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Persephone Survives All The Winters at the End of Her Life On Earth Thanks to Global Warming

The seasons have been lost to me. I don’t see them change outside this window, I can no longer anticipate the tilting of the earth, feel how she distances her core from the sun. I see on the televised news that the scientists blame man, call it global warming. Is the earth dying? Am I, at last, dying, too? I am cold all the time.

There was a time when the earth mourned. The green grasses turned brown, the crops fallow in dusty beds, the trees withering and bare. This isn’t that time, but my body seems to be that earth. Remembering the grief.

I miss my mother.

In the main room, just outside the dining hall, is a huge bulletin board mounted on the wall. Someone has the job of updating it and it’s as though the staff believe we are children. The board is so primary in design and color. It changes for the god-made seasons and is decorated for the man-made holidays. It’s a tiresome thing. But I pay it daily attention. I need to, in order to be reminded of the equinoxes and the solstices.

The board has been bright with paper shining suns and beach umbrellas, seashells and stripey beach balls for so long now. Summer, I’m told. This represents summertime. The person at the information desk welcomes visitors and patiently explains to me that summer is three months long, the year twelve, autumn comes after summer. Do you like the summertime? She asks. I look at her with disdain and she chuckles at my dismissal of her. I lean on the infernal walker and move away. I’m only allowed outside now with an attendant. This has been required since the first day of spring, or leastways, the first day that the bulletin board was changed from a border of jaunty snowmen and cut-outs of falling snowflakes. A daisy chain and rainbows, wicker baskets of flowers, and rabbits. On that day I stood in front of the board and felt the world spin me widdershins. I turned and walked out an exit, down the cement walkway towards the duck pond. It was raining and I could not recollect what snow smelled like. I lay on the grass and a nurse ran outside, she said she saw me fall. I did not fall. I was the prostrate form praying to a forsaken god. The palms of my hands and my knees were showing bruises by that afternoon.

I am not alone in my room. There is another woman. She sleeps and sleeps. The sleep of olde, the sleep of ages. I have wondered if she is here to sleep for me. I cannot sleep but to dream. I lie awake and empty my mind because when I fall into the arms of Morpheus my mind is filled. The only rest I get is when I am awake.

My room-mate and I are alone, no one visits, there is no family, there are no friends. Our room is sparse and spartan, save for the bouquet of fresh flowers I purchase each week and have delivered. I tend them, moving the vase from window to nightstand, turning it this way and then that, instructing an attendant how to cut the stems beneath the running water in the bathroom sink and how to refill the vase with warm water and an aspirin.

One evening, I overheard two attendants as they entered the room to draw the curtains, shutting the window and clucking their tongues about it. I always open it.

I've been thinking. I have a theory, said one, quiet as the grave.

Don’t think too hard or you’ll hurt yourself, whispered the other with a smile in her voice.

That’s all I do in this place, is think.

Alright, what’s your theory?

These people, all these residents, so many of them don’t ever have a single visitor. Ever. In they come, and here they stay, until you know they go for good, but some can last months or years, like this one, and no one visits even once.

That’s a sad state of affairs. I’ll never end up in a place like this. I’ve told my sons, you make sure you marry wives who will take care of me in my old age. You make sure you work hard enough to buy a house with a granny unit in the back. You send me to a home and I’ll haunt you after I’m gone. I changed your diapers and you’ll change mine.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? You have your family, I have mine. I think there’s a reason so many of these folks are alone in here. It's a reflection of their lives.

You hush now. She shushed her and they left the room, pulling the door closed.

Where is my family, my friends? I thought. Am I not alive? Is this place the bank of the River Styx? What kind of person was I? What kind of person had I been?

I counted my breaths, and courted the cousin of Death.

I am walking away from the home, I am barefooted and the cement pathway feels like a punishment beneath my soles, I step off the path and onto the grass. The lawn has not been mown but has been allowed to grow wild and tall, there are dandelion clocks. What time is it? I ask out loud. A swan trumpets an answer from the duck pond. I circle the water, the reeds are bending away from the breeze. The water is black glass, a clouded mirror. I look for the mated pair of birds, shielding my eyes with both hands. There is only one, it is the cob, he is on the water where he is most graceful but his movements are lop-sided. Has he injured a wing, a foot, I wonder. He lifts his head and cries for the pen. She does not appear, not through the cattails, not out of the sky. I lower my hands and they are dirt-stained, my nails broken and bleeding as though I have been digging in the earth.

The next day I had a visitor.

You have a visitor, miss. Let’s get you up and dressed. We can go meet him on the back patio, if you’d like.

I was being bustled. I didn’t care for that, man handled, woman handled. And it wasn’t that I objected to being waited on, but rather, attended to as though an object, a thing. Of course, I had long ago lost my identity. A visitor?

Who is it? I asked. The attendant paused in her ministrations, arms up, nightgown off, sweater over my head.

Did you say something, miss?

Who is it? Is it him? Finally come?

