Constellations

They call me the Woodwose.

But they know that I am the forest; I am the canopies and the wind and the soil underneath. I have been, ever since I inhabited its heart long ago, and settled in another still, in the heart of the Great Tree.

“I have come,” she says in a voice far too large for her frame, “to purge you, fiend!”

To that I sigh, and pay no thought to the years that the exhale holds. I have heard it a thousand times, from kings and knights and furious farmers alike. I’ve made their water and their wealth mine, and so have I their harvest and lands.

Their yield is poor this year. Not the fault of rainfall or the sun, but mine. I grow more able to bring suffering upon them, season by season.

Her father owns a nearby land, she says. Her anger is understandable, but she’s a fragile thing. A girl in her homespun skirts and flimsy limbs, with golden hair curiously chopped to her nape. Strange things they are, humans, that a fortnight of starvation could kill them, and yet they defy, and yet they dare.

She comes with a spade, and it becomes clear that no sorcery could flow from those fingertips. She fails on the first day, and she fails on the second. On the third, I ask why, thinking that it’s a redundant thing; because she’s a farmer’s daughter, and I make their crops suffer.

“To be granted knighthood.”

And my belief in the limits of foolishness disappears. It wasn’t a very strong belief to begin with, not with her futile efforts at my sides, digging at roots that recover in instants.

Being a farmer’s daughter isn’t completely irrelevant, I learn on the fourth day, because her mother died. They couldn’t provide what she’d needed; I’d taken their yield. On the fifth, she cries and I can’t distinguish tears from the sweat running down her cheeks, and it’s the bitter, furious kind because she’s miserable and a little broken. On the sixth day, she learns that I forgot the sight of the sky; and on the seventh, I learn that she can chart it.

Days pass, and she brings apples with her sometimes. When she allows herself to rest, she braids flowers into crowns. It grows, that hair, but so do my roots, back into the dirt where they belong. Soon I learn her name, and Constance watches as her efforts become vain.

She listens when I scoff and tell the tales of her predecessors. Sometimes she laughs too, at the knight who promised the heart of the tree but fled when it talked, and the old king who led his men to where the horses wouldn’t follow, and tripped into the river while he hailed his call.

When I ask if she’s searching for my weakness in their stories, “Perhaps I am,” she cheekily says. But no, and although I am incapable of emotions beyond sins, no tenderness to be offered to humans, I can see it; that earnestness in eyes that should be set on horizons.

“Find my virtues,” I tell her after months she spends visiting, the secret of uprooting the heart of the woods. Seven, scattered across lands and seas far beyond her little village. It intrigues her, and she asks where, not how. And it is a little charming how willful the weaker beings can sometimes be. At least she, whose eyes bear something I can’t read, when she’s told in which scorching desert my Patience I’d left, and in the depth of which sea my Honesty dwells, and how high the mountain that holds my Humility is.

Then they call for her and she heeds. She leaves on a ship, and the wind brings back news of her when he can. She disembarks, and she finds her first companion, a small monkey, on a strange land I must have journeyed during my old life. It wasn’t so robust then.

She spends the year away, guided by voices and the stars. My virtues are gently awakened throughout, but I can’t possess them yet. She is captured and put to suffering for stealing my Sincerity from a land that honored it far beyond its worth, then she escapes unaided. The wind tells me she finds another companion, a boy, and is taught the way of the sword. Beasts become less frightening, and her sobs more courageous and sparse.

Her laughter comes in abundance, and the freckles on the bridge of her nose become more defined by the sun. She struggles still, against mountains of snow and ice and furious skies. But Constance grows and flourishes and takes the world by a storm.

I hear her curiosity finds ways to discover me, and seas away my secrets unravel in old myths and tales of havoc. She knows that I once had the freedom she seeks, and that I exploited it. I raged and plundered; I remorselessly sinned until that heart was spoiled beyond the capacity of a body to contain.

I begin losing myself, perhaps as she finds me elsewhere. I grow weaker in the entirety of my existence. Their crops prosper and her father writes and sends birds with joy. It appears that it soon would be gone, my vision, but it doesn’t shake me, because the wind sometimes carries her voice, but never the sight of her.

She’s carrying trinkets in the palms of her hands when she returns. Seven of them; little, old things that gleam even in the dead of the night, even to eyes that could see nothing else. I’ve become too weak for the year she spent away to feel as insignificant as it should.

She cries again, and it’s a headache how much she does. “Why have you withered away,” she says, her voice barely wrapped around a sob. “We had an agreement, I was meant to purge you.”

I lie and tell her that it was because she found my virtues that I began dying, but she only weeps harder. “But I have many stories to tell,” she says, and a number of them are about me; small, lost pieces of a past. “You’re not meant to just die yet.”

But I am; because finding my virtues wouldn’t take me, but my own desire to leave would. To leave the tree that took me in when the rest of the world refused is how I am made to die.

She tells her tales as I disintegrate. The bark that kept me for centuries falls apart in the circle of her arms, and the roots that held me dissolved beneath her feet. “Stop crying, you fool,” I say, and it’s met by a mess of small laughs and sobs and persevering stories.

“You never told me your Kindness was swallowed by a Kraken. That took a whole crew of pirates to retrieve, and another band of outlaws, too. And a massive carnivorous flower was guarding your Tolerance! I almost decided you could live without it at that sight.”

The Tree vanishes along with all the sorcery that rooted the forest. I feel it in me that it remains behind unchanged, and it could recover and grow without my notoriety keeping it in place. I have lived a burden, and remorse finds its way into me unprompted by the waiting virtues now scattered around her. Her stories are rushed and desperate, and so are her breaths. She breaks a little farther when my past as a human tumbles down her lips. She tells me that she knows and she says it again, that she knows and she knows, and she never says what it is. But it resonates in my body, every piece of the past she unraveled and willfully discovered, that left me with only envy and wrath. I feel it in the form that I undertook, and whether I am a beast or the human I’d once been I don’t know. But I am weaker than I’ve ever been, and even Pride can’t hold me upright against it. My head is cradled in her lap, on the harsh fabric of her breeches. And my eyes are gone, but she shifts me so they’re looking up. Constance pours Benevolence on them, and, “Open your eyes,” she says, “Look at the sky, Woodwose, isn’t it beautiful?”

My sky is green-eyed and freckled.

“That, she is,” I say, slipping away under her tears, “That she is.”


Notes

(TYIP) Iris

I am lost in her roars,
As she devours me,
Folds me inside her darkness,
entombs me in old echos, whole

She is not an evil thing, I know
Though I am haunted in her
black, yawning belly—
abandoned, grasping

And I yearn, so much that
She weeps for me, too
I yearn for the sun to ignite
once again— my sun, to rise

I am lost in a fever dream
of hope in droplets of color mending
my brokenness
For I am still living, breathing,

My strength is mine,
failing as it could be,
And I am not hers, but
She is mine

She is my days that pass,
She is my desperation and
My laughter, and she, with
Gentleness, unfolds—

and bears witness to My
Rise
To shore.

