A Hallow E'enbyLucifer_Carroll©
A historical note: Around this time of the year, there has always been a celebration of some kind. Today it is called Halloween. A bastardization of All Hallow's Eve. People use it to celebrate the borderlands. The lands of death, of magic, of dreams. Essentially the same lands that were relegated to the Underworld in Greek mythology. However, the Christian holiday was not borne of the Greeks. Rather it was from the Celtic celebration Samhain, again a celebration of the dead and more importantly a celebration of the first day of winter. It is most curious that this should be so, that it should remind so many of Persephone and Hades. Curiouser still were the twin festivals of Stenia and Thesmophoria. These festivals held around what is known as late October/early November are held to share Demeter's grief as she hands over her daughter for her stay as Queen of the Underworld for the next 3-6 months.
And even the myth itself is surrounded by mystery. That Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and tricked into eating the food of the dead, many know and rightfully condemn. And yet, after the initial flaws, the couple showed remarkable resolve and even genuine love. They were the only union in the Pantheon besides Eros (the god of true love) and his wife Psyche to remain faithful to each other. Furthermore, myths of other gods and heroes pause to remark on how singularly the King and the Queen of the Underworld acted and how pure they seemed to be fixated on each other.
Given all that, it drives a person to wonder if perhaps the joyous annual reunion of these two figures is not in fact the reason that we celebrate in the quickly cooling air. That their entwined passions warm us up in our homes, and that their love affair has outlasted their followers. Is it not possible that they meet still today, the pair that seemed to pay little heed to "the goings of man"? Or that their dead actions reverberate to this day? Or that some things even though false, still yet hold some measure of truth?
This tale seeks to answer none of those questions, but the author admits they are simply fascinating.
"Arf," Cerberus barked in self-harmony as he leapt up on Hades's leg causing him to drop his spoon on the floor.
"Ah," Hades exclaimed. "Bad dog. I'll feed you in a second." He picked the spoon off the floor after Cerberus had licked it clean of content. "Curses, now I'm going to have to get another spoon. How did it taste boy? Was it perfect?"
Cerberus let off another happy tri-toned bark as two of his three tongues lolled out of their mouths.
"Damn, that's not good enough," Hades sighed unhappily as he wiped his hands on his "Kill the Cook" apron. "I'm never going to be ready in time."
"Charon," he called worriedly as he desperately added far too much spice to the steaming pot.
"Yes, my liege," a gravely voice intoned from behind him. The figure that muttered it was gaunt as a skeleton and held a long flowing white beard. Per his master's instructions, he was wearing his best black suit, which made him look frighteningly like a freshly dug-up zombie. Still, he was a competent and loyal servant of Hades and the only rowman able to cross the River Acheron to ferry the souls of the dead, various strong-armed heroes, visiting gods and goddesses and once a year...the Queen, the goddess Persephone.
"The tables are moodily lit with the sole candelabra in the Underworld, the finest china are out, the souls of the dead have been made aware, and the ferry is bedecked in the finest black lace, " Charon continued in the weary voice of one asked far too many times in one day. "Believe me sir, it's all perfect."
"What about flowers," Hades asked as he responded quickly to a roast left overlong in the oven and tried desperately to fix it with running water. "Did you get enough flowers?"
Charon sighed. He knew well that Hades's bride was the Goddess of spring and flowers and so every year demanded as many flowers as could be spared. He wished that his lord would remember that flowers neither grew in the sunless lands, nor long survived them. Still, not one low on ingenuity, he had found a solution. "Yes, my lord, we have a hundred score of Hecate's black flowers have been put discretely around the place."
"Oh yes, the magick goddess's little somber bouquets," Hades said stopping in his frantic duties. He turned, face contorted in worry. "You don't think they'll be too little?"
"Well considering that no other flower can be brought here, that even having the black flowers risks the ire of Demeter, if she should happen to come, and that for creating an immortal flower we are risking the collective ire of the other Gods for negligence, I'd say no."
"You don't have to get sarcastic, Charon."
"Yes, my lord. By the way, I received a call from Mr. Grim Reaper."
"Ah, good ol' Thanatos. How is he getting along?"
"Well, he wants to tell you that he and his brother Hypnos will be extending their trip to the surface world until, well...er...the uh...noise dies down."
