In darkness, she waits. A lone soul long dead, a girl stripped of everything from a tender age. She remembers little of her life, but clings to one memory of something called “light.” She recalls it being warm and bright, golden or white, a welcoming sight. But she has not seen nor heard of anything like that for years, you see, not here, not in Hades.
Day in and day out, souls drift through a canyon of black, across a glossy dark river. Styx is an unforgiving stream, and her waters take everything. Names, memories, one’s very being, until all that remains is a lifeless husk, the empty soul of someone who once was. Only the strongest of souls are said to retain any thoughts from their past lives. Perhaps this was why King Hades sought her out as a useful device.
“Little Soul,” he called her, “How do you remember such things? You surrendered your life to me when you were only three.”
Little Soul paused, calculating her reply. “Perhaps I am like Achilles who still remembers his name. I could have been a great hero if it weren’t for the Fates.”
“Is that so?” Hades laughed as he approached, his ominous figure coming in close. Curling an arm around Little Soul’s side, he swept his dark cloak open wide so as to cover her shoulders and take her under his wing. “Tell me more of who you think you could be.”
“Perhaps I am like the king who never forgot his epic journey, the one he calls his odyssey. Or maybe my soul is like that of the muse who still sways and hums to her unforgettable tune.”
“Fine then, I have a job for you,” Hades declared, giving Little Soul a scare. She couldn’t imagine what he would require of her, a tragic being who’d barely spent any time on Earth. Though she longed to have spent her life as a hero, a poet, or a princess, the Fates had something else in store: death. If there was one thing she knew for certain, the fates were as cruel as a serpent.
“I have someone I want you to meet,” Hades began, sweeping Little Soul up off her feet and carrying her to Styx’s beach. “A new soul came in this morning, one with memories. She goes by the name of Eurydice.”
True as it can be, the soul of a beautiful young woman stood looking longingly over her shoulder on the beach. Her eyes searched the waters past the river Styx, as if waiting for someone or something.
“What are you looking for?” Hades inquired, setting Little Soul down next to Eurydice.
“My lover,” Eurydice whispered, eyes still searching the waves.
A wry grin crossed Hades’s face. “Your lover isn’t here. He’s up in the world above. Eurydice, you’re separated from your love.”
“Then he will come find me. I know he will,” she replied with total certainty, shocking the watching Little Soul.
But Hades just laughed and laughed. “Mortal! You’re dead! Would you wish the same fate on Orpheus?”
“So you know his name.” Eurydice smiled, unintimidated by the god of the underworld. “Hades, are you perhaps afraid?”
The dark god shook with rage, trapped by his own words. Little Soul could tell that he knew about Orpheus, and by the smile on Eurydice’s lips, she knew that the stranger had full confidence her love would come.
“What was he like?” Little Soul whispered, moving from the shadows to face Eurydice. She found something in the girl’s eyes intriguing. It almost reminded her of…light.
“Orpheus could sing the world into motion. His words moved my heart and I fell in love.” Eurydice explained. “He’s soft and gentle, a tenderhearted man with a strong soul. For he was the son of a muse, and his voice could soothe even the hearts of the gods.”
Little Soul felt her heart warm as Eurydice went on telling the story of her love, how they’d met, where they’d fallen for one another, and how they’d married. Much to Hades’s disturbance, she remembered it all, for their love was so strong. And much to his dismay, Orpheus would come for Eurydice that very day.
Eurydice waited by the river, Little Soul with her, when the waters parted with the sound of music. A lyre’s strings strummed, and a heavenly voice hummed a tune above it all. The ghosts of the departed startled and bowed at the feet of a young man with a gentle face, bright eyes, and a glowing voice so warm and welcoming…it reminded her of light.
“Eurydice,” he called, wrapping his arms around his love. “Remember me? It’s Orpheus. I’ve come for you. You don’t belong here in this land of night; return with me to the light.”
“Not so fast!” Hades’s voice boomed, the dark god’s presence looming over the two. “What are you doing here boy? You’re trespassing in my kingdom.”
Orpheus strung his lyre and a silky tune filled everyone’s ears. His melody sang so pure and smooth that the very air shivered with his words. The waters shook, and every soul turned to look as Orpheus begged Hades to set them free. Little Soul felt her heart melt with Oprheus’ words. His honey-sweet melodies drew her in and filled her mind with greater beauty than she’d ever known.
“Stop it! Enough!” Hades chose to interrupt, pointing a finger back to whence the couple had come. “Leave, before you remind these dead souls of what they’re missing. But beware Orpheus, there’s only one way out. Walk single file and don’t look back. If you turn before you enter the land of the living, if you look back at Eurydice, I’ll claim her soul for eternity.”
Little Soul’s heart lurched, watching them go. Who were these two, and how were they blessed enough to know one another? It wasn’t fair. When all she could cling to was the slightest memory of light…they remembered each other. She envied Eurydice. All this talk of life and love made her stomach churn with jealousy. She never got to experience those things. She never got to grow up, never got to experience love. The only life she’d ever known was a life in Hades, a slave to the dark, a useless puppet taunted with a single glimmering memory of light.
Hades leaned down by her side. “Remember how I had a job for you?”
Little Soul looked up at him with wide eyes. “Yes?”
“I know what you long for; they are the very things you will never find here, my dear,” Hades told her. “But make a deal with me, and I will set you free.”
Little Soul gasped. “I’ll do anything.”
“Don’t allow Eurydice to escape. Her soul is mine, and I won’t let it be stolen from me by an ambitious young boy and his musical strings.” Hades huffed. “Follow them, and when Eurydice falls, you can take her place in the land of the living.”
“Really?” Little Soul whispered, amazed by the offer.
“Yes, now go!” Hades declared, pushing her forward. So, off she went, following behind Orpheus and his wife. Though they could not see one another, the couple communicated beautifully. Orpheus would sing warnings as he led the way, his gentle words calming Eurydice.
“Careful now, my love, this ledge would be terrible to fall off of.”
“Be wary now my flower, the cave is narrow; so cower low and let me sing you home.”
At last they reached a great door, one Orpheus claimed he’d walked through before. He swung it open wide and walked his way inside. But something caused little soul to pause, as what she knew to always be true spilled out through the door. Her dream, her vision, the hope she clung to.
“Light!” she exclaimed, gasping at a sunny day.
It was spring, and flowers were blooming with the wonder of Persephone. A gust of wind caught the sides of her face in a chilly embrace, as bluebirds caught hold of the same breeze, using it to fly with ease. Grass peeked through the melting snow, like the little squirrels buried in a hollow. This was nothing like the world below… this was a world of light.
With every ounce of her little soul, the girl longed to know what it felt like to live a life in the world of light. But with her exclamation of joy, Orpheus turned to look back once more, before his wife could walk through the door.
She saw the brokenness in his eyes as he contemplated his wife’s demise. He reacted a second too soon, a second so unfortunate that he would lose everything to it. Little Soul saw Orpheus’s eyes grow dark, as he realized they would be forced to part.
On the line between death and day, Eurydice gave a final wave as the ground beneath her feet gave way.
“No!” Little Soul sang, pushing Eurydice into the day and taking her place. She never saw the lover’s expressions, but as she fell she saw the light again, streaming down into the cave of the grave she’d dug. Painful as it was to leave the world above, she couldn’t help but smile as she was whisked away.
She’d saved the light.
Not the one streaming from the skies above…no, the one that existed in love. A new kind of light she would cherish, knowing that because of her, Eurydice didn’t perish.
Written by: Naomi Hernandez