I am not Death. That is Thanatos. However, I rule the dead and my name, Hades, has come to mean my kingdom. Charon brings subjects across the Acheron and I pass judgment. I am, I admit, stern but I am also fair. Really, how bad can I be? I like dogs. My dog, Cerberus, is a watchdog with a long red tongue. Three of them, actually. My brothers are Zeus and Poseidon and after our father Cronus was dethroned we drew lots for the world. I am a bit gloomy by nature. The sky was too bright for me, the ocean too damp and cold. I love the underworld. I love its crows and smoke.

I don’t have to be lonely. Phantoms will do anything to get out of here. They praise the rubies on my shoes, they try and pet my dog, they whisper that their mouths taste like the sweet berries of the Central California.

Actually, they taste like ashes. So when the need arises, I visit the nymphs and naiads, frolicsome under the naked sun, fun for an hour. But not one of them could sit still for ten minutes without giggling.

Persephone seemed different. Was different. Is. I admit I carried her away but I am not the sort to show up at her mother’s house with a bouquet.

No, I took her and then I wooed her. A room of her own, a weekend in Asphodel, I kept my bejeweled hands to myself and the distance between us shrank. She dozed off one afternoon as we cruised the Styx. Her elegant fingers twitched as she dreamed then waking with a start she reached for my wrist and blurted, “I thought you’d be cold, but you’re not.”

That night she came to me of her own free will, took off the disguise of daughter and lay down. Next morning she was queen of the dark.

Nothing last forever even if you’re a god and everything last forever. Demeter would have let the earth die if she didn’t get her daughter back, at least for half a year.

Next morning I watched her dress. Then she put my hand on her heart, kissed the nape of my neck as she liked to do, and disappeared.

I went to my calendar and made the first X of many. Then I ascended my throne. At my feet, the newly dead stopped telling ghost stories. They were naked and frightened. They kissed the hem of my robe and prayed, but only those who said, “For Persephone’s sake, my lord” got even an ounce of mercy.

- Ron Koertige