This story was originally created for my supporters over at Patreon.
She walked the familiar path towards the lake, the buzzing electrical light on the post of the dock a bobbing beacon that hid and reappeared behind tree branches and brush. All around her the sound of tree frogs echoed and reverberated, swirling together with crickets and the far away howls of birds and other night animals. The warmth of the end of the Florida summer night slid over her skin, having lost most of its humidity and clinging dampness in the last few weeks and there was a sweet familiarity to the taste of the air. She liked the feeling of being alone in the dark out here by the lake with only the tree frogs and the stars. She came out from the line of the trees into the clearing between the underbrush and the lake pausing long enough to take in the view. To her right was a small field, with a small metal shed standing in the open, the light of the moon catching on the ribs of the metal roofing. In the distance she could hear the night time grumbling moos of the McCarther’s cows next door. She couldn’t see them, but she could smell them, manure and hay thick in the air. She steered herself to the end of the dock, where she sat letting her legs hang over the edges towards the dark waters, and looked up at the night sky. It was clear, and moonlight bounced off of the lake. It was peaceful.
She took a deep breath, enjoying the smells of nature around her as her stomach began to cramp. She grimaced, but didn’t open her eyes. Her father’s footsteps were coming along the path, but they were too far away for her to worry about them and she p
ulled her feet up onto the dock, opening her eyes and beginning to count stars. Orion winked at her, and the sisters looked down on her from above. She would miss them. She would miss all of this. The feeling of openness, expansive space, the wide open stars above. She wondered briefly what it would be like to never feel their gaze again, to just slip away one late summer’s night and never return. His footsteps paused at the edge of the tree line while he searched for her. A few moments later the dock creaked under his weight and he sat quietly next to her. Her stomach cramped again and she let out a small noise of discomfort. Her father reached out and put his hand on her knee and she covered his hand with hers.
“You’d think I’d be used to this by now.” He said, looking up at the moon.
“I don’t get the feeling this is anything either of us will ever get used to, dad.”
“Yeah, well” his voice trailed off and he shrugged.
“It’s alright” she said, forcing herself to sit up. “I’ll be back.”
“How’s your stomach?”
“Ugh, it hurts. I hate those things.”
He nodded. “I don’t know why you have to eat them.”
“The glories of tradition?” She quipped with a smile, trying to lighten the mood but a heaviness had settled in her chest as the moon climbed higher into the sky.
“He’ll be here soon.” She said to no one in particular.
“Yeah.” her father said to the sky.
They turned and embraced each other. It didn’t matter how many years they did this, it would always be the same. Next to them the lake began to bubble. In the silvery moonlight it took on a deep purple and silver tone, the roiling, swirling depths a galaxy of deep colors. Persephone stretched herself out on her back, feeling the roughness of the dock press up in to her skin. The cramps asserted themselves again and she closed her eyes against the pain. She let out another sound of discomfort and tried to breath through it, but it was starting to take longer for it to ebb away. She’d passed the tipping point. From below her she could hear the soft bubbling of the transforming lake, and its deep purple glow began to seep through her eyelashes. When she looked at the sky again, the corners of her vision were bathed in deep violet light, shifting and playing with the silver of the moon. Zeus turned from his daughter and watched the center of the lake. It boiled and churned at the edges, but there in the middle it was spinning itself in to an eerily silent whirlpool. From the darkened center the edges of white began to show, rising slowly, twisting, spinning, hissing itself in to creation. A stone slab emerged without enough noise to startle the crickets, whose background symphony played on through the purple haze of the night. With a sigh the foreboding piece of marble shuddered in to place, a long slender walkway of matching milky white stone rising to the surface of the lake leading up to the edge of the dock. The hard marble edges caught the light as water dripped from its perfectly hewn engravings. Persephone craned her neck to see, dropping her head back on to the dock, the pains over taking her as they lashed out to every nerve in her body. Zeus grimaced, holding her hand, his eyes still on the milky stone.
The door swung open and there he stood, his face just out of range of the trickling moonlight that played and danced across the dark curling hair that fell almost all the way to the collar of his heavy robe. It draped from his shoulders, the black and gold accents catching the bits of light that dared cross his path, giving it a dark, yet regal look.
Persephone snorted quietly. “He has got to find something else to wear one of these days.”
“He’s a traditionalist” said Zeus
“Ah yes,” Said Persephone, through a grimace of pain “The glory of tradition.”
“Give him a break.” He whispered
“I’ll give him a break when he stops making me eat these goddamn pomegranates every year. I’m fricken allergic.” She said quietly trying to raise her hand to scratch at the welts that had begun to show angrily under her collar, but she could barely lift her arm, and she let it drop back to the dock with a hollow thud. Her face was pale, and her breathing had dropped to almost nothing.
“Time to go.” Zeus said in a whisper. Under the watchful eye of the god of the underworld, he rose and slipped his arms under the fading form of his daughter. Her breath was shallow, practically non-existent, but he knew she was still there. She would be until he handed her to Hades, and she crossed the threshold in his arms. Carefully nudging her weight in to his right shoulder and adjusting his left arm under her knees, he stepped out on to the white walkway. It was covered with a thin layer of purple-silver water, and he walked carefully to make sure he didn’t drop her. Hades stepped from the shadow, meeting him on the center of the stone walkway. They looked at each other only a moment, then slid Persephone from one, to the other. Zeus brushed back her hair from her face, then raised his head as if to say something to Hades but thought better of it and merely nodded. As one they turned from each other returning from the direction they each came from. Zeus paused at the edge of the dock, looking back to see Hades disappearing through the stone edifice. He waited until the door slipped once more beneath the turbulent surface of the waters, the lake returning to its dark murky brown before beginning his walk back. A new September wind caught the surface of the water, sending ripples towards the old god. It had gotten colder already. Winter was on its way.