The Gorgon

Have you ever seen someone so disgusting and ugly that it made you gasp for air? I did. As a kid there was an old lady that lived in the next town over that had the more than fitting name of ‘The Gorgon’.

I first heard about her from friends who lived in the same town as her. Well, she didn’t exactly live in town per se, but was living in a run-down cabin a little further out of town. The whole area around it was described as a dump or cesspool. I heard the jokes that her place was as disgusting as she herself.

When I heard about it I imagined her to just be an ugly old lady. A scarred, wrinkled face, huge warts, no teeth, basically what witches in movies look like.

As is often the case, I wasn’t prepared for reality. Her overall body was too skinny and almost fragile. Her hands were either dirty or strangely discolored and in contrast to the rest of her skin that was scarred up, white, and almost transparent. Spots and sores where the skin was missing and puss was leaking from covered her arms.

The worst was her face though. When I saw it for the first time I gasped and involuntarily held my breath till I was almost out of air.

It was completely covered in huge blisters and the same puss leaking sores. The skin was sagging down, almost as if it was close to tearing apart. In other places it looked as if it was melting. Her eyes were yellowed and bloodshed. She had some hair on her head left, but it was a greasy dark mess that grew in bushes here and there, alternating with bald spots.

To sum it up, she was repulsiveness personified.

I had asked my friends if she was suffering from some weird illness or disease, but they told me that it wasn’t the case. They had asked around and most people had simply said it was old age, neglect of health and her general living conditions. Everyone had told them to stay clear of the lady and her place though.

What can I say, we were typical kids. Tell us something is forbidden and we are not allowed to do it and we get even more interested in it.

When I was twelve years old I spend a lot of time with my friends in this town. They had known about her for some time and had driven by her place occasionally to get a look at her, but they had never really watched out or teased her.

This summer though, we got more interested in the Gorgon and spend much of our time watching her. I guess it was because everyone had started to talk about her.

Many of our afternoons were spent near her place hiding somewhere close by, watching.

Even her way of moving and her overall demeanor was repulsive.

She spent a lot of time outside. At times she’d sort through all the trash around her cabin or she’d simply rest in a chair that she had placed outside.

I remember one weird detail we noticed about her during that time. She never left the cabin or the area around it. She was there all day every day. It was no surprise to us that she hid away from other people due to her appearance, but we wondered how she got food.

It was one of the few things we were never able to find out.

Another interesting fact was that no animals were ever around her place. Some of the other kids had said that it was because she marked her territory. When I asked what they meant, they said she was like a cat, peeing at the side of her cabin and on the ground all around it so the animals would stay away. It sounded a little far-fetched, but back then I could honestly believe her doing these things.

I remember that we once saw a group of teenagers who came by her place to make fun of her. They called her names and threw trash and other things at her. The old lady got furious, jumped out of her chair and yelled at them to go away and leave her alone. This went on for some time, until she vanished inside her cabin. By then we thought it was over.

It wasn’t long before she returned outside though. The cacophony of name-calling started again. Instead of yelling at them this time, she walked into their direction and then threw something at them. The group of teenagers screamed out in disgust. Soon a foul stench hit us too, even though we were hiding further away.

We later heard that she had apparently filled a plastic bag with something foul and disgusting and thrown it at the troublemakers. Stories ranged from it having been foul water or rotten trash up to it having been her own piss or fecal matter.

Only watching from afar grew boring to us after a while. We had spent long afternoons sitting by studying her day by day life, but it had started to grow old.

We soon got braver. We went closer towards her cabin and snuck around to see what all the stuff around it was. We had hoped to find hints of ritualistic magic, dead animals or voodoo puppets, but most if it was just plain, old, boring trash.

We never actually agitated her like most other groups did. The reason was not that we were nice kids, but we were honestly afraid of her. As soon as she’d notice us we’d leave and run away. We often screamed about the curse of the Gorgon that would befall us if we looked into her eyes. It was our version of the mythological story of Medusa. Believe me when I say that I was actually scared about it as stupid as it sounds.

It was during the second week of spending our time near her place that we did something very dumb. We gave into our curiosity and broke into her cabin while she was resting outside.

The building only had a door and just one tiny, dirty window. It had been tempting us for some time to explore the lair of the Gorgon and we wanted to see what sort of things she was keeping inside. We wondered if she might be a witch and it would be a place of foul magic or if it was just filled to the brim with trash.

