The Bacchae- A Contemporary Adaptation

Hello hello and welcome to this week’s short story, which was written for The Writer’s Mess challenge of writing a Greek Myth adaptation. I decided to write about Dionysus, and do a contemporary take on The Bacchae. It’s a little odd, and in first person, which you will see again for my Norse Myth post in two weeks. Apparently Gods like saying “I”, who knew they had such ego…

I was born the son of Zeus, not that anyone believed my mother when she told them.  They couldn’t imagine Zeus, A-lister as he was, choosing to have an affair with my mother of all people, even after she died in childbirth.

My father’s wife was furious to hear of my conception, the one person who did believe it, and so I was raised sleeping beauty style, in a small town at the base of Mount Nysa, by some people my father trusted to keep me safe. 

I didn’t set out for the celebrity life, the spotlight of it all, I started out making wine, because, well, wine is awesome.  I love wine, and I was good at making it, good enough that I went from being someone no one had ever heard of, to becoming a renown vintner.  Next thing I knew, I was living with the other world-famous people, in Olympus Heights, the most exclusive suburb in LA, where my father lived, and I had like made it.

It’s where I was when I heard the rumours my late mother’s sisters were spreading. Apparently, they didn’t believe I was famous, that I had status, and they were telling people that my mother was a, well, I don’t event want to repeat it, but it was the kind of thing that made my blood boil.

I know that the revenge was petty, that I was above it, and that I should have just let it all go, and if it had just been about me, I probably would have.  I had gotten used to having people take issue with me, I mean, when you make the premier wine in the world, party like it’s 1999 every weekend, the tabloids are going to tell tall tails, but my dead mother, she was off limits.

So, I got a make-under, a baseball cap, rented a low-key car and headed out to Thebes. Thebes was a good size town, near mount Citherion, and it’s Mayor was, my cousin Pentheus. He apparently had taken over from his grandfather, isn’t nepotism grand, not too long ago, and my aunts still lived there, stirring the pot.

My revenge was actually pretty simple, shove my existence down those ignorant assholes’ throats.

The method was simple as well, hold the party to end all parties.  On paper it was a promotional event, trying to break into a local market and all that jazz.  A few dozen venues were rented, stocked, and samples of his wine would be served all afternoon free of charge, with full bottles available for purchase.  At night, the events would switch to more of the party atmosphere, with the alcohol flowing for a low price, my logo on every cup, every napkin, every wall.  Then there was the map, which showed all the venues, which was soon to turn the whole thing into a crawl, making the party spill onto the streets, with Dionysus on their tongues. It would last an entire week, and when it was over, not even my family would be able to deny my existence.

I will admit, they were far more resistant than I would have expected, and to my surprise it was my dear cousin who held fast in his belief, trying a curfew, a crusade for quiet aimed directly at me, at arresting those who danced in the street speaking my name, and we both knew it.

I tried to change his mind, in disguise, but he could not be persuaded.   Things escalated quickly, and I will admit, I did a few things that while I am not ashamed of, they aren’t exactly points of pride.

Tricking him into cross-dressing to get into a women’s only party, and then spreading the rumor that there was a man on the registry masquerading at the part was probably overdoing it.  Even I didn’t expect them to beat him to death with their bare hands.  That his own mother, my aunt, she who disparaged my mother, was among those casting the blows, I will admit, it felt a little like karma.

When she finally realized who the man on the floor was, who I really was, watching her weep was less satisfying that I would have expected it to be.  Far more satisfying was having grandfather acknowledge who I was, rightfully so, and when he slithered off for a fresh start with my bereaved aunt, I finally let it go. 

I was Dionysus, and never again would someone speak ill of me or mine, and it felt good.


50 Shades

Hello Hello and welcome to microfiction Monday, this weeks prompt was “Write a Fable”, which I absolutely fell in love with. Follow Fanny as she experiences her justice system from the side of the defendent, I will say it is not as saucy as the title implies, and the following trigger warnings apply: Murder, Attempted sexual assault, extreme justice, dark AF. Hope you enjoy.

The rating system had always seemed fair before Fanny found herself at its mercy.

Where a jury was made up of twelve people, the new system presented the facts to 10,000, simply as they were, with no emotion, embellishments, or heartfelt pleas for mercy to sway the raters before they chose innocent or guilty. There were only two punishments, exile to a penal colony, or death, though some would argue given the conditions at the colony, it was a question of which was worse.

Upon implementation, crime rates plummeted, and for the first time in her life Fanny felt safe walking home alone at night in the city. She did so each night, and she was honestly shocked when the man held her at knife point, and told her to take off her clothes.

She fought, she got the knife, she stabbed him, and despite the fact it was in no way her intent, that knife struck an artery, and he died.

Intent however, was classified as an embellishment, as was a description of her fear, the way it felt to have him standing over her, the fact he had 100 pounds on her, and even the fact that with her broken heel she didn’t think she could outrun him.

She looked at the facts of the case as they were presented, and hoped for death, because there was no accounting for circumstances, and should she be sent to the colony, she might as well have surrendered to her fate. 

Suddenly, the idea of a few guilty people getting off on the mercy of other, seemed like less of a tragedy than it once had, and Fanny sobbed as she recognized the price of the thin veneer of safety that had been created.  She never realized that she would be the one to ultimately pay.