Flower prompt: Iris— hope

(TYIP) E D E L W E I S S

One thing not many know about him is that he’s very—

“What is the meaning of this?”

very

“They’re lovebirds; delightful, aren’t they?”

“I know what they are. I was asking what they’re doing here. Abhorrent creatures.”

Melodramatic.

“Oh, please,” Persephone scoffs. “They’re lovely. Just listen to them sing.”

“They smell vile.”

“Hades, there are decomposing bodies on our porch,” she says, taking none of it. “Besides, I thought you’d empathize; they’d die without each other. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the someone who’s been whining for ten minutes?”

Her birds continue singing, their voices too high for his presence. She smiles as she watches them flutter about their cage and approach her finger when she offers to stroke them; they really are brilliant little things— one of them cream colored, like the first shafts of sunlight, and the other is green, the color of royal drapery and tropical leaves. They break the stifling air and fill the chambers with defiant cheer, with life; but they’re trapped behind the white wires of their cage, and she longs for the burst of their color to taint the weary mist of the Underworld.

“I’ve not whined,” he says, punctuating the final syllable with bitter emphasis, and drawing her back to how bleak the air is. “I want them out by the time I am back,” Hades continues as he prepares to leave.

“Isn’t it unfair that you get to keep a companion and I don’t?” She asks, spontaneously pulling the tiny white gate open to let the birds out.

“My companion whose affection for you removes me from my own bed every night?”

Persephone notices how he slightly winces at the ruffle of the birds outside their cage. She sees it in his back when he stops to listen to what she has to say, a still, calm halt. “You’ve finally admitted that Cerberus likes me more,” she retorts in triumphant calm. “Besides, you remove your own self from the bed because it’s too hot.”

Before he gets a chance to complain that it’s Cerberus’s presence that makes the bed too hot, the yellow bird lands on his head, and for a moment they both freeze in place, the situation’s absurdity evoking surprise and something like dread, then a fluttering chuckle out of her. “Now,” she tells him, calmly, but the bird takes a few steps and gets itself entangled in his hair. “Thats the girl,” she informs, “I think she took a liking to you. Congratulations.”

Watching his hands curl into a restrained fist, she wills herself to settle again. He’s never been a cruel thing, and she doesn’t fear for the bird because for as long he’s been hers, he’s never doomed anything that didn’t deserve it, his vengeance always coming from a place of justice; and though what her heart holds is nothing she really cares to explain, she knows that before all her greed and her love, it is the belief that binds her to Hades. “I’ll take it off you; nothing to be afraid of.”

He turns and slowly, almost mechanically, walks towards the daybed. “I am not afraid,” he tells her, (he worries that it’ll defecate on his head, he says, and when she tells him that he can just say ‘poop,’ instead, his gaze finds the ceiling and he just sighs). With exasperation, he descends to his seat, and she detangles his hair from the tiny talons, wearing a smile that she knows he’d feel burning on his back. When she frees them, “Here!” she chimes, and places the bird on her own hair— then wraps her arms around his shoulders, then yields her weight onto them.

“I know that it’s not my birds that got you this agitated,” Persephone murmurs in a tone still as light, melodic.

He rises from his seat and she’s met again with the sight of his back, and despite his anger she still smiles. When it comes down to it, he’s a simple creature, quick to anger when things don’t go exactly as they should, and ironically, when peace is disturbed in his kingdom. Must be a mortal trying to escape, she decides, and her “l’ll see you in a bit,” is met with the wave of his hand as he leaves.

She spends time with the ugly little things, feeding them the seeds cupped in her palm and marveling at how cuddly they are when they hide in the crook of her elbow. But before too long her duties nag from beyond the chamber doors, and she scoffs, slightly annoyed at how his habits have been rubbing off on her. So she returns them to their cage and, “Don’t nag him if he returns before me, okay?” Persephone tells her birds, then slips into her black silks and leaves behind whatever signs of her old life she keeps in the Underworld.


The dissolving wails of the dead swirl around her ankles as she walks to the throne room— her steps the only sharp sounds in that lurid death, and her humming the only life in it.

Souls that still maintain their body try to clutch whatever they can of her, bony hands dissolving as they grab her wrists and her robes and her ankles, but they break and fade away at the touch. “Sorry,” she tells them. “I’d prefer to keep the hand if I were you. There’s no use in holding on to me.”

She sounds ruthless because she is, there’s nothing more to give the dead. But she isn’t evil, and like him, finds no pleasure in torture if it wasn’t earned.

The sounds of torment reach her ears soon, macabre and ragged and undeniably living. Her interest is piqued because he must be administering whatever that poor mortal is going through— well, whatever that mortal brought on himself; she could tell by the shrill rise in the victim’s voice and the way it whimpers down to silence, and how he doesn’t dare ask him to stop, that it is Hades torturing this afternoon.

Persephone follows the voice down the endless black foyers, and thinks that it might actually be a wonderful day— the smell of rot and death aside, and she is in a bright mood until she finds the warden guarding the tortured voice, and he doesn’t move out of her way.

She raises an eyebrow? then blinks a time or two. “Well?” Persephone asks him. “Are you not going to make way?”

“Um,” the specter starts. He’s green and purple in the face, and one of his eyeballs is dangling out of its socket. “My Queen, you can’t— I mean, My Lord asked me not to let you in.” Again from beyond the doors: screams, desperate and unnatural; and the warden giggles awkwardly.

“Did he, now?” She asks him, bemused. In her palm she gently cups his eyeball and shoves it back into its place, then, patting the rusty helmet on his head, “You’re a good kid. I’ll see to it that you get a raise. Now get out of my way, please.”

He screws shut his newly placed eye, and, noticing how he’s definitely trapped between a rogue and death itself, “yes ma’am,” he whispers and shuffles away from the door.

“That’s my boy,” she tells him as she winks, and she’s sure that she finds a little blush behind the scaly skin of his face. He stutters a warning, that his lord is indignant and that he’d surely need her protection now that he’s gone against Hades’s word. “He’ll be in better humor when he comes out,” she assures, then the gates open and a gust of bright green air blasts through her.

It smells of burnt flesh and innards and sin, but Hades is unbothered by it, eating his meal with Cerberus by his side. He’s inflicting torture without so much as a wince, casting his spells from a few feet away so as to not stain his robes. Before anything, “You’re eating,” she says, emphasizing his crime, “without me?”

“I remember telling them not to let you in.”

“Well, the kid outside listened to me, not you,” she says, and as the chair’s pulled out for her by an unseen force, and her meal is served by waiting hands, “which is the wiser decision, and a very brave one, might I add. I think he deserves a raise.”

“He does not.”

“He does, because he’s cute.”

“Stop offering raises to guards of hell because they’re cute.”

Across their dining table sits a guest, bound to his chair by snakes coiling around his legs. He screams and crushes his face onto the table, trying to die or lose consciousness at least, but Hades wouldn’t let him. His skin sears beneath him onto the chair, and he melts, skin and muscle and flesh, and she hears the squelch of his parts tumbling to the floors, then the splatter.

