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Chapter 4 : South Korea, the Sewol Ferry Tragedy.

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The wanderer landed on the boat’s deck with a loud thud. It was already his fourth trip through time and he still didn’t get used to the transition from one historical era to another. And as the portal closed rapidly, he glanced down at his clothes; a pair of jeans and a black coat. It must be the modern world. It’s been a long time, he thought. Loud chatter filled his ears and the smell of the sea filled his lungs. In a swift movement, his hand hid his travel necklace under the thick layers of clothes. 

 

Everyone around him was speaking in a language he couldn’t understand. A quick, deep glimpse at the passengers around him was enough to conclude that he was in South Korea. And driven by curiosity, his gaze shifted to the outer surface of the ship. Slowly but surely he read the flipped letters carved there: Sewol MV.

 

This name kept ringing repeatedly inside his mind as he lifted his head up. His arms wrapped the coat tightly around him, in an attempt to fight off the cold sea breeze. There was a gentle aura of youth floating around the place, He looked over at the high schoolers chatting and smiling, having the best time of their lives. He closed his eyes and just focused on the mixture of sounds and scents in an attempt to remember the loud silence before the storm. And as the night creeped in, everything made him more alert.  Because as a time wanderer, there was always a purpose in every single trip. A static, quiet voyage was out of the equation.

 

The morning after, he woke up, put on his black coat and headed to the cafeteria. He sat alone with his food. Out of nowhere, the table was flipped upside down by an invisible force. And just like a domino effect, the passengers watched their plates and their desks fall down. And the wanderer could feel every little movement of the ship. 

 

Loud screams pierced through his ears. He ran as fast as he could towards the deck. His hand grabbed the metallic rail tightly until it turned white, and then looked around him. Some were already thrown into the deep ocean. The rest were trying to hang in to the front deck.

 

He felt his mind knot as he tried to think of something to do. Anything. Then, his eyes shot open, a surge of adrenaline rushing through his veins. The necklace. All he needed was the necklace to get out of there. His trembling hand reached his neck, only to be met with cold skin and a frantic pulse. It’s gone! He realized with absolute shock, was this the end?

 

He quickly put back his hand to where it was to keep himself steady. In a fraction of a second, a state of nothingness fell upon him. And a strange cold seeped through his bones. Soon, the hectic sound of shoes hitting against the deck turned to water splashing. It flooded the ferry, from every direction. A huge wave came crashing through and the wanderer was pushed down against the ground as the salty water burned his eyes. And then he saw it. A sparkling thing in the corner of his eyes. Before his brain could process anything, he snatched the necklace and placed it back.

 

He had three seconds left there. One. His heart was pounding hard. There was this desire in him to carve the chaos of this place in his mind and to make it disappear at the same time. Two. His gaze traveled from the drowning passengers to the ones who were being rescued. Death and a new life in one frame. It was unsettling to see it all, to feel everything and then nothing. And he understood that death is nearer than we think it is. That no one is really prepared for it. And more than anything, he wanted to save every single one there. But he knew he couldn’t change history. There was no turning back. Three. So, heart shattered to pieces, he touched the necklace. And maybe, a tear or two fell down on his cheeks as the portal appeared…

 

Written By : Imen Abidi.

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Chapter 4 : Medusa, Beyond the deadly gaze.

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I was walking in this single-file tunnel for an endless period, unsure of what had brought me here or how to escape, and seriously starting to wonder if I belonged in this drastic and terrifying place at all. The darkness grew heavier with each step, like a persistent blur of black and white, that I could not for the life of me, ignore. 

As I looked right and left, I could discern stone statues stiffened with a sordid expression. Mostly men, holding sharp weapons, so detailed and realistic that I could almost hear their frightened tones and their screams; One thing is sure, no artist could ever do this great of a job.

I couldn’t shake off this feeling of discomfort and this eerie sensation that I was not alone. Was I being followed? Or was it the statues’ heavy presence? I thought morbidly and then I heard her. Slicing through the empty silence, a feminine voice echoed from behind, making my hair stand on end. 

“Don’t you dare turn around, gentleman, or your fate will be as such.”

I stood stock-still for a moment, a million questions rushing through my mind, could it be the sculptor of all this madness? Even though I deeply wanted to see her, I tried as hard as I could to keep facing forward.

  “A rather splendid collection isn’t it ? All these men meant to hurt me in one way or another, but what I perceive as self defense, is often considered as an act of unwavering violence, and here they stand, serving as a grim reminder of my curse”, she continued. 

I felt a tone of strength in her voice, a vibrant force that seemed to resonate with confidence. Each word she spoke carried a certain conviction, imbued with an intensity that sought not just to be heard, but felt. Drawing both a captivating and fearsome image of herself, making me more curious about her tale.

“I’m Medusa , one of the three gorgon sisters, the only mortal one in fact, born to Phorkys and Keto, the so-called primordial sea gods. Initially, I served  as a priestess to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and battle. I was not born a monster but was made one, doomed to live away from the world’s gaze.  

Although,  In this twisted form, I found an unexpected freedom, an autonomy outside the reach of gods and men alike. In seeking to punish me, they granted me a form of immortality, a legacy that will outlast those of my accusers. 

Speaking of my accusers, I am to go to trial, we can’t keep  Zeus, Poseidon and Athena waiting, they already don’t like the thought of my mere existence.” 

Walking forward, I kept wondering what possible crime could one commit to be forever punished? Although Medusa did sound like pure evil to me, I somehow felt like a part of the puzzle was missing, one I could only figure out in this enormous place we landed in.

Three towering high chairs stood ominously at the front, where the judges would preside over the trials. Each chair seemed to loom over the proceedings, their tall backs resembling twisted, skeletal figures reaching out from the darkness. The light spreading asymmetrically, made the judges’ faces obscure and unclear. As I stood before these imposing thrones, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated.

“We are gathered here today to preside over the case of Medusa, This trial will determine the fate of one accused of violating the sacred temple of Athena and defying the sacred oath of virginity sworn to the goddess, our purpose being to ensure justice prevails”,  Announced one of them solemnly.

“I was raped !”, Echoed the voice of Medusa.

“Raped, you say? I know exactly what I saw that day on the stairs of my temple, and it didn’t look much like it, you asked for it, it is quite glaringly obvious”, said Athena. 

“The irony is indeed bitter, one might expect that a goddess of your stature would embody fairness and protection, especially towards her devoted followers, but instead you chose to turn me into a monster with snakes instead of hair, not even through my own actions, but because i was non-consensually abused by Poseidon! sitting next to you, and having a say on my fate as well.” Answered Medusa, making the judges talk over each other due to confusion. I could barely distinguish the voices, but their words were more than clear. 

“What is it that you were wearing that day?”

“If what you are saying is in fact true, why didn’t you fight back?” 

“Gods will be gods, it’s only normal!”

“Gods will be gods indeed” retorted Medusa, “Heartless and intrepid. Their power will never justify cruelty towards mortals, and I refuse to accept eternal punishment for the deeds of those who let their desires win over their sanity.” 

As black and white mix together to give a gray nuanced tone, I finally understood that the monstrous image that Medusa holds only exists because it has been directly determined by the gaze of those who saw her as an offender rather than a victim of Poseidon’s lust and Athena’s wrath.

Gods do not have power to repress mortals. Instead, it is mortals who empower gods by believing their repressive attempts. So without fear or regret, I could look at the Medusa straight on. She is not deadly, she’s beautiful and she’s laughing. 

 

Written by : Sarra Lasram.

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