Posts Tagged ‘writers’

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.

It did not take long for Acheron to prepare himself for the journey. He had but a few belongings and, as he did not foresee the task taking more than a day, he chose to keep his packing light. Just a few loaves of bread and water made up the contents of his bag and a small dagger with a bone handle was thrust inside his belt, away from prying eyes. He did not expect to use it but his years as a thief and rogue had taught him to prepare for danger. Maybe if he had had it with him on the day he died the scorned husband would not have thwarted him so easily.

They journeyed in silence, the men moving quickly across the barren landscape and dust billowed around them as their leather-clad feet disturbed the sandy ground. The sun was hot and Acheron could feel the perspiration forming a glistening shine on his tiring body. He longed to rest but his companions, used to the exhausting heat, obliviously marched forwards on the unrelenting flat landscape.

Acheron trudged behind them, each mile becoming increasing difficult. Lykos, the taller of the two men with long, boney limbs that dangled freely as he loped across the sand, occasionally turned to check that the man was still following him but Dareious, who was much more thickset, trudged forward oblivious of their entourage. His balding head was developing a red hue as the sun beat down on to his exposed skin, creating white lines as he grimaced through this unwanted task.

“We’re here.” Lykos uttered suddenly, stopping swiftly making Acheron stumble behind him.  Picking up a jagged rock he etched a circle into the dusty sand with an embellished horizontal line at the centre that was curved at either end forming the capital letter Theta. In a hushed voice he whispered “Domos Haidou”. Beneath Acheron’s feet the ground began to vibrate, increasing in intensity until he lost his footing and hurtled to the floor. A deafening sound filled his ears; a high pitched squeal piercing through the low rumble echoing across the land. Acheron’s head ached from the sound and, although he struggled to stand, his legs could no longer bear his weight and he crumpled back to the ground.

Acheron screamed with the pain and clutched his ears in a futile to attempt to block out the sickening noise. His mouth tried to formulate the word ‘help’ but no matter how much he tried he couldn’t summon the breath to speak. High above black shadows began to form, moving with stealth across the otherwise clear skies. Drawing closer they began to reveal the terrifying silhouettes of huge winged creatures twisting above him, weaving between each other getting closer towards Acheron. Stymphalian birds swarmed overhead, the sunlight glinting off their metallic bodies making Acheron squint as he struggled to watch them gracefully glide through the air. Their bodies entwined into a perpetual ball of twisting metal, ever moving but never colliding as if their paths had been preordained. With a powerful beat they simultaneously pointed their huge wings downwards and launched a rain of metallic feathers that fell to the ground like a shower of daggers towards the paralysed Acheron. He tried to move but the high-pitched squeal had taken away his energy and all he could do was watch as the razor sharp spikes cascaded all around him.

A bright glint passed across Acheron’s eyes as one narrowly missed his face, but others sliced into his arm and thigh and he felt a burning pain course through his body as the red hot metal seared into his skin. The smell of smoldering flesh filled his senses as his skin blackened around the wound and tiny white blisters began to form. The world began to cloud into an agonizing darkness and, as his eyes began to close in defeat, he felt a hand clasp his arm firmly and the sound disappeared into the distance leaving behind it the loud hum of his reeling eardrums.

“I apologise for that, a little deterrent for disobedient souls.” Dareious laughed with an evil callousness. “We are immune as gatekeepers but you were not so lucky.”

Acheron looked down to examine his wounds but there was nothing there; his tanned thigh appeared to be undamaged except for a graze from a rock when he fell. “But…my leg…the birds…” He stuttered.

“Ah, it appears you were subjected to the most horrifying of illusions, the Stymphalian birds; horrid creatures with beaks of bronze and metallic feathers that they launch at their frightened victims. Quite the worst of Hades’ visions but you are safe, they reside in the marshes and one hasn’t been seen near here for thousands of years.”

“Visions?” Acheron asked.

“Visions…hallucinations you might say. Hades plays tricks with your mind to make you believe you are in peril. Men have been known to go insane as the fear consumes them and they are forever haunted with paranoia of its return. Many have endeavoured to leave the Underworld once but none twice.”

In the empty prison only a low growling remained, strangely quieter than usual as if a sense of acceptance had been reached. Hades listened for a while, unconsciously matching his own breathing to the fierce exhalations of his captive and his body calmed in the hypnotic rhythm.

It stopped. Hades held is breath waiting for the sound to return…10 seconds, 30 seconds, maybe more. The silence was excruciating. Slowly Hades edged closer, approaching the door with trepidation and fear. He raised his now shaking hand towards a small steel hatch and listened carefully as he rested his fingers on the handle. The smallest noise and he would turn away, assured that the occupant was still alive. But it did not come. Gently, he slid across the hatch.

A ferocious snarl broke the silence as the creature’s body hammered against the door and long claws thrust out of the hole, slicing into Hades face. Throwing himself backwards onto the hard ground he clutched his face, feeling the warm blood flow through his hand and down his sun-beaten skin.