"On other news," Charon continued quickly. Nothing was more unsettling than a bearded and ultra-pale God turn crimson. "The other chthonic deities plan to stay in their respective rooms for awhile in respect of the reunion. And er...Hecate gave me these strange capsules in case, you ever find yourself...erm...unable to fulfill your manly duties."
If the crimson was bad, the glare of injured pride was worse. "I will not be needing those."
"Very well, sir," Charon chirped while standing to attention.
"And would you taste this, please," Hades asked holding out a spoonful of something soup-like. Charon looked at it uncertainly. It looked ethnic to him and he was not good with new foods. Luckily for him, a faint toll echoed across the dusky chamber.
"My lord, if you will pardon me. She is approaching and I must tend to my ferry."
"Oh, by all means, Charon. Don't waste time with words, go," Hades said his hands flying at double speed. Once Charon was dispatched he moved from regular panic to utter breakdown. "Fuck, I'm not ready!"
"Arf?" Cerberus barked consolingly.
"What are you doing here? Quick, you need to be at the gate. Shit, I need to be at the gate. And there's still... Damnitt, music, I forgot music. Quickly he ran and fumbled with a disc of Wynton Marsalis and Barry Manilow, because even in the land of death, there are proper clichés.
With a flurry of movement, he tripped over the couch, knocking himself smartly over the head. Cerberus let out a whine and then cautiously licked his face with its center head.
"Engh," Hades groaned. "Really shouldn't have tried to jump that at my age."
As Hades pulled himself to his feet slowly, he heard the far off bell of Charon's ferry. It was a warning that Charon was about to dock. Hades and Cerberus were neck in neck as they sprinted out of the palace and down the hill to the gates.
"Well, well, what do we have here," Demeter said loudly as Hades ran up and struggled to catch his breath. "Is this how you treat my poor daughter? Leaving her standing outside in the fetid cold while you stumble in at your leisure out of breath and clad in a...an apron?!?"
Hades's heart stopped. In front of him was the imposing form of Demeter, the mother above all mothers. She was clad in funerary clothes of such hypocritical style that many would dislike her at a glance.
"M-Mother," he stammered while fumbling to remove the offending apron. It never did to anger her more than he had. Perhaps, if he was lucky he might even begin to finally lessen the hatred she felt for him.
"DON'T YOU DARE CALL ME MOTHER YOU...YOU KIDNAPPING NECROPHILE!"
Well, so much for reconciliation, Hades thought sorrowfully.
"Mother," admonished a light and beautiful voice from the boat.
"My lady, let me help you down," Charon's voice carried softly.
"Don't you 'mother' me young lady! I don't know what mind-control he has been doing to you down here, but a lady of spring should not be spending so much time in this...gunk. And you, how dare you touch her!"
"I was just helping her, milady, I meant no harm," Charon said kindly though admittedly at the edge of his nerves. The trip over had not been kind to whatever shreds of his ego he had left.
"No harm? You disgusting maggot! I daren't dream what your touch has done to stain my poor innocent baby. Oh, Persephone, don't fear mother will protect you," she said enveloping the blonde beauty that no became visible to the gate.
Persephone was in her flower-gown. Even in the Underworld she refused to wear black. She was sunny in disposition and appearance. At all times possible she wore a smile, even in cases like this where it was forced.
"Really mother, I stopped being a 'child' millennia ago," Persephone said sweetly. "So perhaps, you can return with Charon and I can get settled in."
"And leave my baby all alone with this kidnapper," Demeter replied hysterically. The little hairs on Hades's neck stood upright.
"Well, mother, you'll sort of have to, just like every year," Persephone tried to say sweetly while glancing a plea for help to her husband. Hades gave her a look to convey he was impotent as she was, perhaps more in the extraction of her mother.
"In a second, let me just examine the den of sin that this...thing has prepared to lure you with," Demeter said striding past Hades.
Persephone brushed her hair disappointedly. Hades stepped forward. "Welcome home, dear," he said, his heart pounding with loneliness.
Persephone looked daintily at Hades. Her amber blonde hair shone even in the darkness and her skin while tanned held an exotic fragility. Hades held out a rough and pale hand to her cheek as if confirming her presence was real. He felt himself slipping into an ocean of time. Infinity was drawn before him and all the cosmos became as a mere background. His lips trembled as he leaned and...
He picked himself up off the ground slowly, rubbing his aching head.
"HOW DARE YOU," Demeter screamed in his ringing ears.
"YOU ROB HER OF THE SOIL AND NOW EXPECT HER TO PLAY TO YOUR HORNY FANCIES? I THINK NOT YOUNG MAN."
