A Modern Actaeon

by Luke Raymond

As Actaeon confidently strolled down the street, he didn't notice the graffiti stained buildings, the lonely old men perched upon the stoops of their run-down apartment buildings, or the homeless crack-heads begging him for change. He couldn't hear the drone of the airplanes landing just a few miles away, or even the angry traffic merely steps to his left.

All he could see was her. He seemed to be mired in a sort of tunnel vision, where nothing entered his perceptual field unless it affected her. He had been following this one for almost a week now, watching her leave her apartment building at 7:30 and walk the six or seven blocks to the welfare office where she would listen to the same old men and homeless drug addicts tell her why they weren't working, and how they had tried and tried to get a job this month. Then she would give them a check, knowing full well where it was all going.

It was the thrill of the chase that excited Actaeon. He felt a sort of twisted primordial pride in what he called "hunting" women. He sometimes longed to live as his cavemen ancestors did-chasing women down, thumping them in the head with a club and dragging them to his dwelling to make them his slave.

Today would be the day. He would follow her home as she walked aimlessly home in the dwindling sunlight, and catch her by surprise as she navigated the alley in order to shorten her journey by a block. She wouldn't suspect a thing, weary from her day of doling out government funds to undeserving slobs, eager to return to her apartment to make a frozen dinner for one, run a hot bath and relax with her Reader's Digest.

As the time for Actaeon to make his move neared, he felt a rush of excitement. His foot began to twitch uncontrollably, and spontaneous giggles escaped his mouth. Visions of what was about to happen filled his mind with images of lust and power. It wouldn't be long now.

When she left the office, and began to trudge the seven block trek to her building, she felt something of a chill, despite the muggy early evening smog which enveloped her lungs. She was compelled to glance behind her, where she saw nothing but the usual few bums and street merchants who were packing up their wares for the evening. She grasped her handbag a little tighter, and picked up her pace. She really wished she could afford a car. Just a few more blocks.

Actaeon's pulse quickened when she turned to look around. He was sure he wasn't spotted, but just to be careful he crossed the street and put a little more distance between himself and his target. Just a few more blocks.

"Made it," she thought as she entered the alley between her building and the one next to it. The earlier chill now forgotten, her thoughts turned now to Chef Boyardee, potato chips, and ER.

It was time. Given courage by his desire, Actaeon was now compelled to act. He rushed up behind her, and before she knew it he was on top of her. In one quick move, one hand covered her mouth and the other held a blade to her throat. He only wished he had a club. The last thing she remembered was the stale breath whispering in her ear, "lift up your skirt, and don't fucking scream."

After leaving her ruined, sobbing form on the cold dirty asphalt of the alley, Actaeon was on top of the world. He hummed a little tune to himself as he weaved his way through the alleys back to his apartment. At one point his joy was so supreme, he jumped in the air, and clicked his heels together. Nearing home now, his joy waning somewhat, he began another hobby of his-window peering. He felt almost as though he were at home watching TV as he absorbed the daily lives of people around him. On his third window of the night, he couldn't believe his luck. A woman of infinite beauty, grace and wonder was bathing. Her skin, clear and flawless captivated Actaeon's eyes. Her face seemed to be one of a goddess, with a perfect upturned mouth, almond eyes a perfect shade of aquamarine and flaxen hair falling to the middle of her back.

Actaeon's wonder must have somehow alarmed the woman, for just as he was to depart, her gaze fell upon him and the blue eyes flared with anger. "Now tell! You saw me here naked without my clothes, if you can tell at all!"

Immediately Actaeon felt a strange sensation come over his body. His whole being began to change, to become alien to him. Frightened beyond his senses, he ran. He ran as fast as he could until he came upon a broken window where he caught a reflection of his face. Only it wasn't his face at all. Where once there was a proud young man now stood a person dressed in a skin-tight leotard with a face caked with thick layers of makeup. He tried in vain to tear off the clothes and rub off the makeup, but they seemed part of his skin. He knew he better get off the streets before someone saw him, but he couldn't go home. What would his friends say? How could he live? He must be dreaming. He became frantic and just as he began running again, out of the shadows came a young man dressed in black. Then another and another emerged from the darkness of the alley until Actaeon was surrounded by a large group of sinister looking men.

"What have we here?" said the apparent leader, "a little fag, a little pretty boy?"

Actaeon tried to respond, but when he opened his mouth to speak it wasn't his voice that spoke. A very feminine, husky sort of voice said "C'mon guys, it ain't what it looks like. You know me. It's Actaeon."

"You ain't Actaeon. You just a little queer runnin' around our hood," answered one of the men.

"Let's kick his ass, dog," said another.

"Yeah, dog, let's teach this punk-bitch a lesson."

"Nobody comes around here lookin' like that, bitch."

"Yo, dog, let's do this."

Before Actaeon could attempt an escape he was being passed back and forth between the men, being punched, kicked and brutalized. Actaeon tried to escape and struggle, but he couldn't. He tried in vain to tell the men who he was, but no sound could escape his lips. The pain in his ribs and head was so severe, he began to black out, but he did remain conscious long enough to see the blade enter his chest. As Actaeon lay bleeding to death in the gutter, Diana's wrath was finally sated.

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