Sat Jun 13, 2015 2:48 pm
“To give life you must take life,
And as our grief falls flat and hollow upon blooded sea
I say to you, I only do to you what the Sparrow did to me--
But I will turn our grief to joy
I will be old and envy the young.
I will forsake sanity with madness as penance.
I cry when it is fashionable to laugh.
And I will love when it would take less courage to hate.”
Gaol. It is a place for bad people, for people who have done bad things, a place to lock them up so they can no longer do bad things. The tiny madwoman stares from a distance at the building, unassuming as it was, as if the gallows waited just on the other side of the doors. Perhaps they did. Gaols are meant to lock people away, dark, cold places with dark, cold stone, little personal oubliettes, places to forget bad people and their bad deeds. Dark, cold places with dark, cold guards who grabbed and hurt—and hurt more if you did not remain silent and let them take what they wanted, just remain silent and stare at the doors you were not allowed to go through, not allowed to touch—
Her head shakes abruptly, quelling those thoughts before the panic might overcome her eerily calm mind; it was like the smooth surface of a lake in the early morning, the barest of ripples in the serenity of the moment, just waiting for someone to throw a large stone in with a heavy splash and ruin all of that peace she has worked to build for this moment. She had even taken the time to brush her hair, or try to, to remove the worst of the wild snarls that made the dark tresses so feral, but left it hanging free all the same. Even the little rope that she uses as a belt is gone, the oversized tunic hanging freely to past her knees, swallowing her minute form in the rough-hewn fabric. Tunic and leggings—she did not wear anything else, lest she needed to be searched, and that would be less like a rock being thrown in the lake and more like an avalanche of boulders.
Forward she goes, one bare-footed step at a time, shoulders back in her resolution. No choice, no choice, no choice but to do what was the only choice. "She is g-g-going to put Constables on you. If we b-b-bring her Soodsy, she won't. They'll lock you in a cupboard. I - I d-d-don't want that. Will I tear the City to pieces?"
The long-fingered hand reaches up to rub her breast, just above her head, a place that ached in particular when she thought and thought upon it, almost bitterly, though the ache was melancholic. Sad. She knows the City—knows it. Remembers it. Some do not. Some have recollections, vague as a whimsical daydream, but she remembers it. Bled into it to take a small part of it, to make herself a home
It is a blur, the next hour, two hours, three--she does not remember as it is something she cares not to remember—ever, the questions, the answers she does not remember giving, if she gave them at all. Some of the Constabulary knew of her already, so it would make it easier to fill in paperwork of things she would not answer. Until the one question that she just does not seem to have an answer for:
Why are you turning yourself in to us?
is hard, and she swallows over the lump in her throat, hands folding over the pit in her stomach. Why
is she turning herself in? Why
is she seemingly admitting to guilt? But she was not—she was not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty.
“I will-I will not…I will not…incriminate. Myself. I will not incriminate myself,” she finally says, looking down at the floor, at the tips of her bare, pink toes. The clerk at the desk stared at her overly long, a hard look meant to unseat and make one squirm, but she is not there to unseat and squirm. She is there to protect that which she loves and holds dear.
They let her keep her clothes—for now, was the stipulation, for she was merely being placed into custody and not actually under arrest. Yet. When they officially placed her under arrest, the gaolor had told her gruffly, she would be required to wear the clothing supplied to her by them. She hears this, but does not respond, does not respond in the slightest for lack of ability with her dry throat and thick tongue. The gaol is dark. Dark and cold, the cells small. They’ll lock you in a cupboard.
It was not until the cell door swung open with a creak of metal that she stops in her tracks, feeling the coldness in her bare feet creeping up into her spine, seeping into her limbs. The gaolor nods his head toward the doorway, indicating for her to move. “In y’get, lass. C’mon.”“Will I tear the City to pieces?”
Her breath catches as she tries to inhale deeply, and one foot shuffles forward, steps small and reluctant; there is something to being trapped in a small room with only a door. Just a door, and no other way out. Just…a door. It is cold. And dark. And Mekarie jumps for the ceiling when the door shuts loudly behind her—and she is locked in. The first thread of panic trails down her spine as she slowly walks the confines of the small cell, from corner to corner to corner to corner. Over and over again, pacing, getting to know the confines of her cupboard. The small cot in the corner, it is ignored, pushed away and aside, out from the wall so she can walk around it, and once the walking is done, she goes back to that corner, turning to press her thin back to the cold wall, and sinks down to the floor, drawing her knees up, elbows on either side as she leans her head down to press her forehead to her knees, hands pressed firmly over her ears, eyes shut.
