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HOOVES AND WINGS
SCENE 1. OPEN PLAIN/THE CAVE
MUSIC: THE SOUND OF LYRES AND OF HORNS, WE ARE IN ANOTHER, OLDER AGE. THE MUSIC RUSHES ON, URGENT.
AND THEN, AMID THE MUSIC, THE STRONG, STEADY POUNDING OF HOOVES GALLOPING ACROSS THE EARTH. AND ABOVE THE HOOVES, THE STROKE OF POWERFUL WINGS, BEATING DOWN. AND THEN THE HOOVES ARE GONE AND THERE IS ONLY THE BEATING OF WINGS AND THE RUSHING AIR. AND THEN THAT TOO IS GONE, REPLACED BY THE DISTANT SOUND OF THE SEA AND THE HISSING BREATH OF SLEEP.
AND NOW THIS IS THE CAVE.
THE BREATH OF THREE SLEEPERS HISSES. AND THEN ONE OF THE SLEEPERS STIRS, STRETCHES.
MEDDY: Awake then. Awake after the dream. Awake from the gallop. Awake from the flight. Awake to this dark cave. Awake to my pallet of straw and rags, to the soft breathing of my sleeping sisters.
SHE LISTENS TO THE BREATHING A MOMENT, THEN RISES FROM HER BED WITH A HISS AND A GROAN, NAILS PATTING STONE.
MEDDY: So hard simply to stand. Who would have thought it Niaou? Not you, I think, not you. You loved to spring about so. Not a mouse you couldn't catch, was there little monster? No mousing now. Now it's for mummy to catch the mice.
SHE WAITS FOR A RESPONSE. NONE COMES.
MEDDY: Taste the air with me, Niaou! Taste the stone of this cave, taste the dew of this morning, taste the salt of the sea! And taste ... taste that new thing. What is it, Niaou? Is it today? Is it today he will come?
A NAIL SCRATCHES AGAINST STONE.
MEDDY: Quiet, Niaou! We must, oh we must, be quiet. Mustn't wake them! Not if it's him. And it is him, I can feel it.
THE MUSIC OF HOOVES AND WINGS AGAIN, FAINT THIS TIME, INSIDE MEDDY HERSELF.
MEDDY:: (LOW) I must prepare. Must be ready for him. Oh, listen to this old woman, Niaou. How long since I needed to face my lovers with anything but my self?
OLD FEET PATTER ACROSS A HARD FLOOR.
MEDDY: (LOW) How long since the days of combs and mirrors? And of my mother, counting each stroke of the brush ...
SCENE 2. KETO'S HOUSE
KETO BRUSHES MEDDY'S HAIR.
KETO: ... ninety-eight ... ... ninety-nine ... ... there! One hundred each side! See?
YOUNG MEDDY: I see, mother, I see.
KETO: So lovely, my Meddy! Sparkling, darkling hair for my darling. Take the mirror - see how it sets off your complexion.
A MIRROR IS HANDED OVER.
KETO:: White like the sand. White as the goddess herself. A gift it is, your skin, an honour! And your dark hair the laurel on it. No boy could ever resist!
DOWN ON THE GROUND, NIAOU MEWS, KITTEN-LIKE.
YOUNG MEDDY: Is mother right, Niaou? Is she, is she? Can you resist me?
KETO: See? He agrees with me, my doll. You could steal the heart of a prince! You could steal the heart of a god!
MUSIC: A FAINT, TROUBLING NOTE UNDER THE SCENE.
SCENE 3. THE CAVE
MEDDY: The word too many. That was Keto. That was my mother. A twittering bird of a woman. A magpie fluttering and hopping around the glittering and glistering. Ever unaware that no bird sings in a void. But what did I know or care? My eyes were bright, my body was young and lithe and ... alive. Treasure that feeling Niaou, treasure that youth. A time comes when everything sags and bends - everything howls when it moves and aches when it remains still.
MEDDY: But not today, my Niaou. Today I have dreamed of hooves and wings. Today I have tasted the wind. Today he is coming. Today ... today I will no longer be an old, ragged woman who talks to the statue of a cat.
A METAL FINGER SCRAPING AGAINST STONE.
MEDDY: My sisters are stirring. I must leave you, my cold little Niaou. I must prepare. Today my flesh must be young again and my step must be light. Today I am to have a new lover, my last lover. Today is the day that everything will change.
MUSIC SWELLS AND IN THAT MUSIC IS THE SOUND OF GALLOPING HOOVES AND THE BEATING OF POWERFUL WINGS.
END OF ACT I
SCENE 4. THE ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
THE ISLAND'S SOUNDS TELL OF A HOT DAY ON A SMALL, ROCKY ISLAND. THE SEA IS NEARER NOW. SHORT, SCRUBBY, STUB-LEAVED TREES SWAY IN WHAT LITTLE WIND THERE IS. A FEW INSECTS BUZZ. THERE ARE NO BIRDS.
MEDDY STEPS UNEASILY ON THE ROCKY PATH, GRAVEL SKITTERS DOWN THE CLIFF SIDE.
MEDDY: Easy now, Meddy. This is no time to lose yourself on old and treacherous paths. This is a day for stepping firmly on. This is a day for smiles, a day for happy thoughts. Today is a day for ... for remembering. How old was I when I met my first love? Old enough that my body had begun to change, that my mother's words turned to truth. Now the boys became silent when I passed, speaking only with their eyes, in that mix of fear and longing and hope and hunger that is the language of the journey to manhood. And their hands too spoke, bringing me gifts - shells from the shore, flowers from the hillsides. And the meaning of all this was clear: that I was ... oh it's been so long, so long, so long - that I was ...
SCENE 5. THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA
YOUNG MEDDY: Beautiful?
PETER: Oh yes, Meddy. Very beautiful.
