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  • Writer's pictureMarías at Sampaguitas

Flash Fiction by Emily Deibler

Iron Girl

She stole more from him than he from her. It was how Olympian marriages worked since Zeus tricked Hera into opening her golden window after he pretended to be a hurt cuckoo bird. Persephone had learned many horrible truths from her father, and her mother had done everything to protect her, once.

Hades had stolen her away from her meadow of honeysuckle and wild strawberries where dryads braided each other's hair. It was a green land free of darkness, sorrow, satyrs lurking in the underbrush.

Melancholy came in equal strides with joy. To call Persephone a blissfully happy wife was not entirely correct, nor was she completely a victim, much like Hera—with her sky-hemmed dress of peacock feathers had suffered but still found her strength, her wrath.

Persephone sometimes wondered if she should consider her wrath strength. Mother had never been vengeful or cruel. But then, Mother had never lost as much as her, which Persephone knew was something she shouldn't feel.

(six seeds, six months, for six thousand years)

Hades was, of course, far less worse than his brothers. He was less unfaithful and less stressed over the course of eternity. That didn't make his betrayals less stinging; she never had the chance to grow numb, to fully become hardened as he touched her cheek and made her bracelets of asphodels and sparrow bones. He could be gentle, and she told him that, yes, he'd been forgotten, lonely. But she'd just been a girl, a girl burdened by the crimes of the gods before her. Hades had seen her beauty and thought himself entitled to it, a possessor, a conqueror. The blood of Kronos—the ichor—could only be diluted so much by the black, soul-dappled water of the Styx.

First, Persephone stole Hades’ dog. Once she was truly bound to the Underworld and could eat the food, she had fed Cerberus some lamb, and that was it. His tongues lolling, he'd let her ride him when he was supposed to protect the Underworld portcullis. Whenever she came near after being gone for the warm months, he looked at her with his six wide red eyes and started slapping the ground, dirt kicking up and rock thundering. Hades hadn't been thrilled, but he had eventually smiled after his dog's betrayal.

Next, she had stolen the hearts of his people and allies. Her fellow chthonic gods and goddesses, especially Hecate, had taken to her. Swiftly, she had secured her place on her throne of skulls and lilies.

Then, she stole his legacy. No one spoke of Hades as a singular entity. It was Hades and Persephone. No one could go too long speaking of the God of the Underworld before a pomegranate was mentioned. His name was hers. She—half-lightning and half-grave with sunflowers in her hair—had stained his name like scarlet juice stained her fingers. Even life had begun to creep into the vale of the shadow of death; the asphodels grew higher, stronger.

Thousands of girls took her as their goddess long after Ancient Greece and Rome had fallen. Girls with roaring stars in their eyes and bruises on their knees. None of the gods had aged particularly well. Her name was whispered, lighting the air like fireflies and witches’ laughter. The Dread Mother, the Dark Maiden, the Iron Queen.

(necklace of hemlock and poppies, crown of bone, heart of steel)

Persephone liked to think the marriage was equal. She had not wilted in the fire and grief she endured. Zeus had stolen her trust and safety, teaching her his youngest daughter was no different to him than the other women he hurt. The Titans had stolen her first child, ripped off his limbs and ate him. Hades had given her a kingdom and companionship. He had given her, in his own terrible way, a home. She loved him as a rose did, minding her thorns. (tending to them all the same) Her backbone had gone from porcelain to obsidian, magma.

She had to admit she could be greedy. After all, the gods weren't the only ones with conqueror's blood in their veins.

A native of North Georgia, Emily Deibler is a published poet and author. Her short story “Deer in December” was published in TL;DR Press’ Halloween 2018 Horror collection, NOPE. She has also published her poems “Turkey Hunting,” “Patty,” “Samantha,” and “Daughters of the Sun.” Her debut novel, Dove Keeper, came out in October 2018. She can be found on Twitter at @emilydeibler.

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