Posts Tagged ‘creative writing’

Is this the biggest mistake I’ve ever made?

That was what Sarah contemplated as she stared at the faint light of the distant streetlight creeping through her curtains. It wasn’t unusual for her to be awake in the middle of the night, she was very used to the sleepless curse. Anyone who says they were ‘up all night’ or ‘didn’t get a wink of sleep’ hasn’t felt the hand of insomnia because, when you actually stay awake all night it’s a very different thing. The average work day is 8 hours and that seems long, right? Now imagine spending those 8 hours on your own whilst the rest of the world sleeps? It feels 4 times longer. Those people who moan probably are awake for 20 minutes, half an hour in reality because, when you actually stay awake all night you damn well know about it.

The worst part was the dreams. Not nice dreams about fluffy unicorns or rainbows; she just guessed this was what other people dreamt about having never experienced such normality. No, these were terrible flashes that crossed her eyes every time her body began to give in to sleep. Images of faces sweeping towards her; a car smashing into yours. You feel your body lurch as it forces you back awake, your body shaking with Adrenalin and fear. This goes on for hours and hours till you realise it’s time for your alarm clock to go off and you resign yourself to another day of caffeine fuelled hell.

There was usually a reason and Sarah knew exactly what had revived her insomnia…it was him.

The moment you decide to kill is not what you’d think. You would expect it to be born in anger, a flash of madness that overcomes you and leads you to insanity. Instead, it is a feeling of serenity. When the decision is made there is only peace; a calmness that enveloped you and allows the thinker to be finally at rest.

That was how Sarah felt as she prepared to kill, for what would be the first and last time. She knew it was wrong but, as the decision began to develop in her mind, she felt that swell of quiet composure that she had longed for.

A black cloud descends around me and the world again goes dark; colours drain and the light loses its shimmer.  I know the world is there through the obscured perspex that covers my eyes, a distorted reality just out of reach.  The storm ominously hangs around me, a dark presence pressing down on me, making it impossible to breathe and gather my chaotic thoughts.

I run…I move ahead…but the icy cold breeze bites at my exposed skin, and i can feel its grip tighten on my weakening body. I can hear it, mocking me, laughing at my actions with a callous snarl. “What do you think you are doing,” it sneers, “You can’t do that, you’re not strong enough.” until the cacophony deafens my ears with its constant attack.

There is no release, no chance of relaxation.  A never relenting barrage of darkness that consumes your soul, and everyone around you.  There is no escape because the darkness is you.

She stood silent.  The wind whipped around her, making her hair tie itself into a thousand knots but she stood…silent.  The world around ebbed and flowed in its usual chaotic manner, never stopping to take a breath as it hastened around in an endless tirade of entropy.   Caught in a whirlwind of unpredictability she had become accustomed to the overwhelming loss of control but had never tried to step away, but now it had forced her to be…silent.

 

The day had started as usual, locked in the normality of the humdrum but longing to flee.  The dark cloud followed her, walking in her shadows, never letting her escape the feeling of dread and despair that had plagued her for as long as she could remember.  Was there a beginning, she couldn’t remember but she knew there would never be an end. It followed her, watched her and twisted her thoughts into blackened images of an inverted reality until it was impossible to see the truth through the distorted lies.    

I watched Ruby from a distance, longing to part of her again.  She was beautiful, I can see that now, but I had let her pull away from me.  Her dark hair would fall lusciously around her slim shoulders but she rarely wore it down now, preferring to tie it back in a functional ponytail.  Her eyes were tired…they used to be full of cheeky exuberance but worry had stripped away her vibrancy.   

Halfway down the long, seemingly never-ending road Ruby wondered whether to go forward to her destination or turn back and run home.  Her head spun, her hands shook and her stomach turned the familiar cartwheels. She tried to reason with her irrational mind; it wasn’t far, she’d be there in ten minutes…but then again she could be home in ten minutes as well.  She’d made this journey many times before but that had been a long time ago; it seemed so much more difficult now.  She considered what her actual fears were…she didn’t know; all she knew was that she had to get home as quick as possible.

“You can do this Ruby Belle,” she whispered to herself.  Her father had called her that as a child and it always made her feel safe, like his big hands were clamping around hers, but loosely so as not to hurt her delicate fingers. Ruby smiled fondly as she remembered him before the emptiness returned.  She missed him. They spoke often on the phone but it wasn’t the same.  Maybe one day she would be brave enough to make the journey…maybe.  She was tired of making excuses about why she hadn’t visited in two years but she knew she would never tell him the truth.  He would worry so she continued to make up stories of work pressures and broken cars to appease his nagging pleas.  If he could see her now he would never believe it was his strong, capable daughter who was stuck to the pavement not knowing which way to go.  With an exaggerated step she tried to move forward but each time her foot moved forward her insides somersaulted and her brain wobbled.