SCENE 6. THE ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
MEDDY: Everyone called him Peter. An old, weak joke - Peter the rock, being worn away each day by his work at the hand and the heel and the body of the sculptor, dried by the dust of the stoneyard. But for all his labours he was young and strong, his face open and handsome, his eyes brown and kind and loyal, his muscles corded like the horsemen on the temple frieze. In the evenings, it was his duty to clean his masters' yard. In the evenings it was my joy to watch him.
SCENE 7. SCULPTOR'S YARD
PETER SWEEPS THE GROUND, CLEARING AWAY THE DUST OF THE DAY.
PETER: (A LITTLE OFF) And you see the porpoise there?
YOUNG MEDDY: I see it! Do you see it, Niaou?
A PURR FROM NIAOU - NO LONGER A KITTEN BUT A SMALL, FULL-GROWN CAT.
YOUNG MEDDY: He sees.
PETER STOPS HIS SWEEPING.
PETER: (A LITTLE OFF) But does he see the tail? How it curves? That's my work.
YOUNG MEDDY: Really?!
PETER: (A LITTLE OFF) Yes! You should have seen the smile on my master's face. "See there, boy," he said, "See how you've found the beast within the stone."
YOUNG MEDDY: The beast within ..?
PETER: All these stones, all of them, they have a soul within them, trapped, waiting for the sculptor to free them. That grey rock behind you, it could be home to a hero. The brown one on the right, his fallen helm.
MEDDY GETS UP, WALKS A LITTLE ACROSS THE STONE-LITTERED FLOOR OF THE SCULPTOR'S YARD.
YOUNG MEDDY: And that one there? With the green vein to it?
PETER: (CLOSER NOW) A frog perhaps.
YOUNG MEDDY: (LOW) Or maybe the face of your master.
PETER CLOSES THE DISTANCE TO MEDDY.
PETER: (NEAR) You can never know, just by looking. You have to feel the stone itself, feel the pulse within. Who knows, maybe that rock is home to a little green-eyed cat, maybe Niaou has a soul trapped in the stone.
YOUNG MEDDY: And could you find the soul within the stone? Could you set it free?
PETER: I could, I think. And if I do I shall give it to my precious Meddy..
YOUNG MEDDY: But is it only stones that have these souls? If heroes can lurk inside stone, what souls lie within us? Within me?
PETER: (CLOSE, HIS VOICE LOW) You can never know, just by looking. You have to touch.
MUSIC: THE THRILL OF YOUNG LOVE, OF ANTICIPATION AND THERE BELOW, MIMICKING THE RACING HEART, THE FAINT ECHO OF HOOVES AND WINGS.
A LONG BEAT, SO QUIET THAT PETER AND MEDDY BECOME CONSCIOUS OF THEIR OWN BREATHING. AND THEN, AT LAST, THEY KISS.
SCENE 8. THE ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
MEDDY: My first kiss. I can feel it on my lips even now, fresher in my memory than yesterday. It was a little theft of the gods' fire, enough to kindle new thoughts, new possibilities within those who warmed themselves before it. There would be many more kisses but none of them ever quite like that first. Oh yes, many more, many more. And then they would cease. Why is it that we choose to dwell in the past, seeking the pain found in old comfort and the comfort found in old pain? Why is it so hard to look to the days beyond? Perhaps I will find out, when he comes.
AND THEN THE SOUND OF THE SEA BEGINS TO SWELL ...
MEDDY: I remember, we went down to the sea together ...
SCENE 9. THE SEA SHORE
THE SEA SWELLS AND FALLS AWAY, RUSHING OVER THE SHORE AND THEN RETREATING AGAIN.
YOUNG MEDDY: ... And you carved it?
PETER: I did, and polished it, and worked at it day and night. I haven't yet the skill to find Niaou's soul within a stone but I do have the skill for this.
YOUNG MEDDY: A mirror!
SCENE 10. THE ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
MEDDY: A disc of polished obsidian. A dark mirror for his dark-haired love. And polished so smooth! So many hours he must have worked at it. Such a simple thing and yet ... ... If anyone ever loved me, Peter did.
SCENE 11. THE SEA SHORE
STILL THE SEA EBBS AND FLOWS ACROSS THE SHORE.
YOUNG MEDDY: What do you hear when you listen to the sea, Peter? Does the shingle talk to you as the stones talk to your master?
PETER: All those little pebble souls drowning beneath the waves? No, they don't talk to me.
YOUNG MEDDY: You spend too much time with your rocks. Can't you hear how alive the sea is? I hear water and rushing sand and the sound of stone striking stone. But there's something more in there too, something like ... like a great gathering of horses, galloping a long way off.
AND YES, THERE IT IS, VERY, VERY FAINT, THE ROLLING OF THE SEA LIKE A DISTANT THUNDERING OF HOOVES.
PETER: Perhaps you can hear the old god, scouring the oceans, looking for a new maiden to snatch up and take down to his watery lair.
A MEW FROM NIAOU.
PETER: ... And her little cat too.
YOUNG MEDDY: No old god will be taking me. The waters will warn me. See? They'll speak to me just like the stones speak to you when you touch them.
PETER PUTS AN ARM AROUND MEDDY.
PETER: It's not just the stones.
YOUNG MEDDY: (SURPRISED AND THEN PLEASED) Oh ... ohhh!
MUSIC FORMS A DISCRETE VEIL OVER THEIR LOVE. AND THEN, AS IT FADES AND THEY LIE IN EACH OTHER'S ARMS ...
YOUNG MEDDY: You never told me. What do you hear when you touch me? What do you sense within me? Am I hero? Am I a frog?
PETER: Oh no, not a frog. Definitely not that. Not even a little.
YOUNG MEDDY: Are you sure? I could make a good frog. I could sit by a pond and eat flies and annoy my mother by croaking all night at her window.
