heracles!” the head god snarled.

“God of War!” Cletus barked back. “Can you not face me without your swarm of underlings?”

Cletus dropped Artemis’s bow as he drew Zeusbane from his back. Brilliant red flame engulfed the weapon. Ares thrust his spear at Cletus, but Cletus knocked the blow aside. Cletus swung his greatsword at Ares. Zeusbane clashed against the war god’s shield. The shield protected Ares, but the flaming sword crushed the shield. Ares threw the twisted metal away and lunged at Cletus. The caveman parried the strike and cut the spear in two.

Ares unleashed a hysterical war cry as he attacked the caveman with his bare hands. The god punched Cletus across the room. Cletus lost his grip on Zeusbane, and the magic sword skidded across the floor. Ares pounced upon the weapon to claim it. The moment Ares grabbed the sword, fire consumed his hands. The god of war screamed in agony as he dropped the sword from his blackened hands. Cletus tackled Ares to the ground. Cletus grabbed the blade and brought it down ferociously. Ares’s head split in half all the way down to his jaw.

Ares convulsed wildly. Flames and red mist poured from his wounds. The body withered into ash and disappeared. A distorted face of anguish formed in the red smoke. The cloud flew around the room, wailing like a banshee before fading.

Cletus returned Zeusbane to his back. Grabbing his stolen bow, he pushed on. At the top of a mountain of ivory stairs, Cletus burst into a massive throne room. A circle of twelve gigantic thrones lined the walls. A brilliant map of the world painted the floor. With the exception of Hades and Poseidon, the remaining Olympians fought robotic spiders in the throne room. Hera stayed motionless on her throne and watched the others battle Hephaestus’s mechanical creatures.

Cletus loosed waves of arrows. Within moments, the dying Olympians filled the room with smoke and lights with only Hera remaining. The caveman tossed Artemis’s bow to the ground and drew Zeusbane, now blazing with a white flame up to Cletus’s elbow. Cletus sprinted at the queen of the gods and cut her head off.

Storm clouds filled the room with darkness. Lightning flashed. Thunder shook the ground. “Cletus!” Zeus bellowed as he appeared at the center of the room.

“I have no desire to kill you here, Zeus,” Cletus said. “It is your fault that I’m standing in this situation now, but you have given me incredible gifts. With your Eyes, I see the world as no other man could. You ensured my life would be one of excitement. Hera and her brood tormented me for years, but now they are gone. I am at ease. Step aside and allow me to leave peacefully.”

“You think that you can murder my entire family, my wife and children, and then leave here in peace?” Zeus asked, shaking the castle with each thunderous word. “You are a fool, Old One.”

An eight-foot bolt of white energy formed in Zeus’s hand. The god swung the rod of light, firing off a jet of lightning at Cletus. The caveman threw up the Nemean cloak, deflecting the lightning just in time. Zeus stormed forward, sliding across the ground on streams of electricity. Cletus threw up Zeusbane to block an electrified punch from the Olympian king. With Zeus so near, the flames around the sword spread into a massive, blue pyre surrounding Cletus. Zeus reached for the caveman’s throat, but Zeusbane’s protective flames charred Zeus to the bone.

“You dare protect him, Hephaestus?” Zeus asked the sky as he backed away from Cletus. “You freak. You are no son of mine.” Setting his icy gaze back on Cletus, Zeus said, “I have made you far too powerful, Ancient One.”

Energy whirled through Cletus, surging from every inch of his body. The power moved to his chest where it launched from his body as a bolt of blue lightning. Zeus collected the energy in his palm, forming a glowing blue sphere the size of a marble.

“Now,” Zeus said, “you lack the power I gave you. You are nothing more than a very old man.”

Fatigue washed over Cletus, but the caveman still laughed maniacally.

“I don’t need that to stop you!”

Cletus swung Zeusbane, unleashing a whirlwind of flames into the room. The flaming tornado engulfed Zeus for a brief moment. The fire died out as power left Zeus. The god crumpled to the floor.

“While I’m technically not human since I’m a Neanderthal,” Cletus said calmly as he walked toward Zeus, “I, like every other person, have a power that you lack and cannot understand. We have imaginations.

“I am over a quarter million years old. You Olympians didn’t exist at all back in my time. No gods did yet. All of you came to life from the imagination of mankind. Since enough people believed that you were real, you became real. Rest assured though. Eventually, people will stop believing in you. Then, when there’s no trace left of you in any man’s mind, you’ll finally weaken and disappear.

“I’m leaving you now. Please, do not proceed with more violence, or I will strike you down.”

Cletus turned to leave. Zeus growled savagely as he heaved his burned body into a final attack. Cletus spun around and stabbed Zeusbane hilt-deep into the god’s chest. Electric blue smoke poured from the wound. The mist drifted, forming a massive cloud. Lightning and storms formed in the cloud of blue smoke. The storm changed into the face of Zeus.

The god’s raw essence launched at Cletus. The caveman threw up Zeusbane to block the ghost’s assault. Uninhibited by his physical form, the powers of Zeusbane no longer harmed the Olympian. Zeus tore through the blade.

Instantly, Prometheus’s crystal exploded into a wave of amber light around Cletus. The Titan’s essence shielded Cletus from Zeus. The ball of energy lifted Cletus into the sky and zoomed toward the horizon.

“Cletus,” Prometheus’s voice filled the bubble, “to protect you, I must take you far away. I must take you to a place where no one worships Zeus. By killing him, you released his purest energy and truest form. Striking Zeus down made him infinitely more powerful. Soon, he will go mad, destroying all that remains of the Olympians before slowly dying.

“I am taking you north. Your new home will be a place where civilized men have not yet lived. Please, try to live a happy, peaceful life there, Cletus.

The sphere of amber light crashed into a muddy riverbank, knocking Cletus unconscious upon impact.

The Adventures of Cletus V

Cletus, his partner Iolaus, and his caddy boy, Prince Hyas, rode a boat across the River of Nemea to hunt down the Nemean Lion for Eurystheus. Cletus valiantly led the way to fight with the monstrous creature from the front of the boat by taking a nap while Iolaus rowed toward the island at the center of the river.

“Heracles, how will you kill the Nemean Lion?” Hyas asked.

“Shut up,” Cletus said. “I am trying to sleep. Besides, I’m just gonna kill the damn thing. End of story.”

“But its skin cannot be penetrated.”

“I’ve killed immortal things before,” Cletus said to the boy. “I don’t plan to penetrate its skin. I’m going to take the magic club that’s hidden in my ear and hit it in the head until its brain bounces around in its skull so hard that it explodes.”

“Why would you even think of trying that?” Iolaus asked as he continued to row the boat with his strained arms.

“Have you ever killed something with a club? I mean just walked up and starting beating in some guy’s head with a huge stick? It feels good.”

“I just don’t understand how you will kill something that’s immortal,” Hyas said.

“Listen,” Cletus growled. He sat up and jabbed his finger in Hyas’s face. “If you don’t shut up and let me sleep, I’m gonna bend you over my knee and beat your as with my club.”

“But sir,” Hyas said.

The rest of the afternoon went poorly for the boy.

Cletus and Iolaus walked briskly toward the town nearest the riverbank. Hyas limped along a few feet behind. The townspeople eyed the group nervously. Cletus needed a good source of information. He scanned the town square. A naked, old man holding a metal bowl sat against the well in the center of the courtyard. Cletus decided that guy would be the best source of information in the town since old, crazy people always knew the best things to talk about.

“Hey, old geezer,” Cletus said. “How’s about you tell me what you know about the Nemean Lion.”

The old man looked up at Cletus with weary eyes. “Joshua,” the old man said, “is that you? I haven’t seen you since we was boys. We both worked for Irgus in Sparta.”

“My name’s Heracles, you old bastard. Now, what do you know about the Nemean Lion?”

“The Lion lives in a cave south of the city, due west from the city center,” the man said as he pointed north.

“What else can you tell us?” Iolaus asked.

“Why should I tell you anything? How about you fill my bowl with some coins or something?”

“How about I piss in your bowl?” Cletus asked. The man’s jaw dropped open, and he raised one eyebrow. “No,” Cletus said, “seriously, I piss gold.”

“Well, in that case. Let me tell you all about it. The Nemean Lion comes to the towns around his cave at night. He kidnaps young girls and takes them to the cave. The Lion uses the girls to lure in young, brave warriors that try to rescue the girls. The warriors enter the cave from one of the two ways in. When they see the girls lying there, injured from the horrible things the Lion did, the warriors rush to her side. The moment the young guy gets close enough, the woman transforms! She turns into the Lion and kills the lad, eats his innards, and gives his cleaned bones to Hades himself.”

Cletus brought his face right up against the old man’s and listened in amazement. “How’d you know the Lion’s a boy lion?” Cletus whispered in childish curiosity.

“Well, that’s easy. Nothing that beautiful and evil could possibly be a woman.”

“What a bunch of psychotic horse shit,” Cletus said. Cletus lifted his loincloth and unleashed a disgusting, amber fluid into the man’s bowl. “I told you my piss was golden.”

A small boy with dark, curly hair ran up to the caveman as Cletus and his two companions walked away from the old beggar.

“Ya know, kid,” Cletus said as he knelt down, “you could be my kid. Just look at that messy hair, those thick knuckles, the unusual amount of hair all over your body despite your young age. Who’s your mother?”

“I’m an orphan,” the boy responded. “The Lion killed my mother.”

“Bad things happen to bad people, kid.”

“Heracles, are you really going to kill the Lion?”

“Yeah, I am,” Cletus said. “And after I kill it, I’m going to rub that shit all up in Eurysthedick’s face.”

“I’ll make you a deal,” the boy said. “If the Lion is dead within thirty days, I will find and kill my own lion. I’ll sacrifice the lion to Zeus. If you cannot kill the beast, I’ll sacrifice myself instead.”

“So, if I fail, you’re going to kill yourself?” Cletus asked. “Not like I’d lose anything from it. Go for it, kid.”

Cletus stalked the massive, golden Lion for days. As he followed the Nemean Lion, Cletus constantly fired arrows that bounced off its impenetrable skin. One day, Cletus fired an arrow directly into the Lion’s eye. The creature screamed in agony and ran into its cave.

“So, eyes aren’t invincible,” Cletus said. “That’s good to know. Maybe all his insides are soft.”

Cletus’s eyes glowed a brilliant, electrical sapphire. The Eyes of Zeus revealed the two entrances to the Lion’s cave, marking the locations with pillars of blue light in Cletus’s vision.

“That dirty, old bastard from the town was right about there being two entrances,” Cletus said. “Iolaus, follow me. We’re gonna find a way to close off one opening.”

Cletus and Iolaus ran around the small, rocky hillside. Around the other side, they discovered a small tunnel leading down into the earth beneath the hill. After examining the hillside, Cletus pushed a large boulder over the opening to the tunnel.

“Time to go kill this cat,” Cletus said before running back around to the second entrance. “Hyas, give me a shield.” Cletus whipped his iron pole from his ear.

“Your grace,” Hyas said, “a shield will be useless. The claws of the Nemean Lion can cut through any armor.”

“Just shut up, and do what I said.”

Armed with his ancient club and a massive, round shield, Cletus ventured into the Lion’s den. Inside the pitch black cave, Cletus’s eyes glowed brightly with lightning to guide him. Deep within the cave, Cletus found the Lion trying to pull the arrow from its eye socket. With a powerful roar, Cletus charged the Lion.

The Lion unleashed a roar ten times more ferocious as it attacked Cletus. The Lion slashed at the caveman. Cletus defended himself with the shield, but the Lion’s claws simply cut away a chunk of the polished bronze.

“Well, that was useless,” Cletus said as he threw the shield at the Nemean Lion. “Should’ve listened to the boy.”

Cletus charged the Lion once more, violently swinging his club. The mystical iron of the weapon smashed into the Lion’s face to no avail. Finally, Cletus hammered his club into the Lion’s uninjured eye. The Lion reared back, roaring and flailing in pain. Cletus leaped into the air and forced his club deep into the Lion’s throat. The Lion choked and gagged on the club, attempting to claw at the iron pole. Cletus jumped into the air. He landed on the end of the club, bashing it through the roof of the creature’s mouth and into the Lion’s brain. Gore sprayed from the Lion’s ears and nose.

“I told Hyas I was going to make its brain explode,” Cletus said as he retrieved his club. “Now, I’ve just gotta find a way to skin this thing.”

The next day, Cletus strolled into Nemea wearing a golden cloak made from the pelt of the Nemean Lion. On his left hand he wore a glove fashioned with three of the Lion’s claws extending from his knuckles. Daggers made from claws hung from his belt.

“Where’s my little twin?” Cletus shouted as he reached the town square.

“You talking about me, Joshua?” the old man shouted as he ran toward Cletus.

Cletus kicked the old beggar in the face and shouted, “My name’s Heracles, you old bastard!”

The boy with the curly brown hair walked up to Cletus. “So, you killed the Lion within the time limit,” the boy said. “Now, I have to go kill my own lion.”

“You’re damn right you do,” Cletus said as he dropped to one knee. Cletus handed the boy one of the Lion claw daggers. “Use this when you go hunting for the lion. It can cut through pretty much anything.” Cletus dropped a bag down beside the boy. “Also, until you get your own lion, you can just burn this for your sacrifice. It’s all the bones and viscera from the Nemean Lion. I kept all the good meat, but I’m sure the gods will appreciate it.”

“Thank you, Heracles,” the boy said as he ran off with the dagger and the bag of innards.

Cletus and his companions returned to the court of King Eurystheus. Cletus walked in, flaunting the pelt of the Nemean Lion. “I finished it,” Cletus said to Eurystheus.

“Give me the Lion’s hide,” the king said.

“You can have it when you pry it from my dead fingers.”

