A Memory of Wind

Free A Memory of Wind by Rachel Swirsky, Sam Weber

Book: A Memory of Wind by Rachel Swirsky, Sam Weber Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rachel Swirsky, Sam Weber
After Helen and her lover Paris fled to Troy, her husband King Menelaus called his allies to war. Under the leadership of King Agamemnon, the allies met in the harbor at Aulis. They prepared to sail for Troy, but they could not depart, for there was no wind.
    Kings Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Odysseus consulted with Calchas, a priest of Artemis, who revealed that the angered goddess was balking their departure. The kings asked Calchas how they might convince Artemis to grant them a wind. He answered that she would only relent after King Agamemnon brought his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to Aulis and sacrificed her to the goddess.
    * * *
    I began turning into wind the moment that you promised me to Artemis.
    Before I woke, I lost the flavor of rancid oil and the shade of green that flushes new leaves. They slipped from me, and became gentle breezes that would later weave themselves into the strength of my gale. Between the first and second beats of my lashes, I also lost the grunt of goats being led to slaughter, and the roughness of wool against calloused fingertips, and the scent of figs simmering in honey wine.
    Around me, the other palace girls slept fitfully, tossing and grumbling through the dry summer heat. I stumbled to my feet and fled down the corridor, my footsteps falling smooth against the cool, painted clay. As I walked, the sensation of the floor blew away from me, too. It was as if I stood on nothing.
    I forgot the way to my mother’s rooms. I decided to visit Orestes instead. I also forgot how to find him. I paced bright corridors, searching. A male servant saw me, and woke a male slave, who woke a female slave, who roused herself and approached me, bleary-eyed, mumbling. “What’s wrong, Lady Iphigenia? What do you require?”
    I had no answers.
    * * *
    I have no answers for you either, father.
    I imagine what you did on that night when I paced the palace corridors, my perceptions vanishing like stars winking out of the night sky. You presided over the war council in Aulis. I imagine you standing with the staff of office heavy in your hands—heavy with wood, heavy with burdens.
    Calchas, priest of Artemis, bowed before you and the other kings. “I have prayed long and hard,” he said. “The goddess is angry with you, Agamemnon. She will not allow the wind to take your ships to Troy until you have made amends.”
    I imagine that the staff of office began to feel even heavier in your hands. You looked between your brother, Menelaus, and the sly Odysseus. Both watched you with cold, expressionless faces. They wanted war. You had become an obstacle to their desires.
    “What have I done?” you asked Calchas. “What does the goddess want?”
    The priest smiled.
    What would a goddess want? What else but virgin blood on her altar? One daughter’s life for the wind that would allow you to launch a fleet that could kill thousands. A child for a war.
    Odysseus and Menelaus fixed you with hungry gazes. Their appetite for battle hollowed the souls from their eyes as starvation will hollow a man’s cheeks. Implicit threats flickered in the torchlight. Do as the priest says, or we’ll take the troops we’ve gathered to battle Troy and march on Mycenae instead. Sacrifice your daughter or sacrifice your kingdom.
    Menelaus took an amphora of rich red wine and poured a measure for each of you. A drink; a vow. Menelaus drank rapidly, red droplets spilling like blood through the thicket of his beard. Odysseus savored slow, languorous sips, his canny eyes intent on your face.
    You held your golden rhyton at arm’s length, peering into redness as dark as my condemned blood. I can only imagine what you felt. Maybe you began to waver. Maybe you thought of my eyes looking up at you, and of the wedding I would never have, and the children I would never bear. But whatever thoughts I may imagine in your mind, I only know the truth of your actions. You did not dash the staff of office across your knee and hurl away its broken halves. You did not

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