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I Am what I am.

In your world ones like me cannot be seen anymore. We are looked upon as lumber or paper. Fodder for your fireplaces and splinters to pick your teeth.

I am a dryad, a wood nymph, or forest faery.

However you wish to think of me, I am what I am.

What I am is dead.

I swirl around in the underworld in my own private torment for all time with no hope of being set free. Not anymore at least. Maybe I should start at the beginning. The same place I go back to day in and day out to relive over and over again. See, this is my private hell. To see my life, my hopes, my dreams flutter away on the wind like a butterfly's wings. That is not the hardest most painful part though. Nothing can compare to the doubt of your one true love.

My name is Eurydice. Or at least it was.

My time had begun when I was just a seedling. As I grew into a sapling and sprouted new leaves I would giggle at the way the West Wind would play through them. When it rained I would delight in how it would tickle my roots that had delved deeper into the rich soil. When winter came I would huddle down and sleep away the season. With spring came birds making a mess of my branches, and squirrels running up and down my trunk. The sun would embrace me warmly as I turned up my face to it, thanking Helios for his gift. At night I would sigh happily and sway lazily in the dance of trees for Selene. Other dryads around me were also beginning to awaken to self-awareness. A knowledge that was buried into the soil we dug our roots into as deep as we could. When we became old enough to leave our trees for a time, the other Dryads and I took on the forms of the humans, so that we could explore this wondrous world we called home. We frolicked and danced to the sound of the forest. Our laughter filtered through the woodlands.

On one such day, I wandered a little further from my tree than I had intended. Now, do not get me wrong, Dryads are not dependent on their mother tree to survive, but they are our home and every time the Mother tree welcomes us back like a babe to its mothers breast. Wide eyed with wonder I explored, because this far out, I began to hear the other trees whispering to each other. The woodland creatures chattering and buzzing to each other as they fell over themselves to get to their destination in the heart of the forest.

Where were they going? Why the same place as I was. To a clearing in the midst of my sisters, far off from my Mother Tree. In the clearing I was told was a marvel of the Gods. Something so wondrous that it made the other trees weep and the stream redirect its flow. The woodland creatures came to sit in rapt silence, little hearts bursting with emotion.
Curious, I followed. I drifted among the other trees as silently as I could. I was nothing more than a whisper on the wind. Then, I finally saw what the others talked about in hushed tones, even for trees. Sitting on a rock in the midst of the clearing sat a man that made my heart stop. He laughed at the antics of a fawn nearby. He leaned over to give a small rabbit family some clover, then with a toe, made ripples in the stream beside him. The gurgling from the water was evidence of a water nymph being tickled by this breathtaking man. Then he picked up the Lyre at his side, and my world changed forever more.

The most beautiful sound I had ever heard thrummed from beneath his fingers. A single tear seeped out from my eye and fell to the forest floor. Slowly I sat among my sister trees Oak and Ash, and there I stayed until Selene came running across the sky to tuck in the sun for the night with her blanket of stars. When the man finally put down the lyre I sat transfixed, too scared to move that I would startle him away, and never again hear such splendorous music.

As he turned though, his eyes rested on me, and our gazes locked. Something seemed to rush between us at that moment. A feeling like I had been struck by one of Zeus's lightening spears. I dug my fingers into the soil I sat on, and begged Sister Oak and Sister Ash to help me.

"He comes here every day. The stream there moved to flow beside the rock he sat upon. The Rock he sat upon grew moss as soft as none you'll ever find again, so that he would not bruise himself as he sat playing. The animals of this forest convene every day, no one hunts in this forest anymore, because they can find no game," Whispered Sister Ash through my roots.

"His name is Orpheus. The mortal son of the muse Calliope," stated Sister Oak.


His name plays through my mind like chimes of pure tinkling silver. Biting my lip as I watch him come closer I am overcome with nervousness. I run my hands through my tangle of ivy hair, wishing for once the flowing locks like Sister Willow; or even ornamented hair like Cousin Rose. Reaching a hand out to me, dumbly I sit there just looking at his fingers and palm. The same palm that danced across the strings just moments before. The same fingers that created such a marvelous melody that it made my Sister trees tear themselves away from the grove I come from just to hear him play. I look beyond his outstretched hand finally and up into his face. The very soil that Mothers me like an infant, threatens at that moment to drop away from me. Captivated as I am, I find myself standing and now eye level with this man named Orpheus. He smiles, a dimple marking his cheek on the left of his face.

My heart becomes lost, I am his.

In coming seasons, Orpheus and I become inseparable. He sleeps cradled within the embrace of my Mother tree, and plays my forest to sleep with his beautiful music at night. His heart is as lost to me as mine is to him. It was all very perfect.
Until Aristaeus.

Orpheus had gone back to the mortals for a few days to gather a few things he would need for the coming season among my Sisters in the grove. As soon as my beloved was beyond the horizon, too far to turn back in time by any means, the bees set off buzzing around me. Soon after there was the God they called Aristaeus.

As soon as my eyes look upon him, I knew that this visit was going to be anything but pleasant. In the past he would visit me, whispering at the base of my Mother tree of how beautiful I was to him. For the life of me I cannot figure out why he would think such a thing, for I am not near as beautiful as Sister Cedar, or Sister Dogwood. Even Sister Pine has a stately air about her as she stands tall and her needles are ever green. I am just plain me. My mother tree knarled by comparison, I bear the fruit of big red cherries every year. Nonetheless, this God visited me before I heard Orpheus that day, many seasons ago, and continued to after, during times such as this; when Orpheus had to go gather supplies. Each time he asks me to be his and each time I refuse him. This time though, the feel in the air is different.

