I wrote this a few years ago. It’s supposed to be a reinterpretation of Ovid’s Medusa. The basic summary is that this is an alternative universe in which Greek Mythology is actual real (and no, not Aliens that have been misinterpreted) and Medusa didn’t actually get her head chopped off (I’ve never liked that bit (and yes, I’m a Medusa fangirl — Snakehead all the way!)). Anyway, the short story was supposed to be short but… it expanded to more than I expected. It’s still short… ish, but I decided to break it up into two parts for easier reading. Or well, I think it’s easier reading (the post is still way too long. Oh well). Anyway, hope you all enjoy the story. Alright, alright, Part 1 of it.
“So, you’re here looking for this…” the woman tilted her head, the dim lights reflecting off her black sunglasses. It was a strange to see anyone inside, with dimmed lights wearing sunglasses. He assumed she was blind, but her actions spoke otherwise. He figured she must’ve had some other eye issue that caused some sort of light sensitivity. Her hair was a soft ivory in the light, which gave her pale skin an off-color. Not the sickly kind… just the kind that you’d see in the movies of the mysteriously mysterious woman or man who was later on revealed that they were part of some relevant part of some myth or legend. He wondered if she was the indoors type or if maybe… well, she was one of Zeus’s unfortunate off-springs. (There were a lot of those and a lot of them met with tragedy.)
Or maybe she was trying to avoid Apollo… it was a reasonable guess. Apollo still wasn’t have the best of luck in that particular department. Then again, one should never piss off cupid, er, Eros. He didn’t appreciate the name Cupid. The Hunter shook his head free of thoughts and focused back onto the woman. She seemed to pondering what he was hunting after, although she didn’t seem all that interested.
“It’s not a harpy, is it? I heard they leave us people well enough alone – at least those who leaves them alone,” she leaned forward on the table slight, arms sliding forward on the aged wood. “Is it the sirens? Please tell me they haven’t decided to grow legs and walk on land! I can’t stand those damn songs!” She made a slight face, scrunching her nose slightly. “Well, they’re decent enough, I guess. Just don’t ride boats around them.” She closed her eyes, shaking her head. “Naw, I don’t think that’s it. Isn’t it—”
“Medusa,” he finished for her, his voice lowered to just above a whisper. A beast supposedly so ugly and horrible that her gaze turned men to stone. Or so the tale went. As far as he knew. He wondered if she was one of those who were sympathetic to toward those who were unfortunate enough to anger the gods. There were enough legends and stories of those unfortunate innocents who suffered the jealousy and rage of the gods. He, of course, felt horrible, but while the gods still reign high in Mt. Olympus, there was really nothing anyone could do. Or even the immortals really. And since the gods were like… well, gods, they still dictated much of the world, at least, when it came to power. Whether it was fair or not… depended whether or not you were favored by said gods. His eyes quickly flickered around the bar.
In a far off corner, a mechanical clicking and hooting could be heard, as if attempting to give the bar atmosphere a mysterious air, or perhaps it was to make the bartender annoyed. Every time the clicking sound came, the man winced or looked a touched annoyed. On a shelf, behind the bar, a single jar rested, within it, there was a single eye floating in liquid. An eye that did not seem to belong to anyone in particular. In fact, it seemed to actually be staring at everyone else in the bar. On the walls, hung weapons, pieces of clothing along with branches and leaves from trees. On one of the windows, a complicated web was the home of a strange-looking spider. He said strange, but the only thing strange about it was the intriquet web itself. He had never seen anything like it. It would be a shame if it was destroyed.
“Right. And you’re going to do what exactly?” she asked, her back against the cushioned back of the booth, capturing his attention once more. “Cut her head off?” He couldn’t tell if she was mocking him, or if she was genuinely curious now. “Didn’t that dude, what’s his name, Perseus—” she seemed to throw that name toward the bartender, in a rather… spiteful manner “ – already do that? You know, killed the kraken and all?” There was definitely something within that tone. It was as if she had some problem with the hero. Her face went blank, withdrawing into herself, his eyes gaze at the smooth gleam of the wooden bow resting behind her. It looked to be very old, during the time of the Ancients, and it looked as though it still was strong and elegant as when it was first made. It somehow managed to with stand time, and he had to admit, it was still a beauty.
