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Prometheus and the Eagle

Prometheus stole the secret of fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. As punishment for his crime, the gods sentenced him to an eternal torment. They chained him to a rock, and every day an eagle came and ate his liver. Every night his liver grew back again and the next day the eagle returned and ate his new liver. The gods decreed that this cycle would repeat forever. But the gods forgot that the same daily routine quickly becomes over familiar and dull. In order to keep things interesting, something has to change...

Prometheus adjusted his chains and wriggled his back up and down against the rock. His back was really itchy and the rock made an excellent scratching post. He sighed with pleasure as the itching subsided. He checked the time on his smartphone and then he looked worriedly up at the sky. The eagle was overdue. Then he relaxed when he noticed a black dot far away to the north. As he stared at it, it grew larger and larger. Soon he could clearly see the eagle flying in for its daily meal. It landed with a blood-curdling screech and a flutter of wings. Then it started to preen itself. “You’re late,” said Prometheus. “I was beginning to get worried.”

“Sorry,” said the eagle. “I overslept.” It didn’t sound sorry at all.

“I spent all night growing a new liver just for you,” grumbled Prometheus. “The least you could do is get here on time to eat it.” He rattled one of his chains to add emphasis to his words.

The eagle shrugged, unimpressed. “What difference does the time of day make?” it asked. “As long as your liver gets eaten every day who cares whether it gets eaten in the morning or in the afternoon?” It reached out a talon and pulled today’s liver towards itself. Then it lowered its head, ripped off a large bloody piece of meat and swallowed it whole.

“I care,” said Prometheus. “I like to get the whole thing over with as early as possible. That leaves me the rest of the day free to relax and binge watch Netflix.”

“Perhaps one day I won’t come at all,” said the eagle threateningly. “After all, I’ve been coming here to eat your liver every day for more than three thousand years now, give or take a century or so. I tell you, I’m getting really, really sick of the taste of liver. I want more variety in my diet!”

“But you are my only contact with the outside world,” protested Prometheus. “You keep me in touch with what’s happening. In the beginning you came and told me all the gossip. Then, when newspapers first started to appear, you delivered one to me every day. Later, as and when new gadgets got invented, you gave me a radio, then a television set and just a few months ago you brought me this smartphone. What would I do without you?” He leaned back against his rock, certain that he had won the argument.

“Now that you’ve got a smartphone,” said the eagle, “you can find out what’s happening anywhere in the world easily enough. And you can buy anything you want online and have it delivered directly to your rock. You really don’t need me any more.”

“I do need you,” protested Prometheus. He was getting really worried now. “I grow a new liver every night. If you don’t come and eat it for me each day I’ll soon have more livers than I know what to do with. I can’t just leave them lying around. There isn’t enough room on the rock. Someone’s got to eat them. It’s a rule!”

The eagle considered this and then it said, “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you try adjusting the flavour of your liver? A different taste every day would make my diet a lot less boring.”

Prometheus felt puzzled. “How do I do that?” he asked.

“You’ve got a smartphone,” said the eagle. “Just google liver recipes. I imagine you’ll get quite a lot of suggestions.”

Prometheus poked buttons on the screen of his phone for a while and then he frowned. “I got 464,000,000 hits,” he said. “If every one of them really does link to a different recipe and if I prepare the next one on the list each day, that means that...” He paused and poked more buttons. “That means that you’ll get a different tasting meal every day for roughly the next 1,271,232 years,” he said triumphantly. “Not counting leap years of course. How does that sound?”

“Intriguing,” said the eagle. “Let’s give it a go.”

Prometheus started reading the recipes. “There’s an amazing number of things you can do with liver,” he said, “but every single one of them seems to involve onions. How do you feel about onions?”

“I don’t know,” said the eagle. “I’ve never eaten an onion. Remember, I’ve eaten nothing but raw liver for the last three thousand years. So I’m a bit lacking in gourmet experiences.”

Prometheus returned to his phone. “I’ll get some ingredients delivered,” he said.

“See you tomorrow,” said the eagle and it flew away.

Early the next morning, Prometheus gathered his ingredients together and chopped the new liver that he’d grown overnight into thin slices. He marinated the liver slices in milk. After the liver had soaked for a while he fried it lightly with chopped onions and bacon and served it with mashed potato and lashings of onion gravy.

The eagle flew in and screeched to a halt in front of the piled up plate of food. “That looks interesting,” said the eagle. It took an appreciative sniff. “Smells good too,” it said.

“Dig in,” said Prometheus encouragingly.

The eagle ate every scrap. “Yummy,” it said. “That tasted really good. My compliments to the chef. I hope the next 463,999,999 recipes are just as tasty as this one.” Then a thoughtful look passed over its face. “Oh dear,” it said faintly and then it threw up copiously all over Prometheus and all over his rock. “I think I might be allergic to onions,” said the eagle.

“I can see that the next 1,271,232 years are going to be very interesting,” said Prometheus. “Not to mention smelly.”

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