“I want to go home
.”“I will cut yer tongue out if y’so much as whimper, y’little bitch.”
Her mouth presses firmly, teeth biting down on her lips to keep them together, so hard that the coppery tang of blood fills her mouth, darker thoughts and memories crawling out of the deeper recesses of her mind, bringing the panic, the despair, the remembered pain that makes her draw her feet up closer to her person, making herself into a small, compact ball of silent misery.
Sun Jun 14, 2015 7:03 am
She came when the light of the day had given way to the security of night.
"Mekarie," she'd told the Constable at the entrance of the goal.
"The mad girl?"
"The very same," Gloria said. "I want to see her."
"So you're a friend."
The seamstress pried her answer from the blackened crack of one of the stones in the wall, afraid that the truth might belie itself in the echoes of her eyes. "Yes," she said. "Yes, I am." And while Gloria wore a woven bonnet like many of the young women in Myrkentown, the seamstress' reputation for impulse and graceless inflammation preceded her: they'd known enough about her when she was a Junior Inquisitor to deduce she was not some helpless farm-girl, but a foreigner whose convictions and perceptions often led her to combustion, paroxysm, and occasional violence. He asked her to hike her skirts up just enough to show there were no handles jutting from the cuffs of her boots. She obliged, giving an enough of an immodest glimpse of the wiry hair on her calves and shins to prove she bore no weaponry.
The Constable gave her a torch and motioned her past.
* * * *
Finding the cell was not difficult. It was but two away from where she and Ailova Smith had recently resided. When she appeared in front of the bars, the torchlight flapped like a burning flag under the power of a listless gust of air. Tonight, Gloria Wynsee wore her finery, for business
necessitated professionalism. The wine-colored dress was neither slimming nor flattering, but it bore a bounty of skirts in layers of sprig-patterned scarlet that almost made her seem larger, wider, more imposing. From her collar to her kirtle, a number of buttons carved out of bone bisected her silhouette. With each breath the buttons strained against her bust and belly, the fabric they held together parting like little pairs of lips. She'd grown since the last time she'd worn this dress, grown a bit fatter, grown taller, grown more muscular. Her shoulders were a flat line. In the pale, coiling light of the torch, her complexion was the color of tarnished pennies. Steely eyes leered into the shadows of the cell.
"I want us to talk," Gloria whispered. In the darkness of the goal, the words still echoed. "I don't care if you don't want to talk, nor do I care if you feel you've nothing to say to me."
She leaned forward to touch her cheeks against the rusted iron bars. This quietly, this deliberately, her words shed the insecurity of their stammers. "I'm desperate. I've no knives to pull on you, nor any patience for screaming or fighting. I want us to sit here, Mekarie, separated by metal, and understand
one another. Because if we don't?"
(Will I tear the CIty to pieces?
he'd asked, a boy in the body of a mountain inquiring about inevitabilities he was helpless to alter.)
"People are going to perish. Ser
Catch will rip this building — and the world — down around us to set you free."
Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:16 am
For the longest of time, she does not move, still tucked in her little corner, so small behind the cot that until she moves, it was hard to tell in the deep shadows if she was truly there, her dark hair blending into the stone around her in the night air. The perfect camouflage from anyone seeking her, to be overlooked. Only the muffled sound of words come through hands pressed to her ears, and her eyes and mouth tightly shut meant no sight nor sound to be made. Sensory deprivation—the means of a mad thing to survive the most horrific of all her nightmares come true. Wolves will chew their limbs off to escape traps.
Too bad the mind was not a limb.
A sprig is in her hand, a fading white rose. She had had a visitor of sorts. Or at least someone had given her a flower, something wild that reminded her of home. A buoy, the scent keeping her grounded. But it would not last; already the flower was dying, the white turning brown on the edges, wilting. By the dawn it would not smell sweet any longer, but sickly, and before then she would have to throw it away. But it moves when her hands move away from either side of her head at the muffled voice that, upon moving her hands, was not so muffled but neither was it welcome. As her head lifts, she licks her lips, slight swollen from biting them with teeth to keep from making a sound of either poetry or song, to keep the words in so that that she was quiet and unseen. And by the time her head is up, she is capable of speech, and while her expression should be unfriendly, distrusting, it was instead…worn. Weary, with heavy circles beneath her eyes. She was keeping herself awake. For whatever reason, she would deprive herself of sleep along with everything else.
