"For in other ways a woman
Is full of fear, defenseless, dreads the sight of cold
Steel; but, when once she is wronged in the matter of love,
No other soul can hold so many thoughts of blood." (Medea, 263-66)
-- Euripides' play 'Medea'
Medea felt a haunting presence inside her mind that did not belong there, but it was intangible and murky - a mere shadow of a power greater than her own. Though she'd spent most of the evening alone in her chambers, she could not shake the inkling that she was not truly unaccompanied. Somewhere behind the candle-light and the velvet window dressings, beneath the feather-stuffed sofa or stuffed behind the cuneate stack of firewood, something lurked.
She'd scoured her rooms, checking behind the ornate walnut furniture and under the overstuffed beds and in the narrow closets, but she'd found nothing. Every lock was engaged, every window checked, every entrance sealed. Still, the feeling lingered like nausea after a night of unruly celebration. It filled the room all the way to her high ceilings, it tainted every breath she took, pouring paranoia into her system like oxygen into her lungs.
She paced the stone floor, she flipped through the delicate pages of her collection of books, she sipped at a goblet of wine. Hours passed and she could not trace her discomfort to its source. She braided her chocolate hair and prepared a fire in her quarters, waving away the household servants every time they tried to protest. She grew bored watching others do things for her, and boredom was worse than any burn now and again.
As the night wound down into the narrow hours of pre-day, her suspicions waned into nothingness as her exhaustion overtook her mania.
When she slept, brief as it was, she dreamt of things impossible: betrayal and murder, blood soaking her hands in a riot of crimson and ichor and the scent of copper. She dreamt of a woman whispering in her ear, hidden behind locks of blond curls, speaking in coos and bird-like purrs. A voice so fatidic she could do nothing but listen. She understood the mysterious language only as long as the sounds hung in the air, and when they passed, she remembered nothing.
Medea awoke, feverish and sweat-soaked, before dawn and ran, her sleeping gown catching the wind to flutter about her legs, to her balcony. Far off in the distance, just barely cresting the horizon - mere moments ahead of the sun - was a ship with pearl-white sails standing out against the tepid shades of daybreak.