“Oh my,” she says, shoving her bite to the side to talk (Hades has always been too meticulous with his table manners, but in her kingdom she couldn’t really care much about that, not now when she’s in a particularly bright mood). Pointing her fork at the other end of the table, “What’s he done?”

Hades calmly tells her, “Why don’t you ask him?”

She calls between his screams, occasionally interrupted by them. “What is it that got you into this mess?”

He lifts his head from where he’s crushed it on the edge of the table, and when he sees her with the single eye he has left he spirals into another fit, like it’s his doom he sees, like she brought it on his head.

“Tell her,” Hades commands coldly, flicking his wrist from afar to put the man’s tongue back into his mouth after he bit it off in his pain. But he doesn’t say a coherent thing, still whimpering as he squirms in his seat, and when he lifts his face to see her his horror is renewed, and again his cries burst into the air and quiver down to the floor.

In a tone she isn’t expecting, Hades speaks again, “Tell her,” he demands, and it’s so sharp Persephone herself is startled, and so loud she’s heard nothing like it before.

She wonders what’s holding him back when his tongue’s been stitched back— then she notices the seat he’s attached to and, “Is that the chair of forgetfulness?” she asks, unsettled, and when Hades nods, she finally feels something in her jolt into place.

The mortal entered Hades for her, and Hades wanted for him the horror of realizing his fault, over and over again.

“What do you think of it?” Hades asks as he rises from his seat. His calm steps are hushed agains the floor when he walks to the victim, personally this time, and spreads his palm on the wrecked face. “I think I’ve spared him quite a lot.” She sees his fingers dig deeper into the mess, and then he lifts him up so that his skin tears and remains on the chair while the rest of him is in Hades’ hand. Now, he remembers.

It’s so fascinating, so mortal, she thinks, that foolishness, that man now trampled in her consort’s hand, his brains crushed out of him because he’s never used them by the looks of it. But now they’re trying to retain the memories of how mad he was to barge into the Underworld to steal its Queen, how brave, how that arrogance will trap him here forever.

She asks Hades to stop, and he scoffs a knowing sound before dropping what’s left of the man to the floor. As Hades returns to his seat, she walks to the mutilated body and fixes it, watches the sinews attach themselves back again and the muscles latch onto his bones, and he whimpers, endlessly drawing his final breath.

“You poor idiot,” she whispers, and maybe he isn’t cruel but she is, when it comes to what binds her to him she is cruel, a sacred bond scribed on the fates themselves— to think that a mere mortal thought that he would break it— the obscenity of it was almost too much; it was laughable. “You wanted to uproot me?”

She finds Hades’s smirk from the corner of her eye, a tiny curve on the edge of his severe lip that grows more evident when she lifts the mortal— now looking more human and less like a trampled mass of blood and flesh— and places him back on the chair.

After the comfort of being saved he growls and screams anew, his muse before him a beautiful, vicious sight, as she ruins him herself, as she reaches for his mortal heart and tears it out, and she laughs while he dies and dies again, as he bleeds, and she takes that heart that thought it loved her, then she tramples it underfoot.


“I’ll free them,” she says when they’re walking back to the throne room, their hands sticky with blood, intertwined. “The birds. Back to their world.”

“Stepping down, are we?” Hades deadpans. “How unusual.”

“Not as unusual as your mood changing in there,” she retorts; she loved it, that sound that thundered out of his throat when he laughed, short and gritty and rarer than anything.

(And while leaving behind Pirithous, the mortal who came seeking her, she meets her little guard again and, “See?” she tells him about Hades’s lighter spirits, although there’s nothing to see really, not when Hades’s face is that stern, always. But the guard nods because that guffaw was loud enough to tell of her success, though she wasn’t striving for it then— not when that visceral rage swelled with catalysm inside her, made her think that if someone had come for her, someone could come seeking him, too; but it wasn’t that anger that made him laugh, it was right when she pulled her sandal out of the mortal’s heart and turned her back, then uttered a curse so obscene to bring herself down from her anger that Pirithous, even more dead than alive, still winced.)

“Instead,” she continues about her birds. “I’ll ask for vultures, they suit us better.”

Hades only clicks his tongue, and yes, she thinks, that; his intricacies and small, invisible gestures that belong to only her, his delight shown in occasional smiles hidden behind an infernal glare and the back of his hand, his longing in secret, muffled growls and the ardent heat on her skin. “Vultures,” she contemplates— because they’re more like them, aggressive symbols of bleakness, ugly and feared and deemed evil. She’s never felt the need to hide her own possessiveness, but she doesn’t have to say it now, he knows that they’re both birds of prey if anything; ragged and loyal and savagely protective.

If anyone comes seeking him she’ll crush them, she thinks, and she realizes that she voiced that concern when he adjusts his grip over her hand and, “Of course you will,” he tells her, and she takes it with humor, then asks him, taking his chin towards her, not to seduce anyone with that pretty face.

“I will try not to,” he responds dryly, like it’s always been out of his control who he seduces; and though he’s teasing, she remembers herself and how he took her with such ease, how her plan was to take away his inhibitions and his power, and before she knew it she was recklessly consumed with yearning, mad with it. And though she believes he won’t betray her (nor disrupt his routine to seduce anyone,) she still finds the scene before her— remorselessly violent, a mortal or so turned into an immortal twig or a branch because they dared steal his heart, and his— Hades’s, head, served to her on a silver plate, ravaged and dethroned, with that same unruffled expression plastered on his face, his beautiful eyes open and looking at her only, eternally. No penance would appease her; and it’s a comforting thing how her rage swells, how nothing would tire her, ever.

“That’s an extremely devious look,” he suddenly says. “Even for you.”

He’s a few steps ahead of her now, after she’s stopped in her tracks and was lost in her thoughts— and when she skips ahead to cling onto his sleeve he doesn’t react, only, “I would not be involved in whatever you’re plotting, would I?” Hades asks, and she sees it that he knows already.

“I’m only thinking of taking that guard to be my bird-keep,” she says, too innocently, and when he mutters, ‘lies’, under his breath she promises that, among other things, she really will take that boy to look after the vultures because he’s cute, and his bewilderment will be so endearing at first, wouldn’t it? Don’t you want to watch him being flustered when it all is so new and unusual?

He continues on his way, telling her to do as she pleases, but he halts in place when,“Hey,” she calls with cheer. “Tell me you love me.”

“I do,” he tells her simply, then he turns and approaches until she has to lift her face to meet his eyes, and she smiles— her wide, lethargic smile that charms him out of his wits, and she knows it’s working when he sweeps his thumb over her cheek, softly. “And you know it— my beloved undoing.”

“Well then, say it,” she demands, and when it comes in a whisper she bites the inside of her mouth to keep from chuckling. “Not like this,” Persephone continues. “You stingy old crow; say it out loud, scream it for everyone to hear.”

