It is 1320 BCE. The sun sneaks out from behind the clouds. The sun shines on the fields. It shines on the streams. It shines on fair Persephone, black-haired and clean-limbed, a girl who loves its light.
For a long moment, Persephone simply basks. She is beautiful. Her mother Demeter admires how the light plays on her hair; her neck; her stomach; her legs—
Then Demeter giggles.
“You have toes, you know,” says Demeter.
It’s true, so Persephone doesn’t deny it.
“They came out of my womb,” Demeter says, in satisfaction.
“If it embarrasses you, you should wear boots! That’s what I do, when Rhea talks about my nose.”
There’s a brief silence.
“Mom,” asks Persephone, “why am I going to destroy the world?”
Persephone is planting seeds. It’s something she likes to do with her friends. She digs a little hole. She puts the seed in it. Then Cyane or Agalope or Thelxiepia pours water on the seed. Soon a marvelous plant, such as a dandelion, olive tree, or rose springs up. Sometimes Persephone even gets plants that no one has ever heard of before, like ratweed or singing gardenia.
“It’s complicated,” Demeter says.
Persephone’s friends are not here today. Demeter is visiting. Persephone wants to talk to her Mom about things like birds and bees and her period and why she’s going to destroy the world. She expects it’ll all be pretty embarrassing, so she’s sent her friends home. They’re naiads, so they mostly respond to this by sitting in their various rivers bubbling sulkily.
“I mean,” Persephone says, “am I going to blow up like a volcano?”
“No,” Demeter says.
“Or turn into a horrible wind that blows over all the world sweeping it bare?”
“No,” Demeter says.
“Or eat the sun? Like a giant wolf?”
“No,” Demeter says. “It’s—”
“I could set everything on fire,” Persephone notes. “I mean, I don’t want to, but I could?”
“Look at the heart of the world,” Demeter instructs, cutting her off.
Persephone looks down.
“There’s the ground in the way,” Persephone explains.
So Demeter blows on Persephone’s eyes, and Persephone sees.
“It’s a wheel,” Persephone says. “It’s a wheel with one thousand spokes.”
“That is the nature of the world,” says Demeter.
“Bah,” says Persephone. “That old thing?”
“It’s a jeweled treasure wheel! With two winky eyes!”
“That’s all well and good,” says Persephone, “but I think— I think that you shouldn’t be able to just look at the nature of the world like that. It should be a mystery.”
Persephone reaches out a hand. Then she stops. Demeter has hold of her wrist.
“That’s how you’re going to destroy the world,” says Demeter.
“Oh,” says Persephone, in a small voice. “But I wouldn’t!”
“You almost did it just now.”
“Really,” Demeter says, “I should ground you.”
Persephone thinks quickly. Demeter is the goddess of the grain. Her groundings often involve being transformed into barley.
“I have toes,” Persephone says, meekly.
Demeter looks at her for a moment. Then she laughs.
Demeter hugs her. “You do,” she says. “Ten perfect toes. That’s how a Mom knows her girl’s going to be okay.”
Normally, Persephone finds this particular speech embarrassing, but it’s a great way to get out of trouble for almost destroying the world.
“I can wiggle them!” Persephone says.