issue thirty

art gallery
past issues
current issue
(750 words)
David Woodward
Long Way from Folkvangr
       Her flaming-red hair cascaded down her body, envious and protective, it acted as a shield. And if ever there was a time when she needed protection, it was now. Medusa stood at the Madrid train station platform holding all her earthly possessions waiting to escape. The train was uncharacteristically late. Anger flared out of the tips of her unearthly hair. She resembled a mythical creature caught in an unknown world for too long. I don't belong here. She thought of herself as a warrior of sorts. I will survive. She knew her destiny now. Revenge will be mine.

Medusa was her stage name. Her real name was Freyja, as in the Norse goddess who receives half of the warriors slain in battle. She was a flamenco dancer. At some point during the performance, Freyja would unleash her firmly wound hair and become Medusa. She was fiercely enticing, her face periodically covered, then uncovered, her eyes ablaze with chthonic lust. Unlike the mythical Medusa, her face was anything but hideous, yet she shared the ability to turn any face that gazed upon her into stone, especially men. Her profuse and somewhat ophidian mane would remain hidden in a tight bun under low lighting until the lights came on, setting free what needed freeing. But her face would still be hidden. When the music was at its most intense, she would throw her hair back, exposing not ugliness but immobilizing beauty.

Freyja would never again be Medusa. She was through with pretending, through with acting, through with performing. Her true self was emerging. The world would see what she was truly made of. She was Freyja.

Aboard the train heading North, Freyja opened her valise and removed all her flamenco dresses. She flung them out the open window of the moving train. They hung in the air for an instant as if uncertain what to do, or uncertain if they were still connected to Medusa, before falling back, towards the South. Freyja felt the weight of her performances, of her former self, slip away from her, as easily as slipping out of a dress. She could feel other parts of herself rising to the surface. No. They were moving forward, closer to her consciousness. How long have I been unconscious?

The landscape whipped by her, the change drastic. That land, that life, was a dream. A dream that never really materialized. What carried me through was the imagination I had for what I thought would be, what would become. But reality never lives up to an idea, preconceived and deceitful. I deceived myself. Fool. Fool. Fool. She shivered. Already the landscape was becoming less colourful, harsher, real.

As Medusa, Freyja enjoyed the life she was leading. This is freedom, she had imagined on more than one occasion. Ramone is a fantastic dancer. He's an even better lover. And together, wow, no one can touch us. But they weren't always together. It isn't easy being apart, Medusa reasoned. Freyja cringed at the thought. Reason. My life in Spain was anything but reason. I have gone too far and now I need to get back.

One night in Barcelona, after a spectacular performance, Medusa felt another presence. It came from within. As the crowd chanted her stage name she couldn't help but feel an emptiness. She covered her face with her Gorgonian hair then collapsed on stage, her body in convulsions. She had caught sight of Ramone with the other dancer, the other woman from Madrid. They danced beautifully; he matching her every move before it happened, she anticipating his anticipations. The moment she saw it, she knew. They were both one person. Slowly, she felt herself dissolve into the ether. Medusa was disappearing.

She felt like she was capable of killing them. She knew she could do it. This act would not be revenge; this would be a reaction, her greatest act. She was a fantasy. No one would know. But before she moved into action, a brief wave of recognition hit her. In an instant, she was gone.

Freyja reclined into her seat. Little by little, she was coming to. She could see the cool, dark waters of the Baltic Sea. Her body relaxed. Colour was returning to her cheeks. Her eyes settled on the open sea. Instinct made her rise. She walked to the bathroom and untied her hair. She gazed at Medusa one last time in the mirror. She cut. Pieces of Medusa dancing mid-air before falling, falling, falling.


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, David Woodward. All rights reserved.

Artwork by
Marta Bevacqua