After the attack, we pulled ourselves shut like hospital curtains. Snap. They out there, us in here, pain distilled through tiny wires and tubes. Pain concealed and compressed until someone has great need of it, until it becomes a gift.
History will tell you we made quick peace with our rapists, bore them children, married them. History will tell you how we launched ourselves into the battle like burning arrows, how we landed between kin and assaulters. History will tell you we united Rome.
History likes to lie about women.
What really happened was this: when we saw our men at war, we almost went out like candles. It's easy to shrink yourself down when anger burns through you, hot-fierce, like a grass fire. It sucks the oxygen out; it eats up all but the most essential parts. Heart, lungs, brain, blood. Everything else diminishes, shadows itself, clears out pain like disease. To shrink after anger is such a relief. To run toward oblivion a slaking of dark thirst.
And Demeter saw us scrambling in her fields like mice, and took pity on us, for had she not been assaulted by Poseidon, forced despite all her powers to bear his twins? She knew what it is to carry so much rage. And so she pulled us into her arms, up with the soil and grass, and she scattered us among the stars, shimmering and immortal in the night skies. And for thousands of years, when men looked at the skies – our husbands, our sons, our grandsons and so on for many generations – they saw us, and were filled with remorse and remembered what it meant to be a woman at the mercy of men. They built us a temple, with statues of ivory and gold, and every seven years the daughters of Rome wove new dresses for us, from the finest cloth on earth.
Now we are forgotten. We fade in the sky, dimmer now, and no men remember us. They tell our stories the way they never happened, and though the women can sense that something is wrong, the feeling is too vague for resolution. The halo of lights from the city and the haze from the cars keep us almost hidden from human view.
We are growing jaded, sadder. We can only speak in whispers now. But we still remember what we have the power to do; we still remember what our whispers can warn of, if we aim them at the right ears. Our choice is coming to a head: finally unleash our vengeance, or forget we were ever here.
We cannot destroy man alone. We lost the ability to do that ages ago. We are so much stardust, and only a little earth still anchors us at all. But it is that little bit that keeps us interested, keeps us watching over the women of this world, waiting, hoping for ones who will say our names. They have only to summon us. They have only to say they've needed us so.
We would swoop down like hawks then, our pain finally put to use, propelling us to the foot of the earth. We would eat evil men like mice. We would rebuild the world in our image, in our glory, in our dazzling beauty and brilliance. Then, only then, would we do the thing they say we did long ago: rid them of their wars and bring them peace beyond dreaming, beyond the imagining of any living thing.