“I will not.”

Of course you won’t, she thinks, but she pouts and she teases because she believes his hoarse, toneless whispers— that he loves her, because when she reaches out to hold him he pulls her as close as she’ll come, no stubbornness in his touches, and even if he doesn’t voice it she believes him, because when she draws a long breath she sees the panic in his eyes, and when she screams what she feels about him there’s no anger between them, though she says it so loud that even the dead stop groaning for a few seconds. It’s only comfort now (and the precious bashfulness emanating from him as he presses a finger to his temples and sighs again, because she really should stop tarnishing the image of the Lord of the Underworld, he tells her).

“I think you should stop looking after that image for a little while, a few days at least, it’ll do you good.” Then she clasps together her hands in excitement and exclaims, “Let’s go to the surface and find the vultures together!”

He gets no time to respond with anything but a tired stare that only gets more and more spent as she adds that she’ll show him all the new crawlies she’s learned of, oh! and he could finally get his skin bronzed by the sun— come on, how long has it been since he spent some time above ground? Thanatos will look after this lively bunch, she adds; not a thing to be concerned about— he deserves some time off, and then it sounds within reach, and then he slowly realizes that she’s not joking.

“We personally get the vultures, or the lovebirds stay,” she bargains, and prepares to negotiate further when—

“Alright.”

“W—what?” Persephone stammers, a hundred questions tangled in her as she tries to continue mouthing him off.

“We’ll go,” he tells her, and it feels like a challenge more than a submission, to see what else she’ll come up with, how far they can banter before one of them gives in.

But he loses, distinctly letting out a despairing grunt after she tells him that Mother will be thrilled to have the three of them over— who else beside them two? The bird-keep, of course!

She manages to force a tiny, exhausted smile out of him by how impossible she’s being, and she takes his agreement and runs with it, teasing him again about being theatrical. Their world stretches before her, veiled with mist and fog and lost, wandering souls— all of them foul and mournful, but it is home, certainly, it is, the life that she chose and the life that chose him, the death that she settled in like a lover’s embrace, and if she’s meant to be lost in it she will be, because as hard it is and as filled with shards— she was created for it; because she’s a creature of life and all of earth’s wonders, and what is that if it isn’t an eternity of transmutations, of death and decimation and living—

it is her, and it is him, two old vultures sheltered in the hollow tree they call home, prepared to tear apart anything if it meant protecting one another, if it meant they’d remain together, always.

Flower prompt: Edelwiess— eternal love, devotion

Life and writing updates you don’t really need: healing, slowly

Hello hello!

I’ve dipped again, but for once, I think my excuses are valid.

It’s been a long month of having to suddenly fit myself back into the life I hadn’t seen in two years, except now I no longer find my sister waiting for me at lunch, or asking me to go grab a coffee.

Grief is as horrifying as I thought it would be, but I’m so grateful that, instead of a wall tipping and crushing me underneath, grief turned out to be a maze I have to navigate through. Slowly, I think I am making progress— even when setbacks happen, I believe that I’ll find my way out eventually. I went back to work less than a week after my sister passed, and I’ve filled my days up to the brim with pottery classes and painting sessions and working out, not because I’m trying to distract myself from grief, but because I don’t want to miss out on life.

Anyway!! Writing-wise, I’ve only been working on a hades/persephone piece lately. A lot of themes I think were explored in that and I’ll be uploading it soon (in a few hours? in a few days? Who knows). Thrilled to think that someone may be looking forward to it because the worst thought you can get as a writer is, “Is anyone even gonna read this??”

On another note, have you guys been using the Story option at all? What do you feel about it? Maybe these updates will move over to that feature instead of cluttering my dash.

As always, thanks for reading and please stay safe and happy ✨🤍

The day I lost my sister

I burned vividly the sight of the rain as it fell like a singular sheet beyond the window of the taxi I took to the hospital that last time.

My heart was settled in place, surprisingly, as I rushed through the layers of doors towards my sister’s room in the ICU. Mom had just panicked, I thought; she’d exaggerated how bad the meltdown my sister had that morning. She’ll be fine, I know my sister’s going to be fine.

It’s a strange thing what hope does to you. When I looked past the shutters I saw her unconscious, with wires all over her body. She’ll be okay, I thought again. I’d seen all of these wires before, the only new thing is a massive oxygen mask obstructing her pretty little face. I’d seen it before, the bags of platelets by the twos, never seeming to stay in her body, and the bags of blood, and the NG tube inserted far into her perfect nose to drain the pitch black liquid that gushed out of her stomach if it wasn’t pulled out with a syringe.

But then the doctors came in and asked us to follow then for a chat, and my mother kept asking them to take just me. “Take her,” she told the tall doctor who knelt at her feet. “Take Maryam, I can’t go. Maryam will tell me everything.”

But the doctor insisted, and my mother and I, hand in hand, followed a group of them past maze-like entrances into the quiet room. I knew it was bad news, quiet rooms always are, but as much as I’d thought I’d steeled myself for the possibility of my sister passing during the two years she battled leukemia, “We think we should let her go,” still made me want to yell at her doctors and call them stupid liars.

I didn’t do that. I cried, I cried so hard my body shook with it; a whole two years’ worth of tears trying to break out of my chest. I couldn’t support my mother; she supported me as she wept on my lap. I vaguely remember someone handing me a cup of water that I couldn’t really see.

So we went back to her. It was around 11 in the morning by then, and she was stable. My sweet unconscious sister was hunched in her floral pajamas, holding her new unicorn plushy. We’ll just have to make her comfortable until she goes. The meds are too much, you see? They just make her anxious and fill her lungs with even more fluids.

And so started the harrowing journey of sitting in a room with my sister and waiting for her to die.

There’s no other way to put it. For a day and some change, I stayed in a room with my mother and over-sympathetic nurses, watching the screen as my sister’s vitals dropped and increased for a little spark of hope, the leap of a heart anticipating a miracle. But there were no antibiotics nor steroids, just medicines to make sure she’s comfortable.

Her nurses from the cancer ward came to say goodbye. She’d been hospitalized for 8 consecutive months, and they all couldn’t help but consider us family. Even the cleaning lady burst into tears when she saw us packing later that day.

The doctors and nurses weren’t expecting her to make it through the night but she did, fearlessly, responding to our “Do you love me?” in her delirious state, and groaning the names of our other siblings who weren’t there. I love her. I love her so much and I told her a thousand times that night; and I told her that everyone else loves her too, all the siblings whose names she cried.

But her response became slower, and it was time for her to say her shahada. My mom said it again and again until she followed, and there was so much sadness in my heart I didn’t know what to do with it. “Ashadu Alla Illaha Illa Allah,” she said, slowly, deliriously, brilliantly. It meant that she knew that it was her time to go.

