She raised her palms to the sky, fingers spread, and sunk her toes into the earth. Heat-filled particles of light warmed her face and the moist cool matter softened her toes. This was life and she relished in its glory.
Nature was her mother and the ruler of the cosmos was her father. She imagined herself as a tree, her feet diving down into the rich folds of the earth, planting their roots, while her fingers extended to the heavens forming into a million branches. Leaves and flowers exploded from her branches as they begged for the gift of light from the sun.
She walked in beauty. From where she stood, a gathering of red poppies reached to her gently brushing against her calf, begging to feel her touch. She leaned forward caressing the petals with the tips of her fingers and the flowers gently kissed her face in return. She laughed. She had always imagined that poppies would make for extremely faithful friends, providing every comfort and need in times of despair, but they would always maintain a chipper demeanor in spite of such travesty. If she had her pick of friends, she would pick poppies.
Helios drug the sun across the sky, his steeds pounding against the clouds. She delighted in its slow, yet steady passage.
She waved to Helios, though she knew he would not see her and if he did, he would not recognize her. No one wouldmortal man or God or demi-God. She had been sheltered in this garden of Demeter's. It was beauteous: filled with forests, streams, and meadows. She could not hate the garden, for it was filled with life and freedom. It was not the garden's fault she was so contained.
"Persephone!" A voice called in the distance, rising alongside the wind. She sighed, rising from her bath of poppy kisses. The wind swirled around her, pulling her into its arms.
"Persephone!" The wind delivered its message again.
She giggled. "I heard perfectly well. Mana wants me?"
The wind swirled around her, causing her chiton to fly in several directions. She danced within the wind enjoying the cool air against her sun-kissed face.
After a few moments, the wind died down and pulled her along. She laughed as her feet were always seconds away from missing the ground. She took leaps too large for her legs and the wind constantly had to keep her lofted as it ushered her towards the temple. "I'm coming, I'm coming." She spoke out of breath.
The wind deposited her at the doorstep of her mother's temple, flicking the ends of her long, curly hair. She waved as the wind flew somewhere else in the big brilliant golden blue. A pang hit her chest, slightly knocking her breath: to be in the sky, what a place to be.
"Persephone, there you are. The nymphs lost track of you."
She did not mind her mother. Her eyes were fixed to the white forms against the blue sky. She saw a tree and a bear in the sky, she smiled. A dark cloud swirled in the distance, a deep purple gray.
"You should not wander so far away. I can't protect you past the river."
"Of course, Mana. I know the boundaries." She turned to her mother, the golden Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, of Mother Gaia's bounty. She was not as bountiful in her looks as her mother. Demeter possessed golden hair and blue eyes, while she possessed dark chestnut brown hair and green eyes. She had always imagined she was a reflection of her father, the mysterious wielder of the thunderbolt and the powerful ruler of the sky. Perhaps the storm is because of him.
"You worry me when you wander off by yourself. The nymphs try and keep track of you and you should let them. You do not know the evils that exist beyond my garden. Here you are safe. Do you understand?"
"Mana, look at the clouds, a storm is coming. Can't you feel it the air? The wetness of it?" She pointed at the cloud formation to the East, not far behind Helios and his golden chariot.
Demeter sighed. "Hopefully, it won't pass before dinner."
"What is for dinner?" She stared at the entrance, dreading the initial contact of her bare feet with the cool alabaster. It was always unpleasant and she rather disliked it. It almost made her consider sandals, but her feet hated being contained.
"There was quite the assortment of offerings today."
She made one last glance at the perfect storm forming high in the clouds. She stepped inside and began walking to the dining hall with Demeter, hoping that she could quickly finish and go outside once more, just so that she could dance in the rain.
All throughout dinner, she felt the clouds roll in, threatening to thunder. Rain would come at any moment. She tapped her foot, shoveling food into her mouth.
Her mother kept eyeing her with disapproval. She knew her mother treasured their dinners, but she needed to be outside. This storm was going to be big, huge even. To miss it would be murderous.
"Did you make any discoveries while you were out in garden today?"
"No, but I discovered that enormous storm pattern. It should be hitting at any moment." She tore off a chunk of bread, as she stuffed it into her mouth.
"Must you eat so quickly? I would like to enjoy dinner with you."
"I'll be out quickly after. I promise." She dropped her spoon and quickly rose from her chair.
"No, Persephone. You are not going anywhere until I am done. All that I have of you is our dinners."
"Mana. I just want to go out into the rain. I will be right back."
She could just scream with frustration. She felt the rain fall from the clouds before it began to patter on the roof.
"I don't understand this obsession with the sky. The garden loves you. You should tend better to them."
