Asphodel Blooming

This story is paired with Chapter IV of Bulfinch’s Mythology. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 

No blame rested upon the child. The fault lay on parents who neglected his care. His body fell to decay, his spirit left to linger. Since he died young and without measurable fault, he stayed in the land closest to life. Here, he sniffed the asphodel flowers in the field, flitting with the other spirits in the meadow. He knew it not, but the spirit of his hero, Odysseus, drifted like a shadow nearby.

Persephone stroked one of Cerebus’ three heads as she observed the shades. An arid breeze scented with charcoal caressed her unbound hair. White fruit tree blossoms spiraled like snow making a reverse progress upward, carrying their perfume and promise of spring on the updraft to the land above, the land of sun and season change, the land of Persephone’s birth.

She pulled at her wedding band, gold cutting too deep for comfort. Soon, her husband would release the chains of matrimonial obligation so that she could return for a visit with her mother. She sighed, comforted by even a brief sojourn out of this Hell.

The presence of the child bothered her, though. She saw him with the clarity of the Mistress of Hades. She stood and straightened her crimson chiton. Cerebus growled from one of his throats. “Stay,” she said, and the giant beast obeyed.

She stood opposite the flower, gazing into the child’s innocent soul. Before his death, he possessed poise, beauty, and an active curiosity. This boy fell to this fate through neglect alone. The words remained unsaid over his unprepared body. Not one among the living grieved or marked his loss.

But why?

She ran a hand along her tight stomach and felt a despairing pang. Extracting life from the Lord of Death proved difficult.

Why neglect such a child, such a gift? She thought of no explanation.

Hades, her husband, took what he wanted. That is how she came to be his queen. He abducted her from the Land of Life and tricked her into a marriage by starving her. From him, she learned some underworld magic.

The white asphodel blooms resembled skinny, six-pointed stars that funneled to the thick, emerald stalks. Seers used the flowers to communicate with the dead.

She plucked a bloom and crushed it in her hand. The sap dripped over her wrist and travelled to her elbow.

The boy looked up, seeing the Queen of this After-realm for the first time.

I don’t care who objects. He will be my own.

Her hand reached for the tiny soul.

NBR4BlacksmallKerry E.B. Black remains happily lost in the mists of tales and myths. She resides in a little house in a little suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with spouse, children, and pets all shoehorned within.