Persephone slipped naked from the bed of the sleeping Hades, and ran at full speed past the thousands of shifting, silent Shades of the dead. Heat radiated off her naked sweat-drenched body as she ran. Persephone no longer noticed noticed the heat of the Underworld. It was just one of the many tortures she had to endure six months of the year, like the nightly rape by her so-called “husband” Hades, or the stench of the dead.
Persephone knew that the world above was gripped in the cold of Winter. For the six months of each year that Persephone was trapped in the Underworld, Persephone’s Goddess mother Demeter would weep cold tears and refuse to let the plants bloom. Zeus had decreed that Persephone could spend half the year in the land of the living, but must spend the remainder of the each year trapped in the world of the dead.
Every night, while Hades slept, Persephone ran naked down this same dark cave, past the bubbling pools of scalding water, past the piles of skulls down past the murmuring crowds of demons and monsters. Over two thousand years ago, Persephone had started her tunnel to the surface. She used human skulls to dig with, and human bones to to shore up the tunnel. Inch by inch foot by foot she dug toward the surface.
When she first came to the land of the dead, Persephone thought that a hero might defy Zeus and come to rescue her. Many men had tried and perished. The true hero Heracles had almost succeeded. With Persephone’s help Heracles had captured the three-headed monster god Cerberus, but even Heracles did not have the strength to carry Persephone from the grip of Hades.
In the Underworld there was no way to tell night from day, but over the centuries, Persephone had learned to keep track of time in her head. She had memorized just how long Hades slept each night, and about an hour before he awoke, Persephone would stop her digging and climb back down the tunnel and begin her run back to the bed of the god she hated. Hades, god of the dead, Persephone’s jailer and uncle.
When Persephone came to the pools of boiling water she would dive in and wash the dirt from her body and hair. The scalding water would have torn the flesh off of a mortal woman, but she was, after all, a goddess. Gods and goddesses live forever, but despite what the humans think, they do feel pain. Each night Persephone endured the agony of a rape by Hades, the choking dirt of the tunnel in her mouth and eyes, and the pain of a bath in boiling hot water. But bathe she must, to wash the dirt from her hair and body, so that Hades would not suspect she was tunneling to escape.
Persephone arose naked from the steaming bath, with only the silent Shades of the dead to witness her incredible beauty. She had not always been naked in the Underworld. At first, Hades had brought her beautiful dresses and jewels. He had expected her to be a real wife, despite the fact that he had captured her and dragged her into the Underworld against her will. But when it became clear that Persephone would never give herself to Hades willingly, he ripped off her clothing and burned it in a pile. Then he took her by force night after night six months of every year for more than a two thousand years. Persephone was a goddess, but she was no match for the strength of a god.
Persephone stood naked as the hot draft from the fires of the Underworld dried her. Then she slowly walked back and silently slipped into the bed of the god of the dead before he awoke. Only a few minuted later, Hades awoke with a grunt and pulled his massive bulk from the bed. Persephone knew she had cut it too close this time.
She shook with fear that he had discovered her secret, but the god of the dead arose and walked off without so much as looking at her. Off to consort with his dogs and monsters and whatever else occupied his waking hours. Persephone had long since taken any interest in her husband’s actions. Her goal all day every day was to stay out of the god’s way, and hope that her tunnel was not discovered. She often slept during the day, since her nights were occupied with digging.
Persephone knew she was very close to escaping. The ground she tunneled through had changed from rock to clay and finally to dirt. Real dirt, with deep roots of massive trees. Soon she would be free. Persephone lay back down in the bed and slept, dreaming of her freedom.
Her dream was shattered when Hades picked her up from the bed and threw her down onto the rock floor, screaming that she was lazy to spend all her time sleeping when she should be serving him. It was time to eat and for some unknown reason, Hades always insisted that as his “goddess of the dead” she should have a formal meal with him each day, as their status of King and Queen of the Underworld demanded. Persephone hated meals, remembering that it was the fact that she had eaten one pomegranate seed which had trapped her in The Underworld centuries ago.
Persephone ate a few pieces of bread and drank some mild wine while Hades consumed massive amounts of roasted meat and guzzled glass after glass of wine. Weird monsters scurried at his feet to eat the pieces of food that fell out of his mouth.
With his appetite sated , Hades let out a loud belch and slumped in his chair for a drunken nap. At that moment Persephone decided that now was the time for her escape. She could not wait wait a second longer. She could not stand another night of this stinking beast on top of her and inside her. She must make her escape now.
