SHE didn’t always have snakes for hair. She was in Athena’s temple praying for the wisdom to know what to do with her life when Poseidon raped her. Right there on the temple floor. The cool marble an empty comfort. When gods decide what to do with you, there’s not much you can do. They crush humans like you for breakfast.

After he left her there, she assumed the worst was over, and she’d survived.

As punishment for getting raped in her temple, Athena gave Medusa snakes for hair—snakes that turned people to stone—and changed her beautiful face into something monstrous. Suddenly Medusa didn’t need a plan for her life. She had to go into hiding in a remote cave. Save as many people as possible from the horror of what had been done to her. Round and round, she wrapped her snake heads in a turban. No one needed to be afraid of her.

One afternoon in a blistering heat that made the air vibrate, a snake shook loose as a teenager walked past her home. She’d been about to collect pomegranates. The snake’s eyes found the boy immediately. He froze in place.

“Fuck,” Medusa said. The snake hissed in agreement.

The boy was how they found out she was there. Word spread that a heinous woman was scaring the countryside to death. Medusa almost left then. But the snakes understood the danger and refused to stay smothered by fabric. The turban was useless, and a trail of dead would only tell the world where she’d gone. So Medusa planted herself in the earth. She let the slick snakes slip loose. Their heads rose and kept watch, even when she slept. Protecting her was their only job.

Medusa understood what would happen next. The men would come for her. When men decide what to do with you, there’s not much you can do. They crush women like you for breakfast. And come they did. One by one, the boldest man from every village appeared in her home and tried to run her through with a sword. She’d be sweeping or cooking and there they’d be. Shield and sword. Looking for the man-killing monster.

It wasn’t a coincidence that only men sought to challenge her. They wanted to conquer her. Cut off her head and hang it over their hearth as proof of their power. They all fell with a glance. Their stone bodies littered her cave. No one ever came for them. With a single finger Medusa tipped them over, then used the pieces to narrow the entrance of her cave. When it was fortified, she lined the remaining men against the walls. Examined their arrogant faces—their death masks—and bulging muscles. “Why couldn’t you just leave me alone?” she asked.

They never answered.

Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and an army of houseplants. Her flash fiction appears in Jellyfish Review, Cleaver, Pithead Chapel, Okay Donkey, Hobart, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and others. She’s a reader for Pidgeonholes. Read more stories at or find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.

© 2020 Chelsea Stickle. Published by LITTLE FICTION | BIG TRUTHS, May 2020.

Editors: Troy Palmer, Beth Gilstrap & Alvin Park. Images from The Noun Project (credit: Aryanda Pons).

The 2020 Flash Issue:



by Chelsea Stickle
Medusa Wasn’t born 
A Monster