The door opened and a quick chill breeze swept over exposed shoes and ankles, causing goosebumps to rise and prinkle, cold shaking down everyone’s spines. They all turned their eyes, eyes wide, to face the source of the frost. The air stilled as only the back could be seen, the thin body sliding through the small crack shaking arms created. Breaths were held and slowly the figure turned, a hood shielding their face. He thought, for a moment, Medusa had found him.
“Well, well, if isn’t Cassie!” one of the men warmly boomed and smiled largely at the hooded figure who seemed to glide across the floor. The metal owl tweeted louder now, its rusted wings slowly moving. “I thought you would still be forest tracking!” They made room from the thin man who looked a bit too sickly, his hood sliding down his head, slick, shiny black hair bounced the bar’s light. His skin had taken on a slightly bluish hue. He motioned for the bartender. The man leaned in closer and pulled away after a moment, his hand rubbing the side of his face as though snow had flicked him.
“You seem different, but I’m assuming you took my advice,” the strange Cassie said after a moment. “Been a long time, hasn’t it?” The other man only nodded before giving Cassie his drink and tending to his other patrons, and essentially ignoring the strange man. He pulled his hoodie hood up over his head once more, appearing to be irritated by the light above his head. From the Hunter’s current position, Cassie’s eyes appeared to be completely black. It made him appear otherworldly, some kind of being the gods could’ve created. Or perhaps, some else created. But it was only an illusion. The gods didn’t create many beings now. Not after the whole debacle that nearly ended Zeus’s reign. His eyes returned to the strange woman. Something about her… pulled him. Not in the way a woman does but… like how a snake would stare and one couldn’t do anything but watch.
“I take it, you think hunting after Medusa is a wild goose chase?” he sighed. She wasn’t the first, and he highly doubted she would be the last. But the Gods of Olympus had selected several of their offspring and told them to take down the gorgon, Medusa. They said she could turn to stone anyone who looked her in the eyes. That she had somehow managed to escape her cage and regain her head. That she was out and on the loose. He had no choice but to hunt the woman down. After all, it wasn’t healthy to refuse or reject the gods. Those who did, paid a very dear price. The gods had first shown some of the possibilities that would come of rejecting them and… visual examples.
“What tales did they spin, I wonder,” she traced the top of her glass, the liquid giving off a warm glow. “I’ve never quite believed what leaves their lips.” He had no idea who the ‘they’ was. But he could assumed it was the gods. Her finger stopped and she took a sip of the sweet-smelling liquid. She didn’t say anything, though he felt a small tension in the air. The hunter could sense that there was more to her than she looked, even if she refused to take off her sunglasses. She had turned her gaze toward the bartender. He broke his gaze from her and looked around the small tavern.
Could she be part of the rebellion?
It was a small faction comprised of mortals and immortals who wanted to end the rule of the gods and return it back to the people, or so they said. They hadn’t made themselves public and most of the information about them was spread through rumors and gossip. Through the people. For all he knew, they could very well be nonexistent.
The men at the bar had their backs to him, nursing whatever they were drinking as they recovered from a long day’s work. Some had worked out in the fields, trying to coax some sort of harvest from their crops. Others were builders, traveling from village to village for work and food. He could tell some were hunters, like him, hunting down those the gods told them too. He knew one of them is a free lancer, did jobs that villages asked… for a certain price. Of course, the freelancer didn’t do every job. A few, however, didn’t quite fit into the scene. They didn’t seem to care to either as they ate or drank, or watched everyone else. Those were the ones who generally were outside the realm of the gods, or out of favor. They were the ones he was more concerned with. They were the ones you didn’t know which side they would be on.
Movement by the bar focused his and her attention toward the men. One of the bigger men, a hulking man with the deep booming voice, had slammed down his mug in a friendly manner. It was clear it was his nature to be the elephant in china store. “Oi, Kelsey,” the blonde builder addressed the bartender. His voice was even louder and more booming, something to make a person’s head ache and ears become deaf. “What time is it? The hag—” The bartender must’ve shot him a dark look, because the man quickly changed his wording. “—witch, don’t give me that look! – might come screeching in.” The man shuddered.
