My college English class is currently reading Ovid's Metamorphoses, and were given one of two options for a writing assignment. Either we could analyze and critique three different translations of a specific segment (or poems/stories inspired by that segment), or we could write our own creative piece inspired by one of Ovid's stories.
I opted to write a short story based (very loosely) upon Orpheus. This is my rough draft, and is certainly subject to change, though I plan on keeping the format, cause I like it. Please tell me what seems to work and give me suggestions for improvement, as I'm going to need to turn this in tomorrow:
-I resolved to brave the depths of the underworld.
-The hellmouth opened menacingly at the state border.
-It was just a bit south of Enfield.
-I was new to the area and did not know where to go.
-I opted to play a song to the locals.
-The pigeons seemed to like it.
-I had mastered singing and songwriting to such the extent that I could cause trees to move, stop rivers from flowing, and tame wild beasts.
-The locals were not impressed.
-â€œGet a job.â€
-I suppose they could not hear my music over their earphones.
-â€œExcuse me,â€ I asked. â€œCan you direct me to your god of death?â€
-The shades stared ahead blankly and continued walking.
-Some threw some money into my guitar case.
-They must have been moved by my music.
-Finally one shade stopped.
-His name was Charon and he was absolutely enthralled by my songs, he said.
-Charon offered to guide me across the rivers, to the god of deathâ€™s black castle.
-There are five rivers(1) in hell: Acheron (River of Woe), Cocytuys (River of Wailing), Lethe (River of Forgiveness), Pyriphlegethon (River of Fire), and Styx (River of Hate).
-Cheron guided me across the Styx in his Precision 185 sailboat(2).
-The Styx was a brilliant shade of brown.
-Probably the raw sewage overflow.
-Almost certainly the raw sewage overflow.
-To cross the river Styx into hell, one must have a good reason.
-No one has ever gone into hell for the challenge, or to achieve celebrity among mortals, or to mock the gods.
-These are not good reasons.
-But I knew of a good reason.
-My recently departed wifeâ€¦
-She died when running across a grassy field, bit on the ankle by a sidewinder.
-I still donâ€™t know what a desert rattlesnake was doing in a temperate Northeastern bioclimate.
-â€¦told me in her dying breath that King Hades possessed the most incredibly beautiful and priceless treasure I would ever know.
-I wanted to see if he might be willing to share it with me.
-â€œInfinite Life, Godliness itself, must by its very definition ensure a fundamentally meaningless and truly deplorable condition, devoid of material comforts; genuine worth must take mortality as its datum, for Lifeâ€™s Wonders cannot exist without Deathâ€™s steady hand.â€ â€“ Edmund Philips (3)
-The treasure was named the â€œEurydice.â€
-â€œWeâ€™re here,â€ quoth my guide.
-Tartarus stretched out before me like an opulent Connecticut country club.
-I walked up to Tartarusâ€™s magnificent gates, guitar slung around my back.
-A security guard called from his booth: â€œDo you have membership?â€
-â€œOff with you, then.â€
-I had come too far to be deterred.
-Out came a menacing and rather pugnacious mutt.
-I was surprised to note that he had three heads.
-I accessed my options.
-I recalled that, conventionally, the gates of Hell were guarded by the three-headed dog.
-Yet I forgot to bring the doggie treats.
-Should I go back for the doggie treats?
-I might be able to breach the gate more easily with doggie treats.
-But Charon had already left me.
-I would have to swim across the Styx, with all its brilliant shades of brown.
-I resolved to go on without the doggie treats.
-I began playing a song on my guitar.
-It went like this: Lullaby, and good night, with pink roses bedight,
With lilies o'er spread, is my baby's sweet head.
Lay thee down now, and rest, may thy slumber be blessed!
Lay thee down now, and rest, may thy slumber be blessed!
-It was not one of my best improvisations.
-But the dog(s?) seemed to like it enough to go to sleep.
-I vaulted the gate and walked towards King Hadesâ€™s black castle.
-Witnessing all sorts of tortures along the way.
-Men forced to golf the same course over and over again, never finding a new hole to play.
-Women chained to pool chairs, cooked alive, their skins an inhuman shade of orange.
-I quickly averted my eyes.
-I was overcome with questions.
-Does one brave the depths of Tartarus, at considerable peril and inconvenience, simply to achieve material treasure?
-Wouldnâ€™t the damn thing just end up here again once its mortal owner perished, and thus, was it worth anything at all?
-Does it really achieve anything?
-Does todayâ€™s self-sufficient man really need such a treasure to lead a meaningful existence?
-I decided that all the answers to these questions were â€œYes.â€
-I finally reached the inside of Hadesâ€™s castle.
-â€œHow dare you break into my club?!â€
-I assumed that this was the proprietor.
-His wife knocked back glass after glass of polmagranate wine.
-â€œExcuse me sir,â€ said I. â€œYou have a treasure that belongs to me. It would depress me should I go another day without it.â€
-I played the most beautiful song that the world had ever known (4).
â€œThese words, accompanied on the plucked strings,
so moved the bloodless spirits that they wept;
Tantalus did not seek the receding water,
and on his wheel lay Ixion, astounded;
the birds let go the liver, and the daughters
of DanaÃ¼s were resting by their urns,
while you, O Sisyphus, sat on your stone.â€
-Queen Hades was so moved that she set down her drink and brought up Eurydice from the depths.
-She told me, â€œThe treasure is yours, and shall follow you outside of Hellâ€¦â€
-â€œâ€¦But do not look back on it until you reach the mortal realm, or it shall be lost.â€
-I thought this strange.
-Why have a servant carry the Eurydice behind me so far?
-What was the point in this trial?
-But I assented anyway.
-After all, the Eurydice would be mine at the end.
-I vaulted over the gate again, and heard the Eurydiceâ€™s carrier land behind me.
-Charon waited at the riverâ€™s edge, smiling.
-We began sailing across the Styx.
-On the Precision 185, my mind was thronged with concerns.
-What if the treasure I was given was not in fact the Eurydice?
-What if I had been given a shoddy replica?
-How would I know?
-I needed to know before departing.
-One cannot simply enter hell again and again as he pleases.
-It is taboo.
-I decided to look back to know that the treasure was mine.
-I was surprised to see that the Eurydiceâ€¦
-â€¦was my recently departed wife.
-â€œSee?â€ she said, her face beaming.
-â€œIsnâ€™t the Eurydice the most beautiful and priceless treasure you have ever known?â€
-I threw the Eurydice into the Styx.
-The brilliant shades of brown would be good for her ego.
-Who would venture into the underworld to retrieve oneâ€™s dead wife?
-Nor is that love conceivable, not at all, not for a moment.
(1)Also known as the Mystic, Farmington, Pawcatuck, Thames, and Connecticut Rivers, respectively. Five is an arbitrary and likely unauthentic count of waterways within hell, but these rives are, assuredly, the only ones that actually matter.
(2) Sailing World 2003 Boat of the Year.
(3) A person fictionilized by the author to represent Enlightenment writing; quote also probably spurious.
(4) So beautiful, in fact, that I could not possibly hope to reproduce it on this page.