I was attempting to absorb some of the wisdom Athena’s temple held. My knees were resting on the marble floor. I placed my palms on either side of them, flat against the cold surface. I let the chill climb up my arms and pictured knowledge and fairness flowing into my being. Just as the first drops began seeping into my mind, I felt the pressure shift. My ears began to ring.
At first, I thought it was her. Maybe she had seen my offerings and heard my prayers, that she was prepared to answer them. But the approach of angry footsteps hacked away at those hopes like an axe in the trunk of a tree. I was used to hearing only the gentle rushing of wind at this time of day. I miss how it rustled the leaves so playfully. I can’t hear that anymore. But I can remember. The steps boomed, echoing through the sacred temple. Unease crept up my half-covered legs and found a home in my stomach.
I whipped my head around to see who was standing behind me; long wisps of hair rose from my sides and fell across my face. They obscured my view but I could still make out those eyes. They were dark and as blue as the ocean. The rest of him looked dull.
He was coming closer.
“I’m speaking with the good goddess of the temple right now. I could use some privacy. Do you mind?”
He walked faster towards me. His steps grew louder and louder. His presence encroached the space above me. He spoke just as quickly as he moved.
“Actually, I do, my dear. I just want to talk with you.”
He placed his hand over my mouth and kept it there. Pushing down with greater force as my confusion built. He did all the talking.
A soft beam of light brushed the apple of my cheek, dragging me away from my deep sleep-trance. I was awake but unable to move. The floor beneath me, once a pristine white, glowed with a bluish hue.
I heard a soft voice, much kinder than the last one I’d heard.
Glorious, beautiful Athena had actually appeared. She had heard me. And she was glowing and gorgeous. I felt her hand guide my back until I was sitting upright. She held my shoulders steady for a second. I searched for my own voice to say her name in return, show that I recognized her, but found nothing. She saw the worry in my eyes. I bet they were beyond frantic.
“Medusa, I need to punish you for what happened. The gods on Mount Olympus said you have done wrong. It is evil what happened here, and it has changed you. I must change you too.”
Memories of the past day started to race through my heavy skull. It began to throb along with my pulsing heart and an ache quickly grew on the muscle of my inner thigh. The light brightened behind Athena. The pain subsided.
“That is Artemis. She has learned of what Poseidon has done to you and she understands. She wants to protect you.”
The cool light shone so bright it was palpable, glass-like. I began to make out my own
silhouette amidst the rays. I felt a chill on my scalp. My hair was gone. Suddenly, I spotted my own eyes, beady and hard, then returned to the top of my head. Sharp pains stung my bruised crown like pins in felt. Twelve forked tongues poked through my skin and behind them trailed the open mouths of fanged, slender snakes. They would be my new friends. Hissing in my ears, their rattling tongues flicked in and out of their jaws. They basked in the beams of divine light.
“This is your punishment. I have taken away your beauty and given you a sharpness that will disarm, freeze, and permanently immobilize anyone who tries to touch you or even look. The goddess of the hunt watches over you as well.” Athena spoke.
A thick, golden belt wove itself tightly around my frozen waist. It warmed my torso as it circled around me. I raised my watery eyes and was about to thank the goddesses, but they vanished. It was darker than before. The once sparkling floor projected a thick layer of grey ash. I stood up, and brushed it off of my robe with my right hand. I shuffled my feet over each other until I was perched at the front of the temple. Leaning against a column for a moment, I gathered the will to descend the staircase. Its downward slope seemed steeper than usual. I watched myself drift along unsteadily. I finally reached the bottom and floated to a spot among the roots of an olive tree where I plopped down into the dewey, green grass. The night was dark but I still felt the moon’s presence.
I used to think my sisters were the lucky ones. They were immortal and had all the power. But maybe it’s better not being like them. I don’t know if I could do this forever, have this power forever. I don’t want to leave behind a trail of broken people anywhere I go.
The first man I turned to stone did nothing to me other than walk behind me. He gasped and I turned. Then, I met his gaze. Maybe it was one of the snakes that provoked him. He took one final, sharp intake of breath and he was gone. He didn’t follow me after that.
So, call me a monster. I will not mind. I cannot. I’ve quite literally lost my head. I am a monster. Marine monsters birthed and raised me. Maybe that’s why I was attractive to the trident-wielder. But no, Athena said it was because I didn’t revere him as much as I did her. I don’t mind. I have this tale. He has reign over the seas and waves.
His son will brandish my brain on the mountain. I lay my body down here. He is half-god. I am still monstrous. The gods will drink up their new toy. Perseus, I may have heard them shout there. Aside from that, the words and sounds all drown.