Dr. Keith Raymond
A song came from the moonlit sea. Bravina turned her ear towards it, but like something catching her attention at the corner of her eye, once she paid attention to it, it was gone. A breeze from the Aegean cooled her skin, still warm from the day’s heat. Bioluminescent waves reflected in her gaze.
Behind her, her children were settling in their beds for the night. Daphne and Kallie were exhausted from their long romp on the beach. They had not asked for their nightly story (usually about mermaids and sirens) that once swam these Greek Isles.
Bravina had taken her kids and left Lesbos and her husband behind. He promised to fish, but more often cast his nets in the local taverns. His reason was always ecological. Save the fish so that they will be bigger tomorrow. Throwing him back and seeking more fertile fishermen was a decision she made with lingering trepidation.
She had always lived on islands. Whether it was Manhattan, Tasmania, or here with her kids. Being cradled by the sea, Bravina missed the swells, even during the short time she traveled inland. A glance refreshed, a day on the water revived. Most people lasted two years on an island never to return. She could last two lifetimes and not have enough.
She lit a candle and shut off the generator, then retired to her hammock in the living room of the house. Bravina would watch over her kids even in her sleep. In the distance, there were men singing and playing music. Maybe that’s what she heard beyond the sea.
The sailboat was rocking furiously in the gale. Bravina hung on in the bunk below, hoping to ride it out. The storm grew worse, far worse. Tentacles of fear rose up from the deep and grappled with her. Then the wind howled, ‘Mommy!’
“Mommy, Mommy, wake up!” it was the girls. Their fingernails digging into her butt through the hammock net.
Daphne poked her, “Get up, they found something. C’mon hurry!”
Kallie looked at her eagerly, as Bravina stretched. Her beautiful eyes sparkling.
Daphne poked her again.
“Alright, I’m up. Give me a second.”
The eight and ten year old girls grabbed her by each arm, after she threw on a long incense-reeking dress. They pulled her into the sun and up the hill toward the archaeological dig.
The Frenchman and his students had been working the pit for a while now. Finding nothing until this morning. There were maybe ten undergraduates, each swiping brushes at half buried figures. Jean Paul was crouched next to a brunette in tan shorts pointing out details on the statue she was uncovering.
“Eureka!” Bravina yelled down, Daphne and Kallie by her side.
Jean Paul jumped, then looked up with a palm over his brow. “Yes, finally, a day to celebrate. Will you join us for dinner, Bravina?”
“Wouldn’t miss it. What have you found?”
“Can we come down?” yelled Daphne.
The professor shook his head as Bravina restrained both kids from surging forward.
“Looks to be Grecian gods, a temple ruin, sometime between 500 and 300 B.C. I’m sending shards to Paris for carbon dating.”
“Congratulations on your find. We’ll leave you to it, c’mon girls.”
“But Mommy, we want to stay,” whined Kallie.
“If the Professor says it’s okay, you can watch from up here.”
“No problem,” said Jean Paul, “but you can’t come down girls.”
“We promise!” Daphne and Kallie said at the same time.
They watched for about ten minutes after Bravina left, but then ran to the beach to play with shells and hermit crabs.
Bravina peered at the white caps offshore, an angry sunset cooking nimbus clouds red. The fishing boats were rushing to port as the storm gathered, coming at the island. The kids were eating spaghetti angrily, told that they couldn’t attend the celebration. Nina, the babysitter, knocked at the front door, drawing Bravina away from the view.
“Mommy, you look pretty,” Kallie said.
“Are you sure we can’t come?” Daphne asked.
“Adults only, girls. You’d be bored anyway. Mind Nina. I’ll be back by midnight,” Bravina said to all.
“Have fun,” Nina said, closing the door, as the girls started squealing behind it.
A peal of thunder and a flash of lightning helped her up the hill toward the tent enclave. A large tent was brightly lit and silhouettes were dancing to French hip-hop.
As Bravina approached, Jean Paul shouldered the tent flap open, holding two tall glasses.
“Champagne?” he asked her with a smile.
“But of course, kind Sir,” Bravina answered, taking the glass and a sip.
“Follow me to the dig. I want to show you our progress. Besides, the crowd in there is a little too young for my taste.”
As they walked in silence thunder rolled over them, drinking occasionally. The first fat raindrops fell. At the cliff edge overlooking the pit, they surveyed the exposed marble. Torsos really, of male and female gods, some disarticulated parts nearby. It looked more like a marble killing field trench than a temple of worship.
Jean Paul took a drink, lifting his eyes toward the horizon. There was a break in the clouds near the shoreline. A discontinuity, probably the eye of the storm. Out to sea, he could see the ionosphere above the storm sparkle. Spotting a blue jet shoot from the storm into the upper atmosphere he gasped, then he saw several more.
“You’re in for a treat, Bravina. I give you a sky show.”
