Monday, February 24, 2020

Second Kidnapping of Persephone

Hello Everyone!

     I hope you have checked out my newest series on Amazon: Chronomancer and the Time God. The link to the book can be found here.

     For this month's post, I thought I would fall back to my passion for Greek Mythology. The story is called "The Second Kidnapping of Persephone". As you might guess, the story was written for my short story groups prompt "A Kidnapping".

     I hope everyone enjoys it. Please leave feedback and let me know what you think!


James J Meadows III

"The Second Kidnapping of Persephone"

     “How long have you been waiting for me?”

     The woman’s voice, though light as air, seemed to startle Aeneas. The warrior leapt to his feet as though bit by a snake. Turning his head in all directions, he looked around, apparently trying to spot the source.

     From a grove of tall Cypress trees, just a short distance from where Aeneas previously sat day-dreaming, emerged a long-haired woman. She wore a wreath of fresh flowers around her head and a long green dress, whose great tail merged with the earth as though nothing more than an extension of its surface. Upon seeing her, Aeneas knelt low to the ground, his massive frame more closely resembling a rolling boulder than a prostrate servant.

     “My lady, Persephone,” he said. “I have waited for you since the crops of summer faded and before the snows of winter blanketed the land. I have done so many times before and will do continue to do so for many years, hence.”

     “You really ought to get a life,” she replied.

     Giving a sigh, she turned away from him, her gaze falling upon the budding flowers and rolling brooks dotting the land around her. Aeneas straightened back up and rose to his feet.

     “You, of all people, should understand that my life is to serve,” Aeneas answered. “What your mother dictates, I do. Right now, she dictates that I wait here to bring you home.”

     “Whose home?” Persephone answered, not looking at him. “Surely, not mine. No! You wait to take me back to my prison, where I must spend the long seasons awaiting my return to my husband, my children and my kingdom.”

     “You know as well as I do that your return is necessary,” he said. “You bring hope to the people. You bring the spring to the darkness of their winter.”

     “I end the winter of their discontent by bringing the spring of my own,” she said. “And I have no more choice over my fate than you have over yours.”

     “You mother is strong-willed,” he agreed.

     “My mother is a control freak!” She retorted, turning upon him. “You know it! Perhaps not as well as I do, but you know it, nonetheless.”

     “Your mother loves you,” he protested.

     Persephone gave a harsh laugh.

     “Yeah, the way a python loves his prey,” she said.

     She mimicked the motion of giving someone a big, smothering hug, and squeezing with all her might.

     “And long as it doesn’t try to wiggle free, all is well, right?” She asked.

     She dropped her arms, giving a grim smile, at the expression of horror on his face.

     “Is it a crime for a mother to want to be around her child?” he asked, giving her a side-way look.

     “Considering that she doesn’t even pay attention to me half the time, I suppose so,” Persephone answered, turning away. “I’m like a living security blanket. She wants me around, but ninety percent of the time, she doesn’t even do anything with me.”

     “You get to spend time with your sister,” he hinted.

     Persephone gave a scoff.

     “Are you trying to talk me into going or out of it,” she asked. “Despoina thinks she is the ‘Master of the House’ and everyone needs to serve her every whim and desire. If I could find a self-less bone, anywhere among the gods, I’d insert it into her body, so she’d have one.”

     Apparently, Aeneas had heard enough, for his face turned red, and his body assumed a fierce, intimidating manner, seeming to grow in height to match his fury.

     “You can complain all you like,” he said. “But you will come! You have no choice! It is the law, a law we are all bound to - even your husband and your father.”

     “Father,” she repeated, smirking. “Talk about being bullied into a decision. He would have sided with me, if he could. Goodness knows, he couldn’t stand mother’s controlling demands and endless manipulations, either. Then again, he ended up marrying Hera, so I guess he didn’t do any better. Still, he tried looking after me.”

     “Looking after you?” Aeneas protested. “He let you be kidnapped!”

     “He let me escape,” she retorted. “Seriously, if I didn’t want to be there, would I have swallowed those pomegranate seeds, knowing full well that eating them meant I would have to return.”

     “You were tricked,” Aeneas said. “You were just a child!”

     “I was old enough to know what I was doing,” Persephone argued. “I know the stories you tell, the stories everyone likes to tell, claiming I was defenseless and naive. What do you expect people to say, when my mother provides their harvest! That’s the benefit of having all the power among a group of people that need you. She can tell them anything she likes. They’ll believe it, too, as long as she continues feeding them. But she can’t deceive me, I was there!”

