Written at 18 and published in William and Mary’s Lips: Expressions of Female Sexuality zine. My take on the “Rape” of Persephone, one of my favorite myths and mythological couples.
“You look like a wreck in the morning,” I observed drily.
Hades brooded over his ambrosia, slowly raising a cryptic brow at me. I trembled a bit as his cold, knowing gaze fell upon me. His eyes, like a snake, drank me in, slipping down my body approvingly. But I would not submit to this cold god, the uncle I did not know, whose skin, unkissed by the sun, was pale as the moon. I pursed my lips, crossing my arms defiantly. Slowly, I took a bite of the baklava before me, blind to the decadence of his chthonic abode. His dwelling was beautiful beyond compare, filled with the riches of the Earth, yet understated- almost somber in its quiet shades, humble in its beauty. A flower, of which there were none here, would seem garish in comparison.
How I longed for flowers! For my gardens above, the haunts of the wild through which Artemis and I roamed.
“I said,” I repeated louder, “that you could at least attempt to dress properly before me! Or perhaps pay a grain of attention to the impression you’re striking, because if I’m not mistaken, you intend to make me your wife!” I said ruefully, devouring the baklava with a vengeance.
Hades smiled slowly. “You find me displeasing?” he asked lowly, faintly amused. He relaxed in his intimidating ebony chair, letting the neck of his robe slip downwards to reveal the immaculate flesh beneath. I blushed furiously at the ripples of exposed muscle, turning my eyes away.
“You are no gentleman,” I said gratingly, scowling in disapproval. “You’re crass! Rude! Insufferable.” I took my bone handled knife, brandishing it threateningly. “I loathe you.”
Hades shrugged, looking down at his robe apathetically. “I’ve never cared much for pleasantries. And I like this…” He fingered his raiment contemplatively. “It’s comfortable.”
“It’s a bathrobe. You haven’t shaved since you abducted me, all your furniture is covered with Cerberus’ hair, and you haven’t even attempted to apologize yet.”
The idiot just shrugged again, digging in to his lamb- a black one, no doubt.
“Well?” I demanded.
“You, uncle, are as thick as my father’s head! No wonder you’re brothers.” I cursed darkly.
“I told you, call me Hades.”
“I’ll call you nothing but uncle or oaf, you hollow-eyed, corpse-fleshed monstrosity!” I glared at my forceful suitor, anger and shame welling in my chest. Trembling, I licked my fingers clean of the baklava, stifling a sob. I hated it here. Even the food, though immaculate, tasted dead.
“Persephone,” he said softly. “You have upset yourself- come, you’re near tears…” He was by my side immediately, moving like an owl through the night. “I will never have you cry in my halls,” he said firmly, grasping me possessively by the shoulders. He began kneading the knotted muscles, easing the tension within me. “Relax, fair-haired Persephone,” he said soothingly.
I trembled at his touch. “Do not touch me, oaf,” I whispered, biting back tears. To no avail, of course- they slipped down my cheek, pooling on my upturned arms. He chuckled, running his fingers through my hair.
“Just like your mother’s fields, flaxen and far too beautiful for my realm,” the oaf murmured. “Tell me, Persephone: how do you look upon yourself in the mirror without going mad from the beauty shining back at you? It is overwhelming…”
I wanted to break from his touch desperately, to run away screaming and lashing out at my captor. But it had been a month- a long, dark month, without touch of sun or taste of rain. I thirsted for something, anything! Even Hades’ wretched hands.
I bowed my head, face stony. “How do you look in the mirror, uncle, and not drop dead at your hideous reflection?” I asked acidly.
His grip tightened around the base of my neck. I felt his breath, hot, on the back of my head. “I have no mirrors,” he whispered into my skin. “And I wear bathrobes as I please. It is not the physical reflection that matters, but the soul. I care only for the true nature of things.”
“So you’re above the trappings of the material world?” I spat. “All my useless flowers and greenery mean nothing to you? You, high lord of the dead, have no appreciation for beauty?”
“You twist my words, lovely girl.”
“I am not a girl!”
“Indeed no. You are my queen.”
“And I’m certainly not your anything!” I said acidly, breaking away from him. He looked at me, perplexed by my rage. I seethed in anger, skin crawling where Hades had touched me.
“No,” he said wistfully, leaning against the table, gazing at the indentation my body had left in the chair as if imagining the same imprint on his own bed. He looked at me hungrily now, eyes suddenly sparking with lust. “And after all this time, all my patience and wooing, you will not be my ‘anything,’” Hades said ruefully. “I built you a garden. Have exhausted myself trying every possible thing in my imagining to make you feel at home. I have shown you only kindness, have I not?”
I stood stoically, nodding coldly. “You have, Hades. But you are cold. Love, a flame, needs embers to grow.”
He reeled at my words. A single tear fell down his face.
I left him then, retreating to my corridors. They were achingly beautiful, walls painted to look like the fields and forests of home. The windows had been magicked to look as if I were gazing out father’s palace on the peaks of Olympus. Prometheus, the maker of man, had even crafted facsimiles of plants. But they were hollow, like the dead-spirited things in Hades’ gardens. Stillborns that had been allowed to bloom.
I sunk into my decadent, bowered bed, crying. After a time, there was a knock at the door.
“Let me be, you slovenly oaf!” I howled. “I hate you! You, my father- everyone that has done this to me-”
“Persephone,” Hades voice said urgently, opening the door.
“What?” I yelled. “Have you come to make me more miserable? To push me further into Tartarus’ depths?…” I fell silent. There was no one there. “Where are you, oaf?” I demanded.
