Greetings, people of Earth. I am Orion. You know me as Orion the Hunter, a magnificent constellation of stars. When you look up at me, you may discern a giant man etched in the heavens who has captivated stargazers and astronomers through the generations since the time I lived, loved, and hunted in Ancient Greece.
Every civilization of the beautiful blue-green-brown world below recognizes me by picking out the three perfectly aligned stars on my warrior’s belt. As you look up at me in the winter night sky, I look back down on you. But you may well ask: How did I get here?
My tumultuous life was logged in the annals of Greek mythology. The most handsome man ever born, they said. The mightiest hunter, able to walk on water. A giant – about six foot six – which is tall even for your times. Born with supernatural physical strength. I could bring down any beast or man with my bare hands.
That’s how my legend grew before my downfall, or should that be, rise. I became more loved and admired after my death than I ever was in life. A cosmic monument to hopeless love. I became a big hunting hulk in the sky – after I was granted immortality by the mighty Zeus, King of the Gods.
They say I was raised up here in all my interstellar glory on request of his daughter Artemis: the noble, beautiful, tough, fearsome Goddess of the Hunt. The love of my life, who killed me with an arrow through my brain. The gaping scar of that fatal wound is a star you see called Meissa – the ‘shining one’. That bright star marks my fair head. The pain still sears my fazed, frozen mind.
Katasterismos: transformed into a constellation. My fabulous immortality. Well, I’ve got news for you. It’s purgatory. My aching, lustful body is forever punctuated by a trillion stars in a hellish, cryogenic afterlife, interspersed with the sub-zero dark matter that holds me together.
The winter rains are my tears. I wasn’t all macho brute violence. I loved and lost, many times. None of my stars mark my heart, because it is broken in a trillion pieces. I yearn for my beloved Artemis from an impossible distance. I float in a torturous limbo, like in an endless waking dream.
Behind me, but never visible at the same time, is the constellation of Scorpio. Chasing me until the end of time, but never to catch me up. The scorpion that is said to have killed me, according to legend. There are probably more versions of my life and death than any other character in Ancient Greece. I am the Schrödinger’s Cat of Greek mythology. Dead and alive at the same time: multiple states; multiple stories.
So, how did I get here? I will try to relate what led up to the last day of my tawdry, tumultuous life. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.
I can’t say what year I came upon Artemis the Huntress. It’s way too long ago.
I had waded through the glorious blue sea to Crete in the black of night. I wandered the mountains, plains, and beaches of this big island. The air was cool. Then I saw her. A young woman, startling on a rock, poised to fire her arrow, under the glare of a full moon.
Goddess of the Moon. Goddess of the Hunt. Sheer magnificence.
Her lustrous dark hair was pulled back and up into a headdress of stag antlers. Olive skin shone by the moon’s light. Her long arm and hand were tensed, her muscles firm and strong. The quiver on her back filled with silver arrows. Her eye fixed, ruthless, penetrating the dark ahead as she eyed her prey. In the sight of this vision of strength, beauty, determination, and ruthlessness, I was smitten: once again, and for all time, in love.
I was the only man she loved.
But I was not the first she killed.
As swift as the blink of an eye, she reached for an arrow in her quiver and aimed it at me. I fell to my knees.
“My lady, fair Goddess,” I said, my head bowed. “I am Orion the Hunter.”
She snapped back, lowering her bow and glaring at me. “Orion. Yes, I’ve heard of you. And not all good.”
I tried not to shake. “I know of your great work as a renowned huntress, fair Lady. I mean you no harm.”
“Stand up, hunter.”
I stood up and dared to behold her. She moved back and eyed me up and down. “You are well known as a hunter for the people. Let’s see what you’re made of. We’ll prepare this beast together and deliver it to the town. And, Orion, you keep your distance from me at all times.” She omitted to say, or I’ll kill you.
In that long, wondrous summer we became companions of the hunt, wandering the forests and mountains of the island together. I watched her draw her bow, launching her shaft, her eyes fixed, silky dark hair blowing behind her. We challenged each other to foot races and archery. I was entranced. Power, strength, grace: she moved like a young, swift gazelle.
I marveled at her skill. I watched her skewer two small creatures at once with one of her perfectly aimed silver arrows. As I removed the lethal bloodied weapon from their twitching bodies, I was thankful not to be visited by a premonition of my own, similar, miserable end.
Artemis was the first woman I met who loved the hunt as much as me. Her silver arrows shot through the air like a bolt of lightning from Zeus himself: her father.
Gradually, she trusted me being with her. I was in love, but there was something else: friendship. This powerful, energetic woman had actually let me, the rampant, rough Orion, into her life. I was desired by women and feared by men, but companionship was rare. I was lonely.
