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Psyche and Eros
bestowed. My head was spinning and my heart was falling as the words played from their tongues. A monster was to be my husband.
We set up a parade of sorrow for me to march to a near valley where I was to be sacrificed to my husband. That night I couldn’t find a restful sleep. As I lay in my bed thoughts bubbled in my head of how my destiny would play out. Anything was preferable to being looked upon the way I was every day. Maybe this could be a good-OUCH! A sudden prick woke me from my trance. I heard stumbling then a long delayed echo to my cry but saw no one. For a long while my chambers were still and silent. Then I felt the air around me blow against my cheek like a tender hand. It was warm and calming. Feeling strangely at ease, I laid myself back against the pillows and slept.
In the morning I met a mile long parade of mourners lead by my parents and two sisters visiting from adjourning kingdoms. It was a long walk to the valley. The march was silent and every flower seemed to droop in sadness as we passed. There was a melancholy taste in the air that I’d imagine left a sticky sent as we walked through the land.
When we had finally reached the valley I turned to face my parents. With liars lips I smiled and assured them that I would be fine and write often. They turned away leaving me to my fate. Within minutes there was no trace of their existence besides that taste of melancholy.
A sudden weight seemed to be lifted from my shoulders. I burst into a frolicking run. No one to please, no one to stare at me without blinking like an accursed gargoyle, mouth open and eyes wide. I was already in paradise. Who cared if I was married to a monster? Let him be the Minotaur as long as not another soul stared on me with hungry eyes. I was free! When exhaustion finally stopped me I lay down amongst a grove of flowers and fell asleep.
I had a dream that I was flying high through the air making my way to a mountain. When I awoke, I opened my eyes to the absent pallet of colorful flowers. Instead there was a palace of gold and red with tapestries that could be gazed at for hours, statues that gave off the false impression of life, and architecture worthy of Daedalus.
“Hello, my lady, and welcome.” A faceless voice mused.
“Whose there? Show yourself. Where am I? ”
“No reason to distress, mistress. You are safe in this new home. This is the estate of your husband.”
This intrigued me and put my mind at ease. “Where is my husband?”
“Rest now.” The voice commanded soothingly. “I shall show you to your room where you can sleep. When you are ready I shall draw your bath and escort you to dinner.”
“Thank you.” I said dazed with confusion. A gentle wind pushed me down the hall way. At the end I opened the heavy oak doors to a chamber the size of my kitchen back home. It was enormous with flowing drapery, a canopy bed, and a closet that seemed to hold a thousand dresses. The colors seemed to blink in and out changing every so often, they flashed with royal blues, deep soothing purples, then jumped wildly to electrified gold’s and passionate reds. I threw myself on the bed only to sink into the sheets. They smelled of warm peach fields and sunshine. On the ceiling, faux stars twinkled even with the sun high in the sky outside.
This palace was breathtaking and I had only seen a small corner of it. But would my new husband strike the luster from these walls? Would this prison hold no joy for me as soon as my eyes drunk in this foretold monster?
Casting my worries aside I emerged myself deeper into the bed and found sleep.
When I woke the sun was skirting the horizon. My invisible servant was there to draw my bath and take me to dinner. She…he…whatever it was told me that my husband would return from his duties that night when the sun was down.
With anxiety leaping in my stomach I picked out the most beautiful dress I could find in my closet. It hugged my curves nicely and made my eyes stand out like a politician amongst philosophers. At the table I was too distracted to notice as the plates seemed to set themselves. I ate a decent meal but kept my eye on the sun that seemed to drop slower and slower as my anticipation grew.
Finally it was night. I sat on my bed ringing the sheets between my hands until they were balled and wrinkly. There was a noise just outside the door and I jumped from the bed. No moonlight shone through the gaping windows making it pitch black in the room even with the stars on the ceiling. I heard the doors being pushed open and was struck with a sudden fear. What if he planned to kill me?
