It was many moons ago now, the night was void of divine eyes twinkling from the heavens. The only presence of the gods was a swollen moon in the thick veil of the night. I was a temple priestess then, all my life I had spent on my knees at the feet of Athena. When Selene was highest in the sky, her light the brightest, I had made my way to the shoreline. The seam of land and sea was littered with smooth-edged iridescent abalone pieces, half-shells of colors opalescent, swirled shells striped with red. I took these into the coarse folds of my priestess robes and brought them to lay at the marble feet of the goddess.
I remember how tall she looked then — her likeness was of stoic marble, eyes a gilded gaze that never faltered. Carved-marble robes were formed fluttering in wind, muscles clenched under the unblemished stone skin. Spear in hand, the warrior goddess was eternally ready for battle. I took the delicate shells and placed them upon the divine marble, tinkling as they met the rock, next to an offering of black, waxy olives. Standing in the unbroken quiet, I had taken a moment to revel in my tributes. The silence only stuttered in the murmurs of the night-creatures and the far-away sounds of waves upon the land.
The moonlight was starting to wane, so I had taken to illuminating the marble atrium alit with fire. Gilded bowls waited expectantly for the spark of light upon their kindling, the firelight bloomed and bounced as it danced across the room. The gold in Athena’s eyes captured the red light of the flames — a golden owl, set upon her breast with red-jeweled eyes, trapped the light in a similar display. I took meek steps to bow once more at the war-goddesses’ feet, the skin of my forehead pressed to the ground, letting the tendrils of my hair rest upon the floor in a delicate fan of silken ringlets. I kneeled for some time, letting my mind wander before I was brought out of my reverence.
The smell of the sea crashed upon me, sudden and unforgiving. Salt hung in the air like a fog, it crusted about my mouth and burnt my throat. I abruptly rose from kneeling, the skin of my knees bright red from the ground’s pressure, some few strands of hair crossed about my face and I hurriedly rushed to tuck them from my eyes. My eyes looked about to see the gilded bowls cold, wispy smoke lulling in ribbons from the pulsing embers. I noticed then the true presence of silence; creatures of the night ceased their murmurs, the waves came to a still in their paths. Athena’s eyes, which had been alive with fire, reverted to mere metal and marble once more. The pillars ionic framed the figure of a man as a shadow, the enormous shape of him cast long and dark across the atrium-chamber. The veil of night and the heavy darkness of the temple shrouded the lines of his face from my eyes, he was only but a shadow against the moon — some insidious contour, motionless in the sparse beams of the setting Selene.
It seemed like the length of an eternity before the figure moved, each step he took towards me sent a gust of sea-air into the temple, the salt so strong it stung my eyes. Silent as the night, he did not speak. While I couldn’t discern his face from the darkness, I could see the messages his form conveyed. The light shifting upon the corded muscles that wound tight under the skin, the sheen of sweat upon him, knuckles clenched into white peaks — I knew then that this man was not here to pray.
Perhaps he expects a true Gorgon, some flaming-eyed, winged she-demon, a wreath of snakes, a gaze of stone. Instead, he sees me as I am now, some sleeping human woman he sees my bald head, a head without the crown of venomous snakes, belly that is as swollen and round as the moon that hangs in the sky. I can sense the hesitation in him, the turmoil and fear and bloodlust wrapped into a mere boy — the sword he holds to my throat vibrates with uncertainty.
I roll myself over to hoist my heavy form from the rocky floor. All the while, his sword never leaves the flesh of my throat — I turn my eyes to look upon him; instinctively, he turns away from my gaze, not realizing yet that this mortal woman possesses no such powers of a Gorgon. I can smell the salt of fear emanating from his as he pulls a gilded shield, in an effort to deflect my gaze of “stone”, the shape of it wavers as the boy attempts a façade of bravery. In the golden disc, I see an owl embossed in the metal, eyes of red gems that catch what little moonlight it can to turn it into flame. I look at the hilt of his sword to find the same emblem and, suddenly, I take notice to the smell of ambrosia now hangs faintly in the air — the scent of divinity.
Men had come before to seek the head of the Gorgon — some for a princess’ hand, most
for glory, but never before by the will of the Gods — but perhaps it was only a matter of time
before they attempted some ploy to take my life.
I gaze up at his face, with one hand I grip the blade of the sword and slowly remove it from atop the flesh of my throat. I feel the blade’s edge biting into my skin as the warmth of blood seeps from the flesh-opening it leaves. Pain blooms from my hand as I cradle my swollen stomach, he now cowers behind his god-shield, the once firm grip on his sword is waning.
Why have you come here?
The bones of his teeth chatter against each other at the strength of my voice, I watch him as he sinks to the floor behind his shield —I watch as he fights to open his jaw and force the words out.
