Thursday, 31 May 2012

Diana and Actaeon: The Hunt

The air above him shimmers with an untranslateable portent. It is midday, the sun pouring its equal light onto both halves of the land. Actaeon stands in the rapefield's chrome, and holds a feather into the air. The rocks glitter at his feet. Today he will take his chance to shine. His eyes are bright and jittery, his soul murderous. He replenishes his quiver and the dogs at his feet shake with joy. Here he is, about to visit maelstrom upon the natural world. Here he is, Actaeon, for all the world like something grand and good.

In the copse of willow, the roe deer breathes in the ephemeral light. There is a beacon burning in her heart. Her life mystically replenishes itself each day, and she scents the air with practice and grace.

It is tumult at first sight. His eye locks with hers. He draws his bow, she startles into motion, but leaps to her death in jittery arcs of pain. His feathers fill up with her blood, and catch at her breast in jagged flags and darts. Again and again Actaeon pulls the bow, feels it bright and good, celebrates his potency with a cheer, gulps in the mineral smell of blood, and something like peaches on the air.

When the sun is a copper disc he turns for home. Looking up to see the ripped and stained canopy of Heaven he licks the blood from his knife. Since his sister had been buried he had longed for blood. The consolations of its taste and texture on his tongue. Pehaps that is what was meant when the hunters called him bloodthirsty. He had killed the wrong man. Certainly. He had killed twenty wrong men.

Through the sordid forest he crashes, blood in his heart and in his mouth. So he fails to notice the dark pond with the vision of Earth's Goddess bathing until it is too late. Of course he shouldn't look. Of course he is obsessed with looking. He feels his heart's cold bird rise up singing. Gone are the shatter patterns in his heart. He leans in, breathless to see more. The pool is dark, blistered with lights. She pours the water over herself in streams of silver. Beacons of bones collapse in Actaeon's heart. It is as though his sister lives, and laughs.

But Diana turns. She sees him. Locks her eyes on his, draws the bow of her mouth into a line. He startles into motion. She flings a veil of water at him, drenches him with its shine. Three stones arrange themselves across his body in an Orion's belt of agony. His head bursts into stag. He is his true self beneath a crown of horns.

Owls mark the night landscape as Actaeon turns. He runs flashing like zinc in the moonlight. The power in his legs is profligate. Speed flushes kill-thrill though his veins. Tears roll down the face that is not his. Beyond the forest his dogs lift an innocent scent on their muzzles, translate it into  fear, a secret lake of bewilderment, the buzzing flying biting illusion of freedom. They are suddenly mad with lust. He cannot meet their flashing eyes, but as they bring down the broken line of his back, as they tear the veil of muscle from his lethal frame, pull out the skinned peach of his heart, his eyes glaze, take on the silky sheen of death, and the light in them deteriorates.

The copyright of this post belongs to Claire Steele

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