“Where is my daughter?! Where is she, Thanatos?! Where is my sweet Kore?!” Mrs. Demeter screamed at me.
I stood in her cottage, the fireplace roaring. Mr. Zeus stood in the corner but didn’t speak. Our eyes were on Mrs. Demeter as she paced frantically back and forth in front of the hearth. She looked a fright with her hair undone and sticking up in wild directions. Her puffy eyes betrayed the fact she had been crying, and the dark circles showed that she had not slept.
She stopped and turned her ireful gaze upon me, placing her hands on her hips. I cleared my dry throat. It was unbelievably hot in here. I tried to hold her burning gaze, but I failed and looked down at my boots. Mr. Zeus hesitantly moved forward with his hand outstretched, but he second-guessed himself and retreated back to the corner.
“I asked you a question! Where is Kore?!” Mrs. Demeter demanded again.
“She and Mr. Hades are now betrothed,” I said.
“No! No! No! Out of the question! I did not approve of this! You bring her back! You bring her back right now!” Mrs. Demeter roared.
“I can not,” I replied gently.
“Why?! Why?!” Mrs. Demeter snarled as she closed the distance between us.
“She has partaken. She belongs to the Underworld now,” I said, looking up into her steely gray eyes.
Their faces dropped at my pronouncement. Mrs. Demeter turned to look at Mr. Zeus. They held each other’s gazes for what felt like an eternity, and I could feel the weight of their silence filling up the room. My stomach began to drop as I shuffled my feet, waiting for something to happen. My hand went to my stomach, where I felt the most pain. I pulled my hand away to find it was covered in my black blood, but why? I wasn’t bleeding that day. What was going on here?
Mrs. Demeter turned her blazing glare upon me. I recoiled and stepped back, bumping a nearby table as I did so. She raised her hand, drew it back, and slapped me. The sound was very loud in the tiny cottage. I let out a couple of heavy breaths, as did she. I reached up and slowly rubbed my burning and reddening cheek. Mrs. Demeter’s body trembled as her tears fell. She began to sob, covering her face with both hands, allowing herself to be pulled into Mr. Zeus’s arms. He cradled her against his chest as she repeated over and over, “Bring her back.”
Mr. Zeus looked at me over her head as I stood rubbing my cheek. “I will have words with my brother. Thank you for telling us. You can go now.”
I nodded and walked out the door into the very first chill in the air. I watched the leaves shift and change colors for the first time, and then…
I open my eyes to a blue sky as I lay in the. blue grass. The Ether Pit, Gerard, Phobetor, godsdamn both of them to Tartarus. My hands have moved in this dream as they lay over my stab wound. I feel it trying to heal, but the Hind’s blood has slowed the process. I still can’t move much else.
I question myself at the moment, how long have I been here? How many of these dreams have I had? There is something very wrong with them. Why is everything blue? Why has no one come looking for me yet? I feel my fingers twitch, and then…
I stood on the train tracks outside of the concentration camp, glaring at the souls of the Nazi officers who lingered at the gate’s entrance. There were four of them. The one in the center was the Commandant. My chest burned with rage as my grip tightened on the staff of my scythe. My jaw clenched as I attempted to address them. I needed to usher them to Tartarus, but even Tartarus was too good for this brood. I contemplated their fates as they marched through the gate and headed toward me. The souls of the Jewish prisoners began to circle around me.
My face dropped at the sight of them and their naked, emaciated bodies, gaunt faces, and dark, hollowed eyes. My heart broke for them, all of them. They reached out to me, grabbing my cloak, pulling, tugging, and asking me questions. I closed my eyes and exhaled as their voices surrounded me. Their questions turned into tears, begging, pleading, and rage. They pulled my cloak in all manner of directions, twisting it in their hand and yanking it to their skeletal chests. Some wiped their tears and faces on the fabric. They fell to their knees as the realization of their deaths sank in.
