I came across that list again the other day: ’15 Selfies Taken Moments Before Death’, the one I mentioned in The South Gut reflection. It got me thinking about my travels as a younger man, when I arrived in a little Greek town named Myocopea. The name was as ancient as some of the buildings, though most of the temples to the Old Gods were merely piles of rubble. The town sat at the foot of a small mountain, miles away from anything resembling a modern city.
A local man agreed to guide me up the mountain on a history tour for a small fee, to which I was very grateful. On the way up, he mostly told me of ancient wars between the Romans, the Greeks and the Persians. Much of it went over my head, but there was one story that stuck with me. One story about the original selfie.
My guide led me to a large hole in the face of the cliff. It was perfectly circular, unnaturally so, and it tunneled upward. The tunnel had a ten-foot diameter so we could easily walk through, so we walked into the mountain.
To my surprise, the walls of the tunnel were lined with cracked marble. The tunnel was clearly man-made, but I had never seen architecture like this before. Historians still argue to this day about the relevance of the Myocopean tunnel, whether it was a place for worship or merely a storage house is anyone’s guess, but as I walked up the steady incline to the chamber at the top, I could not imagine a practical use. In the marble chamber, perfectly circular, I found an obscure sight. It was a black silhouette on the floor like a human shadow. It looked like the Nuclear Shadows left after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I stared at it as my guide told me an ancient legend.
The story goes that within this chamber lived a beautiful demigod, an obscure hybrid, a forbidden love-child between a mortal warrior and Aphrodite. It was said that the gods cast her from the heavens, yet she was so beautiful, only the most perfect mortal could lay eyes on her and live to tell the tale. A marble chamber was built in the mountain to contain her, to keep her away from lusting mortals.
As time passed, arrogant young men could challenge each other to a walk in the tunnel. The closer the men made to the chamber, the more they could feel the power of the demigod’s beauty, it vibrated through their body until it was almost unbearable. If they got too close, and they weren’t perfect enough, the power would overwhelm them, and they would ran back in fear.
Enter the hero of the story, a soldier on horse-back who was superior to most both physically and intellectually. He had read of the chamber containing the demigod, and fancied himself the perfect individual. He marched to the chamber like he was going into battle, passing hundreds of charcoal markings on the marble, where all the locals had marked how close they could get. His head vibrated as he reached the entrance to the chamber, his heart pounded, his skin crawled. He felt like lightning was passing through his body, increasing in magnitude the closer he stepped. And then he entered the chamber.
No-one can say what the demigod looked like. All I can tell you, as my guide told me, is that she was so beautiful, that when our hero laid eyes on her, he was obliterated by the power of her presence. It turns out that he wasn’t the perfect mortal because, there was no such thing. His shadow serves as a permanent reminder of man’s arrogance, and can still be seen today.
Blog Battle 12 entry. (631 words)
Theme: Selfie Genre: Mythology