I once asked her what she meant by that and she said it was like her brain slipped off its axis momentarilyLike that feeling you get when you nod off to sleep for a second but your body pulls you awake. She often wondered whether she actually lost consciousness for a second, a mini blackout that no one noticed but her.  

‘Well, I got further than last time!’ She said as she flopped down on the sofa.  The feeling had passed now; it had gone as soon as she had made the decision to run, so now she just felt stupid and annoyed because she had succumbed once again to her ridiculous mind. ‘Tomorrow, definitely tomorrow’.

Deep in the chasms, far below the surface of Tartanus, Hades hastened to replace the chain around the stone door, sealing the unfortunate inhabitant inside the windowless prison. Once closed the cell offered no light and many prisoners had become blind from the complete devoid of light. Hades reserved these imprisonments for the most repulsive creatures, left to rot inside their own minds and slowly deteriorate into an internal madness as a fitting punishment for their heinous crimes. Although he rarely interacted with his prisoners Hades visited this one frequently; this one was different.

“Hades,” a soft voice whispered from behind him.

A swell filled his stomach as he recognized the sweet sound of the person behind him. “Persephone,” he exclaimed as he turned to see his beautiful wife standing before him in a long, red velvet dress. “You have returned to me, oh my love you have returned.”

“I could no longer be away from you; I should never have left.” She replied, a small smile escaping from the corner of her mouth. “I was wrong, I should have obeyed you and kept my attention solely focused on my husband.”

For a moment Hades stared at the beauty of the woman; her smooth, pale white skin and her deep blue eyes that twinkled in the candlelight made her glow with a warmth that drove many a man to madness as he became lost in her allure. He walked towards her and held her softly by the waist, the tips of his fingers gently caressing the contours of her lower back and gradually moving up her spine until he reached the petite nape of her neck. He cupped her face tenderly, caressing her lips with his fingertips and she looked at him with lustful eyes, moving her mouth upwards to meet his expectant lips. Hades paused and smiled as she passionately hung in the promise of his embrace, her eyes widening with every minute as her increasing desire grew. But in a moment his loving smile transformed into an angry grimace, his face contorting with vehement hatred. With his large hands he grasped her throat, squeezing his muscular fingers into her windpipe and lifting her from the ground by her neck. “You contemptible hag, how dare you try to trick me? I should have you tortured for your insolence you contemptible vile creature. Which one are you? It matters not, all three are equally as repulsive and not fitting to impersonate one so pure.” Her body now hung limply and she made gurgling sounds as she desperately tried to beg for her freedom.  Her eyes, which were now an oily black across the entire surface, began to lose focus he propelled her body, limp with fear, across the corridor and left her in a crumpled heap against the stone wall.

“It was but a mere jest, my Lord.” Her voice, once sweet, had dissolved into a high-pitched rasp and her lungs rattled as she panted for breath. No longer wearing the elegant velvet dress she was now attired in a blood soaked dress that barely covered her sore covered skin that oozed with pus as she writhed quietly on the wet floor, soaked with the urine of terrified prisoners. Wrapped around her cowering body were black wings of translucent skin stretched across a skeletal frame.

“So it is you, Tisiphone, you vengeful disgrace for an immortal. I suppose your sisters are near to watch your amusements. Show yourselves to your master, Furies.” Deep inside a blackened corner two rocks began to move, elongated shapes protruding out and unfurling into the shapes of two more females. Both were grotesque like their sister and wore the same haggard faces with skin that wrapped itself tightly around its boney surface. They wore cloth around their middle, torn and bloodied from their hunts but their legs and torsos were uncovered except for snakes that weaved between their breasts and around their small waists as if searching for prey.

“How did you uncover our ruse?” One crone said as she stretched her wings after her recent confinement. Her bright red hair fell in large, messy curls and swept across her face covering her oily, black eyes like deep pools of nothingness; the soulless void where emotion had been sucked from her and her sisters when they grew from the blood of the castrated Uranus.

“Although, Alectro, your sister looked every bit the image of pure perfection she forgot one small detail. Persphone is a strong willed woman and would never admit such shortcomings in her nature. In future you must observe your characters more closely for looks are not the only perception of character.” Hades replied, his tempers waning slightly. “Now, tell me what purpose you have here, did I not give you a task to complete?”

“We have done what you asked. We are merely here to check upon our captive, my lord.” Megaera, the quieter of the three Furies, uttered her reply softly. Her head bowed down towards the floor, unable to look directly at the God, and she flicked her wings nervously.

“For your sake I hope so. Now leave me, find some other unfortunate soul to inflict your distasteful trickeries on.” Hades heard the women scurry away up the corridor, their long nails tapping on the stone floor as they scampered on all fours like animals and their callous cackles disappeared on the windless air.

