An Excerpt from THE PERSEPHONE PROJECT written by Andrea Moon
Arezzo, Tuscany; Italy
Anghiari, Tuscany; Italy
PERSEPHONE CROSSES THE RIVERS OF THE UNDERWORLD
(PERSEPHONE 1 enters into the River of Woe. She opens the book and tells the story as she crosses the river. Once she is across, PERSEPHONE 2 and HADES enter behind her and cross the river.)
PERSEPHONE 1: Acheron, the river of woe.
The pounding of the horses’ hooves grow silent as we enter the earth. When we reach the bank of the first river He grows quiet, no longer promises jewels or power. No longer answers my entreaties. My fear has turned to liquid that is as black as this water. The splash of the stallions in the crossing kick up a million droplets that sparkle like cut onyx. They enter into me, my mouth, my ears, my nose, I’m breathing that black water and I am suddenly filled with the meaning of the word lament. It was an empty word to me until the cold hands that hold me now sank grief into my bones. Everything that is no more rises up to meet me, and is reflected perfect and tiny in every facet of every cut drop of onyx river water flashing before my eyes. Green fields. Laughter. The sun’s warm smile playing over my hands. Sleeping without fear. Hunting flowers that carry the scent of my mother. My mother. Mother. Was it me? Was it something I did? Walked too far? Wanted too much? Moved some way I shouldn’t have moved? Enjoyed the softness of a flower in the open air? Somehow called this to me? Mother?
HADES: What can I bring you?
PERSEPHONE 2: Mother.
HADES: Are you hungry?
PERSEPONE 2: I’m cold.
HADES: Do you know where you are?
PERSEPHONE 2: Please. I want my mother.
HADES: Do you know who I am?
PERSEPHONE 2: My uncle.
HADES: Your husband now.
PERSEPHONE 2: No.
(PERSEPHONE 1 slams the book. HADES drags PERSEPHONE 2 offstage. The rivers change. The river of wailing begins to wail as PERSEPHONE 1 crosses it. She opens the book.)
PERSEPHONE 1: Cocytus, the river of wailing.
When we reach the banks of the second river I ask him how many we have to cross but we’re moving so fast. I open my mouth; swallow some gray water. My head is suddenly filled with wailing. I think if he would just loosen his grip I could throw myself from the carriage into the crying. Lose myself. Then I realize he has let go and still I am like stone, sitting there, carried on. And I know that once they touch you, you are touched, marked. That there is no escape. I realize that it’s me that’s wailing. The sound in my head, all around me, is me. All the parts of me that used to laugh, to trust, to wander in green fields, have transformed into cry. I am coming out of my own mouth. The girl that I was has turned to sound waves and grey river water. He reaches over, tentatively, tenderly, slowly as if to steady or comfort me and I wail louder hoping all of me that was will escape before being marked again.
(PERSEPHONE 2 in front of HADES, struggling to pull free.)
PERSEPHONE 2: Is it something I did? Am I being punished?
HADES: All this, everything you see is yours, under your control. Look around you.
PERSEPHONE 2: All I see is darkness.
HADES: You are its light. My light. Are you hungry? You must be starving. Eat.
PERSEPHONE 2: I take it all back. Whatever it was.
HADES: You’re so innocent.
PERSEPHONE 2: I take that back too. Anything. Everything. I’m so sorry. Please let me go home.
HADES: I want you to be happy. I want to make you happy. I can make you happy. All the power at my fingertips for your happiness alone.
PERSEPHONE 2: Let me go. Please. Let me go.
(The book slammed shut. The River of Forgetfulness rushes on, hiding PERSEPHONE 2 and HADES from view. PERSEPHONE 1 walks in front of it. The lights come up behind the river showing PERSEPHONE 2 trying to escape from its depths.)
PERSEPHONE 1: Lethe, the river of forgetfulness.
The third river is silent. Moves choked with silt. The horses crawl and the river accepts us without splash. I am silent. Thirsty. I could drink an ocean. I cup water but he tells me not to drink, shakes it from my hand. Trickling into me a kind of . . . emptiness. Moves throughout my body. I am hollowed. There is nothing left. I am, I have become. I am not. I have unbecome. I am turning to a shade. Forget to breathe. Heart forgets to beat. Still I go on. Mother. Safer. Easier to not remember. Flowers. You. Love. Hope. Sun. Fields. Possibilities. Thirst. Hunger. Laughter. All draining from me. Bleed. Dissipate into its opaque white depths. I watch them go with relief. He too. He’ll disappear next. And I’ll float here, alone.. I turn to look am surprised to see him sitting there still. It’s okay.
PERSEPHONE 2: It’s okay.
PERSEPONE 1: Take your time
PERSEPHONE 2: Take your time.
PERSEPHONE 1: I can wait.
PERSEPHONE 2: I can wait.
(As HADES speaks, PERSEPHONE 2 emerges from the river. He pulls it through her legs.)
HADES: Everything. Everything is yours. You’re everything to me. I can not let you go. Please. Ask of me anything else. Anything but that. It would destroy me.
(PERSEPHONE 1 slams the book shut, rushes up and grabs the river from HADES’ hands. HADES embraces PERSEPHONE 2. PERSEPHONE 1 holds the river.)
PERSEPHONE 1: Phlegethon , the river of flames.
The fourth. We are in it. The heat sears this shell. This empty thing. Flames forged. His hands on me now. Hot. Manes flaming. Breathing fire. Swallowed molten metal. Burning my center. Could travel into the crevice in my sex, crack me open without man or God I could give birth to fire demons. Scorch the earth, turn the blackest night orange. Or explode in my chest, spew embers. Everything, eyes fingertips, river of flames, molten center. Everything but Him. Solid, shadow. Slack-jawed and slobbering like a starving dog, hot heavy hand fumbling with my breast. Do you see me now mother? Oh Goddess of all that grows. Do you see your innocent maiden daughter now?
PERSEPHONE 2: Don’t touch me. Get up. Groveling is unbecoming in a God.
(HADES exits. PERSEPHONE 1 and PERSEPHONE 2 meet in the River Styx.)
PERSEPHONE 1: Styx, the river of inviolable oaths, weariness.
The fifth river has no color, no sound, no definable banks, no water, no depth. Only a shade of a ferryman who won’t even notice your crossing unless he’s paid. There’s nothing to say about the fifth river except that once you’ve crossed it there’s no going back.
But I promise, I swear on everything green and living, everything I was and am and will be,
PERSEPHONE 1 AND 2: I will go back.