This story is by Stefanie Low and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
After what future historians would coin the Great Fuckening of 2020, the Greek
Gods assembled in Zeus’ open-air office, (a heavy mahogany desk on the top of Mount
Olympus surrounded by non-ergonomic plastic chairs) to decide what was to be done.
Usually, immortal beings were mostly concerned with themselves. This is how those in
power stay in power. But the growing rumblings of dissent and destruction on the re-
markably simple planet of Earth could no longer be ignored.
The horrific trifecta of viral, economic, and political plagues had to be stopped. It
was so obvious that even blind Tiresias saw that mortals desperately needed direction.
“This is what comes of abandoning the old ways,” he told Zeus. Modern Greece had
finally recognized Hellenism-the ancient religion built around Zeus and his pantheon- in
2017. But Hellenistic practitioners comprised only a small fraction of the populace. Zeus
needed them to be legion. And he needed to convert them all, especially those perpetual-
ly puritanical Americans.
It was decided by executive order (unanimous votes do not exist outside mortal
boardrooms) that the twelve deities remain isolated from those pesky humans until Zeus
devised a laminated bullet point plan to end the bloodshed and chaos reigning below.
And Ares called Mars the Red Planet! Zeus, Sky CEO (so said the front of his extra thick
premium business cards: the back is a tasteful lightning bolt), declared that collab-
oration was required to save humans from themselves.
First, he needed his fellow Gods in one place. Chronos, (who contrary to popular
belief, does not have a human body with the face of an analog timepiece), counseled
Zeus that he didn’t have time to recall his divine family from all corners of the world like
errant children whenever he wanted an emergency staff meeting and he wasn’t about to
make Zoom a thing.
What would always be a thing with Zeus was beautiful women, a preoccupation he
shared with humans (see Helen of Troy). He decided his gorgeous niece Persephone,
Queen of the Underworld, must forgo her annual seasonal bonding with her mother
Demeter– effective immediately. After the harrowing events that occurred on Earth in
February and continuing until the present, it was no longer prudent for the eternally
dewy-eyed maid in a sheer robe to visit the deeply troubled globe.
Earth would most likely dub Persephone the new Kate Hudson and thus com-
pletely overshadow Zeus’ amazing plan to save humanity. (Said plan was tentatively
entered in the Notes section of his cell as Operation Worship.) He even threw a festive
lightning bolt at the Washington Monument to get things started. That would get their
attention! He would save the mortal world, his Olympian family would laud him for-
ever, and despite what his irksome sister Demeter said, Persephone would remain
quarantined with her husband Hades, King of the Underworld, for the duration of the
year, not just fall and winter.
Persephone was sorry to miss her and her mother’s annual extended spa vacation
at Club Zed which was somewhere in California. Being European, she was a fan of nude
sunbathing, not caring if she gave randy Helios an eyeful of her divine curves. Most of
all, she loved Earth’s abundant flowers. She loved making violet crowns for the spa’s
employees, smoking other stickier flowers (with the same employees), and sticking
daisies in rifles.
Demeter would dearly miss lecturing her daughter on the importance of includ-
ing grains in her diet (none of this keto nonsense) and giving her daughter hours of free
marriage therapy. Hades was a piece of work. How much Dungeons and Dragons can
one God play?
Zeus secretly had a soft heart. He didn’t want his enraged sibling to take out her
anger on Earth again, so he agreed to have Hephaestus install nanny cams in the
Underworld so Demeter could covertly ‘check in.’ Unfairly overlooked due to the antics
of his frisky wife Aphrodite, Hephaestus had developed a talent for invisibility as a
defense mechanism; no would notice as he hid cameras in Hades’ numerous black teddy
bears. As for Persephone, she agreed quite easily to the quarantine, once Zeus promised
she could borrow Hermes’ golden winged boots. Hermes agreed because Zeus was final
-ly allowing him a vacation, provided he stayed in Greece. The God of Communication
wanted nothing more than to go on a silent retreat in Thassos for a month.
