the virgin goddess

I am driving from Athens to Patras on E-94. On my left steep mountains, made out of white rock, sparsely covered by shrubs. On my right the Gulf of Corinth adorned by the early, dazzling morning light. Its waters are calm, dreamy, soothed in an ineffable silence: the silence which reigned before the beginning of the world. The views are savagely beautiful: mountains and waters coming together, eternally caught in a fearful, hushed battle.

*

There is only one car behind me. I slow down. The car drives past me. Intoxicated by the beauty of the landscape I close my eyes for a second. In a flash, I am overwhelmed by the premonition of a sudden event. Chills are running through my body, icing my every fiber, cooling my heated soul, slowing the flow of my blood. I open my eyes. And then it happens.

*

I start breathing in an unfamiliar rhythm.  The sun metamorphoses into a golden liquid: hundreds of glittering rivers are inundating the blue of the sky. The water starts murmuring. The pendulum of the earth goes astray. The North Pole disappears. The icy castle of wisdom, and thought melts before my eyes. The earth becomes a heated humongous ball, carried by Atlas on his mythical shoulder.

A nude nymph, beautiful, wild, appears in the middle of the road. Her black hair is tightly braided, her skin white like milk.  She runs in the front of my car. Bewildered I press the brake. She looks toward me, laughs, and rapidly starts climbing the mountain on my left. The shrubs are scratching her skin.

*

My legs are tingling, and then pain: the pain from the scratches. I can feel the barren shrubs penetrating my skin. Sonorous blood drops are dribbling on the white rock. The rhythm, I can heart it! My blood’s drops keep the time like a grandfather clock. I am climbing faster now. My soul becomes an alembic where ecstasy and fear are equally distilled. Why am I afraid? Why am I running? No, it’s not me who runs! The nymphs does! She just reached the margins of a small forest. She turns her head around.

I can see him now! An ephebus follows her, his body tense, his passionate eyes wide open, his clothes torn, his feet rapidly crushing the heated mountain rock. He is about the catch her. He is going to catch her! The ecstasy from the beginning of the world penetrates every cell of my body.

*

Dog barking tears the air apart. Here she is, carrying her bow: Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and forests, the virgin daughter of Zeus, the sister of Apollo!  She throws herself in front of the nymph. The ephebus stops like hit by lightning. Pain, I feel pain, and my body turns cold!

Artemis’ eyes on the ephebus are turning him into stone. He can’t move anymore. He is white rock now. The nymph disappears into the woods. Her laughter dies. In the forest’s silence, the goddess’ eyes filled with cruelty. The universe is shedding tears. No new world will be born today.

*

My arms ache. I take my foot from the brake. It’s over. My breath returns to normal. I slowly pull the car on the right of the road, and stop. Out of nowhere, I feel his frigid hand touching mine. I turn my head. Jacques is sitting by me, his blue eyes piercing into me. Why is he here? I left him behind in Athens. I left him with Miriam and Angelo.

I stare at him, and suddenly I can hear barking coming from the forest. Oh, no! Please, not again!

I almost scream at him “Run, she is going to turn you into a stone!” He smiles “She can’t anymore. Somebody else has already turned me into a stone. You know who. Don’t you remember what you did, Guinevere, don’t you?”

 

Published first in The Perfectly Imperfect Bunch

 

 

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