I’ve walked the firefly glades of the Underworld countless times, and yet my feet always find their way back here, season after season. At my approach, the leaves and trunks of the trees burn with light. The fireflies gather around me, the new ones eager to tell their stories to their queen. I no longer cry at their tragedies, but it is not impossible I may grant a blessing to those deserving.
The first firefly lights on my hand. She says her name is Oenone, and that Prince Paris abandoned her for someone younger and more beautiful. But the consequences were more than he could bare, and he begged for her to return. I ask if she accepted. She says no. She says Paris died and she hung herself rather than be taken as a war captive. I ask if she regrets her choice. She says no. I dismiss Oenone.
The next firefly’s name is Thisbe. She sings of how her family kept her away from Pyramus, but not even solid Babylonian walls could keep their love from growing. On the night of their elopement, they had agreed to meet under a mulberry tree. But when she arrived, a feasting lioness was already there. She accidently dropped her veil into the bloody jaws of the lioness as she ran away. When Thisbe returned, Pyramus had found the bloody veil. He had fallen upon his sword in the Babylonian tradition, prematurely chasing his beloved into the Underworld. She had followed, unable to imagine life without Pyramus. Their blood mingled as it stained the mulberry fruit that night. This story I find worthy, and I decree that mulberries, formerly white, shall now be red as their blood. It is a small favor.
The mood strikes me to hear a story that doesn’t want to be told. I run through the glade, looking for a firefly that avoids my hand. I catch one, and force it to speak. This one used to be a man, a king of Cyprus named Cinyras. He says his life was ruined in a single night. His wife was away, and a maidservant approached him, telling him of a beautiful maid about his daughter Myrrha’s age who was consumed with passion for him. He asked if she was comely, and the maidservant replied yes, very much. So in the darkness of his bedroom he made love to the young maid. Afterwards, as the maid hurried to leave, Cinyras was struck with a dark suspicion. He forced the maid into the light, and discovered the one who had desired him was Myrrha. I don’t let him speak further. I crush Cinyras in my hand and drop him, wings broken and light sputtering, to the ground.
The fireflies scatter as Hades’ voice calls for me. I am his ever-loyal wife. I must attend.
Author’s Note: this was inspired by Eros & Psyche by Tony Single