 

The table stretched the entire length of the room, which was larger than most men’s entire abode and reached up further than Acheron’s eyes dared to venture. The wooden clad walls, which at first glance appeared sparse, were actually filled with intricately carved designs and dotted between them were images of men; one stood halfway up a steep incline and another was shrouded by a large bird like creature. At the head of the table hung a painting of a woman, bathed in a glow of orange sunshine and sitting on a meadow of rich green grass and small wild flowers. Acheron found himself unable to tear his stare away from her deep blue eyes, mesmerised by her kindly beauty and happy exuberance.

I see that you too are lost in her charm.” Hades said, snapping Acheron away from the painting. “She is my wife, Persephone, and many men, like you, have become enchanted with her.”

I meant nothing…I mean…I apologise if I have offended you it’s just, I’ve never seen such a bewitching beauty.” His attention was once again drawn to the image and he became aware that his jaw was dropping as his eyes widened to absorb more of her allure.

Hades laughed at the young man as his natural desires overcome his manners. “I am not offended but I will if you do not address your expression.” Acheron snapped his teeth together but still found himself unable to look away. “I used to spend hours watching her in the meadows, surrounded by her close friends and I vowed then to make her my wife. Of course, her mother Demeter was not overjoyed with the relationship; as the Goddess of nature and fertility she cast the world into eternal winter until she agreed to return to the Earth.”

My Grandfather used to tell me folk tales as a child about the years the land laid barren, not a single stem growing in the dusty soil. Many people lost their lives through drought and starvation but I never realized it was just a family dispute that destroyed generations.” Acheron replied with an air of condemnation.

Hades chose to ignore this affront and continued with his story. “Fortunately my brother, Zeus, was able to sway her mother’s mind and agreed to let her stay with me for half of the year. Of course, without the nurturing power of Persephone, the Earth falls once again into darkness while she resides in the underworld and a harsh winter covers the land but at least I can lie in the arms of my true love once more. She is there now and man can once again bask in the warm sunshine and fertile lands that my vegetation goddess provides for you.” He smiled broadly with joy at the thought of his wife and closed his eyes as if to capture her image in his mind.

It must be difficult for you. I am yet to take a wife and now, it looks like my opportunity may have waned.” Acheron joked, trying to quell the uneasy feeling that arose as the God revealed the intensity of his relationship.

You are yet a young man and many a handsome maid resides in the meadows. You may still find your consort but come, let us not dwell on maybes, we should eat before this great feast gets cold.” Hades gestured towards the table that was now laden down with more food than Acheron had ever seen in his life.

Whilst they had been talking the room had been filled with a large array of huge dishes containing enough food to feed a hundred men. Enormous platters were heaving with strange meats sitting on a pool of multi-coloured juices. Bowls of freshly baked rolls, great wooden slabs covered with an array of cheeses and vast jugs full of red wine were laid out, designed to be no more than an arms length away no matter where at the table you were seated. Adorning high metal stands, making it difficult to see across the vast table, were exotic fruits from distant lands, and Acheron marveled at the sight, as the weird colourful shapes fascinated his unworldly mind. Standing proud in the centre of the table was a roasted black boar; its razor-like tusks still protruded menacingly from its mouth but it stared vacantly at the man. Acheron wondered, as he cast his eyes over the steaming mountains of meats and breads, if more people would be joining them but there were only two places set.

Please, eat.” Hades said, grasping a huge leg dripping in a thick, syrupy sauce. “These are particularly good, a cinnamon bird. Very sweet and succulent.” He took a generous mouthful and ate greedily oblivious to the sauce dripping from the side of his mouth and coating his usually white beard with a bright orange hue. “I said, eat.” He repeated, more sternly.

Acheron obeyed and, without looking, scooped up a selection of meats with a long pair of ornate metal tongs and placed the food carefully on to his plate. He tore off a small piece of dark brown flesh from a hunk of meat of unknown origins. A green, gelatinous liquid oozed out of the succulent morsel and dripped down his fingers and, with trepidation, Acheron placed it into his mouth. His tongue instantly exploded in a carnival of tastes, his saliva glands tingling frenziedly as the sweet and blissfully tender meat dissolved effortlessly. Without waiting to swallow he snatched a larger piece and thrust it into his still chewing mouth, relishing the unfamiliar flavours that were dancing on his tongue.

It seems you are enjoying that! It’s drakon meat, a colossal serpent that lives in the depths of the lakes, but probably the most delicious creature to reside in the underworld. Mighty hard to catch, especially with its numerous rows of jagged teeth and deadly venom. However, Charon is very adept and he never seems to disappoint me.” Hades replied before washing down his mouthful with a gulp of red wine.

They sat and finished in silence, Acheron sampling everything on the menu until his stomach was fit to bursting. With a heavy sigh he leant back on his chair and let out a satisfied groan. “I can eat no more or I fear I will explode.” He laughed. “Never have I sampled such wonderful food and I thank you for your hospitality. However, you asked me here to discuss your offer and I am keen to hear it.”

“He is very happy.” Demeter said quietly to her daughter as they watched Adonis playing quietly in the garden of her villa. His shoulder length hair of the lightest blonde shone in the afternoon sunshine as he ran along joyfully playing soldiers with a stick as a sword that he brandished threateningly to his invisible assailants.

