Hades and I went on a trail that led deeper into the conifer forest but was also slightly elevated, so that in no time I could see the open canyon from the edge of the cliff. Our school was visible in the gaps between the trees. One false step, and I could fall to my death. Or one false sound, and we could attract bears and wolves.
The red streak in the opposite cliff I had seen so many times before in our history lesson stood out against the pale, sandy color. I remembered my conversation with Hades a few days ago: he wanted to go there someday and I would likely be with him.
Hades turned to me and said, “Just watch.”
Then he jumped over the cliff.
I screamed but quickly stifled it with my palm, knowing that noise would attract either teachers or wild animals, and besides, Hades knew what he was doing, right? Still, a strangled sound came out of my mouth. It was a sound of horror. It was as if my heart was going to jolt out of my ribcage.
Then there was a rush of wind, and I watched in amazement as Hades rose slowly into view, a magnificent pair of black wings behind him. The wings spread wide at his side, and before he soared into the air with a swipe of the wings that created much turbulence among the tall conifer, I had a good look at them.
The sable wings were embroidered with with golden flecks, draping long, smokey feathers like curtains behind as they brought Hades upward. He himself seemed to be showered in a glimmer of black rain, the effect of his strong, dark essence. Everything about him was smokey, or maybe it was because he was so high up in the air that I couldn’t see clearly.
Our art teacher had once said that pure black didn’t exist in nature, but here I was, staring at the thing that proved her wrong.
In less than a second, Hades had landed on the ground beside me. He was grimacing, when he should have been enjoying his power.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He looked at me for two seconds and apparently decided he could trust me. “For some reason I lost my balance, like the wind suddenly changed, and then I fell…”
“Seriously?” I knew he must have been telling the truth, but it just sounded impossible.
“Anyway.” He took a deep, shaky breath. “Just don’t tell anyone about my power because, you know…”
I nodded, feeling like it was my responsibility to keep him safe from his potential opponents. To assure him, I added, “I promise.”
He looked relieved.
(featured image by Natalia Drepina, “Leave Behind”)