I’m gonna be shameless here and state that this is my favorite story from my daughter. I loved it from the moment I read it and love it more with each reading. I originally posted this in October, 2014, because it’s creepy enough to have a Halloween feel to it (and we all know I loves me some Halloween).
To be honest, I can’t remember the exact wording for the prompt for this story. I think I’ve purged the email with the prompts as I can’t find it anywhere. I believe it was something along the lines of “write a story where the reader can’t tell what is real and what is a dream/illusion/etc” and boy did she deliver. If you enjoy it, consider leaving her a comment letting her know!
Abstract 2 by ba1969 on freeimages.com
They had started six months ago, the dreams. First he’d thought that was all they were, dreams based on his extensive research. He’d research myths of Hephaestus then he’d dream of working with the god’s Cyclops assistants in the forge that night. Or he’d research Demeter and suddenly she was coaching him on how to better his wife’s garden. He hadn’t taken them seriously, even as the garden miraculously began to flourish whenever he helped tend it. Not even when Helios took him on tour of the skies and showed him places he’d never even heard of.
It wasn’t until Hera appeared in his living room to tell him how to better his marriage that he began to wonder. He could have sworn he’d been awake. He’d even felt the goddess’s silken hair as they sat on his worn out little couch. She’d told him many things about his marriage, things he hadn’t thought he’d known: his wife’s disappointment in being uprooted from her family even as she encouraged his advancement to teach at a prestigious college, her longing to settle and have a family of her own even as she worked two jobs to keep herself busy, her recent miscarriage.
His wife had woken him up from his nap on the couch that afternoon, ripping away the image of the goddess and sending him reeling. Hadn’t he already been awake? At first he’d just brushed the incident off as stress and an overactive imagination induced by studying one topic for too long. While one sleeps, the mind does sort the events of what it had experienced during that day. He’d been studying Hera so he saw her in his nap although a nagging voice in the back of his mind told him that wasn’t it. It had been too real. He didn’t remember falling asleep at all. He hadn’t known what the Goddess had.
He chose not to study at all that night, intent to rest and let his mind clear. He’d taken Marianne to a local fair and enjoyed having some free time to dedicate to his wife. They hadn’t gone on a date in far too long. There had been folk dances, sword demonstrations and fortune tellers of such plenty that they nearly didn’t have time to see them all. One such fortune teller, though, had set him on edge even as his wife gushed over how wonderfully her tent had been decorated. He hadn’t voiced his uneasiness for fear of ruining the good cheer but this woman with eyes that glowed a putrid green had felt…wrong. She’d exuded the air of more witch than fortune teller and the feeling did not dissipate as she cut a lock of Marianne’s hair to read the future. The woman had claimed, though, that his wife would have a long life with many children, and as we left the stall, Marianne had been glorious in her joy. He had been more than happy to ignore the bad vibe from the woman and even the satyrs that danced around them in favor of admiring her natural beauty. That night though, as he’d held Marianne snug against his chest as they slept, he’d dreamt of fire.
The woman from the fair stood before him with Marianne’s hair held over a bubbling cauldron. She had been chanting in a language he couldn’t understand, but he’d gotten the impression it wasn’t anything good. He’d lunged forward as she’d sprinkled the hair into her cauldron, unable to prevent them from adding to the mixture. He could still remember her cackle, her scream that he was too late. She’d said his wife would die.
Again Marianne had been the one to wake him up. She’d found him standing in the basement in the middle of the night. Sleepwalking she’d called it, but as he looked back and saw the scorch mark on the basement floor, he knew it had been real. This time he knew for sure. That mark could only be made by a contained pile of burning wood. Everything escalated after that.
He asked Marianne about what the Queen Goddess had said. She hadn’t denied any of the accusations. The Goddess of Marriage had known. After that he made a calendar of what god he saw on which days. He identified the fortune teller: Hecate. The goddess of witchcraft had cursed his wife.
He poured himself into his research, determined to save her. He pleaded with Hera for help or advice, though she could offer little to help him. He’d tried every god he could think of, even speaking to Persephone as the beautiful young woman helped him to pick the vegetables that had ripened with her blessed arrival to the upper world. He had carefully kept his wife unaware of the curse upon her, determined to make her remaining life as stress free and enjoyable as he could. He could see her decaying little by little in front of him. Her skin was pale. Her eyes were glassy and unfocused. He didn’t have much time left.
He’d consulted with Athena, delved into witchcraft himself, everything to save her besides speaking with Erebus, the God of Death himself. He’d been too late. After months of searching and trying, he’d woken one morning to find his wife hanging lifelessly in the arms of Hades himself. His Marianne was gone. He’d tried everything that morning, begging and bargaining, but the Lord of the Underworld just laughed at his plight and disappeared. Now, not even his beloved gods could console him. He would get his revenge. He would play Orpheus and save his Eurydice from the jaws of Cerberus. He would dedicate his life to the pursuit.
Marianne Miles carefully schooled her expression into one of calm contemplation even as her heart panged with worry. The strange man in room 4852 still muttered to himself as he studied his precious calendar. She’d found him half buried in necromancy books in her university’s library four months ago and took him in when she noticed how underfed and delirious he was. She’d thought his mumbles about satyrs, gods, and her name had been a product of hunger induced delusions, but when they didn’t stop after 2 weeks, she became concerned.
She finally pried his address out of him soon after, only to find that the current residents had been there for 20 years. He insisted that was his residence, and he wasn’t old enough to have owned the house before them. She’d been mildly alarmed until he’d sudden become convinced she was his wife and they were in the Underworld. He’d been determined to save her, bring her back to life, and take his revenge on the god who took her from him. That was when she’d drawn the line.
Now he wandered his padded room in the city’s psychiatric ward, still muttering her name. The young woman frowned, though, as she caught sight of a strange rippling outside room 4852. She could barely catch the sound of male laughter and the shape of an ancient helmet before the air settled. The patient died fifteen minutes later in a padded room that housed nothing sharper than a crayon.