Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

#FridayFlash 48: The Shadows of the Night

They say Shakespeare is a plagiarist because most of his stories were first told by somebody else. What they don't usually mention is that until very recently the art in story-telling was to tell a tale everybody knew in a new way. And let me tell you, it's *way* easier to just invent something new! hahaha This is my first attempt at retelling a known tale, and I hope I've given it a life of its own. Let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading :)

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The Shadows of the Night

They say it's always darkest just before the dawn, but I know that's not true.

It's really darkest at that point when you become exhausted from counting sheep, when you realize sleep will elude you, no matter how hard you try. And in that moment, when night is at its darkest, is when your mind registers the shadows the eye cannot see. The horrors of the night – those that instinct would have us fear. Those that science has committed to the realm of myth. But they remain.

For you see, myths are merely truths that time has all but forgotten.

I know this because I am one. And I hope you’ll forgive me for it. My name is Anesidora, Nesi to my friends, and I was born in a time when the Gods wandered amongst the men, playing with them as though they were little more than toys. I was born of the earth out of revenge. The first of my kind. A woman, granted Aphrodite’s powers of beauty and seduction, Athena’s wisdom, and Apollo’s gift for music.

And I have to admit, I loved my life. I wasn’t a myth, or even a legend. I was a girl, blessed by the gods, and in love with a boy. Fortunately for me, in the happy way of fairy stories, he loved me back. My world was a wonderful place to live.

We had a wedding the equal of which has never been seen. Attended by Gods and mortals alike, the wine flowed freely, the crystal sparkled, and the people celebrated. It was a night never to be forgotten. And as was tradition at the time, Epim and I were granted gifts by the attendees. My favourite was a stunning vase – painted with vibrant colours on a smooth surface. You could almost, but not quite, see through it. As I went to pull the stopper out, I was warned – the vase must never be opened. You can’t imagine my disappointment. I was such a silly child. But all my life I’d had anything I wanted, yet now I couldn’t use the one gift I was most interested in.

It sat in our front entrance – too stunning to be hidden from sight. I came to believe it had powers – when I was upset, merely laying a hand on it would calm me. If I was sad, it would reflect the light in a way that would insist on a smile. When it turned out my husband was even more a child than I, being near the vase gave me the patience to deal with him. And, years later, our children.

For years that vase captivated me. And gradually, the warning I’d been given faded in my mind. Epim claimed to have forgotten – he always had some excuse or another, but I knew. I always knew. It just seemed, after so many years, how important could it be? And when, for our anniversary, he gave me that perfect, exotic, stunning flower that seemed to light up next to the vase, I knew it was meant to be. Clearly *this* was why I was not to use the vase; I had to wait for perfection. And maybe the vase did have magic. Maybe it would make the flower live forever. It would be foolish of me not to use it. Or so I convinced myself.

A middle aged woman, yet still a silly child, a plaything of the gods, even after all those years.

The second the stopper moved – I swear it wasn’t even all the way out, only just moved – there was a horrific shriek that chilled my blood and froze me into place. It was only a second, but it was long enough for the shadows to escape. When I regained control I quickly restopped the vase, but it was too late. All the horrors and terror of the world had been unleashed. Plagues and sorrows, crime and pestilence, war and famine, and innumerable others all escaped in the heartbeat before I could stop them.

And my children’s world, and their children’s world, and the world of their children’s children, would never be the same. They would grow up in times of horrible violence and sadness. And I would watch it happen, knowing their pain was my fault.

So in the darkness of the night when you see the shadows move, know I’ve spent a thousand lifetimes trying to recapture them, forever paying for a second’s mistake. And that I know of what I speak when I tell you that myths are merely truths that time has all but forgotten. And I hope you’ll forgive me.

9 comments:

Excellent, Lauren. Those first couple of paragraphs in particular really resonate and set the entire tone. I like this a lot.
~jon

 

Sublime retelling. The intro and conclusion are beautifully linked. Well done.

 

Yes, the first paragraph grabbed my attention. I was trying to guess what story, then the vase that couldn't be opened hinted (for me at least) Pandora's Box.

You did the story justice.

 

You've done the Greek lore well, Lauren...

 

Beautiful reimagining of an oft told tale. You make her sympathetic woman, not a foolish child.

 

But hasn't every story been told at some point of time in history?

Story-telling is just repackaging a message in a new way. I think most adults have heard the story of Pandora before, but you tell this story with such elegance putting a human face to the tale. Nicely told, Lauren.

 

I agree with Alan: myths have lives of their own. They live in our minds and form stories that must out.

Beautiful telling of this one. I also appreciate the linking of the first and last parts of the story. Always, for me, a satisfying completion of a circle.

 

I love the sense of time that comes before she unstoppers the vase. It's so easy to imagine it happening that way. And the tone of the piece is so smooth and peaceful, I almost didn't expect the horrors that came.

Very well re-told!

 

Excellent retelling. Good strong voice. I really enjoyed it.

 

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