Persephone

Here’s the official version:

My mother is Demeter, goddess of bounty. When Hades took me, her sorrow knew no bounds. While she searched, flowers faded and crops failed. Helios, the sun, finally told her I was in Hell. Zeus intervened, a deal was struck, and I got to spend six months in the upper world with my beloved mother.

It’s a fairy tale about the seasons. It’s humbug. It’s a lie. Here’s the naked truth:

I was my mother’s hostage. Her toy. A pet she let loose briefly to gather flowers with her playmates. Ares wooed me (bronze armor, fire-breathing stallions, dangerous) and then Apollo whose beauty warmed the very air around us, but she rejected them and sent me to gather more crocus.

And then one day Hades rose out of the earth, put a sooty hand around my ankle and I woke up in the underworld.

Did I weep? At first. Was I afraid? Who wouldn’t be. But Hades was patient. He wasn’t a rapist, he just didn’t have time for courtship. And I realized that he could have invited anyone, but he chose me!

While Mother searched and the earth parched, he gave me time to adjust and learn about his dark realm. He showed me off to the damned (Tantalus said the sight of me was like pineapple on his tongue), we played tag in the Elysian Fields, and cruised the rivers. Eventually he pulled me down and kissed me. His lips tasted like iron, dark blood I didn’t know I had coursed through my innocent veins and I heard myself gasp, “Kiss me again.”

Then Helios opened his big yap and Zeus got involved and when I knew I couldn’t stay forever, I ate the pomegranate seeds. Half a life is better than nothing.

I had learned to love my kingdom. My husband has a helmet of darkness that makes the owner invisible. I put it on, tip-toe around him, pull on his beard, blow in his ear. When I take it off I’m wearing only a few jewels. I play with Cerberus and stroll through the Fields of Asphodel where the bland live for eternity. Neither good nor evil in life, neither hot nor cold, their punishment is more of the same: a cubicle and a PC. Just the sight of me, just a whiff of my fragrant hair and bare arms, makes them suffer for what might been.

And my mother? We get along now, and her world can be pleasant with its orchestras and Italian restaurants. But I prefer Hades where I am more than just a pretty girl, more than Demeter’s dutiful daughter.

There I am a dark queen, and people fear me.

- Ron Koertge