Friday, 27 February 2015

Pictonaut Feb 2015 Part 4

And so we finally say goodbye to the pictonaut, perhaps for all eternity. On the plus side, I have finally written a story with a happy ending. Oh no, wait, that aint me at all...

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The Final Stories 4

I hear stories. Four stories. Some light, some not, some long, some not, some sad, all important, none of consequence, all individual, none unique. This is not my task, but it is my lot and I accept it as the tellers must accept that they will tell. They always tell. Really, they want to and I wonder, in the lulls, in the silence between the words, do I want to listen? It has never seemed to matter to me before. If I want to or f I don't, they will tell and I will listen without judgement, without opinion.

This surprises some. They expect that it is my place to judge, that this is why I ferry them to the other side of the lake, to their fate. Perhaps a few even believe, all the way down to their core, rather than on the surface as most do, that if they tell a good tale, a true and righteous story, that I will turn around, that they can go free. It is not in my power to fulfil this desire though, even if I would wish it. I never wish it. It would be against nature.

This one, a stoutly young woman who has no place here in her own eyes, has hope that I can change the winds, but the belief is not there. In its place I can see the gaping chasm of her loss, and when she speaks, it is like the wind blowing through the bones of the dead.

"Oh, oarsman," she moans. "Pity me."

"I do not know how," I answer. It is true but still she lacks belief in my conviction. This one is sceptical but not by nature. She has been made that way.

"Then I shall teach you. I was married once, to a great, powerful man. He was wise and fair, true and bold. There were none who would think to pity such as I. And our daughter, oh she was magnificent. Golden hair and a smile to rival the sun. We were happy and our land was plentiful and free. But such good fortune draw jealousy like sweetmeats draw wasps, and with it comes the sting.
"The war was bloody and terrible thing, I know. You must be aware of this, you must have seen so many, the victims of this treat injustice, the prisoners of our enemy. Our fairy tales are lies, fantasies for our gullible children. War is not a pastime for great men. It is the regime of the fool and the coward. Many good people have died for our lost cause, and perhaps they should gain your sympathies more than I. But I ask of you now, who had more to lose?
"It's okay, I don't expect a response. I am selfish I know. When I think of all those who have given themselves in protection of our way of life, only to fail, I know that it is we, their rulers, who failed them in not laying down arms and seeking a peaceful solution. There can be no winners in war.
"But despite all this oarsman, I deserve your pity still, for the things that hideous man did to me. Before they took my husband from me, he took my dignity. He took my will, he shredded my resolve. And when it seemed there was nothing left of me to destroy, he stole my womanhood. Perhaps if I had been left my husband we might have been able to rebuild something from the wreckage, but it is not to be. Not in a war such as this. The Earth is scorched."

She knows nothing of what happened to her tormentor, nothing of what passed between him and her husband, nothing of what bought him to their meeting. I have heard all of these things, but it changes nothing. I row on to the end.

"But if you cannot pity me, then I implore you to pity my child. She was there, at the start at least. She was beautiful and whole. I could see her face, throughout all the evil that was done to me, I could see her reaction, her fear, her distress. If he destroyed me, there is no term for the nothingness which my daughter became. How could she remain after what she saw? How could she continue? She died, long before the knife... Oh god, oarsman, the knife.
"By the end, I asked him, me! myself! I begged him to murder my child, my own daughter. I pleaded with him to end her suffering. But he wouldn't. He just kept going, kept punishing me, forcing her to watch. Finally, when I barely had the strength to stand any longer, he placed the knife in my hand.
"I did what I must oarsman. Nothing could be so hideous, so repulsive, but she was gone, she had died days before. But perhaps it was the right thing, if only... if only you will take pity on her, perhaps there is still hope."

I sit, as unmoved as I must by necessity be. She sees this in me, she knows how it must be. The realisation starts as a speck of air in her deepest, most still waters and rises and grows until it engulfs her at the surface. With all hope lost to her, there is nothing of the woman left as she climbs into her cage. Before I have even returned to my boat, she is gone.

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And that's it. The end. I promise. No more. Or is it...?

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