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the forbidden fruit

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THE PROPHECY

 

Long ago, there was a prophecy foretold. One of great fortune, but also of great demise.

 

Zeus, after hearing this prophecy, was in great duress, unsure of how he should react. He confided in his younger brother, Poseidon, and together they came to a conclusion.

 

“No one must know,” Poseidon whispers, careful that little brother Hades does not overhear. He pulls on Zeus’s tunic, “If we are to do this, then not another soul shall be wary of the prophecy, brother. You cannot tell even Hera of our plan. The Others would never trust you again.”

 

“Do not consider me a fool,” Zeus snaps at his brother. He narrows his eyes and lightning bolts race around his irises. “There is a place we can send him. Away from us, where Mother and Father cannot follow him. It is forbidden should a Titan step foot there.”

 

“And how should we explain this banishment?” Poseidon wonders.

 

Zeus takes a short step away from his brother, “Oh brother, it’s simple – we don’t. We send him to the Depths and keep him busy guarding the souls. He shall never know of the prophecy, never understand what is to come. It is what is best for us all.”

 

“Given the prophecy,” Poseidon considers, “maybe I should be on his side.”

 

“It would not be wise to oppose me, brother,” Zeus snatches him by the collar. “It would not be wise.”

 

Poseidon shrugs his shoulders, calm as ever with a gentle smirk, “The Oracle does not speak half-truths, brother. Should you do this, know that it will not solve your problems forever. But do not forget – only a god can kill a god.”

 

“Do not explain the laws of life and death to me, brother!” Zeus thunders, pushing Poseidon away with a harsh shove. “Or I shall show you right here and now how exactly a god may kill another god?”

 

“What are the two of you discussing now?” young Hades rumbles, his voice deep and his eyes deeper. He crosses his arms over his chest, “Did Aphrodite turn you down again? Or was it one of those mortals this time? Pesky little cretins, they are.”

 

Zeus reaches out and touches his brother’s cheek with his fingertips, a sad smile on his lips, “Oh, brother, I do pray that one day you will forgive me.”

 

“Forgive you?” Hades questions. “Zeus, what ever do you mean?”

 

There is a sad smile drawn over his brother’s lips, but Hades only gets a glimpse before the whole world turns black.

 

THE OUTCAST

 

There was a time in her life where she opened her lips for no one.

 

Now, it seems, she cannot force them shut.

 

“Add Ares to the list,” she says with weeping breath. She wipes at her eyes, insatiable tears flowing like a river, “He claimed my brother today. Well, actually, likely not today. But today is the first I’ve heard of it.”

 

Her mind wanders to her first time visiting this devil in the night, when she was but a young girl with pain gouged in her heart like a spear.

 

“What is wrong with them?” she cries, digging her hands into the dirt. “The gods are supposed to be powerful, just beings who only strike humans for justice or for mercy. This is not mercy!”

 

“What did my father ever do to Poseidon?! What did he do to wrong the god of the sea?” She sniffles, ignoring the tears and snot collecting on her face. Instead, she looks up at the statue made of marble, terrifying in the night, and whispers: “How do I fix this? He is your brother, is he not? Surely you can speak to him?”

 

When the statue does not answer, and there is no sign of the ground opening to bring her father back to the land of the living, she slams her hands into the ground again. She prays he can hear it, prays that maybe he is connected to the life force of the ground and that she has punched his very soul.

 

“Do you have a soul?” she asks, tilting her head as if expecting the statue to respond. “I’ve heard stories of you, Hades. Stories that you do not answer to prayer, yet here I am despite the fact.”

 

She kicks the base of the statue and snarls, “So much for god of the underworld.”

 

“First my father,” she whispers as if the words will make him appear only to be dragged away again. She wipes under her nose, her lip trembling as she brings her eyes to meet his, “Then my mother’s fields…”

 

“Your brother is an absolute heathen!” she shouts, stomping her feet against the tiled floor of the temple. Her hands shake and she knows that if she had the power to move mountains, she would be at Olympus in the blink of an eye.

 

She throws her arms up in the air, the wind biting at her in the eve of night, “Throwing a lightning bolt at our field?”

 

“First, the middle child takes my father from me, then the eldest steals away our means to life. When will you wrong me, youngest brother?”

 

Her eyes water and her belly rumbles. She covers her stomach with her hands and wills it to quiet. It feels like something will eventually claw its way out from inside of her, bringing the death and destruction she feels to befall the earth she lives in.

 

“That grain was supposed to supply us with enough gold to make it through the harvest,” she whispers. Tears drip from her cheeks to the marble where her toes curl against the stone. “We may have to sell my horse just to tide over until next season.”

 

She reaches out to touch the foot of the statue, the stone cool to the touch. “Please, I don’t know how we will conquer this hardship. Please, give me strength. You’re all I have.”