“You would have him-have him destroy the City to avoid this,” she says, her voice somewhat hoarse, dry. “I would-I would do this to avoid him-him destroying the City. That, in chess, is a-is a stalemate. Or-or sacrificing a piece, if it will-if it will come to that.” Slowly she extends her legs, the workings of someone who has held the same position for hours upon hours. Mekarie has no desire to move from the corner, but there is an inevitability in this conversation, a fate to it. It takes her a minute or so to stretch out aching limbs, to work her way to ungainly feet, and face the seamstress once again. She does not look entirely unkempt, but simply small with the lack of belt making the tunic swallow her up to past her knees.
“You would-you would use me as blackmail, Gloria,” Mekarie finally says, no triumph in her voice, no conviction. Only a tired, hollow tone. “So I-so I removed myself.” Her feet shuffle around the cot as she comes closer, dropping the rose on the threadbare blanket as she goes. Nearer she comes, stopping a few feet from the bars, watching the seamstress with eyes so dark a brown they were nearly black. Her hand comes up to waggle a finger at Gloria before she slowly starts to pace in front of the bars; she felt too exposed in the torchlight, beyond a locked door with no windows in her little cell. It was confining, and every shout, every clang of metal makes her flinch or cringe, an involuntary act of itself.
“I would have-I would have words with you,” she finally says, spinning at the end of a pacing round to face Gloria, her words almost a declaration, as if accepting this…parley. And as she comes nearer, “You demand. You demand much and do not stop to-do not stop to think.” A pause, and she presses on, quickly before the seamstress could stop her, before she could grow angry enough to cut her off. “You see her and you do not remember. You do not ask-you do not ask why but you demand things. To hold her and-and sing to her. Things you do and do not-do not remember, and yet you do not ask. You demand.”
Mekarie turns away, clearly growing frustrated at her own words, growing back into herself, her mind, for the moment. It would not remain that way, this surfacing of her, before the panic, the dark stark hysteria that was her darkest nightmares came crawling out of the recesses of her mind to drag her back down. “I would-I would help you-you remember if you had but asked.”
Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:02 am
"I demand everything
There's no need to argue with Mekarie's words; the madwoman made observations that even Gloria Wynsee accepted as truth. The seamstress had always been a stubborn and discontented being; she did not often ply, but rather forced herself against the world with all the brutish defiance of a gauntleted fist. She'd drive her shoulder into a mountain just to prove she could move it; she'd slit her wrist to show the world her blood was red if ever it was doubted. Seeing the twitching, flitting madwoman in this miniscule cell? It filled Gloria with a morbid satisfaction, one that put flint and tinder to old Jernoan embers inside her breast....if you had but
"But I have, Mekarie. I've asked with words, and when those did not work, with fists. When those didn't? A knife. Threats of violence. You might think it's quite simple for — for me to draw back, to consider what role you have in keeping my daughter from me. To inquire after — after your motives. But I've not got room in my heart and my head for that. All that matters is that you know
where she is, and you willingly obscure the details. Few things are blacker than that. If your heart spoke aloud to me? If it said, dig me out of Mekarie's chest, Gloria, and I'd tell you what she does not
, I'd pry the cage of your ribs open without a second thought just to hear it."
The torchfire flicked, danced, ever off-balance but never bending to far to fall, never fading. In the shadows, her plump features were leather and stone.
A moment later, her posture corrected itself. She leaned against the bars and rested the stump of her left arm, bound in a red sleeve, along one of the joists of the iron ingress.
"But none of those persuasions will be necessary," Gloria reasoned, "because I know where she is, and all I require is your confirmation. This is
me asking; this is me pleading to understand."
Catch is nae o' this realm, aye? 'ow could his git be born 'ere?
Silence, pregnant and interminable, until--
"When I gave birth to her, she was born into the other place
, wasn't she?"
...in the other place, when you close your eyes and — and your body goes somewhere else.
"Is my child in the Golden City, Mekarie?"
Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:28 am
“You have not asked. You have-you have demanded everything.” She rounds back on another turn and stops in front of the seamstress, as if peering at her. Observing. Sometimes it was amazing what those not of sound mind could discern from several long moments of simply watching a person. “And because you-you demand everything, you do not-you do not see what it is to be-to be someone who is always-is always demanded of.” Her fingers curl and uncurl in a meaningless manner at her sides. There is no rhyme, no reason to rhythm, and it does not bring her solace this time. “Even in-even in your question you-you demand. You will-you will smash through resistance like…like a bull through-through glass. Sometimes all you-you have to do is knock and someone would-would open the door.”