Her hands shook. She threw them at her sides, so that her mother wouldn't see. The sky, it was everything. The life-giver and death harbinger all at once. It fed the trees and watered the flowers. It spread their seed across the land. As easily as it nourished, it destroyed: pulling trees from their roots, flooding land, drying out lakes. It killed that which it created. It was beautiful process.
Then, there was the amazing phenomenon of the sky: the stars. The mortals said the stars were painted onto a bronze dome surrounding the earth in which Atlas spun on his back so that the stars would rise and set, as the sun. Who painted all those stars? She needed to know. Her father was of the sky, so a part of her was too. She felt it: in her bones, blood, and her soul.
She looked once to her mother and twice to the door. She ran.
"Persephone!" Her mother called urgently. But she ignored her. Too long has she lived in this shelter, she would not be deprived of the sky too. Her mother could not lock her away, she would not let her.
Through the maze of hallways and out the temple, she ran directly in the rain. It was warm and sticky. The static charge of energy wafted through the air.
Her soul was set aflame as she danced. The rain droplets fell onto her and flew off her all in one moment. Mud dressed her feet. She threw her head back, intently listening to the music of the rain, forcing herself to succumb to it fully.
She fell to her knees. Hot tears poured down her cheeks. She just wanted to belong to the sky, maybe to even live on Mount Olympus, in the clouds. She wanted to ride with Helios in his chariot and watch Hephaestus forge the thunderbolt, and better yet to watch Zeusher fatherwield it. She could not believe that all the gods on Mount Olympus were all evil, especially Zeus. He couldn't be.
She felt a soft hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off.
Her stomach clenched her breath, she shook. "I am part of the sky. It is a part of me. I can't help it."
"If he is a part of me, then what does that make me? What does he make me?"
Her mother pulled her into her bosom and she cried, allowing her mother to soothe her. "Oh my child, you are not him. You cannot be blamed for the transgressions of your father."
"But he raped you. I am the fruit of his seed."
"And fruit of my womb. Never forget that. You are part earth and sky. You are both."
"I just wanted to be in the rain."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"You are my love, my greatest gift to the earth. I love you."
"I love you too, Mana."
They held onto each other as the rain fell, connected earth and sky, dirt and water, mud and thunder. A desperate part of her wanted to meet her father, but she would never tell her mother. She wanted to meet this man, to look him in the eye, to see what kind of man he was. She needed to know how much of him was in her.
After the rain subsided, they went inside and washed the mud off their skin and clothes. A few nymphs started a fire in the hearth and they all laid around it drying off and warming up. She hugged her knees, trying to keep her feelings trapped inside her chest and stomach.
The nymphs gossiped and told stories, Demeter even participated, but that night Persephone noticed that her smile never reached her eyes. As for Persephone, she kept quiet, listening to the left over rain patter against the roof.
For the next week, she did not wander away from the nymphs as her mother wanted. But when they were not looking, she glanced to the forest and heard the rushing of the river that marked her mother's boundary.
She knew for certain her mother would never let her leave. Her mother would not allow her the decision at all. She didn't really know if she wanted to leave, but all she knew was that there was more to the universe than what she could see from her mother's corner of earth.
She had never left this garden. The trees felt like massive, impenetrable walls, caging her in. She planned her escape, the second week after the incident. Although, her mother did let up a bit on some of her rules, allowing Persephone to observe the weather whenever it came. But one rule remained, stay within the boundary. She was watched night and day, though Demeter tried to conceal this fact.
She felt more like a prisoner than a daughter. Soon, the only thoughts that plagued her were of escape, hopefully, to Mount Olympus to meet her father. All she needed was a way to get there.
Though both her parents were gods, Persephone was not immortal. Like many of the children of the gods, she was to earn her immortality or marry a God. Above all, she was not a decision-maker in the realms of the gods, her fate seemed determined by a higher being than she. She ran a risk of becoming a pawn of Zeus, but she hoped for the best and prayed that Hera would not kill her immediately.
Because of her status she, herself, unescorted could not travel to Olympus. She knew of someone who could, and might even help her, if she managed to get his attention. Helios.
Helios was known as the All-Seer, since he crossed the earth every day observing all as he carried the sun through the sky. If she managed to escape her mother's boundary, she could call his attention and tell him who she was. She would ask him to take her to Olympus to meet her father and make a proper introduction to Olympus.
After all that, then she could decide what kind of life she needed to lead. She knew if she stayed, she wouldn't get the opportunity to decide. Even if she discovered her purpose, she would be forced to tend to the garden to the end of her days. While she loved the garden, she wanted to discover the world for herself. She wanted to live among the stars and bask in their glow.
