The sun has begun to descend on the horizon, and the shadow of a tree slowly covers an abandoned statue in the middle of the clearing, which begins to radiate the heat accumulated after a long summer day exposed to the light of the sun and the hot breeze. Climbing plants cover her legs, and over time they will invade her completely. But as yet her torso is almost completely uncovered.
Despite her obvious state of abandonment, with dirt and stains, and some cracks because of exposure to the elements, her female features are still defined and show her beauty to anyone who could see them. Unfortunately, the statue is in the middle of nowhere, with no road or village near to facilitate appreciation of her silhouette by anyone other than the wild animals that roam the area. And in a way, that is fortunate, since the area is restricted, very dangerous. In fact, that’s why the statue is here.
This same day that is ending shouldn’t be unlike any other in which the statue has remained in this open space, with the exception that this time is exactly fifty years since the statue has been in this place. And not because someone had placed her here, but because she was created here, in this idyllic clearing. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say that she was petrified.
Fifty years earlier, Maggie was on a backpacking trip in Europe. Taking advantage of the summer and with the savings she had, and even despite the opposition of her parents, she had decided to embark on the adventure, and to get to know the world a little. After a couple of weeks in the south of the continent, traveling without a fixed course, and getting transport from whoever was willing to pick her up hitchhiking, or with the money she could earn from some sporadic work to pay for a train, she had reached a rural area of central Europe.
A farmer had picked her up two villages back with his ramshackle van, and left her at a crossroads. She had a dozen miles ahead of her before she reached the next village, where she had to be sure to find a telephone or telegraph to send a message to her parents and reassure them, as it had been two days since the last time. But Maggie had most of the day ahead for it, and it was wonderful weather to enjoy the scenery. The old man had told her, or she thought she understood, for she barely spoke the language, that she shouldn’t leave the road, because it could be dangerous. Something about a restricted area, but she wasn’t sure, it could be simply that he had told her the way to go, and the whole field seemed very quiet and pleasant. So, with her compass, and knowing that her backpack was well stocked with provisions, she decided to enjoy a little more of the landscape by traveling a little cross-country.
After a few hours of hiking, somewhat after noon, Maggie was starting to tire, but the views were worth it. In spite of the summer heat, that day there was a slight breeze, making the temperature much more pleasant, and she had reached an open field with an irrigation ditch and the remains of what looked like an old country house, partially demolished and invaded by nature. The place was very nice, almost bucolic, so she decided to take a break and eat something there. She took out her sketchbook and began sketching the ruined building, sitting under the shade of a tree, while with a small fire, made with a handful of dry branches, she roasted a couple of potatoes from the pile that the farmer had given her, which had almost doubled the weight of her backpack. The songs of the birds were extremely relaxing to her, and the wind made pictures in the grass when waving it, like a greenish sea swaying to the rhythm of the waves. Yes, the detour was worth it, the place was beautiful.
Once she ate and finished with her drawing as a souvenir, Maggie decided to sunbathe a little, and knowing herself to be alone, after seeing absolutely no one in hours, or any trace of civilization that hadn’t at least a century on its back, she smiled to herself naughtily, then undressed completely and lay on the grass, feeling the warm summer light on her.
The pleasant temperature and the weariness of the walk struck her, and after a few minutes Maggie felt a slight drowsiness. She was enjoying her little adventure trip enormously, but of the nearly three weeks with it, this was by far the day and moment she was enjoying most. She felt completely free and happy, with no obligations or duties. The future was something distant, diffuse, and any kind of doubt about it seemed insignificant compared to now. A perfect moment, which Maggie wished would last forever.
After an hour, while she was almost asleep, amidst the sound of the breeze and the songs of birds and insects, a nearby creak made Maggie open her eyes. Maybe some wild animal was approaching her?
Another close creak, accompanied by a sibilant whisper, made her jump to her feet, quickly covering herself with her hands, so she wouldn’t feel so vulnerable. The whisper had sounded strange, but words seemed to be discernible in it, and she automatically thought of a voyeur enjoying the spectacle she offered with her naked body. Perhaps she had been too confident about being in the middle of nowhere.
Again the whisper was repeated, this time clearly, behind her, and slowly Maggie turned to face the vouyeur. But what she saw was nothing that she expected.
Initially she thought it was a woman, by her seemingly feminine silhouette, some kind of green and white gown, but her legs were... strange, and her hairstyle was incredibly bulky. The stranger’s gaze was fixed on her, her eyes piercing and fixed. But the hairstyle was weird, it seemed to move by itself, not by the breeze. After a few seconds, she thought the legs were revealed to be a long snake tail, and the gown was actually skin made up of scales. Maggie thought, terrified, that she was some kind of strange wild animal, and that she could attack her, but her torso was clearly human, her breasts firm, and her arms also looked right for a human being. Then Maggie noticed that the strands of the hairstyle twisted, as if ... they snaked. And the eyes, golden and shiny, were both menacing and precious. And a name formed in her mind, a memory of her history classes in high school, specifically of when she studied Greek mythology: Medusa.