The other men hid their laughter and smiles behind their mugs and hands, shaking their heads knowingly. This was, apparently, a common scene. His eyes flickered back to her and saw an amused and contented smile on her face. The woman before him was quite the mystery. He frowned internally. He hated puzzles. Too much damn work.
The bartender seemed to debate, leaning over to another one of the patrons, silently discussing some sort of answer to a previous question, before answering the towering man. “Nearly sunset,” he replied softly, and grabbed the empty flask and depositing it behind the bar. His answers were vague but the meaning was conveyed enough. “And she isn’t that bad looking.”
“Who?” the voice boomed again. He winced slightly.
“Your wife, Cyrus,” one of his buddies supplied.
“I wasn’t talking about my wife,” he stretched his arms out. “It’s my damn mother in law! Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t the ones who got married. You know, she kicked me out of my own bed!” The men around him laughed, and after a moment, he joined them. He left without another word and the woman before the Hunter smiled softly.
“He secretly enjoys her nagging and nitpicking,” she provided. “He just doesn’t want to admit it.” She pulled a lock of hair behind her ear. A knowledgeable twitch of her lips said she had been observing him as he had observed the others. She looked at Kelsey and held out two fingers. “Have you ever heard the story of Perseus and Medusa?”
“Not really. I mean, I know the gist of it,” he shrugged. “Only what was deemed important.” There were so many versions, he wasn’t sure which one to take up. He really didn’t have the time to read every single one and compare them all. He wasn’t a scholar. Or a philosopher. And his brother was currently too busy and he wouldn’t bother his brother.
She raised an eyebrow and leaned forward. “Well, how about this, I tell you the way I heard it and then you tell me whether or not it’s believable?” A small chuckle left her mouth. “Of course, I won’t tell you this for free. I didn’t hear it for free, neither will you.” The strange woman paused, waiting for his reply.
“Why would I listen to it?”
“Why wouldn’t you? Ah, well, I know you really want to hear it,” she lowered her voice. “Because you feel as though something’s been left out. Something the gods don’t want you to know. Come on, make the deal. And you won’t even have to do anything.” It was enticing. He wanted to know, he knew. He hadn’t grown up around story tellers, and he always did enjoy a good story.
“Alright, but… what do I have to pay you?” he responded, looking into her sunglasses.
She looked over at the bartender, who’s eyes seemed to be covered by a shadow, or some sort of knowledge that only he was partial too. Then, her gaze returned to him, “Don’t worry about it. It’s only if you actually believe me. If you don’t, then you walk away and you can even pretend you never heard it or met me.” And so, she began her tale, but not as most tales begin. After all, it was her story to tell.
There was nothing like the company of a psychotic owl.
And the owl bloody well knew he was. Psychotic. Perseus wondered how he had ever gotten roped into this situation in the first place, and once again could only blame himself for it. This made him grumble for the thousandth time. After all, he didn’t have to open his big mouth and offered to help the city. (Out of politeness mind you. His mama taught him right!) When it was revealed to the King and Queen that he indeed was the son of Zeus (who had tricked his mother into sleeping with him, because according to his adoptive father, his mother was a faithful and loyal wife who took her duties seriously (and of course, there was an ‘official’ story that Zeus spewed out and it only convinced those who didn’t actually know his mother and her husband)) they jumped at the chance of marrying their daughter to him. Of course, they assumed he actually wanted to rule or even be married. (And why did people assume a single person (man, woman, tree, bird, bug, all things in between) must really want to get married?)
Nope, he quite liked his single life. After seeing what happened to his fellow ‘half’ siblings (Hercules was the deal breaker) and their love lives, he decided that he would travel to the end of his days, however near or far off they were. (He hoped they were far off. The single people and the end of his days. Very far off!) Letting out a sigh, he stomped through the forest, looking out for any signs of wild beasts or gods wandering about. On his shoulder rested a silvery owl with eyes of amber and spots of gold on his wings. It hooted, twisting his mechanical head around. All the way around, in a full circle and then he would twist it the other way, as if to just freak it him out.