“Hah! What? The drab god of the underworld is a trickster now? Have you become like my father, changed yourself into a shaft of light?” I rose, approaching the door in caution. “Should I run like his poor mortal prey? Would you have me be at your mercy like them? For I will only tear and claw at you like a wild thing! I am your prisoner, uncle, but I am not your toy.”
I recalled his Helm of Darkness, forged by the Cyclops to topple the Titans of old. I shuddered then, feeling even more hunted.
“Drab? Is that really what you think of me…” he said, voice like the rustling wind. A breeze tangled across my flesh, stroking my thigh. I gasped, and he laughed deeply. “I am not like my young, impetuous brother, sweet Persephone. I am the elder god. I need no toys. Only you.”
“So you intend to seduce me, then?” I said stonily. “I’d rather make love to an ass.”
“You certainly think me an ass, though, if I’m not mistaken…” The wind grew wilder, tearing at my clothes. I cried out as it pushed me back onto the bed. He roared with laughter.
“This isn’t funny, you foul, pathetic excuse of a man!”
“On the contrary, it is. Because, sweet Persephone, you cannot see me, but I can see the glory of you…” I felt a hand at my breast, playing with the pin of my shawl.
I swatted it away. “You have no shame!”
“It’s a shame I haven’t been this close to you…” Suddenly, he pressed against me, pinning me to the bed, his hands locking around my wrists. My breath grew panicked- gasping, I felt lips at my neck, a hand cradling my head, stroking my hair. Furious, I lashed out at the invisible rogue. My hands swiped thin air.
“What?” I cried.
He laughed huskily. “That’s the beauty of it, Persephone. I, invisible to you, am untouchable. One cannot touch darkness. But darkness envelops- it can touch you.”
“Take it off!” I demanded.
“What? I thought my form displeased you.”
“I never said that-” I choked on my words, cheeks burning. “I said you were ill-dressed. That’s all.”
“Yet you called me ‘hollow-eyed, corpse-fleshed monstrosity,’” he teased, breath tantalizing the hollow under my ear. I shivered.
I avoided his gaze- well, I tried to, considering he was invisible. “I meant…” I mumbled. “I just… ah, Furies!” I cursed, realizing my back had arched in response to him. I was reclining invitingly like Aphrodite beneath him. “Oh, blight!”
He roared with laughter; the bed’s frame shook. I scowled back at the air above my head.
“If you’re going to force yourself upon me,” I said through gritted teeth, “then at least have the decency to do it without that insufferable Helm.”
“You won’t drop dead in horror?”
“No! I’ve been to the Olympic games. I’ve seen… men… before…”
The cap landed on the ground with a dull thud. He grinned at me like a wolf. “Are you willing prey now, my love?”
“I’m not your love! And you paraded down the hall naked under that dinky hat?”
“Not very drab, eh?”
“No, just disturbing.” I was taken aback by his handsomeness, biting my lip in awe. A hot flush painted my cheeks. “You- you’re- you’re… not… an…”
He looked at me expectantly, grinning crookedly. “Oaf?” he suggested.
“Yes,” I appraised his form once more. “Definitely not oafish.” My ears were burning now. “Umm. Well.”
“This is awkward, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Highly awkward.”
Hades sighed, cursing. “I knew it. I knew I could never do this,” he moaned, rolling over onto his side and freeing me. He watched me balefully. “I cannot take you against your will, Persephone. Though Eros has driven me sick with wanting, I cannot bring myself to- I thought I could- by the Styx, I need a drink,” he said lowly, rubbing his temple. “What am I doing?”
“Trying to seduce me?” I suggested.
“But you won’t have me. And I will have no pleasure in the act if you are unwilling, my sweet, fair-tressed queen.”
My heart stirred. I groaned. “Ugh! What is with you?” I demanded. “You kidnapped me! Get it? You stole me away to your dark castle in the Underworld, and now you’re concerned about my feelings?”
“I had no choice but to claim you. Eros had envenomed me too deep. I could have nothing, save you in my halls. And though your presence is not enough, the gaping distance between us a most brutal ache, I cannot bring myself to close that gulf, if it is against your will.”
“What do you know of my will, Hades? What if I willed you to kiss me, eh?”
“Then I’d most happily oblige. Is this still theoretical?”
“Maybe. If I asked for the stars, would you give them to me?”
“In a sparkling necklace that would outshine Aphrodite’s girdle.”
“And the moon?”
“Its crescent a boat to ferry you across the Styx.”
“Your burning torch in the Underworld, so in the darkness you are never alone.”
“Cut from my breast, though there is good reason to believe it already dwells within you, sweet cage that you are.”
“You’re good, Hades. I’ll give you that.”
“Good?” he asked, puzzled. “I love you. I speak the truth.”
“How do you know you love me, if you haven’t loved me yet?”
“Am I finally allowed to test that love yet, then?”
“You’re a harsh mistress, though I would have no less. But I’m sick of your coyness, Demeter’s daughter. I have waited too long.”
“Oh!” I gasped. His lips met mine with a hunger that stirred my own. Hades gripped me possessively, hands roaming my body, tearing at my clothes. I lost myself to Hedone, that blessed child of Eros and Psyche- of lust and the soul- only afterward realizing the moon and sun, even the stars, paled in comparison to what I had. And I’d found it in the depths of the Underworld, no less.
We lay on our backs, he spent, I recovering from bliss I hitherto hadn’t known existed. He looked upon me adoringly, cradling my head against his chest as we gazed up at the ceiling as if it was the firmament itself.
“Oh…” I said, dazed.