Home > Soul in Darkness(10)

Soul in Darkness(10)
Author: Wendy Higgins

From afar, white marble turrets, pillars, archways, and balconies glittered under the sun. A castle far grander than my family’s. Each stone was melded together by gold, every doorway edged in precious gems—diamond windows and emerald doors. Yet somehow it managed to be tasteful in its grandeur. My feet moved me up the hill, curiosity driving me closer. Beside the castle was an archery range, vast in its size, with quality targets of stuffed humans and animals.

I was close enough now to make out the main walkway paved in gold. I stopped at the entrance of the sparkling path, stunned. How it all sparkled!

On either side of the path were glorious gardens. Bushes sculpted into giant, wild beasts, creatures I’d never seen but a few I’d heard of: centaurs and satyrs. I recognized the three heads of Cerberus. Beyond the leafy animals were rows of colorful bushes, leaves and petals as bright as if they’d been dyed by a master seamstress. I was drawn to the colors, like nothing I’d ever seen in nature. And for a moment, I forgot to be afraid.

“You like it, then?”

I screamed, nearly jumping out of my skin as I clutched the fabric at my chest, spinning, eyes frantic, seeing no one. The voice had sounded close, right behind me. A deep, rough male intonation. But I was alone!

“Who’s there?” I called.

“Be calm,” he commanded.

I leapt back at the voice that sounded inches from my face where only air was present. I stumbled a few steps away from the sound, twisted in place, and faced the palace again.

“Who are you?” I didn’t mean to yell, but panic gripped me.

It was silent now except for my overly loud breathing. Nobody was there. I was going mad. Now I knew for certain. “Oh, gods,” I whimpered.

“Be still.” The voice wasn’t as close this time, as if giving me space, but my heart still jumped with fright. I stared at the spot from where it emanated on the golden path.

“This is not real,” I whispered. “I’m dead.”

“Is this how you imagine the Underworld?”

“No.” A crazed laugh bubbled forth from deep within me. “Then I’ve gone mad.”

“You have not.” His voice, closer again, sent a shiver rippling up my back and through my core. The sound was gravely and low, yet strangely pleasant.

“Then why can’t I see you?”

“Because I do not wish to be seen.” The voice was beside me now. My instinct was to run, as if I were prey, but I forced myself to remain still this time, tilting away. I had to get answers.

“Why do you wish to hide yourself?” I asked.

“For reasons I cannot say.” Now he was behind me, sending a chill up the back of my neck, but I didn’t move. He was circling me. I fought to keep my breathing even.

“Wh-who are you?” I asked.

From in front of me now, his voice lowered. Almost dangerous. “I am your husband.”

A stab of terror shook me, and I covered my mouth with both hands. My husband. The monster. He was cruel enough to tease me with an atmosphere of beauty and false safety, wanting to savor this moment. I forced myself to drop my hands, stand straight, and swallow my fear. How I behaved now would set into motion our “relationship” from now until I died. However long he decided to toy with me.

“If you are my husband,” I said with strength I didn’t feel. “Why do you hide yourself from me?”

“I am not permitted to show myself.”

That made no sense. “So, you have a master who forbids it?”

He let out a snarl that sent me back a step, despite my vow not to appear afraid.

“I have no master,” he said with indignance.

I felt my eyebrows furrow.

“Then you choose not to be seen.”

“No.” Annoyance. “I am limited as to what I can explain. You will have to…rely on me.” His voice twisted after the pause, as if they weren’t the words he was looking for.

I snorted with disbelief at the thought of relying on him, then pressed my lips together.

“I will not lie to you, Psyche.” He was so close again that I let out a sound of surprise and held up my palms.

“Stay back,” I said.

The deep voice chuckled, and I felt the sound rub my lower abdomen. I pursed my lips against the unwelcome clench of muscle in my core. That chuckle…it carried meaning that I seemed to be able to decipher. He sounded surprised when I told him to stay back, almost as if he weren’t accustomed to such a command. Like everything else, it made no sense.