Eurystheus snarled at Cletus. “Very well,” he said calmly. “Since you could not be bested by the Nemean Lion, I assure you that the next labor will be far more challenging for you.”

“We’ll see.”

“You shall go to Lake Lerna where you will battle the demonic hydra that dwells in the nearby swamp,” Eurystheus said. “You will return its head to me as a gift and a token of gratitude for allowing you to live.”

“You do realize that I’ve got several thousand years worth of experience in fighting monsters, right? This isn’t really a challenge for me.”

“Be gone!”

Cletus and his crew travelled to Lake Lerna, and then to the nearby swamp the lake drained into. Cletus and Iolaus approached the Fountain of Amymone where the monster dwelled. The two wore strips of cloth over their faces to keep from breathing in the putrid, purple gas that seeped out of the swamp. Iolaus carried a dagger and a flaming torch. Cletus wore the Nemean cloak with a sword, bow and quiver slung to his back. As the two neared the cave, Iolaus said, “They hydra only comes out of its cave when it attacks nearby villages. We’ll have to go in there.”

Cletus looked into the deep, black cave. “I’ve had enough of going into monsters’ dens. We can draw it out.”

Cletus pulled the bow off his back. He drew several arrows, lit them ablaze with Iolaus’s torch, and fired the volley of flaming arrows into the cave. A few moments later, a massive, snake-like beast slithered out of the cave. It had two legs at the front of its body that it used to drag itself forward. The hydra’s watery, green skin hanged loosely from its body. Nine, thin necks sprouted from its thick trunk, each ending in a snake head the size of a small boulder.

Cletus snorted and shrugged. Grasping his sword, he said, “Eurystheus wants me to bring him the head of the Lernean Hydra. I’ll bring him one of them.”

Cletus rushed the monster. The hydra’s heads snapped at Cletus, but he quickly dodged the jaws. Cletus cut off one head. Blood splashed across his arm as he did, searing his flesh. Cletus picked up the head and jogged back toward Iolaus. “Watch out for the blood,” Cletus said as he handed the head to his partner. “It’s poisonous.”

“Heracles, I think you should take a look behind you,” Iolaus said, pointing his torch back in the direction of the hydra.

Where Cletus had cut the head off the hydra, the wounded stump glazed over with a thin layer of flesh. The stump pulsed and swelled. Two new heads burst from the stump. Cletus crinkled his nose. Cletus charged at the monster again. Cletus danced around, dodging strikes from the monster as he sliced off more heads. Within five minutes, hydra heads littered the ground around Cletus. The hydra’s number of heads had increased to at least three dozen.

“Heracles,” Iolaus called, “what if we burned the stumps?”

“You could burn the stumps as I cut the heads off,” Cletus said. “That way, we’d cauterize the wounds before the heads grow back. That’s a great plan, Iolaus. Watch out for the blood though.”

Cletus and Iolaus bolted at the hydra together. Cletus cut off heads while Iolaus fell in behind, burning the stumps before they grew back. The two made short work of the hydra. After cutting off the last head, Cletus put them all in a bag. He dipped his sword and arrows in the hydra’s blood, coating them with this poison. He even filled a waterskin with the caustic blood to use later.

Upon returning to Eurystheus, Cletus received a new task. Eurystheus burned with rage after Cletus had managed to escape death twice. Not only that, but killing the monster had only brought Cletus more glory. Grecians praised the name of Heracles in their daily lives as if Cletus sat upon Olympus with the gods. Eurystheus decided to take his time thinking of the next tasks. He wanted to humiliate Cletus rather than bring him fame. Cletus had to sleep in the dungeon for months while Eurystheus pondered what the third labor would be.

Finally, Eurystheus sent Cletus to capture the Ceryneian Hind, so fast that it could outrun arrows shot at it. Cletus began his journey. Once he found the hind, Cletus chased it on foot for a full year. Cletus hunted the hind all over the globe before he captured the hind while it slept.

As Cletus returned to Eurystheus with the hind, Artemis and Apollo approached him. Artemis held the Ceryneian Hind sacred. She threatened to curse Cletus for capturing the Hind, but Cletus explained his situation and begged for forgiveness. Artemis told Cletus to release the animal and that the labor would be considered completed. The Goddess of the Hunt went on to chastise Eurystheus herself.

The next several labors proved to be either nearly impossible or humiliating. Cletus slaughtered the Erymanthian Boar, reshaped a river to clean the Augean Stables, and shot down the man-eating, Stymphalian Birds. Cletus defeated the Cretan Bull, stole Diomedes’s insane horses, and wrestled with the queen of the Amazons to steal her magic belt. Cletus sailed across the world in the golden cup of Helios. He killed the demon Geryon and stole the demon’s cattle before herding the beasts all the way back to Eurystheus’s court.

Eurystheus grew angrier with each task Cletus fulfilled. Despite having completed ten trials as the Oracle instructed, Eurystheus forced Cletus to do more. Eurystheus claimed killing the hydra and cleaning the stables did not count as successful since Cletus had help. Since his immortality was on the line, Cletus didn’t argue much.

As his eleventh labor, Cletus travelled to the Garden of the Hesperides, Hera’s personal orchard far to the west. A single tree grew in the orchard that produced golden apples. Hera’s apples gave anyone who ate them immortality. Hera distrusted the beautiful nymphs tasked with tending to the orchard. To prevent the Hesperides from eating the apples, a hundred-headed dragon guarded the tree.

Cletus realized he’d never be able to sneak past the dragon. In the upper portion of the orchard stood a mountain. Atop the mountain, the Titan Atlas held up the heavens eternally. Atlas had fathered all the Hesperides. Only Atlas could safely pass the massive dragon in the orchard. Cletus approached Atlas while the Titan struggled between Earth and Sky. “How’s it going, big guy?” Cletus asked.

The bearded giant towered over Cletus. The Titan stood five times the size of the caveman. “How do you think it’s going, Old Man?” Atlas asked.

“I’ve actually come here to give you a hand. Well, I’ll help you as long as you agree to help me.”

“Go on.”

“I’ll take the celestial sphere from you. While I’m holding them up, you go down there and pick a couple of those golden apples for me. You get a break. I get some apples. How about it?”

Atlas laughed, shaking the mountains around them. “Does little old Ladon frighten you, Old Man? Take the heavens, and I’ll retrieve your apples.”

Cletus stayed crushed between Earth and Sky for several hours. The experience reminded him of being trapped beneath Five Elements Mountain. Atlas returned with three of the golden apples.

“So, Old Man,” Atlas said. “I don’t think I want to go back under there. I’m just going to leave you there. Sorry about the mess.”

“If you’re going to force me to take on your burden, could you at least do me one more favor?”

“What?”

“Could you hold onto the sky for a moment so that I can adjust my cloak? I need some padding on my shoulders if I’m going to be doing this forever.”

Atlas took the celestial sphere back from Cletus. The caveman grabbed the apples. “Sucker.”

“You tricked me!” Atlas shouted.

“LIke you weren’t trying to do the same thing to me. At least I’m not stupid enough to fall for something like that.”

“Have you no honor, Old Man?”

Cletus sighed. “I’ll make you a deal big guy. Someday, I’ll build something to hold these things up for you. I promise.”

“Thank you, Old Man. It means a lot to me.”

Cletus left Atlas and took the golden apples to Eurystheus. Along the way, he paused for a few weeks to reshape a small isthmus between Europe and Africa into two rocky pillars to hold up the sky for Atlas.

For his final labor, Cletus had to bring Eurystheus the three-headed dog that guarded the underworld.

“How in the name of hell am I supposed to make it to the land of the dead if I’m not dead?” Cletus asked his cronies.

“The Mysteries,” Hyas said. “If you learn all the Great Mysteries, you’ll learn the way to the underworld.”

Within a few days, the group arrived at Eleusis to take part in the Eleusinian Mysteries. Cletus sacrificed two piglets and bathed in the River Ilissos to purify his soul. Cletus swore to secrecy before being led into a cave by Eleusinian priests. There, he found a chest and a basket. From the chest, Cletus took a golden snake and a massive egg along with a gigantic, wooden phallus. Inside the basket, Cletus found countless seeds and an ear of corn.

Cletus ate a seed. He took the corn and touched it to his forehead before returning it to the basket. He ran his hand over the golden snake. Cletus took the egg and the wooden dildo. He walked to a small pool and waded into the water. Cletus sank to the bottom of the pool. He saw horrible, disgusting visions of pain and suffering. He experienced rape, starvation, and death. Then, he felt warmth, love, and a sense of understanding time far beyond what he could imagine. A voice came to him in the visions.

“You, a man, will be elevated above the human sphere of life,” the voice said to Cletus. “You will climb the tower and enter the divine sphere. Coming to this place to learn these things will assure your redemption. Your soul will be made that of a god, conferring to it immortality beyond even that which you hold.”

When the vision finished, Cletus felt changed. He understood the miseries of his soul while it remained trapped within his body, and Cletus knew the bliss of his soul both in life and after.

Cletus took the objects, carrying everything in the basket. He continued the ridiculous ritual with a ten-day walk while starving and only drinking a terrible fluid the priests provided. Cletus met with the Underworld’s Judges and heroes of old. The spirits conferred with Cletus the secrets of reaching the underworld while still living.

“I have to go alone,” Cletus told Iolaus and Hyas. “It’s something only I can do.”

Cletus travelled to Cape Tenaron, where he discovered the entrance to the lands of Hades. Cletus scowled and frowned fiercely to appear dead to convince Charon. Once Cletus made it into the main kingdom, he sought out Hades. Cletus stood in front of the lord of the dead. Cletus asked, “Lord Hades, would you give me permission to carry Cerberus to the surface?”

Hades scratched at his thick, black beard. He said, “If you can overcome my dog without using any weapons, you may take him.”

Cletus went to Cerberus, a three-headed dog larger than Cletus. Cletus easily wrestled with the beast and won, carrying it with him back to Eurystheus.

“Here you go, bastard,” Cletus said as he release Cerberus in the king’s court.

The dog stormed around happily, belching fire from its mouths as it yelped and jumped about.

“Get it out!” Eurystheus shouted. “If you take it back to Hades, I’ll release you from your bonds.”

“Done.”

Cletus, Iolaus, and Hyas joined the Argonauts on an adventure to find the golden fleece. Sadly, Cletus lost Hyas on that adventure when nymphs kidnapped the boy. Cletus fell in love with Princess Iole of Oechalia. King Eurytus of Oechalia promised his daughter to whoever could beat his sons in an archery contest. Cletus won, but Eurytus abandoned his promise. The king and his sons spurned Cletus’s advances on Iole, except for one; Iole’s brother Iphitus. Cletus killed the king and his sons, sparing Iphitus, and married Iole. Iphitus became Cletus’s best friend. However, once again, Hera drove Cletus mad. Cletus threw Iphitus over the city wall to his death.

Looking down from where he had killed yet another loved one, Cletus dropped to his knees and screamed with rage. Rain poured down around him, hiding his tears. Cletus said, “Damn you, Hera. Damn you, Zeus. Damn all the gods. I will find you, and I will kill you all.”

The Adventures of Cletus IV

Cletus sat in a nice, grassy field, foggy and confused after teleporting off a spaceship in mid-hyperspace jump. As Cletus played with butterflies and flowers, dark clouds formed in the air above. A bolt of lightning shot down from the sky, electrocuting the poor caveman. His vision blurred over. Blue light blinded Cletus completely. A shadow the size of a mountain moved through the light toward Cletus.

“I have awaited your arrival, Old One,” a monstrous voice said, thunder echoing around Cletus as the shadow spoke.

“Who are you?” Cletus asked.

“I am Zeus, Lord of Olympus, most powerful of the gods, ruler of the skies,” the voice boomed. “I am sending you this vision.”

“I kind of already belong to one god,” Cletus said. “His name’s Buddha. He’s pretty cool. Maybe you know him?”

“Silence!” Zeus less as he hit Cletus with several more lightning bolts. “I will give you a great power to accompany that which was given to you by the fat, peaceful one if you agree to protect my son. He will be born of a mortal woman, and my wife Hera will try to kill him. Protect him, and you shall be rewarded.”

“Fine, just let me go,” Cletus agreed.

Cletus launched through the sky in a bolt of lightning. He landed in a massive explosion of fire and earth. As he crawled out of his crater, he noticed the day had grown dark.

Bastard wasted my whole day, Cletus thought.

Cletus smelled blood in the air around him. Cletus assumed some predator had killed an animal. If something had indeed killed something else, Cletus intended to steal the prey and eat the animal himself. Cletus set out stalking toward the scent of fresh blood.

Ten minutes later, Cletus came upon a house. Inside, a woman wailed in pain. Realizing the scent came from human blood disappointed Cletus. Then, he shrugged. Food was food. Cletus entered the house without knocking. Inside a man stood looking at the floor. Not far from the guy, an ugly woman kneeled with a basin of hot water and some rages. Another woman lay naked and screaming beside the ugly woman. Upon further inspection, Cletus realized the screaming woman’s loins appeared to be a frightening mess of blood. The thing looked like a sickly yellow abyss that stared back at Cletus. Cletus jumped back and looked away.

“I did not need to see that.”

“Who are you?” the man asked, only then noticing that someone had intruded into his home while he, his wife, and the ugly maid enjoyed the most unusual party Cletus had ever seen.

“I’m Cletus. I came because I smelled blood and heard screaming. What the hell is wrong with her?”

“My wife is giving birth to our first child,” the man said.

“Okay. So, the one screaming is the baby fountain. The ugly one is the midwife. Who’s the girl in the corner?” Cletus pointed to a woman tied up in the corner of the room, struggling to free herself.

“What are you talking about?” the midwife asked.