Then she stopped responding entirely. No more nods to our “I’m here and I love you,” and no more unconscious “thank you”s to the nurses after they give her more painkillers. The monitors continued showing her pulse and her oxygen dropping, and her heart fighting a futile battle. It was the following morning then, I hadn’t eaten or changed or even slept for twenty four hours; and my sister was still dying before me. Nurses and doctors kept coming in, and there was one thing I couldn’t stop asking, “What do people do in this situation?”

Really, it was unfathomable. I was waiting for her to go, just sitting there and waiting, shivering uncontrollably under three blankets, in my jeans and my thermals. “There’s nothing I can do to prepare you for what will happen,” a nurse told me, and she was right.

Thankfully, a consultant and a doctor were there to bid farewell, both of them women.

And then it happened.

My legs gave in, and I thought, no, no no no not yet, please, not yet. But it was time, and I saw her breathing still, a warrior in her glory, every inhale racking the entire bed it was so laborious, the distance between each and the next becoming longer. The doctors held my hands and asked me to look into their eyes; Sarah had incredibly round ones. I wanted to run away and never come back, how could this be? I wanted to run and run and cry, but I held her hand and kissed her face and told her again how much I love her, and I couldn’t believe how fast the color of the fingertips change.

Today we’re packing to leave London, and every thing I touch reminds me of her. I’ve always been the thief sister who rummages through her closets for pieces to complete my outfits, and she was the only one who could glue my falsies on. I found so many eyeshadow palettes and bronzers, new and unused, and unopened bottles of floral perfume. But I think I’m making peace with it. It was just so peaceful how she went, she took a breath and then not another one after it; and I keep going back to that memory when I think about all the makeup she wouldn’t get to wear, and all the kimchi fried rice she wouldn’t get to eat. But my heart knows that she’s got much better food where she is, and she’s got ambrosial perfume, things beyond our pathetic earthly pleasures. Oh, and good company, with Grandma and our pilot uncle, and her ugly little green bird, Dino.

Fatma, my patient, fearless sister who faced cancer and chemo and a horrible, horrible GvHD. I will always be your big sister, I will think of you every time I have any of your favorite foods, I will pray for your pure soul as long as I can. I’ll miss you, but I know that you’re in a much better place now.

I love you.

إنّا لله وإنا إليه راجعون

(TYIP) Protea

There was a giant white crocodile suspended on the ceiling.

“Goddammit,” he hissed after it’d made him jump. His violent intent to beat the shit out of the captain was disrupted by a crocodile lamp.

He’d received a letter inviting him to ‘Enjoy the night’ in a godforsaken tavern hidden in the backwaters of the moors, far enough that the chaos wreaked by the arrival of pirates went unheard. He was keenly familiar with the ambience, the loud laughter and the constant tension of fights brewing, threatening to erupt; it was air that invited dirty secrets to come to surface, along with indecency and the general absence of basic human integrity.

But he was familiar for the wrong reasons, how he stood on the other end of the law. He’d chased countless criminals in this setting or around it, vagrants smelling of piss in fetid alleyways, and pirates who’d just docked to drink and raid the businesses of poor old vendors.

Hyder kept an eye out for the owner, looking for a cowering old man or a tavern wench who looked like she could snap his neck. But when he found her she was a young, sweet thing, who, to his surprise, seemed a good friend of the entire crew. With her light steps around little round stools and the too-big men on them, effortlessly navigating dangerous waters with a tray full of drinks, it was easy to tell she had memorized their poisons by heart and served them unprompted.

She approached Hyder, doe-eyed and her lips like petals. “Haven’t seen you before,” the barmaid said, brightly. “New recruit? Never too late to be a deckhand, huh?”

“I suppose not,” he responded, desolate. What else could he tell her? The truth? That he was a Captain in the Navy with ships and men to his name, upholding a role in command of the sea and maritime security, held currently against his will by pirates using a girl he secretly raised as leverage? On top of which he was sick to his stomach with worry over said girl, and that itself was a problem, seeing as he’d already thrown up once into this pirate captain’s face after he got squeamish thinking of how two of his fingers were crushed while he was getting sacked? Should he just ask her about the crocodile?

“Can I fetch you anything?” The barmaid asked, dragging him back to the din under her roof. In response he shook his head and thanked her; he needed all the wits he could muster if he was to attack tonight.

Rigel, captain of the crew that filled the tavern was man whose notoriety traveled seas ahead of him, and whose arrogance was not suited for a man of his size. When Hyder had met him first, Rigel’s tunic had been stained with blood, and so were his breeches and the black leather boots he strode so proudly in. He had left behind red footsteps behind him. “Sorry for the wait,” he’d said. “I was humoring my other guest. For information, of course. I’m not cruel.”

He’d feared it’d be Willow, that guest, but it wasn’t. The screams of a man had filled up the galley beforehand, and afterwards Hyde was taken to see Will. She hadn’t been crying before he went in, but she broke into tiny sobs when she saw him— then burst wailing, but he wasn’t released to break her out of that secluded room, and it shattered him how helpless he was. “I won’t hurt her,” Rigel had said later. “She’s of no use to me dead.”

The bastard, with that audacity he threw in his wake was playing cards while a long-haired girl leaned onto his bony shoulder (‘I’ll get to you as soon as I kick these bastards’ asses,’ he had said to Hyder when he saw him enter the bar. The crew cheerfully responded to that, “Oh, you’ll be waiting for a long time, Doc, Cap never wins shit.’)

He’d left Hyder uncuffed, bound to the crew with nothing but his adopted kid, Willow, held captive. They even let him keep a weapon. A brass display of underestimation, he thought while wrapping his fingers around the hilt of the dagger at his belt. But Gal, Rigel’s right-hand man and the only true raw strength protecting the captain, was nowhere to be seen now. It made Rigel as vulnerable as he could be; distracted with a game and a pretty girl in a pale yellow dress. His guard was down, Hyde could tell from the way he bit the tobacco roll between his teeth, a tiny smile tugging at the scarred corner of his lips as he contemplated his next move.

Hyde looked at his reflection on the blade, contorted and made into a monster. Though in truth he didn’t look much better, his eyes deep in their sockets and his face gaunt; but he didn’t even look as horrible as he felt. His dominant index and middle fingers had both been broken during the crew’s first attack, when they mauled him then hurled him at their captain’s feet. That runt was barely bigger than the girl by his side— the knife Hyde had in his palm was more than enough to penetrate straight to his heart if it were pushed right, and dismember him afterwards. With his knowledge of the human body, it wouldn’t take much, he thought. He was a surgeon before everything, had studied anatomy through and through, knew every tendon and every ligament, every point of a man’s body that could kill him. He’d known it all before he was trained to wield a sword, and before the insignia on his uniform gave him his rank. He could tear this bastard limb from limb with a pair of scissors from a suture kit.

But he wasn’t going to. He only planned to turn the tables, take the captain as leverage and force the crew to give his girl back; that was all.

The dimming light glossing over wooden planks made the air warm and pleasant, and in any other circumstance (and in the absence of the crocodile), Hyde would’ve found a comfort in it, that din and the scent of polished hardwood; it reminded him of his childhood and something long forgotten in it. It made him want to sleep.

