Who is to Blame?

Who is to Blame?

There are many different versions of Medusa's legends. But what if, it is only because even she could not remember the truth?


Literary fiction


Nerine Richter (South Africa)

Perseus’ blood ran cold, and each breath was forced through his clenched teeth. A drop of sweat rolled down the back of his nose and dripped to the cave’s floor. Through the reflection in Athena’s shield, he could see her. The gorgon sat in the middle of a stone crowd. A petrified expression was forced onto each spectator.

“You were sent by ‘her’, weren’t you?”

Athena, the goddess herself had warned Perseus about the gorgon residing inside the abandoned cave. She warned him of her petrifying gaze, but she would utter no word of the monster’s past. The goddess held an odd expression as she talked of the monster. Was it regret? Anger? Disgust?

Perseus wanted to ask, but Athena had thrust the divine gifts onto his lap and pushed him out to Medusa’s lair.

“Hero…” the voice was soft almost scared.

Hissing followed and broke the innocent voice. Perseus spied on the gorgon from behind a statue of a youth. The snakes were writhing with anger as they searched for Perseus while their master hid her eyes behind her trembling fingers.

“Before you kill me.” Her voice was barely a whisper. “Will you tell me, who did this? ”

Perseus furrowed his brows beneath the helmet of Hades. Who did it? Did what?

“Who made me like this?”

Back in Seriphus, the youths told a legend. Medusa was cursed with a head of snakes and a gaze that turned men to stone because… she was a seductress. The curse was placed on her as punishment because she, as a high priestess of Athena’s court, seduced the enemy…
They say it was her fault.

“It is his fault!” She yelled. “Poseidon is to blame!”

The serpents hissed, and the monster fell to her knees, screaming in pain and agony. She slammed her fists into the cave floor until Perseus could see the blood drip from her fingers.

“He did this!” Her voice broke as the tears wrack through her body.

Perseus swallowed, he pulled in his knees and got into a crouching position.

“Did what?” He dared to ask.

In a flash, Medusa slithered to Perseus, but he quickly rolled away to hide behind another statue, this was one of a little boy forced to cry until his stone body crumbled apart. Medusa wrapped her hands around the stone youth’s neck - the one which Perseus had been hiding behind. She licked his dry cheek and squeezed harder until the terrified expression on the statue’s face started to crack. The poor youth broke off bit by bit until all that stood was his decapitated body.

“He forced himself onto me!”

She let out a broken cackle. Perseus gripped his sickle tighter. She was in his line of sight, her back to him and fully vulnerable. Her head turned to the heavens and Perseus carefully moved to watch her more closely. Thick tears rolled down her pale scally skin. She gripped her bony arms and pierced her nails into her flesh.

“But…” She swallowed. “I liked it?”

The snakes slithered around her neck, some rolled in her tears and others lapped at her skin.

“Did I like it? Did I ask for it? I… I can’t remember.”

As the youths called her a seductress. The maidens called her a victim. They told of a legend where Poseidon was enthralled by Medusa. She denied his advances, admitting her position as a high priestess was more important than a love affair with a god. Poseidon didn’t take kindly to her rejection and when the sunset, he took what he wanted from her. Athena saw her follower suffer and ‘blessed’ her with the ability to turn men to stone and protect herself if such a thing ever happened again.

But maidens and youths can never agree on the tale. They all blame the other. The victim and the predator change, but there is never a hero for Medusa.

Perseus’ shoulders lowered and the tip of the sickle clicked against the wet stone floor.

Who is telling the truth?

“Augh!” Medusa’s voice scraped against her throat as she let out a blood-churning scream. She grabbed the head of one of her snakes and pulled and pulled till the serpent broke loose. A trail of blood rolled down the exposed flesh and dripped down her face. The snake withered in her grip, hissing wildly as she spoke. “Were you a gift or a curse?”

Her shoulders shook as the tears became worse and it became harder to breathe for the broken monster.

“I… I don’t know anymore. Did I deserve this? Should I be mad? My goddess, my Athena, did you do this to punish me? I can plead for forgiveness! Or is this a gift? A gift of isolation and loneliness! Or was this my weapon, to protect me from the horrible touch of men? Did his hands burn my innocent skin? Or did I revel in each lustful gaze? I cannot remember! I don’t want to remember.”

She threw the severed head of the serpent away and covered her eyes with her bloodied hands. Perseus lowered Athena’s shield and stalked to the weeping woman. The snakes hissed and warned their master, but she ignored their calls. Perseus placed his sickle on her shoulder. She closed her eyes and exposed her neck to the hero. It was time to surrender.
Perseus pulled the sickle back with all his might and sliced through the gorgon’s neck. He watched the woman’s body fall.

“May the gods have mercy on your soul.” Perseus wiped the sweat and tears from his eyes. “May they give you the beauty you once had.”

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