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Fiction Flashback – K. Tempest Bradford

by June 27, 2011

I fell in love with this story the first time I read it, so when John asked us to pick a story for our Fiction Flashback feature, my choice was easy. This is one of those stories that reveals something new each time you read it and in my opinion, that’s what the best stories do. On my first read, I thought it a clever blend of Greek mythology and the tale of the tree of knowledge to show the struggle between the old gods and the new. On a second read, I took away a tale of relationships and the sad truth that despite our best intentions we often make the same choices and/or mistakes over and over again. On a third read, I peeled away yet another layer and found… well, I’ll let you decide. It’s an evocative and beautiful story, no matter what you take away from it. This story originally appeared in Electric Velocipede Issue 17/18 (Spring/Summer 2009).

Damien Walters Grintalis. June 2011


Enmity

by K. Tempest Bradford

Run Eurydice

She is running, has been running for some time. Running from Ariastus? No, running from the serpent she knows is at her heel, ready to strike, waiting for an excuse. So she runs. She runs through the tall grass, through the canopied forest, through the fields of flowers. Running to the music, to Orpheus, away from the serpent, though even now she knows they are the same.

She has always known. Sometimes she forgets. In the forgetting she loses small bits of herself. In the forgetting she can’t remember to care. She remembers the serpent. Had she always run from him? It wasn’t always this way.

The Wind. There was something behind her, chasing her as she danced along the water she had just separated from the sky. She ran south along the water. Something followed. The Wind. She turned, caught it between her hands and saw that it was good. She rolled it, hands moving up and down, up and down, up and down, until . . .

The Serpent. She opened her hands and looked upon it. She saw that it was good, so she gave it—him—a name. Ophion. Serpent.

“Who am I?” she asked her creation.

“You are Eurynome, Mother of All Things,” he replied.

Eurynome danced joyously, for out of chaos she had created two things – order and a serpent. Ophion watched her dance, which created desire, which caused him to coil around her seven times, which caused them to mate.

When it was over, Eurynome flew over the waters as a dove, contemplating. So far she had created order from chaos, a serpent from wind, and desire from dancing. What other wonders awaited?

The Egg. There was the egg, created from desire. Ophion coiled around it seven times. When it hatched, her children poured forth. She was the Mother of All Things. The earth and sun and moon and stars and animals and trees and everything. She saw that it was good, so she rested.

#

Run Eurydice!

She cannot rest, he is coming. He is chasing her. When did enmity come between them? When had he gone from lover to pursuer? When had she gone from mother to new bride? How had she come to be here? Where was that music coming from?

There was always music in the air. The air was music. You could breathe it in and blow it out. She saw the man and wondered about him. Wondered about the garden. Overcome by uncertainty. (whereami whoami whoishe)

Eat the fruit

Movement in the leaves above caught her attention. A serpent, coiled seven times around a branch, its head near a fruit.

Eat the fruit

“Why?” she asked.

It will give you knowledge

“I have knowledge. I am the Mother of All Things.”

It will give you His knowledge

“Who is He?”

There was silence; except for the music. She longed to go to the music.

You have eaten the fruit before

“I have?”

Yes. You always eat the fruit

“Always?”

She could not remember. Her mind could only focus on the light above and the music below. Then there was a voice from above.

Of the Tree of Knowledge thou shalt not eat of it.

She tried to think back to before. There must have been a before.

It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it.

No! That was wrong. She knew it was wrong. She created All Things. This tree did not bear knowledge. It bore lies. So she ran. The serpent chased her.

I will put enmity between thee and the woman.

She will bruise thy head; thou shalt strike at her heel.

She bruised his head with her heel when he claimed her creation as his own. He fell to the earth, fell in to the dust. His teeth grew into men. The men grew into The People. The People grew into worshippers.

Worshippers are fickle.

When the memory of her passed from their minds the memory of herself also began to pass. It flew away from her like the poppies of the field where she ran.

Why am I running?

Ran from the serpent.

Why should I run from that which I have created?

The serpent that would strike at her heel.

Who am I?

Eurydice, wife of Orpheus. Eurydice, daughter of Danus, wife of Pryas. Eurydice, daughter of Adrastus, woman of Troy. Eurydice, daughter of Lacadaemon, wife of Acrissus, mother of Danae. Eurydice, wife of Creon, mother of Haemon. Eurydice, daughter of, wife of, mother of, daughter of, wife of, mother of . . .

The ground opened up before her, a dark light washed over the earth. A dark chariot, drawn by a dark horse, pulled a dark man toward her. She could not stop, she could not avoid. In that moment the serpent bit her heel, the man scooped her up, and before the venom had time to snake into her heart she was gone, under the world, and, some would say, dead.

#

One by one the flowers closed and shriveled. The green things turned brown. The trees gave up their leaves. The world began to die, too.

#

Rape is a metaphor. And it also is not. Hades was above her, inside her. Who would it be next? Her son, her lover, the sun, the thunder, the darkness, inside her. Overtaking her again and again, begetting his children on her. She became her own mother, her own daughter, her own sister. While above her the serpent visited every village, town, country, continent, that she had once walked upon, bringing the son upon her again and again.

