Friday, May 25, 2012
I murmur to myself in the blackness, praying that today I might have more courage than yesterday.
“Be careful what you wish for,” the old crone screeches near my ear, her breath hot and wet and smelling of rotting fish. Looking pleased with the fear she sees on my face, she rattles the bars of my cage for good measure, letting out a cackling laugh when I flinch.
“Crone!” His deep, guttural voice vibrates the dark walls of the cave. “Are you frightening my pets?”
The old woman whips around, eyes panicking as she searches the shadowed corners of the cavern room. “N-no, master,” she stammers, shrinking from the thing we cannot see. She points a gnarled finger toward the back of my cage where I cower like an injured animal. “F-forgive me. I heard the girl talking to herself. Talking about escaping,” she hisses. Her hunched form shakes as she casts all blame on me. “I only told her it was unwise to keep such thoughts.”
“Leave us,” he booms, and the old crone recoils like she’s been slapped. She hobbles from the room, dragging her bad leg behind her.
I cling to the back of my cage, pressing myself into the bars until it hurts, my shaky breath the loudest sound in the room. His eyes, burning liquid amber, come at me from the furthest corner of the darkness. The room illuminates around him—face of a black bull, body of a strong man. Steam puffs from his nose as he exhales, leaning closer, horns reaching between the bars of my golden cage. Like always, he at once makes the room both horrible and beautiful. It is only in his presence that I can see all that is around me, all that is normally shrouded in damp darkness.
My cage shines—the golden light of it stings my eyes, making me blink a million times, and I cower further away from him.
“Why do you fear me?” he asks, the deep bass in his voice rattling the air around us, the very bones in my body.
I wonder, not sure if what I feel for him is actually fear or something else. I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes and I realize that I am quivering like a broken leaf in a breeze.
He kneels before the door of my cage, leaning closer until his horns nearly reach my forehead where I crouch like a tiny bird. My breath comes ragged and fast—an unnamed emotion rolling off of me like a tangible stink. My eyes dart around the musty room where other cages—older cages, rusty cages, broken cages—litter the corners. There are others, living things like me. But no two of us are quite the same. Some are naked, some old, some feral and gnashing at their cage doors. For some it is impossible for me to tell if they are man or monster.
“Why,” he asks again, “do you fear me?” And though his guttural voice sounds dangerous, his firey eyes look tender.
“I—I do not want to die,” I manage to whisper.
Now his eyes change—from boiling amber they shift to deeper brown flecked with orange. I suddenly clutch at the necklace dangling at my chest. A tiger’s eye. Given to me by someone called my mother, so long ago that I can no longer remember what she looks like.
But his eyes look like my tiger’s eye, and something about that comforts me as I hold the stone in my hand.
“Why do you think you will die?” he asks, his eyes sparking. “I have saved you—all of you. Each of you the last of your extinguished races.” His eyes burn me, melt my soul, and while part of me wants to flee, part of me wants to know what would happen if I ran into his strong arms. “Each of you is unique. But you, in particular, my love—believe me when I say I would never hurt you,” his voice rumbles.
I almost entirely believe him.
Today I have wished for more courage. I gather the few errant scraps of it together and muster the words from my mouth. “But what if I want to leave… what if I ask to leave?”
His eyes smolder with a sadness I’ve never seen before. I immediately want to snatch the words from the air and gobble them up.
“I cannot make you stay,” his voice mourns. “But I would beg of you not to ask me to set you free. You cannot live without me.”
Now my cheeks warm with a stubborn will. I find more slivers of courage and snatch them into my heart. I want to be brave. I want to show him that I am strong. Not afraid. I gulp and force my fragile limbs to stop shaking. I stand and lean into his face.
“Open my door,” I demand, sounding brave and strong and worthy of his love. “Please.”
Tears well in his eyes, extinguishing their fire. He reaches down and smashes the lock with one huge hand. The other things in the cages go crazy—moaning, wailing, screaming, bashing themselves against the bars of their cages. He stands to the side, his dark head hanging in despair.
I step from my cage, and for the briefest of moments I am free. I spin toward him, a proud smile on my face.
I reach for him, only to feel the air rip from my lungs. And then I am floating, reeling through the air, unable to balance or find my way to the ground again.
I cannot live without him. I cannot live here.
I hear the other caged things rage and wail. And I hear my captor—the gentle beast with the tiger’s eyes—weep.
The room around me dims as I at last stop struggling for air.
Today I have escaped—not careful about what I’ve wished for.
She enjoys inhaling pumpkin pie, pretending to know how to garden, taking naps, and watching movies (a plus if they make her laugh her butt off or showcase Jason Statham's abs).
She resides at the foot of the mountains and dreams of the ocean. She lives in a lovely, rather disorganized house with her husband and their three monkey butlers (aka children).
Photo by: rosiekernohan