The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies
Virgil, The Aeneid
If nothing else remember this, little songbird - the descent into hell is easy.
It was almost too ironic; the way those words seemed to brand themselves against her memory as she felt herself slip away. It was an old piece of advice - about choosing to 'split the cookie between your siblings' or 'always being honest' (or something of that persuassion)- given to her by…was it her mother? Her father? She couldn't remember.
She couldn't even remember their face, or the sound of their voice, or even how it felt to be held by them. It had been so long since she had lost them - many years had passed since she had forced that heartache down to reside only in the deepest parts of her mind. All that remained was that loving nickname, our little songbird.
No one had called her that until he did – the man at the railroad station. Hades. How had he known?
She was losing it all now.
The ground rattled with a large grown and she felt herself begin to descend. The world spun around her in a spectacle of soft grey blue skys and the yellow sun. She forced her eyes to lock onto the only solid thing before her. A boy. A boy with brown eyes widened in… shock. Disbelief. Pain.
Who was he?
His arms were outstretched, frozen. His face becoming smaller and smaller as she faded away.
Why was he watching her? Why was he here?
She clung onto his name.
They had been so close, hadn't they? So close to having everything. Had he heard her, and simply chosen not to listen? Or had she been silenced to his ear?
Oh, to have had the world just as you imagined right at your fingertips, only for it to disappear in an instant.
The darkness engulfed her, and his brown eyes were gone.
Orpheus. Orpheus. Orpheus.
She chanted his name. They could take everything from her… absolutely anything they wanted… but not this. Not him.
Her limbs ached, as though they were suddenly filled with led – responding, perhaps instinctively, to the smell of ash and sweat that met her nose. She could hear the pounding of blood against stone, the crisp ping of an axe.
Then the bright red sky of Hadestown opened up around her.
Her face crumpled, her legs giving out underneath her. She tried to conjure Orpheus – hair, lips, nose…anything. But all that she could recall was an echo of a song…was it for her?
She didn't know.
Whoever it was…her mother, her father, Orpheus …whoever it was that had invented the idea that the descent into hell was easy…they had no idea.
It was a soul shattering, gut wrenching pain. It was drowning in a sea of despair, where dreams never survived, and nightmares thrived.
It was losing love.
It was losing Orpheus.