I could hardly hear his feet pad across the stone floor. He placed the lightest of touches on my cheek. It felt just as the wind had the night I had left and the day I was in the valley. I knew it then, that all those times it had been him.
“Oh, it’s you.” I said pushing my cheek against his hand and grasping it with my own. His skin was soft and smooth, pleasantly devoid of scales or fur.
“Do you like our home?” His voice was like water on stone.
“Yes it’s lovely.”
“And the servants are to your liking?”
“I only wish I could see them. I feel as though I might bump into one and hurt them.” He laughed at this. “I also wish to see you, husband. I know not your name even.”
“And I think that to be best at this point.” He wrapped me in his arms. “Call me only darling and love. I beg you; gaze on me with your heart not your eyes for eyes can deceive and lead love away while the heart holds it true.”
“But the prophecy depicts you as a monster.” I lay my head against his chest hearing the steady beat of what I hoped to be a man’s heart. Tears began to push behind my eyes.
My husband let out a small laugh. “I am a god, not a monster I assure you. But I don’t want you to think of me as a relic to be worshiped rather a man to be loved. Many a mortal fall to my feet in worship, I could not bear to look down and see you, my lovely Psyche.”
My heart melted at his word but my mind still screamed for some kind of evidence. “Prove this to me. Let me see you.”
“There are other ways besides sight to prove one’s identity.” He pulled away and took my hand. Bringing it to his neck he moved it up and around his jaw line. Losing his guidance I fallowed his jaw to the scraggly mess of hair then back across his cheeks, smooth and warm. His nose was cold and his eyes were large and rounded with a sturdy brow. My hands wandered to his lips and when they got there, he took my hand back and kissed the pads of my fingers.
We laid together just feeling each other’s embrace. His arms were wrapped around me strong and sturdy while my head covered his bare chest, my hair spread across his stomach. Soon his breathing became deep and even and my own sleep soon followed.
When the liquid sun of morning pored through the windows I reached over to feel for my husband. In his place was a rose with a ring around it. The note beside it read ‘a wedding ring for my bride.’
I smiled and slipped it on over my finger. This man was no monster. The Oracle of Delphi’s prophecies were never as they seemed anyway, right?
Weeks passed in luxury with slow honey sweet days and passionate romance filled nights with my husband. Not once did I catch his appearance but not once did I think on it. The curiosity of such naïve things had left me completely when his words filled my heart. But days spent alone in leisure are still bitter to the taste.
That night I asked my husband for a favor.
“Anything to please that which makes my world shine like Apollo’s chariot.”
I smiled at this. “I wish to see my sisters.”
His discomfort was thick in the air. “Yes but you must promise me that this is for your comfort not profit.”
“Never would I disrespect you like that. I know you like your privacy, dear husband.” I gave him a euphoric kiss.
The next day Zephyr was to bring my sisters on the wind to my palace. When they arrived the usually quiet air was pierced with frantic screams of joy. I took them on a tour of my palace. They gazed at the decorations drunk with amazement. But at every turn only one question left their lips. ‘Where was my husband?’
In the garden I had my servants bring us tea and watched as my sisters wondered at the floating objects. After I had explained why they were floating my sisters were on me at the throat.
“So what does he look like?”
“Is he a beast with hair?”
“So many stories have been floating around.”
“Some say you were eaten.”
“Others you were sacrificed to Aphrodite.”
I stopped them feeling dizzied by their words. “Sisters, please! First of all my husband is a kind and gentle man that makes my heart leap and prance at his very touch! The love we have is unquenchable and unreal, the love you hear about in stories. Not a moment passes between us that is not in its own way beautiful. I’m higher than Olympus when I’m in his arms.”
My sisters stared for a moment with blank eyes. “Yes, but what does he look like?”
My heart which had once been so light with the thoughts of my husband was now heavy with the realization at how shallow my sisters were. They could never fathom the love that had replaced my blood, the joy that I took in with every breath.
