Echidna: Mother of Monsters
A mother to monsters.
A plethora of them.
All were, and continue, to spawn from my pulsating womb. The womb of a half-woman and half-viper. No doubt: the fate of my offspring has, and continues to be, always darkly prescribed; my kin are inked prominently with a devilish, scarlet stamp. A scorched charcoal ribbon weaves, coursing fiercely through their bloodline, coiling, readying to create monsters of their own. A new generation. Generation after generation awaits in the macabre theatre wings that I unfold beneath my hooded cloak. Alas, the lifeline lies in me: it is me. I am its anchor; its pivotal tipping point.
I unfurl monstrous potential like the unravelling of paper bunting hung to celebrate All Hallows Eve. Beetle-black and orangey marmalade, celebratory colours, bedeck family homes and supermarkets, yet all are completely oblivious of the real power behind such nocturnal creatures. The creatures that inspire the macabre yet synthetic costumes that duped humans peruse from supermarket hangers, are of my making – my DNA courses through the weave of the cheap fabric. I am the muse.
The commercialisation of my power is nauseating. It nauseates as chronic morning sickness, where mouth agape I gag on hypocrisy instead of high levels of hormones, sickened by the exploitations that haunts my scaly skin.
Pregnancy has taunted me for far too long, more so, and infinitely, as I am not a mortal being. I am Echidna: perpetual Echidna, undying, persisting, timeless as the tattered Bible in the hands of a perplexed believer.
My so-called lover, Typhon, plagues me for sexual gratification, and has done for countless, dusty centuries spanning back to the beginning of time, when I was sprite-like, existing only in sheer ether. Elusively, I’d entice his intrigue, wetting his sexual appetite, before flitting invisibly, merging with the air; soaring amidst tendrils of wispy clouds. Unstoppable. Feminine. Fiercely free. Ethereal wings kept me suspended, aloft of mortal cares and daily drudgery – out of the reach of duty, expectation and modern-day schedules. Life was freeing then – I mourn for its loss as I equally grieve for my spent virginity. If only I could return to those Elysian days, days where men could not touch me.
Notoriously persistent, Typhon, a fellow immortal, found a way to trap me. Chaining me to his domineering will, he wilfully allowed his phallic prowess to subdue me, tethering on near oblivion when I struggled to know my own name; to appreciate my svelte, curving tail of legend. My everlasting bond with mythology muddied, greying with forgetfulness: I no longer held the role of a key fabric square in its twisted tapestry. Without me, however, there exists no symmetry in its integral dimensions – no offspring, no new pitter-patters of life: those belonging to monstrous feet, can endure if my lifeline is quelled, drowned to dissolving particles in a tempestuously cleansing sea.
Late one night I slept within the shelter of a quiet cove, huddling for warmth within a lightless cave. He tracked me here, and awoke me in the midst of the night by tying my hands to his, vining his legs around my serpentine tail. He fulfilled his aim, satisfying his blood lust. I was no longer sprightly, flying high, curtailing the heavens with the tips of silken wings, but burdened heavily with child.
My first monster.
Pregnancy amongst immortals is more toiling, troublesome, than for human women. Can you imagine a fully-fledged monster growing to its full fruition within the swells of your womanly womb? Scales, spikes, talons, fangs and fins pierced the cushiony fabric of me – sent me to painful limits, beyond even immortal endurance, and yet, I survived.
Birthing monster after monster.
Typhon never tired of me, even when I grew reclusive, almost swamp-like, in my ageless years, when my ripened fertility refused to bend or falter even though I prayed to a godless sky for it to fold as toppled playing cards once proudly pyramidical.
Before knowing it, I had given life to four monsters. Orthros, Cerberus, Lernaean Hydra and Chimera: all poured from my pomegranate core. Orthos, the liar; Cerberus, a guardian of mortality; Lernaean Hydra, a blazing symbol of desire; and Chimera, the illusion. All monsters. Unconquerable ones.
Like their father, their evil doing is the route of all human sin. They are the tempters, surpassing all of the hellish intention of Eve’s visit from the Devil, in the hue of a snake within the idealistic folds of The Garden of Eden. The devil himself is my distant relative. He is the root cause of my viper identity. He is the true creator of evil.
I shudder at his power, hiding from his blue-stone chill and burning, judgemental eyes. As long as I continue to produce Typhon’s monstrous offspring, he leaves me alone, rotting in a cave, enclosed as a mollusc within an opaque shell with no view of the horizon, or sunlit skies. He cares nothing for my happiness or welfare, neither does Typhon. Both play their own games and I am merely a pawn: tossed and turned within their patriarchal worlds where I can find no feminine door to escape through, not even the chimera or thankful mirage of a golden handle on which to rest my repressed, duty-bound hand.
Centuries have tumbled before me, but my beauty remains static, even though I care little for it anymore. It is the reason for my undoing. Sometimes I smear my face with muddy sludge, the dregs of the turning sea, but Typhon bothers not. He has his way. Leaves. His visits are the turning of the moon and the constancy of the orbital sun – never-ending. His lust is untapped, unstoppable; it filters through his perverted veins as honey water on the lapping tongue of a dehydrated bee. Relentless is his thirst.
More births. Countless. Eons of elastic time evolves, but I am static as a marred statue, unable to flee or hide. My wings are scorched: Typhon made sure to damage their escapist potential beyond repair. I must remain his play thing; a limp toy. I am nothing but a docile puppet in the clutches of a malevolent puppeteer.
All Hallows’ Eve, the night where my bestial strength courses at its fullest capacity, causing ribbons of crimson frustration to course up my throat, painting my face with splatters of discontentment and rage. I hear trick or treaters in the cove above my ancient dwelling place. Their laughs and sugar rush highs awaken my scaly skin – a life force trills its way along my tail as free-flowing electricity through wires, and it thrashes back and forth with a mind of its own – out of my control.
I creep to the edge of my cave; a place I have dared not venture to for decades, fearful of punishment from the omniscient Typhon. The silvery threads of the full moon lace around my upheld wrists as nocturnal bracelets, awakening a dormant hedonism that once existed within me. I have not experience its joyous uplift since I frolicked amidst the libertine clouds during a sunlit day, now countless days in my foggy past. The self-same escapism locks my spirit, tonight, binding it tight as the vines of a three-hundred-year-old oak tree: secure, anchored-tight.
My nervous eyes blinker in the muted light of the moon; it has been too long since beads of pearlescent hope have tinkered there. Unconsciously, my eyes dilate, drinking in the metallic mead of the moonlit streams; like osmosis, I inhale their supernatural strength.
Without, for once, a kicking monster within the swelling cave of my womb, I slink into the bottomless sea; my scales glisten in union with the moon, reflecting back iridescent sheen as its velveteen face of moondust. A kindred partnership is formed between us. Inconceivably, I am freed. No barriers hold me back. I sense no watchful, male eyes, as I slither gleefully into the onyx ink of the invigorating waters: alive, feminine, fiercely freed.
Emma Wells is a mother and English teacher. She has poetry published with various literary journals and magazines. She enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories also. Her debut novel, Shelley’s Sisterhood, is due to be published in 2022.
Delta N.A. (@delta_na) are a couple in life and art, working together by painting in unison. They learn from each other and share a creative flow poured into their artworks, a common language that makes each artwork realized by two pairs of hands look like a single artist’s creation. In love and collaboration they find the key to face and accept differences, crumbling the boundaries separating human nature from freedom. The artworks signed by the duo are present in numerous public and private collections and have been exhibited in solo and group shows across Europe, U.S.A., and Asia.