P R O L O G U E - Dilara.
My heart had begun to pound even harder than my headache, and I knew that it was because I was beginning to get apprehensive about everything that was going on around me. Or more accurately, the lack of everything that was going on around me.
During all the time that I had been laying here, wherever here was, I hadn’t heard so much as a sound. I guess that that was a normal thing considering the fact that I was here alone, but that didn’t make it easier for me. I was somewhere that I obviously didn’t belong, and I was alone. It was something that scared me more than I was willing to admit, but there was nothing that I could do about it—not now, at least.
I still hadn’t opened my eyes. The desire to do so had not yet settled inside of me, and I didn’t think that it was right for me to do something like that if I didn’t feel like I needed to. Who knew what I would find when I opened my eyes?
My memory was foggy, nothing really seeming to fit together, but one thing that I did remember, quite clearly, was the fact that I had fallen downwards when Hades had caught me. It sounded stupid, since I had literally been on solid ground, but I knew for a fact that that was what had happened. But the only person who would be able to confirm or deny that for me, was Hades. But I assumed that he was nowhere near me at the moment.
What was I to do about all of this? Was I simply supposed to lay here and pretend like I was at home, in bed? Because if that was the case, it wasn’t going to work. That much I was sure of. I was already failing horribly in doing so. I couldn’t just lay here forever, no matter how much I wanted to.
I was going to need to face what had happened at some point, whether I liked it or not.
I scraped together every ounce of courage that I could find, and tried to open my eyes, but I was instantly assaulted by the light that surrounded me, which caused me to snap my eyes closed as fast as I had tried to open them.
“Well, I was wondering why it was taking you so long to wake up.”
I was certain that every single bone in my body stiffened, if that was even possible, my muscles tensing as though I had just been thrown with a bucket of cold water. I could barely believe that I had heard someone speak. No. Not someone. Hades. I was even considering the possibility that it had been in my head and that I hadn’t really heard him speak, but there was this gut feeling that I had that told me it wasn’t all in my head. Hades was here and he had spoken.
But when had he come here? I hadn’t once heard a door open or close, I hadn’t heard footsteps or anything else either. Silence had been my only friend, along with my own thoughts that were keeping me company and working me up. I was willing to admit that I was having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that I was no longer alone.
But had this not been the exact thing that I had wanted?
“Keep your eyes closed for a while. I’ll handle the light.”
It was Hades. There was no longer any doubt in my mind. I had been uncertain before, but now I knew that that uncertainty had had no place in my head. I would be able to recognise Hades’ voice no matter where we were, no matter how many people were around me. If he spoke, I would know that it was him. Just like I knew now, and just like I had known before.
“Alright. You can open them. You’re still going to need to open your eyes slowly—I didn’t dim all the lights, because I would still like to see you.”
He was talking as it this was normal, as if everything that he had told me earlier, was merely just a dream, as if all of this hadn’t happened. Had it all been a dream? Somehow, I couldn’t picture myself having a dream as vivid as that one. And why else would Hades be anywhere near me if it had been a dream? And why wouldn’t I be able to tell where I was?
This place even smelt unfamiliar.
So, it wasn’t merely a case of me being unaware of where I was, but a lot more than that. I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do about it or how I was going to handle it. It wasn’t going to be easy, especially considering the fact that I didn’t know what was going on. But I needed to start figuring things out—and fast, too.
I opened my eyes, blinking rapidly, trying to make sure that there was no need for me to close my eyes again. I needed to see where I was and what was going on. Luckily for my sake, it seemed like the light wasn’t even remotely as sharp as it had been before, making it much easier for my eyes to adjust to the light.
And what I saw was an absolute nightmare.
I was in a cage.
A literal cage.
I wasn’t even aware of the fact that people made cages as large as this one, and as much as I had the urge to get up and start yanking on the bars, I knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere, that I was going to stay in here whether I wanted to or not. My attempts to escape would be futile.
Hades was standing outside of the cage, staring at me with his arms crossed in front of his chest. I felt like I was about to pass out from the amount of information that my mind needed to process. It was insanity. Whatever was going on, wasn’t normal. There wasn’t anything normal about being locked up in a cage. I wasn’t some kind of prisoner. Unless I was…
If I had fooled myself into thinking that my heart had been beating fast before, then there were no words to describe the pace at which it was beating now. I felt like it was going to bounce out of my chest at any minute now, and that wasn’t something that I thought to be normal.
“I can tell that you’re being to freak out. But it would do you good not to. I’ll explain everything, and you’ll have to stay in here until I’ve finished telling you everything that you need to know. And of course, how well you react to what I tell you will also make a difference.”
My heartbeat was only getting more frantic with every word that he spoke. I was starting to lose feeling in my legs, so much so that I actually looked down and made sure that I still had legs and that they hadn’t been chopped off while I had been asleep. At this point, I believed that anything was possible. Absolutely anything.
