Cassandra, the prophetess of Troy, leaps over 33 centuries to find herself taking on the 21st century.
She Said No
by Ger Agrey-Thatcher
In a far, faraway land, in a time too long ago for men to remember well, there was born a princess fairer than Venus, named Cassandra. Her hair was red with gold, and her eyes were as blue as the summer sky. Her parents were King Priam and Queen Hecube, and they were more grateful and proud in their good fortune than the gods themselves; for someday Cassandra would reign as the Queen of Troy and bring favor and happiness to every land. But it was not to be.
As she grew in beauty, the desire of the sun-god Apollo grew more enflamed for her, and he came to her one day and offered her the gift of prophecy if she would give him the flower of her maidenhood in return. And fair Cassandra agreed.
He taught her well, for he was the god of prophecy and music as well as the Great Light. She became the greatest prophet in the land. But when he came to claim her virginity, she refused him. Enraged, he cursed her; he decreed that all her prophecies would be true , but that no one would believe her. And the beautiful Cassandra went mad.
In that day, the Greeks desired the beguiling Helen of Troy, and made war upon the Trojans to possess her. Cassandra went before her people and foretold how the great city of Troy would fall into the hands of her invaders if they accepted the treacherous gift of the Trojan Horse. But the people rejected her wild ravings, and took the Horse within their gates. The Grecian warriors swarmed from the belly of the horse, and sacked and burned the ancient city to the ground.
Cassandra fled into the temple of Athena, for she was a priestess of the goddess, hoping to find sanctuary. But the Greek general, the Lesser Ajax, found her there, raped her and dragged her away by the hair. He gave her as a prize to be the slave of the Greek King Agamemnon.
Cassandra prophesied again, and warned Agamemnon that if he returned to Greece with her, both he and she would die by the murderous betrayal of his own wife. But the King was arrogant in his victory, and thought her insane beside, and so he paraded her in his chariot before his people, and took her to his palace as his concubine.
Queen Clytemnestra awaited her husband’s triumphal return with an axe. Full of fatuous flattery, she invited him to stand upon the purple carpet of the victor. As he did so, Clytemnestra’s lover crept from behind and beheaded him.
Terror-stricken, Cassandra fled deep into the palace. She wandered in her mad frenzies until the Queen found her, took the bloody axe and cut off Cassandra’s head.
Cassandra fell into the deepest darkness she had ever known. She prepared herself for the decent, because the pit that leads to Hades is almost endless.
But the shock that she was still alive was swiftly followed by an even greater surprise.
She was whole. She stood on a long, flat, dirty, grey stone pathway, surrounded by huge towers that reached higher than the clouds. On the faces of the buildings were huge panels of glass. Statues stood behind them, wearing strange garments.
Another shock struck her; she saw her own reflection, and saw it was not her. The face was strangely familiar, but only a distant resemblance stared back at her. The woman that looked back from the glass wore a tight-fitting gown that came only to her knees. She wore an open boot of rich and polished leather brighter than the shoes and sandals of royalty. But before she could absorb the stranger than she saw, she spun around to greet a deafening roar from the crowded avenue that separated the towers.
Chariots without horses were raging in both directions. They were all enclosed, protected from what she did not know. Perhaps to shield their riders from the mad people that stood and ran among them, shouting and chasing after them, and screaming at each other. The chariots’ roar was horrible; they rode on thick black wheels; their smell was choking. Terror had reached its cold fingers around Cassandra’s throat, and she looked for a corner of shadows to hide herself.
As she backed toward the building, someone pushed her from behind. Instead of falling, she took two rapid steps, one to the front, and the second to the side, and whirled to meet her attacker. A man was screaming at her in a strange language. She kicked him hard, and as his helpless bulk came forward, she smashed him aside with doubled clenched fists, and walked away, amazed at her reflexes and footwork. She increased her stride.
I could have never imagined that Hades was this horrible, she thought to herself. This is where the mad go after we die.
“Cassandra, hey Cass! – over here!” Her spirit suddenly lifted at the sound of her own name. Someone was calling her. She peered into the crowd, and found a waving hand. She – or the body she was in – broke into a run. Delighted with her agility, she wrapped and wove herself around and through the crowd to throw herself into the arms of an athletic Asian man dressed in scarlet and black.
He tossed her straight up in the air, and stepped under her while she turned two somersaults and made a perfect landing astride his shoulders.
“You have the view, get us out of here!” he barked, laughing.
