This story is by Ashlyn Rosewood and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Hades climbed back up again to escape his friends jeering at him: “Yeah ya better run! Skinny bi–” He was wet and shivering in the wind, and he could see the moon shining in between the trees of the Forest.
He didn’t want to stay with his friends any longer.
Washing himself in the river, Hades could see the human blood sink to the bottom and it made him feel queasy. His friends always mocked him for his fear of blood and it made him angry at himself.
Once he’d put his clothes on, and made sure his scarf concealed the bottom half of his face to hide his teeth, he started walking farther away from his home. He was the only adult never allowed to go past a certain point, where the river split. Past that point were animals and sometimes humans. He’d seen animals before, and tried to get close, but, well, they didn’t really like him…
He didn’t blame his friends for ‘pranking’ him, either. He deserved it after letting their rare catch go, but when he saw the man’s eyes he couldn’t leave him in the hole, just waiting to be eaten. Sometimes, Hades wished his ancestors hadn’t decided to live in the underground and instead blend in with the humans. But they couldn’t be caught, because humans would ‘do a genocide’ on them or something…
Noticing the sun was rising by now, Hades was getting hungry and he wasn’t going to risk anything by eating some mystery berries. Should he go back? He considered his options carefully when suddenly he smelled blood.
A wounded animal? His stomach made a sound he was all too familiar with, to which he eventually complied and went to check it out.
“P-Please give it back!” a young child shouted. Hades quickly hid behind a bush only to see a young human, probably around 8 years old, backed up against a tree trunk and bleeding from it’s ankle, looking up at two older boys. One of which held a book above it’s head.
Why were there human children in the Endless Forest? He knows humans are fearful of the Forest. Kind of like the Bermuda Triangle, because adventurers disappear all the time. Shouldn’t these kids know better?
The boy holding the book chuckled and shook it. The child underneath it teared up, but it looked like it was really trying to hold it in.
“Pshhh. Such a crybaby. If he weren’t a guy, I’d almost say it’s kinda cute.”
“That’s gay dude.”
“I’m. Not. A crybaby!” the kid screamed angrily, but by now there were tears streaming down it’s cheeks.
Hades’ nose scrunched up at that. He never liked it when humans cry, it was a sign of sadness or suffering.
The boy laughed as it flipped through the book. “Oh my god, this page even has kittens!” It showed the page to it’s friend, and Hades could see it was a scrapbook.
“What’s he gonna do next? Make flower crowns?” the friend joked.
They snickered at the boy on the ground, like he wasn’t even there. Hades didn’t laugh.
Instead, he took off his scarf and jumped from behind the bush.
“RAAAAH!” he opened his mouth wide to show off his sharp teeth that could easily rip any meat to shreds.
Heh, he screams like a girl.
The boys ran for their lives, forgetting about the scrapbook, except for the boy who was still on the ground, frozen in fear.
The kid curled in on himself against the tree and stared at him, tears still streaking his face.
“Uh hey! It’s alright, er, kiddo?” he said as he put his hand up placatingly and held his mouth as closed as possible.
“A-Are you g-going to eat me?” he asked in a small voice.
“I won’t, uh, hurt you, okay?” Hades tried to say with the gentlest voice he could muster.
This was exactly the moment his stomach decided to growl. Goddamnit.
The kid’s eyes went wide again in fear and distrust.
“Uh, they were hurting you, right? Making fun of you and taking your stuff…” he glanced over to the scrapbook on the ground. “Do you need to get that treated?” He pointed at the kid’s ankle.
When he didn’t answer Hades crouched down and offered the kid his scarf.
“I can tie it up to stop the bleeding.”
“And y-you won’t eat me? R-really?”
“O-okay.” the kid cautiously reached out with his left leg.
“I t-tried hiding here, b-but I tripped on a tree branch. It wasn’t their fault.” the kid explained.
At least the boys didn’t go as far as to actually hurt him, unlike his own friends…
Hades carefully wrapped the scarf around the kid’s ankle and tied it.
“That should at least stop the bleeding for now.” he said while almost licking the blood off his fingers. Almost.
He wiped the blood off on his pant leg instead and reached out his hand to give the kid some leverage. The kid tried to stand up, but promptly fell back down clutching his ankle.
“I c-can’t walk. I-I need to go b-back home. I’m n-not allowed to be h-here…”
This made Hades sigh, turn around and crouch.
“You can, uh, climb on my back. Kid.” he said while looking down at the grass. When the kid didn’t move he started thinking he’d done something wrong, but then the kid wrapped his hands around his neck and leaned against his back.
“Alright then, uhm, which direction is it?”
“I-It’s in uh, that direction!” he said while pointing in the same direction the other boys had fled. Hades could see some buildings from here, so he stood up, picked up the forgotten scrapbook, and started walking. Eventually they arrived at a house and Hades put the kid down at the front steps, the wall supporting him.
“There you go, kid.”
“A-actually, my name is Dresden.”
“Okay then, Dresden, I hope your parents will be happy to know you’re safe.” he stood up to leave, but a small hand grabbed at him.
“W-wait, but I still don’t know your name!”
“Ah, my name is Hades.” he answered.
“Hay… Haydees!” Dresden tried with determination, obviously struggling a bit with the foreign-sounding name. “Ah, can I just call you Hadd, then?” Dresden asked with a bright smile. Hades ruffled his hair in response.
“Alright, but only if I get to call you Drez!”
“Deal!” he nodded viciously.
The door opened, and Hades saw a middle-aged woman walk into view.
“Mommy, I made a new friend today! Hadd was super nice and carried me here!” Dresden told the woman with the same hair color as him.
She turned to Hades and he gave her an awkward smile.
“Uh, hi.” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, suddenly unsure what to do with his hands. “Your son was hurt, because he tripped, so I uh, yeah.”
The woman eyed his teeth suspiciously while he talked, but didn’t mention it.
And this was yet again the moment the universe decided to fuck with him by making his stomach grumble.
Oh god FUCKING damnit–
“You must be hungry from carrying him here, then. Mind eating lunch with us?”
The offer caught Hades off guard, since he’d never eaten human food before. He was pretty sure demons couldn’t even digest plants, but he didn’t want to be rude. So here he was, sitting at a table in Drez’s living room enjoying a vegan sandwich with a small dog on his lap, Drez happily crafting in his scrapbook with his wounds treated.
“You don’t seem like you’re from around here, Hadd.” the woman who Hades now knew as Abby said in an attempt to make small talk.
“Ah, yeah. Actually, I’m from pretty far away.” Hades stated simply as he started petting Vanilla again. It was the first time he got to touch an animal or see one up close, and it was so soooft.
“You’re free to stay here, if you’d like.” Abby suggested.
If Hades had been sipping his drink, he would have spit it out.
“He can stay? That would be super cool!” Drez exclaimed, looking up from his scrapbook.
“Uh, I mean, I do have a home, but, I’m not sure if I can…” he decided not to finish that sentence.
“You’re welcome here. It seems that even Vanilla has taken a liking to you.” She smiled whilst nodding to the dog.
Hades had to consider his options carefully. He could either return home, where he would probably be pestered and denied food, but he would be safe. Or he could stay, where he could be caught and thus endanger his whole species, but he would be able to pet Vanilla and ruffle Drez’s hair more–
He supposed he could stay a little longer.