Medusa was the most beautiful little girl you have ever met. Often people would jokingly call her Aphrodite because of her long lustrous hair, perfectly round face with rosy cheeks and sweetness that stunk like sunshine. She resembled such star striking beauty, that normal folks could only imagine the legendary Aphrodite Goddess would have looked like her.
Medusa had two sisters, they were also pretty but they could not stop people in their tracks like Medusa could. People would freeze, mid walk or mid sentence, or become clumsy disoriented by her beauty, after just one glance.
This happened all the time when she was a child. In the marketplace, shopping with her family; store keepers would give Medusa free candy, free clothing, coins and keepsakes. This all felt good to Medusa to receive this type of attention and gifts everywhere she went.
As Medusa grew into womanhood; everything changed. A new type of attention began to follow her. Most men that saw her were struck with desirous lust, which caused them to obsessively follow and bother Medusa. Even some women too. Relentlessly, messaging and desiring for Medusa’s attention.
Although Medusa was given many gifts, which to others may seem like a blessing, it was often given to her with expectations for her devotion, attention or approval. Gifts that came from men, often had a higher expectations, the exchange rate was intended for sexual favors. Medusa's lifestyle made her feel empty inside. Being constantly praised for looking a certain way that everyone expected her, initiated Medusa to seek a different type of relationship, connection to a goddess.
Medusa began to visit Athena’s temple. The climb up the mountain was an intense physical challenge and provided a much needed break from the hustle of her life, the suitors that constantly bothered her, keeping up cosmetic appearances, and constantly promoting herself and her brand. Visits with Athena shed clarity and wisdom onto her situations and how to deal with overwhelming attention and popularity.
One of Medusa’s repeated complaints about her life, was that fact that she was too beautiful. To which Athena proposed, “My dear friend Medusa, can you even imagine, what it would feel like to be ugly to all these people? How miserable would your life be then?”
Medusa scoffed, “Oh Athena, how little you understand what it is like, to be so beautiful and have to fight off men all the time"
Athena chuckled at Medusa’s naivety, because in fact Athena the Goddess of war was especially skilled at defending and fighting men.
Medusa continued on ranting, not noticing Athena’s owl roll his eyes with judgement.
Medusa would crawl up and down Athena’s mountain a few times a week, always complaining about the same problems; man troubles, the obsession with maintaining her beauty and reputation as the most liked, followed and beautiful person. Every outfit Medusa wore to the temple made Athena cringe. Most of the time Medusa would arrive bleeding from the hazardous mountain climb.
Athena spoke up, "Pretty soon Medusa, you going to get sick of wearing clothing that doesn’t protect you. You should wear clothing that will protect you from harm. If you don’t change soon, I feel something worse is coming.”
Medusa shrugged off Athena’s suggestion and continued right on talking about another date with a pathetic man from the mumble dating app.
Medusa took off out of the temple skipping and feeling light, having just relieving all her troubles at Athena’s alter. The lack of understanding and dissolution that hung in the air caused Athena’s owl to puke.
The next few visits Medusa made to see Athena were labored; some change in an algorithm swept through Medusa’s world, which caused massive amounts of followers and people to not see or like Medusa. This caused her to grow tired with frustration and sick with fear. Now Medusa was barely able to reach the top of the mountain, which was so easy for her to do before. Now she would arrive with a bruised body, bloody knees and a tired back. Medusa certainly did not look too good, even to Athena’s low standards.
Medusa told the same story each time, although more frustrated and exhausted every time she told it. She feared losing herself; no longer being the most beautiful and liked woman of the gram.
Finally, Athena understood what type of loss her friend was feeling.
When Medusa paused in her story, Athena jumped at her chance to speak the truth, “Listen Medusa, I know you feel like you lost attention and followers but your beauty did not fade. The stress of your lost, is *causing* your physical beauty to fade.”
Medusa squirmed, Athena had poked a nerve with her sword of truth.
Medusa swallowed hard, sat stunned for a moment, then began to violently react to Athena’s statement. Medusa rose up and began screaming at Athena; the owl flew off, not at all interested in listening to the temper tantrum.
Medusa started her rebuttal off with, how she needed to be the most beautiful woman in the world, otherwise she would never get a man to truly love her. Next was her victim mentality, that living with such beauty was a painful curse. At this point, Medusa began to pull out her fake blonde hair extension braids, she ripped off her fake eyelashes that look like butterflies. Medusa finished pulling off her fake nails before she looked up at Athena, who was patiently polishing her shield.
