Rite Of Spring – Part 1
Hades didn’t often leave his home, but he’d never turn down the opportunity to make his brothers and sisters uncomfortable. Demeter’s party was an ideal place to do that.
It was a lovely house she’d built. French doors, pure white scaffolding, elegant pathways of flat stone that lead to large rooms painted in pale greens and creams with brown and gold accents. All of it was earthy and wholly Demeter– at least, that’s how Hestia described it for him. When he’d been reborn this time around, Hades hadn’t been able to see anything, blind. Occasionally there were glimpses in the darkness, flashes of color or light that were more memory of a previous life than substance. They never lasted more than a moment, but the false hope that they might, kept him dreaming in color.
When Hestia had finally found him in this city, just before he started sophomore year of his bachelor’s, it was in his tiny apartment on Main Street above Dandelion Bakery. Her presence had been what triggered his awakening. Reminding him that while he was’David’ now, he hadn’t always been. The memories that ripped through him left him gasping on the floor. When the aftershocks faded, they’d been able to share their newest life stories. She’d told him that she was Cuban this time, with caramel skin and brown eyes, and that she was still in high school. He’d told her that he didn’t know what he looked like, but that he was getting a degree in Anthropology. When he wrapped his arms around her, learning her shape and imprinting a wealth of new smells and textures, he felt that this form was thicker than her last. She seemed happy with this body, and he was happy for her. He remembered her previous visage as being painfully thin and pale with illness.
Despite being immortal souls, nothing about the gods was constant. Where they would be born changed, as did their race and gender. Who returned each lifetime depended on how dedicated they were to leaving Elysium. Slowly, smaller gods with fewer followers chose to stay in the Underworld permanently. Older ones, like Hades and his brothers, were not quite ready to leave the world behind yet, even as more of their godly memories faded. For Hades, only one thing was constant about their rebirths— Hestia was always the first to find him.
In every lifetime, she sought him out and stayed nearby. His other siblings either couldn’t be bothered or didn’t remember enough to look for him. It was something else he was gradually growing used to; the way mortals were forgetting them and, in turn, causing the gods to forget themselves. The way his realm shrank every lifetime when he chose to visit it beneath the surface.
He came back to the present when something cool and citrus smelling was pressed into his hand by a set of short, slender fingers.
“They are talking about you, Tio,” Hestia said quietly.
Hades chuckled. “I hear them, dear.”
Hades had heard his brothers talking before Hestia had. One of the few pros of being blind, it afforded him a bit more of a hearing reach than he’d been accustomed to. In the twenty-two years he’d been alive this time around, he’d learned far more by simply listening to the world around him than he had by actually inquiring after information. His recent eavesdropping had given him the usual. Zeus was, of course, offended that he’d crawled out of his hole to join them. In all of his lives, Hades had never gained his eldest brother’s favor. Zeus valued perfection in everything but himself; something Hades would never be able to deliver. Though his brother’s resentment might also be because Zeus was losing the admiration of the masses, while people believed more strongly than ever in Death. Nonetheless, Hades only held value to Zeus when the eldest god needed something.
Poseidon was mildly more understanding, though he didn’t try to defend Hades. Poseidon could see the world from both sides. The oceans still frothed and raged at sailors and soldiers. Sane humans feared and respected it, the suspicion born from generations of seamen still alive today. What Poseidon had lost was the grandeur of his realm. He’d been debunked. Humans had explored so far, and understood so much, that his realm was no longer a complete mystery, no longer the all-encompassing force that hid legends. Not to mention their pounds of trash that littered his domain, and spoiled the beauty of the mighty expanses. As imposing as his brother once was, that might had certainly faded over their last few lives.
Hades had become the most powerful of the three, much to Zeus’s irritation. Hades was still king of the earth, though his powers were limited. Wealth was his to find and hoard now that he remembered his strength, and the souls of the dead still fumbled their way into his realm. When spirits appeared on the mortal plane, he sent them on their way after hearing their tales. The gems that he could magic to the surface had paid plenty of his expenses in this life, including his most recent round of college classes and rent. All in all, his life was going well this round. A few lifetimes ago, he would have relished his brother’s jealousy, now he found it merely amusing— a welcome distraction to the absence of the far greater power he once wielded.