Before he drew his next breath, he heard the chime of steel meeting its kind. He’d darted and pounced atop the round table, knocking glasses to the floors and the breath out of the girl’s chest. Cards fluttered around him to the floor, then for a second, all else made no sound.

Rigel had drawn his sword, partially, only to block the tip of the dagger coming his way. From where he crouched, Hyde could see the eyes behind the blade, something otherworldly or wild, serpentine in its yellows and green. “You bastard,” he heard, whispered from beneath him. “And I was finally winning.”

Then he unsheathed his weapon, fully.

The force had Hyde instinctively recoil, kicking his foot firmly on the edge of the table and drawing back. They had the attention of everyone in the tavern by now. He blew it, he thought. The crew will interfere soon.

But all he wanted was to take his Will and get the hell out of here, wash up and go to bed. He’d bet all he had on that first strike, and it got blocked by the half-pint.

Hyde took a defensive stance, the knife pointing towards the opponent staggering his way. But in a beat Rigel was sprinting, sure-footed and swift, until their blades met again, the clink louder this time as two forces collide, opposing.

Hyde dropped to avoid the attack— did this kid want him killed? In the midst of strikes and parrying, his mind wandered to that first meeting, when Rigel had made what he sought clear. ‘Be my eyes and ears’ he’d told him, with no reserve. ‘Betray the Crown.’

His words had come as unbridled as his strikes. ‘How would I be your eyes and ears if you end up killing me?’ Hyde lamented, dumbfounded. He could hold his ground, but Rigel’s feet were all but planted in the planks, sea-legs accustomed to duels on water, and movements fluid and decisive.

Rigel attacked, his blade drawing a clear arch above Hyde’s head. Lower down, Hyde finally found an opening. He drove the pommel of his weapon into Rigel’s stomach and felt it hit his hipbone, pulled the dagger back in a blink, and thrust it into Rigel’s gut this time, harshly.

Rigel toppled forward, but his sword was still in his grip. Hyde was vaguely aware of a betting pool forming around them, and as Hyde reached down to seize Rigel, finally..

He felt the impact on his shin, a kick that had him grit his teeth in pain as he fell to the ground. In the second it took him to rise to his feet, he heard Rigel hissing to his crew, “You shits are betting against me?!”

“He’s a big shot in the Navy, Cap,” one of them said, laughing.

Rigel grunted something with the crude gesture he raised to the men behind him. “No choice now,” he said, pointing his sword towards Hyde again like the duel started anew. “I can’t have my own men look down on me”

How cocky.

Hyder looked down to his feet; he was a big shot in the Navy, but he’d rusted after being shackled behind his desk for so long, a pile of documents growing by his side, waiting to be signed. Ignoring the protests of his joints, he pointed his own blade towards his opponent, and watched as a small grin stretched along his lips; if he’s in this neck-deep, he might as well enjoy it.

Two swift strides ate the distance between them, and Hyde crouched seeing Rigel’s sword come for his neck. Shoving a breath past his teeth, he pressed his entire weight on the point where their swords met, sending Rigel sprawling on his ass; but then he was up again in seconds, striking like he knew how— fiercely, and without reserve.

The roar of the blades filled the tavern to its brim and mingled with the cheer of the crowd, looking after their bets. He felt his shirtsleeves clinging to his back, and the trickle of sweat down his brow.

And then it hit him.

‘No,’ he thought, his eyes opening to the truth, bound by a piece of cloth and the air of authority. He was blind to it by choice, but it all made sense, too much sense. Rigel’s palm was splayed flat behind the pommel while his dominant hand was wrapped around the hilt, firmly driving it forward. He really was coming for the kill; and distraction meant Hyde’s end, but he couldn’t stop his mind from spiraling, repeating all the little instances of the past two or three months when he found himself staring at this Captain, considering his size and his slender forearms and his narrow frame and his choice of weapon; a short sword, a small, deadly thing— just like him.

No.

Wait. Wait.

But he didn’t, not for a second. His sword spun on the apex of his wrists, then hit the back of Hyde’s hand. Hyde’s weapon shot to the planks with a loud clank.

Rigel sneered, trapping him between himself and the wall behind, and when Hyde grabbed his collar to defend himself, he was kneed between the legs. Hard.

The pain sent him sliding down the wall with a grunt, and, “Yield,” Rigel said, triumphant, holding him by the collar like it was payback, and placing the tip of his sword beneath Hyder’s chin.

God.

Rigel was so close Hyde’s voice caught in his throat, the tips of their noses almost touching — he drew a shuddering breath, and tried to avoid looking straight towards the scars between them, under Rigel’s white tunic, three ragged lines starting below his collarbones and disappearing into the bindings. Hyde wasn’t sure why right then he was reminded of the morning after a storm at sea, that unbelievable stillness and the first breath of relief. He was tortured with it, some longing or pain, and what was it that dropped his heart so desperately, reaching out for something he didn’t know. It was the booze, he decided, that made light look like this on Rigel’s scars, that made him tremble with the need to touch them. It fucked him up, and he couldn’t help but direct his eyes towards the ceiling.

He knew it somewhere inside him, that he’d seen Rigel before, amidst fire and carnage and death; Rigel’s head was shaved then, and his bony body was barely covered with rags. He remembered the scars; how could he possibly forget the hands that placed the tiny red-haired Willow into his own, then pointed at a dead body nearby; a woman with hair like fire.

“Because you’re a woman?” Hyde hissed, defiantly. He waited for a reaction of shock or offense. He knew, after all, and he could very well announce it to the world, that the pirate that turned it on its head was a woman. “Or because you kicked me in the groin?” Hyde continued.

“Because I have a sword at your neck.” Then, once more, and more fiercely this time, “Yield.” It was the only word said loud enough for the crew to hear.

“Make me,” he challenged, rashly, like a man much younger than he was, like he hadn’t seen as much of the world, like the exhilaration was worth living for.

But then she did. She made him yield— crushed her lips onto his, caught his breath and his entirety and closed her eyes in reckless abandon, and she smelled of the sea and gunpowder and something like ink. Soft, he thought, like it was criminal— how did she feel so soft? This pirate who was all shards and anger and sharp edges, leaving him stupefied like he had turned back into a boy, unsure of where to put his hands. Push her back by the collar he had in his grip? Slide to the rounds of her shoulders to draw her nearer, then sink into it?

What?

Then it ended as fast as it started, with him left breathless and overcome on the floor and their audience ignorant of what had happened. “What?” Rigel asked, hunching overhead. She was so close he could count the scars on her face, pale ridges and curves against her lips and down her collarbones. “Never been kissed by a pretty girl before?”