“Sisters it does not matter the appearance as long as the heart is pure.”
“But why does he hide?”
“What if he is a monster?”
“Yes, what if he plans to eat you?”
“And if he cooks you and feeds you to our own parents?”
In my years living with my sisters I had grown accustomed to their insistent chatting building off each other like reworded echo’s creating a story with too many a question to answer. They continued on with me hardly lending an ear until the eldest asked the question that pushed me farther than before.
“Do you know where he goes during the day? Who’s to say he’s not juggling five or six wives? Just using you like a pawn and buying your affection and loyalty?”
My blood boiled. “Sisters I think its time you take your leave.”
With sad expressions they were carried off to their own kingdoms to ruin them with pity and suspicion.
Running to my bed I jumped in and cried until I was exhausted and spent on tears. I hadn’t even realized I was asleep until my husband woke me up. He scooped me into his arms and rocked with me.
“I was told your visit went a bit sourer then you would have liked.”
I could do nothing but weep.
“What had troubled my darling so? Tell me and I shall bend the fabric of time to make it right.”
I bent up and kissed his cheek. “I love you so, my dear. It brings me such pleasure to be here with you in this splendid home laying in your arms by night.”
“But what has upset you?”
“My sisters. When I was cast to that valley there was a prophecy that my husband would be a monster, I’ve told you that.”
“Well they pestered me with questions about you. Bombarded is more like it, attacked me!”
“Come you must rest, my love. Sleep will shake these thoughts from your pretty head.”
With reluctance I gave in to my heavy eyes and slept.
The days carried on the same as before but worry sat on the fringes of my minds. The days seemed less luxurious, the nights less pleasurable.
I was dying from the stress of it, drowning in a pit of sorrow and curiosity. Then one night I cracked. Under the bed I had hidden a lamp. When my husband fell asleep I would finally gaze upon the face of this possible beast that had captured my heart.
When I lit the lamp I held my breath as the light spilled over him. He was breathtaking. Smooth tanned skin, gorgeous lips, and a muscled torso. Not a hint of monstrosity in sight. He looked so familiar, like I’d seen him in a painting….it was Eros. Child of Aphrodite herself. Though he had said he was a god of sorts I had never expected it to be of such truth. I leaned over a bit farther, my fatal mistake. A bit of hot oil dripped from the lamp landing on my dear husband’s shoulder.
He shot up and out of bed on wings of cloudy white. I tried to follow, tears streaming from my eyes at the realization of what I had done, but I fell straight out of the window into the garden.
“I loved you!” My husband called from his high heavens.
All at once I was back in the field. “Forgive my cursed curiosity.” I whispered clutching my shoulders and rocking. The tears flowed until light filled the sky.
I wandered the surrounding forest in search of some high tree in which to climb and see my mountain. Maybe I could somehow make it back and apologize to my husband, Eros for what I had done. There was no such luck so I continued to wander the surrounding lands.
Days and sleepless nights blurred into featureless time. One day I came upon a field of corn stroon about. I spent a week organizing the corn stalks. When they had finally been fully organized Demeter herself appeared before me.
“I appreciate what you have done for me, young Psyche.” She said with the summer breeze on her tongue. “Now that you have helped me I owe you a favor.”
“Oh Lady Demeter, I seek neither favor nor retribution.”
“And yet no good deed shall go unrewarded. Go to the sea and throw a dove over the ocean. This shall be a sacrifice to Aphrodite and she shall grace you with her presence. Ask for a task to get your heart’s love back if that is what you truly seek.”
“It is!” I shrieked hardly able to breath at the joy of this offer. “Thank you Lady Demeter! Thank you! I am eternally grateful!”
With that she was gone and I was off to the sea.
Once there I fallowed her instructions and awaited Aphrodite’s arrival.
A flash of gold woke me from a fitful trance. “What mortal has summoned me?” She looked down on me and sneered with distaste. “Oh it is Psyche, the jewel of the eyes of men, breaker of my son’s heart.”
