It was a quiet day when whispers were exchanged and stories traded. The mountains hung, casting shadows down to our village. Misery swept like a plague across our fields. We had been isolated, imprisoned in our own homes. Turning against each other with every passing hour. Each tree that surrounded us creaked and moaned at our border, as if they felt the damage from last night.
Unlike everyone else hiding in their homes, I wanted answers. Our Medieval village needed someone to blame and I knew it would be me. I assessed each route of escape and each was unlikely as the next. There were no paths, just the gloom of the greenery above.
I returned to the cobbles of the village; the early morning sang unlike the people. As I walked past, heads turned looking for answers. Words like “hissing, nightcrawler and she demons “ flew over my head. Five people had died last night. Communication was down and travel suppressed. So deep in thought I didn’t realise that the chat has stopped. I walked quicker.
With a bag packed, I went for ‘a walk’. I doubt it was very convincing but it was my usual excuse when hunting. By the way the crowd moved behind me, I guessed I was right. And with that my pursuers ran forwards. My red coat flew behind me, an oddity against all of the grays. I was quicker and younger than the ones following and I dodged each swipe with ease. Before long, I was running at full speed towards the borders of the village. I climbed the fence faster than ever before and jumped into the forest.
I moved weightlessly across the leafy blanket of autumn. I knew they would send the dogs soon so I found a tree coated in ivy and climbed using vines as hand holes. I followed the sun to the west and headed over the mountain to the closest settlement which would be a good two day trip then few supplies in my bag would only last me till night. This high you could see everything my village was laid out before me with matchstick people and toy homes. The grass was littered with more rocks as the Earth climbed into the clouds, slowly ascending in a circular path around the the mountain I occupied. It was quite beautiful until you realised the group of ants huddling outside the village hall were planning your demise. ‘Fun’.
I decided it was time to move on; staying in one place too long would be dangerous with the troubles of the woods. Not to mention my followers. Although I knew most of the woods by day, there was just no point trying to navigate at night and I was pretty sure I was walking in circles. The stars illuminating the sky above my head and shadows danced to their music in the moonlight. It was eerily quiet. Never ever in the woods was it this quiet. My footsteps echoed with every step taken; I felt like I was saying “Hi, come and eat me” to those higher in the food chain. Things that are covered by the darkness are never good news. The night went on like this. Run, hide, fall. I developed this general pattern.
Eventually dawn broke in the skies, illuminating the leaves that hogged most light and scattered the rest. Still it was like a blessing. Eventually I found where I was and headed on sounds whirled past my ears at my quick pace. Most frequent though was hissing. Every time it came, I noticed. Unlike the other noises, it was out of place in an English forest, not irregular, but uncommon and yet it was everywhere. I thought back to what the townsfolk said: “Hissing, nightcrawler and she demons“. Wow. that was encouraging. I felt a sudden urge to cower away into the trees and hide. “No” I told myself (later realising aloud) and pursued on.
Bad idea. After fifteen minutes of walking, I fell face first into a pit of mud dug for the hunting needs of the village. I attempted to move but my foot wouldn’t move and in agony, pain pinned me to the ground.
It felt like my ankle had a knife stuck in it. The pain was blinding. I cried out several times but I didn’t know who would help. It was so useless I gave up trying. Slowly moving, I removed my backpack and slowly I produced a makeshift cast out of duct tape (what everyone packs in a rush), a stick found covering the pit, some vines and my jumper which I had adequately shredded. I was no nurse, so I had probably done everything wrong but it would do. With the amount of layers around my foot I could just about move. Though it was not fun. I regretted it through gritted teeth and a lot of cursing I used the vines to climb out.
I slept off the pain in a bush which was not very comfy and woke up full of aches and pains with my ankle putting fever back into my body. It was dark but I had to keep moving. I took out my torch and assessed my surroundings. The trees encircled me in an opening; stones littered the floor covered in ivy and moss. I cleared some stones and a beautiful mosaic decorated the floor. It twisted and swirled into a circle surrounding the only standing structure. A large arc made of white stones. It was so fragile and delicate it didn’t belong in the depths of the forest. I realised that it was almost glowing; a single strip of moonlight had slithered through the canopy of trees above. I stopped and stared at the arc as if in a trance until a loud snap brought me back to life. I swiveled around and studied the shadows, they moved as if to taunt me. The hissing returned and I took off.
Running was not my speciality but my ankle probably being broken made it even worse. The more I ran, the louder the hissing was, as if it was catching up on me. I pantted and stumbled my way along, only to find I had returned to the arch. I picked up a rock with an attempt to arm myself.
“If anyone is there, show yourself,” I shouted out of fear. I didn’t expect an answer. Instead a loud thump landed behind me slowly. I turned to find a figure in the darkness. It was a woman with a long, cream coloured tunic dress that met at one shoulder with a golden badge to hold it in place. The woman would have once been beautiful, except her skin had a green tint and it was rubbed raw with a gold liquid trickling out of cuts that looks infected. She was covered in leaves and pretty matted, but her head was the worst. Her features were green: lips, eyes and skin and her hair was – well – not hair. It moved by itself when there was no wind; it was brown, green, red and the golden colour like hay. I realised she was the source of the hissing, but it wasn’t really her, it was the hair: they were snakes. Small beady eyes stared at me snapping at my face I was numb with fear. They looked me in the eyes and taunted me, flicking around my face. I used my most common plan and I fled, attempting not to scream.
