12:4: “Blackmare”, by Natalia Theodoridou

12:4: “Blackmare”, by Natalia Theodoridou
   “Melanippe is a horse of a woman,” the men say, joking among themselves,
   because there is no word for
         what Melanippe is.
   “When you fuck Melanippe she neighs like a mare,” they say.
   “She’s bloody dangerous too,” they add and laugh. “Kicks like a horse.”
   “Her hoofs have broken men in half,
   cracked their skulls into a million pieces.”
   And yet they come,
   keep coming,
   and Melanippe keeps kicking and cracking.

Melanippe trots by herself in her empty apartment.
“My Father Was Chiron the Centaur,” she says, stressing every
first syllable in hopes of making it sound right,
“And I Am Melanippe the”
–but there is no word for female Centaurs–
“Centauress? Centauride?” she twists her tongue and neighs
and she trots back and forth in her apartment,
“Me.La.Nip.Pe,” she says, stressing every syllable now,
every letter
every breath
it all comes out wrong no matter how.
“Horsewoman,” she says, but it sounds more like “hoarsewoman”
or “coarsewoman”
and then words collapse in on themselves in the space around her,
and the room is filled with pointless things that simply won’t do,
like chairbed, no good for sitting or sleeping, not for her;
and blackmare, that vision of herself which visits her sometimes, its legs divided by two;
and everstill,
which is the word to describe the invisible motion of a stillborn babe.

Melanippe tries out this new language of hers:
“In my blackmare last night I saw the everstill creature slip from its chairbed,” she says,
and for a moment her heart catches on something,
but then the words fall flat
on the floor in front of her hoofed feet
and break into a million pieces.

She studies them, uncertain.
They look a bit like men’s skulls,
don’t they?
she thinks as she picks them up,
one by one,
and one by one she lets them drop again.

Natalia Theodoridou is a UK-based media & theatre scholar. Originally from Greece, she has lived and studied in the USA, UK, and Indonesia for several years. She recently completed a short story writing course at City University London. Natalia was the Grand Prize winner for Prose of Spark Contest Three. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Spark Anthology IV, 713 Flash (Kazka Press), and Black Apples (Belladonna Publishing). She is currently a first reader for Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi. Her personal website is www.natalia-theodoridou.com. She says:

Much of my writing starts from a “what if”: what if blood-letting plucked one out of the fabric of time (“The Bleeding Game”)? What if a Centaur was still alive in our times? What if that Centaur was a woman? What would her language be like? What does it feel like to be the stuff of myth? In Greek mythology, Melanippe was often defined by her male ties: Chiron’s daughter, Aeolus’ wife, Heracles’ hostage. In one version of her myth, she was placed among the stars as punishment for revealing the secrets of the Gods. I wanted to bring her down from there and hear her speak for herself.  

Study with Centaur and Two Figures by Hans_von_Marées (1887) is in the public domain.

Leave a Reply