As I look back towards the closing door, I see a sign which says Naples. Italy? Am I already in Italy? I turn around in the dark and see a man with a staff, guiding some floating people towards two dark water bodies that seem to look like rivers. I look around only to realise the floating people are transparent and look more like souls than actual humans. I look at the huge man with the staff in his hand and try to recall where I’ve seen him.
I look closely and see a ferry waiting at the banks of the rivers. One after the other the souls come, take out a small gleaming object from their eyes or mouths and give it to the ferryman. Those without this object stand to the side and look on helplessly as the ferry takes off and vanishes into the dark. These little shiny objects are actually coins. In ancient Greece, the dead were buried with a coin so that they could pay for the ferry to the underworld. As I move closer to the water, I look down and realise that I’m invisible. Souls are floating around me but no one seems to have noticed me. I blink in confusion; this looks terribly like the underworld I had read about in the Percy Jackson books!
As the next ferry comes, I try to get on it and move to the back. I’m not worried as no one can see me. As the ferry begins to move, I say a silent prayer to not find a three headed dog at the other side guarding a gate. I really did not want this to be the underworld. As the boat comes to a stop, my breath hitches and my eyes open wide. A large three headed dog is sitting next to a gate, inside which I can see nothing but darkness, and hear a few occasional screams. I look down once more and see that I’m still invisible.
As I get off and walk through the doors, which is the only place I can go, I take a look at the dog who I’m assuming is Cerberus. It feels like he’s looking directly at me, but he doesn’t move a muscle and I move on. Inside the gate I find myself in a huge courtyard, dark and daunting. As I keep moving further I finally find the place where the decision is taken. Behind the three seats are gates, and the images I can see and the voices I can hear from behind each gate are very different.
On the right, I see sunlight in the distance, along with some trees and flowers. Sounds of laughter and music can be faintly heard. It is the only area in the whole place which looks lively and happy. It’s the Elysium Fields. Green meadows stretch till as far as the eyes see. Not many people can be seen this close to the gate, but then again, not too many people are allowed inside in the first place.
Straight behind I can see a cloudy sky and sandy terrain. Nothing can be heard from what looks like the Fields of Asphodel. It seems very silent and boring. Everything seems grey. On the right there is complete darkness. Faint sounds of screaming and crying can be heard from a place which seems very distant. It has to be the way to Tartarus. I shudder at the thought of it, and the punishments given there.
I jump as I hear someone calling my name. I turn around frantically, trying to locate the source. A sense of dread sets upon me as I realize the voice is coming from one of the seats. But I am not here, and definitely not dead. What was happening?? I wake up with a start and see my brother calling to me from the seat beside me. He told me to fasten my seatbelt as we were going to land in Italy soon. Italy….
Author: Anousha Ambar
Editor: Nandini Patil