“You have asked, and-and I have said she is safe,” the madwoman stresses the last word, something she has stressed over and over again, trying to not let frustration show through. Gloria wished this to be a meeting of the minds, to share words, and she would keep her tone more…personable. “Look at me. Look at me, Glor-i-a Wynsee.” Mekarie moves, quickly, up near the bars—but does not touch them. Does not dare. “I gave you-I gave you words. I gave you all of them. And I have-I have never lied. Never broken-never broken a word to you. Yet you would-you would doubt me because-because I cannot hand her to you and say ‘See.’”
Gloria asks her question, the ultimate question. She asks, and Mekarie pauses. The madwoman will answer, but first—“I will-I will answer. But—“ she holds her hand up, pointing a figure up to the ceiling. “Are you willing to stop and think before you do something…something so-so rash you will bring destruction? You wish me-wish me out of here after wanting me-me in here so that-that Catch will not bring destruction down. I put myself in here to stop you from bringing destruction.”
A pause, a heartbeat, and the madwoman simply nods. “She is. You see her-you see her all the-all the time and do not remember. Do…do you wish to remember her? I can-I can help you remember. All your time-all your time there.” Another small pause. “Taking her from the City will bring destruction,” she says, almost quietly. Regretfully. “But I can-I can help you remember every moment.”
Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:31 am
After Mekarie's confirmation, Gloria's eyes pulled gradually away from the diminutive woman's face and examined an unfocused spot between two of the rusted bars. She reduced her attention to every one of her breaths, trying — trying — to do as Duquesne had once instructed her: draw in through your nose, feel it strike the back of your throat, tickle the trough of the tongue. Exhale. Exhale in control of the world; exhale to express agency over tumultuous and unreliable emotions; be better than your impulse and the convictions etched like scrimshaw into your bones—
You see her—you see her all the—all the time and do not remember.
With judicious care, she placed the torch into an iron holder beside the cell's gate, freeing her four-fingered hand.
I can—I can help you remember. All your time—all your time there.
Her lips twitched; little muscles hidden under the Sun-hardened skin of her face jerked and tried to marshal control over the emotions writhing beneath.
Taking her from the City will bring—
A sharp inhale. The girl's fist shot forward. Knuckles blasted once, twice, three times against the upright bars — destruction — with a clang, clang, clang that reverberated through the steel and vibrated in her bones. Knuckles mashed against the unfeeling metal. Spots of blood gleamed on the cell's door. Hot and red, crimson glistened on her skin. She hit the bars again and again and again until (Whose voice is that? Whose?) a hoarse, tremulous moan fell from her lips, and she was still battering the same spot on the bars with her hand. She screamed, a strangled howl that silenced itself just as quickly as it had come. Striking, hitting, swinging, until her hair was a matted, black mess falling out of her bonnet and rings of damp sweat wreathed her neck. Striking, hitting, swinging, until there were tiny dollops of red on her own cheeks.
She stumbled back. Her spine met the wall. With her bloody hand cradled protectively under her chin, the seamstress sunk down like a human liquid and sat across from the cell. Her feet were sprawled out from underneath her volumes of skirts and off-white petticoats in hapless disorder. Spittle spotted her chin.
Wet eyes finally found Mekarie.
In that moment, Gloria Wynsee exhibited more control than anyone might have ever believed her capable—
"How," was all she managed to say.
Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:19 am
More silence is offered when Gloria exhibits here rage in a way that Mekarie cannot blink nor turn away from. It is pain, and something that deserves to be witnessed, even if it is by a lowly madwoman locked in a cage. When she stops, when she sinks down to the floor across from the cell, Mekarie does the one thing she can think of, and finds a tatter in the hem of her tunic and tears, ripping, pulling the frayed edge around until it encompasses her, and she takes the tattered white rag, and simply tosses it to the seamstress to stem the flow of blood.
She will not sit. Not out here in the somewhat brightness of torchlight—it is still a small cage, and she is still a trapped wild thing inside it, and to be settled in the open was to invite more trouble than she had. But she does move, letting Gloria’s rage…subside. Tether itself on a tenuous leash. Mekarie would know better than to think it gone, to underestimate what the younger girl was capable of.
How, she asks. Says. Demands. All of it. And there is another pause in her motion before she finally, slowly, drops to her knees, to put herself closer to eye level with the girl, but well beyond arm’s reach should Gloria prove faster and angrier.
“You need to-to…to understand,” she says slowly, as if trying to find the right words. These are not words that want to come willingly, words buried in the back of her mind. Forgotten things that should remain so, but she has no choice. No more choices, just one path. “You need to understand why…why I say what I say about-about mothers.” Mothers make victims of us all. Victim of motherly love.