     “This is non-sense,” Aeneas said. “We are wasting time. You will come with me!”

     “And what if I refuse?” Persephone replied. “What if I turn right back around and go back!”

     Whirling toward the trees, she made to leave. Aeneas was faster. He seized her by the arm, pulling her around to face him.

     “You are mad,” he said. “Are you really going to tell me that you want to go back there? Are you really going to claim that you’d rather be there than here?”

     “Of course, I will!” she argued, vainly trying to yank her arm free of his grip. “Do you think it’s coincidence that while my return to the upper world brings my mother such joy that spring spreads across the land, spring only comes to the ‘Land Down Under’ when I return. My sorrow at leaving my husband and children brings winter to the lands below as surely as my mother’s sorrow brings winter to the lands above!”

     “You will come with me,” Aeneas ordered, tightening his grip.

     Still holding her arm, he turned away from the forest, pulling her after him.

     “And who’s kidnapping me now?” She protested, struggling against his grip, as he dragged her along.

     Aeneas gave no response. Face resolute, he continued to pull her behind him, marching toward Olympus.

     “I see,” she said. “Is that what this story is to be then- the second kidnapping of Persephone?”

     “It is, if you make it so,” he said.

     He stopped walking and spun to face her.

     “By your will or against it, you will come with me!” He declared.

     “And why is that?” she barked.

     “Because this is about more than just you and your controlling mother,” he said. “It’s about more than you and your kingdom below! It’s about more than your children, your husband, and even your desires!”

     Persephone stopped struggling as she listened to him. Noticing the change, he released his grip, staring into her eyes with unwavering conviction.

     “What is it about then?” she asked.

     “It is about the world,” he said. “It’s about the people in it. They need the spring as surely as the people below need the fall. The seasons created by your sojourns make their agriculture and society possible. Without the cold, icy regions melt and waters cover the land, drowning the crops and burying the fertile fields. Without the heat, the crops refuse to grow, for they lack the warmth to live.  Either way, without the seasons, there are no people. And, without people, we are nothing!”

     “So, you’re saying I need to suffer to make the world work?” Persephone replied in disbelief.

     “Sometimes that is how the world works,” he responded. “Sometimes, that is the only way it works. In life, you have to endure the harsh seasons and bad times, for the greater good, knowing that, in time, the good times will return. If you will be patient, you will see that, soon enough, you will be able to return to your home, your kingdom and your family. Until that time, though, you must make the best of the difficult times. Besides, if you’ll just change your attitude a little, you might find the bad times are not as bad as you think. They may not be good as you want; but, at least, they aren’t a bad as they could be.”

     Persephone sighed.

     “Very well,” she said. “Take me away, if you must. I will not claim to go willingly. But, I will go – for the sake of the people!”

     Aeneas smiled.

     “A decision truly worthy of a queen,” he said. “Now, let us depart – your mother awaits.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A New Beginning

Hey Everyone,

I'm excited to announce that my first novel is currently be converted to audiobook and should be out sometime in February. This is a pretty exciting step for me since it will be the first time I have gotten one of my books converted to audiobook. I will post once it is out on audible so that people know about it.

I'll also be working on a much more extensive marketing campaign once my new website gets up and running. In the meantime, I am working to garner reviews for my new series. So, once you have read my stories, please post feedback on Amazon!

In the meantime, here is my latest short story. It is based upon a writing prompt from my short story group called "New Beginnings" and I borrowed the first few lines from a book my son got me for Christmas called "Complete the Story". It is a fun little book which gives you the first few lines for a story and you are supposed to write the rest. Some of them are pretty "blah" but I thought I would give it a try.

The premise of the following story is based upon a supposedly true story one of the students in my class told me about. Let me know what you think.



The Family Photo

     All at once, and in a matter of seconds, three things happened that changed my life forever. Turns out it’s true what the books say: that a single moment can change your life forever.

     First, I raised my camera toward my wife and children. They were standing a short distance away, leaning against the rail above a several hundred-foot drop. Behind them, the snow-covered Grand Canyon glittered in the bright winter sunlight.

     This was supposed to be our dream trip. My wife and I had talked about coming here for over twenty years. We had never made it until now. Some other trip or location always ended up coming first. Some other responsibility, some other place to go, or some other thing to see had always caused us to push off this location. Now, we were finally here; and, it was perfect. There was no way I could have anticipated what was about to happen.

