Sharp-eyed Athena passed among us in those days.Where does the redaction begin? With Athena herself, whose curse condemns Medusa to her hideous fate. Only Cadnum's Athena is no beatific imparter of knowledge. Instead, she encourages mortals in their foolishness, leaving them with widsom born of ruin, the kind that comes too late. As for Medusa, she becomes a simple peasant girl ensnared by the lust of Neptune, the sea god, and saddled with a punishment far greater than her transgression.
From shore to hilltop, little was lost on her. She was quick to spot someone attempting an unwise deed, a youth walking along the rim of a well -- showing off to a maiden -- or a young woman flirting with a grinning brigand just arrived on a wine ship from Samos.
The goddess of wisdom, Athena was the winged shadow who brushed the ankle just enough to tumble the lad into the well, where his cries echoed until cold water drowned them. She was the owl-shape keening lustful encouragements to the shepherd's daughter, leaving her, as time passed, pregnant and bitterly wise.
My hair intertwined, locks seeking each other, coursing curls thickening, writhing. I could not make a sound, stunned. Arrayed across my pillow, my hair was a crown of serpents, each reptile hungry, rooted in my skull.
In his horror, Neptune fled me, his sea-perfume fading through the dark. Athena's voice, cold as any betrayed mortal woman's, whispered, "From this night, Medusa, every man who sees you will turn to stone."
Every lover, I thought she meant, never dreaming the weight of a goddess's curse.Like the myth itself, Cadnum's story doesn't end cheerfully. Yet the poignant dénouement contains a measure of justice and peace for Medusa. Arrogance turns the wisest into fools, and everylasting pacts can be sealed even as Perseus' sharp sword falls.
You can read "Medusa" in Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction.