Rivers of the Dead: Book Two

3-5 Sweet Oblivion

It wasn't long before Caleb realized he was lost. He saw many people throughout Elysium, but he didn't feel approaching them would get him anywhere. None of them paid him any heed, they only seemed concerned with whatever pleasant images they saw ahead of them.

He, on the other hand, remained fixated on the memory of Ethan's declaration. Ethan was an atheist.

Ethan remained in the dark. 'How long had he been in the Underworld?' Caleb wondered. Had it been years? Centuries? Time passed differently for everyone in the afterlife, and for Caleb, it now seemed as if he'd walked for an eternity without answers.

Only one person ever seemed to have answers, and he no longer knew if that person could be trusted. Had Orpheus not sworn that Ethan would be here? Had he not said that Caleb would find him here? But now Orpheus, too, had abandoned him. Caleb had called out to him, so many times he'd lost count, but there'd been no reply.

Be that as it may, as he struggled through a part of Elysium he had never seen before, he called yet again. "Orpheus? Orpheus?"

"You're looking for Orpheus, are you?" A woman answered. It was so surprising to hear a response, it took a moment for Caleb to realize the sound hadn't been within his own skull. He looked to the source of the words, a beautiful, raven-haired woman dressed all in white. She sat at the edge of a fountain. Grey, murky water poured from the eyes of a statue at the top. The statue also had the form of a woman, similar in build to the woman which sat before him.

"Who are you?" Caleb asked, taking a defensive step back from her.

"You know me," the woman said gently. Caleb studied her face and saw that her eyes were red, as if she'd been crying for some time. Her cheeks were dry, however, as if she'd stopped a few minutes before he arrived on the scene. "Come this way," the woman beckoned, patting the stones next to him.

Caleb's eyes lit up with recognition. "You're the woman who follows Orpheus around, aren't you?"

"Yes. My name is Eurydice," The woman replied sadly. "He doesn't see me anymore."

Caleb approached cautiously, stopping a few feet in front of her. "What? How come?"

"He's afraid to look back. To see what he's lost," Eurydice replied. "It's something the two of you have in common, though by all appearances, it seems you're now looking back and wondering."

"How do you know about me?" Caleb asked. "We haven't met."

"I can see it in you," Eurydice replied. "I, too, have drunk from the Mnemosyne. Though now . . ." She gestured at the fountain beside her.

"What is this?" Caleb asked. He felt he could trust her, and so he came and sat beside her as she'd originally beckoned.

"The River Lethe," Eurydice said. She reached out and ran her fingers through the water of the fountain, cupping her hand to catch some and then letting the water, fall through her fingers. "Can you not see it?"

Caleb shook his head. "Not as a river. I see it as a fountain."

Eurydice nodded in understanding. "And I sit upon its edge and not the riverbanks. I see. You're a man of the modern age, surely. I can see it in how you see things."

"Yes," Caleb replied. "I've only been here for . . ." He sought for some understanding of the reckoning of time, but he found no knowledge waiting for him. "I don't know, not anymore, but less than a year, I imagine."

Eurydice nodded and fell silent, giving Caleb an opportunity to consider the water. It felt familiar, like the comfort of an old friend. The water wanted to embrace him, to bring him into the sweet enveloping bliss of oblivion. He remembered what Orpheus said the water could do, that it could erase the memory and with it the pain of the past. Without Orpheus to guide him, he felt he'd never find The Ruler, never free Ethan from the darkness, never be truly at peace. His mouth felt dry. He wanted to drink.

"I spend all my time here, these days," Eurydice said, staring into the water as she stirred it with her hand. "I consider drinking from the water, but I never do."

"Why?"

"Why what?" Eurydice asked. "Why do I consider, or why do I not drink?"

"Either, I suppose."

"To drink means an end to this. It means I'm ready to commit my soul to oblivion and forget. It means . . ." She sighed and met his gaze. Their eyes communicated their mutual sadness, their common despair, and he understood her pain. Despite this, she continued, accenting her emotion with words, "it means that I will no longer love as I have loved, and no longer weep as I have wept for my love. I suppose it is really the same answer to either question, when it comes right down to it."

Caleb nodded, feeling that he, too, should give voice to his doubts. "I've learned my whole journey here has been a lie. Ethan was never here. I must have left him back in the very beginning."

"Ethan?" Eurydice asked.

Caleb nodded. "My true love. I came here to rescue him from the afterlife."

"No wonder Orpheus likes you," Eurydice replied, her sad smile returning to her lips. "He must see himself in you."

"He told me I'd find Ethan here, but I no longer believe that," Caleb explained.

"You don't need to find him to rescue him," Eurydice replied, placing her hand on top of Caleb's. He could feel the River Lethe on her skin. It felt like the lull of a quiet, deep slumber. It felt like the foggy realization that you have dreamt a pleasant dream, but can no longer remember. "You can still ask The Ruler to exchange your life for his, if that is your desire. You need not find Ethan to make the exchange, for Death knows all his subjects, though he does not know his own heart."

Caleb cocked his head to the side, considering Eurydice. "You speak for Death as if you know him intimately."

"I have been here as long as Orpheus," Eurydice said. "You learn a few things after so much time."

Caleb nodded, and considered the water once more. It promised a release, a release he now felt he might desire after all. "What if I reach the end and cannot achieve what I want?"

"Drink from Lethe, and you'll move on. It's what I would do," Eurydice replied.

"Then I'll take some of the water," Caleb said. He withdrew his canteen and opened it, then remembered he had already acquired the waters of the Styx. He poured them out on the pavement, letting go of the hateful waters. He then placed the canteen under the water, loving the way the water splashed over his hand like a gentle caress. Once the canteen was full, he closed it and replaced it in his backpack. "A suicide pill, I guess, should I be unable to accomplish my mission."

"Seems reasonable," Eurydice replied, smiling. Caleb stood, and she followed his movement with her eyes. "Are you going, then?"

"Yes. I go to seek The Ruler. You were right, I'd given up too easily," Caleb replied. "Even if Orpheus isn't here to guide me anymore, I can still accomplish my mission. Can you point me in the right direction, Eurydice?"

"You seek the Styx, at the far edge of Elysium," Eurydice replied. "Simply seek the edge, and you will find it. When you cross the Styx, you will be at the seat of The Ruler."

Caleb bowed his appreciation, "Thank you for your kindness."

"You are most welcome," Eurydice replied. "May you find the peace you seek." She turned away from him then and cupped both her hands beneath the water, then lifted them up to her face.

"What are you doing?" Caleb asked.

"I'm drinking the waters of Lethe," Eurydice replied. "You gave me my choice."

"How?"

"My love is gone, and I remember, so what choice do I have?" Eurydice said. She smiled the saddest smile Caleb had ever seen. "Death knows all his subjects, but he does not know his own heart." She met her hands with her lips and drank deeply, letting the water slide down her throat.

Eurydice's shoulder slumped, her face glowing as her eyes fluttered opened and closed. She started to fall, and Caleb reached out to catch her. "Eurydice?" He asked.

Her eyes opened slightly, and she murmured, "Who, who are you? Who is . . . who is Eurydice?"


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"I'm sorry for your loss," Caleb said. His arms felt light, and suddenly she was gone, disappearing as if she had never existed. But she remained in Caleb's memory, a fragment of a ghost he'd carry with him as he moved forward. He looked up, fresh tears in his eyes as he imagined the edge of Elysium and walked toward it.