ssomna: (dreamer)
[personal profile] ssomna
The second time Persephone arrived in the basin, she had a plan. The first time, there had been no time for planning, not with all the necessary kicking and screaming, calling names and pulling hair. Plans had come later, too late, of course, in the long winter months of hoping for rescue, scheming to find a way out. But the earth beat down relentlessly overhead and there was no escaping it. By the time the days had lengthened, the long nights had left her victim to a resigned kind of attraction, the kind that only happens in books mothers try to keep away from their teenage daughters. She knew her mother would be ashamed.

All through the spring and summer, as she danced with the nymphs and the dryads, watching the flowers to make sure they bloomed, encouraging them gently, she couldn't forget. There was a part of her mind that stayed quietly busy, sitting in a small dark room working out the possibilities and the probabilities, how to make things work. As they whirled in ecstasy under falling leaves at the harvest festival, the silent part calculated. In the morning its gentle tapping interrupted her as she stumbled through packing in a hung-over fog. Yes, it said. We can make this work. Maybe the picture in her head is idealized, but everything she's imagining is really there, even after the wine has faded.

There's potential here. Frustratingly vast and untapped. The house with its shuttered windows is too big, and closing the windows does nothing to keep out the gloom; it just builds up a dank cave-smell inside the house, separates it from the earthy richness outside. There must be a way to get light down there, real light, not the smoky flame or eerie phospherescence they've got. Sure, they create a mood, but it's the wrong mood. Maybe they can do something with tunnels and mirrors. Put some kind of fabric partitions in, light and airy, to break up the space without making it even more claustrophic. Pastels. Set up some metal fans to make an imaginary wind, maybe power them with lightning or something. The slaves in loincloths are passe, and the ostrich feathers do nothing but create dust. There is more than enough dust down here already.

She worries about you. Love grows slowly in the winter, like a sinister vine, but it grows. Love for the person but never the place. Here you are languishing, and you don't even know you need rescuing. Why are men so blind to their surroundings? Why don't they see how simple it is to make them better? The dirty laundry strewn around is nothing compared to the oppressive darkness, the echoing emptiness. She can't imagine who designed this space, who approved the plans. They ought to be banished, but where does one banish an outcast who is already here?

The schools down there are terrible, of course. They'll have to get tutors for the demonspawn, if there are demonspawn eventually, if they are worth educating. If they don't turn out to be monsters, like so many of her cousins had. Seriously, she sometimes has screaming nightmares about giving birth to monsters, wasting the expensive education on creatures that could scarcely hold a stylus, much less compose a proper elegy or ode. Finally, they'd have to throw them into the sea, or perhaps the desert, so they could prey happily on passers-by and stop causing such grief to their families. Those are not her favorite dreams.

Worse than the screaming nightmares, though, are the subtle psychological ones. The ones where the plan works, the rescue succeeds, they dash out of the boat on the other side of the river and out into the open air. Giving everything up. The ones where there is no dramatic failure, but the dream fizzles slowly, the energy dying slowly, in years of not quite finding a place on the outside. Who is going to hire you, with such a resume? 'Improved the tormenting of lost souls. Redesigned the fiery pits. Supervised the demon horde. Oversaw all activities of the seven circles.' And is hers any better? A few lines about flowers and dancing. She can claim an apprenticeship of sorts with her mother, but it's a stretch and won't hold up to close inspection. And who is to say their relationship will even survive the light of day? Perhaps it will turn to dust like the other relics of the demon lair.

By day she worries that all she is doing is replacing certain doom, which after all is a solid thing you can rely on, with a lukewarm, wishy-washy kind of despair. And then she longs for screaming nightmares, which at least lack that air of plausibility.

But the plan. The plan can work. It can. Right? If only there were someone else to believe.
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December 2010

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