*waves* Hey, all! This is sort of an unusual story for me, if you know that my usual fanfiction stories are anime-based. But I wrote this piece for a college course I took last summer, and it suddenly hit me that - hey, this is fanfiction, too! I could totally share it with the world! xD So it's not really something I wrote for fun, though I did have fun writing it, and I hope you have fun reading it. =D
Disclaimer: Are disclaimers needed for something like this? I mean, the guy who wrote the original has been long since gone, and this is a website for FANfiction... But anyways, I don't own the original play or any of the characters. Yeah.
I knelt prostrate in a secluded corner of the gardens within the palace gates, and I wept, prayed, and pleaded with the deities of heaven and earth. I was Princess Ismenê, helpless daughter of King Oedipus, who had slain his father and married his mother. I was Princess Ismenê, impotent sister of joint-kings Polyneicês and Eteoclês, who had slain one another in battle. I was Princess Ismenê, deserter sister of Princess Antigonê, who was brave enough to defy kings. I was Princess Ismenê, desperate supplicant of the gods. Would they hear me?
Had I been a man with property, I would have sacrificed every creature in my possession to ensure that the gods heard me. I would throw feasts in their honor and set new holidays to celebrate each one so that they would have no choice but to hearken unto my pleas. But I was only a woman. I could only hope that my heartfelt tears might move Hera, goddess of family, to extend mercy to the only close family I had left. I could only beg that Artemis, goddess of maidens, might assist my foolish, loyal sister in her inevitable confrontation with the new king.
I looked not at the sun. It had been dawn when I had accompanied my sister outdoors and heard her mad plan. Dawn when, still stricken with terrible grief for the loss of our brothers, I had been incapable of dissuading Antigonê from her decided course. I thought nothing of sustenance; my entire focus was on my desire for the situation to end peacefully. My last words to my sister echoed bitterly in my mind:
"Go then, if you feel that you must. You are unwise, but a loyal friend indeed to those who love you."
While I found some small comfort in the fact that we had parted with the knowledge that we still loved one another, I could not but fear greatly for her. Perhaps I should never see her again. Perhaps as it was with Oedipus and Iocastê and Eteoclês and Polyneicês, so would it be with Antigonê. Our new king could hardly be expected to be merciful when his reputation as a strong, capable ruler is at stake, and tweaking the tail of a tiger was a very dangerous thing indeed. Should he decree for the worst to befall her, how could I bear to live?
"Oh, merciful gods," I sobbed. I clutched the grass beneath my fingers. I had no words left. What more was there to say? Would my prayers have greater effect should I repeat them until I received word of my sister's demise or pardon? For surely her deed could not remain anonymous.
I heard a voice behind me. Perhaps if I ignored it, it would not bring me the news I so dreaded. Perhaps Zeus would send a swift bolt of lightning to silence it. Perhaps Poseidon would swallow it in an earthquake. Perhaps Hades might even release my brothers back to me for a single moment to slay this messenger who surely brought distressing news. But the gods did not honor my silence, and the voice continued.
"Princess Ismenê, by order of the mighty King Creon, you are under arrest for high treason."
Ah, so this was how the gods chose to extend their mercy. I knew in my heart that my sister had been discovered. Now, I would share her fate.
So be it.
I rose slowly and turned to face the voice. The sun bore down upon me from a westward angle and illuminated the faces of the messengers from the gods. Yet despite the light, I saw the men not. My vision lay inward, attempting to ensure that my heart was cleared, that I would be prepared to face Death should he come. My faceless escort surrounded me on all sides but directly ahead. For why should they guard the direction in which they wished for me to travel? And so we marched.
Thus I entered the presence of Creon before the palace, my head high and heart clear. Tears still danced in my eyes, but I was calm. I now understood my sister's actions. Surely the gods would honor her act of love. How I wished that I might be granted the chance to act differently that morning, that I might have aided her! But perhaps she would permit me to join her now. I saw her stand alone, shamelessly, before our new king and all his court.
When the king spoke, standing tall before his palace on the stone road leading from the gates to the door, his words struck me with venom, but I did not falter this time. Rather, I spoke steadily when speech was required of me.
"Yes, if she will let me say so. I am guilty."
My sister's voice was horrifyingly devoid of love when it denied me. "No, Ismenê. You have no right to say so. You would not help me, and I will not have you help me."
