I continue through the gate. The path is wide and clear, yet shadows and darkness abound. I wonder if the dimness ever changes here. I hear the gates click closed behind me and know there is no turning back. The thick vines grow closer together forming walls that guide my way down the path.
I turn a corner to find a large mirror standing in the center of the road. The monstrous reflection that peers back at me mocks my inner feelings. I haven't the time to play these psychological games. I side-step the mirror and continue on, only to find that I'm still facing the same mirror from the same fifteen foot distance... Repeated attempts produced repeated results...
I slowly approach the mirror, realizing that this is the first test. I stare into the eyes of the reflected monster who is mercilessly laughing at me. I demand that he move, and find only further taunts... I strike my mightiest blow! Not at the reflection, but at the mirror, which shatters into thousands of sharp shards covering the path in a dazzling display of dangerous, jagged and glistening contrast.
I venture deeper into the maze, knowing that any outward sign of frustration will only please and encourage the dark god. I make a mental vow to endure by any means necessary... I recall a childhood tune and start to whistle it flippantly.
Suddenly, he appears. Angry, moody, vengeful...
"Can we talk this over? Will you open the gates and allow me freedom?"
"Why should I give you freedom? You have chosen to enter my domain."
"I was thrust into this place by circumstance and knew that we had to talk."
"Talk... an overrated mode of communication. I much prefer torturing you with your own past!"
"I have no regrets. You can't torture me with decisions that I might change now. When I made those choices, it was the right thing at the time... NO regrets."
"You expect me to just unlock the gate and let you leave? Not without a fight! You are mine now!"
"I have no wish to fight you, but if a fight is what you desire, a fight is what you will get. Would you like to open the gate, give me the key, or shall I take my dagger and cut your heart out before I take the key?"
"YOU? A mere mortal? HAHAHAHAHAHA!"
As I withdraw the blade from Hades' chest, his stunned look is etched into my memory. I quickly bend over and grab the key he has dropped and race back towards the gates...
As I reach the gates, I realize that they are already open and waiting. Passing through, I give Cerberus a quick pat on the head. His roar stops me in my tracks. I spin on my heels and kneel down... not knowing if the key will fit. One key for many locks! Hades, you're pretty clever or you shop at Home Depot!
I head for the landing, hoping to find the ferry waiting. Cerberus is licking at my hand and the wound from the prophet has reopened. I can feel the blood dripping...
The bright light is blinding. I recoil from the pain in my eyes. Is that an angel?
It isn't an angel at all...
a nurse carefully fluffs my pillow and admonishes,
"Lie still, you've gone and pulled out the IV..."