The Greeks called me Iris. Messenger of the gods. A goddess myself, if somewhat inferior to my mistress, Hera.
At least the Greeks were honest.
These two men, staring into their spherical globes, would each declare it heresy to worship a pagan goddess. There is only one God, they would say, although they would disagree over the details. This one with the handsome beard and turban would say that God is One and indivisible, although he spends his every waking hour with his globe and his camera obscura, splitting the divine light into its separate colours, measuring, predicting. The other with his shaven head and monk’s robes does much the same. He at least believes God to be Three-in-One. Yet it is not three colours he counts, but seven. Seven, like the planets, like the days of the week: all named for the pagan gods. Neither of them can escape the Greeks.
Strange, how they both think they are the first to
discover my secrets. Each of them working separately, unaware of the other, one in the forests of Germany, the other in the ravaged splendour of Persia. True, they both study the books of the same master, one in Arabic, one in Latin. But who gives them the wisdom to put formulae to my reflections and refractions, almost simultaneously, as though joined by an invisible thread ?
Is it not some messenger of the gods?
They will not be the last of their kind. The Men Who Stare at Rainbows. On the contrary, their master’s wisdom will go on refracting down the centuries, enlightening new philosophers, whose names will eclipse theirs. Bacon. Descartes. Newton. Young. Men who will cling to words like rationality and science. Who will consider it absurd to worship the goddess of a long-fallen empire.
But I know better. All empires fall. The gods remain. That is my message.
That and the fact that men will always stare at rainbows.
Elizabeth Hopkinson has had around 60 short stories published in magazines and anthologies,
and a historical fantasy novel, Silver Hands. She has won a number of prizes, including the 2005 James White Award. Elizabeth lives in Bradford, West Yorkshire with her husband, daughter and cat. elizabethhopkinson.uk Facebook Twitter hiddengroveextra
Support her patreon.com/elizabethhopkinson