I sighed loudly, falling to my knees in the middle of the clearing, feet from the entrance of the chapel. It was a few miles outside of town, part of some horse farm or something. There was never anyone out there, human or animal, and it was the best place in the world to think. The chapel was made out of the most beautiful white stone that glowed. It had been destroyed, the statues toppled over and the roof busted in, and stood in ruins. The only real distinguishing features left were the columns at the entrance, and the center alter which had a statue of a woman in flowing robes and a crescent moon above her head. She was pretty, even if half of her face was busted out.
But I stayed in the moonlight, outside and on the ground. Today had been too much. This past month had been too much. First Christopher, him leading me one way and then the other, getting me wickedly addicted to him just to cut the cord and make me quit cold turkey. He left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, one aching for a sweet honey on my lips.
I wasn’t to receive anything better when I ran into Ryan. Ryan, the father of my son. Ryan, who left me four months pregnant to find a new home on my best friend’s couch. Ryan, who used to beat me. Ryan, who cheated on me every time I went to work to pay for his drug habit. Ryan, the smoothest talker I’d ever met.
The next day, my phone buzzes with messages from his newest baby mamma, telling me how much better Ryan is to her than he was to me. I know it’s a lie. I know he treats her the same way he treated me, but this time is different for one reason. She isn’t sending him to the curb the way I did. She is still delusional enough to want to keep him around, to think he can be saved. I tried to explain to her that he would have to have a soul to be savable, but she fought for him until I finally called a truce, saying I would stay away from her family if she stayed away from mine. As if I had a family for her to stay away from.
My son, my precious baby boy, isn’t with me anymore. I was too young, to naïve, and my son went with someone who could actually take care of him. It was the only thing I could do for him, and this way I could save him from the poison that was his father. He’s almost three years old, and I haven’t seen him since he was born.
I felt like I had nothing left, like my heart had been ripped from my chest. I couldn’t understand why I had to suffer so much. Who cursed me, damned me in all matters of the heart? And what was it that made me the chosen one.
“I’m sorry.” The voice seemed to come from nowhere. I lifted my head, looking around for whomever it was that followed me. The moon seemed to be growing brighter, turning the world into silver wonderland. But there was no one there, and I hung my head again. I was now imagining things to make me feel better.
“I’m sorry.” It was louder this time, and located behind me, in the chapel. Wiping away the tears the flowed freely I stood up sluggishly. I was drawn to the voice. I knew I had never heard it before, I would have remembered hearing a voice that sounded so beautiful before, but it was also very familiar.
She stood in the middle, bathed in a beam of moonlight that seemed to be bending impossibly to coat her pale skin. She had long brown hair that hung in rippling waves past her waist. Her eyes seemed to be made of liquid sliver. I’d only seen eyes like that once before, reflected in my own face. She wore a simple white dress with a silver cord around her waist. She couldn’t have been much older than seventeen or eighteen, years younger than I was. And yet she had the air of the ages around her.
“My sweet child. I am so sorry.” Her voice was like bells in the wind. She seemed to glow with an inner light. If I hadn’t known better I would have said she wasn’t human. She seemed so much more than that. She took a step closer to me, and I realized I too had been walking towards her.
“Who are you?” My voice seemed callous, rough compared to hers. I felt ashamed to talk; she shouldn’t be tainted by me. And yet I didn’t know where this reverence was coming from. The girl fixed that in short order, though.
“I am Artemis, goddess of the moon and all that is wild.” She said, regality and power echoed in ever syllable she spoke. And then she seemed to deflate, a smile crossing onto her face. “But more importantly, I am your mother.”
It’s not every day you run into a Greek goddess. It’s even less often they tell you they are your missing parentage. After all, don’t all children raised in foster homes desire to find that family of their own one day? Thankfully, she excused me for my disbelief.
“I thought Artemis was a maiden goddess,” I retorted. For some reason I didn’t like this girl trying to play tricks on me. “If you were Artemis you wouldn’t be my mother as well.” It was hard to ignore our similar features; our pale skin sliver eyes and auburn hair were identical. But I knew the truth of Artemis, even if she didn’t. Or so I thought.
“I did not lay with a man and then give birth to you, my child. This is true. But I am a supreme being, and I can do as I please. I created you from moonbeams; I weaved you from the stars. With my powers I breathed life into you. I made you, Jocasta, because I desired you.” I was taken aback by this statement. No one knew my real name. Everyone called me Cassi, because Jocasta isn’t exactly a common name.
“Other maiden goddess can have children if they desire. My sister Athena can create a child from a thought, Hestia from ash and flame. We are not bound by mortal limitations, child.” The goddess had taken a hard tone to her voice, and I could feel power coming from her. “I never desired one before. But as the goddess of childbirth and innocence I felt the need to experience it. So I sent you to a woman’s womb and cared for you both. When Zeus found out he sent you away, condemning you the way all children of the gods are.”
I shook my head then. I had gotten caught up in the story this child was weaving for me. Of course she seemed to have sound logic, but there was nothing logical about this. The gods were not real, and they didn’t have children. That was a silly book, about Poseidon’s child. It was not real. But Artemis smiled, as if she knew what I was thinking. Gently she reached forward and took my hand. Her skin was hard and cool, and when I touched her the first time I felt a shock. She led me outside where she pulled a shinning bow from her back. I hadn’t even seen it, or the quiver filled with silver arrows, before. But there it was and she handed it to me.
“Try. If I’m wrong you shouldn’t be able to shoot. You’ve never picked up a bow before, have you?” I shook my head, never. She smiled then. “Hit the rabbit.” She pointed at a small bunny more than fifty yards away. And yet somehow I saw it clearly. I took an arrow, notched it, and fired. The blow was instant, painless death for the small creature. I looked to the goddess in amazement.
“Cassi, you have suffered pains I wish I could have saved you from. My darling daughter, I am so sorry for what you have had to go through. But I am here to take it all away.” The goddess waved her hand; the moonlight grew increasingly bright and seemed to gain substance. It pressed in around me and seeped into my pours. In my cocoon of light I could hear Artemis speaking to me. “No matter how I love you, I cannot take you as you are. Your body is impure, your mind clouded by the influence of men. I have to strip you of all of that. I can take your past away; scour your heart clean and pure.” It was almost as if I was dead, and had gone to heaven. The light was burring away the pain, a warm pleasant burn that cradled me and held me safe.
“I can make you whole again, my beautiful one. But you must swear yourself to me. Pledge your fealty to me and condemn the rest. You know you belong to me. Your life you have sought my company. Even tonight you came to my temple for your peace and absolution. I shall grant it all in spades, but you must sacrifice yourself to me.” There was power vibrating along my skin, begging to clean me and lift me. Words burned themselves into my brain, telling me what to say.
“I give my life to my Lady and mother, the Goddess Artemis. I pledge my past and future to her servitude. I forsake the company of men for a life of chastity and ever lasting bliss. I place my eternal soul in the hands of the Great Huntress, joining her hunt until battle takes me or the Goddess releases me.”
Suddenly I felt myself become one with the power and light, it ricochets around in every cell and I felt my body shift, change. When I emerged I held my head high. It didn’t hurt anymore, nothing did. I looked to Artemis, and she seemed taller. With a wave of her hand the large oak to her right became reflective. I was myself, my silver eyes pale skin toned body and auburn hair, but it was different. I was younger, a teenager closer to about fifteen instead of the twenty two year old woman I was.
“I accept your vow, Jocasta my daughter. And know I will hold you to it. Now come home, my child.”