Athena meets a number of unusual people in her adventures. Here is my account of her meeting Persephone, queen of the underworld.
Pale fingers, emerging from the earth, gripping the edge of the crack.
More fingers, from the other hand. The top of a woman’s head appeared between, the hair a dirty gray. Now her entire head emerged from the crack, eyes closed, moaning in effort as she climbed. The grime-covered hair and face were worse than the paleness of palace maidens who avoid the sun. This was the paleness of death.
An elbow pointed in the air as she brought her arm up, fingernails clawing at the ground. More moans issued from those pale lips -- moans that made Athena turn to water inside. Both hands pushed, and the woman’s upper body now showed. It was covered in what must have once been a rich garment, now rent in several places and stained with dirt. It was rotting away, even as Athena’s eyes watched.
More clawing. A pale leg rose as the woman sought to bring her foot up to the edge. The moans came louder, and with them, the odor. It was as if darkness had emerged from the chasm in the ground to blot out the light, it was so devoid of life.
Hands no longer clawing, the woman stood at the edge of the crack. The sun shone on her but revealed no color besides the pale grayness. The rich garment continued to rot and fray, showing the skin beneath had clods of dirt sticking to it. The eyes remained shut.
Demeter took in a deep breath. Then she called out, mournful. “Greetings, daughter. All the crops are withered, all is in despair. Winter still reigns.”
No other sound entered the meadow. The pale woman stood, still as death. Then her eyes opened. To her shock, Athena saw they were a bright blue -- as blue as larkspur petals.
The pale woman spoke. “Greetings, mother. Let the crops grow and the rejoicing begin. Spring has come!”
She thrust her arms upward. The last shreds of her garment rotted away, the clods of dirt fell back to earth. She looked up at the sun, its rays now finding her. Her skin rapidly assumed a normal pallor.