I have come here for your h-head.
I walk with stealthy steps atop the black obsidian rock; the mouth of the cave allowing only the sparse moonbeams within the void of blackness. He remains a crumpled ball upon the floor and as I come closer, I can smell a different salt on him — the salt of tears. They fall in hot, fat splatters upon the volcanic glass underneath, the sound indistinguishable from the dripping stalactites that hang precariously overhead. I kneel down to him and grip the curve of the shield’s edge, then grunt in the effort as I fling the golden disc into the depths of the cavern. The sound of clashing reverberates against the barriers of the cave, echoing deeper into the void. I level my face with his, I can see the wet trails of tears on his young skin, the welling of sweat atop his brow.
Who do you think I am, child?
His gaze is frantic, moisture accumulates in watery welts at the fray of his lashes. But still, he does not look upon me, I see in his face that he is petrified. But, in some few seconds, it seemed something stronger surmounts his fear of me — the fragile confidence of man.
You are the wretched gorgon Medusa.
For as much as he tries to feign some thunder in his voice, I cannot help the vindictive laugh that bursts from within me. If this boy is anything, he might be brave — but most likely he is just foolish. The fiery heat of anger slides easily through my veins like venom, I protectively grip the swell of my stomach tighter. With as much animosity as I can summon, I turned my poisonous eyes down upon him.
Perhaps you have come to deliver me your head, Boy.
The shadow of the stranger quickly cast me in darkness as it approached. I knew I should have run. There might have been some sacred priest’s knife within the deeper chambers of the temple. There might have been some heavy metal piece to defend myself with, there might have been some way to fight — but before I could command my body to move, the smell of ambrosia cascaded my senses in a thick pungency. It was then I knew running would only serve to ail me worse.
Why have you come here?
I attempted the pretense of fortitude, I imagined myself a tree — tried to plant my roots and hold what little ground I had. My voice bounced off the cold marble, receiving nothing but an echo of myself in reply, the God continued barreling towards me like an unbroken tide. I could feel my heart pounding heavy in the hollow of my chest. His shadow drew over me, casting me in darkness until all I could see was a hopeless, moonless sky. My fear of this God overcame my fear of divine retribution as I turned to run. Making not but two steps before being thrown to the ground with an ironclad grip.
My head hit the ground with a sickening crack, vision instantaneously blurry as if I were submerged within the darkest of ocean waters. In the haze of my sight, I could see some faint moonbeams timidly illuminating the violent, shipwreck-blue of his eyes. Poseidon.
The skin of my back grated against the floor from the weight of him atop me, I could feel the abrasions forming against me. He was silent as the night, though his cold eyes spoke as loud as any cresting, crashing wave.
I have come here for your body.
With what strength I had, I thrashed against him, the hands on my wrists pinned me to the ground, his grip became ever-tighter. The blue eyes looming above me hardened like sea-ice, the Sea God took one hand and wrapped it about the straining sinew of my throat. It felt as though I were submerged in a undulation, mercilessly cold, salt coating my skin, my hands clawing at my throat, legs kicking to seek a breathing respite of the water’s surface.
My mouth was a gaping, open chasm — mangled sounds of desperation crawled past my teeth and limply into the air. Though I could not see it, I knew the smile of triumph stretched across his face. Sensing my growing defeat, he released his other hand from my wrist and used it to pick one lock of silken hair splayed off the marble ground; he rubbed it between his fingers, then held it to his nose taking a long inhale.
Blackness ebbed and flowed into the periphery of my vision, threatening to drown me in the void of unconsciousness. The Sea-God began ripping my robes, his hand still a vice around my throat, he tore at the cords that covered my modesty. I could feel his hands, the salt granules upon his skin scraping my own. I felt the possession in him, he touched me as if my flesh were trinket of his own — as if I were nothing but a mere vessel of his to be filled.
I felt my own salty tears run in torrents down the slopes of my face, I could hear them as they pattered like sea-rain against the marble. I arched my head back, away from him, towards Athena’s eyes. I sent prayer after prayer, frantically begging the goddess to save me — I imagined her robes fluttering to life, stepping down from her pedestal to unsheathe her mighty sword. I imagined her raising her sword in a graceful arc above her head with vengeful fire in her eyes, I imagined her holding me close in the restored tranquility of the night. My heart burst with joy as I heard her voice curl into my ears.
How dare you desecrate my temple?
My eyes were open wild, I could see the flame in her golden eyes, was it I that dishonored her? I let out a strangled cry as my tears swam down my face in relentless torrents.
You wanton whore, I will ensure your days will be nothing but sorrow and solitude.
The void in my chest grew — it was me. I was to blame. I let the tears roll down my face, I let go of the struggle against the Sea-God, I let the sweet respite of blackness overtake me.
