Persephone: A Choose Your Own Adventure
Your mother is sending you to the underworld. You can only bring one item with you. Which do you choose?
A piece of black ribbon
A broken watch
If you chose a piece of black ribbon, skip to A.
If you chose a broken watch, skip to B.
A) The ribbon is tied around your wrist as you begin your descent into hell. The road is slippery, the moaning and screaming nearly unbearable. Luckily, the fires aren't as hot as you might expect.
Your mother doesn't say goodbye to you.
Hades is waiting for you at the bottom of the path. What are the first words you will say to him?
“Hello, my name is Persephone.”
You refuse to say anything.
If you chose option one, move to C.
If you chose option two, move to D.
B) The broken watch glints in the light of the fire pits as you cross the threshold of hell. Your mother watched you the entire time you made your way down the winding path. You think she may have been crying, but perhaps she just has a cold.
Hades is waiting for you in the doorway. He is big and covered in soot and his hair looks like curlicues of ash. What are the first words he says to you?
“Hello, my name is Hades.”
“I've been waiting for quite awhile.”
If Hades said hello, skip to E.
If he said he's been waiting for awhile, hurry on to F.
C) “I know,” he says. He grabs you by the hand and leads you into hell. His palm feels rough, like unwatered soil, and he smells like a campfire.
He leads you to your room. It's small, but cozy. There's a shelf with several books and empty journals, and a metal cup with pens for you to write with.
“I like your ribbon,” he says, and points at your wrist. With that, he closes the door behind him. You're alone in your room – what will you do?
You will write in your journal.
You will cry on your bed.
If you choose option one, skip ahead to letter G.
If you choose option two, scroll on to H.
D) Hades looks disappointed. You can't help but feel guilty. After all, you're not even here for a year – who are you to be rude?
He leads you to your room. It's snow-white and empty, save for a mattress on the ground.
Hades points at your ribbon and says, “Things from above are not allowed here.”
You slip it off your wrist and he takes it from you and places it in his pocket as he leaves. Hades shuts the door behind him and the entire wall rattles. You lay down on the bed and sob, the mattress eventually becoming soaked with your tears. The winter is especially long that year.
Your adventure in hell will be over after you stop crying. Please return to the beginning of the story.
E) You nod and the two of you retire to the dining room. It's dark and you can hear screaming coming from outside.
He feeds you fried okra and the brightest, most orange sweet potatoes in the world. He piles your plate with apples and bananas and leeks and radishes. It makes you think of your mother, and tears begin to slide along the side of your nose.
“Please don't cry,” he says. When you don't stop, he says it again. You soon find that every bite you eat tastes like saltwater. When he tries to wipe the tears from your face, you recoil and fall back in your chair.
Hades stands above you, his hand still outstretched. His lips are crushed together as you lay on the floor. You cannot stop crying.
Skip ahead to letter I, if you can see it through your tears.
F) You apologize, but he says nothing. He leads you into hell. The gates are not as grand as you thought they would be.
“Here,” he says, and gestures to a pit of poor, unfortunate souls. They are writhing and screaming, their bodies charcoal black and gray. Tiny little flames dance at their feet. “Your job is to watch them. Day and night. Never let them crawl up. Never even let the thought cross their mind.”
He leaves you at the edge of the pit. You sit criss-cross on the floor, watching the bodies beneath you. What did they do to end up here?
What did you do?
Your adventure takes awhile to end, but it does end. They all do. Return to the beginning.
G) Your cursive script douses the page. You talk about your descent into hell. You talk about your mother's golden hair. You try not to curse.
Eventually, Hades returns. He has brought two sandwiches, both peanut butter and jelly. You eat together on the foot of your bed. A part of you likes him, a part of you pities him. Pity, unfortunately, is part of like.
It may not be so bad here. But it's too soon to tell. Hades looks at your hand and you can tell he would like to place his own on top of it, but it's too sticky with jelly.
Your adventure is not over. It will grow like the wild plants your mother waters. Sometimes you will water it yourself.
H) You begin to cry and the crying reminds you of your mother's watering can, which makes you cry even harder. Eventually, you stumble outside, dehydrated and in search of a glass of water. You see Hades standing alone by the pits. When you ask him for a glass of water, he rushes to get it.
As you watch him, you stop crying. It is nice sometimes to see a man rush to get you things. When he gets back with the water, you don't even feel the thirst catching the back of your throat anymore.
Your adventure is over, like that last sip of water. Scroll to the beginning.
I) And then it begins. Hades starts to cry, too. You let him scoop you to his chest and the two of you cry on the dining room floor, your tears mingling so that no one knows whose is whose.
Eventually you sit back down to eat. As the days go by, you never mention that night again. When you return home several months later, your mother asks you how your time in hell was. You will simply say the word: “Good.”
Your adventure is over, but you'll return again. You have to.
About the Writer
Ashley Burnett is a writer living and working in California. Her stories have previously appeared on The Toast, Necessary Fiction and Wyvern Lit. You can follow her on Twitter @AshleyDBurnett or contact her via her website: ashleyburnett.net.