“Tell me what the oracle said to you,” he demanded.

I cleared my throat and complied, conveying every detail. He was quiet a long while.

“A serpent,” he mused.

I tried to imagine his voice linked to a body. Did he have scales? He didn’t speak with the slur of fangs, but perhaps he could bare them at will. I shivered and wrapped myself in my arms again.

“And so, you have married a monster, and here you are.” His voice was…what? Sad? That couldn’t possibly be right. I had no idea how to read him and I was even more baffled when he said, “I have a request.”


“I desire for you to…put aside what you think you know about me.”

What? I blinked in confusion.

“Can you do that, Psyche?”

When I tried to take a deep breath, my chest heaved and shuddered. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “I will try.” Try as I might, I didn’t believe I’d ever be able to forget he was a monster, though I knew it was what he wanted to hear.

“I suppose that will have to be good enough,” he murmured like a rumbling purr. “In the meantime, there are rules. Listen closely. You will never, under any circumstances, touch me. I can touch you, but you cannot touch me. Do you understand?”

I had no desire to touch him, but the part about him touching me caused me to grit my teeth.

“Do you understand?” he asked again, more firmly.

I nodded.

“Verbal responses, please.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Good. Know that myself and my servants will not be visible to you. It is my hope that this arrangement will only be temporary, but that will depend on you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I cannot say.”

I let out an exasperated sound, but quickly silenced myself.

“All of these lands are mine and you are free to roam them at your leisure. I have duties during the day, but I will spend the evenings with you.”

Oh, darkness of Hades. My mouth dried and my body went rigid with alarm. At my stiffness he let out a low hiss.

“You do not wish to spend time with me.” A statement, not a question. And he didn’t sound happy. How could he possibly be surprised? I peered down at my feet wrapped in dainty sandals that laced up my ankles. When he spoke again, his voice was hard.

“You will open your room to me each evening, whether it is your desire or not, and we will spend time together.”

Again, my chest heaved and all I could do was nod. My stomach took that inopportune moment to make a gargling sound of hunger, and my cheeks heated.

“I forget how fragile humans are. You slept all day. You must eat now.”

I blinked, swallowed, and nodded but made no move.

“Well, come on,” he said.

“Wait.” I took a deep breath. “What shall I call you?”

“You may call me Husband.”

I frowned. “You won’t tell me your name?”

“No, I cannot. But if you insist on calling me by a moniker, use Leodes.”

My eyes bulged, and for a sweet moment my heart thudded in memory. “I cannot call you that.” I dropped my eyes. “I once knew someone by that name.” What were the chances?

He was silent a long moment, then cleared his throat. “You knew him well, did you? This Leodes?”

I shook my head in remorse. “No, actually. And yet…never mind. It matters not.”

Another long pause, and then a gruff, “Indeed. It matters not. Come along.”

No touching. No hearing his real name. No seeing him. I didn’t understand the mystery surrounding him, but I was grateful he hadn’t shown any outward cruelty yet. Perhaps he was saving that for the bedchamber.

My insides trembled as I made my way up the path to the castle fit for Jupiter himself. A paradise that would be my prison. And I couldn’t help but wonder how long I had until nightfall.


What sort of monster had a lavish home and servants? None of this was right. I’d expected to be in a cave, on a dirt floor, shackled and in pain. Instead, I sat at a grand round table in an opulent dining room where everything was trimmed in gold. I let out a small yelp of surprise when a golden bowl of soup floated through the air and settled on the table in front of me.

“Princess,” said a kind, mature, feminine voice. “White bean and vegetable soup in crustacean broth.” Then another floating plate landed gently beside it. “And salted grilled sardines on fresh baked flat bread.”

Oh, my goodness, it smelled divine.

“Thank you,” I said, but the voice did not respond. The room was so quiet that I peered around. “H-hello?”

“I am here,” came the deep voice of…my husband. It sounded as if he sat nearby, but he’d been given no food.

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