 

She laughs at the memory, her chuckle thick with emotion. She looks up at his statue, those same emotionless eyes staring back down into her soul. Someday she knows she will look upon his face and be able to reach out and touch him, her skin met with something other than cool marble.

 

Instead of lingering, she retracts and chews on her lower lip until it cracks and bleeds. She swallows, her throat bobbing, “They pushed me again today.”

 

Hot tears crawl down her cheeks and she roughly pushes them away. She knows he wouldn’t care for her tears, he’s had enough of them. He’s seen so many, he’s likely tired of her weeping.

 

“What good is she if she can’t protect a fair maiden from the sickness of love’s first bite?!” Her shoulders rack with sobs as she shares in her friend’s heartache. “She is meant to protect and keep sacred the idea of love, the idea of romance! How is this protecting anything?! I had to hold her as she cried into my arms until she was bone dry, her soul sucked out of her through her tears. Where is Aphrodite now?!”

 

She stomps around until dirt cakes her sandals, her ankles sprinkled with soil. She crumbles in front of him, a mess of limbs, and sighs, “I’ve decided men aren’t worth my time, let alone hers. I will keep her safe from them. Should they come near us, I will bite them at the neck so they bleed.”

 

She laughs at her own naivety, her arms wrapped around her waist as she reminisces.

 

“I just don’t understand,” she looks up at him for some kind of answer even though she knows there won’t be one. Her nostrils flare as she attempts to keep her lip from trembling, “I show up in a black dress instead of a white one and suddenly they are jesting that I am really Lilith the Evil One reincarnated.”

 

She blinks the tears away, “You know what? I wish I was in fact Lilith the Evil One so I could choke them with my mind and make them bleed until they breathe no longer.”

 

She clenches her grimy fist and imagines her oppositions’ throats between her fingerprints. The idea alone makes her tears melt away and a smirk tug on her lips. She purses her lips and looks up at his statue, wondering if she is making him proud with the evil thoughts rolling around in her brain.

 

“I am tired of living here, Sweets,” she grumbles. She looks up at his statue and tastes the name on her tongue again, remembering the day she gave it to him.

 

She paces around the temple, her eyes darting to each of the angels guarding the King of the Underworld. She runs her fingers over the beveled columns, daring to get close enough to him that the chill from the marble tingles against her skin.

 

“Hades,” she murmurs, rolling his name around on her lips. She bends down to her knees, knowing full well that this is how you pray to the gods, even the one who keeps the dead contained. She shakes her head, “You deserve a better name, one separated from your dwelling place.”

 

In doing so, a small batch of pink and purple sweet peas blossoming at the base of his statue catches her eye.

 

She leans over to run her thumbprint over the petals of a singular flower before looking back up at the figurine loitering over her. A smile pulls on the corners of her lips and she nods, “Oh I just love these little sweets, Hades. They’re so pret-wait.”

 

Picking a blossom, she rises back to her feet and pushes the pink flower behind the statue’s ear and murmurs, “Sweets – that’s what I will call you. You’re every bit deserving and it’s much more beautiful than Hades.”

 

Her upper lip curls in mock disgust before she starts to giggle. She picks a few more of the flowers and brings them home with her, finding a small vase to keep them captive in. She knows they will only live a few more days, but it is worth it because every morning before she walks to town, she’s reminded of him and the companionship she has found in the Lord of the Undead.

 

“One day you will take me away from this horrid place, I just know it.” She smiles with her teeth and wonders if he’s listening. “You will rise from the Depths and take me home with you. I am unfit for this earthly plane. They do not appreciate me here.”

 

The familiar sound of snake bellies in the grass makes her giggle. She leans down as the two black serpents slither from behind the statue. The smaller of the two wraps itself around her arm, traveling up toward her neck.

 

“Hello little one,” she whispers, running the pad of her index finger over the female serpent’s head. “Tell your Maker that I say I’m waiting on his response. I still have yet to hear back from him.”

 

The thicker of the two snakes slithers around her ankle and rests his head on her toes. He flicks his tongue out and it brushes the knob of her ankle, so she bends down to show him the same affections with a light giggle.

 

“Oh, you’re jealous, darling. Don’t worry,” she reaches down and runs the backs of her fingers down his nonexistent spine. He takes the opportunity and ravels himself around her arm, mirroring the smaller serpent on her right bicep.

 

The smaller serpent flicks her tongue out against her cheek, making the young woman laugh. She kicks back her head and squeezes her eyes shut while the bubbling sound tumbles from her lips.

 

“I will see you both soon,” she promises, pressing her palms flat to the ground so they can unwind themselves from her. She touches the tops of their heads one final time and goes to speak when a voice in the distance distracts her.

 

“Lilith!”

 

“That’s me,” Lilith tilts her head downward to look the serpents in the eyes. “Tell Sweets I say hello, won’t you?”