Maggie tried to scream to frighten the strange creature, but at that moment she realized that her body didn’t respond. In fact, ever since she had seen the creature’s eyes when she had turned, not a single gasp had come out of her mouth. It seemed that she was holding her breath out of fear, but in fact her metabolism was completely frozen. A sensation of stiffness had begun to appear in her limbs, similar to when the muscles are tensed, but without any movement associated with it. If Maggie had been able to see herself, she’d have seen grayish spots begin to appear on her skin, on her arms and torso.
The gorgon began to approach her, and bowing her head, she whispered something again, while she stroked the paralyzed girl’s chin so that, scared to death, she exerted all her will in the hope that her body would obey, uselessly. Then the gorgon went to Maggie’s belongings and searched them, finding her sketchbook and leafing through it. She said something to Maggie again, in an interrogative tone, as she pointed to her and to the notebook. Although she didn’t understand it, but despite the panic in her mind, it wasn’t difficult to know that the gorgon was asking if Maggie had drawn it. The gorgon kept looking at the notebook slowly, enjoying Maggie’s works.
Meanwhile, the gray spots had grown to occupy two-thirds of Maggie’s body. The girl continued to try to move, but as soon as she had known what the creature before her was, however impossible it was that a mythical chimera existed in the reality, and more precisely a few meters from her, she had also known what was happening to her. Whoever looked into Medusa’s eyes, turned to stone. And that was happening to Magie. She was turning into a statue. She wanted to scream, but at the last minute, since the gorgon had caressed her chin, a sense of calm had begun to form in her mind, a more oppressive and at the same time more relaxing sensation than her own immobility. It was as if she didn’t have to worry about being transformed into rock, or losing her life, or being a ... thing. She began to remember how well she had felt in that outfield, to have yearned for that day to last forever. And that memory mingled with that sense of peace that was invading her. She wasn’t sure why she had to fight it, it was so nice. At the end her wish was to come true, and if the price was to end up being part of the landscape ... why fight it, if it was what she had wanted?
The gorgon finished with the notebook and put it under her arm. She seemed to like it enough to take her with her. Anyway, Maggie, now almost completely turned into stone, would never need it again. Only her face remained flesh and blood, as the rock spread over it, but at a slower pace than before. The chimera then approached the young woman, whose mind was completely calm. Had she been able to move, her face would have shown an expression of total happiness. Seconds after her lips petrified, the gorgon kissed them. She looked at her fondly, smiling and said something again between whispers, again incomprehensible, looking directly at her. Maggie stared with total concentration and peace at Medusa’s slit pupils, inches from her eyes, as they acquired the same rocky, grayish texture of the rest of her body, making her irises invisible, and petrified. One last thought gently slowed down and was frozen in her mind when the last trace of flesh and bone of her body was replaced by hard stone inside her head: "That... eyes... are... so... beautiful... Are... so... beau... ti... fu... lllll... ".
Again the loving smile formed on the face of the gorgon, as if she rejoiced at Maggie being a statue, and after a last caress, carrying the girl’s notebook, she walked away from her without looking back, crawling on the undulating grass under the wind and the warm sunlight of summer.
Thus fifty years had passed since that day. Medusa never visited her creation again, and no one had ever seen the young woman transformed into a forgotten piece of art. If Maggie had understood what the farmer was saying to her, she would have known that along the road there was a restricted area, which was secretly a kind of protectorate for mythical creatures, and she, in her wanderings, had come upon one of the most lethal. Obviously her family had tried to find her, but they lost all trace of her in the city where she spent the night before her small improvised excursion, and after a few years of trying, she was considered an unresolved case.
Five decades in the open had affected her state of conservation, but fortunately nothing serious. The petrification of Medusa also affected a small part of the ground on which she was standing, creating a kind of pedestal that prevented a strong gust of wind from overturning her, and after years the weeds had begun to climb around her. All her belongings were slowly destroyed or carried away by the elements as the years went by. Although she was still easily recognizable in her stony features, after so much time there was no one alive who had known her, in the hypothetical case that she would have been found.
Her paralyzed mind was unaware of it, but she was still present, like her soul, trapped in her rock body for all eternity, as a gift from Medusa. Because the gorgon considered her gaze a gift. Immortality, eternal beauty, and the peace of unconsciousness, thanks to a simple crossing of eyes. And according to her judgment, that was all a mortal could desire, and Maggie had received them when she met her. In fact, the chimera thought that Maggie was prepared for it, naked so that the gorgon could appreciate her mortal beauty and considered her worthy to be immortalized with her glance. Besides, she considered Maggie’s notebook as a kind of offering to win her favor, which Medusa thanked and rewarded her with a kiss, allowing a last few seconds of absolute happiness for her adept.
Slowly the sun set for the umpteenth time from that day before the cold eyes of the statue, leaving it in the dark, like so many other times before. Maggie had longed to stay in that beautiful clearing forever, and thanks to her ignorance and her casual encounter with a mythical creature, she would. Forever.