We had prepared a simple plan. I guess it was the best a bunch of kids could come up with. We divided into two teams, alpha and bravo. While alpha team would sneak into her place, it was bravo team’s objective to watch over her and distracted her from going inside.

I had brought my parents’ new, expensive camera to take pictures. It was either to report our findings or to snap a few pictures in case we had only a few moments and couldn’t take a closer look.

We knew that the Gorgon would sometimes fall asleep in her chair outside. It was this what we were waiting for.

For two or three hours we didn’t get our chance, but then, she finally was too exhausted from whatever she had been doing and snoozed off.

We got moving as fast as we could and went over to the cabin. I was part of alpha team. We opened the door as quietly as possible to take a look inside of what we thought would be the lair of all evil and disgust. What we found was a poorly furnished but rather normal room. There were no pentagrams, no blood circles, no dead animals or pagan alters inside. Nothing of the sort at all. The place wasn’t even covered in trash or shit. Instead it was as normal as a ruined old cabin could be. Sure it was dirty and the walls were half-overgrown with mold, but it was way more normal than we’d expected. We were disappointed. We had hoped to find something crazy so we’d have a story to tell everyone at school, but there was really nothing.

I still snapped a few pictures halfheartedly so we could at least prove we were inside.

Soon enough we started to hear noises outside. Our friends were laughing and yelling and we could hear the Gorgon yell back at them in her harsh voice.

Right then one of my friends stumbled and tripped over an old pot that had been standing somewhere on the ground. For a moment the metal clang of the pot was the only audible sound in the whole universe. Then the door burst open and we could see her disgusting face brimming with anger.

“What do you think you are doing in there?” she yelled at us.

“How dare you get in here you little shits.”

Then she came inside, reaching out and trying to get us. Her biggest problem was though that she was as slow as she was ugly and had no strength at all. One of my friends simply pushed her aside and ran outside. The rest followed him. I was almost outside as well, when I felt something grabbing my arm.

“Where do you think you are going?” she screamed at me and her foul breath reached my nose.

I screamed as well and as I tried to get my arm free I could feel something wet on my arm that must be leaking from one of the open spots on her hand. I yelled for my friends, but they had abandoned me to the beast in exchange for their own freedom.

“Don’t you ever come inside here again, I dare you!”

With that she released my arm and I stumbled outside and started to run away crying.

The worst was my arm. There was a weird smell and the area she had touched started to feel itchy.

It was only after a hundred meters that I noticed that I wasn’t holding my parents’ camera anymore. I stopped in my track and tears started to stream down my face again. I knew my dad had paid a lot of money for it and I’d be in serious trouble for losing it. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. All my friends had run off and I was completely alone.

I turned around to see if she was still watching me, but there was no way to see clearly from where I was. For minutes I just stood there, thinking about what to do. Then I took the first step back into the direction of the cabin. I was still crying and I had no real idea what I was even going to do.

As I got closer I saw, that she was still outside and as soon as I got closer, she started to scream and yell at me again.

“You really are in need of a beating, aren’t you?”

When she noticed I was crying she started to laugh and tease me. She soon got tired of doing that and seemed to wonder what I was standing there.

“What the hell’s your problem?”

At first the words didn’t come out, all I could muster up was a low mumbling. As she went on to insult me anew, I got seriously mad.

“It’s because of my parents’ camera.” I yelled.

“I lost it and it is expensive and I need it and my parents will get mad and” I just kept rambling on.

I expected her to laugh or scream again, but she stayed quiet and went inside her cabin. I just stood there. I thought she had just left me to myself now. I already took the first steps away, when I heard her behind me.

“Where you going dumb brat?”

She was holding something in her hand and when she took a few steps into my direction I recognized it as the camera. I was too surprised to react.

“You keep staring at it or you gonna come get it?”

I went over there and when I took it from her hand she simply turned around. “Get lost already.” she said as she walked back.

“Tha-“ I started, but my voice was to quiet. I mustered up my courage and said a loud “Thank you.” before I ran off.

I didn’t tell anyone about this encounter. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had talked to the Gorgon and I was too happy that I had gotten the camera back. When I tried it, I was overjoyed that the lights turned on and it seemed to be working fine.

When I got home, trouble was already waiting for me. My mom had noticed that the camera was gone and when I handed it back to her apologizing, she saw the large scratch on the side where it must have hit the ground.

What was even worse, was that I had to see a doctor because of the spot on my arm, where she had touched me. I had gotten a nasty rash from whatever was leaking out of her blisters. I have no idea what it was exactly, but my whole arm felt hot and itchy. I shudder even now thinking about it.

