Owing to the Sun’s mournful song, hearts flourish in Grief and Death, and in the other dwellers of the Underworld.
Harpies and centaurs cease their horrors. Hecate eases her burden and the Erinyes their punishments. Even Cerberus tore away with no command, and had all six of his ears lifted, alert. Old wandering souls stilled, solemn after centuries of wailing. They had been searching for meaning or purpose, a reminder of life; maybe in this mortal, they see it.
Orpheus’s is grief that touches even them— these wicked, hideous things, these feared strays. They have no empathy to speak of, no awareness nor heart, but hers had longing roots; it was one beating still. While the guest fills their realm with the strings of his lyre, that heart breaks at music like dimmed sunlight.
She looks to her companion, finds his features tense and stern. He governs so, and it is the way things are. His subjects are empty, nothing but bones, bare and made of smoke, their ribs covering hollowness as devoid as the Underworld itself. Some were humans once, and upon their arrival they would retain their form— phantom flesh and skin, but not for long.
His ways were born from from loss and necessity. Early, he realized that only reign over this abode is one with no remorse. He has never been passive, but has honored a decision and a responsibility when he was given the Underworld, and an agreement when she gave herself to him. That responsibility he made entirely his, ruled with virtue and the weight of circumstance, and under his laws all was equal. True to his old self, he remains sober and restrained— the most disciplined of his brothers. But she knows that in part, his dispassion is an act; she knows that, under that exterior of steel and ice, he is no stranger to tender perceptions.
So, “Will you not give him a chance?” Persephone asks.
“It is unheard of,” Hades simply retorts. It is a cold, dry aggravation, not like the vicious wrath that often follows those who try to leave the Underworld. “Soon he shall fall hungry and eat from this realm,” he continues, looking at Orpheus in the distance. “Then they will become reunited for eternity.”
“She still bears the marks of the viper,” she says at length. “What a painful death that must have been.”
“And what mercy is there in sending her to live and die again?”
“She deserves a gentler death, a swift passing in old age,” Persephone presses, her palms facing upwards, gesturing at the delicate, grieving melody. “Listen! How loved she is!”
“Compassion is unbefitting to the Underworld,” he tells her, and harshly tucks what else he wants to say between his teeth. His brows are drawn together, casting a flinty shadow on his eyes. He is not angry, she realizes with delight; he is doubting. Hades is dreading that soon, he will yield.
Stifling her amusement, “is it now?” she playfully says. “Strange. I hear its Patron would ascend to earth to seek his consort if her return was delayed by so much as a single day.”
After earning an exasperated sigh, Persephone holds her hand to his chest, finding the steady thump underneath. She wonders if the Ichor running through them both will endure all the coming eternities; she considers death and its decisiveness, the finality.
“They call us immortals,” she tells him. “Do you believe we are so?”
“No,” he says, simply, his black eyes tight on Orpheus. “The desire to be brought my Father’s doom upon him.”
He was the oldest of his siblings, but is the youngest now— the last to leave the bleak shadows of their Father. Persephone muses, runs her hands through the streaks of silver in his hair. Like mortals, he is ageing, his features etched deeper with lore and conflict.
“Can you bear the thought of parting?”
His eyes then find her, and he rises from his seat. “From Demeter? I’d be elated,” he says dryly.
She laughs in surprise. “Well, I like it, the notion of the end. It would bring closure to you and me when we grow tired of ruling.” In the lines of his face she notices an old, wistful sadness. There was no trace of it when earth first split in half and she saw nothing but darkness and his figure, beckoning silently. None of that sadness adorned his face until she began disarming him, undoing that tenacious exterior and finding the truth beneath. It came with his affections, with the solemn acceptance of an inevitable conclusion. Smiling, she continues. “I hope that should Death come, it comes for us both.”
“Yes,” he says, easing.
“You will have to pass first,” she teases. “You are accustomed to waiting..” Her words are split apart by giggles when Cerberus arrives and circles her legs as she pet his heads. “Besides, I do not want you to wind up like poor Orpheus.”
He gives in to a gruff chuckle. “Are you planning my demise to become the solitary ruler of the Underworld?” He says, his voice lighter and lined with mirth, and his gaze gentler. She knows that that is his truth, finds it with an old familiarity when he claims her with the names of red gemstones.
“I could be,” she retorts, considering the unspoken proposal all that time ago. Seven pomegranate seeds that she, with thorough awareness of what they meant, ate with no hesitation. “You should let him take his wife and go,” continues Persephone afterwards, turning her back to him and letting the hound lead her back to the music. “We all know you couldn’t afford another competitor for Cerberus’s affections.”
Here’s a part from the WIP project I talked about in my last post:
“And truly, she is made of iron. I saw her sail, saw her wrench the authority from Captain during a storm, and command from the stern men twice her size. From the day she planted her sea legs on the deck of that ship we’d recognised her a formidable opponent, then a certain leader, honed and chiseled into discipline by years she’d spent in suffering. She then became either too unafraid to die, or too confident of her plans to overtake Captain, who later gave her his heart and his fortune, and made her his wife.