(Which it actually did. But he would die before he let the damn owl know. He swore that thing survived on his own life’s torments. Him, Perseus. Not him, the owl. Stupid owl.)
He flicked his eyes toward the automaton before reflecting back; recalling the tale his adopted father told him. His mother had been a beauty and had caught the eye of Zeus (which really wasn’t a compliment, more like a cold that refused to go away. So in other words, it was more of hassle because either way the woman of the minute was screwed. Pun intended). He failed at actually whisking her away or tricking her into his arms several times. He had tried to fool her when taking animal forms (and that a big mistake. It wasn’t that his mother disliked animals, more like, she didn’t trust them after hearing what happened to his previous shags). She saw an eagle fly for her room and closed the windows, locking them to ensure the bird couldn’t get through. When she saw a hog follow behind her, she called a huntsman to shoot it down and give it to the village for the festival. A bull chased her through an open field and she managed to dive to safety into Juno’s Temple (because even Zeus knew better than to actually step foot into his wife’s temple). When he became a wounded fox, he thought he had her, but her brother grabbed him by the scruff of the next and deposited him into a doctor’s arms.
“See to it that it gets better,” her brother had said before escorting his sister down the path. And Zeus had been lucky the doctor was a vegetarian. The final time he used an animal appearance was a dog. He whimpered and scratched at her door, hoping to be let in. Instead, a man (the king, the husband, Perseus’s own hardworking [not really his father but rather married to his mother] father) opened the door and glared down at the pup. He pulled out a knife and smiled wickedly.
“Make another sound and you won’t be a man anymore,” he promised the dog, the bags under his eyes heavy, his body shaking with exhaustion. “I swear, make another sound.” When silence greeted him, he smiled, nodded and slammed the door, unknowingly into Zeus’s nose. The dog swallowed and looked around, hoping no one saw his shame. He would yet get the woman. Looking down at himself, he shook his head.
The final trick that caught her was when he took the man’s form. He entered the bedroom and smiled, as the woman greeted him with a brilliant smile. Needless to say, his mother figured out who it was and had tried to escape. (All because his [not really his father] father had left on some kind of business just a few minutes ago and really, his wife may have been a blonde but she wasn’t stupid because there was no way her husband had those color eyes and because really, she had been expecting it). Pre-dict-a-ble! Perseus shook his head. What happened next remained unclear. Apparently, in order to protect his wife from Hera, her death was faked. But little did they know Hera had been quite understanding and found out too late about the fate of his mother.
After that, everyone knew the generic story. (His mother did actually die, as the sea god drifted them farther and farther away from their home as punishment for going against the gods (which neither he nor his adoptive family quite understood how they went against the Olympians. In the end, they all just guessed that Zeus threw a hissy fit)). His adopted father found him and raised him as one of his own. He was to become a fisherman like his adoptive father until they got separated (that was another story entirely). Now, he had no idea where his family was and figured that traveling, instead of staying in one place, would probably give him a better chance of finding them. Because really, why in the world would he feel honored to be the son of Zeus? Did Zeus not know what happened to the women and their offspring? Luckily, his mother had been on Hera’s good side when it happened to her. So, she didn’t actually receive any of the usual jealousy and fury. His mother had offered Hera a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. She had never revealed what the goddess said.
Which actually said something, either about her mother or the generally jealous sister-wife of the great Zeus.
He sighed and shook his head. His life had become complicated when the gods came meddling about. His life had been simple when they weren’t meddling. He looked toward his owl again. “Well, looks like it’s just you and me now,” he shook his head, making his way closer and closer to the supposed gate of the Underworld. He would have to travel through the River Styx and find, defeat, decapitate and bring back the head of Medusa. He wrinkled his nose at the thought.
Seemed a little extreme. Couldn’t he just put a bag over her head and bring her entirely? It would probably be harder to transport, but he figured that it would save more time in the end. Placing his hand on the tree, he stopped to look around. Everything looked the same here. He was pretty sure he passed by that human-turned-tree not too long ago. The metal owl made a few clicking nose, turning its face toward him. The face looked unamused, and entirely angry. Or maybe it was how the damn owl always looked. Frankly, Perseus could rarely tell because he didn’t know if the owl could make any sort of damn expressions!