“Mothers in-in my…past. In my experience. Are…selfish. ‘Protect my baby.’ ‘I want nothing but the best for my child.’ ‘I want him to be happy always.’ ‘She is the best thing in this world.’” She stops for a moment, a brief one, thinking, before continuing. “In a-a way, it is beautiful. That love. They are creatures that will-will do anything for their-their children. But it is…selfish. Children mean a legacy. And-and good, healthy children mean even-even greater so.” Heirs. Progeny. Prowess. So many names for it, so many ways to explain it.
“They will do-they will do anything for their-their children. Even force things that are-that are not meant to happen.”
Her long fingers tug at the collar of the oversized tunic and yank it down over her left breast, enough to show a large, blackened area over her heart, a twisted, puckered wound about the size of a peach. Burned, scaled and wretched, with thin lines leading out where heat had burned and severed small veins and capillaries. “This is-this is what happened the last-the last time a mother had…had asked for something I could not-could not give.” It was as ugly to see as it was ugly to bare, and after she is sure Gloria has seen it well enough, she hides it just as quickly, smoothing her hand over the fabric in a slow, calming manner. “And now-now I am trapped in a gilded cage.”
How. Mekarie settles again, resting her hands on her knees, to lean forward slightly, giving Gloria her full attention, full face. “I offer you-I offer you a way to see her and to-and to remember, Glor-i-a. Because I-I can do that. Because I want to do that. Mothers are-are selfish, but their children are their-their greatest gift to the-to the world, and that is selfless.”
Now, she scoots forward slowly, carefully, and extends her hand through the bars, careful not to touch them, and holds it out to Gloria, palm up with her long fingers beckoning her. “You must-you must see my pain. I am…I am not a witch. I am not-not a mind-meddler. I do not-I do not swain. Your mind is-is your own, but I must…share some pain for you to remember.”
Tue Jun 16, 2015 12:50 am
This is—this is what happened the last—the last time a mother had…had asked for something I could not—could not give.
Gloria's eyes fell upon that mottled and blackened patch of skin marring Mekarie's breast, examining the old would through a veil of doubt and disconnection. The ashen scar forced her to wonder about the source of the wound: had it been some bit of magic, something uncanny and inhuman that had left the madwoman with that scar? A flicker of sympathy like a weakling camdleflame brightened her visage. The emotion vanished just as quickly. She ignored the sliver of clothing tossed to her; this blood is hers, shed from her own knuckles in a fit of impulse. Pain she gave to herself. Agony willingly embraced.
"Perhaps the mistake you made," Gloria responded, staring out from between wiry coils of hair, "is that you chose to meddle in matters of mothers and children in the first place. What you believe is selfish has — has proved itself, to me, to be a matter of nature: I would do the despicable to retrieve my child, and to do anything else would be to abandon her. I do not matter, Mekarie, but she does. She does, and if the world demanded I shed blood — even my own — to ensure her safety, you're a fool to think it's a desire rooted in something as paltry as selfishness."
The bloodied hand lifted, its knuckles skinned to strips of wet pink. She spread her digits in a trembling diorama, showing the stump of her missing ring-finger.
"A demand made of me," she explained, "that I should be someone else's unwilling tool."
The truncated length of her left arm, handless and modestly capped by the knotted sleeve of her red dress, raised next.
"This, too, was a demand. One I made of myself, that someone else could live."
With her rustling skirts dragging across the dusty stones, she thrust herself forward, nearer and nearer to the madwoman's upturned palm.
"Do not presume you're the only being in the world who finds herself playing the victim of other people's demands, for — for that's a rule of living, Mekarie. We're used by others, and in turn, we use others for our own ends. You've used me, even if you refuse to believe it. You demand that — that I stop listening to my instincts. You demand that I find peace with my child's absence. And for what reason? To preserve some Golden City constructed in our dreams? You would have me drive myself insane, and yet you preach about selfishness."
Unafraid, her blood-stickied fingers brushed across Mekarie's.
"If you want to show me your pain," Gloria permitted, "show me."
And I will show you mine.
Tue Jun 16, 2015 6:02 am
“My-my mistake was in-in…existing.” She spoke in riddles so often it was hard to tell when she was being true—lucid and whole and telling, and when she was laying claim to verses and song. “I am-I am not a witch,” she repeats. “I am not a mind-meddler. I do-I do not-do not swain.” The madwoman felt the need to make this very, very clear before Gloria’s warm and sticking flesh touched her own, cold fingers. One leg shifts, moving so that her knee is drawn to her chest, bare foot on the cold stone ground—a move made to make her more secure, more resistant to any sudden movements. There was much risk in putting her hand through those bars to give to the seamstress.