I don’t know, miss. I don’t know who it is.

She helped me up and pulled the black skirt on over my hips and fastened it at the waist. I was beautiful once, I wanted to tell her. My hips swayed in that way that calls lovers, my hair flowed down my back, and my eyes were clear and could see forever. There used to be a forever, I want to tell her.

Do you want me to go down to the main desk and ask for his name? she asked me. It was a kindness.

No, no that’s okay, I told her. There’s only two men it could be. I’m ready. I settled down into the the wheelchair and she maneuvered me out the door of the shared room. In the threshold, I glanced over at my roommate asleep in her narrow bed.

Go home, I would urge her in the night. The night was never truly dark and never quiet. Nightlights and hall lights and the door opening and closing throughout. Sometimes there would be crying, low voices that always sent a chill, and the clattering of the steel wheels of a gurney. God speed, I would say out loud at the sound of the EMTs and their burden.

Suddenly, I knew it would be the winged messenger. For the first time in decades I wished I had a cigarette. Or a highball glass, two fingers please, neat.

In the main hallway, the bulletin board had been changed. A border of falling leaves, red and gold.

The automatic glass doors opened and I was pushed outside. He was standing at the far end of the back patio, not turning at the sound of my arrival. It was him, of course it was.

This is fine, this will do, I told the attendant. And reached over my shoulder to pat her hand. She locked the wheels and I was left alone with him. Everyone was alone with him. They just didn’t realize it at first, he was so personable, but his messages were always for a single soul, his hand extended for a single journey.

I waited, looking out at the manicured world I inhabited. The perfectly cut lawn, the grass so green it was not natural, my beloved dandelion clocks poisoned. The willow trees weeping here and there, branches trimmed just out of reach of the ground, denied their grief. Down at the bottom of the expansive lawn was a duck pond. Some of the residents were pushed down to its bank by relatives or the indulgent attendant. Bags of bread crumbs on their lap blankets, and they were allowed to throw bits and pieces into the water for the hungry fowl. I had seen a mated pair of swans there when I first arrived and visited them daily when I could still use my own feet to travel.

One day the pen was gone, skunk I assumed, or car, or perhaps she had simply had enough of married life and flew away. But the big male circled and circled the pond. I had told the front desk about it and they told me there were no swans, perhaps I meant the ducks. Dunces, I called them. I didn’t walk down to the pond again. The cob was too plaintive. I could hear him trumpeting for his mate, forsaken, for nights and nights. Even with my hearing aids in a dish on the nightstand, I had to pull the pillow over my head to muffle his cries.

My visitor and I spoke. The things he had been sent to tell me, the words he uttered, were memories. After he took his leave, I pulled the shawl tighter around my shoulders, tucked my own legs in with the lap blanket and looked out at the world. The morning was growing cool, the sky overcast, the skies holding back tears. I closed my eyes and with no warning, it all came back to me, all the things I had forgotten, the passing seasons, the drowsiness of the world, the smell of the first autumn rain on the summer-warmed earth.

There’s a word for that, he told it to me a long time ago, he said it was the same word for the fluid that runs in our veins, filling our hearts.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 22nd, 2016 02:30 am (UTC)
Thank you, G, for reading and leaving such detailed comments. I am slightly worried that readers will feel that I'm in judgement of nursing homes/assisted care or that this piece reflects my own feelings about geriatric care. I'm not and it doesn't. It's a relief that we can offer such high quality care in most cases to those in need. My grandmother and grandfather had to be moved out of their home and into an apartment and out of that apartment and into assisted care and my grandmother simply wasn't going to be part of it. She died three months after my father got them settled.

It was tragic.

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother and her strokes. It is such a challenging time for everyone, emotionally and mentally exhausting. *hugs*

The prompt "petrichor" is defined as the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek, petra, meaning "stone", + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

So, I'm thinking this is an ageing Persephone, an absent Hades, and Hermes the messenger.
May. 22nd, 2016 08:51 am (UTC)
The seasons have been lost to me. It's another sad piece isn't it. I don't have it in me today to read and comment on sad so I'll come back later :)
May. 22nd, 2016 02:45 pm (UTC)
*hugs* It is a sad piece. I know you've been wanting something upbeat and positive, L. I'm working on Vellichor. What are you working on these days? Are your MMOM writings keeping you smiling? ;)
May. 22nd, 2016 04:07 pm (UTC)
I'll look forward to that :)
Yes, I'm working on my solo celebration card and I even wrote an orig fic fantasy piece for it that also got crossposted to my professional blog so it's been useful!
May. 23rd, 2016 03:11 pm (UTC)
i really like that the effects of global warming (as well as her body aging) have disconnected persephone from the seasons and the movement of the earth. it just shows how connected she is to the natural world, and how big a disruption people can be.

and while this is very sad, i got the impression that she's in a genuinely nice facility, and her problems with it and with her treatment stem from her own personality and the fact that aside from her disconnect to the earth, she's still sharp enough to recognize and judge how she's being treated. it's not the place, it's her.