“What do you mean?” Cletus asked. “There’s a woman right there in the corner tied up with white cloth. She’s wearing a robe, has olive branches in her hair. I think she may have three breasts. She may or may not be glowing gold as well.”

“That’s Ilithyia!” the midwife shouted. “She’s the goddess of childbirth. I feared that she had abandoned Alcmene since the baby still hasn’t been born. You can see her?”

“Yeah, she’s tied up over there,” Cletus said. “I came here to get food, and if this lady is just gonna sit there tied up while all the childbearing is happening, I’m going to eat her.”

At this, Ilithyia screamed. While she jumped away from Cletus, the goddess managed to fight her way out of the ropes, as well as her robes. The naked goddess walked over to Alcmene and placed her hand on the pregnant woman’s stomach. Almost immediately, a baby slid from Alcmene’s loins. While the midwife cleaned the child and cut the umbilical cord, Ilithyia spoke to Cletus.

“So, you can see me?” the goddess asked.

“Yeah, why can’t they? Are they stupid? I mean, it’s cool if they are, but I feel that it’s something that I should know beforehand in case I decided to sleep with the ugly one.”

“No, I can see lightning in you. You’ve been given the Eyes of Zeus. You were chosen to defend this child from Hera’s wrath?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“Who do you think tried to stop the child from being born?” Ilithyia asked.

“Sounds like a few gods I’ve met before,” Cletus said.

The father walked up to Cletus. “Please, since you freed Ilithyia and aided in the birth of my son, tell me your name so that he may carry it as well.”

“I already told you. My name’s Cletus, but you should call the kid Cletus Two or Clets or something else similar. I’m sort of going to be around for a long while, and I don’t need that kid ruining my good name.”

“I think we’ll call him Iphicles,” the father said.

“Suit yourself.” Cletus looked at the baby, who had been born with a full head of black hair. He then looked at the mother, a redhead. Cletus looked at the blonde father. He looked back at the mother. At the baby. At the father. At the baby. “Dude, you are most definitely not the father of that kid,” Cletus said. “She was getting porked by someone else. You should stone her to death and eat the bastard. Here, I’ll even help you. I’m super hungry.”

“Wait!” the father yelled.

“What?” Cletus asked. “Sorry, I don’t actually know where the hell I’m at, or why you’re wearing so many clothes, or how I know that we’re speaking Greek, or how I know Greek for that matter, but where I come from, that’s how this is handled. You kill the woman. Eat the kid. Find a new woman.”

“Listen, I’m Amphitryon,” the father said. “I’ll allow you to stay here in our home tonight as a reward for saving the goddess Ilithyia.”

Cletus slept in the same room as the baby, which sucked because the kid still smelled awful to the caveman’s sensitive nose. Cletus’s growling stomach kept him up since Amphitryon had failed to feed Cletus. The caveman contemplated the consequences of eating a baby that was possibly the child of the King of Olympus.

While weighing the pros and cons, Cletus heard something scraping across the stone floor. Lighting one of the candles in the room, he cast as much light as possible toward the noise. Two massive snakes coiled around the base the baby’s crib. One of them reared back to strike the baby.

“You aren’t eating my food!” Cletus shouted as he dove for the snakes. Cletus fought with the snakes, strangling them and tossing them about the room. After killing the snakes, Cletus ate them raw.

“Check it, Ifacletus,” he said to the baby, “this one had a rattle. Here’s your first toy. See? Your parents are deadbeats. I’m going to totally raise you as my own.”

Cletus looked up from his half-eaten snake as Amphitryon and Alcmene came into the room. “I saved your kid. You owe me three wishes,” Cletus said.

“Twice you have saved the life of my firstborn son,” Amphitryon said. “I must repay you greatly.”

“I’ve already told you this kid isn’t yours; however, gold will do nicely.”

“We have no wealth, but I can make you a member of this family,” Amphitryon promised. “I will adopt you as my foster son and provide for you until you are of age.”

“Despite my boyish good looks,” Cletus said as he scratched at his beard, “I’m pretty sure I’m older than you by a few thousand years. Who are you kidding with this foster son thing?”

“I could pay for teachers as I would for any other son. I’ll be sure to only get instructors who will teach you the finest arts that will reward with great wealth and fame.”

“That could work out,” Cletus replied. “I need a new gig ever since giving up on ruling the world.”

Cletus became Amphitryon and Alcmene’s adopted child. They had a horrible habit of calling the caveman Alcides instead of Cletus though. While there, Cletus wanted to be the best big brother ever and teach Ifacletus cool hobbies like ignoring their parents, spitting on things, pissing on people, pooping wherever he wanted, and being apathetic about everything. However, the kid seemed to be a master at most of those from the start.

Cletus learned to control the non-useless gifts granted to him by the Eyes of Zeus. The Eyes gave Cletus the ability to see and converse with the gods of Olympus. He could see spirits and other things that normally stayed invisible to regular people, like sound and smells. The Eyes of Zeus worked like being on numerous drugs at once. The Eyes increased Cletus’s reaction speed. His reflexes developed to lightning levels. The Eyes of Zeus led Cletus anywhere he needed to go with a trail of small balls of lightning. Cletus thought the Eyes let him see through his own clothes, but realized he had been naked for an extremely long time.

Amphitryon set Cletus up to become a painter. Cletus enjoyed art. He excelled at painting, but kept drawing boobs on everything. When his teacher told Amphitryon, Amphitryon became enraged. After Amphitryon chastised Cletus, Cletus progressed to just drawing dicks everywhere.

Since the art degree failed, Amphitryon hired a man named Linus to teach Cletus how to play music. Cletus sucked at everything except the lyre. Cletus learned to play the lyre like he had been born to do so. Cletus moved mountains with the instrument in his hands. Hearing Cletus play the lyre made women swoon and men weep. The kings of Earth bowed at Cletus’s feet whenever he played. Thanks to Linus, Cletus became the world’s first international rock star. At least Cletus would have done those things if Linus had not attempted to correct Cletus every time the caveman plucked a string. If Linus had not questioned Cletus’s talent with the lyre, Cletus would not have killed Linus with the instrument.

After Linus’s murder, Amphitryon banished Cletus to live in the mountains and take care of the family’s cows. This actually went well for a few weeks. Cletus lived on his own in the wild with nothing but trees and fields and cows around him. He only at to care for himself and all the cattle. Cletus needed adventure. Herding cattle bored Cletus. He found adventure in bare knuckle boxing with cows, which usually ended with Cletus eating the defeated cow. Often times he would just throw the cow over a cliff while screaming, “There can be only one!”

Once Cletus had slaughtered all the cattle, he wandered the mountains on his own. One day a trail of lightning balls appeared in the forests. Cletus followed the path to a small pond surrounded by willow trees. He heard small girls laughing in the clearing. From the water rose a tall, beautiful blonde with olive skin. Seashells and seaweed barely hid the woman’s delicate features. From the trees came a short, pale girl with shoulder length black hair and brown eyes. A full dress of grass and flowers covered the second girl from neck to ankle.

“We are nymphs sent by Zeus,” the blonde said.

“We are sent to reward you for protecting his mortal son, Iphicles,” the pale girl added.

“Hera no longer desires the life of the boy.”

“Zeus is giving you the opportunity to choose your reward since he forced you into his service.”

“I am Virtue,” the blonde said. “If you come with me now, Zeus will alter your destiny to ensure that you will live a peaceful life. You will have a life filled with women, riches, and happiness.”

“I am Pleasure,” the dark haired nymph told him. “To choose me would mean to choose a harsh, horrible, painful life, but it will be filled with glory and adventure.”

Cletus considered his options for a moment. “I’ll take you,” he said, pointing to Pleasure. “I’m not into blondes.”

Pleasure took Cletus’s hand and led him away into the forest.

Cletus lived a life of adventure. He discovered how to survive off the land and coax spirits and nymphs into helping him from the goat man, Pan. The goddess Artemis taught him how to make a bow and arrows. He learned how to correctly wrestle from Autolycus and even won several tournaments. Cletus captured and tamed a flying horse. Cletus killed a manticore and slaughtered a gorgon. Cletus gained a stable boy Iolaus as his chariot driver and best friend. Cletus murdered the Minotaur with only some string and his bare hands. Cletus agreed to save the city of Troy from a sea monster in exchange for magic horses, but when the king failed to follow through, Cletus destroyed most of the city. He killed the king and all but one of the king’s sons. He was attacked by the Dryopians while wandering the woods. After killing their king, the Dryopians gave up the king’s son, Prince Hyas, as a war prize to Cletus. Cletus employed the prince as a glorified pack mule. Cletus fathered the first of the Spartans and established the city of Toronto, Italy. He strangled Death and lost a drinking contest to the god of wine, Dionysus. Cletus even killed an immortal giant by choking the giant while holding it in the air.

Everyone in Greece knew the hero Cletus. Adventuring made him rich with many spoils including Medusa’s head, a golden veil, the Minotaur’s skull, a mirror shield, a helmet of invisibility, a magic box, and tons of other things Hyas had to carry everywhere. The city states made Cletus the High King of Greece, but since he never returned from exploring, they gave the title to Amphitryon’s nephew Eurystheus instead. Cletus ignored the slight because he married a princess anyway. Cletus married Megara, daughter of the king of Thebes.

Cletus and Meg produced several children, and life went well for a few years. Then, Hera finally decided to seek her revenge on Cletus for protecting Zeus’s bastard child. Hera enraged Cletus, driving him insane. He thought demons murdered his family. Cletus slaughtered the demons. His rage quenched, Cletus realized there had been no demons. Cletus had killed his entire family.

To make reprimands for this, Cletus travelled to see the Oracle of Delphi. Cletus pushed through the crowd to the front of the line. When he made it to the Oracle, Cletus ordered Hyas to toss all their war spoils into the temple’s collection pot. A young, scantily clad girl in purple silk rose from a steaming pool in the center of the temple. Her glazed eyes focused on Cletus as smoke filled the room.

“What do you seek?” the Oracle asked.

“I killed my family because I hallucinated from anger,” Cletus said. “How can I make up for that?”

“You must travel to the court of High King Eurystheus and offer yourself to him in servitude to cleanse your soul of these sins,” the Oracle said.

“No. I hate Eurystheus. He stole my job. He’s a bastard. I’m not doing that. Give me something different.”

“I cannot. This is your only option for redemption. If you refuse it, then you will lose your god-given power.”

“The Eyes of Zeus aren’t that useful. I survived a long time without them. I’m pretty sure losing them isn’t that big of a deal.”

“You will lose all of your power, not only those given to you by Zeus.”

“So, if I refuse to serve Eurystheus, I’ll turn back into a regular caveman who ages and is dumber than most vegetables? To hell with that. What do I have to do again?”

“Vow before me on the power given to you that you will serve Eurystheus.”

“I vow that I’ll serve Eurystheus,” Cletus said.

“Vow on your god-given power.”

“I vow on my god-given power that I will serve that thief, or I’ll lose my immortality and knowledge.”

“Now go,” the Oracle said.

Cletus, Iolaus, and Hyas travelled for many days to reach Argos. Once there, they requested an appointment to see High King Eurystheus.

“What do I need to do for you to expiate myself of the sins that I committed against my family?” Cletus asked Eurystheus.

“Well, we could make it simple,” Eurystheus said. “I require you to perform only ten meager tasks to be released of your servitude.”

“Fair enough,” Cletus said. “Am I gonna have to wash your dishes and make your food? I’m just gonna go ahead and throw it out there that in no way am I ever gonna wipe your ass for you, and I’m not performing any sexual favors unless it’s with your wife or daughters.”

“Let’s do this one step at a time,” Eurystheus said. “Your first task will be to kill the Nemean Lion.”

“So, I’ve got to kill an animal. No problem.”

“The Nemean Lion is a horrid monster that terrorizes the city of Nemea. It fell from the moon rather than be born of any creature. Its skin cannot be damaged. To kill it is your first task. If you live, bring me the head of the Nemean Lion, Alcides.”

Cletus snarled. “My name’s Cletus, and I’ll bring your scary kitten back.”

Cletus and his companions stormed out of the castle. As they did, a woman in beautiful purple robes with peacock feathers in her hair began to laugh hysterically at them.

“What’s your problem, old hag?” Cletus asked.

“Just your current plight, Champion of the Gods,” she mocked.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Hera,” the woman said, “Queen of the Gods. I’ve come to destroy you. I used my power to tamper with the Eyes of Zeus and make you see your family as monsters. I controlled the Oracle to make her tell you to come to Eurystheus and wager your immortality against whether or not you would become his servant. I’m the reason he’s High King and not you. He swears all loyalty to me like the good pawn he is. You crossed me, Cletus, by saving my husband’s illegitimate, mortal son. Now, I’m going to kill you, but not before destroying everything you love and all your name stands for.”

“Why can’t you just kill your husband?” Cletus asked. “I mean, he’s the one that’s sleeping around. It’s not like that’s the only time either. I’ve heard all the stories about how freaky Zeus is.”

“Silence you pathetic mortal. Do not pretend to understand the Gods of Olympus.”

“I’m an immortal too. You just said that yourself, and I understand more than you. You’re not the first god that’s meddled with my life. You won’t be the last either.”

“I’m going to destroy you!” Hera screamed as she disappeared.

“Whatever you say, oh mighty queen.”

From that point on, Cletus vowed his revenge against Hera. To spite the goddess, Cletus took up the title of Heracles, the glory of Hera.

The Adventures of Cletus III

The blistering sun hung in the sky. Heat rays beat violently against the sand. Searing wind gusted across the desert. Only sand stretched for miles. Sand and Cletus. Sweat and grit filled Cletus’s glorious mane. His head bobbed up and down as his camel trotted through the desert. Cletus wore only a white cloth around his groin. Sometimes, Cletus talked to his camel. Other times, he stopped to chat with corpses in desert pits. Cletus lost track of the last time he had spoken with another person.