PETER: Oh that would be a thing to see! But no, Meddy, when I touch you I feel something strong and urgent, some great, beautiful creature that longs to rush across the earth and to soar into the sky.
YOUNG MEDDY: I should like that. To fly far, far away, to run through the clouds and above the mountains.
PETER: Far away? How lonely that would be. Would you ever look down at us, at those who dwell below?
YOUNG MEDDY: I would look at you, Peter. I would always look at you.
PETER: And would you ever come down to me again?
YOUNG MEDDY: Always and forever.
SCENE 12. THE ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
MEDDY: My mother thought otherwise.
SCENE 13. KETO'S HOUSE
KETO: The sculptor's boy?! What, does he think he can win you with kind words and a bit of black rock? Oh no, my girl, not you. You were made for more than this. So much more. The men of all the world will come to you. They will cross oceans and deserts to seek you out. The wide Earth will be at your feet. No, you won't throw yourself away to that boy. He can keep his pretty smile for his master!
SCENE 14. THE ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
MEDDY: "The men of all the world will cross oceans and deserts to seek you out". She could not have known how much truth she spoke. And yet it was not Keto who kept me from my love, for all her trying. What she could not accomplish, the gods achieved for her. A splinter of stone ...
CHISEL STRIKES STONE, A SPLINTER FLIES OUT.
MEDDY: A cut.
PETER CRIES OUT.
MEDDY: And with the cut, some gods-given evil. Some imp that stoked the fires within Peter's body and poured bitter waters on his brow.
SCENE 15. THE SCULPTOR'S HOUSE
A SMALL, ENCLOSED SPACE. A FIRE CRACKLES EVEN AS PETER SHIVERS IN HIS COT AND DEATH HOVERS AT THE DOORWAY.
PETER: (HIS VOICE IS WEAK) You came!
YOUNG MEDDY: She couldn't keep me from you. Nothing could. Didn't I say I would always come back to you?
MEDDY DIPS A CLOTH IN A BOWL OF WATER.
YOUNG MEDDY: There, let this cool you.
SHE WIPES PETER'S BROW. HE SIGHS.
PETER: Let me touch you, Meddy.
MEDDY TAKES HIS HAND, PLACES IT OVER HER HEART.
YOUNG MEDDY: There.
SCENE 16. THE ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
MEDDY: How hot his hand was as I brought to my heart, held it to me as the brand is held to the calf's hide, burning into my soul.
SCENE 17. THE SCULPTOR'S HOUSE
PETER: It's still within you, Meddy. That strong, wild creature. It will be free. It will. I can see it all.
YOUNG MEDDY: You must be quiet. You must rest.
PETER: What for? My soul is already flying away. It is up there in the clouds as you will be, looking down on all the earth. And it can see so much, so much. Oh Meddy, you will suffer so much and so long. And you will be cruel and terrible and alone. But you will be free. In the end, you will be free. I promise it.
SCENE 18. THE ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
MEDDY: And then he placed his arms around me and held me to him, not with the strength of a boy but the strength of the man he should have been - a man who could release the souls from stone. And then I felt the heat within him, heat so terrible that the touch of my lips upon his brow must have felt like ice. And then all his strength was gone. His eyes closed, his grasp slipped from me and all that was left was the consuming heat within.
MEDDY STEPS FORWARD A PACE OR TWO ALONG THE ROUGH PATH.
MEDDY: He was dead before the day was out.
SHE STEPS DOWN FROM THE PATH ONTO THE SHORE. WAVES LAP LIGHTLY AGAINST THE SAND.
MEDDY: I wonder, what did he see? Did he really glimpse my future as he journeyed towards death? Did he know that one day I would see the souls enclosed in stone? Could he hear, could he hear ... yes, there it is again ...
MUSIC AND, AMID THE SOUND OF THE WAVES, A HEARTBEAT - UNSTEADY AT FIRST, THEN GAINING IN POWER, TRANSFORMING, BECOMING THE BEAT OF HOOVES AGAINST THE GROUND AND WINGS AGAINST THE AIR.
END OF ACT II
SCENE 19. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE
THE SEA HERE IS STRONG, BEATING HARD AGAINST THE ROCKY ISLAND.
MEDDY: An old place this. A wild place. This lonely cove on this lonely island, its only friend the ever-rushing sea. A place close to nature, to the gods. A place to worship.
MEDDY PAUSES, LISTENS TO THE SEA.
MEDDY: And there is the pyre. My sisters must have prepared it while I dreamed my dream of hooves and wings. Perhaps they felt it too - his coming. Or perhaps they felt the changing of the season, the occasion for another of their rituals, the time for fire and dancing.
MEDDY LIFTS A METAL FLASK FROM THE GROUND AND POURS OUT OIL.
MEDDY: There, the oil. And now ...
MEDDY REPLACES THE FLASK, TAKES UP A FLINT AND STRIKES IT.
MEDDY: ... the flint.
ANOTHER STRIKE OF THE FLINT AND ANOTHER AND THEN THE FLAME TAKES.
MEDDY: A time for fire. A time to free the spirit from the flesh. A time for sacrifice.
DRY KINDLING IS CRACKLING NOW.
MEDDY: My old rags. My last link to my home. It is time for you to be gone.
MEDDY FLINGS A BUNDLE OF RAGS ONTO THE FLAMES. THEY BURN EASILY.
MEDDY: Oh my sisters, you should be here with me. We should dance the old dance and sing the old songs and call on older gods. We should cast off our ancient hurts and free ourselves from life-long rage. We should commit our anger to the flames.
THE MUSIC OF AN OLD CEREMONY - OF HORN AND DRUM - RISES UP FROM MEDDY'S MEMORY. ALONGSIDE THE MUSIC IS THE BEATING OF HARD FEET ON ROCK, ANGRY, BIRD-LIKE CALLS AND, ABOVE ALL, THE HISSING OF SNAKES.