I looked back up at Hades, and for some strange reason, I found myself thinking that he looked different. I wasn’t entirely sure what it was that made me get that impression of him, but I put my guard up. I should have put it up the instant that I realised that I couldn’t be home, that I couldn’t be at the cafe.
Had he kidnapped me?
Is that what had happened?
“I can tell that you’re already jumping to your own conclusions—I can see it in your eyes. Trust me, Dilara, nothing that I’m going to tell you is bad. It all depends on what you believe to be bad that will make you feel a certain way about all of this.”
The more he spoke, the more apprehensive I was becoming. I didn’t think that he knew what he was doing, that he knew the effect that he was having on me. But he was right. I was jumping to my own conclusions. But what bothered me was the fact that he seemed to believe that whatever was going on wasn’t a bad thing. I failed to see how any of this wasn’t bad. I was in a cage. Was that normal? Or good?
I didn’t think so.
He was trying to make it seem like none of this was as bad as it looked, but it wasn’t. It was worse. So much worse. And I had no idea how I was going to get myself out of this situation.
“I’ll start by telling you why you’re in a cage—you might not believe me, but it’s for your own protection?”
“Hmph. My protection? Animals get put in cages, Hades. I’m a person. A normal human being—“
“And that is exactly why you’re in the cage.”
His words cut me off faster than I had been expecting them to, and they confused me even more than I was. I found it hard to come to terms with what was going on, to understand what he was trying to say to me. I still didn’t understand why I was in this cage, and by the looks of it, he had no intention of elaborating on what he had said. What was he gaining out of all of this? That was all that I wanted to know.
“If you think that I have the time to sit and work through your riddles, then you’re wrong. Do you hear me? You’re wrong. So, tell me what the hell is going on.”
I was surprised by the harshness of my voice, but then again, what else was I supposed to do in these circumstances? He wasn’t going to take me seriously if I didn’t portray some kind of emotion. It is the way that it has always been between the two of us, and I didn’t think the fact that I was in a cage was going to change any of that.
For the first time, I started to take in the exterior of the cage, started to look at more than just the bars and Hades, and what I saw, was nearly enough to make me close my eyes again. It seemed like the cage was in some kind of cave, lined with candles further than I could have imagined. And when I looked up, there was a large pit of fire.
It looked like someone had ripped a page straight out of hell.
“I think that you should focus on me for now. It’ll help you in the long run.”
I complied, because truthfully, I didn’t like what I was seeing. The fact that I had practically been handed a reason to look away had been something that I could only be thankful for, even if the reason had come from no one other than Hades. He was still standing in the same place, still standing in the same way.
“Being in the cage is for your own safety, even though you might not believe me. There are species here that would tear one another to shreds just for a drop of your blood, Dilara. And the only thing standing between you and them, is me and this cage.”
There was something about the tone of his voice, something about the way that he spoke that caused shivers to run up and down my spine. I hadn’t been oblivious to the fact that he had used the word species. I was no genius, but I could only begin to imagine that he didn’t mean people when he said that.
All of the apprehension and anxiety that I had felt before, only intensified. Everything seemed to be getting worse and worse instead of getting better and at this point, that seemed to be the only thing that was in the future of this conversation—making me realise in how much s**t I was in.
“In case you haven’t realised it yet, you’re in the Underworld.”
The little voice in the back of my head that had been screaming that at me only got louder, telling me that my instincts had been right. There had been a part of me that had known that this was where I was, that I was in hell. The fact that Hades only confirmed it now, made no difference at all.
“Whenever I’m not here, I’ll make sure that Cerberus is here. He won’t be able to do much if someone puts their mind to getting in here, but he’ll be able to keep them busy until I get back.”
At the mention of my companion, a wave of hope flooded into me and I could do no more than to hope that I would be able to see him soon. It wouldn’t make much of a difference having him here—I believed Hades when he said that much—but I was also sure that he would be able to put me in better spirits than I was now.
“It’s going to take a while to get everyone accustomed to the fact that you’re a human and that you’re here, but they’ll have to accept it. And if they don’t, then they’ll be the ones who fine themselves in a cage.”
“Or you could make it easier for everyone and send me back to my world. I don’t belong here, Hades. I’m alive. Do you realise that? I’m literally alive. I’m not supposed to be in hell—“
“This place isn’t hell, Dilara.”
“Maybe not to you. But to me, it is.”
He didn’t say anything immediately and I guessed that it was because he didn’t know what he was supposed to be saying to me at a time like this. It was a difficult situation that we were in at the moment, and I could only imagine that it was going to get worse and worse with every moment that passed. As he had said, this wasn’t going to be some dreamworld. It was hell. Or the underworld, as he seemed to classify it.
“Make the best of your time here, Dilara. It’s all that I’m going to say to you. Because if I have my way, you’re going to stay here with me forever, whether you’d like to or not.”
After he had finished speaking, he turned around and started to walk away, seemingly deciding that this conversation was done, while I felt like it had only just begun…