Hades remembers being swallowed. His father’s mouth, wide and ravenous. Being pushed into the darkness, watching the light from above disappear, leaving him alone in the belly of the beast with only the flickering warmth of his sister beside him, the only tenderness he would know for many years to come.
Hades made the mistake of telling Zeus about it once—Zeus, who just showed up one day in a burst of electricity, tinging the air with a metallic taste, and beckoning them back into the light. Zeus had laughed. Kronos did not swallow them, he said. No one could survive that, not even a god. He shoved you somewhere dark and cramped and kept you locked up where not even mother knew what had happened to you. You and Hestia and Poseidon and not me.
Because, of course, Zeus had rescued them. Zeus had killed Kronos. Zeus would marry Hera, the queen of the skies, and they would build a shining city for the gods up in the clouds. Polished marble, gold filigree, mirrors everywhere to reflect the bright beams of sunlight.
I drew the best of the lots, fair and square, Zeus had sworn. But the ones who tell the lies are the solemnest to swear.
Temperamental Poseidon took the sea. He built a fleet of ships that carried a whole nation on their backs—divers and whale hunters, raiders and roamers whose breath stank of salt when they sang their shanties.
I didn’t want the sky, anyway, he had said, but beneath him, the waves churned and frothed.
Hades was shoved back into the darkness. The caverns beneath the earth were far more spacious than the place he still thought of as his father’s belly, but Hades couldn’t help but think that he’d been swallowed again, this time by something bigger and hungrier.
But he would show them. He would take what he got and dig and dredge and drag the depths of the earth until it was the best kingdom of them all. And his heart began to thrum. The gears of his mind began to grind. He struck up a chant—a simple tune. A steady beat.
Oh, keep your head, keep your head low…