Kay D. Ziegler
Morning rose like any other day for priestess Medusa. No sun greeted her as she bathed in the river Ameles. No warmth to stroke her cheek as she dried and dressed herself on boulders that had settled on the pebbled shore. With no light, no birds knew to come and greet her as she stumbled, sandal-footed, up a well-known path back to her chambers, where Medusa was anointed with lavender-infused olive oil by none other than Athena herself.
“Autumn solstice is upon us, young one,” remarked the golden-gowned goddess as she ran a brush through Medusa’s long, dark locks.
“Indeed, mother goddess,” replied Medusa as she looked down at the olive silk that today’s outfit was made out of.
“You do not seem pleased with this, Medusa. Tonight is a time for celebration! Your heart should be light and filled with mirth.”
“I do not look forward to the sacrifice.”
“It is your firth! What an honor.”
“I do not even want to go.”
“What would you rather do?”
“Travel south. I wish to see the sun and hear the birds. I do not recall the last time I saw such a sight.”
Athena stopped brushing the younger priestess’s tresses. “Absolutely not,” growled the yellow-haired woman. With her anger, thunder boomed outside Medusa’s window.
“Why not?” demanded Medusa as she stood and faced Athena. She planted her fists on her hips. “You’re just jealous of my looks and want to hide me away. Is that it?”
“Shut up, you insolent little girl! You know that not to be true,” shouted Athena as the woman’s eyes flash in anger and rain began to pound against the window. “The southern wilderness is dangerous! It’s filled with lustful men and vile beasts who’ll rip their pray to shreds.
Medusa glared at her mentor, but she didn’t say anything. Instead, she strode from the room into her walk-in closet. Looking at her costume, the priestess sighed and fingered the white silk of the bodice and skirt. I’ll look like a dove, thought Medusa after examining the gossamer wings attached the garment as well as the feather-covered mask. Although she had never met one in person, she had seen drawings of them in the scrolls and tomes held within Athena’s library.
Dressed in the dove costume, her dark hair cascaded over her shoulders and settled amongst her wings. Behind her disguise, she stared at the people who gawked at her. “Why are they staring, Athena,” she whispered to the Goddess, who was dressed as a warrior.
“Shouldn’t they? You look ravishing,” said the woman as one of the guests took her by the hand and led Athena onto the dance floor just as the musician began to play.
Wandering around the party, she examined the gods and goddesses, the priests and priestesses all dressed in the Autumn solstice finest. They dressed as ghouls and goblins, faeries and pixies, birds and beasts of all kinds, and as moral soldiers and healers.
Medusa stopped at the table piled high with festive treats. After choosing candied figs and finger-shaped cookies decorated with almonds and fruit jell, she poured herself a glass of spiced cider. Sipping on it, the young priestess looked out at the crowd, but saw nothing.
“My, it must be Aphrodite herself! Never before was there a glorious and more ravishing woman than the dear goddess of love,” boomed a young man from behind her.
Medusa jumped as she turned to face the speaker. He was dressed as a lion, although the only clue to his costume was that his mask had a mane. This man was gorgeous. Dressed in only a waist wrap, she noticed as firm and formed his body was. Tight, golden curls peeked out from under the sides of the disguise and his sparkling blue eyes peeked out at him from behind the mask.
“I am not Aphrodite. I’m not even a goddess,” Medusa corrected.
“Oh, really? You should be! What is your name, fair maiden,” asked the young man.
“A fine name for a fine girl,” replied the lion. “So, shall we go bob for fruit? Or would you care to carve a gourd? Or, would running your fingers through food while blind-folded be more to your liking?”
With each of those suggestions, she shook her head. None of those things interested her. She told this man so.
“You don’t want to be here.”
“Where do you want to be?”
“There’s got to be a place, Medusa” said the young man. He smiled at her as he placed a hand upon her upper arm and rubbed it gently. “Where is that place? I can take you. Just tell me.”
“I can’t. I’m not allowed. Athena will be furious!”
“We’ll be back before she knows you were gone. Now, tell me, where is this place?”
“What’s your name? I don’t travel with strangers.”
Medusa raised an eyebrow. She wasn’t quite sure she believed him. “Well, Zeus… I’d like to see the south,” she replied slowly. When he offered her his hand, she glanced at Athena, who was enjoying herself and then took his hand in her own. Dashing outside, they climbed atop his Pegasus and flew off into the night.
Landing on a shore, Medusa walked through the wet sand up and down the reef. Her eyes were closed as she let the sun bathe her face. Listening to the gulls and the waves crash against a rocky cliff, the priestess smiled. “This is gorgeous,” she said to Zeus, who walked hand-in-hand with her.
“You are gorgeous,” retorted the god as he pulled her close to him.
She gasped and opened her eyes. She stared at him and began to quake as he picked the dark-haired priestess and kissed her lightly upon the lips. Medusa pressed her hands against his chest to push him away. “I can’t,” whispered the woman as she slipped from Zeus’s grasp and headed up the beach.
“You can. You will,” Zeus said in a firm and serious tone.
“No, I won’t. Take me home…” Medusa snapped as she headed towards the Pegasus.
“Now, now, you wanted to come here. I did something for you. You do something for me,” purred the man as he grabbed her arm and squeezed.
Medusa’s knees gave way as Zeus forced her down so she was lying in the sand. As he straddled her, the wings of Medusa’s costume snapped. “Get off of me,” sobbed the priestess as he slipped her dress up and kissed her neck, arms, and chest.
A few hours later, they returned. Medusa was pale and dirty. Her costume hung from her shoulders and the wings were limp and torn. As she walked back to the temple, she glared at Zeus, but did not say a word.
Athena was the first to see them. “Where did you go?” demanded the goddess. She crossed her hands over her chest as she stared at the young woman.
“It doesn’t matter,” Medusa spat.
“He raped me!” the broken girl screamed, pointing at Zeus.
“I did something for her and she did something for me,” replied the god in a calm voice. “She was quite the alluring lady out upon a beach of the south.”
“Not only did you disobey my orders, but you let a man invade you! You are no longer welcome here, you dirty thing. You monster,” shouted Athena. Raising her hand, she transported the Medusa and herself away from the temple.
In the midst of desolate island, the two appeared. The sandy landscape was littered with dead trees and dark rocks. No sun shined on this corner of the world.
“You are banished her forever more for you do not deserve the presence of man or god. No longer are you pure, but a monster,” growled Athena. She held her hand up again and with palm out, the goddess chanted a curse upon Medusa.
The woman screamed as he hair fell out in chunks and snakes replaced her dark locks. “Oh gods,” she moaned as her skin tightened and cracked. The woman fell to her knees as Athena left. Looking up, she discovered her horrific power. A bird flew overhead and as it glanced towards her, it fell to the earth as stone.
“Curseď me,” whispered she.