We met at dawn to begin our day’s hunt. When we took our hunting spoils to the villagers, we were greeted like modern rock stars. Her exalted place among the gods was universal.
By night we roasted our kill over the fire. I watched her lithe, strong body pull at the animal’s hide, her lustrous dark hair falling across her gleaming shoulders.
“My twin brother objects strongly to our friendship. And you can stop looking at me like that.”
“I am looking at you with admiration, my Lady. I hope you told your brother that my intentions are entirely honourable.”
“They had better be,” she glared back. She stared into the flames of the fire. She was determined to maintain her chastity her entire immortal life. But I sensed she desired me, very much against her will. But then I would think that, wouldn’t I? That’s the way I was.
She knew about my tarnished reputation. That I had forced myself on the daughter of the King of Chios. After he got me drunk and reneged on proffering his daughter’s hand in marriage. After I cleared his island of marauding beasts. Then he gouged my eyes out. You may well say, served me right. Got my sight back by the dawn rays of Helios. You may well say, lucky boy.
Why did Artemis trust me to hunt with her, to laugh with her, to sit over the campfire at night together? Because she could kill me at a stroke. I would leave her to bed down somewhere outside the village while I hunkered down deep in the forest, far away.
One day she did not appear at our appointed place in the forest to begin our morning hunt. She had taken up with another hunter named Actaeon and now, I was lost. I spent my days pining, not hunting, not eating. I couldn’t live without her.
Artemis denied me physical love. One day I came upon her handmaiden, Opis, bathing in the stream. The most beautiful nymph I had ever seen. She came out of the water and kissed me passionately. I thought the sweet girl wanted me. I took it a step too far. Again.
Her twin brother, the beautiful sun god, Apollo, watched over Artemis. And he watched me.
As he flew overhead in his golden chariot, he saw me ravish his sister’s handmaiden in the forest.
I returned to the mountainside where I first saw the huntress standing tall in the moonlight, about to shoot her arrow. I heard splashing in the clear water. She bathed. I could not look. She was no nymph: she was a goddess. I heard what happened to any man who saw her, even accidentally, unclothed. But, secreted among the trees, one already had.
I fled from the ghastly scene that unfolded. But I could not avoid hearing it. A gut-wrenching scream echoed out over the water through the forest. The scream of a young man. I looked back and saw a wild stag, thrashing in its death throes on its back, its legs wildly and hopelessly fighting off a pack of savage dogs that bit, tore, and ripped into its flesh.
The screams were not from a wild stag. They were emitted by a young man.
I ran through the forest for miles, tearing through the trees, lugging my precious armoury – my sole possessions. I came to a clearing. She stood there, in all her glory. Her antler headdress glistened in the morning sun: her tall, lithe body was straight, commanding, terrifying.
I sank to my knees and bowed my head. I braced myself for the ire of the goddess, after my dalliance with her handmaiden. To be transformed into an animal of her choice. Within seconds, she caught up with me. I was no longer the hunter; I was the hunted.
“My lady! Please… please have mercy…”
To my amazement, she placed her amuleted hand gently on my dirt-strewn head. I saw her muscled, tanned long legs before me, planted apart in her warrior stance.
“Stand up, hunter,” she said, firmly. I obeyed. Maybe she saw the tears welling in my eyes, at the touch of her hand on my head. Maybe she didn’t know…
I stammered, “I heard… what happened to the young hunter. I heard his screams. But I was not looking at you, my lady. In the river. Please, noble Goddess, I mean no harm.”
“You will be met with worse if you do, Orion. Now, come. We will hunt.”
My last twenty-four hours on Earth were wondrous. Because they were with the woman who had captured my heart. And my soul. She did not seem to know what had happened with the handmaiden. But for now, I was ecstatic, running with her through woods and up and down hills to the sea, shooting at our prey, racing against each other – just like before.
But I was in mortal danger. I knew Apollo was setting a trap for me. My guard was down. I was falling, falling, deeper in love.
Up here, in the frozen wastes of space, I imagine the warmth of the sands, the sun, the glorious blue skies above Ancient Greece. The mountains, the forests, the craggy hills. The glorious islands I hunted in, loved in.
The country I roamed during my short life.
The glistening, glorious, endless, blue sea I waded through.
The sea I was about to die in.
On the final evening of my life, we ate and talked as ever over the campfire, under the night sky which, unbeknownst to me, was to be my destiny.
The air was freezing. I wondered where she would find shelter. We were near the sea, and the wind was fresh. I gathered my weapons and made ready to leave.
