TITLE: Wife of Heracles
GENRE: YA Fantasy
The gleam in his eyes was unnatural, I knew. We’d had fights before, but this was different.
He approached us with his right hand clenched tight around his raised club. He was breathing heavily, his mouth twisted in an ugly scowl. It did not look like he was coming home to kiss his sons good night. He looked plenty mad, and I knew better than to provoke him. Although, it didn’t appear as though he needed any provocation to beat us to a pulp.
I knew Heracles. I was married to him since I was thirteen years old. I’d lived with him for seven whole years, given him three beautiful boys. Through that time, I’d seen his temper before. Heracles was a man easily roused to anger, passionate, but quickly moved to remorse. It was probably bad that he had married me, someone who had similar personality traits, but without the enormous strength. Bad for me, not necessarily for him.
Sometimes, when we argued, I got mad to the point of pushing him, knowing it wouldn’t do any good, but he would then push me back unthinkingly. Once, it sent me flying into the wall. That left a bruise. He was stricken afterwards, walked with his shoulders hunched over and apologized for days. That was my Heracles. That’s just what I got when I married the son of Zeus.
Luckily for me, our boys were feisty, but not freakishly strong to where I wouldn’t be able to force them to bed at nights.
He kept coming forward at us. I picked up Creontiades nervously. He was the youngest, only two years old, but still heavy. He whimpered a little bit and buried his curly golden head into my shoulder. I told the other two to get behind me, not knowing exactly what the threat was or what I could do against a man like Heracles, but sensing that my husband did not exude good will at the moment. I scanned my mind furiously for any past disagreements we’d had recently and came up empty. At any rate, marital problems generally never amounted to him attacking me with a boar-killing club.
“Heracles?” I said tentatively. “What are you doing?”
Instead of responding, he growled. Like a wild animal. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. I looked deep into his crazed eyes and saw that bizarrely, he did not recognize us at all. “It’s me! It’s Megara, your wife! Stop it. Wake up!” I said desperately, hoping to rouse him from his unexplained trance.
The fear in my gut bubbled up, traveling up my insides to my throat, almost choking me. I wanted to scream for help, but my voice caught. He was only a few feet away.
Scanning the room, I saw a butcher’s knife on the cutting board and thanked the gods I hadn’t washed the dishes and put away the knife before Heracles stormed in. I didn’t have time to contemplate an alternative. I tried not to look in that direction and tip him off, but it looked like he wouldn’t have processed it anyway. He was far beyond his senses. My free hand shot out and grabbed the handle of the knife.
“Don’t make me use this,” I warned. He made no sign that he heard what I said, but his ears got redder.
“Mommy, what are you doing? What’s wrong with Daddy?” said Therimachus, the eldest, his voice muffled behind my dress. My heart ached. This was not right. My three sons, just five, three, and two were watching their parents have a showdown with a club and a cleaver. And it terrified me that if I didn’t win, Daddy might. But how could I win against a man who was half-god?
“Everything is fine. Just close your eyes and be very quiet, okay?” I said softly, afraid of making loud noises and sudden movements. Even now, I hoped Heracles might awaken from his madness and save us.
I backed into a wall. I thought to myself, “This is the end. He is going to kill us all in cold blood. Why is this happening?” I sent a prayer up to Hera to protect our short marriage and Artemis to protect my sons. Surely, I hadn’t done anything to offend the gods. Surely, they couldn’t want us to die like this. The gods were merciful.
There weren’t many options. I decided I was going to fight. I was going to hurt Heracles to get him distracted long enough that we could get past him and run for help. I didn’t know if I could injure anybody, much less the father of my children, but there was no other choice. I couldn’t let him kill my babies. He was almost close enough for me to reach if I stuck my arms out.
It would have been more logical if I let go of Creontiades, but I couldn’t bear to set him down. He trembled, and I could feel the shoulder of my chiton soak with silent warm tears. I wouldn’t let him go for anything.
My heart shuddered and stopped when Heracles let out a maddened shriek and lifted his club to strike us.
“Now!” I screamed in my head, and I darted forward and brought the cleaver down as hard as I could on his thigh. I felt it cut through flesh and hit bone, and bright red blood bloomed from the wound and traveled in rivulets down his leg. I thought I was going to be sick.
His club still met its mark and hit me in the small of my back. I fell to the ground on my chin, but managed to keep Creontiades from coming down with me. I heard the other two cry out. My chin felt dysfunctional. I tasted salty, metallic blood. Unfortunately, there was no time for me to lie there and get my bearings. I scrambled up, dizzy.