Her fingers curl slowly, gently, around the girl’s thick wrist, holding steady—not to grasp, but simply to hold firm, to find purchase and keep it. “The-the dead moon,” Mekarie says softly, dark eyes glancing upward to the ceiling, as if she could see the sky overhead. Or simply wished it so. Already she was desperately missing fresh air and the simple things like starlight. “It is-it is coming…this is hard.” And her hand squeezes, a light pressure on Gloria’s skin.
Disconnect comes with the dead moon, but it is a full moon that flashes overhead in a cool night, brilliant and bright. The acrid smell of burning flesh accompanies the pain seared into their chest, but there is a deeper pain, something less than physical. A tearing, the feeling of anguish and bleeding forever and ever, that the end of days could come and they would still be hurting and pained and bleeding. It is mental anguish, a broken heart, a shattered soul.
Things are seen in snippets, felt in pieces. A hand grabbing, bruising, throwing. Rocks bruising knees and palms. Blue eyes, opaque in a small, waxy face. It is the eyes that hold words, the first words that threaten to overwhelm. I cannot. Small words, trembling words ripped through tears and pain. More words threaten, swamping, whispers in the dark. Ugly words, sad words, beautiful words, but not theirs.
The glint of silver in firelight, a hand in their hair, yanking them to their feet. This is the price. Wizened, gnarled hands, the cool feel of metal on their throat, and dark eyes in a face turned ugly by anger, by hatred and underneath a deep-seated grief. What a nightmare—
Mekarie gasps and loosens her grip to the point of letting go, fingers splayed wide, but she does not retract her hand just yet. A fine sheen of sweat covers her brow, her lip, and she quickly wipes the small bit of crimson from beneath her nose with her free hand. The dark of the moon always takes a toll. There are several moments before she will speak, her shoulders hunched, lips quivering, trembling as if she were refraining from tears.
“I’m not-I’m not…” She is not a lot of things. Bad, evil, corrupt. Not a witch, not a mind-meddler. Not a lunatik or child-thief. Not swain or villainous. But she is many more things.
Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:52 pm
Fragile fingers closed like a hasp around her bulky wrist and then—
there's the moon (crawl moon) isn't the moon (crawl moon) so pretty and fat and white like a dreamy little painted face doesn't it smile wider and wider and shine brighter and brighter doesn't it doesn't it can't you see all the pockmarks scarring its oblong cheeksall the divots and grayish blemishes on its soft soft glowing skin it's so bright so bright and gods (nameless) are we burning; we're burning we're burning is that our skin searing smelling cooking smoking hearing pieces of the fragile mind falling away like broken glass
—blinking, eyes snapping open and shut, trying to clear themselves of these images, these sensations injected under her skin, and—
yank us anymore by the hair the brains are liable to fall right out plop right on out to the stones like a jellied fish at least what brains are left your hands they're old hands they're (greatladygreatman) hands each wrinkle's the tongue of a knife the lip of a surgeon's razor stop talking won't you just stop talking would you please please please please just stop talking they're like needles inside my head what's left of my head
—the goal reconstructed itself in her vision once more; she's breathing with her lungs, gasping with her mouth. The fabric-wound stump lunged up to clap against her own breast, gripping with helpless, invisible fingers at the strings of her bodice, am I burning, am I burning rolling like thunder inside her mind. As the visions and sensations peeled away, the seamstress — her bloody fingers curling around Mekarie's wrist in return, clutching to it like it was an achor to reality — pinned her eyes to the madwoman.
"What was that," she questioned meekly, before responding on her own: "It's awful. It hurts." The blue veins in her forehead strained under the leather of her skin. "What they did to — to you. It's awful, incorrigible. We deserve all to exist, Mekarie, but existence and living is neither pleasurable nor rewarding. It chews pieces of us away, bit by bit. Perhaps you — you ought to feel relief, that you can open this library of pain for anyone to see at a touch. To explain to others what...what happened to you.
"But my pain? Ailova's? Even Phor's? It cannot be so easily transmitted; we've our own black marks to bear. We hide them. We must."
The analytical clockwork of her mind started to shake away its rust.
Her attention flicked to the rusted bars.
And with renewed vigor, she sought to keep Mekarie's wrist in the snare of her fingers.