In the distance, Cletus saw exactly what he needed. A large stone building stood in the sand. Cletus kicked the camel’s side and forced the animal to go as fast as possible. The camel grunted and spat. It pushed its limits. Pain built in his arms and legs as Cletus held on for the ride. Before sundown, Cletus stood before the rectangular building. Cletus shouted at the building, but no one came out to answer his calls. Pounding on the walls garnered no response either.

The building had no door. The immortal caveman climbed the walls. Cletus savagely used his disgusting, inch-long fingernails and even his teeth to cling to the stone surface as he struggled upward. The wall had no uniformity with stones and bricks sticking out in numerous directions. The chaos provided endless places to grasp the wall, but made the climb more challenging. On top of the building Cletus found no entrance, but instead a corpse.

“You’ve finally made it here, Cletus,” the corpse said as it turned around to face Cletus

The corpse had long, brown hair and a matching beard. Red light filled its right eye. Belts of what seemed to be shot gun shells crisscrossed the corpse’s chest. “I’ve come to kill you Cletus,” the zombie said. “You were given the great and powerful gifts of super intelligence and immortal life by Buddha. You are an abomination and threaten the Christian way of life. So, I, Jesus, have come to stop you before you can do any more harm.”

Cletus tried to talk. It took several attempts before his unused voice could finally produce any sounds. “Am I supposed to know who you are?” Cletus asked.

“I am Jesus Christ,” the zombie said. “I am the Messiah of the Christian people.”

Cletus slapped his dirty forehead and pushed sand and sweat into his hair. “I still have no idea who you are.”

“I am Jesus!” the zombie shouted. “I’m here now because I must destroy you to protect the future of the world.”

Zombie Jesus vomited a massive sword into his left hand. Wiping the rotten chunks of flesh from the blade, the corpse lunged at Cletus. Cletus rolled away from the zombie’s attack. Jesus ran at Cletus again. Zombie Jesus brought the blade over his head and came down with a heavy stroke. Cletus dodged again, barely avoiding the blade. Jesus’ sword struck the roof so hard the blade stuck into the smooth stone. Zombie Jesus tugged at the sword, but the blade would not come loose. With a crazed yell, he turned to Cletus and launched a massive laser beam out of his right eye. Cletus jumped through the air to escape the red beam almost completely unscathed except for a singed beard.

“Holy shit!” Cletus shouted. “Did you just shoot fire from your eyes? Are you some new god?”

“I told you,” Zombie Jesus said. “I am Jesus Christ. I am the body of God.”

Zombie Jesus shot another beam at Cletus. The caveman dodge the blast. Cletus had fought many gods and monsters, but none that could shoot jets of fire from their eyes. Cletus charged at Zombie Jesus, tackling the corpse off the building. As they descended, Jesus’ green-grey skin slipped off under the weight of Cletus’s grip. Cletus fell away from Jesus as the zombie’s flesh peeled completely off.

Cletus landed on his back, cursing loudly as he rolled through the sand. A few feet away, Zombie Jesus landed with a loud crash and an electric sizzle, throwing sand into the air.

Cletus dragged himself to his feet. Approaching Zombie Jesus, Cletus asked, “What the hell are you?”

Zombie Jesus stood on one leg. Jesus’ other foot hanged from his knee by a bundle of loose wires and flaps of rotting skin. Half the flesh on his face peeled away, revealing a metallic skeleton. Sparks and oil spurted from his wounds. He turned his glowing red eyes on Cletus.

Zombie Robot Jesus pulled a shotgun from his mouth. As he began to load the weapon with shells from the belt around his shoulder, Jesus said, “I already told you that I am Jesus Christ. In the future, after my second coming, the word has gone to Hell. Gay marriage, women making money, polyester, and people eating lobster are everywhere. Death, war, famine and disease plague the world. I believe this was caused by you. You and your descendants. I was modified, given the ability to fight against something like you and sent back in time to defeat you before your progeny can ruin the world.”

Zombie Robot Jesus hopped on his remaining leg toward Cletus. The caveman pulled a pin from his ear that sprang to the size of a baseball bat. Cletus raised his club in the air and screamed at the top of his lungs. He charged forward. Jesus aimed the shotgun at Cletus and pulled the trigger. Jesus pumped round after round at the caveman. Cletus ignored the horrible pain that racked his body with every spray of shotgun pellets. In seconds, Cletus slammed Zombie Jesus to the ground. Cletus’s club smashed into Jesus’ chest with a loud, metallic thunk. A steamy green fluid poured out of the gaping hole in the robot’s chest. The robotic zombie laughed as a loud beeping noise began to sound off from inside of his body. “That sound is my self-destruct sequence,” Zombie Robot Jesus smiled. “in less than a minute, I’m going to explode. You can’t possibly run far enough to survive it.”

Ignoring the blood pouring from the many holes in his body, Cletus stumbled over to Zombie Robot Jesus. Squaring himself up with the robot, Cletus drew his club up behind his right shoulder and brought it down and back up in a wide arc. Zombie Robot Jesus soared into the air. Seconds later a bright, blue explosion filled the sky.

Cletus struggled to drag himself back to his camel. He wanted to ignore his wounds and keep pushing forward. The caveman collapsed in the sand. His blood poured over the sand even after he lost consciousness.

A shadow swept over Cletus. The shadow’s owner grabbed the dying caveman by the shoulders and pulled Cletus away through the desert.

 

<><><>

 

Pain and cold coursed through his body. Opening his eyes, Cletus discovered himself in a tank of bubbling, blue gel. A vast array of tubes and probes ran into his body through every imaginable orifice. Cletus remembered little, only that he had been sure he was dying. Cletus tore all the random intrusions from his body. He fought his way to the top of the tank. He found a small seam in the metal. Cletus struggled against the metal until he finally heard the low hiss of air decompressing. The lid of the tank slid open. Cletus burst out of the gel, flailing about and trying to scream, but could only gurgle against the gel still in his throat. Flinging himself over the tank’s side, Cletus vomited a pool of the blue gel onto the steel floors. Cletus crumpled onto the ground in a fit of coughing nakedness.

Once Cletus finished convulsing, he got to his feet and cautiously explored the area. Flashing lights covered the shiny, cold metal walls. Electric beeps echoed in the empty room. As Cletus passed a section of wall, the smooth metal opened and revealed a hallway. Cletus stepped into the hallway and ran. Down the corridor, he could hear strange noises. As Cletus rounded a corner, his eyes fell upon three disgusting creatures. They stood tall and slender with an extra joint in their legs. The beasts had cloven feet. Each hand sported four, ridiculously long fingers. The creatures hunched at their shoulders. Their necks extended forward at least two feet, ending in a lizard-like head. Metal plates attached to their grey bodies at random points.

One of the lizards noticed Cletus. The caveman turned and ran. The monsters chased Cletus through the metal halls. The creatures gained on him as he struggled to turn down another hallway. As the group of beasts stomped around the turn, one of them snatched at Cletus’s shoulder. Cletus grabbed the creature’s wrist and flipped it over his head. The thing dented the floor as it smashed into the ground. Cletus jumped at the one closest to him, latching onto its armor and biting its throat. Leaping off of that lizard, Cletus kicked the next one, crushing its chest plate. The kicked lizard flew across the hall.

Cletus gathered himself off the cold floor and continued running. He made turns at random and pushed harder when he heard the lizards restart their pursuit. Cletus kept running until he came to a window. The view made his heart stop pounding in his chest. From the window, Cletus could see Earth and the moon and all the stars. He stood in awe, staring as his home. Moments later, one of the aliens tackled him. Cletus’s head smacked the ground. The last thing he remembered was a flash of blinding white.

A soft glow filled his eyes as Cletus slowly woke. He sat in a small, empty room. As far as he could see the room lacked any way in or out. Cletus flew into a fit of rage and pounded against the metal walls, trying to break free. With a horrible scream, he rammed his head against a wall hard enough to tear his forehead open. Blood sprayed across the stainless metal room. Crimson ran down his face, matting his hair and beard.

Cletus slumped on the floor. To his side, a square in the wall slid open. A small, grey head with huge, black eyes poked out of the hole. The tiny alien glared at the caveman. Cletus reached out to grab the thing, but it spoke to him.

“Do not harm me,” the alien said. “I am the one that saved you after your battle with the cyborg on the planet’s surface. I brought you here to heal you. I can free you from this cell and return you to your planet. In return though, I must ask a favor from you.”

“You only brought me here to help you,” Cletus said. “Look where your selfishness got me.”

“As you can see, I am small and weak in comparison to the ones who control this ship,” the alien replied. “These creatures are a race known as the Mintakans. My planet is at war with them. This ship is believed to contain vital information about how to destroy the source of their near limitless power. If my people can destroy those structures, the Mintakans will be crippled. The information should be accessible from the bridge of this ship. I just need your brute strength to aid me in getting there.”

Cletus said, “Just get me the hell out of here, and I’ll do whatever you need,”

“Follow me.”

The alien disappeared into his tunnel. Cletus crawled into the small space and followed the alien. The tunnel led to a large room filled with mountains of demolished junk. Cletus waded through thick sludge that flooded the room as he followed the small alien. A robot rolled up next to Cletus. One large red orb tilted to look the caveman in the eye. Cletus crushed the tiny robot. The act of violence slightly lifted his spirits.

The small alien rummaged through several piles of trash, gathering a large bundle of assorted metal. The small alien assaulted Cletus with the junk collection, strapping metal bits to the caveman. Cletus watched out of curiosity. Soon the little alien had outfitted Cletus with rusted, beat-up armor identical to the Mintakans’. The small alien handed him what looked like the hilt of a sword with a thin antenna coming from the top rather than a blade. “What the hell is this?” Cletus asked.

“It’s a beam sword,” the alien said.

“It doesn’t look like a sword.”

“Press the button on the top.”

Cletus examined the handle. He found a small switch close to the cross guard. He flicked it to the side with his thumb. Instantly, a blazing blade of energy appeared.

“Can this cut through the metal walls?” Cletus asked.

“Quite easily,” the alien said.

“Good,” Cletus said with a sinister grin.

Cletus threw the small alien onto his shoulder and bolted for the nearest wall. He cut a hole in the metal and kept running. The tiny alien tugged at the hair on the sides of Cletus’s head to lead Cletus around. As the Mintakans attacked Cletus, he slaughtered them as quickly as possible before continuing to run away. Soon, the little alien brought Cletus to a halt in front of a massive door.

“This is a bridge,” the alien said. “Here I will be able to access the ship’s computer.”

Cletus stabbed the beam sword into the thick door and slowly cut out a hole large enough for him to climb through. Avoiding the molten metal that surrounded the edges of the opening, Cletus stepped into the bridge. Keyboards, monitors, and chairs covered the room. A large window opened to space at the front of the room. In the center, a massive chair sat atop a raised platform. Slowly, the chair spun around to face the intruders. A very large Mintakans clad in golden armor adorned with jewels sat in the chair.

“I’ve been waiting for you, ape,” the Mintakan said. “I am the commander of this vessel. You’ve proven to be a very annoying presence upon my ship. I see you’ve brought with you a Centaurian. It is unfortunate that you would ally yourself with my enemies. You monkey, with enough strength to stand against the great Mintakans, would be a useful tool.”

“Why are you on my planet?” Cletus asked as the small alien slipped off his back and into the shadows.

“The Mintakan civilization has survived for a great time. We dominate the universe,” the commander said. “We store energy in massive units the size of stars. Mintakans travel from planet to planet throughout the universe. Upon each planet, we slowly drain the planet of the energy it needs to sustain itself, turning it into a wasteland that cannot harbor life. We use the stored energy for all of our needs. We will build devices on your planet to harvest that energy. When your planet has been bled dry, it shall die just like its nearby sister.”

Cletus roared like a wild animal. Cletus attacked the commander. The alien defended himself with a staff, somehow blocking the beam sword with the metal pole. Cletus threw the beam sword away and pulled his magic staff from his ear. Cletus and the commander fought ferociously.

In the chaos, the tiny, grey alien climbed into the commander’s chair. With his three small fingers, the little alien accessed the commander’s chair, hacking into the ship’s computer. He spent several minutes punching out commands on the keypad while watching a small screen that had dropped down from the ceiling.

While the Centaurian searched for the information he desired, Cletus and the Mintakan commander continued to assault each other. Their skill and brute strength matched perfectly. The commander swiped at Cletus’s legs with the staff. Dodging the blow, Cletus luckily drove his staff into the commander’s chest. The commander collapsed to the ground. With a strained laugh, he pressed a sequence of buttons into a pad on his wrist.

“I may be dead, but that doesn’t matter,” the commander said. “I’ve activated the ship’s ion cannons. The weapons are powerful enough to obliterate your entire planet.”

The commander continued to laugh until the he regressed into a coughing mess. The coughing slowly faded to the commander struggling to breathe until he finally died. Cletus turned away from the Mintakan and looked at the small alien. A red glow filled the entire bridge.

“I have attempted to shut down the ion cannons,” the Centaurian said. “However, I am unable to do so. I have activated the ship’s self-destruct sequence in hopes that the ship will be destroyed before the cannon is fully charged.”

“Wouldn’t that still destroy Earth?” Cletus asked.

“I’m afraid that it would,” the alien replied. “That is why I’ve also set a course to a distant point in space and began powering up the ship’s warp drive. Hopefully, I will also be able to return you to the planet’s surface before the ship enters hyperspace.”

“Why would you do this for me?” Cletus asked. “Won’t you die if you stay on the ship?”

“Of course I will,” the alien said. “I have served my purpose though. I collected the intelligence and transmitted it to my leaders. I am no longer needed.”