Finally the day came when the nymphs had forgotten the incessant need to continuously watch her. Quietly, and delicately, she snuck away. She backed into a few shrubs, made her way through the meadow, and finally to the tree line. She made it to the river, once she crossed she would be outside of Demeter's protection. No one could stop her.
She found a slow, calm section of the river, underneath a willow tree. The tree extended out its long limbs to her, caressing her hair, pulling her into its boughs.
"I will be back, one day. I promise. I need to do this."
The tree shook its leaves and let her out of its grasp. She reached down and placed her fingers in the water. It was cool, but not cold. Warm enough to swim. The river was about fifteen feet wide. She slipped off her chiton and asked the willow tree to fling it across the river.
She dove in and swam quickly to the other side. There was a current, but it was not too strong for her to swim across. The fish joined her in her swim. It took a few moments before she reached the edge and climbed out, holding onto tree roots as she lifted herself from the water.
She stepped foot on the ground. Flowers bloomed where she stepped. She looked across the river, viewing the willow. Now that she was here, she almost did not know what to do. She grabbed her chiton.
She found a rock where she could dry off in the sun. While she dried, she observed the river. She was on the other side, out of mother's protection. She smiled. She was free, truly free. The birds sang. The river flowed. The sun shined. All was the exact same as before, except it was entirely different.
She threw on her chiton. She ran through the forest, running out of the sight of the river, and climbed up the first tree that came within her path.
She grabbed each thick branch, propelling herself forward, pushing out to the top. She broke through the leaves and turned her face to the sky. The warmth from the sun felt more glorious than it ever had before, deep, rich and filled with a full spectrum of colors. She savored the feel.
She cast her eyes upon the rich blue sky. Helios charged forth, his steeds galloping at full speed.
"Helios!" She cried at the top of her lungs. Her heart beat wildly in her chest and her blood rushed through her veins.
Helios turned to look at her, his golden helmet glinting daringly in the light.
"I am Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter. For all my life, Demeter has locked me within her garden, preventing me from seeking an audience with my father. Could you help me reach Mount Olympus?"
He looked down upon her, judging her for a moment. He nodded. "Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, I will have Hermes deliver your message to Olympus. Zeus will send for you."
Relief flooded through her. She had not known the anticipation she felt. If Helios denied to help her, then she had no clue what she should have done--would have done.
"Thank you, great All-Seer, Helios!"
Helios nodded before returning to directing his carriage across the sky. She smiled, unable to contain her joy. Her mouth felt like it would split her face open from the joy in which she felt.
She jumped down from her tree. Now, all she had to do was wait for Hermes to collect her. She turned to the tree. It was a beautiful, giant wych elm tree, with thick green leaves. It was her savior. She placed a kiss upon its trunk, to show her gratitude. Its branches and leaves reached towards her in their appreciation. She threw her head back and laughed. "Thank you for raising me into your highest branches."
Her giggling was disrupted by a low and distant rumble. She turned her head to the sky, looking for a break in the trees. She squinted.
"Strange," she said to no one in particular. "I did not see any storm clouds in the sky. Nor do I feel any weight in the air."
The rumbling became louder and louder. She heard heavy breathing. She turned behind her.
In the distance she saw a tall, dark figure, in a black chariot drawn by four horses, heading directly towards her. She froze. The figure wore a dark helmet. They were cold. Every tree they past shriveled, every flower turned brown and died. No grass lived past the hooves of the horses. It was as if the cold grip of death himself, strangled out each life in his way. A high shriek pierced through the air. Only once she was out of breath did she realize it was her own.
She dashed for the nearest tree, desperately trying to find a branch to climb onto. Maybe if she climbed to the top she wouldn't be trampled, maybe she could save the life of this tree if she clung to its branches. She heard the hoof steps grow louder, more thunderous, more terrifying with each step.
Something grabbed hold of her and pulled her off the tree. She watched in horror as the tree died before her eyes right as her touch was forcibly pulled away. With its final spark of life, the tree reached to her. She cried. There was so much destruction, beyond the force of nature, beyond the magic of the sky. This was not beautiful, it was monstrous.
The front horses bucked before they circled around the tree, her beautiful elm tree. "No!" She screamed. Hermes would not know where to find her. She needed to go back. She needed to comfort the wildlife that still remained. Tears poured down her face. Steam only rose from where her tears fell.
She turned to see that which destroyed her tree, that which destroyed all the life around her. She locked eyes with cool, black eyes. Coldness gripped her, ceased her. All that was left was a void: a void of life, light, and warmth. A darkness fell over her and her body went limp.