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Ink by David Vann

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A golden face in darkness, helmet mask. Appearing in torchlight over the water and vanishing again. Face of the sun, descendent of the sun.

Father and home and betrayal and rage. Four plumes along his mask, a scattering of light, a kind of mane. His shield of many hides a hollowed blackness. Ashen spear a thin line and then gone. The sail above him bowed out like the belly of an ox grown large as a god, hooves making no sound in the water below.

Nothing will stop her father, Medea knows. He has lost too much. They have taken everything. All she can do is slow him. She reaches down for a piece of her brother, a forearm strong and strangely soft now, already cooling, and drops it into the sea, almost without sound, buried by the splash of oars.

She has done this for Jason and will do more, she knows. Her brother dismembered at her feet. This is how the world begins.

Dark wood in darker water, a sea of ink, and pattern felt but unseen, quartering waves caught only in glimpses. Wood thick beneath them, lines creaking, pressure from rudders. All held together as one, barbarian and her Minyae. Each hull a home.

Flesh that should sink but will not, a forearm too small to notice in torchlight in that darkness, but seen nonetheless. Her father commanding the sail lowered, the oars shipped.

What myth can hold when you kneel in your brother’s remains? When you slit his throat? What can guide us if we betray all?

Dark one, Medea says to the water. Let everything that binds fall. Let all that is known be confused. Let all that we are die. Let me be most hated of all women, and most true.

Goat Mountain by David Vann is out now (William Heinemann)

(Image: Rex)

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