"Iron," Gloria whispered. "You avoid it. Like the handles of the doors at the tavern. You're not—"
Tue Jun 16, 2015 5:38 pm
She does not move, does not dare, with Gloria holding her wrist in a vice. “That is-that is what I remember from that-from that first day. ‘What is your name?’” Her voice is harsh, when she asks a rhetorical question, tone gruff like she is mimicking a man. “’What is your name?’ And the-and they named me…Mekarie.” She stumbles over the name—rarely did she say it; names have power, and she is very often careful to never use names. Her dark eyes rest on the hand gripping hers, and she was still, careful to not touch the bars. Her thin arms are covered to near the wrist, her coarse-hewn tunic long-sleeved and concealing, so that she did not reveal anything. Or bump into things.
“If you-if you cut me, I will bleed and bleed. If you…push me down a hill, bones will break.” Gloria has seen the madwoman be wounded—Mekarie has taken wounds for the seamstress before. Nearly froze death. Suffered the wintry dead at the hands of the horned girl. “Iron…hurts. Like the-the head hurting. It makes me…” She cannot think of the right word, and she has so many, many words in her mind. It took strength to convey that memory to the seamstress, and words tended to overwhelm when she was not on her toes and keeping them moving. “But that it-but that is a door. I am-I am not-I am not meant for doors.”
“We’ve our own black-our own black marks to bear,” she says, repeating Gloria’s exact words. “And we-and we hide them.” And she does, very much, hiding her skin, refusing most contact from others—could she do it accidentally? Most likely not. It was draining, the evidence on her pale face and the slight tremor in her muscles that passed through like a small spasm. Even that brief moment... “Would you-would you have…would you have believed me?” Would anyone have believed her, to understand the cruelty that she only vaguely remembers because the pain was so great? She's a madwoman, a crazed little thing that lives in the Woods and consorts with eldritch creatures. No one would have believed her if she had told her tale. Her free arm draws around her knee, pulling it closer to her chest, and she is still careful to not move her arm in Gloria’s grasp. “They were-they were my langnioiar.” Her expression crumbles slightly, the corners of her eyes crinkling, brow furrowing when her voice trembles. “They were my…” Again, she seems to be lost on the word—it will not translate properly, and she cannot come up with a suitable answer, a suitable surrogate word for the one in that cold language that spills off her tongue from time to time.
After a few moments of trying to think of a way, she moves one, and her face smooths out, packing away her anguish as she tosses her head back to knock her hair aside. The sheen of sweat on her skin glistens in the low torchlight; it was much, much effort to keep her thoughts together so near the dead moon.
“I will-I will help you remember," the madwoman finally says, holding her gaze on the seamstress, as quiet and serious and lucid as she can make herself. "And remember everything within-within. With your-your daughter.” Now she twists her fingers back around to clasp Gloria’s hand, not so tightly that the girl might think she would send something to her, but enough that she wanted to keep her attention. “I cannot bring her to-to you, but when you see her-her every-every night I will help you remember.”
Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:04 pm
"Would I have believed the pain you endured?" Her brow flattened to a series of incredulous lines. "Whatever you think of me, do you think me heartless, Mekarie? Too cold, perhaps, to have feeling?"
Black oil throbbed inside her hollow tooth. For a minute, a dash-quick moment, she considered ramming the madwoman's knuckles against the iron to test the theory. To see, if like the Storyteller, rusted iron would render her to ash—
"I believe you. But in turn, you must extend yourself to believe me: I bear my own agonies, past and present, but they — they do not excuse my actions. I've seen in the past three years what awful things happen to those around me, and the wretched acts of which I'm capable. I don't want to vilify you, but I must. The act alone fills a whole of — of unknowing in my head." No longer willing to continue the contact, Gloria withdrew her hand from Mekarie's and slithered it back through the dilapidated bars. The blood seeping from her split knuckles had stained the cuff of her dress. Her broken fist gleamed in the torchlight. Occasionally, a resonant plop of red fell to a spot of dampness on the floor. "Perhaps one day," the seamstress whispered through the bars, "you'll create something out of nothing, a tiny life, a being, in a moment of impulse and vulnerability and need. You'll grow fat and wide, and you'll desperately wish you could whisper in the ear of your former self, stop, stop, you don't want this, you're not fit to be a mother.
"But you'll feel it twist and kick. You'll sing it those songs you love. Resentment will — will turn to blind adoration for this thing you've not yet seen, because to think any other way would break you into pieces.
"You'll come to me then, and you'll say, I understand everything you did, Glor-i-a. Believe me."
Scarlet skirts and too-long petticoats poured down around her ankles as she stood. Simultaneously, Gloria looked down, down upon the fragile woman wrapped about herself in the darkened cell. With her face lowered, the lively shadows of the torch dared to obscure the emotions that papered her face: pity, doubt, even a hemline of regret stitched across her dried lips. And for the first time in months, she spoke with a meager softness that dribbled out of her, a clumsy, girlish admission of frailty too-often hidden behind stoicism and stubbornness.