Hades, who wasn’t thrilled that his alone time was being disrupted by his over-
bearing brother Zeus, ultimately gave in to make his wife happy. He did tease her for
falling for Zeus’s famous fancy footwear ploy, especially since Persephone usually
went barefoot on the obsidian marble floor of the Underworld which one after life Hellp
reviewer declared “quite nice and cool on one’s tired feet.”
Hades thought sadly about his gaming buddies with whom he was his most
authentic self. With his Dead and Loving It Bros, he could take off his cape and throw it
on the floor; drink his ambrosia lukewarm and with his mouth open. Dare to burp.
Persephone would be scandalized. It wasn’t easy being King, especially King of the
Underworld. He had a reputation to maintain. If he didn’t present a certain darkly glam
facade, the Shades would lose all respect for him. And maybe even his wife.
At first, it was little things. Persephone started singing every song in Maroon 5’s
extensive catalogue. She had a crush on the heavily tattooed lead singer which was an
insult to her Dark Lord. Couldn’t she have chosen a young Morrissey to moon over? It
didn’t help that the Shades also found Adam Levine’s songs insanely catchy. He thought
his beloved wife understood the newly deceased were not supposed to be having fun.
Being dead was Serious Business. Yet here they were, singing along like it was Karaoke
Night back on Earth.
He tried to talk to her about it, but Persephone had appointed herself Activity
Director of the Underworld and had little time for her King, leaving him imprisoned
with his thoughts. Grief counseling for the newbies one week, yoga with goats the next.
She’d even come up with everyone’s new drink of choice: the pleasingly floral Asphodel
Latte. The Shades proclaimed it superior to the coffee they had when they were alive,
waiting online at the Starbucks drive through for up to 30 minutes during the pandemic.
Persephone for her part, was annoyed that Hades was always playing D and D
with his ghoulish gamers. She wondered privately if he could be a little less ironic. Just a
tad. And when she woke in the morning in their palatial bed, Hades was often gone.
He’d taken to walking Cerberus for hours, stating that a God’s best friend is his three
headed dog, only to return reeking of hell hound slobber. Pepper in the fact that they
hadn’t had sex in over a week, (in Underworld terms this could mean a week to forever.)
Poor Persephone twisted in their patchouli scented black silk sheets alone. Daydreams
of Adam Levine aside, it wasn’t like there was anyone else. H and P (to their closest
friends only), were considered boring by their divine family because they had always
been monogamous. She wanted to talk to Hades but didn’t know how to start the con-
versation. Being honest didn’t exactly make for a sexy chat. She wished she could hang a
banner outside a window (is it weird she missed windows?) saying TAKE MY
HUSBAND PLEASE! She was so over his brooding Byronism. Her ever beating heart
ached with loneliness. She’d confide in Demeter, but the cell reception was notoriously
lousy in caves. And she’d severed their telepathic connection over a millennium ago
because there are some things that are just too private.
When Hades did pay attention to her, Persephone found herself growing annoyed
over petty things. His once pristine cape was now soiled and wrinkled. She could have
sworn she even saw him burp once. Had the mystery truly gone? She glazed over when
he regaled her with tales of ‘fantasy campaigns’ and ‘experience points.’
In return, Hades tried to hide his yawns when she spoke excitedly of trying to get
Charon to accept compliments from his passengers instead of coins or digital payment
via the new Styxit app. He even found himself wondering if maybe Persephone should
wear a bra, something that had never bothered him before. Or her habit, once en-
dearing, of phrasing every sentence as a question.
Once, it was thrilling when they had only fall and winter to spend together. They
spun in each other’s orbits. When the spring came, they welcomed the separation
without guilt or regret. But here they were, quarantined together for however long Zeus
deemed necessary. No sunshine or nights of endless role playing in sight. They had
avoided one thing for thousands of years. Persephone and Hades were going to have to
Talk. Share their feelings.