The boy isn’t crying anymore, rather deathly silent, he now resembles something akin to a sky before some thundering storm. I take both hands and wrap them about my kicking stomach as he slowly rises from the floor, his grip on the gilded sword of Athena tightens in a vice. His head hangs low, his crown of golden curls swing gently about his eyes as I take silent steps back into the darkness. I can see the fibrous muscles under his skin tightening in preparation, I slip behind some obsidian pillar to conceal myself in shadow.
I am Perseus, son of Zeus, and I will leave with your head as Athena’s prize.
He then begins hunting about the cave, he holds his sword in front of him with two white-knuckled fists, swinging it about in frantic circles at the slightest sound. The sweat upon his head forms in droplets that run down his face.
His hands tremble with rage, his voice sparking the faintest thunder as it echoes into the cavern. In truth, I have no need to kill this boy, I almost manage to disappear – I want nothing more than to slip into the night. But before I can, I feel a great rushing of water down my thighs, I hear the wetness fall upon the rock underneath as I follow in suit — I fold in two before crumpling upon the floor, I’m caught in a pain that grips the totality of my body. I hear some clattering of rock and rabid movements toward me as the vibrations of sounds reverberate in the air. I lock eyes with the demigod, and I see the raging torrent of lightning rising in his eyes, I see his resolve to take my life in his storming eyes.
I fall at the precipice of the cave, in the moon’s light, I can see his face illuminated by sparse moonbeams — closer now. I scramble to rise from the floor, moving just as he raises the sword and brings it down upon the rock where I had just lain. The impact of the metal against rock sends sparks into the air — I stumble away from him, clutching the swell of my belly. He storms after me, striking with a madness — unrelenting and unforgiving.
I can hear his breath, animalistic and heavy; the smell of his bloodlust hanging thick like a miasma. I trip over some obsidian, falling upon my stomach with a pain that struck into the marrow of my bones. I manage to crawl across the floor to fit myself into some crevice upon the rock. I feel the fierce clenching of my womb, teeth wrought tight in having to suppress the screams that riot from the depths of me.
In the moonlight, I can see the shadow of Perseus cast unto the rock, he now stands atop the outcropping I now tucked myself under. As he steps off the outcrop and onto the black obsidian beneath the jutting rock, I wrap my bleeding hand about his ankle in a vice. He comes tumbling down with a mighty roaring of thunder, the sword of Athena cast from his hand upon the impact. I can see the openings in his flesh where the skin gave way to the volcanic glass.
With as much speed as I possess, I desperately crawl to Athena’s sword, I can feel the metal in my hands — still warm from his grip. I raise myself to stand above him, releasing the scream that clawed behind the barrier of my teeth. The blood runs down his face in rivulets of bright red and gold ichor as he lies on the cave floor, his face crumples in anguish. I catch his eyes with my own, and I can see the clouds of cracked lightning swirling about in his gaze, the vengeful storming that his stare holds. I am feral, my body is strung tight with some intrinsic need for survival. He is a threat. With him alive, I would never sleep, my child would never know peace. I can feel some pit of my heartache in an effort of morality, but still, I let myself feel the tremors of my resolve, this boy would die tonight.
He makes no move to rise, no motions to defend himself, perhaps he knows – he knows that no small striking of a halfling-god’s thunder would stop me, left alive, I would hunt him to the end of his days. It was he who would not know peace. I take my stance over the side of his laying form, my muscles, with what effort they could, straining under my skin in raising Athena’s sword – I look into the boy’s eyes once more, hesitating for the smallest of moments, before swinging the heavy god’s-metal down on Perseus’ neck.
I can see the dawn breaking through the night’s veil, the rays flooding the mouth of the cave, trickling into the deepest parts of the blackness. I am naked and torn-open, in either arm I hold a small mass of flesh. At my feet, the severed head of Perseus lies, eyes open wide with not one drachma for the ferryman waiting at the River Styx.
My body trembles with true exhaustion, my own blood, and the blood of the boy dead at my feet, stains into the finer lines of my skin.
My right arm wraps about a warm, small thing of bursting life. Shrieks of outspoken existence grip my ears, the sound of it brings me a feeling indescribable, but it is something akin to joy. He rages about in my arms, I take in his scent and kiss the soft skin of his forehead. I then whisper his name.
My light, Uril.
In my left arm, a curled form now rests — cold and unmoving. I cry out in defeat and perhaps relief, my salted tears fall upon her face. I rock her and rock her and rock her, my voice comes in low octaves of silent begging — begs that will her to move, to breathe, to exist, but perhaps my only consolation is that she does not.
She remains still, statuesque and unmoving as any marble figure. I place trembling lips upon her cool forehead, I taste my own blood as I do so. I speak her name through sobs.
Apóleia, My lost light.