I gazed into her eyes, pain rippling through my heart. She looked not at me, but past me, as though my existence was scarcely a thing to be recognized. I wished that she would understand my regret over my actions, or lack thereof, this morning.
I spoke to her. "But now I know what you meant; and I am here to join you, to take my share of punishment."
"The dead man and the gods who rule the dead know whose act this was. Words are not friends," my sister said.
I needed her gaze upon me. I could not argue with a statue. I reached out my hand and grasped her arm.
"Do you refuse me, Antigonê? I want to die with you: I too have a duty that I must discharge to the dead."
Finally, I had put to words the thoughts that had been swirling within me since we had parted ways that morning. I wanted to die with her because I loved her, because I saw no life for me without her and the rest of our family, because she was my rock in the war-torn and man-ruled chaos in which we passed our days.
Who was I, if not a sister? What value had I, if not with her? I had already been stripped of my status as a daughter, and I had also lost two of my three siblings. If Antigonê were to die, I could not continue in life. This situation was not a matter of choice; for without my rock, I would surely become lost, cursed to roam the earth as our new King Creon had cursed our dear brother Polyneicês to do. The desire to avoid such a fate compelled me to convince Antigonê to allow me to share her fate.
"You shall not lessen my death by sharing it," came the cutting response of my rock.
I knew that she was saving me with the same unwise loyalty she had granted our brother, but I could not but try to dissuade her yet again. I found no humor in the irony.
"What do I care for life when you are dead?" I asked.
"Ask Creon. You're always hanging on his opinions." Still she did not look at me!
"You are laughing at me," I decided. "Why, Antigonê?"
"It's a joyless laughter, Ismenê."
"But can I do nothing?" I pleaded. The gods must surely hate me, for what I had thought was their mercy was truly their judgment.
No sooner had I thought thus than Antigonê at last turned her eyes toward my face. She answered, "Yes. Save yourself. I shall not envy you. There are those who will praise you; I shall have honor, too."
Her words burned within my heart. But I would require time to unravel their meaning, so for the moment, I continued to protest. "But we are equally guilty!"
"No more, Ismenê. You are alive, but I belong to death."
My sister's words carried in them a finality to rival a king's. I knew then that I could no longer argue with her. I relinquished my hold on her arm.
In my silence, Creon took it upon himself to mock us further. "Gentlemen, I beg you to observe these girls: One has just now lost her mind; the other, it seems, has never had a mind at all."
"Grief teaches the steadiest minds to waver, King," I answered sharply. With ease, I forgave his insult toward me; but his insult to my sister, even also his own kin, as his status as the next in blood to our family granted him his kingship, caused me to forget myself and speak without thought to the consequences.
"Yours certainly did, when you assumed guilt with the guilty!" Creon answered back, frowning not upon me, but upon my sister.
How could he say such a thing, as though I were a righteous person who had only within the last minutes committed a crime? My crime had been at dawn, when I had forsaken my loved ones.
But I knew not how to answer the king now, so I returned to my earlier, now-worn defense:
"But how could I go on living without her?"
"You are. She is already dead."
So there it was. He truly did plan to sentence her to death.
I grasped wildly for any retort that might turn his heart from its course. "But your own son's bride!"
"There are places enough for him to push his plow. I want no wicked women for my sons!" Creon spoke as though our similar lineage meant nothing. As though even his own son's preferences meant nothing. (For I knew that Haimon loved Antigonê as well as any man can love a woman.)
"O dearest Haimon, how your father wrongs you!" I moaned aloud.
I ceased to pay heed as Creon continued to speak. I could do nothing more. I had been denied every request I had made. What now was I to do?
"There are those who will praise you," Antigonê had said.
Who would praise the likes of me? I, who had turned my back on my family for fear of the laws of men? I, who was now cursed to live alone? Why had my sister made such a proclamation?
I understood her not. But it was among the last things she had said to me, and it was the only compliment she had given me this entire last day of her life.
Perhaps, if I strove for as long as it might take, I might find the answer. Perhaps I could learn to see in myself whatever it was that Antigonê, the bravest woman I have ever known, saw. Perhaps I could have my own value.
Perhaps, one day, I will be Ismenê, a woman who is herself, whatever that may come to mean.
Well, how'd you like it? Please drop me a review before you go; I'd love to know what you think!