The painful moans of lost, suffering souls resonated through my kingdom. It's almost like a town dying of disease … only everyone here is already dead; probably having upset Apollo, he killed them off with his arrows. Not that I'm complaining. Death is how I make a living. Death is my domain. Dark and dreary are my days; long are my hours. I was sentenced to this prison by my brother Zeus. Well, technically speaking, when Zeus, Poseidon and, I were supposed to pick domains I was off dealing with some personal affairs and arrived late to the meeting. When I finally showed up, it was already too late and I was stuck with the Underworld. They gave it to me to rule because according to my know-nothing brothers "it would suit me best." Imbeciles! While, it is true that I have always been…morbid…in my tastes, I don't want to be forever in the darkness, forever in the underworld.
Because of my home I, Hades, am loathed by all. My home is just so friendly and inviting that only the dead stop by for a visit. It's not even because they want to, it's because they have to. Birds must fly, fish must swim, and souls must go to the Underworld. It's a rule. Hermes, the messenger god, personally escorts then here after they've crossed the river Styx. No one really wants to visit. My own wife runs away from me for six months out of the year. I miss her when she's gone. My little Persephone brightens up this dark, cold place so much. Deaths have nearly tripled since she became my Queen. The mortals still don't want to see me but they do want to see Persephone. She babies them far too much. I will assume it is in her nature, her kind, sweet nature. How strange the mortals must see her title. 'Here is Persephone! Goddess of Spring, and Queen of the Underworld. It's a contradiction but that just about sums up her life too. She's tasted the light but is bound to darkness. Poor girl, how she cries.
"Mother! I want to be rid of him! Help me! Please help me!"
I hear her pray those very words over and over sometimes when she thinks I'm not listening. Who is she kidding? Walls do talk down here. I can hear every word, every groan, every whimper uttered. I'm not stupid. I know she doesn't love me. Who could ever love the Lord of the Underworld? I love her though. I love her in spite of it. It must have been love at first sight. Stupid Eros and his damned arrows! I remember it as if it happened yesterday.
It was another lovely, never ending spring day above ground. The birds always chirped. The flowers were always in bloom. The butterflies were always out and about. How I loathed it. Through my hole, I often spied on Demeter and stewed in my own rancor, cursing Zeus for "giving" me the underworld. I'll never get over it. 5 minutes late and I got stuck down here. FIVE MINUTES! Cronus forbid they wait for me. Watching Demeter and her daughter frolic in their joy brought the bile in my stomach up to my throat. A lesser god would have thrown up but not me! I've seen some pretty disgusting things in my time down here. Granted, few were as repulsive as the sight I spied on.
The raven haired girl was fluttering about like the butterflies she was imitating. Persephone's horrid yellow shirt and putrid green skirt swirled around her as she twirled. She vaguely looked like one of the flowers sprouting up around her. The few times I had ventured to look out the window, I had never been able to catch the revolting flower child's face but today must have been special because she stopped her twirling and looked at me. Ok, not AT me but in my general direction. My grey eyes caught sight of her and everything changed. She was no longer putrid, or horrid, or revolting. She was beautiful. Her smile was so bright it could probably light up the Underworld. She looked so dainty with her flower wreath on her head. Her blue eyes pierced my soul. I was captivated. "I love her. I have to have her," I said as that sickening thud in chest sped up for the first time in millennia's.
I see her twirling and gliding over to me. Right to that leaky roof of mine! Right to the hole! All I have to do is shove the earth a little and snatch her up! Oh the joy! I will finally have someone to love who will love me in return. I called out for one of my servants to prepare my Golden Chariot.
"Make it snappy," I yelled out to him as he ran away to make it happen for me. My heart aches for her. My desire grows with each passing minute. I turn back to see Persephone's progress. Oh my Zeus, what is she DOING?! She's picking every flower she comes across. Would it kill her hurry? She's a few paces from me. Oh she's almost there! I hear loud galloping and clanging near by. I look away for a moment and see my servant and my chariot tearing around the corner like one of Zeus' lighting bolts.
"Cutting it a little close aren't we?"
"Forgive me my lord," said the vile little creature as he handed me the reigns, which I snatched away and dismissed him with a wave of my hand. I hastily got in and continued to wait. She spotted the Narcissus that grows a little to the left of my hole. I watch with trembling hands and an aching head as she slowly reaches down.
"Now! Now! Now!"
