Persephone's Choice

Elizabeth Niamh Keeney is an English major at BYU who is also minoring in Mandarin Chinese. Her interests include: dorky sweaters, playing guitar, and participating in Byromania about two-hundred ... [+]

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
In the shade of a blooming magnolia tree, bows bowing under the weight of the fat pink blossoms, stood a pale god. He looked on as a woman with curly brown hair danced in the petals that fell with the wind. He didn’t want to do it, but he also knew he had too.
“Persephone.” He said clearly, and his voice pierced through the wind.
She looked around and frowned. “What do you want?”
“You know what needs to be done.” He said patiently.
She shook her head and ran away to another field.
He reappeared in the shade of an oak tree. “You know the world cannot survive with this endless Spring.”
“I don’t want to leave.” She faced away from him and tears stung at her eyes. She stomped her foot like a petulant child.
“I do not want to take you from your home, but if you do not come willingly...”
She cut him off “What? You’ll force me?” She scoffed, and walked up to the edge of the shade he was standing in.
He looked at his feet. “I’m sorry. I really am.”
“You are wrong.” She stuck one finger at him into the shade. “The earth will mourn my parting from the surface. The mortals will too.”
“They will also mourn if you stay.”
She clenched her jaw and stalked away again, birds, bugs, and blossoms following in her wake.
He followed her again. “Persephone...”
“No.” She turned away.
He reappeared in front of her “Persephone.”
“No.” She covered her face.
He set a hand on her shoulder. “Look...”
“NO!” She screamed in his face, her eyes full of anguish. “I will not go with you. I cannot survive in darkness.” Tears streamed down her face.
Hades’ eyes turned misty with tears also “I am sorry.” He wrapped her in his arms as the ground cracked beneath them and swallowed them in darkness.
In the dim light of the luminescent crystals Hades held Persephone, trying to comfort her. She soon pushed him away and tried to lose herself in the magnificent halls of the underworld. Hades let her be, she was safe, and although he loathed what he had to do, the earth was safe too.
Above in the fading sunlight, the skies mourned Persephone’s absence. It rained, it snowed, and it stormed. Demeter ripened the crops in cold windy weather as the skies grew darker and the mortals used their stolen fire to warm themselves. Clouds shadowed the sun. Flowers faded into the ground. Everything went grey. And yet, there was joy in this process of renewal.
Persephone gradually made her way to through all the rooms in Hades’ onyx palace. However dark it may have been, it could not be described as dreary. Whereas on the surface Persephone had grown flowers of every color, Hades’ had created stones and crystals in just as many. Gold and silver wound throughout the walls of the castle and kind spirits of dead mortals kept them good company. A certain light seemed to follow Hades’ wherever he went which only made his surroundings more beautiful. Despite herself, Persephone felt herself constantly being drawn to this light, this god of the underworld.
She peered around a corner into the feast hall of the palace. Hades sat alone at the head of the table, eating a meal fit for the god he was.
He noticed her and smiled. “Have you enjoyed your prolonged exploration.”
She remained behind the wall.
“I can see your light, it’s a little hard not to notice.” He took another bite of his food and waited.
Stepping into the room she felt her senses ensnared by the rich scent of the food. She did not need to eat, but it was tempting. “Your palace is beautiful.”
“Thank you,” he smiled kindly. She stared at the food, which he noticed and set his knife down. “You are welcome to eat, but if you do, this place will permanently become part of you. You will return here whether I bring you here or not.”
His face showed signs of sorrow, but also hope, and he could not look her in the eye.
There was silence for long moments as Persephone stared at the food and Hades stared at the floor.
“I understand now.”
His eyes flitted up to her. “You do?”
She nodded, “Doesn’t mean I like it. Doesn’t mean I like you. But I understand it.”
He nodded this time, looking back down.
“I’m not ready,” she folded her arms and rubbed her hand against them, and then walked from the room to find her own chamber.
There was simply not much to do, and the two gods, no matter what they did, seemed to have a magnetic force of light that brought them to the same place. They didn’t talk much but Persephone would sit and watch from a distance as Hades summoned up precious stones from the depths of earth or when he judged spirits to go to paradise.
“Can you teach me?” She whispered from the corner of a room.
Hades looked surprised, but pleased, that she was talking to him. “Teach you what?”
“How to summon the crystals.” She stood up and walked toward him.
They stood beside each other and Hades tried to explain how to do it. Try as Persephone might, all she could summon was moss, fungi, and a variety of glowing plants that she had never seen before. They laughed at her efforts and marveled at the new living plants that now graced the halls of the palace. Hades, in turn, wanted Persephone to teach him how to grow these plants but succeeded only in growing smallish, flower-shaped crystals. He took an especially fine and detailed one of these and fashioned it into a necklace which he then presented, rather shyly, to Persephone.
“To remind you of the sun.” He latched the fire-colored crystal around her neck.
She smiled up at him and held his hand in hers, stroking her fingers softly across his knuckles.
Without either of them knowing it, they had fallen in love.
It was almost time for Persephone to return to the thawing earth. She sat at the banquet table by herself and stared at a bowl of fruit. She had not yet eaten anything in the underworld. Picking up a pomegranate, she thought of what she should do. Even if she didn’t eat it, she would still have to return here. She thought she would hate it in the underworld but at that moment, staring at the fruit, and thinking of Hades, she felt that it needed to be a permanent part of her. And so, she split the fruit and took six seeds for herself. She turned around to find a watery-eyed Hades looking back at her.
“You are choosing to stay?” He asked uncertainly, setting his hand on her cheek.
She set her hand on his “Yes,” she stepped away, “but I have to go now.”
He nodded and smiled.
“I will see you again soon.” She turned around and started making her way upward, but then stopped.
He looked up expectantly.
She ran to him and wrapped her arms around him, bringing him into a kiss that neither of would have imagined before. And then she was gone.
And the earth was warmed again. Flowers bloomed, creatures were born, and the rivers and streams flowed with fresh water. And she missed him. But a part of the underworld was always with her. In six months’ time, she was back in his arms again, rejoicing, and sharing a love they now both knew they had.