He took a sip of the drink still in his hand, the ice causing the glass to sweat into his palm. Pungent sourness and fizz followed by a bitter aftertaste met his tongue with a vengeance, nearly making him gag.
“What is this?” he demanded of Hestia.
“Spiked sparkling lemonade.” Hades could hear the smile in her voice. She liked it when he tried new things. She liked not warning him about them even more.
“I don’t think Pan will appear this year,” she said sadly, her voice turning down the way a smiling mouth would upon hearing bad news.
“Maybe he’s finally decided to rest,” Hades offered. It was a nicer alternative to saying he might have turned away from seeking rebirth. Or maybe he had just forgotten.
Many of the attendees at this party did not know why they were there, or what drew them to join this crowd of reborn immortals. As the years went on, they forgot little things and big ones: who they were, their gifts, their powers, their realms. Even the eldest of them began to forget. Hades could not remember where his throne was, or where their temples were once located. He did not remember why they had divvied up the realms the way they had. What exactly had drawn Poseidon to the seas? One only had to look at Zeus’s personality to understand why he chose the sky. Reading the mortals’ collected mythologies had helped retrieve some memories, but there were so many different versions it was difficult to know which was correct. He’d even heard of his own supposed wife, Persephone. She’d never appeared in any of his lives, nor had he found her in the Underworld, so he’d written it off as mythologists imaginations. Demeter also seemed to have no recollection of her ‘daughter’.
In the last few lifetimes, Hera had to be reminded that her husband was once unfaithful, and it was with uncertain hostility that she stood at his side, armed with what Hestia described as “Side Chick Slayer eyeliner” and “Bad Bitch lipstick”. Even the almighty Zeus himself sometimes came to visit Hades in lifetimes past, flicking nonexistent lint off of his pale, pinstripe suits as he awkwardly asked about one event or another. Hades had often watched or listened to his brother’s squirming with glee and a reluctant feeling of sympathy and understanding.
The evening drew to a close after Demeter’s grandfather clock, a great, gilt monstrosity, according to Hestia, chimed ten times. In a matter of moments, Hestia had Hades bundled up in his heavy winter coat and had handed him his cane before directing him out the door and into the winter air. Of all the people he expected to stop him from walking outside, Clotho was the last on his list.
“Lord of Earth,” a whispery voice called out. “A word, if I may?” Though he recognized the owner, it was difficult to place her location. The words came from nowhere and everywhere. They wrapped around him, laden with the power of the ancients that even the oldest gods would bow to.
He took his best guess and turned to face her. “Of course, ma’am.” He was ashamed when his voice quivered slightly. Though they seemed well-meaning most of the time, the Fates were to be feared. Hestia’s grip on his arm tensed and she slowly oriented him to face the woman.
The grandmotherly voice chuckled. “No need to be nervous, Dears, I don’t bear a prophecy for you tonight.” The two relaxed slightly. “Just a word of wisdom for you, Hades.”
Hades tensed again. If the Fates decided to interfere, there was something shifting in the cosmos.
“Of course, Clotho,” he replied as smoothly as he could. “Nothing would make me happier than to hear your wisdom.”
She giggled. “You flatter an old woman, Hades. Be careful on the way home tonight. I believe your wait is finally over.”
He had no idea what she was talking about. Beyond an Amazon package he’d ordered a month ago, there was nothing he was waiting for.
Gently, delicate papery hands clasped the arm Hestia wasn’t holding. He flinched, but let Clotho guide his hand to her face, understanding. With timid fingers, he mapped her face, feeling the sag and pull of skin and the sharp jutting of bones. Amidst the web of wrinkles and the scent of floral-and-spice face cream, he could tell that she was smiling, a gentle smile, one with no malice behind it. She wanted him to ‘see’ her intent was good.
“You’ll understand soon, Dear.”