You come to awareness among a sea of thick, impenetrable blackness, a darkness you have never seen before. There is nothing, nothing at all, but the soft sound of rushing water. You had never realized how loud your own blood was as it pulsed through your veins, or the gentle rhythm of your heart and lungs, until you could hear none of it any longer. The sound of water makes you think, briefly, that you are perhaps underwater. The furthest depths of the ocean, by the look of it. But you feel nothing around you, and certainly not the distinct weightlessness of being submerged. Nonetheless, you feel the first flickers of panic set in.
A growly, grotesquely inhuman voice penetrates the vast emptiness of your surroundings. "Mortal," it snarls, and your head snaps to gaze in the sound's direction. You are met with a pair of eyes, filled with the fiery glow of the sun, though they do not illuminate anything around them, somehow. "Can you pay?"
[["No." |Pay.]]You open your mouth to speak, but you're instead startled into silence when you feel a rough tug against your neck. Your necklace, you realize - you hear the chain snap, and a soft metallic chime as it's pulled away from your body. "This will do," the voice growls.
You then feel yourself being lifted - you want to protest, but you don't. Soon enough, the source of the trickling water becomes clear. You've been placed on what feels like a solid slab of wood, and it rocks gently beneath you. A boat, on water, you presume. But why can't you see it?
"You will see soon." The voice responds as if you've spoken out loud. Perhaps you have.
"Who brought you here?"
Your brow furrows in confusion - you do not know. But as you feel the boat begin to move, a memory stirs.
[["Wings, a cloud of swarming butterflies, a gentle hand." |Thanatos]]
[["Blood, gnashing teeth, a hungry wailing." |Ker]]"Thanatos. You died in peace, then?"
[["My death was long. I was ready." |Illness.]]
[["My life was long. I was ready." |Old age.]]"A Ker! You met a violent end."
[[Yes, by spear. |Murder]]
[[Yes, by my own spear. |Suicide]]You knew your body was dying years before it did. There was pain, but it came in waves. You had plenty of peaceful days in between. But each time, the pain returned more ferocious. You suppose this time it had finally been too much for your body to stand.
You remember that last moment, and how hard it was to breathe. But, suddenly, you were not in pain. You never understood what you had done to earn such a [[curse |Neg1]], but at least you had been [[blessed |Pos1]] with enough time to make peace.You had lived well and cared for your body. Still, as your many, many years slipped past you, you began to wither, as mortals do. It is to be expected, but you could not help the resentment you felt each time your strength or your mind failed you.
In the past months (your final ones, you realize), you had hardly been living at all. You are [[grateful |Pos1]] the countless days you spent on the earth, but you cannot help but be [[resentful |Neg1]] at losing so many of them to the fog of age.(set: $neg to 1)
[(goto: "Enter The Underworld")](set: $pos to 1)
[(goto: "Enter The Underworld")]"Dead is dead. It matters little."
You are tempted to protest, but a sudden flash of light distracts you. Rather, it is a very dull and subtle source of illumination, and from a distance, but any light at all is a shock to your vision-starved eyes.
You are finally able to see the silhouette of your friend. They appear vaguely in the shape of a man, cloaked in black. His face, other than his bright crimson eyes, is still unintelligible to you; just a black hole under a hood. He is working a single oar, propelling the pair of you swiftly through the water below. You are approaching a cave, and you realize the light is coming from two small torches weakly illuminating the entrance.
[["Charon??"]]It was a greater fear than you'd ever known to see a man approach you with such hatred in his eyes. It was the look of a man who craved nothing at that moment more than to see your last breath escape you. It was a greater pain than you'd ever known to feel the sharp end of his spear tear through you, piercing through bits of your anatomy that were never meant to be touched.
You had lain, bleeding, on the ground for only a few moments, for which you are grateful. Surely the [[Fates |Pos1]] had planned this for you, but you cannot help but hope that man meets a dreadful [[fate |Neg1]] as well.You cannot remember the last time you'd felt anything other than despair. You were haunted by thoughts of the past, and you held no hope for the future. The world, as you saw it, was a barren wasteland, and humanity festered on its surface like an infected wound. There was no point.
You spent your final hour drinking more wine than you thought possible to stomach, but it hardly numbed the pain as you drove your own spear through your belly. You went mercifully quick, and while this was exactly what you [[wanted |Pos1]], you were left with lingering feelings of [[regret |Neg1]].The hooded figure nods as you finally come to a complete understanding.
You //truly// are dead.
"Hades awaits," Charon grumbles. As you pass through the cave entrance, something in the shadowy depths catches a hint of the light for just a second as you pass. Teeth, you think. Several sets, sharp and snarling and moist with slobber. You shudder, and turn your attention back to the boatman.
[["Are all of the gods real, then? I hardly believe it." |Gods1]]You never were a pious man. If they were there, they should have shown themselves to you, you think.
"They did show themselves to you," Charon answers, as if you've spoken aloud. "In the touch of a (if: $aphrodite is 0)[[[lover |Aphrodite]]](if: $aphrodite is 1)[lover], in the warmth of the midday (if: $apollo is 0)[[[sun |Apollo]]](if: $apollo is 1)[sun], in the voice of your (if: $hera is 0)[[[child |Hera]]](if: $hera is 1)[child]."
(if: $aphrodite + $apollo + $hera is 3)[[["I suppose they have." |Progress]]](set: $aphrodite to 1)
A memory stirs.
You awoke to the sound of gentle snoring, setting a smile to your lips before you'd even opened your eyes. A strong arm around your bare waist warmed you against the early morning chill. With great effort, you turned over to face him, gently nudging him to consciousness with a gentle kiss to his lips. Soon, he had a sleepy smile to match your own. When he opened his eyes finally, you swore you saw the face of Aphrodite.