And with her feet wrapped tight behind his back, she directed traffic and the crowd while he ran to an empty street. He hailed a chariot, slid her from his shoulders, and they jumped inside. He grabbed her, kissed her, and Cassandra understood. She was not alone in this new body, and the mind beside her was named Cassandra too.
“You OK?” he said. You look crazy.”
“I’m fine; I had to mug a creep back there. Let’s eat.”
“Hey, lady, it’s only three in the afternoon.”
“I don’t care, I’m starved.”
“Cabbie, we need uptown Chinese. You know the place.”
That’s what chariot drivers are called here. She filed the name. She was gaining strength, but something else was missing. She couldn’t have imagined anything this alien, even in her most vivid nightmares.
As the dinner arrived, she froze. Two small wooden sticks were crossed across a bowl of rice in front of her. She had no idea what they were. She reached for her small bowl of water in front of her, and began to drink it, watching while her partner picked up his sticks and bowl, folded them into his fingers and began to eat. He put them back down, and took the water bowl away from her, handing her a cup of tea.
“You are spaced,” he said, worried. “You’re eyes still look like pinwheels and now you’re drinking the finger bowl. You’re going back home right after we feed you.”
She lowered her eyes and folded her hands in her lap. While she thought If only I can back my mind away, this body will act perfectly, he brought his chair over to sit beside her.
“Would you like me to feed you?” he asked.
“Yes, will you?”
She admired the power in his hands and arms as he fed her and the softness of his touch as he held her fingers when she wiped her mouth. They ate and drank by turns. Her eyelids started to feel heavy. He noticed an imperceptible nod of her head.
“Time to go, beauty,” he said. “Sip a little lime water – perk you up.”
He hailed the servant, placed a small card on a tiny platter, and received the same with a tiny piece of paper in return. She leaned against him as they walked to the door, where another chariot was waiting.
They stopped in front of the most beautiful, tallest, shiniest tower she had ever seen. They walked together toward great glass doors, where a guard waited to open for them.
“Is this your palace?” she asked in amazement.
“No, princess, this is your palace. This is where you live,” he laughed. “My palace is even bigger than yours, and I will take you there as soon as we restore your sanity. Now come, I am here to tuck you in.”
They walked across a tiled floor to metal doors; he touched the wall and they opened with a soft whoosh. Inside they went upward swiftly, and just before she became afraid again, the doors opened, and they walked down a great hall past many lights and doors. He stopped, reached into his pocket and opened a door that said C. Cain 717 on it.
Inside, she knew it was home, but she had never seen it before. She wobbled, but before she could stumble, she was in his arms, and he was placing her on a big bed. He took off her shoes, placed a bright silk coverlet over her, and sat down beside her.
“I’ll be in the living room if you need me. You just worry about sleep.”
She placed her palm against his cheek as her eyes closed. She barely felt his kiss as the darkness surrounded her again.
But this time she did not fall. She stood on a bright open plain, or a floor of light that reached into an endless distance. A shining body stood in front of her, within arm’s reach, astonished.
“You’re Cassandra of Troy, aren’t you, the prophetess?”
“Yes, and we share the same name – and body.”
“But how – I mean, after all this time?”
“What do you mean? The axe hadn’t even tasted my blood, and I was here.”
“Whoa – you traveled 3300 years and half way around the world, in the snap of a finger?!”
“Where am I? What time is it?”
“This is so cool. You’re in New York City, United States of America, and you’re 3300 years old, and boy do you still look great! No wonder God wanted to put the make on you!
“And I am the new Batgirl, just filling in for the old one till she heals up. Her handle was ‘Oracle’, so there’s a match here someplace.
“Aw, I’m sorry,” she said, moving in closer and joining hands. “I know all this is garbage and gibberish to you, but we’re going out on the town tonight. You’re going to be a native before you know it.”
“It’s all right with you if we both wear the same body?”
“I’ve admired you since I was a kid. You’re here to stay until the bad guys get lucky or they hit me in the face with a shovel – and I’ve got another eighty years on me.
You don’t have to worry about the wardrobe, meals, rent, nothing. Move on in – we’ll take good care of each other.”
“It would be easier if we merged.”
“Exactly – let’s meld; we’ll outwit Spock. I’ve had you tuned in for so long, that’s probably how you got on the beam anyway.”
And as their two light bodies flowed into one, Troy faded into ancient history, and Cassandra opened her eyes upon the 21st Century. She stared at the ceilig for a long time while she hugged herself – or selves. She got up, feeling free, stretched and walked to the window, looking out over the city from seven stories high.
This is not hell, she thought. This is the earth, and it is still very beautiful, and felt like she could fly.