"Mmm as ol' as oo," Hades mumbled unwisely as he contemplated how many trucks he was just smacked with.
"Are you getting cheeky with me," she asked in a dangerously soft voice. Hades may have been knocked silly, but he was not stupid.
"No, ma'am," he said promptly staggering up to his knees to see his love gripped strongly by the wrist by Demeter. Demeter's handbag was swinging threateningly in slow idle circles.
"I trust my daughter's separate room has been set up," Demeter asked shrilly.
"Oh yes, Madam," Charon answered before his lord could scoff or do something else to shorten his godly lifespan. "I shall take your daughter's bags there immediately. I trust the usual spot will do, Miss Persephone?"
"Oh, yes, Charon. The usual spot will be perfect," Persephone answered, her face betraying nothing but pure honesty. However, both Hades and Persephone knew that "the usual place" meant their shared bedchamber.
"I'm glad that some here actually know the meaning of this stay," Demeter answered, too proud of the words to infer the truth. "Perhaps, someday you'll learn as well."
"Oh yes, perhaps. And by the same token, perhaps you should let your daughter get settled in. It's been a busy day and I'm betting she wants to start...er...um," Hades began in an uncomfortably bullshit manner. To a god whose main task was delivering honest justice to the dead, subterfuge came difficult.
"Mourning the time I'll be away from you, mother. So, please, you must let me get to it before I collapse into grief before you," Persephone finished like a pro. For a daughter who spent so much time under a protective parent, she had mastered the art of beneficial prevarication. "Besides, I have such a big doggy for protection." She began to pat Cerberus on the central head, moving to skritch behind an ear. Cerberus responded by barking happily and scratching himself with his leg.
Demeter looked skeptically at the display and began to open her mouth to speak. Everyone held their breath.
"Madam, I do not mean to rush you, but I have finished unloading and have many other duties to return to. If you would let me return you to shore, I'd be most appreciative," Charon said respectively, appearing out of nowhere in the nick of time. "Please, allow me to help you aboard."
"Oh...er...um...thank you," Demeter replied confusedly, the disorientation and uncustomary, albeit false, respect combining to wash away her righteous anger. She stepped on board hesitantly in the fashion of all mothers unable to cut the proverbial strings. She paused halfway up much to the lovers' despair and called down, "Don't worry baby. I'll be back as soon as spring starts to rescue you. Be strong."
Persephone waved back, dabbing a false tear from her eye as Charon pulled out and made somewhat longer and faster strokes than before. They waited on the shore until the ferry and Demeter were both long out of sight.
"Thank the gods," Persephone said curtly. "I didn't think she'd ever get out of my face. Oh, how I missed you." She practically glomped Hades, pressing him tightly against herself.
"My love," he replied happily lightly spinning her in the air in his strong arms. "It feels like an eternity, a...er..."
"Oh, Hades," Persephone laughed letting herself down. "You're a true romantic, but eventually you'll have to get the poeticism to match."
Hades flushed red and stammered. "Er...I made dinner."
"Oh good, I'm starving," Persephone laughed. "Hey, why don't you carry me in like the first winter we spent truly together."
"As you wish, my queen," Hades replied, picking her up in his arms and half-racing up the hill to their shared palace.
"Mmm, this takes me back," Persephone commented lasciviously as she rode in his joyous arms. She gently ran her hand along his beard and then began to nuzzle her face against it. "So rough. Mother hates your beard."
"Can we not talk about her," Hades said sadly.
"Right dear," she answered. "I was only mentioning it for comparison. Personally, I can't get enough of it."
As if to emphasize this point, she took him by the chin and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. Despite the speed at which it occurred, despite the bouncing action in progress, and despite a minor complaint by an anti-PDA soul on the left, it struck him. He stumbled briefly as he nearly lost his balance and had to stop to let the world stop spinning.
Persephone giggled. "I take it I still stop your world."
Hades burbled as his eyes uncrossed.
"I'll take that as a yes, love. Now let me down," Persephone remarked giggling again. Hades quickly complied, setting her down with exaggerated care.
She twirled into the palace more like an excited teenager, than the reigning monarch. She laughed loudly in genuine ecstasy as she remarked on all the fixtures she enjoyed. And while she danced and acclimated, Hades just stared on. Drinking up all that he had missed. Rememorizing the curves of her body. The way she hugged every object. Her infinite exuberance and the way she lit up the dark and dank halls. Beside him, Cerberus had followed them and was wagging his tail excitedly.
