Fran Jacobs


My sisters think that I am mad to do this. They cannot understand my need to hold onto the past. They have always been the way they are now. They were never anything more. They were never part of the world of mortals, never been in love, never been admired, never known what it is like to have someone stare at you, transfixed by your beauty. They always have been the same, and for them, holding onto what they have seems so pointless. They do not understand my need to do it. My need to have a hold on something, a sign to prove to me, to prove to everyone, that I was not always this way. That this is not the real me. That I am more than this. I need something to remind me of that, something to tell people who have yet to come, that might hear my name, that this wasnt my fault. That it wasnt meant to be this way. I had to write this down. I had to write down my story. For the woman I used to be and for the women who have yet to come. To warn them not to make the mistakes that I did.

I was born from the incestuous couplings of my mother, Ceto, and her brother, Phorcys. There were three of us, Stheno, Euryale, and myself, Medusa. We are sisters to the Graeae. A fine stock A stock of power, known in legends, feared by mortals. Yet not a beautiful family. My mother was a sea-monster, my father a sea god. My two sisters were born immortal, cursed with heads of writhing snakes, great tusks like a boar, and wings of gold. The sight of them could turn any mortal man to stone. I was born mortal, and was not ugly. An unfair trade off, I feel, immortality for looks. Unfair especially in these times, where the actions of the gods and goddess of Olympus effect our lives in every way, and to be immortal is to have some protection. Any little thing can bring down their anger upon us, any little word can bring about their jealousy. It is so much easier to anger them, then it is to please them. The gods and goddesses have their favourites, chosen from the moment of their birth, and if you are not a chosen one, a hero, then it is so much better just to keep your head down. Words of wisdom from my sister, Stheno. Words I wish I had listened to.

Not that I should have needed words. History is filled with the accounts of those tragically changed, their lives destroyed, because they angered a god, or, a god lusted after them. Mortal women and mortal youths, prized for their beauty by mortal men, hounded by the gods, raped, if not willingly seduced. I grew up hearing these names. Poor Ganymede of Troy was carried off to be Zeus cupbearer, because he had fallen in love with the boy. Leda was raped by Zeus in the form of a swan, and bore Polydeuces and Helen to him, and to her mortal husband she had Castor and Clytemnestra. These poor mortals could not avoid the gods. They had no choice. No god respects any mortal. What they want, they take, but the Heavens help any mortal who gives themselves willingly to a god, such as Lamia of Libya who became a child murdering monster after Hera killed all her children that she had had by Zeus. Punishment follows, too, if you boast that you are better than a god, as in the case of Niobe, whose children were slaughtered by Artemis and Apollo because she boasted that she was superior to their mother, Leto. She became a rock with water endlessly running down her face, as she cried for the death of her children. The gods have no patience for us mere mortals, they do not care what we want. There is no escape. There is nothing that can be done.

And yet, such as the case with Niobe, some mortals walk into their fate, knowing all too well what could happen to them. And I was one of those mortals.

Athena. She has always been the most jealous of all the goddesses. Easily she picks her favourites, and easily she will hurt anyone who comes near to them. She brought about madness in Ajax, turned Arachne into a spider, she lured Hector to his death at the hands of Achilles, and she did what she did to me. It was my own fault, I know that, I admit that, but she was harsh to me. No harsher than anything Hera might have done, granted, but it wasnt as though I had seduced her lover, the virgin goddess of war never choosing to take one. It wasnt as though I had said ill things about a talent of hers, as Arachne had, I only spoke about her hair! Her hair, of all things! Arachne insulted her weaving, and yet, she had pitied Arachane, turned her into a spider instead of letting her die, yet she changed me. She gave me a living death, a life alone with my hideous sisters so that no one would ever want me. The gods are fickle, you can never be sure what they are going to do, whether they will even come to your aid, should another god or goddess take anger against you. I thought that my love would keep me safe. I thought that my godly father and sea monster mother might be something to protect me, and I was wrong. Nothing could save me from Athena. My parents, they said nothing, my lover, I saw him just once since my transformation, and he pretended that he didnt know me. So like a man, so like a god, ashamed of me, despite the fact that it was partly his fault that I am the way that I am now.

Poseidon. God of the sea. Brother to Zeus, and Hades, and my lover for such a short space of time, that it hardly seems real when I look back on it now. He had always been in my life, having such sea-bound parents as I did, it wasnt surprising. I never thought much of him as I grew up. He was a constant presence. A part of the furniture, as it were, but as I grew older, our feelings for each other changed. I wasnt an idiot. It wasnt love, of course. He called it love, the gods always did, but it wasnt love. Love is more than what they felt. I dont think they can feel love at all. They feel lust. Lust for a beautiful mortal, to own them, to have them, not to care for them and be with them, but to have them and make sure that no one else could, to conquer them. That is what he wanted for me. He was married, of course, to Amphitrite, but then never stopped him. He had other mistresses, young boys, too, when it suited him. I never fooled myself into thinking I met anything much to him, besides, it would have made no difference. He would have taken me, whether I was willing or not. But I lusted for him, and I was more than willing.