MEDDY LETS OUT A WILD SCREAM. THE SOUNDS OF THE RITUAL DIE IN AN INSTANT, LEAVING ONLY THE SEA AND THE CRACKLING FLAMES.
MEDDY: Rage. Oh I know so much about rage - hot as a new-forged blade and cold as a mountain stream. Animal and eternal. A child born and reborn. It was Peter's death that made me its mother.
SCENE 20. KETO'S HOUSE
YOUNG MEDDY IS CRYING.
KETO: Child, you must not take on so. For good or for ill, the gods have their ways.
YOUNG MEDDY: This? This is the work of the gods?
KETO: Of course, child.
YOUNG MEDDY: Then I reject them.
SCENE 21. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE
THE PYRE STILL BURNS, MORE SOFTLY NOW.
MEDDY: I took my offspring rage to my bed and the product of our union was rejection. We walked together in the dark shadow of Peter's death, seeking to cut ourselves off from all the world. But the world and my mother, would not leave us be.
SCENE 22. KETO'S HOUSE.
KETO BANGS ON YOUNG MEDDY'S DOOR.
KETO: (OUTSIDE THE DOOR) Meddy! Meddy! Someone is here for you. A young man.
SCENE 23. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE
MEDDY: The more Keto's darkling darling - the more Meddy with the long, dark hair - hid herself from the world, the more it came to her. My mother cooed and chirruped over my beauty, fledging tales that travelled on strong wings. Each week men and the servants of men came to our door, bearing gifts ...
SCENE 24. KETO'S HOUSE
SUITOR 1: A comb, of ivory, brought from the far Indies.
SUITOR 2: A statue of the goddess, may her wisdom bless this house.
SUITOR 3: A mirror, of polished gold.
SCENE 25. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE
MEDDY: But I had no need for combs or gods. And I had a mirror of my own, carved from obsidian by my dead love, a dark mirror in whose reflection I could dwell with him among the shades.
THE PYRE SPARKS AS THE WOOD WITHIN SHIFTS.
MEDDY: There. Almost gone now. Those few, dry rags the last of my old life. You would think such a sacrifice would give more heat.
MEDDY PRODS THE PYRE.
MEDDY: So I sat in my room with my mirror and my cat and my loneliness. Each night I waited for the moon. And if it came, I let it guide my feet from my home towards the bay, the same bay where I had sat with Peter and listened to the sea. And behind me, green eyes aglow in the moonlight, would trot my Niaou.
THE SEA SWELLS
SCENE 26. THE SEA SHORE
WAVES RUN ALONG THE SANDY SHORE.
NIAOU GIVES A LOW CALL.
YOUNG MEDDY: Hush, Niaou. Listen.
THE SEA SWELLS AND EBBS. BUT WAIT - THERE IS ANOTHER SOUND TOO: FAR FROM THE SHORE, VERY FAINT, THERE IS A SOUND LIKE THE NEIGHING OF HORSES.
YOUNG MEDDY: There! Do you hear it?
AND NOW THERE IS THE SOUND OF HOOVES TOO AMONG THE WAVES AND THE SOUND AND THE WAVES ARE COMING CLOSER.
YOUNG MEDDY: Come, you must hear it - horses riding in deep waters, rushing across the waves. I remember ...
SHE PAUSES, LETTING THE WAVES ROLL ON A MOMENT.
YOUNG MEDDY: ... I remember, Peter said it was the sound of the god ...
AND NOW MEDDY'S VOICE IS JOINED BY ANOTHER, COMING FROM JUST BEHIND HER.
YOUNG MEDDY & PETER: ... searching the waters for a new love.
MEDDY WHIRLS AROUND.
YOUNG MEDDY: Peter!
PETER: My love!
THEY HURL THEMSELVES AT EACH OTHER, BURYING THEMSELVES IN EACH OTHER AS THEY KISS. AT LAST ONE OF THEM HAS TO BREATHE.
YOUNG MEDDY: But ... but ...
PETER: Touch me, Meddy, am I not real? Am I not flesh like your flesh?
HE SIGHS AT HER TOUCH.
YOUNG MEDDY: You are, oh you are. I can feel the warmth, the life within you. So strong. But how?
PETER: How can a mortal understand the ways of the gods? We are their pieces to play and, if one should happen to be left behind at the end of their games ...
NIAOU HISSES AGAIN.
YOUNG MEDDY: Niaou!
PETER: Leave him be - perhaps the taint of the underworld is on me yet.
YOUNG MEDDY: I don't feel it.
PETER: Perhaps your beauty protects you. Perhaps ...
AND HE LEAVES HIS THOUGHT UNFINISHED, LOST IN THE SWELL OF THE SEA.
SCENE 27. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE
MEDDY: So there he was, my love returned to me as I had promised to return to him. And now there was a light and a strength about him and a fire in his gaze like the last remnants of his fever. And I felt that fire leap into and consume me as he placed a strong, warm hand upon my breast and a strong, warm arm around my back and brought his strong, warm lips to mine.
IN ANOTHER TIME AND PLACE, YOUNG MEDDY MOANS.
MEDDY: And then he said ...
SCENE 28. THE SEASHORE
PETER: Oh my love, so long and so far have I sought you. Oh my beautiful Medusa.
THE MUSIC SOUNDS A FALSE NOTE. AT THE SAME TIME, THERE IS A HISSING ... BUT WHETHER IT'S FROM A CAT OR A SNAKE ISN'T CLEAR.
SCENE 29. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE.
MEDDY: And then I knew. Meddy was Peter's name for me. Meddy was everyone's name for me – Keto my mother, the few friends I ever had, the name-calling children on the street - never Medusa. I am no queen, no wicked woman, no guardian. I am - I was - merely Meddy, a girl with long dark hair.
SCENE 30. THE SEASHORE
MEDDY: What? What trick is this? Who are you?
