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Snakes and Stones
The hissing in my ear fills me with shame and regret. Half of what used to be my mortal body is now twisted into the serpent that the goddess thinks I am. This isn’t the worst part either. My heart sinks as I imagine their looks of horror frozen upon their faces like everyone else’s when they looked into my eyes. No matter what I do I always look them in their eyes. When I’m in trouble, arguing, explaining, that was the only way they knew how to communicate with me. If they don’t notice the bush of snakes or the tail, the eyes will definitely tip them off. Now how am I going to tell them? Hey, maybe they just won’t notice. Yeah, and Tartarus sells girl scout cookies. There’s got to be at least thirty different kinds of snakes on my head.
Stheno isn’t in the cave most of the time, and if I come and go while she’s sleeping she won’t notice. She mostly ignored me because she was jealous of my mortality. Maybe if I avoid her enough, she will forget! What happens if she actually sees me though? How am I going to explain this? A snake creeps to my shoulder, making me jump. I quickly swat it away, but it slowly comes back down and hisses spitefully in my ear before slithering back up as I approach the mouth of the cave. Home.
Oh, Zeus. Euryale. She’s in the entryway, taking in the new shell of her former mortal sibling. Though I avoid her eyes, I can still feel her gaze trailing over me in shock. How could I forget about her? She was the one I always talked to, the one who would read me bedtime stories as a child, the only one who might not judge my scales now. Could I have been wrong? Maybe she didn’t understand. I hang my head lower hoping to avoid her gaze.
“Medusa?” Her soft voice barely comes out in a whisper. My words failing, I only shake my head slightly, and next thing I know, she’s wrapping me up in one of her famous I-am-so-sorry hugs. Her snakes hug mine and they wrap around my head in sympathy. She lets out one of her soft cries, tickling the air with a sorrowful tune. She was like a siren on the shore, singing not for enjoyment but for the sorrow of everything that was lost. I try to calm her down, but nothing works.
“What is going on?” Stheno’s voice carries from the mouth of the cave.
“Euryale, come here. Do you want the gods to smite us? Don’t you remember last time you sang?”
So much for avoiding her.
“I am so not in the mood to have a surprise trip to Olympus again!” Stheno continues to rant as Euryale slowly releases me and turns toward her. I try to hang on to her but she slips out of reach and moves to the side. When she only slithers to my left, holding on my arm like I was going to faint. Stheno stops speaking when she sees me, and I can feel her gaze looking over my hideous green scales. Everyone is quiet for a while, and I avoid any eye contact with them no matter how much I wish to see either of their expressions. Was she this upset at me, that she couldn’t speak? Is she glad I look more like them? Confused? The questions shoot through my head one after the other.
“Medusa?” She says it carefully, timidly. Is she scared of me? I can hear her move, slowly closing the gap between us.
“Medusa, is that you?” Her voice begins to shake. She is scared of me. I turn around, waiting for the lecture of “how irresponsible I was” to come. She wouldn’t be wrong either. So, I keep my head down as I wait, but the lecture never comes. Instead I feel warm arms wrap around me.
“What happened, Medusa? Why won’t you look us in the eyes?” Stheno asked, but both hold me tight as shameful tears slip down my face.
Images flash of the morning in Athena’s Temple. Poseidon, the god who tricked me, raped me, and left me with nothing but Athena’s wrath.
Her curse, causing pain to spread across my olive-toned legs and slowly fusing them together into a tail, growing large sickly green scales. At the same time my hair was falling out, hatching little snakes where my golden locks used to be. Each serpent crying, but not as loud as me as the pain burns all over. My nails stretching out long and curved like a claw.
Athena’s words hissed in my ear after the grueling pain ceased, telling me I deserved a much worse punishment. How it was a mercy to be given such a curse before disappearing into smoke.
The memories continue to flip through my mind like a movie as I recall the way everyone looked at me when I crawled down the temple stairs. When I reached the bottom, I was surrounded by people. A little girl comes up to me as I’m looking around at everyone else. It wasn’t till she was right in front of me I saw the flower in her hand.
“Your the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.” She said this with a smile that reached her beautiful brown eyes. When our eyes met, when I blinked, not even a fraction of a second later, she was stone. That beautiful smile frozen on her face forever. An older woman rushes to her frozen daughter screaming, pleading for her to come back. She stares at my eyes, but before she could say anything, she too turns to stone. Her eyes say whatever she wanted. Monster. The looks of disgust and horror plastered on everyone’s faces. I looked at each one of them, and each one - every single person - turned to hard, cold, stone.
“They’re gone. All of them. The children, the innocent families, frozen forever.” My sisters stop breathing for a split second. “I should never have snuck out. It’s all because of me,” I cry, with tears starting to flow like the river Styx. All of the anger, hate, sorrow, and delight all mix up within me. Euryale’s claws brush against my scales affectionately, like she understands.
“The worst part is that I enjoyed it. Their fear, it was, it it had such a - I can’t even explain it!” A tear of shame slips down my scaly face as I struggle for the right words. “All that I know is that it felt-”
I sigh, frustrated that I couldn’t describe such a horrible, beautiful feeling. What kind of monster has Athena turned me into?
“Wonderful!” I exclaim. I look off to the side, missing the memory of those peoples’ horror. The splendid taste of their fear was better than any fine wine I could have ever tasted. It’s almost as if one scream wasn’t enough, that the splendid taste of horror would never end. Right there, right then, in the midst of my thoughts did the realization hit me. Then horror and disgust spreads through my body, and I shudder. What was I thinking? My mind wanders more and more, exploring the amazingly awful idea. How could something so wrong, bring me such pleasure?
“How can I feel good about doing something so terrible? Euri, what is wrong with me?” Euryale lets go and, to my surprise, it’s Stheno who gently pulls me into a hug, her mother-like nature catching me by surprise. This is the same mortals-are-stupid-and-I-don’t-care-about-anyone Stheno, right?
“Nothing is wrong with you, Meddie. Nothing at all.” Stheno’s soft tone once again, takes me by surprise. Why isn’t she mad? I literally look like a creation from one of the Olympians’ gone wrong and on top of that I can’t even look into anyone’s eyes without them turning to stone. I’m more of a freak than that cyclops that was outwitted by an old man.
“These feelings aren’t bad, Meddie. They are a part of who you are. The you we always knew you’d turn out to be.” I could feel Stheno radiating with pride. Pride in me, for what I did! Could she be right? Was I always meant to turn out this way? To turn out like her?
“Really?” My voice comes out soft. At that moment, I want nothing more than to look in their eyes. See the love and happiness that I feel around me right now. What if she’s right and this was my fate? To live with a curse, no, a gift given to me by a goddess herself. I still keep my head down.
“Absolutely,” Euryale claims proudly, holding my hands tight in hers. My heart swells with hope. For once, since the day I was gifted I felt I might actually be okay.
Maybe being a gorgon won’t be so bad after all.