     The second thing that happened seem equally innocuous: my children squeezed tightly against their mother and everyone smiled. It was a perfect picture - an image which remains forever fixed in my memory. My entire family standing together.

     I had met my wife shortly after the worst traffic accident of my life. I had been struck by one of those reckless drivers. You know, the kind who weave through traffic at twenty miles above the speed-limits, like inconsiderate jerks, not caring a lick about the safety and welfare of anyone else on the road. It was a disastrous moment.

     There I was, driving along about five miles per hour over the speed limit. Not exactly slow. But, apparently, it wasn’t fast enough for those drivers who are so impatient that they probably shouldn’t be allowed behind a wheel at all. The next second, some speed demon comes zooming up beside me so quickly I barely even register the black color of the sports car before they whip into my lane to pass the car in front of them. The rear-end of their car struck the front of mine and we both went spinning.

     I remember very little afterward. I screamed, of course. And I briefly recall the image of the car behind me smashing into my own. I remember flashes of light, the explosion of an airbag and a lot of pain. The next thing I knew, I was lying in a hospital, staring up into the face of the most beautiful, kind and intelligent nurse I could ever imagine meeting. Two years later, that nurse and I would stand at the altar and pronounce the words, “I do.”

     The two children standing on each side of my wife were no less miraculous. After trying for children for almost five years, my wife and I were convinced we would never have any. Yet, one warm summer’s day, after years of trying, my wife and I finally gave birth to our daughter. Four years later, we would give birth to a son.

     They weren’t babies anymore. My daughter was now almost a teenager and my son was in elementary school. They were old enough to have heard us speak about taking this trip many times. They were also old enough to appreciate it. 

     It was there, at that moment, as they leaned against the rail smiling at me, that the third thing happened - the thing which changed my life forever. A bright flash of light, coming from the snow-covered mountains behind them, struck my eyes, momentarily blinding me.

     I blinked against the light and attempted to lift my hand to my eyes. When I did, I found that I couldn’t move my arm. It felt weak and heavy. I tried looking up to see what was happening but the light was so bright that everything was a blur. Finally, after about a second, things came into focus. What I saw didn’t make any sense.

     My family, the Grand Canyon and everything else was gone. The blinding lights above me weren’t coming from the sun. They were coming from white fluorescent fixtures in a ceiling.

     I tried turning my head. It responded sluggishly but enough for me to look around at my surroundings. I was lying in a hospital bed with a variety of cords and equipment attached to me. There was some tube down my throat and there were IVs in my arms. I could hear the sound of beeping and various electrical equipment running.

     I wasn’t sure where I was or what happened. Had there been an accident? Did I have some sort of amnesia? Where was my family?

     It wasn’t until a few days later, when all of the equipment was finally detached and I was able to speak, that I learned the disturbing truth. It was one month since I had gotten into the car wreck. I had spent the last month in a coma.

     My children never existed. No one with my wife’s name had ever worked at the hospital. The last twenty-years of my life had never happened.

     For a long time, I had difficulty coming to grips with the information. At first, I assumed I was on some TV show or something. Any minute my family would pop out from hiding. They never did.

     Next, I became convinced I was dreaming. The only problem was: I never woke up. Later I started to wonder if it was a conspiracy. Soon, however, after many attempts to track down my family, hiring detectives, and even receiving therapy, I was forced to accept the facts. Everything I had known and experienced in the span of twenty years of my memory was a lie.

     It was a tough realization. Even with accepting the truth, it took years of counseling to reach the level to where I could effectively interact with the world around me. Not many people could understand. How could I mourn the loss of people who never existed? How could I weep for a wife who wasn’t even real? But to me, it didn’t feel like a dream. Everything felt real. It still does.  

     The scary part is: how do I know it wasn’t? If a coma could make me dream twenty years of events that never happened, how do I know it isn’t happening again? How can I know if this experience is real? How do I know the other experience wasn’t real? How do I know anything?

     The truth is: I don’t. And I have to live with that.

     Some people tell me I should be glad. They tell me I have gotten a chance at a new beginning, something many people dream about. They tell me I should be grateful. I’m not.

     I move forward anyway. Each day, I struggle on, working to rebuild the life I lost. Still, I constantly think about those last few seconds when everything changed. And that one picture, that was never really taken, is burned forever into my mind.