“Will we hunt again tomorrow, fair Lady?” I asked, like a young boy on his first date.
She lay down and turned her back on me. Suddenly, she said: “Hunter, please… stay.”
I walked over and slowly put down my weapons. I lay down next to her on my back. Thousands of stars formed a gigantic celestial roof above us. The moon was full: her moon. She flies across it on many a night. I dared not look over to her. My heart pounded fit to burst.
She moved closer to me and said, in a fragile voice: “I am afraid of having… feelings.”
I ached to hold her. My voice cracked as I dared to say:
“My lady, I love you. I want you to marry me.”
She moved away. “I have sworn never to go with any man. My father placed this promise on me for my immortal life. And I desire it.”
I stood up and made to leave once more.
She called out: “I am cold, hunter. Please… please hold me.” I knelt down beside her. Without a word, she put her long, strong arms around my neck and hugged me to her. For the first time, I felt her face against my neck, her long eyelashes flickering against it. I gently held her.
She pushed me away and snapped: “We will sleep now.”
She saw the tears streaming down my face. Our eyes met.
She kissed me. The purest, most beautiful kiss I ever had.
A kiss of pure love.
I put my arm round her trembling shoulders and, very slowly, pulled her close to me. She tensed as I enveloped her in my big arms. I felt the thumping of her heart. I drowned her mouth with my savage kiss.
She began to resist.
I was consumed with desire for her. I could not control it.
That night, under her moon and what became my stars, I gave her all of my love.
In the only way I knew.
And in that act of unfettered passion, my fate was sealed.
I faced my last moments on Earth.
At dawn’s light, I saw her eyes look skywards, past my shoulders. The blinding light of her twin brother, the sun god, shone above us. Her face twisted in anger as she pushed me off her and stood to face him. I scrambled to my feet.
“Artemis,” he snarled. “I warned you not to go near that monster, that brute!” And, to me:
“I saw everything, mortal scum! You are now at the mercy of Zeus!”
“I love your sister!” I yelled in his face, towering over him in a final attempt at exerting my physical power, knowing it would be my last. “And she loves me!”
She hissed at me in a low, chilling voice:
“I only loved you as a friend, you stupid, stupid… creature! I only wanted you to hold me! To hunt with me again! You abused my trust!”
In a final desperate plea, I cried out: “Fair goddess! I love you! I want to marry you!”
And to all the gods above, my voice boomed out:
“For you, I will hunt down all the animals of this Earth!”
Apollo motioned to the sky. Artemis raised her arm and called up, in a deafening cry:
The almighty Gaia. The primeval goddess of the Earth, who protects every animal on this beleaguered planet. And visits revenge on any mortal abuser of its teeming life.
Today, that mortal abuser was me.
The growling, screeching creature appeared. A giant scorpion. A supernatural, monstrous mutation of the venomous yellow desert creature that even in its diminutive form was lethal. A deathstalker, writ large. Its hideous claws reared up against me.
I seized my club and shield, then struck at a claw, breaking it off. I had long fought wild animals, reptiles, insects. This ghastly thing I could conquer. Artemis and Apollo watched with fevered lust for my blood.
I crushed its head with my club.
Its tail launched its searing sting into my leg.
The poison seared my veins.
Shrieking my agony, I ran, limbs scorching, to the sea’s edge.
I heard Apollo cry out: “You did not just violate my sister, mortal brute! You assaulted her handmaiden as well!”
Artemis raised her bow to fire.
I helplessly thrashed against the waves of the endless blue sea
The scorpion’s venom paralysing me
I sank beneath the waves, drowning
I surged back to the surface, gasping, retching, fighting
My lungs filled with water
My arms flailed, my legs dying
I saw my love, my Artemis, standing on the shore
Her brother pointing to me
I floated, a paralysed, giant man, waiting to die
Before my sight dimmed
I saw her arm raised: her silver arrow aimed out to sea
It shot across the water
AND PIERCED MY BRAIN
I floated back to the shore
My brains, my flesh, my blood spilled out
Killed by the woman I loved
Killed by her arrow
I felt her arms holding me
My voice cried its last scream
I LOVE YOU
The recorded transmission ended the way it began, many months ago: with the strangulated, helpless cry of a dying man.
His ghastly death throes echoed eerily around the NASA facility set up to track signals from outer space. The project to find evidence of life on another world: SETI. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
In total silence, the operatives stood up from their consoles, their faces frozen in shock. All heard the final, screamed words of the transmission:
“ARTEMIS… I LOVE YOU”
The gasps and intake of breath were audible. They had heard most of the transcript over the past week. Its conclusion, although not unexpected, still shocked them to the core.
