Hypatia: Her Story

Hypatia: Her Story

This was a lovely project, run by Linda Clearly at the Hypatia Trust in Penzance.  With seven of us working together in a mini-thinktank: researching, debating and writing.

Hypatia: Her Story’
“Creative writing course explores Hypatia, the woman, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. Working principally on the perspective of narrative – building in research and division of story i.e. point of view. This course is for those with previous writing experience and who have an ability for self-motivation and self-direction as various tasks in the course require research and discussion.”

Here’s a sample of my writing from the group sessions, from the point of view of a bystander at the event of Hypatia’s brutal murder (415 AD, Alexandria):

He stood by the entrance, twisting the spear in his hand.  Nervously watching the beginning of a crowd push their way into the building.  Each man seemed more anxious than the last.  More irate for not being able to see what was happening inside.  He darted his eyes here and there trying to find the rest of his Unit.  He’d returned only moments before and the others had already disappeared, probably inside.  He tried to look in but there were too many bodies blocking his view.  The muffled shouts from inside were getting louder.  He was starting to think he should do something, but what could he do without the rest of his Unit?  It was impossible.  He looked around again, desperation rising.

Someone knocked him back against the wall and he tried to keep his temper.  His training always told him he was the best, he had the power, but he, alone?  He didn’t feel the same confidence without the others.  They had the power.  The metal helmet scraped back from his eyes and he tried again, a source of anger started to break into a sweat.  He kicked and pulled at the men in front of him and pushed his way in, shouting over their heads to let him pass.  He would find the others and they would keep order.  They were in charge, in this chaotic city.

The heat from outside swam over the crowd, body heat dripping without air between them to cool the mood.  He managed to stagger through to the side.  He caught glimpses of uniform on the edge, but the mass of robes prevented him from getting further.  The backs of men became a shield for whatever was happening, there at the altar.  He had no time to dread and strained every muscle to keep his balance.  Hands grabbed and pushed and he held on with the rest, now just trying to see, something.

It was then he heard a woman, a long pained shriek, above the volume of men.  An ear-splitting cry over the jeers.  And then, a moment of absolute silence.  In a throb of action, it all started again.  On and on as some form of horror fell upon her.  The pain covered over by the many.  His will to stop this, broken.  Helpless.

Random items were passed overhead, people scrabbling for whatever they could find, weapons of hatred flowed in a frenzy.  The intensity of the struggle swept away as he stood, transfixed, lost in the hunger he didn’t share.  And even as it grew to an end, he stood there.  The yells of joy and victory sung up into the sky and they poured back out of the temple.  He tried to release himself, tried to stop staring at the blood-soaked floor.  Footprints smudged through the redness, bleeding into his vision.  The only proof there was a life taken.  A horror, so quick, so final.  And he, what could he do?  He was only one.  He didn’t have the power.

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