Word of the Day: Omphaloskepsis

Word of the Day: Omphaloskepsis

In this series, I will take the Word of the Day from Dictionary.com and craft a short piece of creative writing around it.  My goal is to embrace the meaning of the word in some unique way, all the while trying out different styles, rhythms and characterizations.  It is as much an exercise in creativity as it is an exploration of grammar. Enjoy!

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By Alex Seise

Arthaneo was afraid. The young man lay on the cold, marble dais without moving as the four hooded women encircled him. They chanted something in low voices that he could not understand.

He’d traded his toga for a small crimson silk wrap, which draped along the lowest part of his taut abdomen and extended down to his knees. It was part of the ritual, the leader of the women said as he disrobed. After he’d climbed on the stone altar, clutching the wrap to protect his modesty, the woman administered several drops of oil around his belly button and sprinkled a strange powder atop that.

The appointment with the coven had been Clynektra’s idea. His young wife had been unable to conceive, and despite visiting every healer in the city state and wrapping her navel in a number of intricate poultices, she still could not grow her husband’s seed. The latest healer raised an interesting point; perhaps it was not the woman’s fault, but rather, her husband’s.

Now, the four women stared at his belly in the omphaloskepsis ritual. The oils and powders smelled pleasant, earthy and mildly astringent, much like an herbalist’s home. The flickering candlelight and murmurs lulled him into a trance-like state. Despite his fear, he felt suspiciously relaxed, drifting into a warm, comfortable rest.

He awoke to darkness, the candles long since burned out. Only one woman remained, illuminated by the faint glow of daylight from the entrance to the cave. She was the same elder who had seen him in. He sat up with a tight ache in his lower belly, the red cloth barely covering him. Arthaneo reached his hand down to cradle the sore area, which had bloated.

“It hurts,” he said, rubbing furiously. “What have you done to me?”

The woman cackled. “Nothing that you didn’t ask for. I’ve given you a child.”

Arthaneo thought back to his request, and his eyes grew wide.  “Me?!”


“But… I cannot birth a baby! I haven’t a womb, or a canal!”

The woman laughed again, louder this time.

“Buyer’s remorse is the worst feeling in the world. Well, second worst, after childbirth. Keep us appraised in eight months’ time and enlighten us with your own opinion.” And with that, she disappeared in a bright flash followed by a puff of violet smoke.

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