Only the Director of NASA remained seated, looking down, not at the giant screen which displayed a twenty-foot high image of the Orion constellation.
It had taken months to receive, interpret, and translate the transmissions from the original Ancient Greek. The confessions of a dying man, born on Earth thousands of years ago, and known as Orion the Hunter, displayed on the screen in the joined-up lines familiar to stargazers and astronomers. Generations traced his giant imaginary form in the cosmos. Transformed into a trillion stars in the winter night sky by the woman he loved; the woman who shot him dead.
The signals, sent from twenty light-years away, were found to emanate from Meissa – the star in the center of the hunter’s head.
The Director watched her staff – all seasoned astrophysicists and U.S. space program scientists – gaze dumbstruck at the vast screen. The burly scientist to her left barked:
“Is this, er, sordid memoir from an advanced civilisation out there? Or one big hoax?”
“No,” said Dr Kynigos, standing up to look at the screen head on. “No hoax. It comes from Meissa.”
Meissa. The shining one.
She added, curtly: “My doctorate was on the Orion Nebula. I know this system… inside out.”
Recalling her boss’s Greek origins, the Director’s assistant asked: “Ma’am, wasn’t Orion the Hunter transformed into a constellation? In the Greek myth? Surely this transmission… this confession… isn’t from…?”
Another colleague pitched in. “He was one helluva guy! Had quite an eye for the ladies.”
“More than an eye,” barked the Director.
Her colleague plowed on. “Yeh, Orion had more women than stars in his constellation! Got him killed in the end.”
Dr Kynigos shot her colleague one of her laser glares and strode past the banks of consoles towards the podium. She stepped up onto the stage to make her momentous announcement.
The glittering stars of the vast stellar hunter dwarfed her tall, shapely figure clad in a smart dark blue suit; her lustrous dark hair piled up. She had never married; devoted to her career, she was known for eschewing relationships with men. She inspired respect, admiration, and fear in equal measure.
Her eyes stared out over her devoted, hardworking teams of scientists. The murmurings and whoops ceased. Everyone sat down. The lights dimmed. A hush of silence fell on the entire hall.
Standing to one side so that the magnificent starry backdrop of Orion could be seen, shining out in its entirety, the Director placed one hand on her hip and dramatically raised her other arm, as if to fire an arrow.
With a flick of her elegantly manicured hand, as if in some tumultuous, spellbinding act of magic – the stars on the vast screen began to transform into the three-dimensional head, face, and gigantic body of a man.
The silence turned to renewed cries and gasps from her shocked audience. Some stood up and then fell back down into their seats. Before their eyes, they saw Orion the Hunter slowly coalesce from his starry essence to the giant, immensely strong, handsome man he had been in the time of Ancient Greece. Floating in space for all eternity.
His splendid body was naked save for a short warrior tunic and magnificent studded belt. A sword hung down with the great Nebula on its blade. A raised right muscled arm brandished his unbreakable bronze club, forever poised to strike. His left hand thrust a shield forward into the nothingness of space. His legs were not dancing; he knelt on one sturdy leg in eternal supplication.
Every stunned observer saw his eyes, once blinded, now wide open. It looked like he stared at their esteemed Director, his mouth opening in a wordless scream, as though he cried out to her. Somebody at the back fainted.
The Director turned to face her audience. In a resonant, powerful voice, her face as unmoving as stone, she proclaimed:
“Ladies and gentlemen. As strange and… graphic… as the translated transmissions from this source are to us all, we have achieved…”
She took a deep breath.
As the deafening applause broke like a tsunami, Dr Artemis Kynigos lowered her arm.
Her stunned audience saw tears fall from Orion’s eyes.
About the Author:
Andy Oppenheimer AIExpE MIABTI is an author, editor, public speaker, and subject matter expert in counter-terrorism. In August 2019 he published the first in a trilogy of science fiction novels. Fields of Orion: An Odyssey is set in London in the near-future world of terrorism, bomb disposal, espionage, and alien first contact. The second in the trilogy – Fields of Orion: The Mission is due out later in 2020, along with his erotic memoir as Orion – The Hunter’s Story: Confessions From a Constellation. His first book, IRA: The Bombs and the Bullets, was published in 2008.
Andy Oppenheimer is Editor-in-Chief of CBNW (Chemical, Biological & Nuclear Warfare) and CBNW Xplosive magazines. He is an Associate Member of the Institute of Explosives Engineers and a Member of the International Association of Bomb Technicians & Investigators. He is also a singer/songwriter of synth-pop music and a lover of Greek mythology – and specifically, of Greek goddesses – for a very long time.