(Later when what sat between them was no longer malice and hungry rage, after he’s seen all of her— burned off the secrets on her back with iron and fire, and called her real name— she tells him about every scar and ragged old wound, and shudders when he touches the lines on her neck like they hurt still. Then she closes her eyes, eyelids heavy with burdens and memories of crueler things, not wanting to see his expression for fear that it would be disgust or pity. “Hey,” he starts, but she only responds with a sigh, and by then he’s learned how happiness truly looks on her, and how anger does, too, and other things. By then he’s run his fingers across her ribs enough times to know by heart which ones haven’t properly mended after being broken in her past, and how the curve of her ribcage fits in his palms, but her eyes don’t part until he reminds her of that night. “You know,” he tells her, lightly. “Those scars were the last thing I saw before a pirate once kissed me. She was so pretty my legs buckled.”)

What?” Someone from the crew asked, disappointed and not bothering to hide it. “Cap won?”

“Hah!” She exclaimed, gloating. “Serves you bastards right.”

While coins were begrudgingly passed around, Gal barged through the batwing doors, leaving them creaking as the clatter quieted down. His imposing presence was acknowledged thoroughly, and the brows above his deep-set silver eyes were drawn together. “What the hell?”

“Cap got into his first bar fight,” said one crew member. “And won, somehow. Or at least it looks like it.”

“Gal,” Rigel called. “Your shitty crewmates bet against me, their own captain.”

Gal picked Hyder’s dagger up and flung it towards his captain. “I would’ve done the same,” he said, a scoff following his words.

“Saved your coins then.” Rigel bent down again towards Hyder, her presence fierce as she handed him back his weapon. “No one hears of this,” she told him, about the kiss or her secret, he couldn’t tell. He nodded to his own surprise, not hers, and then she laughed. As she headed to the dark staircase, “Oh, my darling scalawags,” she announced to her crew. “This’ll teach you to trust me a little more. And sorry for the mess, Eli. The boys’ll take care of it,” she told the barmaid.

(The crew had their protests, though. “Take care of it yourself, Cap,” they laughed. But when the owner fluttered her eyelashes and asked, “Won’t you?”

“Of course we will!” They exclaimed, and got to work.)

A large arm extended towards him. “Get up, Doc, Rigel’s going to be waiting,” Gal said. “We’ve got government secrets to discuss.”

He looked again at the crocodile, no longer the most absurd thing of the night. This crew had a nickname for him, and they called him by it like he hadn’t spent the evening trying to kill their captain, like they were friends.

He’d just become Doc.

Flower prompt: Protea — transformation, courage

A/Notes: The croc lamp was a gift from Rigel. She thought it was cute.

Thank you for four years 💞

Hello!

In April of 2017 I’d been writing for less than 6 months, then this website came along and contained all the creative chaos I had in me.

I was a messy writer, and I think I still am; and as much as I enjoy writing, I would never shut up about how difficult it is, and how much grief it gives me. But it’s the hobby I found after years of searching, and for a little humble blog to help me show it to the world is something I’m beyond grateful for.

Inkofhers wouldn’t have survived for this long if it weren’t for you, Reader, so thank you for your support however you gave it.

Sometimes I might dip and disappear, and neglect this blog for a while, but thanks to you all returning to it really feels like coming home.

Please stay safe and happy, always!

(and continue supporting this little writer 🥲)

my gentle decimation

I fell in love with my sadness

With her primordial existence inside me

With her magic, ancient and devious

and raw

and maddening

Leaving me yearning to be abandoned

in a city of quiet ghosts

in the safety she promised,

where no other soul exists

where the day’s no longer

aglow, and the night’s calm

is no more

where I am stranded in an

eternal forlorn onset of darkness

that drapes forsaken buildings, ruins

I want it, that terrifying quiet

I want the desolate pleasure of

exploring it, scrutinizing its secrets

After the world has ended

and everyone’s gone,

and waiting for me

to follow suit.

(TYIP) D A P H N E

He’s always slightly taken aback by the sun when he splits earth open. It’s all too bright, too alive, grasses and greens and small flying creatures. But he ventures unperturbed, his resolve clenched between his teeth along with his sanity, barely hanging on despite the chirps of ugly little feathered things.

He finds her loitering between her maids, dressed in the colors of blossoms and the trinkets she brings back to their realm when she returns. When she feels his approach she turns to him, a gasp preceding his name as it leaps from her throat. She hurries, smiling, and he finds happiness in her eyes, glimmering beneath sunlight before she throws her arms around his neck. It takes all he has not to give Demeter a demeaning look, and instead he only whispers a greeting into Persephone’s ear.

“I’m here for my wife,” he tells Demeter. Then, dryly to taunt her, “Mother.”

“Perish the thought,” she replies.

‘Perish yourself,’ he scoffs under his breath.

Persephone has flowers in her hair; daphnes. She told him about them when he last ascended to take her back, a story about the girl who was yearned for, so desperately desired that she had to be saved from it, turned into a flower with curved petals. He considers his position as his wife slowly tears away from his arms, the loss he feels again though she’s coming back to him after; that frailty, that fickleness, far more suited for mortal than for the King of the Dead.

“Do you really have to go,” Demeter pleads, and before he could say anything, his wife finds his eyes with hers and glares.

“Oh, Mother,” Persephone chimes, releasing herself from him after a pout. She goes and, dragging her hands down her mother’s forearms, “You know I’ve no other choice.”

Demeter’s sorrow brings down the flowers around them, and his wife winces as the ones in her hair turn crisp and brown and black. He could tell they were the ones she liked the most, and that she wanted them alive to take home.

“Now,” she continues, tender (she may be feigning, or not; he’s never sure, never understood why anyone would coddle Demeter willingly.) “You know I shall be back before too long.”

And she is going to, when the time comes; his entire affair with her is a practice of reaching out then letting go, a burden of restraint that he’s taken upon himself. It’s never mattered to him what Demeter thinks, how she twists her curses around her tongue and spits them out at him— it doesn’t bother him the slightest that Persephone’s attachment to the world below is sewn to his name, the lord and his realm.

But wasn’t it she that called? The memory wanders sometimes inside him; her soft hands as she knelt to earth and ripped the grasses and flowers by the root, then whispered to the blot of carnage she left, “Hades, King of the Underworld, would you ascend and claim me yours?”

He’s never been one to be called often, his name too damning to leave cowardly mouths. But she’s a tender thing, too delicate for the demand she breathed— so when he tore earth open he waited for a fright, but he was only met with awe— her eyes round and surprised, and her lips parted.

“Well,” he said to her then. “Come.”

She stood and shook the dirt from her robes, breathless with soft laughter. “This was… unexpected,” Persephone said.

“It’s not often that I hear my name whispered from your world,” he told her. “Let alone so blatantly called.”

“And you heeded in a beat,” Persephone teased. He was walking her down the dark steps, the path extending because he willed it to. “Are you lonesome, Lord of the Dead?”

He felt her eyes on his back as they descended, and tried not to let her gaze irritate him. “I like to think that I am accommodating,” he professed, and the sound of her amusement caught him off guard; she’d noticed the quip enveloped in his words, and laughed for him without fear.