Through the window in the bridge, the stars began to look as if they were moving away from the ship.

“The ship is about to make the jump into hyperspace,” the Centaurian said. “I’m sending you now, creature of Earth. Farewell.”

Light and electricity swirled around Cletus. Then, a blinding flash engulfed him. When the light cleared, Cletus sat naked and alone in a grassy field.

The Adventures of Cletus II

Cletus lay trapped in the earth beneath Five Elements Mountain. Fungus and moss grew from the filth in his hair. Mud caked his sunken face. His beard itched immensely. Struggling with all his might, Cletus tried to reach for his face, but his arms would not budge from beneath the stone. Looking up at his two heavenly guards, Cletus said, “Could one of you bastards scratch my chin?”

“Are you hungry?” one guard asked.

“Are you thirsty?” followed the other.

“No,” Cletus said.

“Then, be quiet!” the guards snapped in unison.

Cletus’s days continued. Buddha had trapped him beneath the mountain range for his misdeeds in Heaven. The heavenly guards fed Cletus cold iron pellets to stop his hunger and molten iron to quench his thirst. Cletus rarely slept. Though he could not move his body, his tongue remained nimble with banter directed at his guards. Cletus watched the world move on around him to pass his time.

One day, a brilliant golden light washed over Cletus. He stared into the light until a young woman in a pale blue dress appeared. “I know you,” Cletus said.

“So you do, mischievous, little monkey,” the goddess said.

“Why are you here, Guanyin?”

“Be more respectful and maybe you shall learn.”

“Fine,” Cletus said. “Bodhisattva Guanyin, what do you want from me? Come to release me from my prison, I hope. Immortality is no fun while stuck under a giant rock.”

“Actually, I did come here for something along those lines,” the Bodhisattva said. “How do you feel about deals, Great Sage?”

“What kind of deal?”

“You would be released from here to perform two tasks. If the tasks are completed to satisfaction, you will be freed.”

“I’m listening. What tasks?”

“A monk will come by here,” the goddess said. “He will be travelling west to India. His goal is to reach Buddha’s temple. You will accompany him on his journey west. On that journey, you will protect the monk from all harm that may come his way. You will also repent for your crimes against the gods. Do this and you shall be freed from your stone cell permanently.”

“Done,” Cletus said. “Let me out, and I’ll wait for him here.”

“No, Monkey King,” Bodhisattva Guanyin said. “I will not fall for your trickery. Unfortunately, the monk may easily be fooled by you, but that’s why you’ll be wearing this.”

The goddess slipped a small golden band onto Cletus’s head.

“What is this?” Cletus asked.

“Insurance,” the Bodhisattva said as she disappeared.

Time slowly dragged for five more years before a young boy in yellow robes arrived at Cletus’s cell.

“You there, boy!” Cletus shouted. “Come here.”

The young boy crouched in front of Cletus. The boy pulled away the moss and grass surrounding Cletus’s head. “What have you to say to me?” the boy asked.

“Nothing to say,” said Cletus. “Only a question to ask.”

“What question?”

“Are you the monk sent to the West to gather the Buddha’s scriptures?” Cletus asked.

“Yes, I am,” said the boy. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, young monk, I am the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. Buddha trapped me beneath this mountain range five hundred years ago for my criminal insubordination in Heaven. Then, some time ago, Bodhisattva Guanyin came by here heading east to search for the one destined to bring the scriptures back. That would be you.”

“Yes,” the young monk said. “What can I do for you?”

“Not what you can do for me,” Cletus said. “It’s what I must do for you. I will protect you on your journey to the West. The issue you is that I’m trapped here, but you can fix that easily.”

“So, you are one of the guardians Bodhisattva Guanyin promised me. I have no tools or weapons with me. How can I help release you?”

“You’ve got to climb this mountain and find the spell tag at the top. Remove it. If you do that, I’ll be able to free myself.”

The monk left Cletus there for a few hours.

“I removed the spell tag,” the monk told the caveman upon returning.

“I’m aware,” Cletus said. “I could feel the mountain’s fingers loosen their grip as soon as you did. I’ve just been waiting for you to get off the mountain.”

Cletus snarled as he labored beneath the mountain. Stone ground and cried as Cletus slid his hands under his chest. Rock shattered when Cletus pushed himself to his hands and knees. With a jump, Cletus burst from his prison, scattering stone in a massive explosion. When the dust cleared from the air, Cletus stood in front of the monk. His shame swayed between his hairy, naked thighs.

“I’m the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, Cletus the Caveman.”

“Tang Sanzang,” the monk said. “If you’re going to travel with me, we’ll have to think of a proper Buddhist name for you.”

“Already have one. They used to call me Sun Wukong.”

“That’s perfect. Do you mind if I call you Brother Monkey?”

Cletus shrugged. He pulled a tiny rod out of his ear. With a shake, the rod became a massive iron pole. “If you’ll excuse me,” Cletus said as he stalked into the mountains.

Cletus returned shortly with a tiger hanging limply across his shoulders. He threw down the body and scavenged through the rocks, examining each intently until finding one that he deemed acceptable. Cletus used a suitable stone to dress his kill. The young Buddhist monk watched in disgust.

“You’re lucky you found me,” Cletus said through a mouthful of raw meat. “Travelling out here alone, this tiger could have killed you. Lots of demons in these hills too.”

“Yes, Buddha be praised.”

Cletus stood up and wrapped a large chunk of the tiger’s hide around his waist like a skirt. He used another thin strip of skin to tie his makeshift kilt in place. Jamming the bloody rock beneath Sanzang’s chin, Cletus said with a twisted grin, “Now, what’s stopping me from just killing you and walking away from this whole mess?”
Shaking, Sanzang muttered under his breath. With every word he said, the gold band on Cletus’s head grew unbearably tight. The metal dug into his flesh. Cletus dropped to his knees, clawing at the band and screaming, “Make it stop.”

Sanzang stopped chanting, and the band slowly loosened. Cletus tried to remove the band to no avail. “Only Bodhisattva Guanyin can remove the control band,” Sanzang said.

“What happened to Buddhists being pacifists?” Cletus asked. “I thought you were going to crush my skull.”

Sanzang shrugged. “Maybe. Not sure what would have happened if I had not stopped.”

“So, we’re going to the West,” Cletus said.

Sanzang nodded.

Cletus scanned the mostly barren horizon. Pointing slightly northwest, Cletus said, “That clump of trees there is probably our only chance of finding water before tomorrow morning. It’s late, so we should head out now before it’s too dark to see the forest.”

Cletus took most of Sanzang’s possessions and slung them onto his shoulders. Without waiting for the young monk, Cletus set off for the forest. Hours later, monk and monkey entered the forest. Just beyond the treeline, a whistle sounded from the side of the darkened path.

Six men rushed from the trees with spears, bows, and swords. The blocked the path and shouted, “Where are you going monk? If you give us your horse and your luggage, we’ll spare your lives.”

Sanzang fell from his horse onto his ass and slowly crawled away from the men. Cletus pulled the boy up to his feet. “Don’t worry, Sanzang,” Cletus said. “These men are simply here to provide us with spare clothes and a little extra money.”

“Are you deaf? They threatened to kill us if we don’t give everything to them,” Sanzang said.

“Just stay here with our things while I bash them around a little,” Cletus said.

“There are six of them. You can’t really plan to fight them.”

Cletus ignored Sanzang. Apparently the bandits frightened the monk so much that Sanzang forgot that Cletus had shattered an entire mountain. Cletus walked up to the bandits and crossed his arms over his chest. “Why are you boys blocking our way?” Cletus asked.

“We are robber kings,” one of the bandits said. “This is our forest. We’re famous around these parts. Why come into our forest unless you planned to give your things away to us? We rule these mountains. Leave your belongings with us or we’ll leave you cut to pieces. Your choice.”

“I’m a sort of criminal king myself,” Cletus said. “I’ve also ruled over mountains. I’ve never heard of you boys.”

“Stop calling us boys or we’ll crush your bones into powder.”

“You gentlemen fail to realize that you’re standing before your better. Bring out all your booty. We’ll divide it equally between the eight of us, and then I’ll leave you be.”

“You want us to share with you? You talk big for a monk.”

The six men attacked Cletus at once. Cletus fought the armed men with his bare hands for several minutes before easily disarming the bandits.

“You boys must be tired for me to beat you so easily,” Cletus said.

“You’re one tough monk,” a bandit said.

Cletus pulled the iron pin from his ear. The pin morphed into a rod slightly longer than Cletus’s arm and as big around as a rice bowl. “Now,” Cletus said, “let me practice my clubbing with you boys.”

The bandits fled at the sight of the massive cudgel. Cletus ran them down and beat them to death. Not one bandit managed to escape.

Cletus returned to Sanzang with all the bandits’ belongings. He dropped all the clothes, money, and jewels at Sanzang’s feet. “Well, we should be set for our whole trip,” Cletus said. “Let’s keep going.”

“Even though they were highwaymen, you’re asking for trouble,” Sanzang said. “Even killing by accident is such a disgusting act. You just slaughtered them all without a second thought. There’s nothing in you that’s even remotely good.”

“If I hadn’t killed them, they’d’ve killed you.”

“I’m a man of religion. I’d rather have died than commit murder.”

“Than it’s a good thing I’m the one that killed them.”

“You are in my service. You killing them is just the same as them dying by my own hand.”

“If I weren’t willing to kill when necessary, Bodhisattva wouldn’t have chosen me to protect you.”

“If you weren’t such a tyrant you would have never been imprisoned so that she could bribe you with your freedom. With such a disgusting monster as a companion, we’ll never reach the Western Heaven to retrieve the scriptures.”

Rage flared within Cletus as the young monk chastised him. “If you believe that you’ll never reach the West with me, then so be it,” Cletus said as he summoned a cloud. “I’m off.”

With a loud whistle, Cletus launched across the sky on his cloud. The cloud carried Cletus farther east than the sunrise and plunged into the sea. Cletus emerged from the water in the sunken palace of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea. The castle guards escorted Cletus to the Dragon King’s court. Cletus bowed low before the great dragon. “Hello, old companion,” Cletus said. “How are you?”

“Sun Wukong,” the Dragon King said. “What a pleasant surprise. I haven’t seen you since that mess with you in Heaven. I see you’ve been freed.”

“Yes,” Cletus said. “I’m supposed to be accompanying a young monk to the West. We had a fight. So, I went as far east as I possibly could to get away from him.”

“Why ever would you do that?”

“Because that priest doesn’t understand human nature. He doesn’t comprehend that people are cruel and will not hold his same beliefs. He started nagging about me killing a few simple bandits.”

“Great Sage, if you do not protect the priest and follow his orders, you may as well go crawl back beneath Five Elements Mountain. It’s where they’ll put you once you’re captured. Prove the boy wrong.”

“I’m not sure I care enough,” Cletus said.”

“Don’t ruin your future for an easy life right now,” the Dragon King said.

“I suppose you’re right,” Cletus said.

Cletus returned to Sanzang, and they continued the journey to the West. Over the course of the journey they gained new companions.  Prince Jade Dragon joined the group first. The son of the Dragon King of the Southern Sea earned his exile by burning his father’s jewels. With the ability to transform into a horse, Jade Dragon served as Sanzang’s mount. Then came Zhu Bajie, former Field Marshal of the Milky Way. Heaven disfigured Zhu Bajie with the head of a pig, beat him with an iron rod, and casted him to Earth to atone for his drunken advances upon a maiden. Last came Sha Wujing, ogre of the sands. Sha abandoned his post as a general in Heaven to repent for destroying a vase in a fit of rage.

The four outcasts and the holy monk journeyed together. They faced countless challenges. The five fought bandits, battled demons and spirits, and slayed monsters. The companions scaled mountains, crossed deserts, and braved blizzards. Years they suffered to reach India to meet Buddha and bring the scriptures to the people of China.

After delivering the scriptures, the group returned to the temple of Buddha. Buddha distributed great boons to each of them. Buddha turned the White Dragon Horse’s scales gold and ordained him as the Great Strength Bodhisattva of the Eight Heavenly Sections. Brother Pig lived for eternity and cleaned all the altars in all Buddhist temples until the end of time. Brother Sand became an arhat, the pinnacle of human perfection. Buddha appointed Sanzang as a protector god in Heaven.

After the others received their gifts, Buddha turned to Cletus. “My lovely, ancient friend, this will be your second grand gift from me,” Buddha said. “It was fortunate for you that you gave in to your good side and won glory along your journey. You will be rewarded with high office as the Victorious Fighting God.”

Cletus hissed sharply. “As great as spending all of eternity with the clowns in Heaven would be,” Cletus said, “slowly diminishing in power as people stop believing in me does not appeal in the least. I have to decline the offer, big guy. I just want this thing taken off my head so I can do my own thing. I just want to keep travelling the world.”

“If that is your wish.”

Cletus continued west. He opened passages through mountain ranges and dug wells along his path through the wilderness. He settled in a land filled with orchards and ponds. Cletus irrigated the land and built a massive city called Uruk. Cletus made himself King of Uruk. Once comfortable in his palace, Cletus wrote down all of his previous adventures.

Years went by. Cletus’s time with the Buddhists had failed to curb his rage and blood lust. All males of Uruk regardless of age participated in Uruk’s only sport. Men wrestled naked in the sand of the stadium, often to the death, for their king’s amusement. Cletus required all women to sleep with him before he allowed them to marry. Cletus beat and killed his people at any minor inclination to do so. Cletus terrified and tormented the subjects of Uruk.

In a dream, Cletus watched a meteor crash outside of his city. He sprinted through Uruk’s intricate inner and outer walls until he reached the massive crater. A brilliant white stone rested in the crater. Every imaginable color rippled across the stone’s surface in light. Cletus grabbed the stone and went back to the city. He wanted to show everyone his amazing treasure, but no one in the city cared. A magnificent battle-ax entranced the entire city. The people of Uruk ignored Cletus and began to worship the battle-ax.

