This is the third piece in my fiction experiment in which I lie about people I know and love. Many thanks to my friend Nora for letting me write about her.
When Medusa was born, she did not have snakes for hair. She wasn’t even ugly, really, just strange looking. Perhaps it was a slight unevenness of the face, or the slight puff under her eyes that made her look alarmingly old for a child. People were nice to her, of course, and remarked loudly over how sharp she was. At age four, she could recite the complete genealogy of the Titans with a thoroughness most of humanity has long since forgotten.
When Nora was born, though, she was radiant. From the first smile, Nora enthralled all who saw her so they felt they could not move. The baby girl had eyes the color of a summer sky and a swipe of red hair to match her rose-and-porcelain cheeks. To meet her gaze was to be seen through and through. Medusa did not get any more beautiful, nor did she want to. As she grew older, adults ignored her and schoolmates teased her. Seeing how she was rejected by the world simply for being plain, she had no interest in changing herself to please idiotic people.
In other words, people wouldn’t shut up about Nora. Medusa, the plain sister with the clunky name, grew sulky as Nora grew older and proved just as bright. Intellectually, the girls were a perfect matched pair, their differences being mainly ones of taste, never of capability. In addition, the two shared a deep and abiding respect for each other. They shared all their knowledge with one another and were the most intimate of friends. It was only foolish outsiders who judged them and whose opinions they found perfectly worthless.
Though Medusa wasn’t much for religion, she decided to join a little known, semi-religious sisterhood rather than get married. She knew her father would be bound to marry her off before her younger sister could be married, and though Nora protested that she wanted nothing to do with any fool man, it was clear that she had her eye on someone. Medusa on the other hand had been rejected, ignored, and bullied so much in her young life that all she really wanted was to go live in a quiet place where she could continue her studies. She hoped the sisterhood would send her to teach physics in a school for intelligent girls.
With Medusa cared for by the Gorgon sisterhood, it was not long before the beautiful and brilliant Nora was married to a well liked man named Cato who served as strategic adviser to very powerful men. Nora, too, would be provided for and would live a life of leisure and study.
For the next long time, the young women grew in their own ways. Nora penned all the truly great romances and tragedies, those long lost scripts of which every novel since has been poor imitation. Medusa meanwhile conjured mathematical concepts beyond this author’s comprehension. Each of the women was quite happy with her work and proud her sister, except for one small yet meaningful thing: Each new work of Nora’s was met with praise, and people threw parties to celebrate her every move. Medusa’s work was largely ignored and dismissed except for those occasions when she sent out papers under the name of some male she invented.
Medusa and Nora, both enraged by the stupidity of humans and their willingness to discard the work of a woman decided to play a trick on the world. They began to send each other their work, and each woman published her sister’s work under her own name. As a result, Nora received credit for creating worm holes while Medusa published the answers to life’s greatest mysteries, and what’s left of the manuscripts floats around in scraps, often misquoted, and always attributed to Anonymous.