Lady Eboshi didn’t shy away– took the love and gold he granted, and his heart. I saw her standing over his body that night, when his hometown was burning to the ground. Her dagger had sliced open his jugular, and like the wild creatures she’s always condemned, she carried the stench of blood in her very being.”
Read part one here
They make a habit of meeting when the full moon peaks. It’s far too short, barely a night’s length.
He talks a lot during those, enough for them both, about books and maps and compasses. Humans use the stars to find their way around the oceans, she learns, and they ink parchment with symbols to communicate.
She huffs when he tries to teach her. On the sand, she draws the sun. ‘No time.’
So speak until the seconds are filled to the brim.
Like her wholly-marine counterparts, the Angler siren was conceived from destruction. A vicious act brought her to life, the disintegration of another, the utter breaking of flesh and bone. Like her wholly-marine counterparts, she’s been wed to the depths since her beginning, condemned to be bound to its cold and its danger. But unlike them she rose from the breaking of spirits too, and unlike them she isn’t a creature of grotesque features, of frigid eyes, and teeth protruding, sharp and threatening.
In truth, she is the complete opposite of that.
When he retreated to her chambers, to the regality of her silks in rubies and emeralds, “Come,” she would say. He’d heed to her defiance in his realm, the reminders of her mother, and of her other life. Like himself, he would offer no words, just the comfort of his presence and the weight of his reign, lighter now that he’d allowed her some of it.
He didn’t need her to contain him, only desired her to, and when he lifted his gaze to hold her own, she was met with the realization that she’d grown possessive of it. There was death and suffering in his world, fear and grief and hunger, but she made it hers, that and the thread of affection lining his eyes when he saw her, the light barely softening the stern world-weariness in them. It was hers, and she’d so fiercely claim it.
“I depart tomorrow,” she said, and the words hung heavy between them. “With the first bloom, and the last of the winter winds.”
“Maybe I shall go blind in rage, too,” he said, “like Demeter.”
She laughed. “How will that change your Underworld, then? No winter will daunt your dwellers.”
“It will become a joyous place, until you are back. Feasts and drink for the souls,” he told her dryly. But when the Underworld brimmed with her laughter, she noticed a smile tugging at the severe corners of his lips.
“That will surely upset Zeus into returning you,” he continued, and right then, she wished upon Earth misery as cold and eternal as the Underworld’s.
Incomplete drabble because who can think? Not me, so here’s whats going on in the underworld today (in Australia maybe)
“I’m tired of being a forest nymph,” she tells the wise old tree. “You know, of being pretty, of the songs, of the long hair.”
The tree puts something in her heart. “Do you feel it now?”
She does. It weighs.
“Now find your sword. You owe your tale to live it.”
The elevator stops with a pleasant chime. I look down at my feet; they’re in two little shoes with pink bows.
There’s a whole world behind the doors that pull apart. In fact, there are two. One is filled to the brim with the laughter of kids and their mischief. I’m a good girl, I have always been, so I’ll keep to myself. In the other world I see home, and that one is brimming with my screams, because there are bad thoughts inside my head, and I am only as evil as they are, no matter how gentle the distraction of my mother’s perfume is. It is quiet at home, and I feel loved and cared for. But I am broken, and I deserve the unnaturally sinister sneers of little girls, as they look my way and whisper and laugh, and laugh and laugh, until I can bear it no longer, and I crumble and fall apart, and open my eyes back in that same box.
I look down at my feet again. This time, they’re in sneakers. My shoes are a little worn and tattered, but I’m bigger, and more grounded. The chime leads me to a dark place lit by tiny yellow lights and a carousel. Not unpleasant, but oddly comforting. It looked like a carnival, but it’s behind an invisible barrier beyond the doors. I muster up my courage, and cross over, and it’s bustling and warm, and the air carries the scent of candied apples in it. I hear my friends in the carousel, so I join. I spin along, savoring the carelessness, and laugh along with my friends, and there’s a world out there, and a life to be lived, but I can’t be bothered. I’m enjoying my time enough to spoil me rotten. But then, a call pulls me out; that I can’t go on like this. It’s a too-pleasant dream, and awareness draws your dreams to their end. There are struggles to overcome, and strength to be gained, and a life to be lived.
So this time, I find my way back on my own two feet, in the tattered sneakers that have become more worn. The elevator chimes, and behind the doors is the ocean, the very dark depths of it. I don’t find it threatening because I am ignorant. So I pass through the invisible barrier at the doors, first with my fingertips, then my hands, then my whole body.
It is not terrible at first. I suppose that I am still a little skewed, maybe not quite right. But it won’t get so bad. So I let the water consume me, bit by bit, grab hold of my fragile mind, and crush me inside out. It is deep, and I am suffocating and there’s no air in my lungs, and my voice can’t push anything out. I can’t say it because I’m drowning.
A hand pulls me back into the box this time, and I’m soaking and shivering and worn. My feet are bare, because I didn’t think I would escape, but that gentle perfume I can recognize. The elevator leads me back to the ocean sometimes, but I stand and resist when it happens, because I’m not falling again.
At least, I’m trying to.
The chime takes me to an all-white wall, and puts me in black kitten-heels. I trace my palms on that wall and walk along its side. I find a gap; the wall is a maze.
