“Nothing is growing,” says Persephone.
There is a note of pain in her voice that reaches Hades’ heart. So he knocks the seeds of his pomegranate into his hand. He lets them fall onto the earth.
He says, “Seeds.”
Persephone laughs, the sound like the sound that sunlight makes.
“Why, so they are.”
She steps down from his chariot, hesitating briefly to see if he will stop her. He makes no move to do so, so she descends to the seeds, and kneels beside them. She pokes them with a finger. They are lifeless and unresponsive, even for seeds.
“Poor things,” Persephone says. “Won’t you never learn to grow?”
“If I order it,” says Hades.
She looks at him.
“When I came to the Underworld,” he says, “there was nothing but the gates. Beyond them was tangled darkness. There was no air. There was no soil. There was no place. Simply the gates. And I have made this.”
She looks around.
“I have taken this place from the emptiness,” he says. “Seized it back and filled it with the substance of my will.”
He gestures with an opening hand and dead black shrubs sprout from the seeds. They dig their roots into the dust and bring forth shriveled yellow fruit.
Persephone startles back.
The plants are in the fullness of their living death in moments. They develop a thick and musty fragrance and somehow insects crawl among their leaves.
“That’s pretty good,” says Persephone. “I mean, I’d need to add water.”
“There is growth here,” says Hades. “And light. Even joy, if I wish it.”
“I see,” says Persephone, because she does.
Hades is looking at the plants. His eyes are full of them; he is pleased with what he has wrought. But after a moment, he shakes it off.
“They are dead, of course. I cannot change that. Their story is over before it has begun.”
“That is why you are here,” Hades says. “In this place you will bring forth hope.”
And Persephone is crying now.
Her tears are stolen girl tears. They are asked-too-much tears. They’re the tears of someone expected to bear the moral burden of her own abduction.
They twist knives in Hades’ heart, but they do not weaken him. They bring him more strength. His eyes grow more distant. His face grows colder. Her tears hurt, but they affirm his power over her. Where there is power, there is authority. Where there is authority, there is righteousness. So in that moment, torn by her pain, he becomes more certain of his course.
Her tears are not a problem for him.
But her question is.
She asks him, in the voice of someone who thinks it’s possible, “So will you wrench this hope from me like you wrenched the plants to bloom?”
And because he can’t, but doesn’t want to answer ‘no’, his affect goes flat and he bites into a fruit and he says, with great forced savor, “You really should try one of these delicious pomegranates.”