Excerpt: Beginnings: Liberation
His footsteps echoed, disturbing the stillness that had descended upon his surroundings. No one was in the halls; no sounds could be heard as he moved down the hallway. The area was dark, the only things guiding his steps, memories of previous visits to this place that terrified him. Dark, forbidding, the house suited his mother perfectly—Medusa of the horrifying gaze. Medusa, the feared and most hated. Medusa had once been beautiful and wanted by all but now stood as proof that people’s emotions were fickle and ever changing.
He scraped his big toe against stone and stopped. Raised hands found the wall, and Eleftherios slowly felt his way along. His hands touched wood, and he pushed the door inwards, moving into the room.
His eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room, searching for the reptilian skin and listening for the hiss that would tell him where his mother was. She who had once delighted in light, laughter and the company of others remained forever hidden in the ruins of the temple she now called home.
“Welcome, Eleftherios. Proceed. Your mother awaits.” He paused and turned. Atropos approached him, her much dreaded shears absent from her hands. Her eyes dark, filled with the heaviness he knew was always present when she was ready to bring life to an end. The way she continued to gaze at him—unblinking, unflinching, with cool detachment—filled him with misgivings.
Eleftherios nodded and moved forward, pulling back the curtains that Medusa had used to create privacy in her rooms.
“You sent for me, Mother.”
Low hisses filled the room. Something was wrong. The snakes on her head hung limp, unmoving. Her head was turned away from him. The veil she used to cover her face rested on her lap.”Eleftherios. You came.”
He paused in lowering his head; his mind raced. Medusa sounded even more melancholic than usual. It wasn’t in her nature to sound so wistful at his presence. His thoughts swung to Atropos and the look that had been present in her eyes. “Is it time, Mother?”
“You saw Atropos, I see.” Her voice was sad. “It would seem that my time has finally come.”
Eleftherios could feel the silence turn oppressive, waiting for one of them to speak, but he had no idea what he could say. What could one say to a mother that had never been there? A mother he did not know? He should feel sad at the thought of losing her, but all he felt was numbness. He had never known her. It was another that had raised him, another that he had called mother when he had learnt how to speak. The being before him was only a stranger who had given him life. But she had suffered already and, as such, deserved what little comfort he could give her.
“How?” How would she die? How were the gods going to complete her pain and humiliation? How were they going to make it worse than it already was?
“It is not up to the fates to tell us how we shall die. It is a blessing to remain ignorant of the form Thanatos would claim when he comes to rob us of life’s breath.” The words were spoken slowly, each breath a rasp.
“And it’s a blessing to know that your time has come?”
“It is a courtesy from beings that I have learnt to call friends, an opportunity to set my affairs in order.” There was a pause, and Eleftherios felt his body tense in response, bracing itself for what was to come next. “You are not a Gorgon, my boy. Not even half. But when I die, beware. Power does not disappear. Rather, it changes and moves. Be careful, Eleftherios, and mayall that is good go with you.”
Eleftherios felt his mouth open, questioning words, seeking an escape. He needed to know more. His mother could not simply make statements like the ones she had made and expect him to say nothing.
“Your questions will be answered in time. You just have to be patient—more patient than I have ever been. Leave now, your brothers are coming, and I do not want you all meeting here. Now is not the time”
Eleftherios bowed. “Thank you, Mother. Farewell.” He walked slowly out of the room and out of the temple. His mind was busy with the thoughts that had arisen because of his mother’s words. It had been a score of years since Medusa had been cursed by the goddess Athena for daring to lie with Poseidon in Athena’s temple. She had been seduced by a god, but Athena had not been willing to listen nor had she shown any compassion for Medusa’s plea. Her children had been taken to her sister, and their father had died at her hand—the first victim of the curse. With nothing and no one left, Medusa had settled into bitterness and anger and had turned a deserted temple at the corner of the Western Ocean into her domain.
Eleftherios returned to the boat that had carried him to his mother’s island and nodded at the boatman to proceed. As they drifted away, he turned around to catch a final glimpse of the temple ruins, ruins that signified all that was left of his mother’s life. He gave a deep sigh and turned around, paying attention to the sound of the oars striking the water and the soothing glide of the boat.
He hoped he would be able to make something better of his life and his mother’s shadow would cease to cling to him. Although, with the words she had spoken, he doubted the possibility of that ever happening.