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Starving for Vassar Games | 2012 | New Year's 2013


We want to worship a living God. I have not seen anything but God all my life, nor have you. To see this chair you first see God, and then the chair in and through Him. He is everywhere, saying, "I am." The moment you feel "I am," you are conscious of Existence. Where shall we go to find God if we cannot see Him in our own hearts and in every living being?  



Hades and Persephone

I'd follow her to the Underworld.

Hades does not have a runny nose. I know this. The entire Greek pantheon no doubt knows this. For some reason, my nose is unaware of this basic fact of mythology. No matter how damp the Underworld may be, its Lord does not get colds.

Amber's group (not a coven, but a shifting collection of mostly women with whom she worships the phases of the moon, all loosely affiliated with a local spirituality shop) asked her if she and I would represent Persephone and Hades for their Samhain working. I take this for flattery, but it might also be that we are among the few heterosexual couples of the witches - and possibly the most photogenic thanks to Amber.

We did one rehearsal a week ago, where we planned out what Amber and my roles would actually be. Amber has no lines. She simply has to be led by me to her seat, eat pomegranate seeds, and later be fetched. I have one line, "May the ancestor feast begin!" Beyond that, I will be fed six grapes by two of the women, my servants. As Hades, I am to eat none of the foods provided for the feast. Why would I bother with mortal nourishment as Lord of the Underworld?
Hades's servants  
Hades's servants

Once our blocking was memorized, we were shown to a plastic table to write positive adjectives on plastic bones, around which we tied a black ribon with a mirror hotglued to it. These will be given to the attendees of the ritual as a combination of affirmation and fortune.

As I finished up this task, Rhianna, the organizer and woman in whose backyard I met Amber, came to says how thrilled she was that I am going to be a part of this ritual after our long history together. I feel abashed at her acknowledging that our relationship has not always been smooth - I have known her for sixteen years to this point - but know she is sincere in her gratitude that we have reached this point.

This ritual has personal importance for me because, years ago, it was the ritual I failed to successfully attend when I was a bit mentally ill with Melanie's piecemeal leaving. It is the ritual where I would have, by rights, first met Amber, except I was late and the doors were already locked. That was also one of the first rituals Amber ever braved with this group. Last year, it was bizarrely snowed out, which makes our being the stars now slightly eerie.
Hades and Persephone  
Quite the power couple

The night of the ritual, Amber and I sit in a room a dozen yards off from the hall where people gather. We are under strict orders from Rhianna not to be seen in our costumes, to better symbolize that we are divine and thus do not schmooze with the mortals or use the bathroom. The waiting takes on increasing tension owing to the fact that Amber has gone all out in her costuming. She is inexpressibly beautiful. If anyone could pull off looking like a goddess trapped in the Underworld, it is her in dark red lipstick and eye shadow. Prior to her preparation for this role, I donít think I had ever before seen her in makeup and react to the sight with passion. She also wears a black bodice and dress, with lace provided by Rhianna. If I were not nursing a cold, I would have to be actively restraining myself from irreparably smearing her makeup with kisses while we sit in this stasis, my Persephone instead playing games on her phone to pass the time.

My costume is not as grand. The night of the rehearsal, Rhianna knew, possibly by using eldritch powers, that I had a flowing black coat inexplicably rumpled in my back seat. The rest of the costume was either in my closet (red button-up shirt, black slacks) or made by Amber (cardboard crown that resembles Loki's in the Marvel movies). By the nature of being a male who is not particularly imposing, I stood little chance of being a tenth as sexy as Amber, or as appropriate for the role.

The ritual is not low budget. Amber and I walk in amid much smoke from a machine outside the doors of the Unitarian church. Before us is a table that stretches fifteen feet by three, covered in morsels of food and a gossamer covered tree covered in leaves on which people have written the names of the deceased in memorial.
Hades and Persephone  
I was right to steal her to my realm.

We are utterly silent. Surrounding us are likely seventy worshipers, some in street clothes and some robed, though I barely notice them. All I can pay attention to are those involved in the ritual, some fifteen people. I lead Amber to her throne across the long table, with my servants in tow. Once I sit, she is obscured by the tree. All I notice of her is her hand as it reaches for a chalice of pomegranate juice. I sip from my own when she does and try to urge my nose to cease being drippy. I know for sure that proper gods do not wipe their noses on their sleeves.

I manage to flub my one line, but everyone else is bound to silence in honor of the ancestors and so they cannot point it out.

I listen for the cue to go and collect Amber from her side of the table, though the rest of the ritual is a blur. Possibly this is owing to the nature of serving as an avatar of a god of the underworld. Possibly, it is because I am nervous, more focused on my nose, and on store brand Sudafed.
Amber and Rhianna  
Amber and Rhianna

We disappear in a blanket of more smoke, then doff the costumes and put on street clothes so we can reappear as normal people and enjoy some snacks, for which I am ravenous. Those present compliment Amber on her costume. A local Pagan author offers Amber a role in a play, having to this point never heard Amber speak but assuming she is an actress by dint of eating pomegranate seeds. No one seems to notice me anymore, which is fine. All I was to them was the body that wore the crown and took their Persephone away again.

Or, quite possibly, they just don't want to catch my cold.

Soon in Xenology: The Discontinuity. Pleasant Valley. The Ship of Theseus. Yule.

last watched: Panty and Stocking
reading: How to Write Scary Scenes
listening: Radiohead

Starving for Vassar Games | 2012 | New Year's 2013

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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