Monday, January 23, 2012

Out of old mythologies

Professor Hamilton turned out to be Professor Edith Hamilton from the state university. It was an hour and a half drive to there and I spent all that time nervous, glancing over my shoulder at every stop. Even though I had all the mirrors covered, I had no assurances that the snake woman wouldn't be back.

I had never been to the university, so finding my way to Professor Hamilton's office was a jumble of confusion. Finally, I got out the correct directions from a random student and walked there, carefully checking over my shoulder every few minutes.

"Professor Edith Hamilton, Greek Mythology Department." That's what the sign said. I knocked and then pushed the door open, without waiting for a response.

"Tests still aren't graded," the professor said. She was forty-ish with graying hair. Not bad looking, but not my type.

"Hello," I said.

She looked up quickly. "I'm sorry, I thought you were one of my students," she said. "How can I help you?"

"I think a friend of mine visited you a little while ago," I said. "Frank Meyer?"

She scrunched her eyebrows in confusion. "Yes, I remember him," she said. "He wanted to discuss snake goddesses in mythology. He kept on saying it was life and death. It was kind of a strange visit." She paused and then, probably to be polite, asked, "How is he?"

"Dead," I said bluntly.

She looked taken aback at that. "I'm sorry," she said. "Is that why you're here?"

"Something like that," I said. "Can you tell me everything you told him?"

"Well," she said. "I don't think I was much help. He wanted to know about Echidna and Medusa and the Naga - which aren't actually Greek mythology, but rather Indian. In fact, there was a lot of snake worship in ancient times."

"Really?" I said. "Any of them have to do with mirrors?"

"He asked that, too," she said. "I'm afraid the only one I can recall associated with mirrors is Medusa. Perseus used his shield as a mirror and was thus able to kill her without seeing her. Although, now that you mention it, snakes and snake monsters were often associated with water and rivers, which acted as mirrors back in those days. Not many people could pay for a real mirror, even one of polished metal."

"Anything else you told him?" I asked.

"Well," she said, "he wanted to know about Echidna. She was called the Monster of All Monsters and wife of Typhon. Actually, he didn't seem that interested in the male snake monsters, but rather the female ones. Can I ask how he died?"

"Aneurysm," I said. "How do you kill them?"

"I'm sorry?" She coughed. "That's something he asked, too, and I'm afraid I'll have to give you the same answer: you can't."

"You can't?"

"Well," she said, "first of all: they don't exist. You can kill an imaginary monster because it's, well, imaginary."

"Say they do exist," I said, "what then? How would you kill them if they do exist?"

"I'm afraid the answer is the same," she said. "Unless you have enchanted armor or magical powers or the gods on your side, you can't kill them. Perseus used a sword and shield granted from Athena to cut off Medusa's head. Heck, even cutting off the head didn't work in some cases. If you cut off one of the Hydra's head, two more would grow in its place." She put her hands down on her desk. "And that's it, I'm afraid. I'm sorry your friend died, but there's really nothing else I told him. And I have to get back to work."

"I understand," I said. "I must sound like a loon."

She shook her head, but I could see it. I nodded and turned to leave.

The phone on her desk rang. She answered it. "Hello. Who is this? No, I want to know who this is. What? Who...I...okay, I'll get him." She put down the phone. "Mr. Walker? Mr. Boyd Walker?"

I hadn't told her my name. "What?"

She held out the phone for me. "It's for you," she said.

"Hang up," I told her. "Hang up the phone right now. Just hang up."

"I can't," she said. "She...she knows me. She said she'll eat my young if you don't speak to her. Please, Mr. Walker."

I took the phone from her and put it to my ear. "She is ready," the woman's voice said. "She who has mirrors for scales. The Mother of Snakes. She waits for you. You must be ready for her. Be ready, Boyd Walker. She is ready."

I hung up. As I left, I could hear Professor Hamilton crying and calling her children.

I didn't stick around to see if they were alright.


  1. The mother of snakes?

    This may be relevant.

    Damn, the link won't show correctly because of the non-English characters. Search for "The Curse of Kadru" on wikipedia or google.