Magdalena could swim before she could walk. She could hum the songs of the sea before she could speak. When she cried, her tears were the salt of the ocean.
She didn’t remember her mother. Υears ago, a storm had swept her father to the shores of Galaxidi, baby Magdalena in his arms. Father had sailed all over the seven seas, but he never set foot on a boat again after that. A carpenter now, he wouldn’t stop talking about the sea –- and yet, in all the stories he told, he never once mentioned her mother or the shipwreck. Whenever Magdalena asked him, he just grew silent, until she finally learned not to ask.
She grew to become a young woman. She was beautiful, but boys shied away from her. it was her big grey eyes that changed color according to her moods, just like the sea.
Magdalena loved her father; still, when she was sixteen, she ran away from home to become a sailor. Girls were not allowed to be sailors, and so she cut her long black hair and walked to the port of Itea, along the way stealing a boy’s clothes while he was swimming. She found employment as a deckhand on the first ship she saw at the port. The ship’s name was “Panayia Spiliani;” her own was Michalios, she told the first mate.
As Magdalena’s ship sailed across the Aegean Sea during her first voyage, the sky turned black, and thunder started rolling. Soon, the waves were like hills and the small ship was thrown here and there like a nutshell tossed about in a winter storm. They reached the eye of the storm, and there they beheld Gorgona; Magdalena knew her as soon as she laid eyes on her. She was tall as a mountain; her hair was black, her face beautiful and proud. Below her bare breasts, she had the scales of a fish and the tail of a sea-serpent, long and sinuous.
Gorgona fixed her eyes on the seamen, scrutinizing them. She was terrible and magnificent, and her eyes were like the sea, wise and angry and beautiful beyond reason.
The ship’s captain, Kapetan-Giannis Gavalos, was an old seawolf who knew all there was to know about Gorgona. He’d never met her himself — but back when he had been a young deckhand, he’d served under a captain who had faced Gorgona and lived to tell the tale.
Kapetan-Giannis waited for the inevitable question, but, to his astonishment, it never came. In all the tales he’d ever heard, Gorgona had hastened to ask “Does King Alexander still live?” But now she just kept staring at them, silent, terrible wrath blazing in the edges of her eyes. In the end, Kapetan-Giannis decided there was no point in waiting any longer, and he had to take the matter into his own hands.
“O Mighty Gorgona,” he shouted above the howling of the wind, “King Alexander lives, and he reigns, and he rules the world.” Trembling, he confronted her with an expression as solemn as he could manage.
She grew terrible to behold. Her eyes burned, her voice was like a thunderstorm.
“Liar!” she shouted. “I know that my brother is dead and has been so for two thousand years. All captains had lied, but my mortal lover told me of his death. For years I grieved, yet in the end I came to accept it.
“Then I realized that while I was lost in my grief, the wretch had left me, and he had taken my daughter with him. I want my daughter back! Tell me where she is or I will sink your ship and drown you all!”
Ashen-faced, the captain looked at her. “I don’t know where your daughter is, Gorgona. I didn’t even know you have a daughter!”
“Liar!” She shouted. “All men are liars.”
She coiled her tail around the ship and started to squeeze. Timbers started to creak, ready to break apart.
A wild impulse seized Magdalena. While the ship rocked and swayed, she began to climb the main mast. Many times she almost fell, as the mast, along with the ship, was jerked around, but she held on and inch by inch she managed to climb upwards.
“Hey, Michalio!” shouted the seamen from below. “Are you crazy? You’re going to fall to your death!” But she finally made it to the crow’s nest on top of the mast.
Magdalena could look at Gorgona eye to eye now. “Spare the men, Gorgona!” she shouted. Then, “please,” she whispered.
Gorgona laughed. “Why should I spare them, boy? All men are liars, like the one who said he loved me and stole my daughter from me.” She squeezed harder.
The crow’s nest swayed like a willow in the wind, but the girl held fast. She stared at Gorgona’s angry eyes. They were grey like her own.
Silently, Magdalena started to take off her clothes; she took them off one by one, until she stood naked on the crow’s nest. The seamen stared and shouted in amazement, but Magdalena had only eyes for Gorgona. “Take me, mother,” she shouted, and she jumped off the mast into the water.
The men of “Panayia Spiliani” swear that when the sea became calm again there was no sign of Gorgona or the strange girl who had been Michalios.
All around the Aegean Sea, sailors still tell the tale of Gorgona’s daughter, though no one knows her name.
Only an old man in Galaxidi knows. He used to be a carpenter, but now you can always find him in the tavern, drowning himself in his drink.
George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer and poet from Athens, Greece. His short stories have been published (and/or are pending) in “Gruff Variations” Anthology, Mad Scientist Journal, QuarterReads, SF Comet, Bards & Sages Quarterly, “Up and Coming – Stories by the 2016 Campbell-eligible Authors” Anthology, “Sci Phi Journal”, Unsung Stories, Galaxy’s Edge, 9 Tales from Elsewhere, Manawaker Studio’s Flash Fiction Podcast, Scarlet Leaf Review, “Clash of the Titles” Anthology, Szortal, AntipodeanSF, Stella’s Literary Bistro, Diasporic Literature Spot, as well as many magazines and anthologies in Greece and Cyprus.
The artwork is Giulio Aristide Sartorio’s Study for the Head of the Gorgon and is ” is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less” and is also in the public domain in the United States.