I unfurled the stocks of my wings. They were absent of any feathers. I had used them all to make my doppelgangers, collecting too many souls in this horrid war. Their voices ceased as they gazed upon the skeletal stocks of my absent wings. I raised my scythe and pounded it on the ground three times, sending the souls of the victims to the Underworld. Only I and the Nazis remained.
To the Tartarus bound, my features already appear skull-like. But as the rage I felt twisted my visage, terror filled their faces. It did my heart good to witness their horror and fear in death when they had felt none in life. I knew their fate and the fate of each of them at every camp I was called to collect souls.
My will was focused on the Nazis and their Commandant standing at the entrance. As more of his victims came through the gate to surround me, pulling at my cloak and wailing their pain and grief, I raised my arm toward the Nazis. With the simple gesture of squeezing my fist, I eliminated the Nazis’ souls from existence. One by one, they let out a small scream. A puff of smoke and a small pile of black ash on the ground was all that physically remained of their souls. I saved the Commandant for last. He fell to his knees before me, his eyes filled with terror.
“Nien! Nien! Nien!” he screamed.
I said nothing as he puffed out of existence.
I open my eyes to the blueness that is the Ether Pit, my fingers twitching madly over my wound. I attempt to sit up but only manage a half-sit before I fall back to the ground.
“Godsdammit!” I cry out.
I attempt it again and manage to prop myself up on my elbows. I pant from the effort and only manage to remain up a moment before I am flat again. I lay there, panting like some mangy cur. While I know revenge is my sister’s duty, I swear I am going to have my way with that mortal once I find him.
“Where is she?” a man’s voice asks to my right.
I slowly and stiffly turned my head, my eyes widening at the sight of him. I know him as the blue specter. He looks morosely down at me.
“Where is Calantha?” Spiros asks.
“The one who got away,” I say weakly.
Spiros leans down, so we are face to face with each other. As I stare into his eyes, I see it for myself. He isn’t looking at me but through me. He is reliving that night.
“Calantha!” Spiros shouts as he rises back up.
I stood before Moxie with the unconscious soul of Calantha cradled in my arms.
“It was not her time,” I told Moxie, looking over my shoulder to see where Spiros’s soul had wandered.
“Come back,” I croak out weakly to Spiros as he vanishes from my sight.
But Spiros is gone again, off to wander in his traumatic loop. I remember the devastation on Moxie’s face now, and it haunts me. At the time, I was too focused on my duty to notice it, but I realize now that my words had added to her guilt and pain.
“Words hurt, don’t they, Than?” Phobetor’s oily, slime filled voice came from the shadows of a nearby rock.
“Show yourself, you bastard!” I yell.
On command, he oozes and seeps from the shadows like a blotch of living oil. The black goo moves closer, raising up and swirling as it takes form near me. It is monstrous, reminding me of one of the creatures from that game the mortals play. I believe it is called Pokemon. Several mortals died in pursuit of these fictitious creatures. This one reminds me of the one they call Muk.
“Temper, temper, little brother,” Phobetor mockingly chides me. “I knew you had some shit in there.” He reaches out and taps my forehead with his cold, oily finger, leaving a smear of goo behind. “But I think we have only scratched the surface, don’t you?”
I want to shudder, wince, and pull away from his touch, but I am unable to move. I settle for glaring at him instead.
“I’ll kill you,” I assure him.
“Yes, yes, you are very good at that, aren’t you?” he says dismissively.
I try to sit up, baring my teeth and grunting with the effort. Phobetor easily pushes me back down. I hit the ground and groan.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, little brother, let’s see what you really, really fear,” Phobetor hisses.
He reaches out with lightning speed, grabbing the side of my head and squeezing. Black ooze rains down on my face, then springs to life, crawling like worms pulled from the dirt as it moves over my face. It leaves cold, slimy trails on my skin as it forces its way into my eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. I let out a gargled scream to the blue sky as the blackness of the ooze pulls me down into new nightmares.