I was a shame to my father as a child.
He wanted me to be a warrior - he said I was too soft. Instead, I played in the court gardens at Argos. I chased butterflies as he scowled and said I would amount to nothing.
He might have been right if it hadn’t been for Demetrios. My father boasted of ruling kingdoms - but the gardens were the realm of Demetrios. He was the chief gardener, and he took me under his charge. He took my whimsy and shaped it into love. He showed me how to sow, to prune, to cultivate. He showed me that things grow - as did I.
My youthful arms became muscular. I stood tall and strong. My father had discounted me for so long in my youth - now he saw new possibilities for me. He put a sword in one of my hands. He told me to stand with the Hero of Argos. He told me to write my own legend.
I missed the gardens as we sailed, and talked long about them to my companions as the winds and waves buffeted our ship, while we huddled below and waited for Poseidon to find another target for his wrath. Finally, we reached Sarpedon, and our Hero led the way.
Perseus surged ahead of us into battle, the sun gleaming off his mirrored shield, his sword aloft, stabbing the sky in defiance. How could we lose?
I could not imagine failure - until the tunnels, and the whispered stories of the horror of Medusa turned out to be true. One by one, we fell, until only a handful of us were left.
Medusa was ready to spring upon Perseus as his back was turned. I shouted a warning, and her gaze fell on me instead. She turned me to stone.
And yet, inside I still existed. Motionless, I waited. Motionless, I lingered upon my failure. Motionless, I remembered.
I remembered those days as a child, running freely in the gardens - back when I knew only happiness and my father knew only shame. I was a failure then - to him, if not to me. Was I a failure now? I had fallen - had Perseus triumphed?
I remembered something else too. I remembered what I learned in those gardens. “Aren’t they beautiful?” I shouted as I chased those butterflies. Demetrios laughed.
“Not always,” he replied, and showed me some grubs on his fingertips. “This is how they start out.”
“But how?” I asked, with the simplicity of the child I was. He showed me the husk of a cocoon, explained how the grub changed.
“Things change,” he said, “things grow. Just like you will. What you are now isn’t what you will become.”
I sit, frozen inside my stone cocoon. I begin to feel the stone flake. It crumbles away from my eye. I can see.
I am becoming.
Author's note: So hey, how did this flash fiction piece come to exist? Well, there's a smashing group on Facebook called Rhetoric Askew. Lovely people, and with a friendly group of writers, artists and more. Quite often, they post pictures with a challenge to members of the group to write something - a poem, a flash fiction, etc - inspired by the image. You can see the image that inspired this piece here - though you might need to join the group. Which would be a fine way to discover all that the group has to offer. Have a good weekend, all!
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