And arrogant too. I fooled myself into making the same mistake so many women did, that because a god had chosen to pass some time with me, that made me special. I let myself boast that I had finer hair than Athena, I did, of course, but it was a foolish thing to say. Still, it was less foolish than what I did, seducing my lover in Athenas temple. I couldnt help myself. Lust, love, whatever it was, had taken over me, removed all my sense. I ached for him, desired him in my every waking moment, and I could refuse him nothing. I suppose there was arrogance in my behaviour, too. I fooled myself into believing that Poseidon would protect me. He is greater than Athena, and I believed that his lust for me would protect me against anything that she could do to me. And of course, I was wrong.

The transformation itself didnt hurt. I just went to sleep, as normal, curled up in my bed, and woke to find myself this grotesque figure that I am now. Barely recognisable as a mortal woman anymore, barely recognisable as anything. I resemble my sisters now, so much so that no one can tell us apart. Even we grow confused sometimes. Even my mother cannot be sure which sister she is addressing. I have lost my identity. I am no longer Medusa with the beautiful hair. I am Medusa the Gorgon. I had prepared myself for my beauty dying, as I grew older, for my long hair turning white with age. I had never planned for this. How could anyone? As a child I had thought myself so lucky that I did not resemble my sisters or my mother, that I resembled any mortal woman that you could see walking down the street. Now I can no longer say that. I cannot walk down a street. I cannot let anyone look upon me. I must hide in the shadows, in the dark, with my sisters, out of harms way. Alone and cold. I am just a figure to be feared now, a Lamia. Another figure in the endless cycle of mythology, not a person, not an individual.

The hissing in my ears from the snakes I fear will deafen me sometimes, and the knowledge that I will turn any man to stone who looks upon me, leaves me cold. I will never again feel the warm touch of arms around me, or feel fingers in my hair, a voice whispering in my ear as I head off to sleep, telling me that I am beautiful. I will have none of that. I do not know if my appearance will turn a god to stone, but what god will want to bother with me? They were only ever interested in the fašade, in my outside appearance, never who I was inside, and looking the way I do, none will bother with me now.

My sisters tell me that I am lucky. That at least I knew the touch of a man, as if that is supposed to make me feel better. How can it? To have experienced something and to know that it is gone forever is not better than never having experienced it at all. I will always have to live with the memory of what I had, the memory of what I was, and it brings tears to my eyes. I would rather have never known happiness and be always able to live with the thought that maybe one day I would find someone, than having found someone, and lost it all, through my own stupid arrogance. You cant turn back time, as much as you might want to. What is done is done, and I suppose, I have to live with the choices that I made.

Still, I like to think that now, Athena is no longer angry with me. She had her revenge. To be cruel, she made my gorgeous hair snakes, like the hair of my sisters, and she made me resemble them so she must feel satisfied with what she has done. I have learnt, too, that beauty and life is fleeting. That nothing stays the way that you think that it will. That I should have appreciated what I had, made the most of the life that I had, of the sun and the touch of other people, the sound of other voices, because all I have now is the darkness of our cavernous home, and the hissing echoing of snakes.

We have taken a self-imposed banishment, for the good of mortals. Hiding ourselves away from them to save them from what will happen if they look upon us. It doesnt stop some mortals from seeking us out, and our underground home contains many of those lifeless stone figures, scattered randomly around. I stop and study them sometimes, wondering if they had appreciated the life that they had had, and the feel of the sun, and the sound of other voices, before one of my sisters, or myself, had turned them into this. I doubt it somehow. Still, I like to think that, as I run my hands along the crumbling stone carving of their faces, or torsos, sometimes even their hands, that perhaps, each death will be a warning to others. To stop men coming, to stop them dying, to stop their arrogance that they will be the one that could take my life. Not that I want them to stop coming, I always hope that one day, maybe, someone will get through and will kill me, ending this life of misery. Yet no one does get through, and they keep on dying. I am the mortal one. The only one that can die. My sisters are protective of me. They do not want me to die. They do not understand why a part of me does want it, so badly. They do not understand that I am dead, that the women that I was, is gone. That what remains I do not even recognise. She is a monster. She is not me. And sometimes, even the thoughts inside my head are not mine, they are hers. This new Medusa. This fully fledged Gorgon sister. This monster.

My sisters call to me. They want to sleep. We sleep together, the three of us. Curled up in the middle of the cave floor. No more soft beds for me. I like to sleep. When I sleep, I dream. No dreams of dark caves, or hissing snakes, figures of stone and angry goddesses. When I dream, I dream of a young woman, with beautiful hair, dancing in a field of flowers, with the god of the sea watching over her.


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