“I know mother,” Persephone replied, “ but this child means the world to me and if he became upset because of our petty quarrels I would be distraught. Things are already very strained between him and Hades as he is not his biological son and any more animosity may destroy the child. Aphrodite trusted him into my care when he was just a baby and I have watched him grow over ten winters into a strong, beautiful child. I do not wish to fail my closest friend but most of all I do not want to fail him as I feel as close to him as I would my own child. His welfare is my upmost concern and if I ever had to choose between them…”

“Well, I hope you would choose wisely. Adonis is just a child, Hades would do well to remember that.” Demeter interrupted quickly as she picked up her glass from the ornate metal table between them and took a small sip.

“I am well aware of your feelings for Hades but, after all these years, you must accept my decision to marry him.”

“Decision, what decision? He kidnapped you and forced you to marry him.”

“He did not force me to do anything, I fell in love with him. Do not look like that mother, a scornful face ruins your elegance.” Persephone replied to her mother who was rolling her eyes in contempt. “I am a grown woman and I have made my choices.”

Demeter turned away contemptuously as the conversation always rekindled buried sorrow. She was a woman of exquisite beauty who radiated the splendor of a thousand springs, with its fresh aroma of fledgling plants and the promise of prosperity and health. Her long brown curls fell lightly down her slender back and her youthful glow never waned, always renewed as the skies turned clear and the frozen ground melted. She was the Goddess of Harvest and she gave men the promise of life, of a world reborn after the harshness of the cruelest winter.

“Persephone, you have a visitor.” A young girl, no more than twenty years old, stood on the steps of the house. She wore a simple green tunic tied loosely at her waist with a delicately braided golden belt, the excess falling freely to her side.

“Who is it, Corinna?” Persephone asked, grateful for the interruption to the conversation.

“It is Pirithous, he says he has an urgent message for you.” Corinna replied, her delicate hands clasped nervously together. She has only been working at the estate for a few months and she was yet to earn the Goddess’ trust, something most sought after amongst the handmaidens. Demeter’s villa offered the most esteemed employment in all of Mount Olympus and she was a respectful, generous employer.

“Thank you, take him to the library and I will be there presently.” Persephone replied.

“You need to be careful young lady,” Demeter waited for the girl to leave before speaking. “People are already bandying accusations about this man and if Hades found out you were seeing him behind his back you will cause yourself much despair.”

“I asked a favour of him and he has returned to provide me with the information he has uncovered. No romantic notions lie in my heart for him. Pirithous is a friend, nothing more.”

“And how does he feel; does he share in your desire to be, as you say, friends and nothing more?”

“I cannot control one’s feelings, I can only be responsible for mine own. I am married to Hades and there is where my heart lies.” Persephone rose from the table and made her way towards the house.

****************************************

 

Acheron watched as the green and blue flames licked around the blackened logs, moving to each in turn as if tasting the sweet smelling pomegranate wood before disintegrating them into burning cinders flickering like stars in the dim candle light. A flake of ash whisked its way into the air, its glow distinguishing as it fell on Acheron’s bare arm. The room was hot but it wasn’t just the roaring fire that created the intolerable, claustrophobic heat that made the man struggle for every breath. The entire world was filled with a cloak of airless warmth that squeezed around his body making every step a challenge and forced a layer of sweat to ooze from every inch of his skin. Although his athletic body was usually filled with stamina and adrenaline, in Hades’ chamber he felt his eyes getting heavy and he moved away from the fire in attempt to catch his breath.

“Please sit young sir, your constant meandering makes me nervous.” Hades said ushering Acheron to the large, oak table. As he sat in the grand dining room still dressed in his thick robes, the god seemed unperturbed by the temperature as he poured himself a large glass of wine.

“I’m sorry sir, but I am not used to the climate yet and I am struggling to adjust. Please excuse my fidgeting.” Acheron replied as he moved closer to the dining table.

The table stretched the entire length of the room, which was larger than most men’s entire abode and reached up further than Acheron’s eyes dared to venture. The wooden clad walls, which at first glance appeared sparse, were actually filled with intricately carved designs and dotted between them were images of men; one stood halfway up a steep incline and another was shrouded by a large bird like creature. At the head of the table hung a painting of a woman, bathed in a glow of orange sunshine and sitting on a meadow of rich green grass and small wild flowers. Acheron found himself unable to tear his stare away from her deep blue eyes, mesmerised by her kindly beauty and happy exuberance.

 

“I see that you too are lost in her charm.” Hades said, snapping Acheron away from the painting. “She is my wife, Persephone, and many men, like you, have become enchanted with her.”

 

“I meant nothing…I mean…I apologise if I have offended you it’s just, I’ve never seen such a bewitching beauty.” His attention was once again drawn to the image and he became aware that his jaw was dropping as his eyes widened to absorb more of her allure.