*Moral of the story: Not everything is black and white, reality is full of shades of grey.*

Dark Discoveries

Hello hello and welcome to a dark short story.  What is that I hear?  What’s different than usual?  Well probably nothing, but it was written for the prompt from the Belleville Writer’s Collective:

‘He might have said anything, knowing it was his final hour’ – The Buddha’s Last Instruction by Mary Oliver

So follow the story of our narrator, who chooses not to follow instructions, and discovers something very unsettling.  Don’t want to spoil it, but dark and creepy, so reader be warned. Note, best read aloud, and to that effect I am trying to upload audio to this for the first time ever.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I pulled the brown photo album out from where he said it would be.  If I’m being entirely honest, I didn’t expect to find anything when I reached up into the attic from the top of the closet.

I sat with it on my lap for a while before I opened it, looking down at the cover’s embossed gold lettering, PHOTOS, and considered doing as he asked and tossing it into the fire.  Looking back, I wish I had.

I braced myself before I opened it, hoping that I wasn’t about to see a collection of vintage nudes, but that would have been better than what was inside.

I flipped through the pages absently, and then what I was seeing really hit me.  I ran trembling fingers along the brittle plastic sheet, feeling the raised edge of the Polaroids underneath, 4 to a page.

The ones in the beginning were fading out, the date written in blue ink providing a stark contrast to the thick yellowed border at the bottom edge of each photo.  The terror though, that was still as visceral as I imagine it was the days the pictures were taken.

As I moved through the album, the pictures became clearer, far more of them than I could have imagined, even if I could ever have imagined something like this.

The transition to grainy ink-soaked paper was jarring, a reminder of how angry he had been when his trusty old camera had broken, and replacements were astronomically expensive.  We tried to get him one with film, but he was insistent on not being dependent on someone else to make his pictures, why didn’t it occur to us to ask why he didn’t want anyone else to see.

We went together, Jannie, Donnie and me, to get him the digital camera and printer, and while it wasn’t a Polaroid, he was glad for a way to continue his photography.  I never did ask him about it, never saw another picture he took outside those ones of us the day we gave it to him.  Now I know why.

The newer Polaroid’s hadn’t had a chance to fade yet.  I tried to imagine him taking these with the pastel pink camera I bought him at Michaels, when “instant” pictures became the new fad a second time.  I felt like a million bucks looking at the smile he had on his face when he unwrapped the box Christmas morning and saw the camera, I had gotten him, now I feel like garbage.

As much as I tried to deny that he did this, was a part of this, evidence to the contrary hit me page after page.  A two year gap in dates during his recovery, the barely legible scrawl that followed when he still had weakness in his left arm, and the sharpening penmanship as he fought his way back to full mobility.

I remember thinking how strong he was in the face of the stroke, how determined he was to recover, and I thought it was for all of us, so we didn’t lose him, but he probably wasn’t thinking about us at all.

Another few years and the writing starting going downhill again, the last photo was dated a week before we first brought up the subject of a nursing home.  I thought he was being stubborn when he resisted over a year, but looking at the basement in the background, it must have taken him almost that long to get rid of the evidence in the condition that he was in. I always thought it was strange that he put so much work into it for a place he was soon to be leaving, but I thought he was in denial.  He wasn’t though, it was all calculated, every bit of it.

I closed the album, and looked at the fire.  What do I do now?  Do I heed his wishes, and toss it?

I wished more than anything that I had listened to those last gasping words he said on his deathbed, that I had thrown it out without looking, or that I had ignored him entirely, dismissing the instructions as a product of the dementia, but I hadn’t, and now I had a choice to make.

This could give a lot of people closure, but at what cost?  He wouldn’t suffer for it, he was gone.  It would be me, and Jannie, and Donnie who paid the price.  It would be my son, my daughter who was six months along with her first, so her son too.

I found myself on the stool in the closet, tucking the album back into the attic, before I had even really thought about what I was doing, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull it back down, not now, maybe not ever.

I closed up the attic, and swept up the stray bits of insulation from the closet floor like I was trying to sweep away the memories of what I had seen.  I didn’t have to make a choice on what to do with it today, but until I did, there would always be a small part of me thinking about the album in the attic, and my father’s last words, “pictures…. attic…. burn them…. don’t look.”

Those Post Christmas Blues…

This week’s response to the picture prompt on the Writer’s Mess, ended up being a follow up to last weeks rather disturbing story.  It works as a stand alone, but this is what happens the day after Christmas, that little letdown that follows the holidays for some of us, but obviously not for all the same reasons.

The crackling fire that had warmed his heart before Christmas day, now gave him a chill of emptiness. It reminded him of how good the holidays had been this year, and now it was over. It would be eleven months before he felt that way again, and it made him sad.

He thought of his love, the way the red had brought out the green of her eyes, and how he would never see them again. Yesterday was their last day together, and now it was all about the clean up.  The tree, the decorations, the blood, all of it would have to taken away, without the comfort of knowing someone was waiting for him when he was done.

He would stay at the cabin till new years, like he always did, watching the clock count down to midnight alone, and another year start as barren as this one had.  He would go back to his place in the city, to his job, his coworkers, and make resolutions that would be forgotten in a  month.

The days would bleed into one another, an endless blur of projects, deadline, and paychecks that didn’t really mean anything at all, not to him.  He sighed as he thought about it, feeling tired, and heavy with the realization of what laid ahead of him.

Oh well, there would always be next Christmas.