By Ellen Lorenzi-Prince

Copyright © 2002



Persephone Speaks



I am dead.

It took time for me to die, requiring repeated painful lessons in my nonexistence. The pain is over now that the dying is done.

I sit in a cold hard chair. The bindings are gone but I do not can not move. I am dead. I sit and think of nothing and nothing and nothing.

     But I am not alone. Many, many are the dead.

     We all sit, cold and hard. Not looking, not speaking. We are nothing, we are rows of lifeless statues, doing breathing being nothing.

     Something catches my eye. A black shrouded crone shuffling by. Another of the dead, no doubt. Or a lost mourner, who would soon join us.

     She does not fall into the nearest seat. She is still moving, still shuffling her feet.

     She’s moved beyond my vision. But I hear her. Shuffle shuffle break, shuffle shuffle break. Softer, now louder, weaving among the seats of stone. Sound. Sound that brings depth and space back into being. Sound. Something touching me again. My eardrums flinch but cannot close it out. The noise scrapes against the perfect silence.

     The noise stops. My ears whine down, but my eyes are startled up. I see her feet in front of me, stark against the stone. My vision folds and opens, sliding over tall pointy shoes, well worn. Laced, dust in the creases. Now there is something to think about, if I chose to, if I could choose to – who’s dust is that on her feet?

     Not that it matters. We are all the same. All dead, all doomed.

     The crone lifts her skirt to reveal two skinny legs in red and white striped stockings. And she starts to dance. In red and white striped stockings.

     A shiver flows over my face. I have a face. I feel – there. Right there I feel my skin. I feel air touch me. The steps of her dance on my skin.

     Step, hop, kick!

     Who is this who dances among the dead? Who dares? This one does not belong here. She isn’t dead. She isn’t dead!

     Step, hop…

     Flashing stripes bounce through my brain.


     I will not wake. I will not live to die all over again. I will not. The dance is an aberration. The stillness will return. The stillness is eternal. Death is forever.

     Hop, twist, kick!

     The crone pauses a moment and raises her skirt higher. I see knobby knees, flaccid thighs. She wouldn’t! Is this old woman going to flash me?

     She does and my head jerks up to her face and I scream inside.

     Because I moved. My head moved and my neck is on fire and the world is spinning. 

     Then I see her face. Cracked and grinning. Lots of teeth and nose and stray hair. And her eyes… her eyes blacker than pits. Her black bottomless eyes. I see in them how this pale gray death is nothing to her.

     She grins even wider. She turns and bends. Moons me and shimmies. In red and white striped stockings.

     The ripple of it echoes in my hollow chest. She shimmies. I sway and feel an itch. This is ridiculous. This is totally ridiculous. Her. Doing this. Absurd.

     She looks over her shoulder at me and winks a black eye and it is like a shot in the heart. I’m bleeding. I have blood, I have blood that flows.

     She leaps and spins and lands with a triumphant flourish, her scraggly pubic hair inches from my nose.

     The itch is a tickle is an unbearable building and breaking… and I must laugh. I laugh and I laugh and I gasp air and I spill tears and laugh hard enough to split stone.

     But it doesn’t last forever.

     And then I’m done here.