i never think of gods or the god-adjacent as getting old, so this was a really thoughtful glimpse of the elderly persephone.
May. 23rd, 2016 04:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you, C! I'm really glad that you were on the same page reading this that I was on writing it! I'm still working overtime with the myth....and the modern AU that I want the gods and goddesses to inhabit. Your comments mean a lot!
May. 23rd, 2016 03:50 pm (UTC)
This was just gorgeous.
May. 23rd, 2016 04:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really appreciate you reading and commenting!
(Deleted comment)
May. 24th, 2016 02:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you, R! "a prison for people who didn't commit crimes"! I like that. I like your mind, though. There's so much more to be explored in that analogy! Daycare? Schools? Hmmmm....

Hahahahaha...right?! I remember, in the midst of my most industrial years, thinking smugly that no music could ever be MORE than TG or EN or SPK....and it seems to have been proven true. Some have tried, all have failed. What will we be listening to in our dotage?

I've heard a lot of blathering inside these places and none of it makes much sense, more the aides just thinking out loud.
May. 24th, 2016 07:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. This is so sad. It haunts me with its sadness. I'm so glad she still has her spunk in spite of her situation.

Poor Persephone. I felt sad for her before, but this is almost unbearable. But, beautiful, beautiful work here. There is something to the lonley swan, alone in his pond that trumpets her isolation, her loneliness.

Poor, poor Persephone.
May. 25th, 2016 04:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you, M! I really wanted to see Persephone as more human than goddess and wondering what would happen if she was trapped here in a seasonless world.
May. 25th, 2016 06:06 am (UTC)
This is such a fascinating way to re-imagine this character, alone and worn out and wondering what to make of it all. Waiting for Death, her husband, who has vanished when she is finally ready to go-- waiting and waiting, like that swan out by the pond.

Sad and thoughtful and beautiful, all at the same time.
May. 25th, 2016 04:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, K!!! *HUGS* You totally and completely got everything I was hoping to convey with this. I'm so blown away by your comments. Thank you, thank you!!
May. 26th, 2016 02:46 pm (UTC)
An aged Persephone using a walker/wheelchair -- what a great idea! I loved the way you tied this in to global warming, but only briefly. Your language was beautiful and sharp, as always. Is this the end of your Persephone writings? You have grown as a writer while creating them. I loved the idea of the visitor, at the end, being sent to tell her memories.
May. 26th, 2016 04:47 pm (UTC)
Again, G, thank you so much! I definitely feel that this mini-season of Idol has really helped me work out the literary kinks in my desire to tell this modern dress story! I'm so grateful for that opportunity because without reader feedback I would have been stumbling around in the dark much longer. This is not the end of my story, but it is the end of my experimentation. I want to write this in novella form, and then I have ideas for short stories that also put some of the myths in modern dress. This is my plan and goal for after this Idol season!
May. 26th, 2016 06:46 pm (UTC)
This sounds like a great idea! I'm sure you will be very successful at it. My goal is to wait for the next Idol season, and write some more snippets.
May. 26th, 2016 07:15 pm (UTC)
I need to buckle down and practice self-discipline with my writing.

I wonder what is next on the itinerary for Idol. I look forward to all your writings!

And one of these days we have to get together. The four of us! Here, there, inbetween!
May. 26th, 2016 08:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, we all need to get together. K and I have been talking about it for a long time, but talk is cheap and it is past time for us to meet the people behind the words.
May. 26th, 2016 08:03 pm (UTC)
Absolutely adore your interp of old Persephone and her interactions with the world, the things she does that define herself even though she's lost and alone and she's lost so much of herself, so sorrowful and bittersweet. Beautifully done.
May. 27th, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you, J! Your enthusiastic support of this modern dress has made such a difference! This is the greatest thing I am taking from Idol this season - the ability/desire/motivation/direction to write this story!
May. 26th, 2016 09:37 pm (UTC)
So, left field comment here, but I wonder what Persephone would make of living somewhere closer to the equator or the polls where seasons work differently than in Europe? Would it shake it her faith? Would she just feel that those areas are outside her domain?

I love the idea that she withers as the Earth withers. I also love how the bulletin board reflects the seasons (and how quickly they change from her perspective!) better than the actual Earth does. I also love the swan metaphor which I took as a nod to her relationship with Hades (is he the other potential visitor? I love that she doesn't reference him directly).

Anyhow, I love your work with mythology. Another great entry!

This is the song I thought of - it always struck me as being nostalgic for a more pastoral time in one's life. I could be wrong.

May. 27th, 2016 02:21 pm (UTC)
THAT is exactly what makes modern dress so tantalizing! How would this established character react to something so otherworldly to it's reality? Great idea!

We do return to a kind of human childhood as we age. Some of us do and the bulletin board just struck me hard. How do you keep track when one day runs into another and another and another.

Thank you so much for these thoughts and this video!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )