I was trying to avoid everyone these days, so I hid myself in the forest and practiced my power there. Sometimes I grew flowers from an existing plant; sometimes I made a seed sprout and grow into a tree; and very rarely, I made a plant grow from out of nowhere.
Aphrodite did shut her mouth—so rare for once—but I knew she muttered behind my back. It must have been very normal for a girl like her—always jealous, always trying to get into other people’s lives, always making herself look the best, so that she may appear to be the best. That was very superficial.
I couldn’t help but wonder that Apollo was the same as Aphrodite. He cared all about appearances, reputation, and stuff like that. If it weren’t for Calliope who had done a great job on my makeup that Friday, Apollo wouldn’t even know who I was!
My thoughts reached deeper and I questioned about Poseidon. So he only cared about appearances too? Was he like Apollo too?
“Remember your Exam,” Calliope said. “It’s like, in half an hour.”
So I hurried toward the examination room. I was told to wait outside while staff prepared the room, and then I was led in. In the middle of the room sat a man; there were no windows, and the only exit was the door I’d come in.
I felt suffocated, not because of the closed space but because of the Exam. The cells in my body were trembling; my belly contracted so much that it hurt. I couldn’t get enough oxygen, but breathing deeply and quickly would make too much noise. I feared that I would fail the Exam, because if I did, I would have to wait for another two months.
When the door closed, the man in the chair stood up and smiled. I was close enough to see his handsome facial features, and yet they seemed to change and never remain the same. We shook hands; he motioned me to sit down on another chair that was suddenly there.
“Hello, Persephone,” he began, “I am Eros, your examiner today.”
The sound of his name was like a thunderbolt vibrating my whole skull.
“Hi.” I didn’t know what to say, because he already knew my name, though I supposed he knew more than that.
“This is your first time taking the test?”
“Yes,” I stammered, not taking off my eyes from his green eyes, which were searching something in my own.
Eros smiled, as if he had found what he wanted to find. “Now, please feel free to demonstrate your power.”
Suddenly, I felt embarrassed and awkward. My power was nothing; it was nothing compared to Hades’s. It was possible that this man Eros had seen countless students like Hades, and he, already deep in his heart, had formed his own opinion of who or what was strong or weak.
Seeing that I wasn’t moving, Eros only smiled wider. “Are you not comfortable with showing your power? Remember your intention here.”
Maybe it was his dreamlike-quality voice, but I was immediately strengthened. Without even thinking, I touched the flat, concrete ground beneath me and felt it tremble, straining not to look at Eros’s mesmerizing eyes. Then the floor broke into a tissue under my hands, and green stems burst out like they would in spring. The plant’s roots became so thick and long that they cracked the floor wherever they spread.
The pomegranate tree was taking roots.
I glanced up triumphantly to see if any fruits had come out, but there weren’t any. Eros was somewhere close, just outside my view. But the thought of him clouded my mind, as if someone had sheltered myself from my power. I could no longer control the growth of the tree: it wasn’t growing anymore. No, that wasn’t true! Think about Hades, and his title, and his skills! Eros was beside me now, inspecting—stop thinking about him!—the tree really wasn’t growing—there were no pomegranates—No!—
As I collapsed onto the ground and tried to catch my breath, the examiner said, “That is a very beautiful tree; I am sure you can do a lot more than this, but I think that is enough for today, unless—”
“No.” I stood up. “It’s over.”
I couldn’t believe it came out of my mouth. I had prepared for so many months; I had practiced nearly everyday. How could I not grow a damn tree?
Eros cocked his head. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” I turned away from him; I didn’t want him to see me like this.
“You know,” he mused, “I have a feeling we might meet again, the next time you take the Exam.” This wasn’t like what an examiner would say, but I wasn’t sure.
“Better not,” I muttered under my breath, but I had a feeling he could hear it. The door reopened, and when I had stepped out, tears rolled involuntarily down my cheeks.
(featured image by Hsiao Ron Cheng)