 

Hades laughed at the young man as his natural desires overcome his manners. “I am not offended but I will if you do not address your expression.” Acheron snapped his teeth together but still found himself unable to look away. “I used to spend hours watching her in the meadows, surrounded by her close friends and I vowed then to make her my wife. Of course, her mother Demeter was not overjoyed with the relationship; as the Goddess of nature and fertility she cast the world into eternal winter until she agreed to return to the Earth.”

 

“My Grandfather used to tell me folk tales as a child about the years the land laid barren, not a single stem growing in the dusty soil. Many people lost their lives through drought and starvation but I never realized it was just a family dispute that destroyed generations.” Acheron replied with an air of condemnation.

 

Hades chose to ignore this affront and continued with his story. “Fortunately my brother, Zeus, was able to sway her mother’s mind and agreed to let her stay with me for half of the year. Of course, without the nurturing power of Persephone, the Earth falls once again into darkness while she resides in the underworld and a harsh winter covers the land but at least I can lie in the arms of my true love once more. She is there now and man can once again bask in the warm sunshine and fertile lands that my vegetation goddess provides for you.” He smiled broadly with joy at the thought of his wife and closed his eyes as if to capture her image in his mind.

 

“It must be difficult for you. I am yet to take a wife and now, it looks like my opportunity may have waned.” Acheron joked, trying to quell the uneasy feeling that arose as the God revealed the intensity of his relationship.

 

“You are yet a young man and many a handsome maid resides in the meadows. You may still find your consort but come, let us not dwell on maybes, we should eat before this great feast gets cold.” Hades gestured towards the table that was now laden down with more food than Acheron had ever seen in his life.

 

Whilst they had been talking the room had been filled with a large array of huge dishes containing enough food to feed a hundred men. Enormous platters were heaving with strange meats sitting on a pool of multi-coloured juices. Bowls of freshly baked rolls, great wooden slabs covered with an array of cheeses and vast jugs full of red wine were laid out, designed to be no more than an arms length away no matter where at the table you were seated. Adorning high metal stands, making it difficult to see across the vast table, were exotic fruits from distant lands, and Acheron marveled at the sight, as the weird colourful shapes fascinated his unworldly mind. Standing proud in the centre of the table was a roasted black boar; its razor-like tusks still protruded menacingly from its mouth but it stared vacantly at the man. Acheron wondered, as he cast his eyes over the steaming mountains of meats and breads, if more people would be joining them but there were only two places set.

 

“Please, eat.” Hades said, grasping a huge leg dripping in a thick, syrupy sauce. “These are particularly good, a cinnamon bird. Very sweet and succulent.” He took a generous mouthful and ate greedily oblivious to the sauce dripping from the side of his mouth and coating his usually white beard with a bright orange hue. “I said, eat.” He repeated, more sternly.

 

Acheron obeyed and, without looking, scooped up a selection of meats with a long pair of ornate metal tongs and placed the food carefully on to his plate. He tore off a small piece of dark brown flesh from a hunk of meat of unknown origins. A green, gelatinous liquid oozed out of the succulent morsel and dripped down his fingers and, with trepidation, Acheron placed it into his mouth. His tongue instantly exploded in a carnival of tastes, his saliva glands tingling frenziedly as the sweet and blissfully tender meat dissolved effortlessly. Without waiting to swallow he snatched a larger piece and thrust it into his still chewing mouth, relishing the unfamiliar flavours that were dancing on his tongue.

 

“It seems you are enjoying that! It’s drakon meat, a colossal serpent that lives in the depths of the lakes, but probably the most delicious creature to reside in the underworld. Mighty hard to catch, especially with its numerous rows of jagged teeth and deadly venom. However, Charon is very adept and he never seems to disappoint me.” Hades replied before washing down his mouthful with a gulp of red wine.

 

They sat and finished in silence, Acheron sampling everything on the menu until his stomach was fit to bursting. With a heavy sigh he leant back on his chair and let out a satisfied groan. “I can eat no more or I fear I will explode.” He laughed. “Never have I sampled such wonderful food and I thank you for your hospitality. However, you asked me here to discuss your offer and I am keen to hear it.”

 

Hades smiled at the eagerness of his dinner guest. “Such directness from one so young in years could be considered disrespectful but I will forgive your blunt manner. I am sure word has reached the living world of my wife’s indiscretion with the man known as Pirithous. My reputation, as you must understand, cannot stand such a slur and I need to reinstate my status with men and gods alike. I cannot be seen to allow such behaviour from my own wife.”

 

“I said I would not kill.”

 

“Kill? Oh no, I love my wife dearly and would not wish her such a terrible fate. All I ask is that you take something that is beloved by her, a keepsake you might say. I will return it in good time, but not before she has apologized for her transgression.”

