I'm something of an extrovert. By which I don't mean that I bounce off the walls, perform live on stage and talk to a trillion people all at one (well sometimes that last one is true). I mean that my energy from things outside of me. And I tend to do my thinking out loud.
So big thanks to David and Anne-Mhairi for their generosity yesterday in sharing some of their thoughts on what I can do with Sisyphus. It really got my creative juices flowing and thinking. I've got a nucleus of a plot forming and a couple of characters to build it around. First there's Sisyphus - you met him yesterday. Then there's Helen, who for the purposes of my story is going to be the equivalent of a School Prefect for the Gods. A saucily packaged snitch, whose job is to keep an eye on Sisyphus and make sure there's no funny business.
And how do they get her to comply? Well, here's how (first draft, hot off the keyboard).
It was like being saturated in liquid gold. As though the sun had exploded in her body, transforming her veins into rivulets of molten amber. Her limbs were feather-light, her tongue drenched in sweetness. The world was masked by a rose-scented, shimmering mist that transformed it into a harmonious, rainbow tapestry. She felt good. She felt beautiful. It was the only time she did.
“She’s eaten too much ambrosia again.” Hera’s voice, dry as tinder. She wanted to put her hands over her ears, drown it out, but her bones were liquid, swirling. It was impossible to move. “Pathetic. This is what comes of indulging an old man’s folly. And he thought to make her a Goddess! Her!”
“Have a care! Zeus -”
“You think I’m afraid of my husband, Artemis? He knows well my views on his half-breed spawn. It’s revolting, the way he chased after that light-skirt Leda. A swan! I suppose we can count ourselves fortunate that his brat doesn’t have webbed feet as well as being a dribbling imbecile nine tenths of the time.”
I’m not. Please, I’m not.
“Swooning, dribbling – what difference? Look at her! Doesn’t it turn your stomach? And men fought wars over that... legs akimbo like a dockside whore, hair all over the place.”
“In that case why...?”
“Because she’ll do anything, that’s why - anything to get back here to satisfy her pathetic mortal craving to taste what we taste. She’ll whore herself, kill, trick and deceive to clamber the greasy pole back to Mount Olympus now she’s tasted it. Look at her, look at her eyes - black as Hecate’s cauldron.”
I hate you. The words danced through her mind but they had no meaning. Not when her whole body was sunk in slumberous ecstasy, not when the scent of ambrosia still clung to her skin, her hair, her tongue. A dark shape loomed through the iridescent mist, a face coming close to hers. She could feel hot, sweet breath on her skin, the heavy perfume of pure divinity cloying in her nostrils.
"You love it, don’t you Helen?” Hera’s words were low, inviting. “Imagine being cast down there again, to those ravening dogs of men. You’re ambrosia to them, aren’t you darling? Don’t they all hunger for a taste of you?”
She whimpered, stirring against her will. Go away. “It’s that little trace of God-head... like catnip to a mere mortal man. How many men died to get a piece of your sweet body, Helen of Troy?”
Not Troy. Never Troy.
“But you’re safe here aren’t you, lovely? Just an ordinary girl... and it tastes good doesn’t it?” A finger traced across her lips, trailing droplets sweeter than honey, richer than wine. Her tongue flickered, desperate. More. “You want it don’t you, little Helen?”
Hera’s laughter was cold as starlight, slicing through Helen’s reverie like hailstones in summer. The shadowy shape disappeared, the taste of ambrosia was gone. She moaned, her sense of loss palpable.
“You see Artemis? Pathetic. She’ll do anything to get back here... and she’ll keep him in check. As soon as he sees her, he’ll want her. They all do. Sisyphus might think he’s clever but he’s as led by his cock as any man.”
A pause, a hesitant rustle beside her. “Possibly. She’s Zeus’ child though. He’ll-“
“Zeus lost interest in her more than three millennia ago,” Hera’s voice snapped, whiplash sharp.” She was an entertaining toy when we had the Trojans to play with, but once that war was over... he has so many of them you see.” The words drifted through the air, delicate as poison, deadly as a cuckold’s kiss. Silence fell between them, settled over her like a soothing blanket. Then Hera spoke again, and Helen heard the unspoken laugh. “She’s expendable.”
So what now?
Now I'm thinking about a mission. There's a thing Sisyphus needs to get, a thing the Goddesses need him to do. A person. And it needs to be a secret. For some reason, the Goddesses don't want Zeus knowing anything about it. Why? I don't know yet. But I expect they'll tell me soon.
This is how stories start for me... with a scene or a character and it grows from there, different ideas colliding and clashing until suddenly one of the clashes turns into FUSION.
How does it come to you?