Cletus fell in love with the battle-ax. He stole the ax. He ran back to his palace. Cletus’s long-dead mother stood in his bedchamber. Cletus placed the stone and ax at her feet. “These objects represent your salvation,” she said. “These are the symbols of the man who will become your greatest friend.”

Weeks later, Cletus had forgotten the dream. A wedding occurred that day, an important day for Cletus. As with all weddings since the start of Cletus’s kingdom, the bride would spend the night of her wedding in Cletus’s bed before her marriage would be considered binding. On the way to his room, a hairy, gangly man wearing only a fur loincloth blocked Cletus’s path. “You are Gilgamesh, yes?” the man asked Cletus.

“That’s my title,” Cletus said. “I made the word up. It’s like king, but better. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Cletus tried to push past the man, but the man grabbed Cletus by the arm. “You must not do this,” he said.

The two men fought in a blur of hair and fists. Their struggle constantly moved, carrying them throughout the city. The men fought violently, to the point the city walls shook. The men brawled for days without tiring. The hairy man managed to trap Cletus in a headlock. Cletus choked and grunted until he threw his opponent to the ground. Cletus climbed on top of the man’s stomach. He shove his hands under the man’s collar bones and tugged as hard as possible while headbutting the man’s brow. Every few blows, Cletus screamed, “Submit!”

Finally, the man gave in. Cletus collapsed in the dust beside the man and began laughing hysterically.

“I am Enkidu,” the dirty, bloody man said with a smile.

Enkidu’s blood smeared Cletus’s filthy face. “You are the greatest opponent I’ve ever faced, and I’ve fought with some crazy shit in my day,” Cletus said.

“It was a very enjoyable match.”

Cletus stood up and dusted himself off before helping Enkidu off the ground. “You and I will be the greatest of everlasting friends.”

For several months, the two friends spent time competing in the city’s games, but quickly grew bored.

“There is a monster,” Enkidu said, “appointed by the gods to guard their Cedar Forest. It is called Humbaba. It is a giant with the head of a lion. Its roar is fire, and its mouth is death. An endless line cuts its flesh, making it appears as if the monster is made from the entrails of a man.”

“We can kill that monster,” Cletus said.

Cletus and Enkidu obtained weapons, armor, and other provisions for the trip to the Cedar Forest. Every night as they travelled, Cletus dreamed. Walking barefoot through a valley, Cletus watched as the mountains on the horizon crumbled and fell beneath the ground. The entire sky pitched into a violent thunderstorm. Hundreds of wild bulls stampeded past him. With a horrible shriek, a massive bird dived out of the sky and bellowed fire across the land.

Cletus awoke covered in sweat and screaming. He explained his dream to Enkidu.

“You fear too much,” Enkidu said. “This is not a bad omen, but a good one. You weren’t harmed despite all the chaos. Only good things will come from this trip.”

When the duo reached the forest, Cletus marveled at the enormous trees that extended higher than he could see. As he and Enkidu proceeded through the Cedar Forest toward the Mountain of the Gods, Cletus continued having the same nightmare. Each morning, Enkidu reassured him of their good fortune to come.

Days of wandering the forest stretched by until Cletus became annoyed with trying to find Humbaba. With shouts of joy, Cletus and Enkidu chopped down several trees. Wood split and logs crashed to the ground until a petrifying roar cut through the Cedar Forest. The ground shook violently. Animals of all kinds rushed by Cletus and Enkidu. An ogre charged through the trees toward the two. It slid to a halt with its massive gut bouncing in Cletus’s face. Humbaba lowered its head until its lion’s mane of red hair almost touched Cletus. “Who’re you, little man?” Humbaba spat swampy breath into the caveman’s face.

“I am Cletus, Gilgamesh of Uruk. I’ve come to slay you for fun.”

“You cut down the Gods’ trees,” Humbaba growled. “You must die.”

Humbaba backhanded Cletus into a tree. Cletus picked himself off the ground and fell into immense confusion. Cletus stood in a barren field of white grass. All around him echoed the sounds of battle raging with swords, axes, shields and maces clashing and men screaming war cries. Cletus pulled a pin from his ear and shook it out into his black iron pole. He called out for Enkidu. Faintly and far away, Cletus heard a reply, but questioned if it was real. Ash and blood rained from the sky. The ground groaned and quaked before crumbling beneath his feet. Cletus fell into complete darkness. The darkness engulfed him, filling him and tearing at his skin. Cletus screamed in pain when on of his shoulders dislocated itself. The darkness flooded into his mouth and down his throat.

“Gilgamesh,” Enkidu cried out.

“I’m here,” Cletus said. “Where’re you? I can’t see anything.”

“It’s the same for me,” Enkidu replied. “It’s some sort of illusion.”

Flames lit the darkness around Cletus. The massive bird from his nightmares soared toward him. It grew larger as it neared. The bird opened its hooked beak, and Cletus could see the flames spark to life deep within the beast’s throat.

A harsh wind tore at Cletus. The wind blew away the bird and the darkness. Cletus kneeled on the ground with Enkidu nearby. Humbaba writhed on the ground beside them. Without hesitation, Enkidu rushed to Humbaba and tied the giant up.

“Some God cares for you,” Humbaba grunted.

“Fuck your gods,” Cletus said as he slammed his arm back into its socket.

“I was using the aura of my garments to fill you with fear,” Humbaba laughed, “but then a great wind blew over me. It had no effect on you two though. A God sent it just for me.”

“Your clothes can cast illusion?” Cletus asked.

“Of course,” said Humbaba. “If you spare me, I’ll give them to you as a gift. I’ll even become your servant if you let me live.”

“Gilgamesh, don’t consider this trick,” Enkidu said. “Don’t even think on it. We have to kill the beast now or be forever shamed.”

“Maybe you’re just jealous, you violent animal,” Humbaba said. “You left your home in the trees and fell at the feet of this great man because no one else cared about you. You’re worried that he’ll be happier with a great fighter like me at his side instead of you. I’ll be his closest companion instead of you.”

“Shut up, you stupid ogre,” Cletus said as he jammed his heel against the side of Humbaba’s head.

“Curse you both!” the ogre snarled. “I’m a servant of the God of the earth and the sea. The two of you will be punished endlessly.”

Cletus smashed his iron pole into Humbaba’s meaty neck, snapping it instantly. “I said to shut the fuck up.” Shrinking his pole down, Cletus collapsed against a tree. “Fuck this place,” he said. “Enkidu, we’re cutting down this whole forest. We’re gonna chop down every last one of these cedars and float ‘em back down the Euphrates to Uruk.”

“The city will prosper greatly from such fine timber,” Enkidu said as he held up an ax.

Upon returning to the city, Cletus left Enkidu on the river and returned to his chambers to write his newest adventure with the rest. Then, Cletus took his first warm bath he had taken in months. After scrubbing away all the filth from his skin, he put on brand new royal garments and tied his thick mane up in a curly bun at the back of his head so that he could wear his crown. Once dressed, Cletus turned to leave his chamber, but a tall, raven-haired woman blocked his path. “Gilgamesh,” she whispered in her silky voice. The woman wore only a scarlet skirt with no top. “You look so handsome. You’re so powerful and victorious. I saw you kill Humbaba. I want you to be mine.” She bit Cletus’s ear. “I want you inside me. Become my husband, Gilgamesh. I will give you infinite life and health.”

“I’m already immortal, Ishtar,” Cletus dismissed the goddess. “I refuse your request. Your lust is momentary. Besides, all your past lovers have either been killed, tortured, or turned into animals. Why would I fare any better?”

A sword materialized in Ishtar’s hand. The goddess pressed the blade against Cletus’s neck. “If you do not accept my offer, I’ll kill you where you stand,” she said.

Cletus grabbed the blade and centered it on his heart. “Do it, bitch,” he said with a smirk. “I’ve lived for so long. Much longer than you, fairytale whore. I’ve lived a good life, a long life. And none of it relied on a bunch of assholes believing in me. So, do it, whore. I’ll be one less person that believes in you.”

Ishtar disappeared in a burst of light and smoke.

Several days later, the earth quaked while Cletus and Enkidu walked through the streets of Uruk. “What the hell is going on?” Cletus asked.

“In the sky, Gilgamesh. Look!”

Cletus stared into the clouds. The sky swirled violently. A pathway opened in the sky, and a giant white bull came charging down from the heavens. The bull bellowed and the ground split open, engulfing countless people. Cletus stood calmly while frightened citizens ran about the streets in a panic. The bull landed, opening more fissures. The bull stomped about the city, tearing open more cracks that swallowed Uruk’s people.

Enkidu growled and jumped onto the bull’s back. Within seconds the bull threw Enkidu to the ground. The bull spit on Enkidu before turning and spewing a massive pile of steaming manure on the hairy man. Enkidu wiped the filth off his face and screamed at the top of his lungs, “Fucking Heaven Bull! I’ll destroy you!”

Enkidu rushed forward and grabbed the bull by the horns. Cletus jumped on the animal’s back, and the three of them grappled about the city. The bull threw Enkidu over its shoulder into a wall. The wild man rebounded and seized the bull’s tail. “Kill it, Gilgamesh!”

Cletus whipped out his iron pole and speared the bull through the back of the head, killing it almost instantly. Enkidu stepped forward and ripped the bull’s heart out. “For the sun god!” he screamed.

Enkidu and Cletus skinned and hacked apart the giant bull. A piercing screech tore through the city. Ishtar stood on Uruk’s outer walls. Her raven hair thrashed in the wind. Anger boiled the air around her. “Curse you,” she said. “Curse you both.”

“Fuck off, you hag!” Enkidu screamed as he threw one of the bull’s legs at Ishtar. “Get out of Uruk before I throw you out.”

Ishtar disappeared into a burst of red smoke. Cletus clapped Enkidu on the back. “You’ve started to talk like me now,” Cletus laughed. “I bet you’re going to confuse people just as much as I do.”

The two friends finished butchering the bull and handed meat out to the entire city. They went to the Euphrates and washed off the blood and gore. Cleaned, they strode through Uruk, absorbing the admiration of the people.

That night, Cletus awoke to Enkidu screaming. Cletus rolled out of bed and lit a lamp. A low, orange glow stretched across the room, illuminating Enkidu. Cletus walked over and sat on his friend’s bed. “What’s wrong, my trembling friend?”

“I had a dream,” Enkidu said through tears. “I dreamed of the gods. They were holding a meeting to discuss what to do about the two of us.”

“What did we do to them?” Cletus asked. “What’re they going to do to us?”

“The gods are enraged at the things we’ve done. They’re angry that we killed the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. They’re especially upset that we cut down the Cedar Forest. They want to kill us; however, they’re only going to kill one of us. That way, the other one suffers until they die.”

“Which of us is going to die?”

“They didn’t say.”

Cletus sighed heavily. “I can only hope that it will be me,” he said. “I’ve been alive a long time. You still have a life to live. I deserve to die, not you. I could not bear to watch you go.”

Within days, Enkidu fell ill. The wild man lay in his bed and cursed everything.

“Fuck you, Cletus the Immortal,” Enkidu feebly said. “Fuck that whore that convinced me to leave the wild. To hell with these human clothes. I hate all of this. I hate all of you.”

Enkidu clenched Cletus’s arm and cried. His feverish skin burned Cletus.

“Don’t worry,” Cletus wept. “When you’re gone, I’m going to have a statue of you built in the center of the city, and everyone that sets foot in Uruk will know how glorious Enkidu was.”

Enkidu fell fast asleep. The next time Enkidu woke, he smiled.

“Gilgamesh, I no longer curse you or anyone. I too have had an amazing life, even if it was short.”

“I love you, my friend,” Cletus whispered.

“I had another dream, Gilgamesh. I was alone on a dark plain where I was attacked by a man with a lion’s head and an eagle’s talons. We fought furiously, but eventually he beat me. He transformed me into a bird and dragged me to the underworld. I wish Humbaba had killed me. I would have been blessed to die in battle. Those who die in battle are glorious.”

Enkidu never spoke again. He suffered for twelve more days before he died. Cletus cried for several days after. He ripped off his royal clothing and put on the furs Enkidu once wore. Cletus never left ‘s side. the caveman paced restlessly in a circle around Enkidu’s body. The city elders came to convince Cletus to continue governing the city. Uruk’s society crumbled without the strength of the city’s leader.

“Shut up,” Cletus said. “He is my only friend. He was a child of the forests, the son of animals. Enkidu was the greatest companion any warrior could want. Someday, may he be reborn. He will return as a stronger fighter than any other, and we shall be reunited.”

The whole city mourned Enkidu’s death. Cletus led a funeral procession to a massive tower of cedar logs. Cletus summoned all the craftsmen of his kingdom. The craftsmen erected a statue of Enkidu made from gold and jewels to honor his deeds and celebrate his life.

Cletus stayed beside Enkidu’s rotting corpse for days. He never slept or ate. He never left the unlit funeral pyre. When maggots crawled about Enkidu’s body, disgust overwhelmed Cletus. He stripped off Enkidu’s furs and covered his friend. Cletus lit the mountain of cedar logs to send his friend gloriously into the afterlife.

The lonesome caveman turned away from the flames and wandered into the wilderness.

The Adventures of Cletus I

I sat at a workbench struggling with a piece of alien technology I barely understood. The lamp on the bench blazed in the dimly lit basement. Miscellaneous junk I might use cluttered desks and tables throughout the room. Music that would not be released for several decades blared through computer speakers from somewhere behind me.