I am proven correct when Aristaeus steps forward and scoops me into his arms before I can react. Struggling as much as I can to get away, it is no use against this God. I look around to see I am no longer anywhere near my Mother tree and home forest. I am a long way away from where Orpheus can find me. I take in my surroundings and notice a dead wood. There are no Dryads residing in the trees here. This forest has been without us for many long lonely years. I notice the wildlife is skittishly running between trees. The trees are silent to me, a stone like testimony of how our world is changing and how our kind is dying out. Even the water flowing in the brook nearby is hollow sounding. Nothing dares to come here. I wish freverantly for a way out.

Aristaeus takes a step forward, and I take a step back. I do not want to be here I want to scream to him. Let me go I want to cry. Instead I can only sob, I can only cry. This place has started to drain out the mystical part of me that makes me special, that makes me a dryad. I can do nothing but shake my head at him, raise my arms palms up in a show of pleading as I back away. I have to get out of this place, this tomb. Why can Aristaeus not see this?

Desperate I turn and flee. Into the darkness of the forest he has brought me to, I run as fast as I can trying to escape. The woods here are different though. I cannot hear them talking, I cannot talk to them to help me get away. I cannot ask them to show me the path out. Instead they stand silent and still. Not even the breeze will lift a leaf to help. Confused and terrified I trip over one of the trees root. As I lay sprawled on the forest floor, I am appalled at what just happened. Pressing my hands against the soil, I start to heave myself up to run. I don't make it. Lying in the underbrush laid a snake that I fell on when I tumbled over the root. In a flash, the prick of teeth on my skin, the feel of warm drugging poison, seems to slowly course through my body. In a matter of moments though, in this wild and dead forest, I am drifting away in the escape I pleaded for, even if it was not the way I wanted it.

At the entrance to the Underworld, Hades stands waiting. With an evil little grin he tells me that while I was floating along in his stream of souls, my love Orpheus has made it known he intends to visit. My soul clenches and I look to the woman by Hades' side, Persephone. Surely this woman could identify with me in this time of grief. But she stood there still as death itself.  Waving me off to a dark corner, Hades bid me leave to watch, but not leave.

As I stood a silent witness to Hades, I saw Orpheus descending into the Underworld. In panic I stepped forward, but Persephone simply raised an arm and shook her head only slightly. Wringing my hands I watched as Orpheus raised his Lyre and began to play. Hades little pet, Cerberus, slowly laid aside for him. Transfixed I watched as Orpheus played for Hades himself. My very soul wrenched to my breast as I watched and listened to this daring man I called my love play out his love for me.

Finally Hades could take no more. Hades waved me forward and while Orpheus could not see anything but shadow, The God of the Underworld spoke to me, but mostly to Orpheus. This was our chance, all Orpheus had to do was trust in me, know that I would not leave his side, and once he reached that beautiful sun, I would be free to live beside him for the rest of our days. All Orpheus had to do was have faith.

I thought we had this in the bag.

As we walked out though, I noticed Orpheus becoming more edgy. Several times he caught himself before turning around, and I sent a silent thank you to Zeus each time. Silently cheering him on, I followed behind, seeing our objective in sight.

Just a little more Orpheus.

A few more steps my love.

Almost there.

The most painful thing you can experience, if the doubt in a person's mind on your behalf. Only a few feet away from the warm sunlight, Orpheus turns. I see him become wide eyed, and then a terrible look of sadness overshadows his beautiful face. Reaching out with my hand, the spirit of my soul traces the tear that has fallen from his tragic looking eyes, and down over the dimple, not showing now, on the right side cheek.

Then a wrenching feeling pulls my soul from way back in the inner sanctum of the Underworld. Silently screaming I plunge headfirst into the river of souls, circling forever in my own private torment.

In my own private hell, Hades shows me many endings. In one, I see Orpheus picked apart by Menaeads while the snake that bit me slides around their shoulders. In another I see Orpheus ripped into little shreds by the creatures of my forest. So many ways I live out the death of my love, but in each one, the thing that gives me hope is that Orpheus comes back for me. My only bright spot in this bleak existence is the fact that after that failed leap of faith, Orpheus keeps coming back.
It doesn't change what I am though.

And what I am is dead.
I wrote this for my Fine Arts Class :)
I had a lot of fun writing this, albeit some trouble in deciding how I wanted to write it. Music in the time of the Greeks was an important part of their culture. Music no matter who plays it can convey deep feelings, whether it is hate, greed, lust, or in this case love. I think the Greeks used that idea to the fullest with using it not only as actual music but in stories as well to show others how profound music can be to share ideas or emotions.
I must say I am appalled this doesn't have more comments on it. Your writing is beautiful and flows quite nicely. "Fine Arts" indeed. I don't normally enjoy stories involving Greek legends, just because I tend to find them warn and the Greek's sense of plot to be a bit too much like that of a soap opera, but your prose lulled me into it.

I'll start by saying your introduction was very powerful. That line "What I am is dead", so oft repeated, is rather like a flame dressed in nectar so that it does not merely lure us moths, but drugs us into staying until the wings of our attention are so thoroughly engulfed in flame there's no turning back until it's over.

Yes. I liked the beginning line a tad too much.

I have only three real critiques for this work. The first two kind of go hand in hand. Your purpose was, in part, to convey the power of music, and I think that the plot allows for and accomplishes this very well. However, I think for you to have really met that end you would need to go back and add more description. Description of the melodies-- whether they were lilting, plinking, tinged with meloncholy our bouncing with verve. Description, too, of the the emotions, which you already provide but I think could use more elaborate illustrations. Less telling us what the narrator feels and more showing by their actions or metaphor.

My third critique is just a bit silly, in that the phrase "I thought we had this in the bag" seemed a tad out of place for a Greek tragedy.

Either way, you are a wonderful writer and I hope you continue with the graft. Well done here. Very well done.
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Submitted on
October 16, 2012
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