It was cold and my breath was whisked into the darkness. I was shaken. Thorns stuck in my arms and tears rimmed my eyes threatening to fall. As soon as I stopped to breath, she caught up and swiped at my head with her dagger. I needed a better strategy than just running. I sprinted in and out of trees until I was a good few paces ahead. I got to the log I had purposely circled to and dropped to the ground just behind it so I was hidden. I grabbed her ankle and she fell almost instantly. I was on top of her knee, on chest with arms pinned down; a loud shriek was released from from her mouth, it was so inhuman and high pitched it made me want to grab my ears. For some reason though, this annoyed me. I would not be hunted. I was the hunter. I got a wave of courage and I took her blade and sliced her neck. The golden liquid wet the ground. Her only weapon, under examination, was this dagger. I took this as a prize, feeling better armed. I looked at the ground, nothing was there I cleaned my blade and walked away frightened by what I had done.
And with my luck, before I could turn around, a shriek like death pursued me. It was just like before and just as deadly. It whispered words of sorrow and things I thought I had left behind reappeared. I cradled my ears and dropped to my knees and two figures walked towards me; one’s mouth was still open.
My mind said move but I couldn’t. It was worst than any pain. Fear surrounded me and as quickly as it came, it stopped. I shivered on the ground, aware of the two people who were dangerously close now and then a whisper crawled into my skull.
“You have a lot of pain you can be controlled.” It sliced through my brain and cut deep “You are worthless.” Each ending was held on and whispered fading into nothing. “You will never beat us.”
I was screaming on my back writhing and slashing at the air, but something held me down. It was like a strong current, pushing me down as I slowly drowned. Against all will, I pushed up grabbing the grass as hand holds. She went to scream again but I still had the dagger in my hand. With a clean slice her arm thudded onto the ground. It wriggled before sinking slowly into the ground. Instead of screaming, she collapsed, grabbing her arm as golden tears trickled down her face. They did not match her cruel eyes which blazed with hate. And slowly I rose as the spell broke, dagger in hand coated in her sparkling blood.
And I charged at the one still standing. She looked exactly the same as the last I killed. I used that to my advantage.
“Your sister is dead!” I took a guess. The woman howled with rage as snakes bit around me. I circled her looking for a weakness.
“I killed her with my hands and she sank down to Tartarus with your friend’s arm.” She was practically steaming with rage now.
“We are the gorgons,” she spoke into my mind, “you will never defeat us. And you will not live to tell the tale.”
She charged straight towards me and jumped a good six feet as I tried to run. She landed on my back and pinned me to the ground.
“I am not as stupid as my sister Stethano; you will die in my grasp.” I grabbed her arm and ‘judo-flipped’ her onto the ground behind me like I had been taught. I had the high ground now and when I thought I had won, sibling number three arose.
She was taller and more dominant than I remembered.
“What are you?” I spat, whilst being lifted off my feet by the neck, struggling for breath. She laughed. It was like a spider crawling down my back; this demon wore a black robe against her sisters’ white and sunglasses over her eyes even though it was the middle of the night. You could feel so much power urging from her she almost glowed.
“You mortals forget your ancestry and you have the nerve to build on ancient ground without worship. We are gorgon slayers of the night. We take what we want and now, we want vengeance.” Gently, she removed her glasses. And a memory tugged at my mind. Gorgon. The name was so familiar. Names held power, I knew that. I racked my brain for possible stories.
“Medusa.” I found my knife and plunged it into her hand. Her glasses fell to the floor and I looked away she dropped me and grabbed her hand.
“You fool,” she cried. “Her blood is poison, it is still on the blade.” I didn’t know this to be true, but used it to my advantage; I developed a plan and ran to the sister who was nearly gone but could still be alive.
A pool of blood had set around her, seeping into the ground; the grass around sizzled and burned. She got up and spat more golden blood out of her mouth. She smiled and her teeth glistened with a metallic tint.
“It will take more to defeat me, mortal, I will come back and back resurrecting from the deepest parts of the underworld; even Hades cannot contain me. I am the youngest but more blood hangs behind me. I am the definition of death”. I could hear, Medusa, coming up to grab me from behind, her cold stench of death haunted me and as her arm reached out, I rolled under her legs. Both siblings eyes met. Medusa’s golden with power. All the heat left the younger sister’s body. I could feel her crumbling as she turned to stone by her own sister’s hand.
Medusa kneeled by her side. I picked up the biggest stone around and lobbed it towards the arch from where they came. To the last Gorgon’s surprise, it tumbled to the ground as my rock found its mark and hit straight. A wind picked up as a tornado evolved around the arch’s remains. Everything was dragged into the portal. I ran as quick as I could and turned to watch as the remains of the ancient ground was sucked into the swirling portal of wind. Medusa screamed as fresh shock-waves drew her towards the black hole. She was the last thing left, and then the screaming stopped and all was quiet. The ground was no longer littered with stone. In the perfect circle of grass, all that remained of the sisters was a statue alone in the wilderness, a face shriveled with pain. I took one more look at the ugly sister’s greying face and left to the next village.
Photo by lucas da miranda from Pexels