Medusa’s ego was so pissed that her entire scene was being ignored.
“ATHENA! WHY AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION TO MY PROBLEMS?”
Athena stopped polishing her shield and responded with an offensive tone, “Medusa, all problems have solutions; you stopped listening months ago to the solutions I was giving you, which would have solved all your problems.”
Medusa hissed, “You can’t even begin to understand me Athena. You are a Goddess! You are a warrior, not a beauty icon! How would you know what I deal with or how to live a life like mine!?!”
Calmly Athena reciprocated, “You don’t think that a powerful wise goddess such as myself can begin to comprehend your human life? Do you think my life is easier or more manageable then yours?”
Medusa choked on her snot before angrily shouting, “HOW DARE YOU JUDGE ME ATHENA! I thought we were friends... First you tell me I’m ugly, then you disregard what it’s like to be me, and the grand finale of making THIS moment about YOU and YOUR LIFE! Remember I came to you, for you to listen and help me!! SOME GODDESS YOU ARE. YOU ARE JUST AN ENTITLED WOMAN SITTING ON A THRONE OF POWER WHICH I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO DECIDED YOU DESERVE IT. I could do so much better with your kind of power. You know what??? FUCK YOU!!!”
Athena jumped in defense, ricocheting the "fuck you" off of her shield and redirected it right back at Medusa. Athena roared, “Human! You are lucky that I’m am skilled at word battles. You do not want to feel the wrath of an insulted Goddess. You possess power and privilege but yet have such little capability to handle this responsibility. You will learn the hard way, what it feels like to have no respect at all. I’m leaving now, because any more power I give to you, by listening to your whining, is obviously not serving you well.” Athena walked out the back of the temple.
Medusa sat there alone, sobbing. She looked back up to Athena’s throne, which had never been empty all the years she came to see her. There was a mirror set into the back of the throne. This mirror showed Medusa what she actually looked like; patches of hair lying all around her, bald spots on her scalp, black mascara running down her cheeks, and short stubby unpainted nails.
Athena helped Medusa shed her skin, which revealed an entitled, selfish, angry, ungrateful, ugly, fearful woman. The fake “skin” that protected Medusa from her knowing herself, fooled not only others, but herself too. For the first time, Medusa could see herself for what she was, which was weak. The power that she fought so hard to build up in her world, was now gone. Athena was right, Medusa did not possess any power at all for being beautiful, and the truth (which hurt the most) was what she thought mattered didn’t and it was all an illusion. Shattered.
A shadow stepped into the entrance of the temple and startled Medusa’s introspection. With fear she shouted “This is Medusa’s temple! Leave now!!”
The man chuckled a deep vibration from his chest. “This is Athena’s temple and she is not here right now.”
The power in this man’s voice shook through all of her organs and bones. He was not a man, he was a god. Medusa bolted instinctively to hide behind the throne, when she was struck with a trident. The god had thrown his weapon and pinned Medusa’s neck to Athena’s throne.
Flailing like a captured snake, the god approached his weapon, grabbed Medusa’s kicking feet to stop her from wriggling. He warned her, “you would be better off not fighting.”
Medusa screamed, “This is Athena’s temple! You wouldn’t dare disgrace the temple of a goddess!”
Again he laughed, “Athena is not home! No one will believe that I took you against your will. I am a god! Look at you... the most fairest maiden of them all. Finally, mine to take! You have been teasing me since I first saw you many years ago. I thought you would look more beautiful in person but that is not really the point, I remember what you look in your photos. I will not control my lust any longer. Athena protects her followers, but today she left you, and therefore you are mine.
Medusa fought Poseidon with the only energy she had left, he beat her unconscious and took what little respect and power was left inside of her.
Medusa woke to the sound of Athena’s owl hooting; it felt like hammers chiseling on her concussion brain. It was now dark, the temple was cold and empty. She grabbed what was left of her torn clothing and put them back on. A labored squint at the throne mirror revealed two swollen black eyes, a broken nose and bloody hair. For the first time in her entire life, Medusa, didn’t care about how she looked; she just wanted to go home and get cleaned up. She walked out of the temple, which was once was her safe place.
The transformation in this place, changed Medusa forever. She was no longer the beautiful person that walked in questioning, searching, for meaning in her life. Medusa was now alone, damaged, ugly, angry and resentful. She headed down the mountain, slipping and falling every few steps because of the vertigo and pain in her head.
