What if Perseus had fallen in love with Medusa instead?
“Bless, O Zeus, our gifts to thy use and us to thy service, and give us grateful hearts, our thunder god, for all thy mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others, through the Lightning God our Lord, Amen.” Vemery finished speaking the Benison Day words and looked up.
In the still-shadowy light, he could see the flushed faces of his family. Their green skin was tinged a lovely blue in the black-yellow light, their coin-shaped eyes glimmering with the dancing light, their snake hair flowing without breeze, hissing softly. They stood around a darkened table, holding hands, standing behind their chairs.
He looked at his mother, the matriarch of the Gorgon family, Medusa. She stood next to her new husband, Perry, smiling softly, watching Vemery with pride.
At her benevolent nod, Vemery whispered a short canticle in Ancient Greek, waved his hands expressively, nodded to his little sister, Yorja.
She turned and flicked the light switch in the corner and the whole room lit up.
The magical silence fell away and everyone began to speak at once.
Zen and Zan, Vemery’s twin brothers, pulled out their chairs and sat down as one. Yorja sat to the left of them, plaiting her hair into thick braids. The snakes hissed, jabbing forward to bite, but she swatted them away, ignoring their attacks. Medusa and the new husband -- whose grey skin looked suspiciously painted-on -- sat together at the head of the table, smiling slavishly into each other’s eyes and holding hands. Well, Medusa stared into Perry’s eyes. Perry stared in the general area below Medusa’s chin. He couldn’t seem to look at her face.
Aunt Stheno sat to the right of the twins, and Aunt Eurydale and Uncle Gentar sat on either side of Vemery, on the other side of the table.
“Who’s this?” Aunt Eurydale hissed to Vemery, pointing at Perry. Everyone began to pile their plates with the food; breads, blood-pudding, chicken heads, strangled frogs, boiled mice, and a bowl of fried human fingers.
“Mom’s new beau. They got married last week and this’s the first time she’s really brought him home.”
“You’ve never met him?”
“Yeah, once, the day after they met. They met on the Hero’s Quest app but they weren’t so keen on each other yet. I told Mom he looked nice. I mean to eat, but she didn’t notice, so here we are.”
“Speaking of, try the fingers, Vemery,” Uncle Gentar said, shaking them. “I bought them at the market yesterday, such a deal. Imported from Sparta. You’ll love them.”
“Thanks,” Vemery replied. He took one and bit it off, making a sound like the snapping of a carrot. He crunched down. It tasted like cinnamon and chicken flesh and -- “Iron,” Vemery said, almost gagging.
“It’s the nails,” Uncle Gentar said apologetically. “They’re treated so they don’t chip off. Deep-fried you know. Latest technology.”
“Is it toxic?”
“Naw! They’re good.” Uncle Gentar took two and crunched them together in his mouth.
“So,” Aunt Eurydale said keenly. “She didn’t take his name, did she?”
Vemery, his mouth full, shook his head.
“Good,” she said decisively. “Be a shame for Medusa of all people to abandon the Gorgon name.”
Vemery swallowed. “He took hers. Perry Gorgon, now.”
Aunt Eurydale wrinkled her nose. “It’s a disgrace to stain the Gorgon name with a pasty little wriggler like him.”
“He’s one of a kind,” Vemery said. “Not too many like us without the last name to go with it.”
“Perry, want to try the fingers?” Zen called. “Your snakes will love them.”
“Snakes?” Perry asked, bewildered. He didn’t look at Zen though; he watched Zen’s plate.
“Oh!” Perry stared at the bowl and suddenly looked sick. “No -- no thanks. I might be allergic. It’s, er, a tradition in my family to, er, not… eat things that we’re allergic to.”
Zen pushed the bowl forward. “You might be, but your snakes will love them, I swear.”
“Oh,” Perry said helplessly, touching the head of one of his snake-hairs. “They’re looking a bit lifeless today.”
“They look dead,” Zan observed.
Perry twitched his head dismissively.
“Okay, well…” Zan said slowly. “I’ll put them up then.” He stood and placed the bowl on the kitchen counter, out of sight.
Perry swallowed. “Thanks, kid.”
“Hey…” Aunt Stheno broke in, squinting her eyes at Perry but talking to Vemery. “Who is he, anyway?”
“He said Perry Suesrep,” Vemery said, gulping down blood-pudding.
“Perry?” Yorja said. “Funny name. Isn’t it a girl’s name?”
“Didn’t think so. Who cares?”
“Hey, Perry!” Zan said loudly.
Perry stopped kissing Medusa with his eyes closed and looked over at the twin. “What?”
“Your name is really Perry? Isn’t that a girl’s name?”
“Short for -- well, for Perseus.”
“I feel like I’ve heard that name before.”
Aunt Stheno snapped her fingers and looked triumphantly at Medusa’s new husband. “Ah-ha! Perseus! Son of Danaë?”
Perry put his fork down defensively and said, staring at Stheno’s plate, “Son of Danaë and Zeus, I’ll have you know.”
Zen reached over and yanked on Perry’s hair. It came off in his hands, spilling out lifelessly; the snakes were made of Play-Doh.
Everyone stopped eating and stared at Perry.
His face paint was beginning to chip off.
Perry stared at Medusa. To the side, anyway; he looked at the edges of her hair, or just above her head.
“I would’ve done anything to be with you,” he said desperately.
“You tricked me?” she gasped, fire blazing in her eyes. Everyone else looked down. They’d seen Medusa Gorgon like this before, and it was never a good sign. This was why she was in charge of the family.
“I love you!” he said. “You wouldn’t have dated me if I hadn’t disguised myself. You wouldn’t have even swiped right. I knew it’d be hard, never looking at your face even by accident, but I did it because I love you. It’s been so hard, trying not to gaze upon your beauty…”
“I knew it was a bogus app! I’ll get those Hero’s Quest salesmen…”
“No!” Perry protested. “I swear! No, it was my fault. Meddy, I’m so sorry. I love you. I wanted to date you as soon as I set eyes on your picture. You were breathtaking. I look at that picture every day, since I can’t look at your real face.”
The room was silent.
Medusa watched Perry’s face.
Perry looked in the general area of Medusa’s chin.. “You still are.”
“I’m sorry, Meddy! I love you! Please forgive me.”
Medusa was the first one to look down and start eating again, and when he did it, everyone else shrugged, glared at Perry, and kept eating.
Zan said under his breath, “It’ll get interesting when Mom wakes up hungry one night and there’s a tasty human next to her.”
Uncle Gentar stood, took a fried finger from the bowl on the kitchen counter, and chewed it with loud snapping noises. Perry winced with each bite, looking at his own plate. Suddenly, Medusa seized Perry’s hand and held it tightly, lovingly, watching his face. Perry looked hugely relieved.
Everyone looked from Gentar to Perry to Medusa and then laughed.