A squeal of joy interrupted Hades's private and enjoyable trance. "I can't believe it, flowers," Persephone yelled as she pulled up a bouquet of Hecate's black flowers. She took a deep sniff as she spun in joy again. She then stopped and took another confused sniff.
"Er...sorry. Hecate wasn't able to give them a smell," Hades said apologetically. Already he feared that he had fucked up the evening.
"Oh, Hades," Persephone said walking over to him. "It's amazing enough that you have any flowers at all. I'm sure with a little work I could help with the smell. And heck, if I fail, there's always my perfume."
Oh, yes. Her perfume. Hades inhaled deeply. It was a rush of wildflowers. Uncontainable and free. He remembered how in simpler days he had tried to trap that and how he had succeeded by purely legal standpoints. It had taken years afterwards to be forgiven for that error in judgment and then luck had struck. He had drunk in that scent mingled in the sweat of divine flesh. Oh, how he desired that moment again. It had been so long, but it would be there and this day he wanted to make it special. Because this day felt special. Like a Hallow evening, a Halloween if one willed.
"Shall we dine, then," Persephone asked coyly.
"Hmmm? Oh yes," Hades exclaimed. "Let me guide you to your seat first."
He walked her to the table as a soft jazz number played on the stereo. He guided her with his arm wrapped around her as if to let go would be to lose her. She walked snuggled into the crux of his arm as if to absorb his strength. Their eyes were locked into each other and the odd bump into furniture punctuated the absurdity of this method of walking. Each time they laughed it off, but they still didn't break their gazes.
At the table, Hades was quick to pull out her chair and offer her the seat.
Persephone giggled. "Oh yes, always the chivalric romantic and to think that your first attempt at dating was to snatch me out of a field kicking and screaming."
"Er..." Hades began nervously. He always knew he was at fault that day. It haunted him. It had been such an uncharacteristic act, such an assholic act, such a Zeus act. And yet, that's what he had done. Too scared to ask her, so fearful of rejection, he had swept her off her feet and taken her into the dark. Like a serial killer or a crazed stalker. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, pish tosh," she replied, folding her arms under her chin in a penetrating way. "You've already proved you're not the man you appeared those days." She stared deeply into his earnest puppy-dog eyes. "Yes, I understand why. And Zeus knows it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Speaking of which, could you put on something a little less...overtly romantic. I'm a regular sucker for charm, but there is the matter of taste. Where's our song?"
Hades ran out of the room, once again failing a leap over the couch. A few bumps and muttered curses later, the music stopped and Warren Zevon's "A Certain Girl" ran out of the speakers, proving that even Ancient Greek Gods have decent taste in music.
"Much better," Persephone called as Hades more cautiously walked back in nursing a minor bruise to the head. "So...you mentioned dinner?"
"Yes, let me get it," Hades said forgetting all about the knocks on his head. He strolled into the kitchen pulling out the roast and emptying the soup into bowls. He carefully added a small black flower to Persephone's soup bowl and then walked out, humming to himself.
"Ta dah, Roast Boar and minestrone," Hades announced as he placed them on the table. "All a la Hades."
"Meat?" Persephone exclaimed excitedly. "Oh, you're the best. Mother's been feeding me nothing but greens for months."
"I'm sorry it's a little burnt," he added humbly while still glowing red from the words of thanks.
"Oh don't you worry about it. You always overdo it."
Hades glowed even redder. "Try some of the soup.'
"Don't mind if I do," Persephone answered, putting down the shank she'd cut and taking a sip of the broth. She sputtered slightly and then recovered.
Hades looked quizzically and then took a sip himself. His eyes teared up a little as he cursed. "I fucked it up."
"Oh, don't be like that," she said consolingly. "It's just strong. You overdid the spices. Honestly, you keep trying to hard."
"What makes you think you need to apologize for it," she asked taking a bigger spoonful and gulping it down.
They stared at each other all through the meal, each taking their mouthfuls modestly and quickly. As it went on, they engaged in the standard small talks and catching ups. The idle chitchat and veiled come-ons that preceded and built up to the height of the night. And yet, through it all, neither rushed any part of the meal. They both knew that the moment would arrive that they'd been longing since last they parted. They knew it deep within their bones, but this was part of it. The foreplay, the tantalizing withholdings that would make it all worth it later.