Persephone quietly slipped out of her chair and slowly began walking in the direction of her secret tunnel. She gradually began to increase speed, and as soon as the dining table was out of sight, she began to run at full speed. Persephone made one stop before getting to the tunnel entrance. She reached her hand into a hole between a pile of rocks and took out two objects. The first was her only dress that she had been able to hide from Hades. The second was a small bundle of precious gems. At least in the bright world above the gems were precious. In the stinking Underworld, diamonds and rubies were common, and of no value to the Shades of the dead.
She then reached into the hole again and took out a small sack of rough cloth, into which she placed the gems and dress. Persephone was going to climb naked, and carry the sack, knowing that if she wore her one dress during the climb it would get ruined.
The she took off running at full speed again and finally Persephone came to the hidden entrance of the tunnel. She knocked aside the pile of human skulls and bones to reveal her path to freedom. Carrying her cloth sack and a human thigh bone, Persephone began her climb to freedom.
For hour after hour she climbed upward, all the time afraid she might hear the roar of Hades looking for her. Then when she felt she could climb no more, she reached the top of the tunnel. There was moist dirt and tree roots and she knew the surface could not be far away. She took the human thigh bone and began to dig upward. As she jabbed the thigh bone into the dirt, clumps of dirt flew past her face and fell down the tunnel shaft into the darkness below.
Then it happened. She jabbed the thigh bone and suddenly it broke through the dirt. Cold fresh air washed over her. She reached up and pulled herself out. Persephone was Free! She crawled away from the hole and onto the snow. Persephone then stood up and with handfuls of snow washed the dirt off her naked body and cleansed her hair. Her body was so hot that the snow turned to steam as cleaned herself.
Then Persephone opened the bag and put on her dress. She took the jewels out of the sack and carefully wove them into her hair. She vowed that she would never be a prisoner again. She was a goddess, and would demand to always be treated as one. Persephone turned North then walked off into the snow.
Persephone longed to journey to Greece to be with her mother Demeter, but Persephone knew that would not be possible. Soon Hades would discover her escape, and try to drag her back. Greece would be the first place Hades looked. And so, Persephone went further and further North, knowing that Hades hated the cold.
Persephone’s body was still scorching hot within and without. The fires of The Underworld and her own hatred for Hades made her flesh glowing hot, and as she walked though the forest, snow melted and trees caught fire. The heat from her body caused the jewels in her hair to glow so brightly that the cold night sky shimmered.
Humans had long ago stopped worshiping the gods, and no longer even believed they existed. People arrogantly assumed that their own meager actions were causing the world to get warmer, the ice to melt and the sea levels to rise.
When Hades discovered Persephone’s escape, he immediately went to his brother Zeus to demand Zeus set things right. Zeus sent out an order to all the gods and goddesses that they were to find Persephone and capture her. The gods and goddesses ignored Zeus, and in fact, even helped Persephone to hide. None of the gods really liked Hades, and the goddesses actually hated him for having imprisoned one of their own.
And so, the world of the humans got warmer and warmer and the humans never even guessed at the real reason. Year after year the naked escape of Persephone altered the life of humans. Winters ceased to exist. Demeter was thrilled to hear the news of her daughter’s escape. Demeter no longer mourned half the year, and so Winters ended. Hades himself came out of the Underworld and wandered the Earth, searching for his escaped bride. His red-hot form scorched the Earth wherever he went, bringing drought, fires and sandstorms.
Zeus himself periodically erupted in anger that the gods and goddess were defying his order. In his rage he would cause great storms and lightning. Then he would calm down when he remembered that, after all, Persephone was his daughter. To himself Zeus secretly admitted that he was actually proud of Persephone’s courage and strength. Still, that was no excuse for the gods to ignore his orders, and his angry storms continued.
Hades never recaptured Persephone and burns the ground to this day as he searches for her. Winters never returned and the world continues to get warmer. The fact that the world of humans and the humans themselves are being harmed is of no great concern to the gods and goddesses. Perhaps in another two thousand years the earth will start to get colder again. Perhaps Hades will stop searching for his escaped wife, Persephone’s anger will cool and Demeter’s joy will diminish. Perhaps Zeus will learn to control his anger and massive storms will end. But probably not. Gods and goddesses are not known for having a philosophy of forgive and forget. Only humans are foolish enough to have such weaknesses.