“Yes we can,” said the inner voice, “higher than we ever did.”
She walked into the living room in full costume.
“You ready to sweep the streets with me tonight, Peri?”
“All right! Your Falcon is ready to soar your skies. You had me on red alert for the last hour – am I glad you’re back! Let’s bang the gang!”
She stood on a ledge 13 stories high. Peri perched on the building across the street – 10 stories above her -- ready to dive. A mobster’s motorcade turned into the street between them. When the first limo was directly beneath them, he barked through their com link:
“It’s a clear shot -- go!”
“No!” shouted her inner mind. “It’s a trap!”
Batgirl froze, turned on her sonar, read the energy map, and swirled two building away. “Follow my trail, Falcon,” as she uploaded the scene to his cyber eye. “Drop the grav grenade where I was going to land.”
The percussion tripped a huge steel net that that captured nothing but the fiery explosion above the cars. She sliced the anchor pins from the buildings. As the net fell back over the cars, she tied the edged tightly together, caging the gangsters inside, and pressed her autodial for 911.
She circled back to the top of the tower, and landed silently behind Falcon, to wait for the arrival of the police.
“How’d we do?”
“You did great – sixteen seconds flat.”
The night came alive with sirens.
Peri put their coffee on the table. He tossed his mask beside his cup.
“Wow, you were hot tonight! It was like you knew what they were going to do before they did.”
But the inner dialogue said:Do you think we should tell Peri?”
“Uh-uh – if he figures it out, then we’ll say so. I don’t want to freak him yet. But you’ve still got your gift; and you sure made it short and sweet tonight. You’re a great co-pilot; they were sitting ducks.”
Peri was still raving in admiration; then his eyes shifted into another surprise.
“I never noticed your hair was that red before.”
“Like the new tint?” she said, almost gulping.
“Yeah, like you’re ‘sorbing Oracle -- two Batgirls in one, huh?”
“Say wow, bird boy, you’re getting smart.”
Cass sighed silently in relief as Peri blushed.
Before she fell asleep that night, she asked. “Are you up for a little Q&A?”
“Sorry about that – I’m knot known for slow. I’ve got questions. You’ve got answers. Like what you did tonight – is it a reflex? How much do you see? I mean, I want to get us into sync a lot better, and if you can teach me to do what you do, I can get rid of most of these gadgets, and we can be real action heroes.”
“I never thought about how I did it before, but I think we can figure it out.”
“Do you remember the lesson-plan Apollo put you through? Like what were the exercises he made you do? Can you recall the feeling you had, or get every time you do it? Do you stay where you are, or do you jump over time?”
“It’s like empathy, only more. Sometimes, I would disappear and I’d be so far inside the person or event I was living as they were going to be. Last night, I felt all these steel wires around me, choking me to death. And I knew if we jumped like Falcon said to, we’d die; it was horrible. It’s always been that way. I never liked it. I’d really like to do it for the good, without all the pain.”
“Hey, I’m not going to pressure this. You were my wake up call. I got soft. I’ve got super sonar – better than bats. I send out the wave; it sends back a map in 3D, with preset targets before I go in with my laser sight blazing. You saved the night. I just asked because I’m always after that extra edge for Ms. Natural.
“If you don’t want to use it any more, that’s fine with Cass number two. After what you’ve been through, you’re up for as long a vacation as you need.”
“I don’t want one. I’m alive, and I want to live my new life as hard as you do. But don’t worry, I won’t abandon you, or back away. I don’t want to drop the gift; I just want the curse to go away.”
“I’ll tell you a secret; I don’t think there was a real curse in the first place. And you can get over that nobody will believe you thing, because you made a true believer out of me tonight. Besides, the way history tells it, you were supposed to be the crazy one, but your audience was a lot crazier than you were – and in case you haven’t noticed, we’re a lot crazier here and now.”
“Thanks – Truth is always unbelievable, right?”
“You are on the beam. We’re gonna have so much fun. And by the way -- you’ll find out anyway --but I want to be the first to tell you you’re famous in these parts, and have been for a long time. See, you were the first girl – that anybody can remember – who ever said ‘No’ to God.
“But it’s been a busy night. Let’s catch some winks.”
And two famous girls from the opposite ends of time cuddled together in one body as they drifted into a soft, deep and dreamless sleep.
This story is a prequel to the novel Cassandra’s Revenge, available at www.gatbooks.com or your local bookstore.
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|Reviewed by Kenneth Seay
|Very interesting. Good imagination.|