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Medusa, by Satori McCormick

Updated: Sep 3

This piece is part of our “Tails + Tales” teen summer writing initiative inspired by the 2021 national summer reading theme chosen annually by the Collaborative Summer Library Program.


She trapped herself under the screen in the middle of summer when the sun glittered blindingly on the ocean horizon. It started when she stumbled into the camera’s waiting gaze in a chance bubblegum commercial. From then on, she hardly left its stare. It worshiped her crystal tears, adored her starlight eyes, and fell into pieces at her tiny, pedicured feet. It loved her too much to let her go. She happily obliged to this captivity. By her first divorce, she was worth more than the seconds in a year. By the second divorce, she had more money than all the seconds she’d spent in both marriages combined.


Her face, the face of the time, the face on Time, was put on the cover of magazines and billboards. She befriended the most powerful people in the world and flew far away from Hollywood to make appearances with them, only to return like a carrier pigeon. And as lavish as fame was, it struck cruelly in darkened places, biting fast like lightning. The whispers of her name on the streets, the secrets plastered on the headlines of newspapers. A poison sank deep into her veins and swelled with the tide of her blood. Her third husband turned to stone and crumbled away before her very eyes. He’d called her a monster.


With the passing years her star fell. The camera found her ever uglier and directed its spotlight away, to a younger version of herself, a baby, newborn and pure. The rumours collected in her shadow. She poured herself a drink and looked away. She plunged into pitch black and found herself in an empty studio lot. And there was the spotlight, a couple feet away. It started to move away. Then she was chasing the fading spotlight, running from the darkness, and chasing and chasing… and suddenly the light reached a wall, where it thinned and turned into a single ray, and this sunray hissed and turned into a snake. It slithered toward the crack in the studio. It was trying to escape her, plotting to leave her behind in the dead set of her life.


Chasing the tail of that serpent, she looked down and found herself dressed in scales, Medusa all over again. Again and again the Greek myths and Roman adaptations, the flesh turned into stone and ivy snaking up statues, and the tide rose and fell and breathed alongside her immortality. Her husbands turned to stone. The terrible beauty, the monster on the other side. The poison in her veins.


She stumbled and reached out one last time for the retreating serpent’s tail, and it just barely slipped away. It was gone, and Medusa was left all alone in the dark empty studio.


When she woke she looked around and saw all the beer bottles around her couch. There were spills on the Persian rug and trash from the party two nights before. She was alone. The only thing looking at her now was her pair of Jimmy Choo heels standing up politely in the corner.


Medusa drove herself to the seaside and sat in sweatpants and a hoodie on the patio of a boardwalk restaurant, low-class. The people around her, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, didn’t recognize her. She listened to the waves crashing on the beach and the eternal sigh of the tide drawing in and out. She ordered a glass of whiskey. She remembered the tail of the spotlight just out of her reach. Where was it now? She ordered another, and another. Surely, some things could never end.


Satori McCormick (she/her) is a 16 year old rising junior from Colorado. She loves to read and write. She also likes to play the piano, listen to Taylor Swift, and learn about world history.


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