Iphigenia Recounts the Sacrifice | Georgia White
It wasn’t so bad when it happened.
That’s what I’m supposed to say here, right? He was a good father, really. He loved me. He didn’t want to kill me. The story goes that I went to the temple smiling; they told me I was getting married; they told me I was going to a sacrifice; they would let me watch this time, even though they never let me watch; I didn’t understand until they asked me to lie down—
Or that I was gracious. I like that version more, I think. Martyrs always sound so pretty. Pretty white dresses that catch the breeze when you’re walking and pretty hair pooled out on the altar, and pretty words, too, they always get the best speeches. I got one. Well, Euripides wrote it, but I got to say it.
Hear me, mother, thinking upon what has entered my mind. I have determined to die and this I would fain do gloriously, I mean, by dismissing all ignoble thoughts.
Glorious. It was glorious, what I was doing, not just for me, but for Greece, and it would be beautiful. Heroic. Me, a war hero.
But I have this dream sometimes that I’m back in the temple. My father’s waiting for me. He had the best smile. You could see it all the way up to his eyes. And the incense is still too thick in the air, so much that I feel it clog my throat. It’s too sweet. I don’t like sweet. But he’s smiling at me, so I smile back, and he goes
sweetheart, lie down
and he points to the altar and I say
when’s he getting here
because you know I’m supposed to be getting married but there isn’t even a goat there for the sacrifice, but he just shakes his head and goes
it’ll be much quicker if you lie down
and then I look down. And he’s got the knife. Not his usual knife. It’s got a curved blade and a bone handle and it looks older than anything that I’ve ever seen and I’m like
is that for the sacrifice
and he nods. Doesn’t say anything.
And I realize that I always kind of knew my father would kill me.
It’s not—he didn’t yell. Not like they said, he wasn’t…big, you know, more he just saw things like a game. The kind where you lift something or throw something and test your strength and then you move on. You just move on. It’s fun. He liked those games. He liked to know what he could do if he wanted to.
Sometimes in the dream I scream and fight and yell, but mostly I just—
He’s there and he’s smiling, and I trust him, I do, so I just go
When it really happened there were all these people there. That made it worse. That I knew they were all seeing it and didn’t. You know. One of the acolytes tied my wrists when I lay back. Another did my ankles.
But in the dream it’s just us. And I’m lying back and I look at my hands and realize that nothing’s holding them. I could just get up if I wanted to. I can’t move them, though, not even my fingers. It’s just him. Just me. And he nods at me again, and he says,
are you ready?
I’m not. I never am. The air is so heavy around me and I feel like a lamb, but I’m not; I’m a person, I was a person, and he says it won’t hurt I promise and then the knife is in my chest and it’s not beautiful anymore it’s dark and sticky and my dress is all red and he’s just looking at me and it hurts it hurts and I remember how he only did what he had to do I was going to be heroic I was going to be brave I was going to be remembered.
I’m hardly even in the story.
They couldn’t be bothered to write me down.
About the Author:
Georgia White is a queer writer based in Berkeley, CA, who is inspired by maligned women. Her previous work has been published in The Nasiona, the Santa Ana River Review, and the Nassau Review.