“Fences are for climbing,” she whispers.
The puff of air that escapes her lips as she mutters the words makes her feel like a powerful dragon, puffing steam in the cold air surrounding the fence that is meant to be climbed.
She is a girl still. Even though seventeen is closer to a woman, she has that unmarred innocence no one wants to break just yet.
In the sunlight, her hair is a rusty brown. At night, it is a blackened hue. Her pale skin is covered with dark paint to keep her presence hidden from any passers-by.
She couldn’t risk getting caught.
The fence was put up last week by people she had never seen before. The fence is a challenge. A task to complete. What is on the other side is certainly something worth investigating. But climbing the fence is the only objective in that stillness in the night air. Puffs of breath coming from her mouth.
“What are you waiting for? A parade?” It is a stinging taunt. Abel was never a nice partner in crime. He treated her like baggage. But he never left without her, so she must be useful in a way.
“Hush Abel. I’ll bet I can beat you over even with a head start.”
“Bet me what Persephone?”
“What are you going to bet if you win or I win?”
Persephone didn’t really think she had anything to bet. It was just a phrase she heard over and over again when her step-father spoke with his friends in the evenings.
“I’m… I’m… I’m…”
“Hey Pear, it’s okay. We don’t need to bet anything.” Abel says things like this. These words always make Persephone question his character. A majority of the time he is an ass. Whenever he calls her ‘Pear’ he sounds different.
“Let’s get moving,” Abel holds onto her arm gently guiding her like he does to the horses when he walks them around without a bridle.
The fence is in front of her face now. Her fingers grip the links, the metal is cold, seeping through her thin black gloves.
“Fences are meant to be climbed,” Persephone and Abel climb quickly, no looking back or forward, just a purposeful crawl over the chains until they are up and over. Landing feet first on the ground on the other side. Both crouch to the ground. Making themselves smaller.
“That was a pretty loud thud, Abel. Have you been eating too many sweets?” His laugh is muffled in his sleeve like a cough. Persephone does not wait for his answer. She moves across the ground to a pile of bricks.
“I think they’re going to make the fence a wall Abel,” she whispers this as they crouch together in the shadows.
No rushing breath.
Except for maybe Abel’s and Persephone’s. She seems more aware of him than usual. She feels the prickles on the back of her neck. She knows he’s staring at her just a little longer than he should. His breath is close to her. The puffs intertwine, sort of.
Abel moves upward. Peering over the edge of the brick pile.
“No one. Shall we?” He moves towards the other brick piles as Persephone follows. There are sounds coming from farther away. Sounds are the best place to start looking for answers.
The earth movers are giants on wheels. They tumble around the site without any concern for the people on foot. Workers, engineers, and Persephone’s Mother and Abel’s Father standing under a tent. Pointing at something on the table. Something that makes both of them upset. Their faces are angry lines and scowls and raised voices straining against neck muscles.
“Well, I guess we know where they went,” Persephone’s voice is distant. She feels numb. They hadn’t known where their parents were for months. Her mother was taken on the way back from the market. Abel’s father disappeared from his work.
“What are they doing here though?” Abel asks.
“What do they have in common?” Persephone is dry. There are no tears of frustration or worry for them now. She cut off her feelings like a damaged limb. They won’t interfere with her getting answers.
“Their jobs are both with Olympus company?” Abel sits back on his heels. His hands loosening his collar. He would rub his face if it weren’t for the paint. Which they couldn’t redo if he touched it.
“I’m not going to ask her questions when the answers are over there,” Persephone points to the entrance, “Are you coming or are you going to him?”
Abel had a better relationship with his father than Persephone did with her mother. Probably because her mother was a career woman first and a mother tenth on her list of life priorities. Abel’s father was a family man with a lab job which allowed for more hours at home.
Abel shakes his head, “I’m with you Pear.”
It was her turn to lead. She opened her arm pocket and brought up the data she debugged after her mother’s disappearance. “Easiest way is through the entrance. They might have changed passageways since the last schematics were sent.” She didn’t look back at her mother as she headed towards the entrance of the tunnel.
The massive whole was dented with tracks taller than either of them. The earth movers gave them moving hiding spots. No one seemed to notice two shadows as they moved with the trudging wheels.
As they entered the cave, the sound was louder, as if there were twenty of the same thing rumbling down into the tunnel. Persephone kept pace with the vehicle until the first side passage opened up. She turned and Abel followed. An unspoken understanding when they had to switch who made the decisions.
The sounds were too loud to speak. But that didn’t hinder their ability to communicate. Signals were mostly hand gestures on their shoulders in the dark corridor.
Two turns right, then left, to the stairway.
You know they could have just told us everything right?
Abel didn’t have a response. But the touch of his hand on her shoulder, accompanied by a slight squeeze was some comfort.
Have you been working out?
It was Persephone’s turn to laugh and cough into her sleeve. The tap she landed on his chest was in all fairness, play. But she couldn’t help feeling the ridges of muscle underneath the clothing.
