Once she clothed herself in feathers, shimmering sapphire with bronze and emerald eyespots. When she unfurled her wings, even the sun stopped in its path to watch. She soared through the forest, hunting with her brothers at her side, reveling in the feel of the wind in her hair. But then came suitors, scores of them, a navy of men to fight for a hand that was never extended.
Her beauty plagued her.
She cut off her hair after her abduction by Theseus, sliced the strands with a kitchen knife. When she woke the next day, locks licked unheeded at her shoulders. Five and forty suitors arrived, and she carved five and forty slashes into her skin. As each suitor kissed her hand, her flesh knit together until it was virgin, untouched. She walked into the flames as Troy burned, penance for a thousand ships launched and a hundred thousand soldiers dead, and came out unscathed.
Men built shrines that bore her countenance, gave gifts of gold and adamantine. She threw scores of roses out with the bathwater. She once tried to walk into the ocean, pockets burdened by a wish for solitude.
Immortality was a gift she never asked for.
Now, she walks veiled through the streets, blocking out sun and sight with dark cloth, wings blacked with charcoal. She taps a long, white cane as she walks. She wishes she were blind, that the whole world were blind. That her scars would remain and she would never be perfect again.
Pollux was born in the caul; Castor came out afterwards with a piece of eggshell stuck to his head. Thanatos crouched near Castor's cradle, whispering the word "mortal" into his ear. Pollux was gifted with divinity. They were twins in everything but this.
The boys did as boys will. They climbed trees and ran after hearts in the forest, taking flight in a flash of gold wings to overtake the swift creatures with their bows and arrows. They chased their sisters, pulling hair and playing dolls with just a hint of a grudge. They flew so high that they gasped for breath and tucked their wings to their sides to dive back to earth. They landed too hard, skinning elbows and breaking legs. Pollux's bones knit together in moments; he carried Castor, screeching with pain, home on a litter.
They stole. They stole biscuits from the kitchen, leaving only crumbs in their wake. Blue and brown feathers plucked from their sisters' wings when they weren't looking. Gold coins pilfered from their mother's purse and spent on cake at the market. They stole time and grew older. Pollux looked to the heavens and dreamed of stealing Zeus's throne.
They stole their brides away from their own cousins, to whom the girls were already betrothed. They ran across fields with girls slung across their backs like bales of hay, laughter echoing back to cousins who watched with furrowed brows and hate-filled eyes. The cousins would have their revenge by stealing the twins' cattle.
They plotted, exacting plans to take back their herd and traveling to Arcadia under the guise of darkness. Castor kept watch as Pollux opened the gates and waited for the stampede. But best-laid plans go awry, and mortal eyes cannot see in the dark. A spear felled Castor where he crouched in the branches of a tree.
Castor lay on the ground, wings pinned by his cousin's spear. A slash across his neck, and childhood dreams of eternal life fled from his lungs, exhaled in a spray of red. Frenzied feathers—gold, his brother's—flew before his eyes. A sigh of relief. Finally, in death, they would be equals, twins once more.
A final vision: lightning burst from the clouds, striking down the cousin who clung to Pollux's back, holding a knife to his throat. Deus ex machina.
She left, dragging suitcases filled with the past, not looking back as they caught on a stone and burst open, spilling out a breadcrumb trail of memory.
A bronze bath stop clattered on the ground, scarlet-streaked: the memory of a her husband Agamemmnon's life swirling down the drain. The feeling of watching life slip from his eyes. She thought it would be hard, she thought she would grieve for the man who forced her hand in marriage. But the knife went through his flesh like lightning through a tree, white-hot, with a core of burning red. The cries of Mycenaeans followed her out of the city where she had been Queen. Murderess. Mariticide. Black Widow.
She left the bath stop behind. Her load lightened.
Next, a jar, which cracked open as it hit hard earth. She trapped inside the wind that bore the backs of the Achaean fleet. A daughter's soul turned to air. Then, she had mourned. Some tales would say that Iphigenia gave herself willingly for the cause, others that Agamemmnon forced her under his blade. Her daughter's sacrifice, blood spilled so that soldiers could turn the Trojan grass wounded red. Now, Iphigenia gusted with the wind, wet with her mother's tears.
Breeze brushed her face, and she felt a pricking at her back. The growth of bones long thought dead.
Her suitcases gave up a rattle, once clutched in a baby's hand. Her son's before he was slain along with his father. Sculptors and painters made tribute to her mother Leda's rape by Zeus, but there were no works of art to preserve the sounds frozen behind Clytemnestra's eyes—the shriek of the blade, a child's cry, muted to awful silence. Agamemmnon's laugh echoing off the walls of the house that could no longer be her home. Nothing but the shake of a rattle as it rolled down the road.
The bones stretched from her back, outwards and upwards, skeletal hands reaching only forwards.
Her feathers, stuffed into a pillow. Once they had been soft and brown. How she would fly, how they all would fly, dipping down to the water to shear the tips of waves with their fingers. But that was long ago, before husbands and daughters and wars. She and Helen preened each other's wings, picking out nits and burrs that caught when they flew too close to the bramble. They were as close as twins, hatchlings from the same egg. She stuffed those memories into a pillow years ago, and now she did not look back as the fabric tore and feathers were set to the wind.
Finally, her name, too burdensome, too unwieldy, slithered from the suitcase, crawling away, unwanted.
Her hands loosed their grip on the suitcase's leash.
Her bones called out, and the feathers flew to her, dancing in Iphigenia's air, gluing onto her bones with Agamemnon's blood. She shook her wings out behind her and began first to run, then to fly.
is a MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Rosemont College. A former editor at Marvel Comics, she currently teaches high school, acts, and directs plays outside of Philadelphia. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Silver Blade, Gingerbread House, Rose Red Review, Scapegoat Review
and scissors & spackle