A faked cough broke through my concentration. I looked up at the girl standing across from me. Greenish brown eyes glared into me from beneath thick, sculpted brows. She was short with an impossible figure that could have been pulled from a Butch Hartman cartoon. Lyra was her name, and even then her gaze sent fire through my soul.

I killed the music. “You’re awake,” I said. “How do you feel?”

“Yeah,” Lyra said, “I’m okay. You apparently have a secret, underground laboratory. I’m legit jealous.”

“Who told you how to find your way down here?”

“You’re little brother, the redhead. Who hides a secret stairway in a bathroom closet?”

Ginger. That little bastard.

“Well, I do,” I said. “You should probably sit down. Ultimately, you’ll be fine, but lost ones sucking on you usually leaves people pretty weak, assuming they survive.”

Lyra sighed. “Seriously, who the hell are you?”

“That’s—

“A really long story,” she said. “I know. I like stories though. So, tell me.”

I stowed away the things I had been tinkering with. After turning on the lights, I found another chair amidst the lab’s clutter.

“Sit,” I said as I set the chair down next to Lyra.

I sat across from her. Telling Lyra my whole story would take a lot of time, but time basically meant nothing to me.

“My story is bigger than me,” I said. “Yes, I’m an anomaly that entire textbooks could be written about, but for you to understand everything, I’d have to start at the real beginning. I’d have to tell you about Cletus first.”

“You’re Cletus,” Lyra said.

“No, not me. Cletus the Caveman.”

 

<><><>

 

A beautiful island once existed far to the east, farther east than where the sun rises today. A jade ocean filled with magical creatures like massive sea serpents and turtles the size of football stadiums surrounded the island. At the island’s center stood a massive mountain of red stone, reaching so high that from its peak the whole world could be seen. Thick forests of bamboo, flowers of every color, strange plants, and magic, ever-ripe fruit covered the island. Dragons, unicorns, phoenixes, and magic foxes filled the forests. For all of time, man never touched the magical island.

A massive stone rested atop the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers since the beginning of time. Nine spires jutted from the stone with a circle of eight holes at the top. Fungus, moss and flowered covered the rock.

One day, the magic stone grew a giant metal blade from its side. Over time, the blade turned to wood, sprouting branches and leaves. The tree eventually burst into flames and burned for years until a great wind came from within the rock. The wind blew out the flame and ripped a hole in the rock. A torrent of water flowed from the hole and carried a giant stone egg. The water washed the egg away, smashing the egg against a tree. The impact cracked the egg open. Cradled inside the remnants of the egg shell lay Cletus. Cletus stood around five-seven. Slabs of muscle and thick hair covered every inch of him. A thick mane of red and brown hair circled his head.

After hatching, Cletus wandered the forest, eating fruit. Within a few weeks, he made friends with all the animals of the mountain. He learned to speak their languages. Cletus made the monkeys and apes his new family because the most closely resembled him and his old family. For years they ate, played, and slept without a care at all.

One day while all the monkeys and Cletus bathed in a stream, they decided to follow the rapids to their source. The apes climbed the mountain until they reached a magnificent waterfall, spraying foam like snow all over the mountainside.

One monkey said, “Anyone brave enough to go through the waterfall, see the other side, and come back alive will be our king.”

All the monkeys cheered and clapped and repeated the offer, but none went. So, Cletus stepped forward. “I’ll go,” he said.

Cletus leaped through the water. On the other side, he stood before a giant bridge, the waterfall only a way to hide the entrance. Across the bridge, a beautiful house rested in a gap in the mountains. Cletus went back through the waterfall and told the apes about the home he discovered. All the monkeys cheered and followed Cletus back to the massive house where they played and laughed.

After becoming exhausted, they all sat together, with Cletus taking the largest chair at the center of the room.

“Alright,” Cletus cleared his throat. “A promise must be kept. You said the one to go through the falls and come back would be king. Where’s my crown?”

All the monkeys and apes bowed before Cletus, who officially became the Monkey King.

After three hundred years, Cletus sat at a dinner party with the monkeys.

“What is wrong, Your Majesty?” one little monkey asked.

“I’m depressed,” Cletus said.

“Why? We rule the island. We do as we wish. We are above the birds and the beasts but do not follow the laws of man. The world is ours. There’s nothing to be sad about.”

“I miss many friends and loved ones,” Cletus said. “I’m happy here as the Handsome Monkey King, but day after day I watch apes die all the time. Some day all of you will be old and weak and dead just like your parents and grandparents before you and theirs before them. And in time, I will be alone.”

A small baboon jumped onto the table and said, “If you think that far ahead, Your Majesty must be becoming enlightened. Maybe you already are. Your Majesty cannot die, and only three creatures cannot go to hell; the Buddhas, the Immortals, and the Sages. They are not born, and they do not die.”

“I may not be able to die,” Cletus said, “but that doesn’t keep any of you from dying.”

“But, Your Majesty, you can find a Sage in the human world that could teach you to make others immortal like yourself.”

Cletus pounded his fist on the table and said, “That’s what I must do then. I’ll leave first thing tomorrow. I’ll roam the entire world to discover the secret of eternal life to share will all of you.”

The next day, Cletus sailed across the ocean on a bamboo raft. After several days, Cletus drifted ashore near a village of fisherman. He attacked the village, jumping around wildly and making strange faces to frighten townspeople. Cletus pounced upon one man and stole the man’s clothes. From there, Cletus traveled the land teaching himself the local languages and culture. Everywhere he went, Cletus constantly asked about Immortals and Sages, seeking the secret of eternal life. However, people of the world concerned themselves with money and fame rather than the fate ahead of them.

Cletus spent ten years looking for Immortals without finding one. Eventually, he came to yet another ocean. Since he had found no Immortals in that land, Cletus decided to travel to another. He stole a boat and sailed until he came ashore again.

Once more, Cletus sought the Immortals. One day, he came upon a beautiful mountain. Not fearing the warnings of wolves and tigers and leopards posted all around the mountain, Cletus climbed to the top.

High in the mountain, Cletus found a boy who claimed to know an Immortal. They boy showed Cletus the way to the Immortal’s sacred cave. Within the cave, Cletus discovered the Immortal and his disciples. As soon as Cletus saw the Immortal, he bowed low and touched his head on the ground. “Master Immortal, your new disciple pays his deepest respects,” Cletus said.

“Who are you?” the Immortal asked. “Where are you from? You must tell me your name and address before you can become my pupil.”

“I come to you from the cave behind the water curtain in the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers,” said Cletus.

The Immortal yelled to his other pupils, “Throw him out of my cave for lying to me!”

“I’m not lying, jackass,” Cletus said as he prepared to fight any of the monks that approached him.

“Then, how did you come from so far away?” the Immortal asked? “How did an ugly ape of a man like you come here from an island that only exists in the spirit world?”

“I sailed across several oceans and climbed many mountain paths,” Cletus said. “It took me something like twenty years to find you.”

“What is your name?”

“I’m Cletus. That is the name Buddha gave me.”

“What is your surname?”

“What is that?”

“The name you inherited from your parents.”

“Oh,” Cletus said. He scratched his chin. “I didn’t inherit a name from my parents. I don’t think Neanderthals understood the concept of familial lineage. My parents names were Ahha and Drrl.”

“That will not do,” the Immortal said. “The kanji for monkey and for moon are similar. You’re definitely an ape. However, moon is far too negative for one who wishes to walk the Buddhist path. I shall call you Sun. It’s a perfect surname for you.”

“How about giving me a new personal name too?” Cletus asked. “Sun Cletus doesn’t sound that well in my opinion.”

“Wukong,” the Immortal said sternly. “Sun Wukong. It means ‘Monkey Awakened to His Own Emptiness’. Will that do?”

“That actually seems kind of fucking racist and insulting, don’t you think?” Cletus said.

“Perfect!” the Immortal cheered.

Cletus trained with the Immortal for almost fifteen years. Cletus learned of the Way and the Great Way. He learned how to cultivate one’s spirit to become immortal. He became stronger and learned how to travel through the sky by summoning a cloud to ride upon. The Immortal eventually banished Cletus for goofing around and showing off his strength because monks should not be so arrogant. The Immortal threatened to tear off Cletus’s skin and crush his bones if the caveman ever told anyone where he trained.

Without discarding his monk gown and sash, Cletus summoned a cloud and jumped into the sky. In two hours, Cletus arrived at the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers. When Cletus called for all the monkeys to come forward, thousands of them came rushing from the forests and caves. The monkeys crowded around Cletus, crying and wailing. They told Cletus of the Great Demon King of Confusion. The demon had taken over the island while Cletus had been gone. The monkeys led Cletus to the cave where the demon slept. Despite the demon being four times Cletus’s size, the caveman still beat the demon with ease. The monkeys reclaimed their kingdom, and Cletus claimed a sword the size of a tree as a prize from the demon.

From that day forth, Cletus trained the monkeys and apes to fight, make weapons and build defensive structures so they would never be defenseless again. The apes’ increase in military power scared the other animals and monsters on the island to the point they all came forward to swear fealty to Cletus and join his vast army.

One day while sparring, an orangutan bested Cletus. The caveman stopped the training exercise. “This sword is too damn clumsy,” Cletus said. “It just does not suit me. I can’t wield it at all. What shall I do to fix it?”

Four old apes came forward and explained to Cletus that no mortal weapon could suit such a great immortal warrior like Cletus.

“The stream beneath our mountain leads to the Dragon Palace of the Eastern Sea,” one of the apes commented. “You should go there and ask the Dragon King for a weapon worthy of your power.”

Cletus nodded. “Wait for me here then,” Cletus said as he departed.

Upon reaching the Dragon King’s palace, the court welcomed Cletus graciously. “I apologize for the intrusion, great Dragon King, but I have come to find a weapon for myself,” Cletus said. “With such an amazing kingdom, I’m sure you have a magic weapon to spare for me.”

“Please, glorious neighbor,” the Dragon King said, “take this Sky-Splitting Sword from my armory.”

The Dragon King’s men offered Cletus a large sword the glimmered as if the blade had been forged from diamond.

“I can’t really use a sword,” Cletus said. “I have no skill with them. I just sort of swing them around really hard. Can I ask for something else?”

“Of course, of course,” the Dragon King said.

So, the Dragon King’s men brought Cletus an impressive spear, and then a grand halberd. Each weapon weighed several thousand pounds and had been blessed with magical powers. Cletus insisted the weapons were too light and did not suit his fighting style. The Dragon King’s guard brought out countless more weapons, but Cletus dismissed each as too flimsy for his liking. Frightened by the caveman’s strength, the Dragon King said, “The only weapon left in my armory is the great iron rod that anchors the Milky Way in place.”

“I’ll take that then,” Cletus said.

“You may,” said the Dragon King, “but only if you pry the iron rod from its place yourself. The anchor weighs nearly twenty tons. None of my men could possible bring it to you.”

“Deal.”

The task proved no challenge to the caveman. The ridiculously long, ungodly thick rod sat heavily in Cletus’s hands. The caveman swung the gargantuan pole about.

“It’s the perfect weight, but it’s far too big,” Cletus said.

No sooner than Cletus spoke, the rod shortened to the length of a normal staff.

“That’s much better! If only it fit better in my hand.”

The pole’s thickness decreased to just slightly more than an inch in diameter.

“Now, I love it!” Cletus shouted.

The caveman jumped and flipped about the palace courtroom, twirling the staff around violently. Cletus fought imaginary opponents, changing the shape and size of the pole at will. The entire room watched the strange spectacle in fear. The pole shifted to being four feet long and as thick as the caveman’s head. Cletus slammed the cudgel down, shattering the golden tiles on the palace floor.

“It’s like using a club again!” Cletus yelled.

Cletus composed himself and turned his cudgel into a small baton. He stood before the court and said, “Honorable Dragon King, you’ve given me this magnificent weapon, but now it feels incomplete. I must demand that you provide me with a suit of armor to match it.”

“I’m sorry,” the Dragon King said. “I have no armor to give you. Please, just leave my palace in peace.”

Cletus pointed the cudgel at the Dragon King and snarled, “Give me armor, or I’ll kill your ass just like I killed the lizard men back home.”

“I have no armor!” the Dragon King yelped. “You should ask go ask my brothers, the Dragon Kings of the North, South, and West. They have many treasures. Go bother them. Please, just leave me alone.”

“Why should I travel the world to see them?” Cletus asked. “They’re your brothers. Bring them to me here.”

The Dragon King ordered a guard to summon his brothers. Within moments, the other Dragon Kings arrived. “Brother, what’s the emergency?” they asked. “Why have you called us here?”

“This demon,” the Eastern King said. “He threatened to harm me if I didn’t give him a suit of armor, but I have none to give.”

“Why haven’t you just had him removed from your castle like the vermin he is then?” the Northern Dragon King asked.

“All of my soldiers are afraid of him. He’s wielding the Milky Way’s anchor as a weapon. Just give him whatever armor you have so that he’ll leave.”

So, the Dragon Kings presented Cletus with impenetrable golden chain mail, a golden helmet covered in phoenix feathers, and a pair of boots that could walk on the clouds. With new gifts in hand, Cletus felt invigorated with youthful joy. He returned to the apes and bragged about the treasures. In his bliss, Cletus trusted the mountains to his Four Ape Generals. He travelled his island and the surrounding sea. Cletus regularly played games and went on trips with the other animal leaders that served him.

One day after a long party, Cletus awakened in chains. On his left, a demon with the face of a horse grasped his arm. A man with the head of an ox held his right arm. They dragged him through a cave into the belly of the earth.

“What is the meaning of this?” Cletus asked. “Where have you taken me?”

“We are leading you through the Underworld,” Horse-Face answered.

“To the court of the Ten Kings,” said Ox-Head. “They will judge you for your mortal deeds.”

“Then, you will move on to Paradise or Hell,” Horse-Face finished.