"PETER": I am Peter, I am your love.
MEDDY: No, not him. Let go of me.
AS HE SPEAKS, "PETER"'S VOICE CHANGES, THE VOICE OF PETER MERGING INTO THE VOICE OF SOMEONE, SOMETHING, MUCH MORE POWERFUL AND VASTLY OLDER - THE VOICE OF THE GOD.
"PETER": After my long search? Oh no, my darling, oh no.
NIAOU FLIES AT "PETER" WITH A SCREECH.
"PETER" CRIES OUT.
SCENE 31. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE.
MEDDY: They say when the gods take on mortal form they can be harmed by mortal means. Never doubt it. My brave little cat's claws sunk into the face that I had loved and found the flesh of a god. And I ran. Oh how I ran.
SCENE 32. SEA PATH
YOUNG MEDDY RUNS THROUGH THE NIGHT ALONG A ROUGH DIRT TRACK, MOVING FURTHER AWAY FROM A NOW RAGING SEA. SHE BREATHES HEAVILY, SLIPPING AND STUMBLING AS SHE RUNS.
AND NOW, AS SHE RELIVES THIS MEMORY, MEDDY'S WORDS ARE NO LONGER SEPARATED FROM THE PAST: INSTEAD SHE NARRATES THE ACTION AS IT OCCURS,
MEDDY: Oh I ran, as far and fast as I could. But where to run from a god?
RAIN BEGINS TO FALL. WIND BEGINS TO RISE.
MEDDY: Where to run from one who can whip the sea into a frenzy and set the sky to storm? To my mother? Even as I ran, even as the tears filled my eyes, some dark-humoured imp told me what she would say ...
SCENE 33. KETO'S HOUSE
KETO: A god!? You spurn a god! What are you child?! What greater honour could you have?
SCENE 34. PATH INTO TOWN
YOUNG MEDDY RUNS ON, HER FEET STRIKING HARD-PACKED EARTH AS SHE ENTERS THE TOWN. ABOUT HER THE RAIN BEATS DOWN AND THE WIND AND SEA HOWL.
MEDDY: No, there was only one place I could turn. Only one powerful enough to grant me protection against the old god's ire.
MEDDY'S HANDS STRIKE AGAINST A LARGE DOOR. SHE STRUGGLES WITH IT FOR A MOMENT AND THEN, AT LAST, IT SWINGS OPEN.
MEDDY STEPS INSIDE, PANTING.
SCENE 35. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE
MEDDY: And so I came to the temple of the goddess, the temple where I had served since I was a child.
SCENE 36. THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA.
YOUNG MEDDY SWINGS THE DOOR CLOSED, MUFFLING THE SOUNDS OF SEA AND WIND AND RAIN, LEAVING ONLY THE SOFT CRACKLING OF THE TEMPLE FIRE.
SHE COLLAPSES IN A HEAP, SNATCHING BREATH AS SHE CAN.
YOUNG MEDDY: Oh wise one, oh kindly virgin, grant me thy protection. Shelter me from the wrath of ...
SCENE 37. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE.
MEDDY: From the wrath of what?
SCENE 38. THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA
YOUNG MEDDY: From the wrath of ...
"PETER": "... thy uncle, oh Athena"?
SCENE 39. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE
MEDDY: It is a hard business, to hide from a god.
SCENE 40. THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA
"PETER": No, my sweet, there will be no hiding here and no protection. There will be only thou and I.
YOUNG MEDDY: No, I ... I will not ...
"PETER": Oh but you will.
"PETER" GRABS MEDDY.
YOUNG MEDDY: No!
"PETER” SLAPS HER, HARD. SHE YELLS AT THE PAIN OF IT.
"PETER": Now ...
A FUMBLING, A TEARING OF CLOTH. THE MOVEMENT OF BODIES - ONE STRONG, ONE WEAK. AND, THROUGH IT ALL, THE SOUND OF YOUNG MEDDY TRYING TO STIFLE HER SOBS.
SCENE 41. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE.
SPARKS FROM THE PYRE.
MEDDY: And there - my rags are all burnt away. Rags that I once wore, rags that once were a tunic, a tunic that once was ripped and torn and mauled and pawed by the hands of a god, just as the body within it. But all gone now, all gone. And soon I shall be gone with them. The sun is high, I should be moving.
MEDDY GETS UP.
MEDDY: Agh! These old bones.
MEDDY BEGINS TO WALK.
MEDDY: I shall meet my lover in the garden, among his fellows.
SHE WALKS ON.
MEDDY: The god was not with me long. He did his work and left me, a little bundle of rags and tears, shaking and whimpering in the dark like a cub abandoned by its dam. But the gods were not done with me yet.
MUSIC AND WITH IT THE SOUND OF HOOVES AND WINGS.
SCENE 42. THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA.
THE STORM HAS FADED. THERE IS ONLY THE CRACKLING OF THE FIRE AND YOUNG MEDDY'S SOBBING.
MEDDY PRESSES HERSELF UP FROM THE HARD FLOOR, SNIFFS, TRIES TO TAKE CONTROL OF HERSELF.
AND THEN ...
YOUNG MEDDY: I ... I didn't see you.
A LONG PAUSE.
YOUNG MEDDY: Who ... are you a priestess? I ... he ...
PRIESTESS: Your robe. There is blood.
THE SOUND OF THE TEMPLE FLAME BEGINS TO RISE WITH EACH NEW WORD FROM THE "PRIESTESS"
YOUNG MEDDY: I didn't ... I tried to stop ... It ... it wasn't my ...
PRIESTESS: You have brought unclean blood into the temple.
YOUNG MEDDY: I ...
AND, AS WITH "PETER" THE PRIESTESS'S VOICE BEGINS TO CHANGE, MERGING INTO, BECOMING THE VOICE OF THE GODDESS.
