Angela opened the fridge door and took out a vegetarian sausage. She started cooking it on a frying pan when suddenly she saw that the sausage had a little face. The face was furious and started yelling at Angela, telling her that she wasn’t even cooking it properly—she had to remove the plastic casing first and to put more oil in the pan. Angela peeled the plastic off as the sausage continued to berate her. Then she hurriedly got more oil and poured it in but it turned out to be gasoline and the kitchen exploded in a fireball.
Angela woke up with a scream. Sitting next to her in the darkness, watching her intently with big pop eyes, sat Melinoë. Angela screamed again.
“What is the matter with you?” Angela cried.
“Was it scary?” Melinoë asked eagerly.
“Huh? Yes, it was scary.”
Melinoë nodded and smiled a little bit.
“That’s good. I thought it might not work.”
“What? Wait a minute, did you do this?” Angela asked, narrowing her eyes.
“Of course. Nightmares are my forte, I told you. I don’t usually get to see the people dreaming though. It’s usually long-distance, so I have no idea how effective they are.”
Angela clutched her head in her hands and groaned.
“Let’s get something straight,” she said at last. “I may be sharing a room with you, but I’m not your guinea pig. Please don’t give me any more nightmares, OK?”
“Why not?” Melinoë put her head on one side, bird like.
“Because it’s hard enough getting used to this place without bedwetting added to the mix, OK?”
“You didn’t like it?”
“No, I didn’t like it.”
“Well what about when I change shape? Can I still do that?”
“You can do that all you like. Go crazy. Just don’t mess with my slee—agh! For the love of—”
Angela found herself looking at a person who was made entirely of wriggling mice.
“OK,” Angela clenched her teeth, “As I said, that’s totally fine. Just let me get some sleep.”
When Angela arrived at the Hades household dining room, Persephone and her two daughters were already daintily addressing a breakfast of pomegranate smoothies, ambrosia cups and bread made with Elysian wheat. Cerberos was sitting next to Persephone, pitifully resting on of his heads on the table hoping for a scrap of bread.
“Good morning, Angela,” Persephone said. “Did you sleep well?”
Melinoë bit her lip and shot Angela a warning glance.
“Oh, yes, I slept great, thank you,” Angela smiled.
“Good,” Persephone smiled. “I thought later, you might come up to the women’s room; we want to prepare you for your ceremony tomorrow.”
“My what?” Angela said.
“You know, your ceremonial dipping in the Acheron, to symbolize your homecoming.”
“We need to dress you and do your hair and make-up,” said Elpis, “You will look so beautiful!”
“Oh, a kind of makeover?” Angela asked. “That sounds fun.”
“But before that,” Melinoë interrupted, “I can take Angelia over to introduce her to the next-door neighbors.”
“Must you?” sighed Persephone, “They’re so ghastly.”
“Yes I must,” Melinoë pouted. “They’re really cool and Achlys said they all want to meet her.”
“All right, but be sure you get back before dinner.”
Melinoë took Angela’s hand and the two hurried out of the great cold mansion, down the steps and down the street to a house constructed of grey-veined black marble. Running along the top of six great black columns was a golden architrave engraved with scenes of murder and mayhem. As they entered the courtyard, Angela gasped at the sight of a rectangular pool filled with some viscous red liquid.
“Is…is that blood?” she whispered.
“Yes,” Melinoë murmured. “Isn’t it amazing? I really like the aesthetics here. Oops, there are the Keres—get back behind this pillar. They’re real hellions. One’s full of violent death, the other one’s the personification of disease in wartime.”
From their hiding place, they observed twin girls running at top speed around the blood pool. Both wore black tunics and wings reminiscent of black swans. One was brandishing a knife and, judging by her ferocious expression, fully intended to do the other one an injury. The other was surrounded by a mist of mosquitoes, black smoke and an indescribably rotten stench. After three or four circuits of the pool, they stopped running and paused to gather up handfuls of blood, which they drank thirstily.
“Let’s go to the women’s room. It’s usually quieter there.”
Quietly, so as not to alert the twins, Angela and Melinoë walked upstairs and found themselves in a large room containing a big loom. Around it sat three serious women, all dressed in white. One was heavily pregnant and had a distracted air. Another held a long piece of wood with notches in it. The third held a pair of scissors.
“They’re the Moirai,” Melinoë murmured. “They decide how long people live. The pregnant one is Clotho. She’s spinning thread of a life from a distaff onto a spindle. Lachesis has the measuring rod—she decides the length of a life. And Atropos holds the shears—she does the snipping.”
Angela gaped at them, fascinated.
“They do that for every single person?” she asked.
“Yes, they’re always working. Come on, let’s find Nyx.”
Melinoë took Angela’s arm and pulled her along a corridor toward a bedroom with richly painted walls. A woman dressed in diaphanous dark blue reclined on a richly decorated couch. She had long silky dark hair and her face was alarmingly pale except for black eyes, from which there flowed rivulets of what looked like black ink. She barely noticed the girls come in but made a slight gesture with her wrist, which seemed to acknowledge their presence.
“Praises Auntie Nyx,” Melinoë curtsied, “Angelia is back.”
This made Nyx pay attention. She lifted herself on her elbow and surveyed the newcomer.
“That’s not Angelia,” she said. “She doesn’t have that catastrophic aura. Who is this?”
“You’re right auntie,” said Melinoë, “Her name is really Angela. But you can’t tell anyone, OK? Persephone’s planning to fool Hera into thinking she’s her long-lost daughter Angelia.”
“Oh, I see. Because the real Angelia has gone AWOL,” she sighed and lowered herself back. “What a lot of trouble. Persephone has so much energy. Well, never mind. Welcome to Hades, dear. Will you girls have some grapes?” she indicated a golden tray overflowing with black grapes.
Nyx inspected Angela again, her eye lingering on her sweater and jeans.
“What extraordinary clothes! Are you an eastern person?”
“No ma’am, Kansas is pretty central.”
“Have you ever done any babysitting by any chance? My children are wearing me out.”
“Well,” Angela started, but then looked at Melinoë, who was shaking her head and making the cut-throat sign. “I’m…I’m not really very good with kids.”
“What a shame. I believe I will go out of my mind as it is. Melinoë, darling, would you be a dear and tell Erebos I won’t be down for lunch. I have a terrible headache.”
“Will do, auntie, bye for now,” Melinoë kissed her hand and the girls left her apartment. As they walked the halls, an ear-splitter roar rent the air. Angela nearly jumped out of her skin.
“What was that?” she was going to say, but a deafening racket ensued, accompanied by drums so low and loud that they seemed produced by a giant’s heart. She noticed that they were steadily moving towards the infernal din, and she worried that they would be engulfed by some hitherto unimagined monster, or an army of millions.