 

“You wish to seek revenge on your own wife and make her beg for forgiveness, yet you say you love her? I would venture that such an act is an attribute of a weak willed man, not a powerful god. Besides, she is married to the most prosperous of all the gods and has no limit to the wealth she can obtain. What could possibly be so close to her heart that would cause her such distress, unless…you cannot mean her ward, Adonis, who Aphrodite left in her trust? He is but ten years old and that is a despicable proposal for even the god of the underworld.”

 

“You are very strong willed young Acheron, no other man would dare be so forthright with me and I am encouraged by your candid manner. This afternoon, on the banks of the river, I saw something in you; a courage that far outweighs your tender age of 25. Am I right in thinking you are a military man?” Hades leant forward on his chair, his great status becoming obvious as he placed his hands on the arms of the chair.

 

“I spent many years in the army fighting for my country but no, I am not a military man.” Acheron replied.

 

“How can you have served but not be a military man? It does not make sense; a soldier is a soldier for life.”

 

“My time as a soldier was a proud one. I fought alongside good men, brave and honest people like my brother, who would defend you to the end. However, I soon learnt how corrupt the officers were, believing the rules they laid down did not apply to themselves. Such a man, intent on his own greed and gratification, killed my brother but he spared no thought to the wife and child he left behind. I sought revenge for his murder and, it is those actions that led me here. Therefore, although I died a soldier, I take no pleasure in calling myself a military man.” Acheron bowed his head shamefully. “I apologise if my honesty offends you.”

 

Tension filled the room and neither man spoke. Eventually Hades broke the silence. “To become a soldier you swore to honour the Gods but, by turning your back on your allegiance you disgraced yourself in the eyes of Zeus. Charon was correct, maybe you would have been more suited to punishment in Tartanus.” Hades paused, considering his response. Although he was usually renowned for his loyalty to his fellow gods he felt this man could not be punished for his actions as he himself had felt the power of grief, which can destroy a man. “However, I understand that your actions were born out of devotion to your brother and, for that, I admire your bravery. Love can drive a man to do terrible things when common sense is shrouded in hatred. I sympathise with your predicament and I pardon your indiscretions.”

 

“With respect sir, have I not already been judged by Minos? I do not look for your forgiveness for I do not feel any guilt. I came to your abode to hear your proposal so continue or I will take my chances on the banks of the river Styx. I am not afraid of my destiny.” Acheron spat the words through clenched teeth, his anger seething throughout his rigid body.

 

Hades rose to his feet with a start, a redness filling his cheeks and he thrust his hands out in front of him. A glowing ball of blue light shot from his fingers tips and rocketed across the table hitting Acheron squarely in the chest. The man was thrown backwards, exploding the chair he had been sitting on against the wall. Acheron was left in a crumbled heap on the stone floor and only the quiet groans that escaped from his lips told he was still alive. “I am Hades, God of the Underworld, and you will respect me you impertinent, ill-nurtured excuse for a man! I took pity on you and offered to help you but instead you ridicule my good nature. I ought to throw you into the depths of Tartanus for your incivility and take delight as the gulls peck at your still beating heart.”

 

A sickness swelled in Acheron as his body reeled from the powerful blow. He had pain but his head was too confused to locate it and, instead, he remained still in an attempt to keep his supper in his stomach. He became aware of a shadow falling over him; the flickering light from the candles began to disappear and darkness fell around him. Muffled voices from afar began to reach his ears but he could not make out what they were saying. Was that a woman’s voice he could hear? Surely not, they had been alone all evening.

 

“Stand up.” Hades sneered as he stood over the man, his large frame blocking the light from the room. Acheron stumbled to his feet still clutching his side. “It appears you have been saved twice today and you should be very grateful that my daughter, Melinoe, heard the commotion and begged for your freedom. However, I feel I have sought assistance from the wrong man and I will get my guards to take you back to Charon to fulfill your destiny. Either go to the Meadows or walk the banks for a hundred years, the choice is your own but you shall never darken my doors again.”

 

Acheron tried to take a breath but the pain from his broken ribs stabbed into his already winded lungs. He spoke, his voice wavering but purposeful. “Sir, I apologise for my coarseness but if my tone sounded disrespectful it was only due to strong desire to fulfill my own purpose. Before my brother died he revealed something incredulous about our parentage and I have to find him to learn the truth. However, I should have considered the great power of my companion and curbed my tongue. Please, bid me to do your request and I will do my upmost to serve you my lord.”

 

“How can I now trust you?” Hades was suspicious and he knew he should throw this man to the crows but his instincts felt a connection with him.

 

“Trust is an asset that is earned sir, not an achievement gained from such a brief acquaintance. However, I am a trustworthy man, that I can guarantee, and am a man of my word. More than this though I am a man in need and that can make even the most dishonourable person true when a greater desire is at stake. On the banks today you saw a man who could assist your needs, am I not still that man despite my contemptible disposition?”

