Like a whisper in the wind, I heard pieces of music floating through my mind. Melodies fluttered within me. Ones I had no knowledge of and had not been sung or set to instruments. The music followed me where I went, building to a crescendo, until it turned my steps into dance.
I loved to dance when I was younger, running through the gardens and meadows on light feet. The flowers had been my partners. I had never needed music to feel the beauty of dance, to feel the wind catch at my hair, as I lost myself to the hypnotic motions of my body.
Then my dance had become courtship, a partnership, two dancers in the dance. My flower partners were replaced with flesh. For years in my happiness, my feet found the steps choreographed in my soul. They played out within gardens and palaces. I frolicked like the nymphs I had known in my youth. But then it became distant, the partnership waned, and I was a solitary dancer again.
In that solitude, I had lost the want to dance. The sadness I had let myself wallow in had become a weight around my neck. I had become a shadow walking the hallways of those very same palaces—a ghost pacing the earth, bringing spring behind me, and taking the dying summer into the grave at my departure.
But this spring brought something new. It brought an end to the unknowing, and in that end, it brought anger, understanding, and acceptance. Then, happiness. This was a spring renewal like never before. The ice melted within the frozen cage around my heart, cracked, warmed, and pooled around the sprouting flower blooming within.
Which brought me back to the music. Lyrical, haunting, it ebbed and flowed within me. It built again from a soft whisper, bringing the dance back to my feet. I laughed, whirling around. I watched the flowers along my skirt dance on their own in the mirror, fluttering around my knees. It was as hypnotic as the dancing lights of the modern club I had gone to with Selene.
I faced myself in the mirror and smiled. I knew the cause of this spring of my heart. I was a hopeless romantic and knew it was the King of Dreams that had lit that fire. My heart skipped a beat when I saw his smile, a special gift I relished when it was given. I could close my eyes and paint a picture with my words. Power radiated from him, a coiling shadow pierced by his eyes that were the shimmering violet of twilight. To hear his voice was like a whisper along my skin. A touch of the promise of what was to come, like the gentle brush of his fingertips. It was an ache that burned within me, a need I had to fill. One that I went running back for over and over again. I gushed with joy like the whimsical girl I had been so long ago. It was this budding romance with Morpheus that had brought out a part of me that had laid hidden for so long. If it was a dream, I did not ever want to wake up again.
The curtains fluttered with the breeze. The smell of the sea air filtered into the room, fresh with the salt of the ocean. It brought me out of my wandering thoughts. I could hear the waves through the open balcony, the water lapping at the side of the ocean liner. A ship so large, the waves did not affect her. She plowed through the jewel-toned waters with precision. A floating city of luxury, romance, and love. When we had boarded the cruise in port a few days ago, it had surprised me to see so many faces I recognized. It was comforting to be surrounded by friends and family. We had exchanged pleasantries before continuing on our separate ways.
What I had not been prepared for was the lavish, and even sometimes extravagant, level of decadence that spilled out of almost every corner of the ship. Food, drinks, everything a mortal, or immortal, could ever want or crave. It was almost overwhelming, and I was happy that I had not come to this directly from the Underworld. The change would have been almost too much for me to bear. Everything you would ever want to indulge in for distraction was available, and we tried a variety. But for me, I found I quickly looked forward to just one thing.
The walk along the decks under the stars. My hand tucked gently in his arm as Morpheus escorted me back to my room. Whispered conversations were floating beneath the hum of the activity on the ship. We shared soft goodnights standing at my door. The touch of his lips as he brushed a kiss along the back of my hand and the burning heat that rose with each feather-light touch were addictive Safely inside my room, I would listen to his footfalls retreat as I leaned against the door, the beating of my heart filling my ears.
I had the nightmare again last night. It had been weeks since I felt that darkness creep in. I had thought they were no longer plaguing me. But I woke in a sweat, my throat sore from the scream that chased me from my slumber. I pushed that behind, pulling the good and joyful forward, wanting to clear my mind from something that would only make me worry. Perhaps I would ask Morpheus if he could chase them away or explain why I had them. But I did not want to take advantage.
I sighed, exasperated with my thoughts. I knew I was running late, so I smoothed the bottom of my dress down and looked one last time in the mirror. The sundress I had chosen that morning contrasted with my skin with patterns of red flowers and a simple bodice. I decided at the last minute to leave my hair down, even with the wind at sea. It was playful and flirty, exactly how I was feeling, as I dashed from my room. My feet barely touched the deck of the ship as I hurried above, bursting out into the ocean air. I shielded my eyes against the sun shining in the brilliant blue sky.
