She sold me out. I can’t believe that bitch sold me out. No. No. This isn’t happening. My mouth gaped open in disbelief as I watched Atё stand there, coldly watching as another god picked me up like I was nothing. I wanted to pound my fists on his back. I wanted to scream at her, but she had done something to me, and I just stood there passively while she allowed this to happen.
I could do nothing to save myself except stare at Atё and scream at her in my head.
Help me! Please don’t let them take me! Please! I thought we were friends! Please!
A sob ripped through my throat just as I was transported out of the dark building she had taken me to. Away from her, I found I was able to defend myself again. I kicked and punched at the god before he unceremoniously dropped me on my ass, knocking the wind out of me. While trying to catch my breath, I scooted back on hands and heels, trying to put as much distance between us as possible. I didn’t make it far before I backed into something solid.
I tilted my head back and looked up…and up…and up. My throat went dry as my eyes met his. No. No. No. I had gotten out. I don’t know how it happened, but I had gotten out. Atё hadn’t just sold me out. She’d doomed my very existence.
He smiled down at me. “Hello, daughter. Looks like you got loose.” He snapped his fingers, and I was once again surrounded by familiar darkness.
My breath caught and got stuck in my throat. My eyelids peeled back, opening as far as they could and then just a little more. My arms flung out to the sides, my hands desperately trying to grasp onto something to anchor me in the inky blackness. There was no up or down. I could have been standing or lying on my back, and it wouldn’t have mattered. My body floated, buffeting itself against the thick night.
I had been here for minutes or hours or days. I wasn’t sure. When all you see is blackness, you have no way to tell time. All I know is that my lungs burned from lack of breath. Tears poured from my eyes and down my cheeks, falling silently into the night. I gripped my throat in my hands and squeezed, attempting to keep myself from breathing. I had been here before. I had been here for centuries. Somehow I had gotten out, and I knew I wouldn’t survive if I had to live in the blackness again. So I did everything I could to keep my breath from escaping. After all, if I couldn’t, why should it?
If you’re already in the dark, is it possible to black out? If it is, I did. Funny thing about holding your breath, you can’t actually kill yourself. You just end up passing out, and then your body takes over and starts sucking in the oxygen that you deprived it of while letting you sleep off your stupidity.
How do you keep track of time when there’s nothing to count? I learned long ago that the only thing you can count is your breaths.
Breathe in. I pull myself into a sitting position, knees to my chest. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Put my hands down next to my hips and feel my palms and the bottoms of my feet pressed against the solid ground. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Turn my face to what I believe is the sky and close my eyes, not that it mattered. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Realize that I’ve been here before. In this spot. In this time. Alone. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Disgusted with myself, I push up to a more upright position, back straight, head high. Breathe out.
We all had our own version of home, the place we lived, and none overlapped with each other. As far as I could tell, my brothers’ and sisters’ homes were all distinctly different from one another. From what I’ve seen of their spaces, mine is the only one with this darkness. I know what that says about me, but I’ve successfully ignored it up to this point. The first thing I need to do is find one of my siblings and find out if they were able to escape our prison as well. Head high, I marched confidently to where I knew my darkness ended, and the light began.
After what could have been five minutes or five years, I finally reached the edge. There was no gradual change in the surroundings. You were suffocating in the coldest, darkest part of me one moment and the next a warm breeze caressing your skin, lifting the fine hairs and seeping through you, warming you from the inside. I looked across the expanse of green grass to the top of a hill and I could see the pink marble of the sundial. The sun reflected off of the gold edging in such a way as to make it look like tiny fairies were dancing around it. It beckoned me. It mocked me. It was the only way I could connect with my siblings.
I wanted to run to it. I wanted to go directly to my sister, Demeter, and have her comfort me in my pain. I swallowed the urge down, though. I wasn’t a child anymore, and I needed not to behave as such. When I reached the top of the hill, I paused and looked around me. I could see my shelter off to my left, so very near the edge of the forest. When I was younger, I considered it home, but as the years passed and the siblings grew up, we grew apart. Demeter was the only one who tried to keep connected to all of us. After a while, I stopped making time to see her. It was better that way. Every visit she made allowed her to see how my dark forest grew. It was nothing she had in her area, and she had difficulties understanding why I had one. Sometimes, I did too.
I ran my fingertips over the golden edge of the sundial, hesitating. I hadn’t seen my siblings in so long that even though I was terrified at what had just happened to me, I couldn’t bring myself to visit them. I threw my hands up and stalked away, huffing a heavy breath. I paced back and forth from the sundial to the edge of the hill for long enough that I started to feel thirsty. Sucking up my pride, something I don’t ever do without significant pain, I pressed my hand against the etching of a wheat stalk and held my breath as I was transported into Demeter’s realm.
