[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words.
I went far over the limit this week and so I felt I should include this disclaimer for those who want to keep their reading short. I understand if you choose not to read this as it’s much longer than the challenge allows, but once I started writing the story, I just couldn’t stop. For those that do read it, I truly hope you enjoy it.]
Saretha eyed the colorful bougainvillea that framed the entrance to the garden. When her family first moved to Kalamata six months ago, she’d begged her mother to visit, but had been rebuffed.
“It’s not a public garden, dear. It belongs to an eccentric old woman who apparently doesn’t like visitors. I’m sorry.” her mother had explained.
The path to school took Saretha by the garden twice a day. The intoxicating fragrances from the blossoms beckoned to her and finally, no longer able to obey her mother’s instructions, she found herself wandering through the entrance.
A spectacle of pigments greeted her. Trees, shrubs and vines, all bedecked with blossoms of every shade of the rainbow were laid out before her. A stone path wound its way through the vegetation.
Saretha glided as though in a trance through the winding curves of the pathway. She was so entranced with the living things she scarcely noticed the multitude of statues that punctuated all the grottos. Each depicted a child in various poses. Saretha bent low to smell a bright yellow rose when a voice from behind startled her.
“What are you doing here?”
Saretha spun around and stared wide-eyed at the older woman standing before her. The lady was dressed in a long, white gown, made from some light material that Saretha did not recognize. It swayed in the gentle breeze, exposing much of the woman’s long legs and bare arms.
Upon her head was a wrap made of blue material and her eyes were shaded with dark-tinted glasses. She looked down on Saretha, hands on her hips waiting for a response.
“I – I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t be in here. My mom told me it was private property, but it just looked and smelled so beautiful I thought I’d take a quick peek. I guess I wandered in farther than I meant to.”
The woman regarded her intruder for a moment and then smiled.
“That’s quite alright dear. I like a girl with spunk. Never be afraid to follow your heart… or your nose.”
Saretha exhaled heavily. It seemed she might not be in trouble after all. The woman held out her hand.
“Come with me. I’ll give you a tour of the garden.”
Saretha and the woman joined hands and began to walk.
“What’s your name?” asked the woman.
“Saretha,” came the reply.
“A beautiful name,” said the woman. “I am Meddy Venizelos.”
As the two traversed the maze of pathways in the garden, Meddy questioned Saretha on her knowledge of Greek mythology. Months before her family moved to Greece, Saretha had studied the classic tales of lore, including the heroic adventures of Theseus, Heracles and Perseus as well as Homer’s stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
When Saretha mentioned the name Perseus, Meddy stopped before a statue of a young girl who sat on the ground and appeared to be holding her arms up as if shielding herself from something. The arms had broken off the statue, but it was clear from the expression on the girls face the sculptor had meant to depict her as fearful.
Meddy fingered the vines of jasmine that grew up a trellis next to the statue.
“Tell me what you know of Perseus,” she asked, watching Saretha from out of the corner of her eye.
“Well,” began Saretha. “Before Heracles, Perseus was thought to be the greatest Greek hero and slayer of monsters. He was a demigod and the son of Zeus. He’s most famous for slaying the Gorgon Medusa, a horrible beast that had snakes for hair. She had the power to turn people to stone, but Perseus used his polished shield to see reflections and was able to behead her.”
Saretha smiled up at Meddy, hoping her knowledge of mythology impressed her new friend.
Meddy looked down at Saretha. “Yes, that is what most people believe. That horrid Perseus told terrible lies about his encounter with a beautiful creature who’s only crime was to be lovelier than all of the goddesses.”
Saretha watched as Meddy slowly began unwrapping her head covering. She’d not really paid close attention before, but now as she stared she realized that the wrap seemed to be moving.
Meddy continued. “The greatest lie that Perseus told was that he beheaded the Gorgon. Medusa defeated him in battle and was about to add him to her collection of statues when he made a moving plea for his life. He told Medusa of his love for a woman, Andromeda and begged to be spared so that he may return to her. Medusa was so touched by his story, she allowed him to leave with his life.”
Saretha watched in horror as the blue fabric fell away from Meddy’s head to reveal a tangle of writhing serpents, hissing as they squirmed.
“Allowing him to live was the greatest mistake Medusa ever made. She vowed that never again would she let a mortal live if one were to wander so foolishly into her domain.”
The truth slammed Saretha like a hammer to the chest. The intoxicating smells of the garden were meant to lure children in like a rat catching the scent of cheese. The statues that dotted the garden had not been carved. They were the victims.
Meddy bent low as she reached to remove her sunglasses.
“Can you guess what became of the Gorgon, my dear Saretha?”
Saretha’s screams died quickly as her vocal cords transformed from flesh to stone.
“I must find a special place for you, dear. I rather liked you.”