She looked over at his profile and saw a reflected arc of lightning in his eye. She turned just in time to see a red sprite, like a curtain of sparks, appear briefly, falling down from above the storm. Then a few more blue jets, followed by a red sprite. Bravina thought she was seeing an afterimage as a green halo radiated outward from where a red sprite had just formed.
“That’s a green elf,” Jean Paul gushed. “I’ve only read about this phenomena. Amazing!”
“And the others?”
“Red sprites and blue jets. There are even trolls.”
Bravina looked at her champagne, then at him. Anticipating her question, he said, “No, no. No one spiked the champagne.”
His voice was drowned out by the sudden downpour as the rain fell in earnest. “Maybe we should go back!” he yelled.
The rain was warm, soaking them in seconds.
“Let’s enjoy it,” she yelled back.
They looked once more into the pit as rain diluted their wine. They were actually inside a cloud. Thunder reverberated around them.
“Woah, look!” Jean Paul yelled, pointing.
Lightning was playing over the torsos, leaping and jumping fairies of electricity. It wasn’t momentary. In fact it was increasing by the second. The air reeked of ozone. Their hair rose to the dance of power.
A concussive blast of thunder shot through them. Bravina and Jean Paul jumped into each other’s arms. The torsos in the pit leaped to attention, their mud togas dripping. She screamed and he shook, squeezing harder. Their hearts pounded, chest to chest, as rain poured down from the heavens.
The pit acted like a dish focusing the energy around them. Blue and orange light rippled along the periphery. Below, ball lightning was dancing from neck to neck as the torsos shuddered with current.
The couple’s brains sizzled with the amperage, consciousness fuzzy, time stopped. It was an open air amphitheater of horror. A symphonic Tesla nightmare that held them suspended between life and death.
Interminable, until it stopped. Even the rain paused. The wind froze. An unnatural calm. Bravina and Jean Paul stepped back from their vice-like embrace, static charges playing over their clothes and skin.
They inhaled at the same time, not realizing they had stopped breathing. A gentle rain began. Speechless, they walked back to the party. A shared glance swore them to an oath of silence. They hardly believed it themselves.
Daphne and Kallie awoke as the door closed behind Bravina. They heard their mother talk to Nina, settling up, dismissing her, following her to the front door, closing it. The silence spooked them.
“Mommy?” Kallie probed, in the semi-darkness.
Footsteps on the wood floor, the door creaking open, a shadow shaped like their mother. “What are you doing up?”
Kallie looked at the apparition. The eyes began to glow with rolling silver sparks.
“Mommy? MOMMY!” she screamed, waking her sister.
Daphne opened her eyes looking over at her sister. Kallie raised her arm and pointed with a crooked finger toward the silhouette in the doorway. By now, electric bolts were shooting over the woman’s arms, making her hair rise, and her dress billow. Eyes glowed eerily.
Daphne jumped out of bed, balling her fists, ready to defend her sister, “Who are you? Where’s my Mommy?!” she insisted.
“We switched bodies. Bravina is in marble, and I am in flesh!” the charged woman declared.
Daphne staggered back. Pale, shocked by the revelation.
“I am Theia, I will watch over you now. I may look like your mother, but under my roof, the rules will change. You will learn to see the future, to control gold, to speak prophecy.”
Kallie said, “I want my Mommy back!”
“Only a fountain from Zeus can return her to you. I have waited a long time to be here. Longer than you can imagine. It is not in my power to return your mother, but I can serve as your mother, if you will accept me.”
The strange words had the girls’ heads swimming. They saw their mother, but she did not smell nor sound like her. Daphne felt trapped within her skin as much as her mother must have felt trapped in marble. As the older sister it was her decision. Kallie looked to her in panic and hope.
“Whatever you say Momma,” Daphne shrugged her shoulders, half hoping she would awake in the morning and forget this nightmare.
It was as if someone had turned off the power. Theia’s body shed the electricity, newly grounded by the sisters’ recognition of her new motherhood. It would be a long road for all of them to get comfortable but for now their acceptance was enough.
At the bottom of the pit, a marble torso of the goddess Theia lay in the mud. Within, Bravina was writhing and crying out in terror for herself and her babies.
A half century later, Daphne and Kallie stood in front of her statue in the Louvre. ‘Theia: Goddess of Sight.’ Daphne reached out to touch the stone.
Kallie said, “We are older than she is now.”
Daphne wondered, “Do you think she is at peace?”
A group of tourists turned and stared as the two women said, “We love you Mom.”
They couldn’t help but notice the silent tears roll over their cheeks. The tourists turned to each other uncomprehending.
Dr. Keith Raymond is a Family and Emergency Physician that practiced in eight countries in four languages. Currently living in Austria with a wife and a polar bear our husky brought home. When not volunteering his practice skills with refugees, he is writing or lecturing. He has multiple medical citations, and also published stories and poetry in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grief Diaries, The Examined Life Journal, The Satirist, Chicago Literati, Serendipity, and Frontier Tales Magazine.