In the white maze I stumble and fall, and get lost more times that I can count. Others find their ways out easily, I think, and I have to remind myself that it is not always how it appears. But I can’t help it, and it eats me up, that comparison, and that desperate feeling of falling behind. I’m losing, and only pretending that I’m not, and I am clueless about the way out, or what sits at the very end. I’m dreading the next fall, or the next loss, and sometimes it’s not too bad because it really isn’t a race.
But today my eyes stung and my tears filled them all the way up, then they overflowed and burned down my cheeks. I can’t find the strength to fight them, but I think I’ve found something else. I’ve found the stairs, and I’ll kick these shoes off and run up and stumble and fall. There’s a purpose to be found, and a life to be lived, and I will soon learn not to fear any of it.
It’s ya girl’s birthday, and I cried out of existential dread, but had to write a little something here to celebrate (?) or to actually remind you guys to wish me a happy one. I hope someone takes the time to express what they’ve interpreted from all of this 🙂
The fluorescence light above flickered, pushing me to an edge I never knew existed.
It pressed me down into the illusion of solitude. It was all white, all white, the sheets and the beds and the walls. My fingertips were pale; stripped of warmth and color and all that would render them human.
I was cold and dying.
I bore a distorted truth, the sense of time and the lie of its shapeshifting. I never sunk into its rhythm, because it is a distasteful thing to have a clock ticking away at the side of a dying patient. The ticking I heard had always been a fragment of my imagination, because time stretches painfully when you’re cold.
Nights were especially long and quiet. They sent me into panic; the definite end that they hold threatened me and what little I had left. I broke into cold sweat when it happened, and felt my body come apart at the seams. I wanted to be released and contained all at once.
But then mornings came, and I heard her laugh across the hall sometimes. It filled the void that the night spent the minutes carving out of me. She was the sun, unapologetically barging into my life with a bustling warmth almost visible around her. She wore white, too, but her skin was dark and rich, a calm contrast to the dull ache that pressed on to me.
Our encounters were all in the company of needles and IV drips. Maybe, I made a drug-induced confession. Maybe I told her how much I feared the tick-tocks in my head, or how much I wanted to see her hair big like she would wear it outside the hospital, or how unfairly fast time passed when her work ethics allowed her to give the convict more warmth than she did her other patients, whose families would give all the warmth they needed, because there was no cold like the cold of hearing muffled voices of laughter and encouragement walls away when you’re withering in seclusion. Maybe I told her that she was a beautiful beginning following the end that crept closer every night, that I was sorry for all that I’d done, that I would give anything for another chance. Maybe I told her that she was the sun, because she spared me a second after her shift once, where she wasn’t putting things in my body or taking things out, and she smiled, not like she always did, because it looked so true and a little sad. It looked like dawn.
And maybe this is the end, because it is so warm I can’t stand it, and it’s everything I’d ever wanted. Time is stretching languidly, and I have nothing to do but to bask and let it seep through me until every piece of me is enclosed in it. I’ll bask until the day is done.
“It’s not right,” she tells the Ringmaster, a fire in her eyes evident even to me. I saw it once before, in the eyes of my own kind, when my mother and I were taken. “What we’re doing is not right.”
She’s in a little dress that shines, and she’s a fierce one. The expression that she wears when the masses arrive is nowhere to be seen. There is fire in her eyes, and it only grows hotter when the Ringmaster gives her his back, and, led by his belly, leaves the tent.
I think people see more colors than we do. I cannot imagine more colors, though. But does it enthrall them the same way our obedience does? Is that why we’re ornamented when the masses circle us, with rags on our backs and jewels atop our heads? Their noise is overwhelming, always, and their flashing lights are, too.
Oh, but I know better than to defy the keeper. See, my mother did that when I was hurt into discipline; she was later hung by a rope. I didn’t know what that meant, but then she never moved again, and it didn’t matter how much I called for her to.
So now I know that when I’m told to stand on a raised piece that can’t carry my four feet, I should stand on two. I know that fighting for the family I left in a wide grassland far away will only lead me to a noose.
I don’t fight. But she does, the human in the little dress that shines. She tries to convince the Ringmaster, then she tries to convince the other humans. I hear her voice become loud against our keeper, and I know she is fighting for us. She’s a fierce one.
But she fails, and curls on the dirt under the sky by our side. I don’t understand it, because the show is over, and she should be inside, sleeping with other humans. But I touch her head, once. She looks up, and there’s no fire in her eyes anymore.
She rises, and maybe I upset her, but I don’t feel that. She stomps away, and I consider the noose. Would it really be so bad? But no, I trust her. She fights for me.
She runs back after, and the expression she wears for the masses is back on again. But it’s genuine now, a “smile.” Human affection is an odd thing, but I still understand it. She holds her body close to my trunk for a moment, and I feel a fast and steady thump. “It’s going to be all right now,” she tells me. “You’ll be set free.”
Farther away, I see it. The fire in her eyes found its way to our world, and it is growing. It is glowing, in colors I have never seen. The fire in her eyes is consuming the tent, glowing as it eats away at our home.
She set me free.