 

With a large sigh Hades responded, his voice now brighter but the dark undertones still broke through the playful mode. His lucid tongue had revealed his plot and, despite his desire to cast this man aside, he was now party to his design. This man, with his quick tongue and fearless nature, would need to be kept close. “I fear we have got off to a bad start, our tempers are frayed as can often be the case when one consumes too much red wine.”

 

 

Silence…well, actually it was a loud buzzing in my ears because I hadn’t heard silence in such a long time.  It was scary, like my ears had been covered in a deadening shroud and only the sound of blood rushing through my arteries could be heard.  There had always been noise around me; the children screaming, music blasting…even at night the television pierced the silence because, to be honest, I was scared for the sound to go.  It was comforting and without it I was…well, I was alone.

I know that now but hindsight is a wonderful thing.  I pushed and pleaded for peace, for the whole world to give me space…and it did.  But, as I stood there watching my life from a distance, but not being able to participate within it, was more painful than I ever could have imagined.

That morning was like any other.  As I listened to the rhythmical sighs of my husband sleeping next to me I felt relaxed. The gentle snoring of my children could be heard in the next room as they dreamed dreams of the innocent and I just lay there…listening.  I kept my eyes closed and my body still so I could breathe in the peace for as long as I could before that feeling started again.

It always began in my stomach; a gentle fluttering like a million butterflies dancing inside me…fear.  It wasn’t born out of something tenable like a frightening monster or a life changing event but a fear I had created…the fear of failing.  Every day I assigned myself a set of targets to achieve by nightfall but of course, I rarely completed everything on my list so this added to the overwhelming pressure I placed on myself.  A sensible mind would say ‘don’t be ridiculous, you are being unreasonable” but all sense of rationality is lost when the darkness has got you and the more you try to fight it the deeper you fall.

I wasn’t always like this…the change crept upon me gradually; a shadow falling across my mind and clouding my thoughts.  Unreasoned comments or tactless retorts sprung from my lips before I had chance to stop them but they hung there for my family to absorb and every cold word distanced the ties I had spent so long creating.  I didn’t mean what I said…or maybe I did at the time…but the hurt was no less damaging.  Once a week, turned into once a day and before long I was unable to break free. You can run from people or things but no matter how much you try you can’t escape the chaos of your own mind.

It wasn’t long before the gentle fluttering was replaced with a tremor and my whole body shook with adrenalin as the fear took hold.  This was how I started every day for as long as I could remember. I looked at the clock…6.23am…and I started to plan my day; I was obsessed with time. Not just things like I had to be out by a certain time but I planned my life by the minute.  I could chart my day by a series of well-timed tasks and then I’d work out how much sleep I would get before I did it all again the next day. For some reason I felt it helped but how wrong I was.

That morning was a usual barrage of requests… ‘Where’s my uniform’, ‘I haven’t got any socks’…and I dutifully rushed around the house trying to find the various items.  The intensity increased until everyone was barging around the house in a whirlwind of bad moods and stressed temper.  Then there was a fight over a toy and the house erupted into a battleground with everyone shouting.  It escalated until I could take it no longer; I screamed…the type of scream you hear in a horror movie when the damsel has encountered the monster for the first time.  Everyone froze and looked towards me.

The world jumped forward a metre…or maybe I stepped back…but suddenly I was no longer connected with it.  I stood and watched my motionless family, their crossed words gently fading into the air. I wondered if I should say something but before I had chance they began to move once more.  A swift word from dad got them moving to the door and they obediently swung their bags on to their backs and stepped out onto the drive.  “Goodbye kids, be good” I called behind them but they didn’t look back.  With a last check of his valuables my husband joined the children outside and I waited for him to turn back for a kiss…but he didn’t.  “I’m sorry darling, I didn’t mean to shout.” I called to him as he got into the car but he just started up the engine and drove away.

I was so angry; “how could they treat me like this?” I thought to myself as I fished around in my bag for my cigarette packet…empty.  With another agitated groan I pulled on my coat and made my way to the shop. The walk there was nice; the first signs of spring were beginning to emerge and as I ambled down the quiet street I could feel the warm sun brightening my mood.  I breathed in deeply and inhaled the tell tale smell that promised of gentle afternoon walks and hours sitting in beer gardens with my family.

As I reached the shop the usual gathering of stay at home mums were beginning to assemble outside.  I briefly joined their circle when I was on maternity leave but it’s amazing how quick you are ejected once you return to work.  I still recognized a few of them so I smiled and said hello…nothing.  Instead, without even acknowledging my presence, they tended to their children and turned their back on me.  “Typical” I thought and I could feel the anger building again but I pushed it down, held my head up high and strode past them into the shop.

Inside the aisles were empty and a few employees busied themselves with shelf stacking and idle gossip.  I stood at the counter waiting for someone to serve me but no one came.  “Excuse me” I called down the shop but no one moved.  They continued with their jobs without even noticing I was there. “Hello!” I shouted at the top of my voice till my throat hurt but still nothing; not a flicker ran across their faces.

