Felicide, Misconstrued.

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He halts without warning. Hoping for the bump of a warm body behind him, straining his ears to pick up the faintest whisper of footfall, rustle of cloth.

There is nothing.

He swallows a sigh, the dust of scepticism scratching its way down his throat.

He continues walking, hope draining into the darkness that surrounds him, darkness that his mind sinks into, slowly, unresistingly.

***

Orpheus remembers mornings of waking up before Eurydice, watching the sun fall across her brown hair, turning it golden. He remembers counting her breath and his, and noticing how his breaths slot themselves neatly in-between hers, so they don’t stop breathing together. In sleep she seems unreachable, but she is here and all he has to do is to wait for her to awake and she will be his, again. So he is patient and he waits, for the flutter of her eyelids, her breath to catch, for her to come back to him again.

Now he walks, and walks, and walks: the underworld is dank frigid inkiness, callous to all who passes through. An ominous weight bears down on him, draining him of hope, happiness. He is weary, from the distance traversed, from fretting over the lack of a sign Eurydice has ever been following behind him. Doubt curls around his feet like chains, dragging his footsteps, like the venomous viper that had sank its fangs too quickly into Eurydice’s slender, pale ankle. She had fallen all at once, silent, heavy, unelegant. Death had been graceless, had robbed all dignity. Her senseless, unfair, spiralling, death.

Gods are imperious and their moods, mercurial. Hades and Persephone are beautiful and terrible and it would’ve been no less than catastrophic to cross them, and he would trust them even less than he could ever throw them. He wonders if the gods can hear his thoughts, what they make of them and it only reinforces his insignificance, his helplessness in the face of such powers and forces dictating, altering minor lives like his.

Only the thought of Eurydice spurs him on. For her, for them, he has to try, to step over the tendrils of his fear. If he is to be totally honest, this is for him beyond all else, to attempt and exhaust every option first. There is no carrying on for him before that.

He doesn’t understand the rules here; Hades seems to making up the rules as he spoke. He doesn’t know if he truly moved Hades with his music; the corner of Hades’ lips twisting in a cruel sneer in reply, Very well, Orpheus. I will give you but one chance. If you proceed, your maiden will follow but you must never turn around to look at her or she will be lost to you.

The more he thinks about it during his muted journey, doubt-apprehension-fear vines entwining to suffocate his heart, then his head, the less Hades’ words make sense. If Eurydice is, indeed, trailing quietly behind him, then why does it matter if he turns around to catch a glimpse of her. Surely her state of presence or absence will be independent of his observation. It is impossible she is existing in a superposition of states and collapsing into the reality of either state only upon the very instance of his observation. She is either here, or she is not, whether he’s looking at her, or ignoring her. He is no Medusa, he can’t possibly alter the molecular state of living beings just by casting mineralising stares at them.

Maybe, he ponders, after he has (they have?) walked for another indeterminable distance in nerve-fraying silence, he doesn’t need to turn around to cast his anxious gaze upon her, to determine Eurydice’s presence. Maybe there might be some sign he could chart, some indication, to assuage his fretfulness. But there is nothing to catalogue, no comforting undertone hinting at her existence behind him. Whether Eurydice is behind him or not would be dependent on whether Hades has played him for the fool or not, but he incapable of determining that.

Behind him is starting to grow into a land of immeasurable magical proportions, where one’s wife, like thought-experiment felines cruelly locked in boxes at random powerful whims and possibly subjected to radiation poisoning, is both simultaneously present and absent, until one turns around to observe her. Her lovely face he has missed so desperately, he has imprinted so utterly unto his brain that he sees it everywhere now. At the same time he is petrified it would slip from the crevices of his brain, from the lack of exposure to a physical real-life reference.

He feels his thoughts solidifying into the belief there is no way his act of observation will affect her presence or absence. It will signify the final collapse into a single state, to his perspective, but will have no bearing on her actual state. All of this should be independent of his observation. It will be absurd and impossible otherwise. And when does Eurydice’s existence stop existing as both possibly present and absent, and become one or the other? If Eurydice is standing behind him, she is standing behind him, whether he sees her or not. His seeing her will not negate her existence, if she is indeed present. He’s not a god, surely. This is ridiculous.

Orpheus turns around.

Only to see the shadow of Eurydice whisk back into the darkness at once, existing as she had until he turned around. She disappears altogether, from him.

There is a harsh bark of laughter resounding everywhere at once.

Hasn’t Hades warned you, Orpheus, that here Eurydice’s presence or absence does indeed depend on your observation? The underworld doesn’t run on quantum mechanics, oh foolish Orpheus. Hades makes the rules here, and he wasn’t too fond of quantum physics.
He didn’t quite grasp what that damn cat was supposed to illustrate.

About the Author: 
Teo Yi Han has a degree in psychology but spends her days struggling with policy writing and her nights with narrative writing.