I urged my steeds forward as I parted the ground and snatched her up. It all happened so fast she didn't even scream. I cracked my whip again and that seemed to do the trick. She darted her blue eyes around. I took advantage of the situation and leaned in to her. The tip of my nose touched the silky strands of her hair. I breathed in. How fragrant! She smelled of fresh morning dew and honey. I felt her soft fingers grab hold of the ghostly white arm I had placed around her chest. Her touch have me goose bumps. In a panicked moment, she began to struggle with it, trying to loosen my hold on her. We sped past the sight where my favorite servants took out their frustrations on the murderers. Persephone held her breath as we passed by. The pitiful screams wafting through the air seemed to scare her because now, to my delight, she had turned towards me and clung to my neck, her fingers wringing a bit of my black robes.
"Don't be frightened. They can't hurt you." I looked down at the delicate, whimpering girl in my arms. Her eyes were filled with tears.
"Why have you brought me here?"
I hesitated for a moment, wondering how I could explain my selfishness to such a sweet and innocent girl.
"Don't think ill of me but I have brought you here because I love you. Please stay and be my wife." I smiled down at her. My grey eyes were, for once, filled with sincerity. I batted my long, pale lashes a couple times at her in hope I would appear a little more attractive. I mean, Aphrodite does it all the time and look at her! I stopped the chariot in front of my home. The second I removed my arm from around her she bolted towards no where in particular but desperate to get away from me. I sighed. Did she really think she could get away so easily? I motioned for the guards to fetch her. They ran after her and in the blink of an eye, snatched her up.
"Bring her inside," I said as I walked through the threshold and so, the guards dragged poor little Persephone into my gloomy, drafty, cold, stone palace.
I still remember the look of disgust she gave me when I mentioned the word wife. Never have I seen a look of more solidified horror then the one on Persephone's face that day. I looked up for a moment and spotted her. She was guiding a young man across the clear threshold of the Elysian field. Darn architects! I need to build a new stable. One that isn't so close to that delightful and happy place. Just look at him…just look at that horrible man being touched by my beloved Persephone! Blond of hair and green of eyes he was. He looked like someone Persephone would marry on her own accord, were she not stuck with me. Actually, I think that one was a prince. Who wouldn't want to marry a prince? Isn't it every small mortal child's fantasy to marry nobility? Little bastard probably had scores of women flinging themselves at his giant sandaled feet. I, of course, had to trick Persephone into marriage.
"Let me go! Let me go," she screeched as the guards dragged her in to a room just down the entrance hall. It was the room Zeus uses when he comes down here for a visit. Naturally, he hasn't been here in at least a decade. Better for me, he complains too much. Zeus is the reason I have guards at my door. I found them useless up until today to be completely honest. What can they guard me against? I'm immortal and no one is stupid enough to steal from me but good Hermes can they run! They were all of a sudden useful for fetching people such as runaway brides. I chuckled a little at my joke. Persephone sat defensively on the bed. I motioned for the guards to evacuate the room.
"Stand outside the door. I want no one to come in or out of this room. Do you understand?"
They nodded in agreement and walked out to stand guard. Persephone's eyes followed the guards as they left her alone with me. She looked so scared. Just as the door slammed shut she turned to me.
"Why do you want me as a wife?" Her eyes looked accusingly at me, as if I had some sort of evil hidden agenda, world domination perhaps? Now that I think it, that wouldn't be too bad… I shook my head to clear my thoughts. I thought about if for a second but only a second. My words were spoken softly, sincerely.
"Because you're beautiful, you're kind and because you are so radically different from everyone I've seen down here. " I paused, waited to hear her speak, waited for her thoughts to come pouring out of her pretty little head. All she did was blink. After what felt like an eternity, she spoke. Her voice sounded rough, crude.
"For that you want me to be your wife? To throw my life away? For your whims and needs? Have you lost what little mind you have?"
I fell to my knees. "Is that all you have to say to me?
"What more do you want?"
My broad shoulders slumped forward, making me look, thinner, weaker then I really am. I looked down at my feet, shifted my weight uncomfortably between them.
"That you will at least consider being my wife. You can't deny me so simply Persephone! Stay a while. Give me a chance to prove my worth."
I saw her eyes soften. A glimmer of pity over took them. Her features seemed to grow into a smile. She looked around the golden room. Her eyes resting on the solid gold candle holders. They moved on to the colorful tapestries hanging over the emerald incrusted headboard. She let her hands roam over the linen sheets. She had a thoughtful look on her face. She was considering my offer (more like plea but that's irrelevant).
"You didn't decorate this room yourself did you?" Her eyes continued to look around the extravagance of the room. "Because I don't think I would want a husband with a more refined taste in household accessories then I would ever dream of having."
"No. This room? All Zeus. I just got him what he asked for."
"Good," she said, her eyes focusing on me, an air of business in them. "I will stay until the eve of the second full moon. No more, no less. If you have not proven yourself worthy by that time then I will leave and we will talk no more of this. Understood?"
"Understood," I said while pathetically kissing her hands over and over. She pulled them away and wiped them on her skirt.