The demons towed Cletus to a large circular chamber full of demons and an extremely long line of souls waiting to be judged.

“Gentlemen,” Cletus said, “there’s obviously been some mistake. You see, long ago, Buddha gave me immortality. I cannot die. So, how about you let me go?”

“We cannot do that,” Ox-Head said.

“It is your time to die according to the Registry of Life and Death,” Horse-Face added.

“To hell with that,” Cletus snarled.

The caveman jumped out of the demons’ arms. He stomped on Horse-Face’s toe and kicked Ox-Head in the knee before sprinting into the crowd. Cletus struggled for a moment to tear off the chains. Once free, he pulled what appeared to be a small pin out of his ear. With a shake, the pin transformed into his iron pole.

Cletus proceeded to attack the entire crowd, fighting off demons and mortal souls alike. This continued until ten, tall, slender men in yellow robes appeared.

“Stop this madness,” one of the Ten Kings shouted.

Cletus jabbed at the man and barked, “Who’re you?”

“I’m King Yama,” the man said, “ruler of the Narakas and head judge of the dead. Who are you, sir?”

“I’m the Immortal Cletus. I was brought here wrongfully.”

“If you were brought here, it was no mistake,” King Yama assured him. “Your name exists in the Registry of Life and Death. It is your time to die.”

Cletus rushed at King Yama. All the other judges screamed and fled from the monster. Cletus threw Yama to the ground and press the end of the iron pole into King Yama’s throat. “Bring me this registry,” Cletus said.

Yama ordered the cowering judges to leave their hiding places and fetch the Registry of LIfe and Death.

“And bring a bottle of ink and a brush!” Cletus shouted after them.

Two judges returned with an immense, leather-bound book and a large flask of ink. Cletus began flipping through the pages of the Registry of Life and Death, searching for his name.

“I’m not a yokel,” he mumbled. “My jaw is strong and sturdy. My name isn’t Brown or Clemens or Black. Ah ha!”

On the page, in tiny writing it read: Cletus the Caveman, Neanderthal, Savior of humankind, honorary son of Zeus, the Handsome Monkey King, Sun Wukong, Great Sage Equaling Heaven, Beast King of the Sumerians, Betrayer of the King, Once and Future King, 324 years of life.

“I haven’t even done half of this shit yet,” Cletus said. “Also, I’ve been alive a hell of a lot longer than three hundred twenty-four years.”

Cletus removed the filthy brush from the bottle of ink and blacked out his name. Then, he flipped through the book and erased several more names out of spite. Throwing the book down, Cletus ran away, yelling behind him, “Leave me and mine alone, or I’ll be back to put your name in that book, Yama!”

A few weeks after his adventure in the Underworld, an old man in white robes visited Cletus.

“I am The Great White Planet,” the man said. “I am an Immortal from Heaven. I have been sent by the Jade Emperor to invite the Immortal champion Sun Wukong to Heaven.”

Cletus immediately ordered all the apes and monkeys to prepare a feast for their guest.

“That is unnecessary,” The Great White Planet said. “We should be on our way to Heaven immediately. You don’t want to keep the Jade Emperor waiting for your arrival.”

“Of course,” Cletus said.

The caveman used his cloud-walking boots and cloud summoning ability to follow the flying Immortal up to the gates of Heaven. Cletus sprinted ahead, but the guards would not let him through.

“You lying bastard,” Cletus said as The Great White Planet caught up. “What gives? They won’t let me in.”

“Worry not, Sun Wukong,” The Great White Planet said. “They won’t let you in because you’ve never been here. Once they know your name, you’ll be able to come and go freely.”

The Great White Planet led Cletus to the palace of the Jade Emperor. They went to a large forum filled with people. At the center of the room stood a massive throne. A man in beautiful white and black robes sat peacefully in the throne. The Great White Planet fell to his knees and bowed until his forehead touched the floor. Cletus stood and shrugged. The gesture shocked and angered the crowd around the room.

“This is the mischievous Monkey King, Sun Wukong,” The Great White Planet said as he stood. “Xuanling High Sovereign, this is the one who bested King Yama and terrorized the Dragon Kings. I have brought him here as you requested.”

“Good,” the Jade Emperor said. “Little monkey, you’ve been causing a lot of trouble. I’m sure it is because you simply need something to occupy your attention. I’m giving you a very important position in Heaven. You will be the Protector of Horses.”

Cletus busted his ass as the Protector of Horses for about two weeks. He cared for the horses better than anyone before or after him. Cletus did this expecting to quickly climb the corporate ladder in Heaven, but he learned his position ranked him as the lowest Immortal in Heaven with no opportunity for promotion. At this revelation, Cletus became so pissed that he freed the horses, destroyed the stables, and returned to his mountain.

Upon returning, Cletus learned that he had been gone for nearly twenty years. Even so, all the apes and bests celebrated his homecoming. The creatures of the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers threw an extravagant party that went on for weeks.

During the party, two demons arrived to plead their allegiance to the Monkey King. The demons presented Cletus with a beautiful yellow robe as a gift. After hearing Cletus’s tale about his time in Heaven, one demon said, “Those fools! Our master is so grand, the Jade Emperor should have named you the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.”

“You know,” Cletus said, “you’re right.”

Immediately, Cletus had banners erected all over the mountain proclaiming him as the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.

Days after the party ended, a man claiming to be the Heavenly General Mighty Miracle arrived on Fruit and Flower Mountain. The Heavenly General demanded to see the Monkey King. Cletus sleepily left his castle to greet Mighty Miracle.

“Who’re you, and what do you want?” Cletus asked.

“I am the Heavenly General Mighty Miracle,” her said. “I’ve come by order of the Jade Emperor to punish you for your crimes against Heaven.”

Cletus pulled a pin from his ear and shook it out into his pole. “You and what army?” Cletus asked. “I am the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. You cannot defeat me. The Jade Emperor himself could not defeat me.”

The two fought with awe-inspiring grace, like a dragon swimming in a river, but Mighty Miracle stood no chance against Cletus. When the battle finished, Cletus spared the General’s life. “Return to Heaven,” Cletus said to Mighty Miracle. “Inform the Jade Emperor that I cannot be defeated. I’ll return to Heaven when the Jade Emperor decides to admit that I am the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.”

The next day, another opponent appeared. He claimed to be the mighty Prince Nezha. Nezha wielded six, magic, Heavenly weapons against Cletus. Their battle went on for days and days. The earth quaked and lightning crashed with every blow. They battled all over the island. Nezha’s strength and skill equalled Cletus’s, so much so that they could not harm each other. It seemed neither fighter could win until Cletus kicked sand in Nezha’s eyes. Crying out in frustration, Cletus smashed his cudgel into Nezha’s shoulder. Nezha wailed in agony as he retreated to Heaven.

A few days later, The Great White Planet arrived on the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers. He explained to Cletus that while the last two wanted the Monkey King dead, The Great White Planet had changed the Jade Emperor’s mind. As long as Cletus agreed that there would be no more mischief, Cletus could return to Heaven.

Upon accepting the offer, the Jade Emperor made Cletus the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. Cletus had his own palace and office in Heaven near the Queen Mother’s peach orchard, where he was the Administer of Peaches.

One day, Cletus grew bored and hungry. He sent away all of his subjects and began eating his way through the magical peaches of Heaven. He ate so many that he fell asleep in a tree. A group of fairies awakened Cletus. They had been sent by the Queen Mother to pick peaches for a banquet, but almost none remained.

“There’s going to be a party?” Cletus asked. “And they want peaches for the party? I haven’t heard about this. I’m the Administer of Peaches, I should be warned about these things. When is the party?”

“It is today, Great Sage,” the fairies said. “You were not invited. We must go now to tell the Queen Mother that there are no peaches for the banquet. You will surely be punished, Great Sage.”

With that, Cletus knocked the fairies out. He rushed to the banquet hall intending to demand an apology for not inviting him to the party. When he arrived, the banquet hall stood empty. Several of the barrels of Heaven’s amazing wine lined the walls of the banquet hall, which Cletus promptly guzzled down.

Full of wine, Cletus waddled away until drunkenly stumbling into the castle where the Immortals hid their greatest treasure, the pill of refined elixir. Only those of the highest standing in Heaven received the pills of refined elixir. Each capsule had the power of ten gallons of elixir. Eating a single one could make a person infinitely strong and nimble, eternally youthful, and turn their skin to an impenetrable armor. Cletus ate all of them.

Out of fear of punishment, Cletus left Heaven and returned to his mountain. Sitting with his monkeys, Cletus learned that he had been gone for two hundred years. The thought that his monkeys would never experience the glory of Heaven saddened Cletus. To make up for it, he organized a monumental feast to celebrate the return of the Monkey King, but an army of gods interrupted the feast when they attacked the island. Cletus’s entire force of beasts and demons assembled to defend their home. A terrifying battle ensued where Heaven’s forces captured or killed all of Cletus’s armies except the caveman. Cletus fought them off throughout day until the gods retreated with nightfall before returning in the morning.

After several days of fighting, the armies of Heaven did not return in the morning. Instead, a single god approached Cletus. The god wore a phoenix feather hat and a magic jade belt. The god carried a trident as his only weapon. “I am the legendary hero, Erlang,” the god said. “I’ve come to vanquish you.”

“Bring it on, asshole,” Cletus said.

The two Immortals fought brutally for days. Cletus almost defeated Erlang until a gargantuan, golden band fell from the sky and slammed into Cletus’s head. With Cletus distracted, Erlang attacked, knocking Cletus off his feet. Before Erlang chained Cletus up, the caveman shrunk his pole and hid it in his ear.

Back in Heaven, the gods tried to torture Cletus, but thanks to the pills of refined elixir, nothing harmed him. They set Cletus on fire, but he did not burn. Not even lightning hurt the caveman. Finally, the gods escorted Cletus to the furnace used to refine the elixir and locked Cletus inside. Cletus found a nook in a wall where the fire could not reach him and hid. The heat from the furnace burned away his robes and all of his armor melted.

After almost two months, the gods opened the furnace. Cletus burst out, naked and in a rage. Cletus attacked everyone nearby, creating chaos. He defeated all the warriors of Heaven and continued killing until a celestial hand punched him across the expanse of Heaven. Cletus looked up to see Buddha in the sky above him.

“YOU!” Cletus snarled. “You did this to me. You made me immortal. You took me from my family, from my people, and trapped me in that egg for eons. I’ll kill you!”

Buddha scooped up Cletus and squeezed and shook the caveman about. “You insolent little monkey,” Buddha said. “I made you what you are. I can easily destroy you.”

“Let me go!” Cletus screamed over and over.

“Calm down,” Buddha said. “I’ll make you a deal, little one.”

“I’m listening.”

“If you can escape my palm, I’ll leave you be so that you may slaughter all of Heaven,” Buddha said. “I won’t even try to stop you. However, if you cannot, I will punish you for all that you have done here.”

“Fine,” Cletus said.

Buddha opened his hand, and Cletus leaped into the sky. Cletus summoned a cloud and flew away. Cletus traveled all the way to the end of the world, marked by five stone pillars. On the second pillar, Cletus signed his name and took a piss before returning to Buddha’s hand.

“Done,” Cletus said as he landed in Buddha’s palm.

“What is done?” Buddha asked.

“I left your hand,” Cletus said. “I traveled to the ends of the world and back without you stopping me.”

“Look behind you.”

Cletus turned. The caveman read his own name clawed into the flesh of Buddha’s ring finger. A puddle of urine coated much of Buddha’s hand.

“I don’t understand,” Cletus said.

“You do not,” Buddha said. “I hold the world in the palm of my hand, Cletus. No matter how hard you try, you cannot escape me.”

Buddha forced Cletus out of Heaven and crushed the caveman beneath his palm in a desert. Buddha’s hand transformed into a mountain range where Cletus remained imprisoned beneath the stone for centuries.

 

<><><>

 

“That’s the start of it,” I said.

“So,” Lyra said, “what you’re telling me is that you’re crazy. I mean, you were the Monkey King? The Monkey King?”

“Not me. Cletus the Caveman. He was the Monkey King, yes. After helping fight an alien and travelling beyond space and time where a time ghost stole a piece of your soul, you draw the crazy line at the Monkey King?”

One corner of Lyra’s mouth twisted into a smirk. “I’m just giving you shit,” she said as she winked at me. “However, I should probably go home. If your brother had the date right, I had an anatomy exam like a month ago that I should probably study for.”

I drummed my fingers on the workbench. “I’d really like to keep talking to you?” I said, my inflection changing at the end of the sentence. “Like, after this conversation.”

Lyra looked away as she smiled. “Yeah, me too,” she said.

“Cool.”

We exchanged phone numbers, email address, and screen names for various websites and programs.

I walked over to the elevator doors in the lab. I began punching information into the panel outside the doors. “You wouldn’t know the coordinates to your apartment to like an inch, would you?” I asked. Lyra looked at me weirdly. “Of course you wouldn’t.”

After I made a few more adjustments, the doors slid open. I handed Lyra a piece of metal about the size of a guitar pick and ushered her into the small room beyond the doors.

“Okay,” I said, “this’ll get you back to your campus about ten minutes after we originally left.”

“We’re not gonna take the time machine?” Lyra asked.

“This is also a time machine. The first one I built, actually. It’ll get you there. Probably. Just hit the big blue button after the doors close.”

“Probably?”

The doors glided closed followed by a flash of electric blue light peaking through the crack between the doors. The blue light faded. I took a seat at my desk and immediately sent Lyra an instant message.

So, do you want to hear more?

Holy shit, Lyra responded. It’s been like three weeks. Thought I’d never hear from the crazy time traveller again.

It’s literally been seconds for me.

Fair.

Do you want me to keep going with the story?

Hell yes.