In fact, now that he inspected the bane of his earaches and headaches, it actually looked ready to peck his eyes out. He could feel a slight shifting of weight. In a singular direction. Noticing how the owl was leaning back, preparing to pounce or attack (probably one and the same with the damn automaton), he yanked it off his shoulder, ignoring the rush of pain that the claws left behind. “Don’t even try,” he ordered, knowing that one day, he would wake up to find the damn thing ripping his stomach open. He already had heard about that Promy… Pomme the… prem y us… Prometheus! That’s it. He shivered as the phantom feeling of having your guts ripped out for eternity did not sound like his cup of ambrosia. He was sure Prometheus wasn’t enjoying it either.
The owl seemed to sulk, turning its face away, before sending him another glare. It clicked and hooted for a moment, not doubt calling him some sort of name or another. Perseus didn’t really want to know. He placed the beast back on his shoulder and started to walk again, hoping that if he just continued to walk forward, he would get to the gate. The forest was quite beautiful itself, and was he not on a mission, he would’ve taken the time to explore it. The trees were healthy, the bark showing off its rough nature, while the branches clung to their brightly colored leaves. The flowers were giving off a sweet scent, as if trying to lure their prey into their trap. They looked very soft, as though they would make a very nice bed. It had been a while since he slept in a bed…
He wouldn’t mind taking a moment to rest. To just fall asleep. He could feel his eyes being to droop. Only the incessant twittering of the owl kept him from closing his eyes. Oh how ear grating it was, causing him to want to throw the bird off his shoulders. Then he would happily lie on that bed of flowers, and let himself be trapped— wait, what?
What the hell was he saying?!
He stopped, wondering where that thought came from. A trap? Another shiver ran down his spine, the hair on his skin rising. (Because yes, he could shiver all he damn wanted! He didn’t see anyone else offering to take his place!) The owl also seemed to have quieted it down, the claws gripping his shoulders tighter as if awakening him from the flower’s spell, and look around them as well. With the owl’s wariness, Perseus knew that they were very close to danger. He took a few more steps, his hand resting on the plain sword hilt, his shield still resting on his back. He had long lost the helmet. Needless to say, the three sisters, who shared a single eye (as if that wasn’t nauseating enough), also had human bones everywhere, without a single piece of rotting meat. He still could see how clean the bones were and how they were reaching for him until he held the eye. He had thrown his helmet at one of their heads and the eye in the opposite direction. Quickly, he ran down the mountain. Well, he had climbed up and all but slid down. The brunet did not want to be anyone’s main dish. The warrior doubted he would ever quite get over it.
Focusing his thoughts once again on his surroundings, he began to see just how dangerous the forest was. Roots were lifted in places where one could trip and break their neck if they weren’t paying attention. The flowers, now that he looked closer, were used by the gods to poison men in battle or in their drink and food. There were small vines hanging from the trees at various heights. He knew once that got around a neck, it would only twist and tighten. He thought it was strange that he saw no nymphs or pans. Not even the odd bug or too. It was almost like no one dared to live in this forest. Unless, perhaps, they were great, big scary monsters. He looked at the owl who seemed to shrug and belt out a loud whistle.
“You want me to be eaten, don’t you?”
He swore the thing smiled insanely.
It explained why everyone gave him looks like he was crazy for even thinking to come through the woods. But he wanted to get this thing done and over with. (The owl hooted from his shoulder). He had more important matters to attend too. (The owl hooted again, but louder). Like finding his family – not running away from mothers who wanted to marry off their daughters! (The owl was clicking loudly). Andromeda was not the first, but he hoped she would be the absolute last! (The owl was clicking its beak in an irritatingly loud manner). If anything, he’d probably settle down with a woman who didn’t mind being a fisherman’s wife. (The owl was now whistling directly in his ear). Or perhaps a wife who didn’t mind traveling. He hopped over a small patch of quick sand.
The damn thing bit his ear!
“OI!” This was the forest of his own impending death, but so far it hadn’t lived up its—was that a freaking Minotaur?!