Eurydice survives. It’s in her bones. Wander, scavenge, scrape by. Use any means she can. The wind blows cold and she keeps her head low and no one looks her in the eye, though she can hear them whispering: Didn’t she have a young man? I heard they hopped the train to Hadestown together. Poor girl, wonder what happened. Poor fool, more like, to follow him down there. Young love and that town ain’t nothing but trouble.
She can’t bring herself to visit Hermes. There are too many memories of that station, that little roadside café where they first met. Not to mention the pain of having to hear how Orpheus was coping after losing his soul to the underground. How long would it take him before he became like Calliope, or worse? Even if she were to die right now, would there be enough of him for her to find? No. She doesn’t want to know.
Yet in spite of herself, she goes to see Persephone’s train come in—earlier than it ever had come before, the sun bright but not beating down the way Eurydice always remembered. The lady steps off the train and flowers bloom where her feet touch the ground. Spring has come again. Everyone else rejoices. Eurydice just thinks, You should have been here to see it.
Persephone finds her among the celebrating crowd. “Eurydice,” she breathes, and hugs her. Eurydice does not move, muscles tense and locked in place. The last time someone held her like this…
For a moment, neither of them speak. Then Persephone says, too gently, “It wasn’t your fault.”
“I should have kept walking. I should have trusted that he would follow in his own time—”
“You heard him cry in pain and your instinct was to go to him. No one can fault you for that.”
The goddess pours a cup and offers it to Eurydice, who downs it in one go. The liquor burns her throat. Good. She wants to be in pain. After, she closes her eyes and asks, “What happened to Calliope? Why wasn’t she following him?”
“We found her in the middle of the road, about halfway down the tunnel. She was… confused. Even when we brought Orpheus to see her, she couldn’t recognize him. Kept insisting her little boy was waiting for her up top. Hades thinks it was a side effect of the journey to the surface—her memories regressed, causing her mind to unravel.”
At the mention of Hades, Eurydice grinds her teeth. Her gaze turns into a glare. “He could’ve just let us go, no conditions.”
Persephone sighs. “We had words about that, me and him. And we’ll have words about it when I go back. But last I saw your Orpheus—”
“He ain’t my Orpheus anymore,” she practically spits. “Your husband owns him.” And with that, she leaves the party, leaves the station, walks right out of town. There ain’t a thing she can do about Orpheus. Better to just hurry up and hit the road, any way the wind blows.
After the turn, Orpheus does not speak. He does not sing, or cry, or make any sound at all. Even when he sees his mother, he does not call out to her. Not that she would have remembered him if he did—the road had broken them both.
He does let Hermes stroke his hair and try to comfort him, though he knows a few pretty words can’t heal the wound in his heart and in his throat. Persephone lingers for a few weeks, to tend to Orpheus and try her liquor on Calliope’s memory, to no avail. But soon she leaves for up top, and Hermes leaves with her, and so Orpheus spends his days lying on a cot in the back of Persephone’s speakeasy, throat aching with the strain of silence.
He doesn’t know how long it is before the workers start coming to him. The first time he gets up to open the door, he flinches at the sight of them, thinking they’re going to drag him back to Hades. But instead, they move past him and sit at the bar, waiting.
Slowly, he goes to Persephone’s liquor cabinet and picks a bottle at random—sun-ripened pomegranate, according to the label—then starts filling their cups. The wine seems to ease their bodies and their tongues; they start chattering among themselves, sharing the memories that come with the taste of sunshine.
“Have a glass yourself, brother,” one of them urges, but he shakes his head. The wine can’t bring back his mother’s mind, and it can’t turn back time and keep him from screaming, so what’s the point?
The factory whistle blows. The workers clear out. As he’s cleaning the bar, new faces show up, and so Orpheus falls into a rhythm. His work is not the back-breaking labor of the mines and machinery, nor is it the work Hades recruited him for, singing sweet propaganda to keep the rust belt rolling. But at times, when his mind is clear and he can focus on nothing but the task at hand, it brings him comfort.
When Persephone comes back, she tells him Eurydice left town. “Where she’s gone, there ain’t no one knows. But she’s a tough little bird. Knows how to survive, even in the bitter snow.” She pours two cups of the fruit of the vine and raises hers high. “To Eurydice, wherever she is now.”
Orpheus raises his cup. To Eurydice, he thinks. Her name is like a melody, drifting through his mind like the song of the gods once did. And for a moment there, the world comes back to life. He’s lying in a field of wildflowers, sunlight streaming onto his face. Eurydice is by his side, watching the birds in their flight, while his mother tells them stories from his childhood in her bright, hopeful voice. For a moment, Orpheus lives in a world where they got it right.
He adds to his silent toast: To the world we dream about, and the one we live in now.
After wandering alone for who knows how long, Eurydice falls in with a group of vagabonds who don’t ask questions or expect anything from her. It’s a rough, raucous crew, always either too drunk or too hungover to pay much attention to her. She hasn’t even given them her name. Cheerfully, they dub her “Nobody” and carry on drinking. So it’s a surprise when their leader—a wild-eyed, long-haired bootlegger by the name of Dionysus—walks over to her as she warms her hands with a candle one night and says, “Eurydice, right?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Persephone told me to keep an eye out for you. Hermes, too. Said you’d be wandering into my path at some point. You didn’t strike me as one to join the maenads, though.”
“Honestly? I’m just waiting for them to get too wasted to recognize me and rip me limb from limb,” she says. It might be a joke.
Dionysus just stares at her with an intensity that makes her shudder. “What?” she demands.
He shakes his head. “Nothing. It’s just... well, the Fates can be funny sometimes.”
“Fuck the Fates,” she says, and he grins like a leopard with too many teeth.
He hands her his bottle and she takes a swig. It fills her with the wild urge to dance. Dionysus obliges and spins her under the stars. She watches the world whirl around her, faces beginning to blur. She laughs—she must be drunk, because for a moment, she swears she’s dancing with Orpheus again.
The other maenads circle them, dancing with reckless abandon, a tangle of arms and legs and bodies in heat. When they begin to grab her arms and pull at her a little more carelessly than they should, Eurydice doesn’t feel it. Whatever Dionysus put in that bottle, it frees her from pain and from the past. The last thing Eurydice hears is the distant whistle of a train coming this way, and she smiles.
Now she stands in front of a dusty old railroad station on the road to hell. Peering through the window, she sees a few denizens of the nearby town eating or slumped over their drinks. As good a rest stop as any, she thinks. No one will notice me here.
She feels dizzy for a moment, as if coming out of a dream she can’t quite remember. She was dancing with someone with whiskey on his breath—no, she was walking through a dark tunnel toward the little patch of sunlight she could see—no, she was listening to someone sing a song so beautiful it could make stones weep—but the memory fades within a second, leaving her with a vague sense of emptiness, of being incomplete.
The wind blows in her ear, bringing her back to reality. She walks into the café, takes out her candle and pats down her coat pockets. “Anybody got a match?” A sharp-dressed gentleman—probably the proprietor of this place—offers her one with a thin, close-lipped smile, as if he knows something she doesn’t. She takes the match with an eye roll and a muttered “gimme that” and warms her hands over the flickering flame.
She doesn’t notice the pale, over-eager waiter with a bouquet made of newspaper and stars in his eyes until he gets down on a bended knee and says, “Come home with me.”
And so they sing the old song again, trying once more for a world that gets it right.