“I know we are at odds for reasons I can not fully understand. But I have a service to ask of you my Lady, my goddess.”
She scoffed. “What service should I do for you, mortal?”
I swallowed the tears that hung in my eyes. “Give me a chance to win back your son.”
Surprise and reluctance flashed across her beautiful face. “Perhaps I could give you a task.”
My heart jumped.
Aphrodite studied me for a moment then she sighed. “Being the goddess of love I can tell your heart belongs to my Eros. However, what you did was unacceptable. This task shall be difficult and trying.”
“And I will accept it all the same.”
Suddenly we were in a field with a mountain of assorted grains. “Your task is to sort these different grains individually.”
I gazed on the pile with determination. I could do this.
“You must complete this task by sundown today.”
I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the sand. “This task is impossible!”
Her lips pulled up into a coy smile. “That’s the point. Ta-ta.”
With that she flashed out leaving me with a field of grain. I sat and started in on the pile with thoughts of Eros spinning wildly in my mind.
My husband, my love, my only desire. Could he really be lost to me forever?
An hour in, I had hardly made a dent in the never ending mountain. I started to cry but pressed on with my work.
Soon ants started to swarm the pile and sort the grains as I had been before. I joined in with them. As the sun drooped below the horizon the grain was in four distinct piles, the ants disappeared.
Aphrodite flashed in with an expectant grin that was instantly melted from her face when she saw me throw the last grain into its pile.
“This was not of your doing!” She bellowed. “My son has helped you in some way.”
She let out an outraged cry and we were on the ridge over looking a field of golden sheep.
“You are to give me a piece of wool from every sheep in that valley. You are to do this without the help of my son.” Again she was gone.
I scaled the ridge down to the valley and prepared to approach the sheep when a flash of gold stopped me. A powerful scent of sea salt and fresh air swept over me and I knew to cast my gaze away from an elder god.
My respect was met by a light hearted laugh. “Rise child, you don’t need to cast away your gaze nor pay me such respect. I came to talk as equals.”
“Poseidon any help would be much appreciated. I would owe you a favor as great as I do to Demeter. Soon I shall be not bored but frantic with favors to my merciful gods.”
Poseidon laughed. “Psyche, I have had a good feeling about you since the beginning. Now I offer my help. These sheep are sacred to Apollo and burn with the intensity of the sun. Let me collect their wool and bring it back to you.”
“As much as I do favor that idea, I must do this myself. I must earn back my love.”
Poseidon grinned at me with pride then laid a kiss on my head. “Then go and be successful. I wish you luck on your journey.”
One thing I was learning about the gods was how quickly they seemed to come and go, at least in the affairs of humans.
I approached the sheep without fear and was not scorched by their fleeces though I could feel the heat surrounding me. I sung while I worked drawing more and more of the sheep near to me. In no time I had a bag of wool for the goddess.
No sooner had I finished than Aphrodite came to collect.
“What’s this? The touch of Poseidon?” She laughed. “What a flirt. You both would be such a pair. Why not run to him and be his bride? I’m sure you could grow gills, as slimy as you are.”
“My lady if you are dissatisfied, I plead you one more chance.”
With a huff we were at the entrance of a dark palace. “I am not permitted in the palace of the dead. The souls cling to me like animal hair. I want you to go in and fetch Persephone. She will give you a box containing a sample of her beauty.”
“But you are the goddess of beauty, how could you require it from someone else?”
Aphrodite gritted her teeth. “Because I have become weakened and ugly by putting in my time and energy towards my son’s health.”
Fear gripped my stomach. I bit my tongue to resist the urge to ask if Eros was alright. “I shall fetch your parcel, mistress.”
“Oh and mortal?”
I turned to meet her gaze.
“Don’t open the box.”
I nodded assurance and entered the palace. There sat the lord of the dead and his bride Persephone.