Finding Morpheus was as simple here as opening my eyes. He stood out against the backdrop of bright colors, garish contrasts, and what was almost a cacophony of color. I stopped to catch my breath, and just admire him. Commanding attention even with his relaxed stance, the damask of his waistcoat standing out against the white silk shirt, dark trousers cut to his exact form. I giggled to myself, knowing that I would sneak a touch of that shirt, feeling it beneath my fingers, I knew how it would feel against my skin. As if he could sense my eyes on him, Morpheus turned to me, and with his smile, I felt my whole countenance brighten.
I took a step forward, the heat of the sun already warming the deck to an almost uncomfortable temperature, hot against the soles of my feet. I had forgotten my shoes again. I held up a finger and pointed at my feet. I mimed I would return and dashed back down into the covered hallways of the ship.
As my door shut behind me, I spied my sandals on the floor where I had left them and grabbed my hat to shield my face against the sun. I turned to return to the upper decks when it happened.
It was the sound that first drew my attention. The audible noise of an immortal manifesting within the room, the almost reverse gust of air, as their form displaced it. Of all the immortals who would appear looking for me, Thanatos was the last one I expected.
“Miss Persephone,” his voice came from inside the dark hood, disembodied to those who were not used to it. “Would you come? It has to do with Ate.”
I was torn. I looked back over my shoulder at my door and thought of Morpheus waiting above. It would only be a moment, I told myself. Maybe they had decided to release her. I would go and come back, and no one would miss me. I would apologize later. I nodded and took his offered hand.
My muscles hurt from the control I placed on myself, so rigid I was shaking, I could not stem the flow of tears that rushed down my face. Burning hot, they scalded my skin as they ran in rivulets down my cheeks. I waited until Thanatos had left, the blackened smoke that signaled his exit cleared before I let the scream I had been holding in my guts free. It hurt as it ripped from my throat, like shards of glass tearing me apart. The revelations of the last hour were burned into my eyes and heart. Guilt was dark talons that tore me apart.
Powerless, weak. I was unable to do anything to stave off the hurt that had bore down on Hekate. I had begged and begged, and I brought her into a pain lasting centuries because I was selfish. Because I didn’t know. What kind of sister was I? To not see what I did to her. How it had changed her because of her love for me. THIS was why we had drifted apart, this secret that was the wedge between us. What kind of monster was I? I screamed at myself in the mirror, the one that just this morning had reflected my happiness back at me.
Everything crashed around me. Rage at my weakness boiled up inside at how people around me kept getting hurt, and I could do NOTHING about it. Explosions rang in my ears, and the massive boat rocked beneath my feet. Clenching my fists, I stomped out the still open balcony door, casting my eyes around to see what we had collided with.
Beneath the massive cruise liner, ships dodged about, dropping something massive into the ocean, before they sped away again. Small and agile, they were able to cover ground. Moving to safety before the white behemoth that was the cruise ship sailed into the bobbing cylinders. One after another, the explosions rocked the boat. I grabbed the railing to steady myself. I felt the welling anger. This would NOT happen. Whoever, or whatever those people down there were, I would NOT stand by and let people I cared about be hurt. I would not let my inaction hurt those in my heart. Never again!
My ears were deaf to the chaos erupting above decks, the panicked crew and mortals rushing about as the storm clouds gathered on the horizon. I clenched my jaw, the muscles standing out along my neck. My hands gripped the railing with such ferocity, each digit turned pure white from the strain. Grey swollen clouds rolled in, lightning snapping between them, violent with my rage as the storm bore down on the smaller boats.
“NEVER AGAIN!” the words ripped from my lips as the crack of thunder echoed, and my hair stood on end. Winds whipped the boats around, the smaller vessels frantically trying to outrun the storm that bore down on them. Waves rose and fell, crashing down hard enough that the cracking of the wood could be heard, the boats slamming back to the surface with force.
Another round of explosions rocked the ship, and my vision went black. I could not control it, could not keep the raging storm at bay. All the pain, all the anger that coursed through me had called the storm down on us. The cruise ship lurched, nearly tipping to its side. The wave that rose from the ocean was larger than anything that had come before. I saw it coming for a brief instant before the darkness pulled me under, my grip going slack. I surrendered to the rising wave.