So she barged uninvited into his realm and his being, and she seeped into him, washed over him, became his, and she was so unlike him, all soft curves and waxen features, so sweet it sickened him; the flutter of her skirts when she sat on the wretched ledges of the underworld, the trail of flowers she left in her wake.

“I’m tired of it,” she told him once, after she’d learned how to disappear from Demeter, slandering him with the sin of stealing her away. “Being in my mother’s shadow, always.” Then, when he said nothing back, she raised her head from where she’d tucked it on his shoulder, and reached for his jaw to turn his face towards her. “I want more, power and freedom, and to rule. I want to be Queen.”

“Is that why you called on me?” Hades asked.

“It was,” she replied in honest, drawing her face closer, closer, until she nudged it against his, her eyelashes quivering across his skin. “Do you feel betrayed?”

“You assume too much of what I feel,” he said, bluntly.

“Will it be too bold to assume that you want me, too?”

“It shouldn’t be,” he told her. “You’ve done,” his voice dropped as he tipped her chin towards him, his touch dark and ardent and barely restrained. She held his gaze until, “Far more insolent things to me,” he continued.

“Did I, now?” She was trying to feign her ease still, but he felt her flutter beneath his touch. “Tell me what I’ve done.”

He didn’t know; there’d never been anything taking more of him than governing his realm. He was a thing of abyss — he was born into it then consumed by it, then it was made his. Her arrival was intrusive, meddlesome, not how her laughter swept him when he forbade her from bringing flowers into the Underworld, and not how Cerberus took a liking of her in seconds, it was something more, an unnamed greed inside him, the desire to consume endlessly, to devour.

“You said my name as it is,” he replied, instead. “With no title or moniker in sight.”

“I thought that liberty was mine to take.”

“It is,” he told her. “And so is this Kingdom, in darkness and death and its long, tired suffering.” Withdrawing from her, he cupped his hand and a pomegranate fell into it. He dug his fingers in and broke it in half, the crushed seeds bleeding down his arms, staining his robes; beckoning.

“Is this your marriage proposal, my King?”

Seven perfect seeds were placed into the heart of her palm. “You know the meaning of this,” he told her, his words sharp and clear-cut.

Her resolve lined the innocence of her irises, and had he allowed himself to, his gaze would’ve turned tender at the sight; but he didn’t, he waited for her to eat all seven of the seeds that will draw her to him for eternity, watched as she crushed them beyond her little lips, and when she swallowed the last of them, “There,” she said. “Does this make us married now?”

Before he could hold back he smiled; an unfamiliar feeling lodging itself behind his ribs, and she took his expression as a yes, and never held back since, not her affirmations of love nor her laughter, and “my stern-faced lover,” she would call him, “would you smile a little for me?”

(Oftentimes he wouldn’t, but she would never let it go, she had her ways and her methods; and before too long he’d yield, her mirth a ghost left on his lips, and she’s so lovely and insufferable, leaving him muttering, “cunning thing,” when he realizes that he’s thoroughly lost this battle.)

Their union hadn’t been received well by anyone, and Demeter’s rage was an unexpected hinderance that killed off the mortals by taking away their crops. And while they’d decided to continue deceiving, (‘How do you like the idea of resuming the act? The naive little girl stolen away by the ruthless King of the Underworld?’ she’d asked), Zeus intervened, asked for Persephone to be given back.

He’d no intention of obeying; he wasn’t beneath his brother, and he wasn’t beneath Demeter, and the realm of the Dead was vast enough for however many mortals she would end up killing in her fits. “Give her back to her mother,” Zeus had told him, and Hades’s silence bore destruction and apocalypse, expanding and knowing no bounds, a vicious hunger to bring the entire world to its feet.

It struck him that there it was, his flaw, clear and glaring, his possessiveness to the extent of gluttony. He wanted no hand in anything that was his, nothing to touch the underworld he governed and its inhabitants, and he had never wanted anything over that, not before she came along. But a shift of shadows in him brought the thought of what she was, and he couldn’t tell if it was the voice of reason or some other thing, but he saw her flesh, so tender his touch could turn her to mist.

So instead he surrendered her to her will.


“Mother had to kill all of my flowers,” she whines, flicking the dead petals from her hair as she skips down the stairs before him. “I hope you’re not rejoicing that I won’t be able to weave them into that hair of yours.”

“I am doing just that.”

She laughs, producing a living flower from the folds of her peplos. “You forget that I am the daughter of life and the harvest.” And the flowers propagate in her hands where she’s cupped them, so much that they spill onto the steps beneath. “Do you know what they spell? These petals?”

“Eternity.”

“You remember!” Persephone chimes, peals of laughter sinking into the walls of darkness around them.

He’s never forgotten; not the stories she told him about trees and earth and deepening roots, how she’s life’s daughter. He’s never forgotten anything with her— how she’s never been the pure girl all thought she was, and yet she was sacred, his insufferable love leaving him in a trance and ruined, their lives a secret hidden in the soft lines on the corners of her eyes when she smiles.

She gives him a knowing grin, then calls his name.

Hades, let’s go home.

Flower prompt: Daphnes— immortality

(TYIP) Hibiscus

One time I wrote a story about a woman with steadfast eyes, a surgeon whose little island saw pirate flags approaching and closed upon itself, held its breath.

My girl left her little house, though, when she was called to the ship to treat an illness that was eating away at the crew. I wrote her amputating a man’s leg because she saw no other choice, then I wrote her watching, with an enduring heart, her husband slowly dying.

That story sits abandoned in my drafts, an old, dusty thing— descriptions of island plants and thatched roofs, of an unlikely affinity growing between a criminal and a doctor. I went back to it when I meant to write about hibiscus flowers and what they signify, and found that I’d written my doctor as the embodiment of that flower with no inhibitions. I wrote delicate beauty literally; deft hands and a tender appearance, but a roaring heart in her still. It sounds as though it will shatter, that beauty, but I see it as a fleeting thing, something hopelessly alluring but unafraid to leave; and even if it weakens and withers and dies, it remains tethered to you, like a single gentle breeze on a sweltering day.

Anyway, it’s a waste to leave it unread forever, so here’s a relevant little piece of it:

“Nothing about the affair was effortless, but he could see it, the efficiency of a doctor, comparable to the best naval surgeon he’d seen, mapping the joint and finding the last of the broils, and the first motion and the blood, and other than his first mate tying the limb tight and holding its owner up, she had no hands to assist, none to wipe the sweat beading on her brow.”

(Really, will I ever stop writing about women being so fierce, so fearless? I don’t think so.)

Flower prompt: Hibiscus— delicate beauty, glory, immortality.

(TYIP) Poppies

I lost myself

In the vast wonder of my mind

In the ethereal loneliness of

The folds of my dress

In colors of sunrises

And sunsets.

There’s no pain here, lining

the final whispers of joy

and cheer, of sorrow

But then I find myself

Growing

Prying peace from

the very end

Claiming it mine

Touching my dream

Barely, tenderly,

With fractions of the light.

Flower prompt: poppies— eternal dreams, sleep, peace, death.