Into the Dark
Golden shocks of wheat stood in the fields, reflecting the afternoon’s blazing sun. Harvest had come, and the year had been good to them. Today, the grain was dry enough to thresh.
Perse shook out her gray wrap. She would be cool on her journey, and the gray would hide the bright colors she wore.
“I brought you some fruit.”
Her mother stood beneath the lintel, a basket of lemons and oranges in her hands. More gold, more sunshine for the trip.
Perse forced a smile. “Thank you.”
She would have preferred pomegranates, but she knew better than to say so. She’d half expected her mother to destroy every tree in existence after Zeus’s decision.
Her mother bit her lip. “The sacks of grain are ready.”
Perse’s mother insisted on sending food for her to eat. Perse wasn’t sure whether her mother was afraid that if Perse took another bite, she would remain forever, or if the food was simply a reminder of the world she left behind each year, a way to comfort the daughter she could not touch. Perse accepted it as a gesture of love.
“I will be back, Mother.”
Demeter merely nodded.
A horn sounded from outside. “It’s time.” Perse wrapped herself in the gray linen and took the basket from her mother, then led the way up to the olive tree on the hill outside.
The sacks of grain sat by its base. Nestled between them, at the roots of the tree, a metal ring lay flush against the ground. Perse set down her basket, seized the ring, and pulled. Six men heaving could not have lifted the door, but for her, on this day, it moved with ease. She glanced west, at her half-brother’s chariot, fading now, the last of the summer light. Orange gold washed everything above; at her feet lay blackness.
She stepped down, pausing to accept each sack and set it inside, unseen at her feet. Last, she took the basket of fruit once more and balancing it on her hip with one arm, then reached up to draw the ground shut behind her as she descended the stairs carved for her use. The light vanished.
It didn’t matter; it was given to her these six months to be at home here in the underworld. Below, a welcome face waited for her.
Perse smiled. “My husband, I’m home.”
— THE END —
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