That same late night, the only person climbing up the mountain, was one of the warriors in the Athena’s Academy, Perseus. The young solider was struggling with the academy’s expectations. He was unable to pay attention during Athena’s wisdom classes, worn down and defeated in physical fighting practices, and unable to meet spirituality recommendations, because he only had enough energy to climb Athena’s mountain once every few months.
Perseus was contemplating quitting the academy. Overwhelmed by all the work, and how much effort he was putting forth, for such little reward he felt in return. There were hundreds of better physical fighters than him, men from Sparta! True physical genetic specimens. The ones who weren’t stronger than Perseus, were smarter, which resulted in more losses for Perseus than he had won. The wisdom classes (or nap halls); revealed, that only the spiritually dedicated, those engaged in learning Athena’s wisdom, could understand and pass tests. Those who were spiritually dedicated climbed her mountain, every day! A near impossible feat of endurance and stamina, which Perseus couldn’t even imagine himself doing. The mountain was dangerous, especially at night, which is why Perseus decided tonight was the night; to prove his loyalty to the goddess Athena.
Medusa was on her way down, going slow and steady as best she could with limited eyesight, when she slipped and began bouncing down the mountain, towards Perseus. He was head down focusing on the technicality of climb and while his mind was busy carrying the heavy burden of never being good enough.
Medusa crashed right into Perseus's chest. The amount of momentum generated sent both of them sailing through the air, down the mountain a few feet. In mid air, Perseus instinctively wrapped himself around Medusa shielding her from rocks and trees that would have destroyed her. When they landed, Medusa shoved Perseus away and hid behind a tree.
Perseus was more stunned than anything else, he got up and attempted to reorient himself. “What just happened??”
Medusa hissed at Perseus like a pissed of snake would, had he stepped on its tail.
“What the hell?! Who are you? You crashed into me! I should be pissed at you!”
Medusa stopped and thought for a minute, remembering falling down the mountain until Perseus grabbed onto her and saved her from a certain death. She came out from behind the tree. Medusa could barely see his outline because her eyes were swollen shut. She heard him gasp and drop his glance away immediately.
Perseus asked, “how long have you been falling?”
Medusa stopped tears from forming in her already blinded eyes, “a long time.”
Perseus left a long pause, as it to let Medusa explain but she did not speak.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
Medusa realized she was still alive and grateful to not be alone on the mountain anymore.
“Now I am alright” she said.
Perseus shuffled his feet, not sure what to say or do next. He wanted to finish his climb to Athena’s temple, because it was very important to follow through with the promise to himself. He must have looked up towards the temple, away from Medusa, when she said, “Athena’s not home right now”
Perseus looked back towards Medusa, but not at her, “where do gods go when they are not in their temples? I didn’t know they left?!”
Medusa's tone turned icy and sharp, “apparently, they go wherever they want, whenever they want, and do whatever they want.”
Perseus was slightly confused, he wasn’t skilled at understanding the slang Medusa spoke with, as it was laced with a truth that cut like thorns. He felt urged strongly to stay with her.
“Tell me more” Perseus asked.
“Well for starters, Athena and I were best friends. I would go see her sometimes 3-4 times a week”
This impressed Perseus, since he could barely make this climb.
“So” Perseus attempted to make conversation, "Athena and you are best friends huh?”
“I said WERE, we are not friends anymore” Medusa stated as a matter of fact.
“Oh” Perseus was at a loss to carrying on the conversation.
“I know it’s a lot to ask of you, but can you help me down this mountain? I can hardly see anything and think I need to go to a hospital.”
Perseus was relieved she asked. He didn’t really want to climb the mountain tonight.
During the descend back down to the city, Perseus told Medusa all about his struggles in Athena's academy and his challenge to become one of Athena’s best warriors. Once Perseus was finished narrating all about himself, he felt a complete relief of pressure and stress lifted off his shoulders.
Medusa told Perseus what happened in Athena’s temple that night without mentioning Poseidon’s name. Perseus was empathic and supportive helping her down the mountain. She did not tell Perseus her name or who she was before the rape. That girl was gone; desecrated by misused power, pulverized by anger and destroyed by fear.
Once they reached the hospital, Perseus asked if they could stay in touch. Medusa’s lost her phone during the fall, so she gave him her email instead.
They shared a light good bye hug because certainly Medusa had broken a few ribs falling. Perseus bid his goodbye and hoped to see her again.