"Right, so are you going to assign a guide for me or am I expected to love you for your ability to keep me prisoner?" Her arms were crossed over her chest and the expecting look on her face told me that she knew the answer. She was just waiting for me to say it.
"Of course my love." A thought popped into my head. I smoothed back my auburn hair. A curl bounced back. I tucked it away behind my ear and tugged at my black robes. "But first, would you like something to eat? You must be terribly hungry."
Her eyes flickered.
At first, I thought it was suspicion I saw in her eyes. Who knows, maybe it was. I was sweating like a mortal on a hot summer day. I realized soon after that Persephone did not know my plan. She couldn't have known. She knew nothing of the rules of the underworld. Who would ever tell her? Certainly not her mother! Why would Demeter bring such a "vulgar" subject up with her daughter? I knew then that Persephone was within my grasp. I looked over at the doorway to the Elysian Fields. Persephone was still inside, frolicking with that dead prince. I allowed her to stay because I know it reminded her of the Middle Kingdom, of her home. Perhaps it was a good idea that I made the Fields visible. Now I could check up on her. Make sure she was doing no ill-deed. It would be so easy to let ones honor and courage fail. What little honor I had I gave away the day I met her.
Persephone's pretty mouth formed a smile. It seemed I had finally done something right.
"Yes! I am simply famished."
She got herself off the bed and walked towards the door. I walked past the guards first and waited for Persephone to join me. The guards tried to stop her.
"No you fools! Not now! Unhand her!" I pulled Persephone away from them and attempted to straighten out her shirt. She just slapped my hand away.
"I can do that myself, thank you very much".
"Of course, you can just follow me"
I took her down a long corridor on the south side of my home towards the dining room out by the Elysian Fields. I usually kept that table full of tasty morsels for passing mortals infiltrating my realm with their make shift heroics. Many don't know that one bite of food and their bound to the darkness with me for all eternity. I smile at my plan. It was brilliant. When we got there, Persephone seemed overwhelmed with the extensive choices in food. To my left stood a special fruit bearing tree. The only one of it's kind. My unusual, youthful features were riddled with malevolence as I slowly stretched out my hand and plucked the fruit from one of the low branches.
The fruit of life some call it though I don't really know why. One bite was enough to keep Persephone down here with me for all of eternity. I didn't need to look out my hole to know what the world outside looked like. It was cold and dark and covered in snow; just like when Demeter first noticed her daughter was gone. All the flowers withered away and the sky went grey. It happened every time Persephone was gone from her side to serve her sentence with me. You could almost feel Demeter's sorrow. Persephone must be down here for six months. One for every seed she ate.
One by one Persephone plucked the seeds in her mouth. She stopped after the sixth seed.
"Is there something wrong my love?"
"I feel so heavy"
She put down the fruit and shook her pretty head. Tresses of straight, smooth hair fell on her shoulders. The yellow of her shirt started to look dull, the green, not so vibrant. Her skin started to look pale. She was mine!
"Would you like to sit down for a moment or two? You don't look well."
"No, it's alright. I'll be alright"
But she was not alright, not at all. The darkness was binding her to the Underworld. What a terrible way to keep her but I knew she wouldn't want to stay. A month passed and she was ready to leave. It was at that moment that Hermes, the messenger of the Gods, walked in with a message.
"Zeus orders you to give Persephone back," said Hermes as he handed me a piece of rolled up parchment. I smiled my cold, cruel smile.
"I cannot you see, for she has eaten from the fruit of life. Observe the ruby stain upon her lips. Tell Zeus she belongs to me." I walked away, black robes trailing behind me. I heard her scream. I frowned slightly. Was this guilt tugging at my heart?
"You promised Hades! You promised!"
"I know. And were it for me, I would give you back but these rules are beyond my control. Talk to Zeus, he'll tell you."
"You told me to eat from that fruit! You tricked me!"
"No, no," I said, tapping her nose slightly with my absurdly long index finger. "I OFFERED you the fruit. You were the one that took it." I smirked a little at her as she turned from me without a word.
By all the Gods she was furious. But rules are rules. Unless you are Zeus, of course, he bends them at will. Hermes did, in fact, take that message to him and Demeter nearly straggled him.
"Don't kill the messenger!" he pleaded.
A lot of good that did him. She snapped his winged helmet in half. Zeus came down to inspect the damage and Persephone explained that she ate six seeds from the Pomegranate. Zeus bit his lip so hard a mortal man would have bled. He made a deal with me though. Persephone would spend six months with her mother in the Middle Kingdom and six months with me in my prison. I almost didn't agree to it at first but I didn't want to upset her further. And that is how Persephone became my wife. Bound to the darkness by trickery and lies. But I love her, from the day I first saw her until the day the world simply fails to exist; I shall love her forever.