“You bastard, Hades.” The voice bellowed from inside the cell, “I will kill you, finish what I should have done when you were born. The end is coming my boy, The Furies have foreseen it. You and your pathetic empire will fall.”

An eye peered through the hatch, burning red with a ring of gold. It stared, unblinking, at the cowering God, its menace piercing Hades normal self-assured disposition. The demon’s words had chilled him to the core and a sudden weakness overcame him. “You’re wrong,” He shouted with hatred, “I will endure, there is nothing you can do to hurt me anymore.”

“I am but frail and old, you are probably correct. Just one question, how is your mother, Hades?” The corners of his eye creased up into a callous smile.

“Do not utter her name, she is no longer of any concern to you.”

“You have grown into such strong rulers, more than I could have ever imagined.” The eye, still transfixed on Hades, became a gentle blue-green and the pupil widened as he spoke with gentility. “I’m proud of you and your brothers.”

“We do not need the admiration of a tyrant.” Hades replied coldly and slammed the hatch shut sealing him in once more. Turning his back on the door he began to walk away.

“Thank you for our conference, Hades,” The creature shouted through the stone wall, “I do look forward to our discussions.” His bellowing laughter echoed through the corridor and Hades left him alone to his own amusement.

“Do you have any proof of her infidelity?” Poseidon asked his brother. He supped his deep red wine from a highly ornate chalice, letting the flavour dance on his taste buds for a moment before allowing the warmth to slip down his throat. “Are you not judging her unfairly? She did, after all, defy her family to be with you and it would seem curious for her to succumb to some second rate mortal.”

“I saw them together on the morning that he travelled here with Theseus; she was laughing so gaily, the like I had never been able to yield in her. Also, Charon overheard the men whispering…”

“Charon?” Poseidon laughed, drenching his white robes with a cascade of red wine. “You are basing your surmises on the word of an insidious ferryman that would betray you as quick as look at you? Please Hades, think about what you are suggesting or it will be your downfall.” He stared forlornly at his older brother who stared distantly to the lands beyond the rivers, clutching to the vain hope that Persephone would return to him. “She will be gone for many more months yet, not to return till autumn turns the green leaves to gold and things will feel different then. Time is a great healer; if you truly love her and her you, then you will cast aside all jealousies and your relationship will be subsequently stronger. Now is not the time to act whilst tempers boil high and all reasoning is lost in the clouds of your betrayal.”

“So you too believe I was betrayed?”

“Honestly, no, I do not believe she has done anything more than enjoyed the company of another man, although with your frequent transgressions she had more reason than most. You have to remember that she was an earth dweller, her mother Demeter bathed her in the all the beauty that the world had to offer. To leave that to spend a third of her year residing in such a barren wasteland with only the most loathsome characters of the earth to provide her company left her frequently very lonely. This Pirithous fellow told her tales of her home and her beloved ward Adonis and it brought her comfort.”

“This is her home! I never once denied her visitors; she used to spend hours with Aphrodite ambling along the banks of the river conversing about earthly affairs.  I allowed it to continue despite my disapproval of this pairing owing to her friend’s well-known indiscretions outside of her marital bed. No, I do not accept that she was lonely. I gave her everything she needed, made her queen of the entire underworld. What need would she have for such base trivialities?” Hades turned his head from his brother not wishing to witness his disapproving gaze.

“You allowed her? Oh my dear brother, if you have any chance of winning back her love you must cease referring her to a possession as you would a servant or that pesky dog of yours.”

 

The girl sat huddled alone on the edge of the cliff overlooking Tartanus, the gentle curves of the small figure creating a silhouette against the turbulent sky that was streaked with purple in a stormed fury. The moon shone down like a spotlight highlighting the girl and her luscious, curly hair, that fell carelessly down to her waist, shimmered in the silvery light, the colour of which Acheron had never before seen. The left half of her thick locks was a bright white that shone with a luminescent glow but the right side was a deep black that absorbed the light around her.

Acheron, you must not do the dark lord’s bidding, he has a darker purpose for you and I mean to warn you.” She said, her voice soft and lilting like a well-known melody sung sweetly flowing from the lips of a nurturing mother.

Who are you?” He took a step forward and tried to peer around the girl to catch a glimpse of her face but she drew herself closer, wrapping her arms around her knees tightly.

I am recognized by all men but known by none. Through your dreams I twist my spirit, tormenting your unconscious musings with dark lust and regretful fantasies. But now I carry a crucial message, one you must heed or great peril lies before you. The young child, Adonis, is treasured amongst Gods and men alike. Do not meddle in divine disputes for Hades is an unforgiving man.”

I am grateful for your concern but he holds no fear for me. Whatever threats Hades feels he has to unsettle my existence he has none, for I have nothing left to lose.”

You have more to lose than you yourself can comprehend…where is your brother, Acheron?” She paused to allow him to speak but no words came to his lips. “He is in grave danger; don’t turn your back on your flesh for a truth that is better left lied buried in your past.” Without looking behind her she arose, walked forward and, in a moment, she disappeared, her spirit dispersing into the night sky.

 

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.”