"Will you please help me remember her," she asked.
Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:42 pm
Would her skin burn and turn to ash? It was hard to say because Mekarie would not say, nor would she willingly touch it, but upon reflection, should anyone rethink and remember, she does not touch doors of any kind; of metal or wood. She has handled smaller metal things. Spoons and knives and trowels. Things of steel or more pliable metals, perhaps. Though iron was…unrememberable. Iron hurts, and she tries to explain why, but the why is a fleeting thing, and it is words that are escaping her for the most now. Dead moon…she could not explain that either. So much she could not explain—not would not, but simply could not. Making A go to B or C did not work without dividing Q by Z. Not in her mind. Not here.
“You have youth to-to make you bold,” she says quietly, taking her hand back. “You have-you have youth to make you reckless. And you have youth to-to make mistakes. And-and you have youth to make-to make time.” Was this her way of understanding? It was hard to say. Understanding, excuses. She did not know herself, but watches the seamstress, listens to the soft drop of crimson on the cold stone, so loud was the tense silence between them. When Gloria stands, she rises to her feet as well in a fluid motion, easier than the younger girl for lack of skirts and girth. One hand will press to her lower abdomen, those longer fingers splayed out to press the tunic against her scrawny, flat belly.
“This is-this is dead. Dead and broken.” Either by design or from some terrible horror of her past, maybe the same horror that had made her incarceration the epitome of living hell for her. She does not say, but simply lets Gloria to that revelation with no explanation. But there would be no progeny for a mad thing like her—a blessing or a curse, depending on the perspective. It was not meant to thwart Gloria’s words, but merely to help her understand the lack of kinship on that part. Mekarie would never be in that position, but she understands.
She nears the bars, as close as she dares, when those words, those soft words, are spoken, almost like a broken plea. Very, very carefully, she raises her hand to reach through the bars and gently put her index finger to that small dimple that raises between the brow of the seamstress’ eyes. It was a gesture she may have seen before, something the madwoman has done to others when she wishes to See them.
Will you please help me remember her.
Or perhaps to let them See.
“Yo vilja muna,” the mad little woman says, her tongue rolling that cold language so easily. Cold because it does not sound warm, it does not sound like a tongue from sandy beaches and warm waters, but of ice and mountains and harsher things. “You will remember.”
Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:52 am
The finger reached out and touched unceremoniously against the grimy divot of her forehead. She felt nothing; no wave of power, no surge of arcane influence or dark control. Just a meager touch, skin against skin, accompanied by foreign words that clicked and rattled like reagents on the madwoman's tongue. When it was done, the seamstress pulled quickly away. Is that all, she wanted to ask. Will it be so simple? Her bulging eyes disbelieved. Had the madwoman opened some vault inside her conscience? Would dreams that vanished like foam and flotsam against the shores of her mind be something she remembered now? By what force or influence? She wanted to ask, like a curious girl, but—
"You will not wear this as a badge," Gloria murmured, touching blood-smeared fingertips against her forehead. And then:
"You've done me no favor. Do not brandish this as some selfless kindness you've given me, Mekarie, because it is not that."
From her sash, she untied a threadbare bag fattened from inside with tiny copper disks. Coins. For a commoner — especially one whose trade hadn't been practiced in nearly two years — the seamstress had amassed a comfortable purse. She clutched the small bag tightly in her split-skinned fist.
"I'll pay the Constables your retainer, that they might release you. So we do not threaten to unhinge Ser Catch more than he already is," the girl added. "This is an exchange, an — an investment in one another: your freedom for my dreams. These are neither gifts we give to one another, nor charities, but an equal exchange." Her egg-round chin lunged high, her stance prideful and bold and reckless all at once. "Obscure any more knowledge about my daughter, Mekarie, and this agreement dissolves. Otherwise, I'll be as amenable as I am able; I'll not willingly be the reason you are broken more—" than you already are. "I'm no monster. Neither are you."
Her gaze slid down to where Mekarie's hands were clasped protectively over her own belly. And whether or not what Gloria said next was for the parts of Mekarie dead and broken,or for their recent discord, was unclear. But—
"I'm sorry," Gloria said.
She turned away from the cell and stepped down the hall. The wooden soles of her shoes clapped, ker-rap, ker-rap, against the wet stones. Her broad silhouette receded. The girl navigated the goal's next corner and was gone.
When she counted out the coins to the Constable on duty, he did not ask about her bloodied fist or the wetness in her eyes.
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