“Welcome, Psyche.” She smiled from her throne.
“You look tiered from your journey. Can I offer you some food?” Hades grinned humbly and gestured to a table full of tantalizing food.
Persephone shot him a paralyzing glare. “Now, dear, she’s proven herself enough for one day.”
“Yes but my brother likes her therefore I can’t.”
Being naïve in the ways of the gods I asked why.
“Because me and my two brothers call mortals to like and help. The others must then dislike them and try to stand in their way.” He rolled his eyes. “It’s a rivalry thing.”
I laughed. “Sounds complicated if you ask me.”
“Oh it is. But I may have to break that. I’m starting to get swayed to your side young one.” He smirked.
“Anyways,” Persephone spoke up. “What is your business?”
“Aphrodite sent me to collect a parcel that you have for her.”
“Ah yes,” Persephone smiled. “I have it right here.” She held out her hand and a decorated box materialized in it.
She gave it to me and warned again not to pry open the lid. I thanked them kindly for their generosity.
“Sure you won’t stay for a bite?” Hades asked with a joking smile.
Persephone wished me well and turned to address her husband. I cringed at the suffering the lord of the dead was about to endure.
Outside the gates of Hades’ palace sat Aphrodite checking her appearance in a mirror. When she saw me approach, the goddess sat up and made the mirror vanish.
“You’re back alive, very good. Where’s the box?”
I tried not to roll my eyes at her. “Yes here it is.” I handed the box to the goddess and awaited her decree. “Have I completed my task to your liking?”
“Yes I suppose.” She opened the box and smiled at the contents. “Do you wish to see?”
“No thank you.” I tried to shrug the goddess’ failed trick off. “What of Eros? Have I earned back my love?”
“Oh you simply must see.” She turned the open box to face me, catching me off guard. A blinding exhaustion washed over me and I felt myself drop. The momentum of my fall caused me to roll down to the River Styx where I would surely be incinerated.
I almost began to pray for death. Maybe then my heart’s mournful cries would be silenced. The acid of the river was hot on my skin…but just then a gentle breeze swept me up and away from the river. The familiar warmth made me weep with joy.
It was my Eros come to save me.
We flew through the earth until I could feel sky. His wings pulsed strongly beating in time with his heart. It wasn’t until we hit the fresh air that I realized the extent of my injuries. Even a drop of water from the River Styx can rip one’s soul from their body. I had come close enough to barely touch its deadly waters. In the arms of my love, I was dying.
“Forgive me.” I whispered thinking it to the last words my lips would release.
Eros held me tighter and seemed to fly faster. Then everything went black.
I assumed I would wake back in the land of the dead but when I opened my eyes I saw only Eros.
“Shh rest now, my sweet.”
“I should have never...”
“Psyche, I do not blame you for your curiosity. All mortals are cursed with this. Luckily you have been stripped of your mortal qualities as well as me of my secret. We now have nothing stopping us from being together.” His arms wrapped around me tight.
“What do you mean?”
“Your mortal soul has been ripped from your body. I had to save you, my love, so I had the Olympian council give you the kiss of immortality.”
“How long was I dead?”
“Only a few days. It didn’t take long for me to black mail and bribe the whole council. It wasn’t hard, especially considering that half the council seems more in love with you than I am, if that were possible.” He laughed pulling away slightly.
“So I am to be your wife for eternity?” I was high in the sky again, floating on a cloud of ecstasy.
“Yes, should you choose it?”
I jumped up from the bed and threw my arms around him tight. “Should I choose it? What would be of me should I not? A shriveled hag forever searching for the love she once possessed? I think not, dear husband.” I showered him with kissed revering at the feeling of having him in my arms once more.
“I love you, Psyche, my wife.”
“And I love you, Eros, god of my heart.”
I looked at that playful smile knowing I would be looking at it for the rest of my immortal life. My own smile stretched across my face. As long as that smile belonged to me I cared not for time.