As I look down at her cuffed and shackled form lying in its own filth and squalor on the stone floor, I feel no pity, no remorse, no compassion for what has been done to this pathetic creature before me. I feel revulsion and shame – shame that she would allow herself to come to this.
She begs me to free her, to release her from this pain and torment. Though she may be ignorant of the consequences, these things she asks of me are within my capacity to grant. Reaching down, I grasp her collared throat and pull the wretch towards me, snapping free wrist restraints and the chain that attaches her collar to stone. Blood trickles freely where her bonds are torn. She pleads with me not to hurt her. Hurt her? I would never harm that which begs for its own mercy, I would not debase myself in such a way. I wish only to have her pathetic carcass removed from my view and rid myself of its vile stench. She may not be of a mind to understand this, but we all serve a master – and mine requires I perform this act of compassion towards this putrid thing, my choice unconsidered.
Into a sunlight she’s not seen in years, I drag her writhing body. She yelps at being treated so, hauled across the soil in my vise-like grip. But having been kept chained in darkness for so long, there is no fight left in her.
Reaching a calm pool of water trapped in the curve of a small sun filled recess alongside a river, I toss her ripe and blood caked body to the ground. With a gentleness she does not expect nor deserve, I kneel beside her as I remove the symbols of the sins committed against her; the first of which is the collar I too have used to tame her.
Unsure what to make of such an act, she looks on me with both fear and desperation. An overwhelming desire to believe I am her savior crawls through her amber stare. This wretched girl, this torn and shame ridden child of man, covered in her own vile excrement and foul drippings – she wears her guilt as though it were a queen’s cloak, yet soaked in the foulest of deeds. Salvation she wishes for, in her eyes she is not to blame for all that has transpired. Is there yet kindness enough left within me to offer her such a thing, she silently begs. Yes, I believe there is.
Removing my own shirt, I dip it into the clear water at the river’s edge. Tentative of my ministrations at first, she cowers as I use the garment to cleanse not only her damaged body, but also her ruined soul. I allow the cool water to rinse over her hair, down her face, her exposed back, baptizing her body once again in a purity she cannot even remember she once possessed. Washed clean she is a thing of beauty even to my time ravaged eye; it’s no wonder I found her trapped in such a pit. Beauty is the trickster’s tool – it is a thing to be cherished, a thing of great value, a thing most would hold in high regard. But beauty is also a curse that cannot be outrun when the shadow of evil takes notice and comes to call, exacting payment for just such an indulgence.
Gazing at the creature before me, I admit her beauty seems near a virtue, or I should say may have at one time. Having been used and wrung dry, this beauty is scarred so deeply on the inside that I almost feel pity for her – almost.
I watch her for quite some time; captivated by the mere sight of her and the quiet joy she seems to extract from her new-found freedom. My gaze cannot help but wander her exquisite form. She opens her eyes. No longer filled with fear, I see admiration and gratitude for this benevolence I have shown her.
As her hair blows in the soft breeze, I lean over her, our raven locks intertwine as if to embrace for a lover’s dance. She gently shuts her eyes as my hand strokes through her hair, down her cheek, coming to rest on her alabaster throat that is turned up and exposed to me in a gesture of supplication. I pause long enough for her to open her eyes once again, long enough to breathe in her breath, long enough for her to fully convey an acceptance of my wants as a sign of gratitude for all that I have done for her.
My eyes peering into hers, our lips barely touching, my fingers still caressing her soft flesh, I snap her neck as though it were a bothersome twig in my path, and her limp form falls to the side.
I stand for a moment looking back on her. She retains a beauty and grace even in death, more so perhaps because of it. Her sins absolved? I hardly think so. She begged mercy from her god, a mercy that would set her free. Little did she know he would send a darkling in guise of beauty itself to free her of all her sins, even those she had not yet committed.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2012 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.