Such love was a [[blessing |Pos2]], but you wish he could have [[stayed |Neg2]]...(set: $apollo to 1)
A memory stirs.
In your youth, you used to sneak out to the rocky cliff overlooking the sea near your home. You would get there early, just before sunrise, while your mother slept. You loved to watch the waves reflect the sky's beautiful hues, and feel the heat of Apollo's sun slowly warm the air around you.
It was a [[rare |Pos2]] moment of peace, and you just wish you'd had [[more |Neg2]]...(set: $hera to 1)
A memory stirs.
You hadn't wanted to marry, but eventually you gave in. Your wife was kind enough, beautiful enough, and you supposed it could have been worse. She quickly became pregnant with your first child, an event that twisted your nerves into knots at first - how were you to know what to do with a child? On the morning the child was born, you held her for the first time while your wife rested. As her featherlight weight settled into your arms, you felt Hera's embrace around the both of you.
You didn't have her nearly long [[enough |Neg2]], but you loved your daughter [[dearly |Pos2]]...(set: $pos to $pos + 1)
[(goto: "Gods1")](set: $neg to $neg + 1)
[(goto: "Gods1")]You progress further into the Underworld, and both you and Charon remain silent. The occasional torch along the cave walls casts an eerie glow upon your companion and your dull surroundings, but there has been nothing new to observe for what feels like hours. You have nothing to reflect on but your own thoughts. You find that you still find the existence of the gods baffling.
[["I have cursed the gods many times, Charon. Why did they never see fit to punish me? |Gods2]]"I am sure that they have. The surface is on fire with the wrath of gods, always. They make their anger known - in endless (if: $ares is 0)[[[war |Ares]]](if: $ares is 1)[war], in brutal (if: $demeter is 0)[[[famine |Demeter]]](if: $demeter is 1)[famine], in the raging (if: $poseidon is 0)[[[seas |Poseidon]]](if: $poseidon is 1)[seas]."
(if: $ares + $demeter + $poseidon is 3)[[["I see." |Hades]]](set: $ares to 1)
A memory stirs.
The self-sacrifice of a soldier who died in battle was honorable. It was necessary. You knew this, and yet, the blood followed you. You felt that you could never wash it off. Grown men sobbing for their mothers, begging to see their children again. Ear piercing screams of pain. Blood on the dirt, on the grass. Blood on your hands.
Falling in love with a fellow soldier is supposed to bring the army luck. It is supposed to make you fight harder - to protect them, to prove your worth to them. No one ever talked about what happens when Ares cuts them down right in front of you.
You felt as if his [[blood |Neg3]] stained your skin permanently, but at least you had the chance to say [[goodbye |Pos3]].(set: $demeter to 1)
A memory stirs.
In your youth, a disease had taken most of your village's wheat crop two seasons in a row. Your mother, thin as you've ever seen her, sent you to live with her sister's family miles and miles away, who she said Demeter had not cursed.
Everyone [[survived |Pos3]] in the end, but it would be [[years |Neg3]] before you'd see her again.(set: $poseidon to 1)
A memory stirs.
Your daughter loved to swim. You had settled in a home by the shore just for her, like the one you'd grown up in. The sun had been high in the sky that morning, the clouds wispy and light, and you'd let her run off to play. The waters would be calm.
The storm came in quickly, and caught you by surprise. The sky darkened suddenly, rain began to pour, the wind increased to terrible speeds. You'd taught her well; you expected she'd be running through the door any second, furious at her ruined day.
Hours later, you find yourself desperately searching the shores. Up ahead, you hear your wife scream, and you knew immediately that Poseidon had taken her.
You never stopped thinking of all the years ahead of her that she had [[lost |Neg3]], but you kept reminding yourself that she went to rest in her [[happiest |Pos3]] place.You dare not speak any more. It had been easier to believe in nothing at all.
The journey down the river continues for what could be hours or years. Nothing changes.
When you come to the mouth of the river, Charon stops the boat, but makes no move to step out. You glance up at a set of large gates, just a short distance from you. You had expected to see more when you made it this far, but the light was still quite dim.
You take one last look at your friend before stepping onto the river shore, and heading towards the [[gates]]...(set: $neg to $neg + 1)
[(goto: "Gods2")](set: $pos to $pos + 1)
[(goto: "Gods2")]It is just as dark inside. Many yards ahead of you, a figure sits in waiting. A figure larger than the world itself, you think, grim-faced and empty-eyed.
He is so far ahead of you still, but you move no closer.
His voice is dark, monotone, but booming. It is the only thing he says before you are whisked away.
Asphodel, for mortals who were nothing special. And you suppose you never were.
(if: $pos > $neg)[Many of the shades that linger here are mournful. They weep as they flit about, bitter in death over the misery of their lives, or sorrowful over the tragedy of their death. You understand; you have much to mourn as well. However, in your journey with Charon, you made your peace. Eventually, you hardly hear the howling cries of your fellow shades. You linger in contentment, enjoying the flowery fields of Asphodel for eternity.]
(if: $neg >= $pos)[Many of the shades that linger here are mournful. They weep as they flit about, bitter in death over the misery of their lives, or sorrowful over the tragedy of their death. You understand; you have much to mourn as well. Your journey with Charon only reminded you of this; all of the pain across your life returned at once. You find yourself joining in with the endless shrieking cries of your fellow shades. You linger in mourning, surrounded by the bleak, scorched fields of Asphodel for eternity.]