Thomas was siting at a picnic table in a park, eating a sandwich and reading a book, trying to enjoy the day. Enjoying the day had become a bit more difficult since Eris had shown up and declared him to be in debt to her. He’d been reduced to just waiting for her to show up and explain how he was going to have to repay her for the favor of showing him how to hide from Death.
Avoiding dying wasn’t so great when the people he talked to all seemed as though they couldn’t get away from him fast enough. He was afraid for his family and friends, if Eris decided to mess with them, but he hadn’t actually talked to any of them in weeks. Months, really.
“Hey buddy, why the long face?” Eris said from the other side of the picnic table. Thomas jumped, and looked up quickly.
“I was just wondering when you were going to show up again,” Thomas said.
“And here I am. How convenient!” Eris said.
“Very convenient, yes,” Thomas said. He set down his book and the half of sandwich he was holding. “So. What do you want me to do?”
Eris looked offended, “What, do you think I’m just visiting in order to ask for favors?”
Thomas looked at her, for a moment, then down at the table. “So are you here just to torment me for a while?”
“You have a very dim view of me,” Eris said. “I thought we were going to be pals. I guess I’ll have to turn the charm up a bit. Now that you mention it, though, I have come up with a way for you to repay that favor I did for you.”
Thomas took a deep breath. He suspected whatever it was, the favor was not going to be something he wanted to do, or would feel good about doing.
“OK. What is it?” Thomas said.
“I want you to build a bomb and blow up the Golden Gate bridge,” Eris said, as though she were asking him to go pick up some ice cream from the corner store.
Thomas gasped, then choked a bit. When he’d regained his composure, he said, “You’re joking!”
“Nope. I’m completely serious. And you know what the consequences will be if you don’t do it.”
“Why on Earth do you want me to do that? What good is it going to do?”
“Good?” Eris said, and laughed. “It’s not going to do any good. It’s going to cause complete chaos. It’ll disrupt thousands of people’s lives, which will cause even more chaos to spread out as those people react to it, and so on. The sheer idea of it is kind of turning me on already.”
Thomas shuddered a bit at the idea.
“That’s it? You’re not advancing a cause, you’re just fucking things up for everyone?”
“Yep. Goddess of Chaos, remember? And you owe me a favor, so you might want to get to work on this.”
“I don’t want to do that. It’ll kill hundreds of people! It’ll keep killing people afterwards too, since ambulances won’t be able to get to them.”
“Yeah! That’s a bonus!” Eris said.
“I can’t do that! It’s just wrong,” Thomas said.
“You cheating Death and disrupting the natural order of things is also just wrong, but that didn’t stop you. And you don’t have a choice. Do it, or I kill your family.”
“Isn’t there something else I can do? Maybe clean your apartment? That’s gotta be a chore, huh?”
Eris glared at him, “What are you implying?”
“Um. Nothing. Just saying cleaning is a lot of work.”
“My home is perfectly clean, and that’s hardly repaying the favor I did you. You get to live forever now. I think that’s worth more than a hasty tidying of my house.”
“It’s hardly living. Everyone I meet is repulsed by me. This is a half life.”
“Are you sure people are repulsed by you now more than they were before? I mean, you’re hardly the most appealing person I’ve met.”
“Look, I can’t blow up the Golden Gate bridge!”
“Sure you can. You just build a bomb, put it where I tell you, and BOOM, no more bridge. It’s totally do-able.”
Thomas ran a hand over his face, and scratched at his cheek. “I mean, I can’t blow up the bridge and live with myself.”
“Well, that’s fine. But if you doing, your family isn’t going to be able to live with you either. They won’t be able to live at all, really.”
“Look, even if I wanted to do this, which I don’t, I couldn’t do it because I don’t know how to build a bomb.”
Eris produced another three ring binder and set it in front of him.
“Now you do,” She said. “I’ve even arranged things so all you have to do is pick up the raw materials you need. All the details are there in the binder.”
“I’m not touching that,” Thomas said. “I’ll end up owing you another favor.”
“OK,” Eris said. “You don’t have to use the information I’ve provided for you, you can find your own way to make a bomb, source the materials, and blow up the Golden Gate Bridge. But the end result is that you are going to blow up that bridge either way.
“Isn’t there anything else I can do?”
Eris paused and thought for a minute.
“You could blow up the London bridge instead.”
“What? How is that any better?” Thomas said.
“You didn’t say anything about not blowing up the London bridge. Seems like a reasonable compromise to me.”
“OK. Is there anything I can do that doesn’t involve blowing something up and killing a lot of people.”
“What fun would that be?” Eris asked.
“It would be better than the alternative,” Thomas said.
“I see,” Eris said. She thought for a minute, staring at Thomas the entire time.
“You know what? I can’t think of a darn thing that isn’t blowing up a bridge. Now if I was you, I’d take those instructions there and make things easy on myself. Because that bridge needs to blow up in two days, and that’s not much time to get bomb-making materials together in the kind of quantities I”m talking about. And this binder,” Eris tapped the new binder on the picnic table,” well, this binder will be a much easier favor to repay than the other one was.”
“Oh yeah?” Thomas asked. “How much easier?”
“Oh, way easier. You might just have to blow up a car somewhere. Car bombs create a lot of chaos too.”
“I don’t want to blow anything up! Why does every favor you do for me require me to blow something up?”
“Because I like it when things blow up,” Eris said. “And it’s better that a bridge and a car blow up than, say, the house you grew up during Sunday dinner. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“You really suck,” Thomas said.
“I think you’ll learn to love me in time,” Eris said. “Well, I’ve got to run. Why don’t you just hang on to this binder. Take a look through it. Then when you’ve decided you’d rather blow up the bridge than watch your family suffer and die in a freak ham dinner explosion, you’ll be ahead of the curve in figuring out how to demolish that bridge.”
Eris vanished, leaving Thomas with his book, sandwich, and a new binder he really didn’t want.
“Well, shit,” Thomas said, as he picked up the binder Eris had left.