I had not been at the town much after the whole incident. As it turned out the camera could still be turned on, but not much else could be done with it. When my parents also pressed me where I had gotten the rash on my arm from things got worse. I was grounded for month and forbidden from ever going near this lady, as they referred to the Gorgon, ever again.

For about three years I did what they had told me.

The reason I finally found myself back in this town was a mere coincidence. My parents had long since dropped the topic and I had all but forgotten about it. Those two weeks of spying on the so called Gorgon and my encounter with here were just distant memories.

I was there because I was interested in a girl from school and wanted to meet up with her. As it turned out though, she stood me up and I ended up simply driving around on my bike and meeting one of my old friends.

He reminded me of the old days and asked me why I had never shown myself after that day. He joked that they all had thought I had really caught the curse of the Gorgon.

I told him that I had gotten into some serious trouble after breaking my parents’ camera and was forbidden from ever coming back.

He had news for me as well. They had pretty much dropped the act of teasing and annoying the Gorgon as well. It had really grown old quickly and after everyone found out she wasn’t harboring any secrets in her cabin the general interest dropped. She was of course still a sort of local attraction, but that was about it. Apart from the occasional prank, she was mostly ignored.

That was until Bob or Bobby had moved here. He was from the city and a real troublemaker. He had changed schools a couple times already and his parents thought that he might not get into as much trouble in a more rural area.

As soon as he found out about the Gorgon he gave her hell, my friend told me. It wasn’t just names and silly pranks anymore with this one.

He’d steal or break anything she left outside, including her chair, bombard her with water balloons or even shot fireworks at her. Not even her cabin was save from him. He’d often break into it and create havoc in there and when she’d come after him he’d defend himself. Occasionally he’d beat her with a stick, till she was the one running away. Sure, he got into trouble because of it, but he just wouldn’t stop.

The whole thing ended when he snuck into her place one day again and set of a bunch of fireworks inside. It took only moments for the cabin to go up in flames. The boy would have gotten away with it, if she wouldn’t have seen him sneak inside and gotten her hands on him. The two of them got into a fight at the door of the cabin and both of them ended up with severe burns.

The boy didn’t make it, my friend told me.

The Gorgon was put into the local health care center after this event. It was not only because of the burns, but overall health concerns and her deteriorated state of mind.

I don’t really know why I did it, but I decided that I’d give the old, disgusting lady a visit. The one moment when she had returned the camera had shown to me that she wasn’t pure evil.

I honestly wasn’t sure what I was expecting from it, but maybe I could just drop by and thank her.

When I arrived at the health care center and the lady at the reception asked me who I was visiting, I almost blurted out ‘The Gorgon’. After some thinking I simply said I was here to see the old lady who had gotten herself burned. I saw that she was eying me for a moment, probably judging if I was up to some sort of trouble. After a few moments she told me to follow her.

We ended up stopping at a nice little room with a big window from which you were able to see the park outside.

I saw a figure resting in the hospital bed. Her hands as well as her face were all bandaged up. I was thankful for it. The only thing that reminded me of who she really was, were the dirty yellowing spots on the bandages were puss must be leaking from her sores and blisters. When the nurse knocked on the door, the old lady carefully moved her head to look at us.

“You got the wrong damn room again.” she yelled at the nurse.

The nurse simply smiled.

“No, this time you have a visitor miss Lane.”

The lady looked from the nurse to me.

“And who are you, brat?”

I stood there awkwardly.

“The camera boy.”

She eyed me closer for a moment.

“Don’t know any camera boy.”

“From three years ago”, I started “I dropped it and you gave it back to me. After we had”

I broke up because the nurse was still around. The old lady said nothing for a while, then nodded to the nurse who smiled and left us alone.

“Get yourself a damned chair or leave, brat.”

I found one near the corner of the room and brought over, closer to her bed.

“Why you really here, tell me.”

“It really is because of the camera. I wanted to thank you miss” I tried to remember the name she had said, but I still could only think of her as ‘The Gorgon’.

“Well, if you hadn’t returned it, I’d have gotten into some real trouble with my parents, so thank you. I hope you”

“Parents can really be the goddamn worst.” she suddenly cut me off.

I smiled, not knowing what to say. Her rough language didn’t make her any nicer of a person. After a while she went on talking.

“They were both scum you know.’ and after a while she added ‘My parents.”