PRIESTESS: You have sullied that which was pure. You have pressed your flesh against the white marble.
YOUNG MEDDY: He made ...
PRIESTESS: You have robbed my house of its sanctity. You have desecrated that which my hand blessed.
YOUNG MEDDY: No. Oh goddess no!
SCENE 43. MEDDY'S ISLAND, CLIFF PATH.
MEDDY: And then, as the flame of the temple pyre rose, she looked at me and smiled and I saw her face clearly for the first time. Flawless it was: a statue's face. Even then, in all my distress, I could imagine Peter working on it, polishing and smoothing under his master's gaze. It was pure and beautiful and in every unlined inch of it there was no trace of humanity.
SCENE 44. THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA
PRIESTESS: You are the instrument of desecration. And I punish you.
MEDDY CRIES OUT.
SCENE 45. MEDDY'S ISLAND, CLIFF PATH
MEDDY: She reached out a hand, touched my brow with a single finger. It burned. Oh how it burned. And then, for the first time, I dreamed the dream of hooves and wings.
SCENE 46. MEDDY'S DREAM.
YOUNG MEDDY'S SCREAM, RISING, BECOMING LOST IN ...
... THE FLAMES, RISING UP.
ALONGSIDE THE RISING FLAMES A HEARTBEAT - RAPID AND UNCERTAIN.
AND NOW THE FLAMES BECOME A WHIRLING, RAGING WIND.
THE HEARTBEAT BECOMES HOOVES, GALLOPING ACROSS THE GROUND.
ANOTHER SCREAM FROM MEDDY - NOT OF FEAR OR PAIN THIS TIME BUT OF ECSTASY.
A FINAL BEAT OF THE HOOVES AGAINST THE EARTH AND THEN ...
STRONG WINGS BEAT DOWN.
THE WIND RUSHES ON, NO LONGER WHIRLING AND BUFFETTING BUT SOOTHING.
AT LAST, THE WINGBEATS MIX ONCE MORE WITH THE BEATING OF A HEART.
AND THEN THE HEARTBEAT TOO FADES, REPLACED BY THE HISSING OF MANY SNAKES.
END OF ACT III
SCENE 47. THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA
ONCE MORE, MEDDY'S MEMORIES ARE SO VIVID THAT SHE NARRATES WITHIN THE SCENE.
MEDDY: And then the dream was gone - my thoughts no longer galloped across the earth or flung themselves into the air. Instead ...
THE HISSING CONTINUES.
MEDDY: Never say the gods are not cruel.
YOUNG MEDDY: (STRUGGLING INTO WAKEFULNESS) Wh ... where?
MEDDY: It was still dark when the dream left me. The temple pyre had died down. I could not see my hands. But I could feel the pain within my gut and the aching of my limbs and a new, sudden weight ...
YOUNG MEDDY'S HAND SLAPS AGAINST THE FLOOR AS SHE STRUGGLES TO GET UP.
MEDDY: And I could feel the writhing, crawling creatures gathered about my head. And I could hear.
MEDDY: Never say the gods are not cruel.
YOUNG MEDDY: (HER VOICE IS HARSH, PREMATURELY AGED) No! Oh gods no!
MEDDY: I had been dark-haired Meddy, alone and hurt and beautiful. Now I was a plaything of the gods. Now I saw the world with strange eyes and twisted limbs. Now snakes twined and twirled around my head and whispered darkly in my ears. Now I was Medusa - the smooth-browed, smiling goddess's jealousy and anger made flesh.
YOUNG MEDDY: No, oh please no.
MEDDY: The gods do not relent.
YOUNG MEDDY: I beg ... forgive me.
MEDDY: The gods do not forgive.
MEDDY: How long I lay there I do not know - each moment seemed an hour, each hour seemed a moment - but at last I thrust myself up from the ground and flung myself out into the world. I ran into the darkness, seeking comfort, seeking home. And all the while, the sound of hooves and wings was in my head and in my blood.
YOUNG MEDDY RUSHES FROM THE TEMPLE.
THE MUSIC OF HOOVES AND WINGS.
SCENE 48. KETO'S HOUSE
A DOOR CREAKS OPEN
MEDDY: I slipped into the house, moving as quietly as I could on my unfamiliar feet, padding up the stairs.
YOUNG MEDDY CLIMBS THE STAIRS ... AND THEN A CREAK.
KETO: (OFF, WAKING) Meddy? Is that you?
(OFF) KETO SITS UP IN HER BED
MEDDY: I stood in the dark, saying nothing as my mother sat up in her bed, eyes still blinkered by sleep.
SNAKES HISS IN THE SILENCE.
KETO: What time? So late! What have you been doing!? Where have you been?! Is it a boy!? Another doe-eyed sculptor's boy?!
MEDDY: I had come seeking comfort and found only accusation. I slid further into the darkness, away from the fading moonlight and rising dawn.
YOUNG MEDDY: (HER VOICE QUIET BUT STILL HARSH) Nothing - walking, no more. Go back to sleep.
KETO: Wild girl, wandering the hills at night. What do you think you are?
MEDDY: What indeed, Keto, my mother, what indeed?
YOUNG MEDDY: (TO SELF) I don't know.
MEDDY: I made my way to my own room, to my little bed, to the table on which sat my combs and, beside them, Peter's mirror.
YOUNG MEDDY PICKS UP THE MIRROR.
MEDDY: I should not have picked it up. I should not have looked into its dark surface.
YOUNG MEDDY IS SO HORRIFIED HER SCREAM DIES BEFORE SHE CAN DO MORE THAN GASP. THE MIRROR FALLS TO THE FLOOR.
MEDDY: It shattered into a thousand pieces.
SCENE 49. THE COVE
MEDDY NARRATES IN-SCENE AS BEFORE.