I knew the moment I was there. The sun was brighter here. In fact, of all the siblings, the sun was the brightest here. There was something about Demeter that just made her shine from the inside. I used to be jealous of her but eventually realized my body would never hold onto that much happiness at once. I shielded my eyes and headed towards her gardens. When I got there, they were bare. My brow furrowed in confusion. Her gardens are never empty. They are always bursting with colors and shapes of things I couldn’t identify. Regardless of their previous state, I could tell my sister wasn’t here. So I headed over to the river that runs along the edge of her garden and her home.
I walked along its edge for roughly a half a mile and didn’t see or hear her, so I turned around and headed back to her home. Surely she will be there. When I opened the door, I was assaulted by a thick layer of dust disturbed by the brush of air from the door opening. Coughing, I tried to look around. Why was there dust in here? The sunlight streamed through the many open windows, dust mites danced across sunbeams, but there was no life in here except me.
Maybe she got out too. I coughed a little more and rubbed my eyes, shutting the door behind me. I headed back over to the sundial mulling things over. If she got out, why didn’t she find me? Why didn’t I at least hear about her being out? Maybe we got out at different places and never got a chance to meet up. That made the most sense, especially since I wasn’t out for even a full twenty-four hours. I kicked a rock as hard as I could, still upset about Ate deceiving me.
At the sundial, I contemplated my choices. I ran my fingers over the etching of a wave and closed my eyes as I transported to my brother’s realm. Salty sea air invaded my lungs, but there was no sound here either. No laughing or playing in the water. No wood smoke on the breeze carrying the scents of a meal. I didn’t need to go any further to know that my brother, Poseidon, was missing as well. I hollered for him anyway, just to be sure.
I waited for a breath before touching the rose wrapped around a skull etching and quickly found myself in my brother, Hades’, domain. His place was dark as well, but it was masculine darkness if that makes any sense. The sun was low in the sky, and it was always twilight in his realm. There was a sweet smokey musk carried around on the breeze. It made you feel like you had all the time in the world to sit at his fire and talk with him…if he actually spoke, that is. Hades is perhaps the most mellow of all of us, and he hates it when I raise my voice. So, of course, I yelled for him.
“HADES!!!! Quit hiding and come help your favorite sister!”
Nothing but actual crickets. I sighed. One more place to look, and I wasn’t looking forward to it, especially if she was still there. I tapped my fingers hesitantly over the etching of a brazier holding a flame, hoping to stretch this moment as long as possible. Finally, I just rolled my eyes at my hesitation and pressed my palm on the etching.
Traveling to Hestia’s realm was always the hardest for me. I could pop in and out of the other’s with no problem, but Hestia and I have…tensions, to say the least. Going to her place always shook my bones in my skin and rattled my eyeballs in their sockets. It stole the breath from my lungs and made me suffocate for precious seconds. Finally, though, I was there. I shivered from the chill in the air and wrapped my arms over my chest, rubbing them with my hands.
Hestia hated it when I yelled as well, but there was absolutely no way I was going to be spiteful like I was at Hades’ place. No, I needed to check her spots and find her as quickly as possible, so that I could get out of there. I looked at the path leading through her forest and found my feet starting that way. Hestia’s wood is not like mine. Mine is dark and foreboding, heavy with all the things we hide from ourselves. My sister’s woodland is healthy and green, full of multiple types of plants and vegetation along with the animals you would expect to find in a forest. Mine just had black beetles.
I followed the well-worn path until I reached the front of her home, taking a moment to be jealous of the openness of her space. There was a small campfire off to the side that had never burned out, its flames reflecting against the night. The ring of rocks around it was cold now. The fire long ago doused. She had no windows as such, preferring the fresh air as much as possible. I pulled my eyes from the empty fire and looked for her in those open spaces, but didn’t see any movement.
I grumbled. “Come on, Hera. You need to just go in there and find out if she’s still here.”
I pushed through her door with an attitude like I owned the place. I was ready to retaliate at the expected outburst from her because of my disrespectful entrance, but I was disappointed. I looked around the front room and felt a chill in the air. Frowning, I wandered further into her home, my frustration at not finding her growing with each empty room. I finally stopped and went to sit down on her front step. None of her fires were lit. She wasn’t here. And didn’t that just piss me off to no end!
Of all my siblings, why did she get to leave?! My heart ached with frustration, and I tipped my head back and howled my pain out into the night. Why did I get left behind?