It is the serpent that shows the way.

The serpent, a servant of the son.

I laid the foundations of the earth

The sun who was once his victim.

I make time itself

She had set the serpent against him.

I am that I am

Now he had set the serpent against her.

#

He came to get her. Orpheus. The serpent. He came. Some part of her knew he would. She felt his regret. The world was dying. He had to bring her back.

When he came down into the shadows, she put a wall between them. She would not show herself.

I will sing for you!

She was silent.

I will dance with you!

She was still silent.

Resentful. Angry. Betrayed. She would never speak to him again.

He raced along the wall looking for any crack, any crevice, that would allow him access to her.

When he found one, he chased her.

Up and up she ran. The shadows bled into light. He meant to chase her into the upper world where she belonged. When she would run no more, she let him catch her. She let him, so that he could see.

Her dead body.

The Death he caused.

Eating away at her.

Worms covered her flesh.

He screamed and he ran.

She sighed.

He’ll be back.

#

It was the fruit, really. The fruit did it in the end. Hades gave her the fruit, whispering in her ear. Whispering – Eat. She split it open, the pomegranate, saw six small seeds shaped like a star. Six small seeds interred in scarlet flesh.

Apple seeds are poisonous.

The only part of the pomegranate you can eat are the seeds.

“Eat the fruit,” he said.

Another rape.

One seed

Eurydice, wife of

Two seed

Demeter, mother of

Three seed

Persephone, daughter of

Four seed

Orpheus looks back, loses Eurydice

Five seed

Demeter looks away, loses Persephone

Six seed

Persephone eats seeds, loses herself

The story begins again.

#

She followed Orpheus up and up, followed him to the upper world. All the while they stayed in darkness, his voice her guide and her chain. The shadows bled into light. He stepped into the upper world, turned, and saw.

Her dead body.

The Death he caused.

Eating away at her.

Worms covered her flesh.

He screamed and he ran.

She looked out over the dying world.

This time he might not be back

The shadows pulled her down.

#

Her daughters caught Orpheus up in their arms.

You said you would return her to us

You promised

He promised.

He has no power for promises.

He bit at their heels; they tore him apart. He called out to the sun; they threw him to the riverbank. He sank down into the dust turned mud; he rose again. The son pulled his bow, emptying the entire contents of his quiver into the beast. Finally, under the weight of a thousand arrows, he fell to the ground and did not move again.

#

One by one they came down to the darkness. One by one, three by three, her daughters, her mothers, her sisters, her pieces of herself, came down to the darkness. Wife of, mother of, daughter of . . . but never creator of. The darkness claimed her, name by name, altar by altar. She lost everything she possessed. She slept; embraced by the Pleiades, warmed by the Furies, lulled by the Sirens.

She dreamed of serpents. Serpents in her hair, serpents on her body, hair of serpent, serpent’s body.

She shut her eyes tight against them and forced herself down into sleep deeper than sleep. Into oblivion.

She dreamed she prayed she swore she would not wake again.

#

She awoke to the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle. To greens and yellows and blues and reds. Grass, trees, flowers – a garden.

Next to her lay another. A man. She wondered how she knew this thing was a man. The man woke up and smiled and told her that she came from him.

She believed him. Why should she not?

The garden was beautiful and perfect and filled with all things. Plants, animals, the man, the one above. The one above spoke to them.

She listened. Why should she not?

When she was not with the man, she would wander in the garden. Music and sweet smells filled the air. All was perfect.

That didn’t seem right.

Eat the fruit

She looked up. There, in the tree, a serpent coiled around a branch seven times, his head near a fruit.

Eat the fruit

“Why?”

It will give you knowledge

“Knowledge?” She tried to remember. It seemed to her that knowledge was not something she was supposed to have.

“What kind of knowledge?”

Knowledge of yourself. Knowledge of the truth. He does not want you to have it. He knows it will make you as you were: greater than he.

She reached up and pulled down the fruit. It split in half, revealing six small seeds shaped as a star. Six small seeds cocooned in scarlet flesh.

Eat the fruit

She ate the first seed.

Eurynome danced along the waters

She ate the second seed.

Eurydice danced to Orpheus’ lyre

She ate the third seed.

Persephone danced among the flowers

She ate the fourth seed.

I have created order from chaos, a serpent from the wind . . .

She ate the fifth seed.

. . . desire from dancing, the egg from desire . . .

She ate the sixth seed.

. . . and from the egg came All Things.

“Who am I?” she asked the serpent.

You are Eurynome, Mother of All Things

The garden faded, as all dreams must, giving way to reality. She saw the earth, her child, as she had left her – desolate, deserted, dying. She dropped the fruit.

“How could I have forgotten?”

The serpent came down from the tree, coiling around her neck seven times, his head resting on her bosom. She walked along the hard, dry ground. Walked until she came to the sea. She spread her arms, stepped out on to the waters, and began to dance.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.electricvelocipede.com/fiction/enmity/