The light changed instantly when they arrived at the first segway. Fractals of blue break through the darkness around them. They can only see the grey orbs of each other’s’ eyes.
Maybe an opening? Abel signed on Persephone’s shoulder.
Or a cavern? She responded before they moved into the mystery of that air surrounded by that darkness.
Their surroundings were strange the farther down they went. Down was the only way to explain the angle they felt their feet were heading. A faint light was illuminating their path in front of them as the darkness expanded behind their bodies. Their black clothes were almost blue compared to the shadows they were emerging from. The faintness seemed bright as they had walked in the darkness for so long.
The air was damp as if the water was inside the earth surrounding them, but there were no droplets on their sleeves or puddles under their feet.
“What is this place?” Abel said aloud.
“I don’t know,” the sound of their voices echoed. Persephone and Abel both placed their hands on the earth walls. “Frozen.”
They looked at each other at that moment, wondering if they should turn back, away from the light ahead, and return to the darkness, where eventually they would find their parents again. Persephone almost pushed Abel to return to his family, but he moved forward, knowing that she would not go back even if he did. He would not abandon his friend to the unknown.
At his step forward the sounds changed. Before the world was filled with the sounds of their own making. Now each step Abel took made the faint twinkling of sound grow. When Persephone followed him her steps were followed by a wind instrument. Each step added tones to the sounds as they moved towards the opening that was growing larger and brighter the closer they came to it.
The sound became a cacophony. The twinkling became clashes and the flutes were screeches. At the most unbearable moment, Abel rushed to Persephone and put his arms over her covering her with his body as he stopped them from moving any further. Maybe he feared an avalanche or he discovered that the sounds would only escalate if they kept moving, which made him stop Persephone in her tracks before he stopped himself. The silence was a weight on their ears.
As echoes lifted from their memory they heard a voice. The voice was emotionless as if it were talking to objects rather than people. “What are you doing? Stop with the noises you fidgets!”
As Abel moved around Persephone so that he was in front of her. The sounds tried to resume their rhythm. “No. No. No!” The sounds stopped. “You’ve announced them. Now stop it.”
“We are being announced?” Persephone says into Abel’s ear. He lifted an eyebrow as he looked back at her. “Apparently.”
“Come forward. They won’t start again. I want to see my visitors!” The voice did not change its tone. Persephone and Abel both felt their object-ness as they moved towards the chilly entrance.
“Visitors.” The voice was from the throat of a blue-hued being. Taller than either of their parents but not a giant. The room had objects made of ice rather than fabric or wood. The sounds had come from a corner alcove of instruments floating in the air. As if held by invisible hands.
“Forgive the intrusion, Sir.” Persephone could not help her body’s habit of curtseying when introduced to a new person. Abel bowed as well, both knowing enough about what this creature was that they didn’t want it to be cross.
“I was wondering if any of you would come to see me. So many are scuttling around so close to where I live. What are you doing out there?” Its words were like gusts of cold wind off of glaciers.
“We do not know Sir,” Abel bowing again with his own words.
“How do you not know?” The chill coming out of its mouth was more violent when annoyed.
“We are not a part of that,” Persephone said as she looked away from the face.
“I see. Then what are you, ‘a part of’?” The gust clipped off. Waiting for their answers. The question was an open riddle. Any answer could be the right one, but what could happen if it was the wrong answer to the question.
“We are a part of ‘the above’.” Persephone said this while looking at Abel. Abel looked at the creature’s reaction. Its face was slate and ice, grey and clear and dangerous when scowling as it was in the moment.
“The above? The above? Did it say the above?” The creature was looking around. Trying to find someone else to confirm her answer.
“Yes, Sir. The above. As this is beneath.”
“I am not a part of ‘the beneath!'” The creature was cross at the idea that their definition was insulting its existence.
“Then what are you?” Persephone wanted the subject to change quickly to avoid harsher treatment.
“What am I? I am a who. I am a Great Who. Do you not know me?”
“We do not know what to call you Sir. I am Abel, this is Persephone.” The creature paused at their names. They reminded it of something.
“I’ve had many names. Pluto, Hades, Lucifer just to name a few. But you don’t sound like those that called me any of these names.” Its fingers cradled its chin as it stared at them intensely. Deciding they were more than just objects at that moment. It asked with a wicked twinkle to its eye. “You said ‘the above’ wherein ‘the above’ do you come from Persephone and Abel?”
“Ithaca, New York Sir.” Its head bobbed on the thought of the where Abel mentioned. Its fingers curled through the air as if sifting through some invisible reference.
“Yes, yes, yes. You would know me as Jack Frost. Greetings and Salutations to you both.” Jack Frost bowed to them. They were more valuable to him than they had been moments ago. And as Jack Frost came up from the bow his fingers curled closed. Persephone and Abel found themselves tugged into the ice room and placed in the chairs close to Jack Frost’s own seat. “Tell me everything,” he said softly.
As he said this the opening that they had stood in collapsed. Persephone heard the rumble of the frozen tunnel continue to collapse after the entrance closed. She looked at Jack Frost and Abel and knew there was no hope of escape.