MEDDY: How I came to the cove I do not know. Perhaps madness had found me for a while, whirling me across the hills in its capering dance, leaving me at the very spot where I had last seen Peter, at that very spot where ...
(OFF) NIAOU GIVES A PLAINTIVE MEW.
YOUNG MEDDY: (HARSH VOICED STILL) Niaou!
MEDDY: My brave little cat lay in the grass where the god had flung him, broken-backed.
YOUNG MEDDY KNEELS DOWN BESIDE NIAOU.
YOUNG MEDDY: Oh my poor thing.
MEDDY: I reached out to him, touching his flesh with an iron-nailed hand. Through my hard skin I could feel the faint beating of his heart, feel his trembling, his pain. Yet he still responded to my touch, making a last effort to purr.
NIAOU PURRS FAINTLY.
MEDDY: And then I brought my face towards him and allowed the dawn to reveal my gaze.
THE COLD, HARD SOUND OF FLESH BECOMING STONE.
MEDDY: And so I became a sculptor, capturing flesh, ensouling stone. Niaou's pain was gone.
YOUNG MEDDY PICKS UP THE STATUE OF NIAOU.
MEDDY: I picked him up and clasped him to me, this poor, broken little thing. I felt him cold and hard against me, cold like my own soul. And I felt the peace within him. And then, without thinking, without pain or regret, I flung myself from the cliff.
THE MUSIC OF HOOVES AND WINGS.
END OF ACT IV
SCENE 50. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE GARDEN
THE GARDEN IS ON A HIGH PROMONTORY, PROTECTED BY A LOW WALL OVER WHICH THE WIND IS PRONE TO GUST AND BILLOW.
MEDDY: Hooves and wings. I have heard their sound every night since that night, beating against the ground and against the air as my heart beats against my breast. All these years and I have never unwound their meaning. But now..? Now he is coming.
MEDDY'S METALLIC NAILS CARESS STONE.
MEDDY: He will meet me here, in the garden, where I have met so many lovers. So many young men - bright-helmed and smooth-muscled - so many crossing seas and oceans, just as my mother said they would, to seek me out. Each sought immortality - no man can be a hero until he has met Medusa! - and each has found it in my gaze.
AGAIN MEDDY CARESSES A STATUE.
MEDDY: Would Peter have approved my craftsmanship? Have I not caught every line and hair, every sinew? Examine my lovers more closely. See here, the scar upon this shoulder. And here, the wisp of a moustache adorning my young hero's lip. Look closer still - see how my lovers' eyes capture within them my own reflection, frozen for all eternity.
MEDDY: What sculptor could ever match my skill? And yet my hands lack the wit to craft a simple obsidian mirror.
A NOISE, FAR OFF. PERHAPS, JUST PERHAPS, IT'S THE SOUND OF A SMALL SHIP AND HER CREW BEACHING AT THE COVE FAR BELOW.
THE SNAKES HISS AGAIN AT THE SOUND.
MEDDY: What's that? Is it him? At last!
THE SOUND OF THE SEA BEGINS TO FADE UP.
MEDDY: At last! So many years since I came here ...
SCENE 51. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE (MANY YEARS AGO)
THE SEA LAPS LOUDLY AS MEDDY DRIFTS UNCONSCIOUS IN THE WATER.
MEDDY: I should have known - I had spurned the god so he, in turn, spurned me. His waters refused to accept my sacrifice. Instead, they bore my unknowing form and its small burden, my precious little Niaou, far from their own shore, washing me up at length upon unknown sands.
A WAVE WASHES UP ON THE SHORE AND THEN RETREATS.
MEDDY: I blinked into wakefulness, lifting my head from the wet sand to behold ...
(OFF, FADE UP UNDER MEDDY'S SPEECH ABOVE) A PYRE BURNS. SHARP-NAILED FEET CAPER ON SAND AND SHINGLE. TWO VOICES MIX BIRD-LIKE CRIES WITH ULULATING CHANTS. AND MIXED WITH ALL THERE IS THE HISSING AND SPITTING OF SNAKES. THE GORGONS STHENO AND EURYALE ARE ENGAGED IN A CEREMONY.
MEDDY: ... two women, two gorgons, snake-haired, harsh-faced and yet - to my new eyes - strangely beautiful. Together they danced around a mighty pyre, their movements strong, filled with an angry grace.
YOUNG MEDDY COUGHS.
THE GORGONS CEASE THEIR DANCE
MEDDY: I coughed salt water from my lungs. The women ceased their dance and hurried down the shore towards me, taking me in their strong arms and carrying me away from the waters.
MEDDY: That was strong Stheno, who raised me up with one powerful arm even as she stroked my hissing hair with another.
MEDDY: That was lithe-limbed Euryale, wrapping her tattered cloak about me.
STHENO & EURYALE: Sister!
MEDDY: That was my sisters, welcoming me as one of their own, seeing in me a reflection of themselves, just as I was reflected in each of them.
SCENE 52. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE GARDEN
(OFF) THE SOUND OF MEN UNLOADING A SMALL BOAT.
MEDDY: They are ashore and he is among them. I wonder ...
A PAUSE AS MEDDY LOOKS OUT.
MEDDY: Yes, there in the centre, surely that is him - a little taller than the others, his shield bright, his helm high-crested.
(SOFT AT FIRST BUT FADING UP SO THAT IT BEATS AWAY THROUGHOUT EACH SCENE FROM NOW ON) MEDDY'S HEARTBEAT.
MEDDY: Is it truly him? My old heart quickens at the thought. But then ... How many times have I been disappointed. How many young lovers have sought to grant me the final kiss? See, here is the last of them ...
MEDDY PATS A STATUE WITH HER CLAWLIKE IRON NAILS.
MEDDY: So young. So full of hope and fear.
(STILL A WAY OFF) SANDALED FEET STRIKE LOOSE GRAVEL FROM A PATH.
MEDDY: Ah ... my new lover and his men are upon the path.
