When Kore was a young girl, she asked her mother if they could visit Olympus up in the sky. Just once, to see what the city was like. Her mother furrowed her brow and said, “No, baby girl. It’s a harsh world out there, and the gods are even harsher.”
She wasn’t wrong. Kore had been told countless stories about Zeus, who had conquered the sky and the heart of its queen, her mother’s sister Hera. How he withered the mountains down with storms so he could build skyscrapers instead, glittering, shard-like buildings that cut into the clouds like razor blades. And then there was Poseidon, rough and rude as the seas he ruled, master of steamships and stolen goods. The pirate king took from the land and gave nothing but saltwater back.
Better to stay with her mother on the fertile earth, to live simply and humbly alongside mortals whom her mother had taught to farm. Better to lie in fields of flowers, soft beneath her heels, and breathe in their sweet scent instead of the city smog.
Her mother never told her about the eldest son of Kronos—or if she did, it was only to tell her that no one had seen him in ages. He was the king of shadows and shades. He belonged underground, with the dead, and no mortal ever spoke his name.
Then one day, the pounding of pickaxes and hammers floated up from a mouth of a cavern near the town. Louder and louder the clashing grew, and soon iron spikes pierced the earth, pinning down a set of railroad tracks. The workers laying the tracks wouldn’t talk to anyone, focused solely on the task at hand. Something about the look in their eyes, the way they kept their heads down—it was like you could see right through them.
They were shades, Kore realized, and she ran to tell her mother.
Demeter was furious. “It ain’t right and it ain’t natural,” she would mutter over and over again. She marched on down to the tracks herself, but the shades ignored her as they had ignored all others, never mind that she was a goddess, queen of the amber grain. She demanded to speak to that upstart Hades, but the god stayed underground where he belonged.
Kore wondered if he ever got lonely, down there in the dark.