How to Get a Head in Life
by Derek Paterson
Published by Timeless Tales Magazine
Issue #4, "Perseus and Medusa" theme, July 2015
(Original title was "Bring Me The Head Of The Gorgon Medusa"
but turns out this had already been used somewhere else.)
Suddenly his Brazen War Horns ringtone wasn’t so cool any more. Perseus quickly fumbled in his tunic pocket until he found his phone, shutting off the trumpet music. The screen said ATHENA. Dammit, again? Had she no one else to call?
Only for a moment did his thumb hover over Reject. One did not refuse calls from the goddess if one wished to keep on her good side. He thumbed Accept instead.
“Can you keep it down? I’m like, nearly there.” Up ahead, in the dark depths of their cave, the three Ugly Sisters slept on. Bad enough that his winged sandals kept buzzing like a swarm of angry bees, without his phone making enough noise to wake the dead.
“Perz, darling, I forgot to tell you,” Athena said breathlessly, “you can’t look at them.”
“Didn’t you notice the statues?”
Come to think of it, he had passed several pretty realistic-looking statues on the way in. Whoever had made them possessed some mad sculpting skillz, for sure. They’d captured their subjects’ expressions beautifully—eyes and mouths wide open in total surprise. He wondered if they were for sale. His mother would love one of them in the hall to greet guests. Then again, shipping it back to Seriphus would probably cost the earth, and he’d bet the arms would snap off in transit. They always did that. Mom would just shout at him, again, for cluttering up the house with rubbish.
“Sure. What about them?”
“That’s what will happen to you if you look at the Gorgons.”
What the heck was a Gorgons? Oh, she meant the Ugly Sisters.
“Sorry, say that again?”
“If you look at the Gorgons, you’ll become a statue.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“Perseus, you have to liiiiisten to me. It’s their thing. It’s what they do. They’re so ugly they turn you to stone. I am not making this up. Use your shield like a mirror. Only look at their reflections. Don’t look directly at them.”
Something in her voice told him she might not be kidding. He turned his shield around. Damn, it was covered in layers of dust. Why hadn’t she warned him before now?
“Here, use this,” a voice said. He accepted the silk scarf from a slim, bejewelled hand.
“Perseus?" Athena was still on the phone. “Is someone there with you?” That jealous note in her voice again.
“Let me call you back.” He hung up, slipping the phone into his pocket. Without looking at the person who stood at his shoulder, he used the scarf to wipe his shield clean. Much better. He looked at himself in the bright copper surface and liked what he saw. Handsome would have been an understatement—small wonder Athena was always chasing after him. He brushed a curly lock of hair off his forehead, then thought better of it and returned it to its former position. Sweet. He tilted his shield so he could see who was there with him.
Gods above and below, he’d never seen such a hot babe before in his life. Her face was so far beyond beautiful that words didn’t exist to describe its... how it totally... the incredible way it.... No, he couldn’t go on. The words didn’t exist.
“H-hi,” he said.
“Hellooooo.” Her voice was like sweet honey. “Do I know you?” She chuckled before he could answer, a wonderful throaty sound that sent a shudder down his spine, in a good way. “No, I think I would have remembered you. Such a pretty face.” Her fingers squeezed his biceps. “And such haaard muscles. You must work out a lot. Do you have a name?”
“P-P-Perseus.” Man, he was such a tool. But she was so beautiful, she made him nervous. Ugly Sisters? Clearly an ironic name, coined by some putz who thought he was being clever.
She leaned closer and whispered into his ear, “You don’t need to be shy with me, Perseus. Just relax. Be yourself. Put down your shield and kiss me.”
He wanted to, so very badly. He wanted to cover those full lips with his own, he wanted to encircle her body with his arms and pull her close to him. Everything about this perfect woman banged his drums. Gods, but her tongue was in his ear, hot and wet. His knees turned to jelly. Yes, he should put down his shield and give himself to her at once, totally and forever....
Brazen War Horns snapped him out of the spell. His hand found his shortsword. He closed his eyes tight, spun round and cut in one fluid motion. Something thumped and bounced on the ground. “Son of a—!” Another, heavier, thump at his feet. He chanced opening one eye. The woman’s head lay on the floor. The scarf, which he’d let go of to draw his sword, had thankfully fallen over it, concealing her features. Her curvaceous body lay at his feet. He felt completely miserable, knowing he would regret this moment for the rest of his life.
He answered his still-ringing phone. “Hey.”
“Hey nuttin’. You better still have my sandals, punk.” Mercury, menace dripping from every word. “You got till tomorrow. You don’t bring them back, I swear will track you down and I will cut you. You hear me?”
“Yeah, I hear—”
Mercury hung up before Perseus could finish. Rude. He’d better get moving. He picked the head up using the scarf and dropped it into his magic sack. The hair felt funny through the scarf, kinda thick and wriggly. Gross. Hadn’t these people heard of hair products?
He heard the other two Ugly Sisters moving around in their lair. Mercury’s call had woken them up. If they were even half as good-looking as their sister, he would be in deep trouble. Screw it, one head would have to be enough. He retreated to the cave mouth and emerged onto the beach.
A winged horse stood looking at him. Perseus gaped.
“Whassup?” the horse said. “Need a ride?”
Perseus pointed to his winged sandals. “Nope, I got these.”
“Cool. See you around.”
The horse nodded and flew away. Could this day get any crazier?
Perseus got his sandals started before the Ugly Sisters emerged from their cave. The high-pitched angry bee noise hurt his ears. Damn, he should have taken the horse up on its offer. Too late now. They lifted him into the air and he flew off in the opposite direction, home to Seriphus. He’d show the King his trophy and hopefully the old bugger would marry Mom and take her away to live in his palace. He couldn’t wait till she moved out. No more moaning about his not cleaning his room, or playing his lute too loud, or partying too late with his bros, or his not finding the right girl and settling down. Yeah, right! Like that was going to happen anytime soon.