ONCE MORE MEDDY LOOKS OUT.
MEDDY: He moves steadily, eyes flicking up to this headland and then quickly down again. The others fumble behind, feeling their way along the cliff wall, their eyes bound in ragged cloths.
MEDDY: I can taste his uncertainty upon the air, so like my other lovers. Does his throat rise and fall as theirs did? Does he swallow deep at every step, nervous as a boy bringing posies to his love?
MEDDY APPRAISES THE HERO AGAIN.
MEDDY: No, for all his fear, there is a certainty about this one I have not seen before. It is him, I am sure of it!
SCENE 53. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE CAVE
A LOW FIRE BURNS, SNAKES HISS.
EURYALE: Come, sister, sit by the fire.
STHENO: Come sister, eat of this broth.
MEDDY: They cared for me, both of them, gave me back my life, taught me a way of living ...
SCENE 54. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE COVE
ANOTHER CEREMONY, THIS TIME MEDDY'S VOICE IS JOINED WITH THE OTHERS AS THEY SING AND CALL AND DANCE.
MEDDY: I danced with them and sang with them and joined their strange rituals to the old gods ...
SCENE 55. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE HUNTING GROUND.
A GENTLE BREEZE BLOWS THROUGH LONG GRASS.
STHENO: (WHISPERING) Rabbit. See?
MEDDY: I hunted with them ...
GRASS RUSTLES AS EURYALE LEAPS, GRABS HER KICKING PREY AND, WITH A SINGLE TWIST, ENDS ITS LIFE.
SHARP TEETH BITE INTO STILL-WARM FLESH. SNAKES GIVE A SATISFIED HISS.
SCENE 56. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE CAVE.
THE HISSING BREATH OF THE SLEEPING GORGONS.
MEDDY: I lay at their side ...
STHENO CALLS OUT IN HER SLEEP, UNINTELLIGIBLY.
YOUNG MEDDY: Sleep, sister, sleep.
MEDDY: Each night I dreamed the dream of hooves and of wings.
THE GALLOPING OF HOOVES AND THE BEATING OF WINGS
SCENE 57. MEDDY'S ISLAND, THE GARDEN
MEDDY: And all the while my lovers came to visit me.
MANY FEET MARCH ACROSS THE EARTH
MALE VOICES: (A CHALLENGE) Medusa!
SWORDS ARE UNSHEATHED.
MEDDY: And stayed here in my garden, brave souls cloaked in stone.
SWORDS FALL TO THE FLOOR.
MEDDY: Their hearts were halted while mine beats on.
MEDDY LISTENS TO THE SOFT BEATING OF HER HEART.
MEDDY: But now he is almost here.
SUBTLY, SLOWLY, OVER THE COURSE OF THE SCENE THE BEATING HEART BEGINS TO ADD AND MORPH INTO THE SOUND OF GALLOPING HOOVES AND BEATING WINGS.
THE HERO: (OFF) Medusa!
MEDDY: (STILL TO HERSELF) Close! So close. Oh but he is beautiful! Blond and burnished by the sun! And on his feet, the messenger's winged shoes. And on his arm - yes! - it is her shield he carries, polished so bright that the sun itself dwells within. So the gods can know mercy after all!
THE HERO'S APPROACHING FOOTSTEPS, THE FALTERING STEPS OF HIS SAILORS.
MEDDY: (TO HERSELF) He looks into his bright shield, scanning his path, his sword held ready. My last lover will be a true warrior. Oh gentle Peter, forgive me.
THE HERO: (NEARER NOW) Medusa!
MEDDY: (TO HERSELF) Here my love, I am here! (AND NOW, HARSH-VOICED, TO THE HERO) Come!
THE HERO: Ha!
THE HERO CRIES OUT, RUNS TOWARDS MEDUSA.
A SWORD SLASHES THROUGH THE AIR AND INTO FLESH.
MEDUSA'S HEAD TUMBLES TO THE EARTH. BLOOD SPRAYS.
BUT STILL THE HEART BEATS ON, THE HOOVES BEAT EARTH, THE WINGS BEAT AIR. THE SOUND BEGINS TO MOUNT MORE SWIFTLY.
THE HERO: With a single stroke!
THE SAILORS CHEER. THEY FUMBLE WITH THEIR BLINDFOLDS.
THE HERO: Beware her eyes! Her gaze has power yet.
MEDDY: (TO SELF, TRIUMPHANT) Oh yes! I have power.
SOMETHING BUBBLES AND HISSES, AS IF LIFE WERE STRUGGLING TO BE BORN IN MEDUSA'S BLOOD.
THE NOISE OF HEART AND HOOVES AND WINGS BECOMES OVERWHELMING.
SAILOR1: The blood!
SAILOR2: Gods! What is it!
THE HERO: Stand back.
SAILOR1: Goddess protect us!
THE SAILORS SCREAM.
AND THEN, SUDDENLY, THE NOISE IS GONE. INSTEAD, A HORSE WHINNIES AND STAMPS THE EARTH, FLEXES ITS GREAT WINGS.
THE HERO: Great goddess!
MEDUSA: (TO SELF) And now, at last, I know. Now my lover's kiss has brought me freedom. Now my four hooves pound the earth and my great, white wings beat against the sky.
THE HERO: Her blood! Pegasus!
MEDDY: (TO SELF) The winged horse! And now the air and all the world below it is mine. Oh gods but I am free!
THE HERO: (OVERCOME) Oh great and mighty gods!
MEDDY/YOUNG MEDDY: I. Am. Free!
THE MUSIC OF HOOVES AND WINGS BURSTS ACROSS THE SCENE AS PEGASUS GALLOPS ACROSS THE EARTH AND INTO THE AIR. THEN THE MUSIC FADES, LEAVING ONLY THE RUSHING AIR AND BEATING WINGS BEHIND IT.