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The Nameless Stranger: A Modern Twist on the myth of Persephone & Hades
I was in a barren field that seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. The air was hot and dry; a putrid burning smell floated in the air. The grass beneath my feet was dead. Scorch marks littered the barren wasteland. I had no idea how I had gotten to this lifeless place. The sun was setting off in the horizon; the sky, an ominous shade of scarlet.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” I called out into the twilight. My voice resonated around me as though I were in a giant metal dome and not a field, not outside. The sky was simply an illusion.
Then out of nowhere a warm deep breath whispered in my ear.
“Behind you, il mio angelo*.”
I whipped my head around to see a tall dark figure off in the distance. I could see was his tall muscular physique, but his face was darkened as if by an opaque shadow.
“Who are you?” I demanded with synthetic courage. My heart was racing a million miles an hour and I could feel the adrenaline tingling through my body to the tips of my fingers.
“I’m coming for you, il mio angelo. Soon you will be mine.”
A rancid smell like sulfur filled the air. He raised his hands up to the “sky,” and the field burst into flames.
I woke with a start drenched in sweat. An icy breeze blew through the open window sending shivers down my spine. This was the second night I had had that dream, both of them were the same; same faceless man, same barren wasteland, same fiery end. I had no idea what it meant.
I looked over to my bedside table; the clock read 6 AM. My shift at The Lexicon, the local bookstore, started in two hours. My head hit the pillow again. I woke up again an hour or so later, got dressed, and made my way downstairs.
“Sephone, darling you’re awake finally! I made pancakes and eggs for breakfast. We got this new brand of wheat pancake mix in at the the factory, so I thought I’d give it a try!” My mother, Demi, informed me when I walked into the kitchen. I loved her to death, but sometimes she was just a little too enthusiastic a little too early in the morning. She was the manager of Organic Wheat, the local grain factory in town. A single mother, my “father” had knocked her up when she was 18 and abandoned us before I was even born.
“Thanks, mom. That was sweet of you,” I said to her, still in a daze from the dream. I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach; like poison butterflies with razor wings were fluttering around inside. Knowing me better than anyone else, she could immediately tell something was off.
“Honey, what’s wrong? You look very pale.” Her face was full of genuine concern. She put her hand to my forehead. “You’re absolutely burning up! I think we should call Horace and tell him you need to take a sick day today. You’re working yourself much too hard at that place.”
“Mother, that’s not the problem. I love working at the store … I’ve just been having this weird dream is all …”
A look that I could not identify passed across my mother’s sharp features. Then ever so slowly, she sat down at the table where I was, completely forgetting about breakfast. All good cheer having vanished from her face, a somber expression had taken its place.
“Tell me exactly what happened in this dream.”
So I told her.
“I want you home right after work. No shortcuts, no detours. Just come home. I think it’s time for you to know … everything,” she said cryptically. I had no clue what she was talking about, so I just passed it off as her overreacting as usual. She had always been very protective of me for as long as I could remember. Perks of being an only child.
“Alright, mom. Whatever you say.” I looked at the clock, it read 8:20. “C***, I have to go. Love you.” I kissed her check and left the house politely ignoring her calls for me to take my breakfast with me.
I arrived to work with three minutes to spare. In four years of working at The Lexicon I had never once been late for work. As I walked into the door, I sensed something was different, wrong. There was a dark, sinister aura in the store. I could feel it in my bones. My breath caught in my lugs, and I suddenly felt faint. Before I passed out I saw a tall dark figure coming towards me, then my world went black.
I awoke to the smell of new paper and books; not even my favorite smell could sooth the negative energy I was feeling around my entire body. It was only then that I noticed I was lying in rock hard, surprisingly warm arms. I looked up at the figure that appeared to have caught me. He was tall and had pitch black hair that covered his brown eyes. At least, I thought they were brown. They were so dark they almost looked black – like tar. He was wearing a starched black dress shirt, untucked with faded dark jeans.
“Well hello there.” He said in an elegant voice laced with a light Italian accent. His voice sounded so chillingly familiar, but I could not place where I had heard it before.
“Um … hi. Yeah, sorry about that, I just get a little light headed sometimes,” I explained, getting up and out of his grasp, all the while trying to hid the embarrassment at having fainted in public. The blackouts had been happening for almost 2 months before the dreams started, but I had never had one in public until now.
“That’s quite alright, Miss. I don’t think I caught your name.”
“Persephone … I go by Sephone though. Are you new in town or something? I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before.” I had moved to the cashier’s area and sat down on my stool trying to ignore the painful pounding of my head. I felt as though I was going to implode.
“Yes, I’m new in town, but just passing through.” He said looking me straight in the eyes as thought trying to drown me in his tar black gaze. I felt self-conscious, as though this dark stranger was reading every secret I had on the surface of my mind. It was as thought he could sense my pain; could tell I was repressing it.
I refused to break his intimidating gaze. I never did respond well to intimidation, which is what I felt like he was trying to do; like he was using his presence to show his dominance – over what I did not know. Me? My female sex in general? I was anything but a lowly damsel in distress.
“Well that’s nice. Now, was there something you needed help finding?” I asked him, wishing to rid myself as quickly as possible of the negative energy that seemed to be surrounding him.
“Actually there was something in particular I was looking for. I was wondering if you had any books on Night Hunting.”
It was 10 PM when I finally closed up the store and headed home. I walked out into the dark humid night. The air was thick. I hated humidity, hated it with a passion. I got into my car, an ’01 Dodge Neon, which was also, quite cleverly happened to be his name. This car was my baby, perfect for me in every way, even though he was in desperate need of detailing and had been giving troubles lately. I revved the engine. Nothing. Neon wouldn’t start. I tried a second time. Still nothing. A third time, he started! Then sputtered and died pathetically.
I figured my mom was still at work so I didn’t bother to call her, deciding to walk instead and call my friend Henry, who worked part time at the local mechanic shop. He usually fixed him for me for pretty cheap. Insanely cheap actually, which, it’s possible, explained why my poor old Neon till had so many issues.
I walked down Main at a steady pace. My house was only about 10 minutes on foot. I walked past the alley and heard something crash. My heart jumped out of my chest.
Stop it, Sephone. You’re being paranoid. Breathe.
I kept walking. For the next few minutes, I just walked. It wasn’t until I got to 10th Street that I started to become aware of a presence; that same feeling ominous feeling I had gotten when I walked into the store earlier. Someone was following me. My lungs started to close up. I couldn’t breathe straight.
Don’t black out. You’re in the middle of downtown. If you past out you will probably get raped for God’s sake! Keep walking. Don’t give in.
I must not have even noticed when I fainted because I woke up suddenly with a hand covering my mouth, suppressing my scream.
“Hush, il mio angelo. I’m not going to hurt you.” I recognized the voice immediately. It was the same voice from my dream. It was the same voice of the man from the bookstore, a man whose name I never bothered to ask, who never bothered to tell me. I felt nauseous.
“I’ve been watching you for some time, il mio angelo. I’ve been visiting your dreams, learning everything about you. Your beauty, your purity is mesmerizing. The innocence in your heart bewitches me. You were meant for me, Persephone. Meant to be my Queen, to be a light in my darkened world.”
He had taken his hand off of my mouth by now. Maybe it was what he saw in my eyes; how they softened unconsciously as he said more and more. I was intrigued. I was drawn.
I had never been involved with a mentally insane man before.
Footnote: *“my angel.” (Italian)