My hands began to shake; why were they ignoring me?  I ran back out to the street, the mothers were still chatting completely oblivious of my outburst.  “Hi” I said, trying to get eye contact with one of them but they stared past me, focusing on something else…anything else but me.   I pushed myself into the centre of the crowd.  “Hello…hey” I shouted directly into their faces “Oi, look at me…look at me!” but no one did.  Backing out of the circle I grabbed my head in desperation and stumbled aimlessly into the road.

The car appeared from around the corner and I watched as it sped towards me.  The streets were clear; no parked cars to block the drivers view or low lying sun to obscure their vision but, despite the fact I was standing directly in their path, they made no attempt to slow down.  Standing up straight I turned to face the oncoming vehicle, staring intently into the eyes of the driver as it drew closer, looking for any signs of recognition; nothing. I flinched as I tried to brace myself for the impact; I was determined to hold my ground in the hope he would eventually notice me but my self-preservation kicked in and I threw myself onto the pavement, the headlight clipping my knee as the car whizzed by.

As I fell hard on to the tarmac I knew I should have been in pain but I didn’t feel a thing.  The panic had really taken hold and, as I looked around at the nonchalant bystanders, my vision began to tunnel and every colour was bleached with a frightening whiteness.  I couldn’t breathe; the more I sucked the oxygen hard into my lungs the tighter my chest began twist.  With the last of my energy I dragged myself into the shop.  “Help Me,” I cried breathlessly. As I vainly tried to grasp a surface to hold me up I pushed hard into a stack of wine bottles sending glass shards hurtling down the shop towards the surprised workers.  With a look of horror they jumped up and raced towards me.

“What the hell was that?” one shouted lifting his trouser legs out of the pooling liquid, as he scanned the doorway for the cause of the trouble.

“It was me” I shouted, “I did it!”  I repeated it over and over again, waving my arms in front of their faces desperately trying to be noticed but they couldn’t see me and then I realised…I no longer existed.  “It was me,” I wept, my voice dissolving into a sobbing whisper.  As I began to comprehend my body slowly collapsed and I crumpled to the ground.  Crouched into that small ball on the wine soaked floor I knew that I had got what I wanted…silence.

I knew I hadn’t died; I could have had a stroke or heart attack when I screamed but there would have been panic as they rushed around to try and save me.  No, I was definitely alive but I’d stepped out of my own world.  With the horror of my actions aching inside me I walked home alone.  The day dragged by as I waited for my family to come home and eventually they trundled through the door.  Waiting hopefully in the hallway I watched as they flung their bags to the ground and my husband began to prepare the tea.  All I wanted was a simple hello but it didn’t come…they didn’t know me anymore.  There was no mourning; no one cried because I was never there and the memory had disappeared.

At first it was nice…without the distractions of life pressures I was able to listen to my family properly.  I heard my husband talking to his brother about his worries about redundancy…why didn’t I know that?  I watched as my daughter held an imaginary conversation with her latest love interest; she’d grown up but I hadn’t noticed.  In those years that I had let myself get caught up in my depressive mood I had missed so much. My children had become interesting people with hopes and ambitions but I’d left it too late to find out.

The weeks passed and I observed my family with pride but I longed to connect with them again, to give them a hug and tell them I was sorry.  Every morning I woke in the hope it was over but it never was.  Eventually I accepted that it was never going to be the same again but I was okay…well, until the day came that shattered my world for a second time.

My husband came home early and started to frantically clean the house before emptying a large array of cooking ingredients out on to the kitchen table. The kids were ordered upstairs to change out of their uniforms and he set about combining the food into an impressive meal, uncorking a bottle of wine and setting it down to air.  ‘Strange,’ I thought, but it wasn’t long before I discovered why.  A gentle knock at the door sent him into a frenzy and he tugged hysterically at his apron trying to undo the knot with shaking hands.

‘Dad, calm down!’ Our son laughed at him as he helped him tidy his clothes.

Ruffling the boy’s hair affectionately as he walked past, he opened the door and revealed a slim, smiling brunette with a bottle of wine clutched in her slender fingers.

My heart sank; I was devastated.  I couldn’t speak or cry as he reached forward to kiss her cheek.  In all this time I had never considered that this could happen but here she was, kissing my husband and hugging my children.  But then I remembered; they weren’t mine…they never had been.  He was doing what anybody would do…he was falling in love…and I couldn’t blame him.  I had let this happen; I lost them the moment I let my feelings consume me and I knew then that it was my time to leave.

Slipping past them I stepped out into the empty street.  I looked back to absorb their happy faces into my memory one last time.  With my eyes stinging with tears I turned away and heard the door close firmly behind me.

So I spend my time on my own, walking the streets hoping one day someone will notice me again.  There are others like me and I talk to them, sharing my story with those who can listen.  It helps a little but it doesn’t stop the pain.  I long to hear the noise again; to fill my ears with the sound of chaos. But all I have now is…silence.