“Why?” was all I could muster.

“Wanna know the truth brat? Mother was a bitch if you ever knew one and father was a drunk. They were yelling all the time and it was always poor little Camilla they yelled at. Why the fuck are you here, what the fuck are you doing, why the fuck are you so useless. Everything that went on was Camilla’s fault.”

It soon dawned on me that her name must be Camilla.

Shen went on, almost not noticing me anymore. I was curious though, so I stayed and listened. The whole situation seemed so absurd to me. Here was this old lady, who before had been just an ugly, disgusting creature, but I started to realize that she too had once been a person, like me. Someone who had a name and parents. As absurd as the thought was to me, she must once have been a kid like me too. I wondered what must have happened to turn her into the thing she was now.

The story continued. Camilla ran away from home when she was a teenager. She didn’t know how old she was at the time anymore. She didn’t have memories of her childhood. It was all just a blur. Like a blue sky that was almost completely hidden by gray clouds. It was there, but just not visible anymore. Only every once in a while did it clear up and she was able to remember the occasional detail, she said.

After she ran she met Tony or Ramon or Miguel. She wasn’t sure what his name was and then she laughed because she wasn’t sure if it was just one guy or maybe all three. She said things were different after that. I didn’t know what she meant back then, but I am pretty sure she was talking about sex or even worse things.

“I know you don’t wanna look at me now brat, even with all this shit covering my face, but back then, your eyes would have been glued to little Camilla.” I looked up in surprise as she addressed me. She started to reminisce about long dark hair, hazel eyes and a pretty face.

Then she started to laugh again.

“Tell you the truth brat, no, there was never any real beauty here. But it wasn’t bad either. Just a plain normal girl. Nothing too special too look at. That too changed in this goddamn life.”

I didn’t know what to say so I continued to listen.

“But that happened later. Ran away from home, left the guy who I was with or the asshole abandoned me. Can’t remember a damned thing. What I know is that little Camilla ended up on the streets and met the others. Not the good kind, but who gives a shit, right? A girl has to eat. Couldn’t go back to that shitty family no more.”

I noticed suddenly that she was looking at me “Ain’t got no questions you damned brat? Why you even here?”

“I am sorry, I don’t know” I started to mumble excuses, but she just shook her head and went on talking.

She soon started to talk about bad guys, other girls, falling in love and many more people. It seemed to be the typical story of a girl who ran away from home, met the wrong crowed and ended up as a prostitute. The lack of names didn’t help to make the story clearer.

She said for a couple of years she lived like that and then she started to work at the house.

“That’s were little Camilla was introduced to her new best friends. They make you forget all the bad shit and help you feel more alive, brat.”

I didn’t understand at first, but soon it dawned on me that she was talking about drugs.

“Whatever shit happens to you, just a bit of this, some of that and poof nothing but bad memories and soon enough those are gone as well. Would be a godsend if it wasn’t for the things it did to the body. That body sure was never pretty, but the result after that was damned nasty.” she broke into laughter again.

“That’s what the stuff does. Melt’s the face, the skin falls off and blisters all over. Makes you rot from the inside.”

I shuddered at the idea, but she only laughed at my reaction.

“Got thrown out of the whorehouse because of the smell mostly. It was back to the streets after that. Few more years, couple more bad people and a good beating by the cops every once in a while and that was it. After that poor little old Camilla finally ended up back home. By then daddy was long gone and mom was on her best way to join him.”

I got all my strength together to ask “You are from this town?”

“Damn right I am. They all know me. They call me a monster. Tell their kids not to get close. Pretend I am not around. Oh they support me, those saints” the last word was said slowly and spiteful “bring me food and water, just so they can keep their conscience clean and never have to see me around town. They pretend there is nothing wrong, just like they did when daddy did all those things to little Camilla and mama pretended she didn’t know. They all knew. They all ignored it.”

I looked at her in surprise. Back then I only understood half of it and it took me a long time to put everything together.

From her story I estimated that she must have been about the same age as my mother. It must have been all the bad stuff she did and the drugs that fucked her up so badly. At least that is what I believed for many, many years, before I made sense of the last thing she said.

After she had ended I was quiet for a long time and I soon noticed that she had dozed off again.

As I got up, I heard her talk in her sleep. It was weird. This time her voice was different, altogether calmer and more normal.

“Mama was also hit, she didn’t pretend. Daddy would have done it to her too. That’s why in the end mama burned daddy. Just like mama burned the bad little boy.”