(This story was originally published in 1990. Please read author's bio.)


"Hades and I"



Of course I screamed. I mean, wouldn't you? There I was, picking flowers in a field south of Olympus, and all of a sudden -- Rumble! Shake! Crash! The ground opened up in front of me, and the next thing I knew, this guy in a chariot rode up out of the hole and grabbed me. So of course I screamed.
When he drove the chariot back into the ground, he had to hold onto the reins with one hand, because the other hand was holding on to my arm. 'Who are you?' I asked. He didn't answer, so I kicked him, hard.
We rode for a really long time. Then we came to the river Styx, where dead people cross into the Underworld. And do you know what? Charon didn't even make us pay to cross.
Then we were in the Underworld. I asked the guy who'd snatched me why he was taking me there. He said, 'Persephone, you are very beautiful and will be the bride of the king of the Underworld.'
'You're crazy,' I said. 'If Hades thinks I'm beautiful, he really needs to get out more. Why would he want to marry me?'
'You will have to ask him that when we get there.'
We rode along a white paved road through a lot of gardens. The flowers and trees were pretty, except they were pale because there's no sun down there. Like the guy who'd snatched me. I mean, if he were a normal person instead of somebody who was probably dead, I could have liked him. I could have maybe even forgiven him for grabbing me like that. And if I had to marry somebody down here, he was a lot better looking than old Hades would be.
'Whose gardens are these?' I asked.
'They belong to Hades,' he said.
At the end of the gardens was the palace. I didn't try to run, because I didn't know my way around the Underworld and I didn't want to get lost around a bunch of dead people. He took me to a room with lots of chairs with nice soft cushions. He said, 'Sit down,' and I did because I was tired. Then he brought me some fruit from a bowl on a table, and a glass of wine.
'No, thank you, I don't want any,' I said. The apple was white and the wine was black. Neither looked like they'd taste very good.
'But you have to eat,' he said. 'You can't go hungry.'
So I reached into my pocket and took out one of the cookies that I'd taken along that morning for a snack. 'There, I've eaten,' I said.
He'd been watching me eat. 'You know,' he said, 'I've never tasted the kind of food you have up there. Do you have any more, and could I have some?'
'Sure, why not?' I said. I felt sorry for him. If he'd never had real food, that meant he wasn't a dead person, because to be dead you have to be alive first, and alive people eat real food. And if he'd never been an alive person, he'd missed all the fun that comes with living.
'That was good,' he said after he'd eaten the cookie. 'What do you call it?'
'It's a cookie.'
'And what do you call those sweet bits of dark stuff all in it?'
'That's' chocolate,' I said. 'Now, when do I meet this guy I'm supposed to marry? If this is Hades' palace, where is he?'
He looked embarrassed. 'I'm Hades,' he said.
'You are not,' I said. 'Hades is old and ugly and mean.'
'Who says?' he asked.
'Only a mean person would be happy being king of dead people,' I said.
'But I'm not happy,' he said. 'That's why I want a nice girl like you to be my wife and keep me company.'
'I don't want to stay,' I said, 'and I won't.'
'You would have,' he said, 'if --'
'If what?'
'If you had eaten the fruit,' he said, 'or drunk the wine. That's the rule. You eat the food of the Underworld, and you have to live there part of the time. But you didn't eat any.'
I thought. You see, back home my mother was trying to get me to marry this really stupid guy, just because he claimed to be a son of Zeus. I mean, half the men in Greece could be sons of Zeus! That doesn't mean I have to want to marry one. But my mother wanted me to, unless a better match came a long.
My mother would have to agree, a king was a better match than a guy who kills monsters for fun.
'I wonder,' I said, 'does it work both ways?'
'What do you mean?' he asked me.
'Well,' I said, 'you ate food from the above world. Does that mean you have to spend part of your time up there?'
'You're right,' he said. 'Now I'll have to live half of the year above. What will I do?'
'Well,' I told him, 'you can't be a king up there, because we already have enough kings. But you want a wife, and I want to marry anyone besides that lout my mother picked for me. We could get married, and you could be a fisherman on one of my father's boats. What do you say?'
He said, 'That's a great idea.'
So we left the Underworld, because who wants to be under the ground in summer? We got married, and even my mother was happy, though I said I'd go back to the Underworld in winter when Hades had to go back and run his kingdom. I didn't really love him, but I liked him, and that was more than I felt for that stupid son of Zeus.
It's a pretty good life. When we go back to the Underworld, everyone is jealous because we have nice suntans. Our youngest son is learning to swim in the Styx, and both of our daughters are dating demigods. All in all, I'm glad it happened.