How long have I been walled up in here? How many rats and flies have I named, and feasted with? How many days have I paced beneath the meager half-light these narrow barred windows afford me? How long since my children have known the embrace of me, their mother?
My persecutors assail me with accusations, more befitting some trashy storybook than any act that I know, and all the while seizing my estate for their own petty whims. Abduction, molestation, torture, the drinking and bathing in of the blood of countless young women, all this and more, is what I and my servants have been accused.
How long since the cries of an ignorant mob have been sated by the execution of my servants? How long since I’ve known the gentle caress of hope? Once I fought for these lands, in my way, safeguarding its people from the onslaught of heathen invaders. Once I cared for these people that now find unity in a shared revulsion of me.
Is this all my fault? Did I trust the wrong people to be the shepherd of their own consciences? Is it wrong that I take bitter amusement in the irony that, while I’m walled in here, those that are supposedly protected from me are amongst the true monsters of society?
Once I wondered if there wasn’t one enlightened citizen that would rise up, refute these baseless accusations against me and be my champion; I spent countless days and nights, stubbornly clutching to such an unrealistic hope. Once I came to terms with the realization that no such champion existed, was the very moment I bid hope farewell.
A space was left in the wall, at floor level, just big enough for food and drink to be slid through. Both food and water are served in bowls, so that I may dine like some mere animal. Sometimes hunger overpowers my sensibilities and I feast much like an animal. Eventually all shreds of dignity fall away, realizing that no one was around to judge.
My captors were also thoughtful enough to leave a hole in the floor, just big enough for me to relieve myself, my dirty offerings plummeting an unknown depth to some sewer beneath. Because of this, the unpleasant stench of my captivity is a constant, yet my stone cage remains clean enough. When I surmised that they feared my execution would be too much of a scandal, I stubbornly held onto this life of captivity, eating their rotting bread, drinking their stale water, taking satisfaction in knowing that my life would serve as continued expense to my persecutors.
My bed is a pile of straw in the corner, and a single tattered dirty blanket of burlap, a blanket thick enough to afford me some protection from the cold nights, but not much. As time wore on, I became more accustomed to a sound sleep, even as my body trembled of the cold during much of any given year. I… suspect I’ve been here for years; I didn’t dare try and keep track for fear that doing so would prove more maddening than I could handle. What’s this? I hear footsteps. Is it feeding time already? I see that one of my rat friends, at the other side of the room, seems to hope so.
“Hey Countess,” I heard through the feeding hole; his voice was cruel and condescending. “If you write a note admitting your guilt, we may be inclined to release you.” The snickering of other men met my ears at that moment, alerting me to the fallacy of their offer. To my shock, a sword blade pushed through a piece of parchment, a bottle of ink and a black feather on top of it. I stared at this offering with wide eyed amazement, unable to move. By comparison, the rat showed no hesitation at all as it scurried over, sniffed at a corner of the parchment, and proceeded to start nibbling there.
“It seems the rat’s making use of our offer,” I heard the man scoff through the feeding hole. The other men laughed. I’m not exactly sure what came over me at that moment, but I launched myself at the rat, the sound of a ravenous animal issuing from my throat as my mouth bit into the rat, causing it to squeal pitiably as its hot blood coated my teeth. The man who was watching through the hole screamed in abject terror and flailed away, bumping into the legs of the other men and likely frightening them as well. I turned my head violently to the right, tossing my dead rodent friend to the wall, while I heard the man pitiably exclaim, “Sh….she bit that rat in two!”
“What I did to that rat was merciful!” I shouted. “What I’ve got in mind for you is far less pleasant. Now go… your sullied armor is an embarrassment.” I listened as the pitiable man fumbled to his feet and hurried away, the other unknown men following close behind. As the sound of my internal voice again became my only company, my tongue ran along my teeth, finding the rat’s blood considerably more pleasant than the typical menu I’d grown accustomed to. I stared at the carcass of my former friend, amazed that I’d attacked him like a cat. Like a cat…. I’m a cat. Why not? Who’s here to argue with me really?
I turned my attention to the piece of yellowed parchment, only slightly chewed, with its bottle of ink and black feather. I simply stared at the blank page for the longest time, an infinite world of possibilities; I’ll not throw this opportunity away on some false confession that would amuse only my persecutors, and only for but a moment. I brought the materials back with me to my pile of straw. After some moments of my mind racing and my emotions thrashing like a violent sea, my mind seized upon words most pleasing to my condition and I began writing feverishly.
The feather’s sharp tip plunged the bottle like some merciless lover, and the black demon’s blood flowed to the page with the ease of a fresh wound. Word to word, line to line, my tortured soul took physical manifestation upon the canvas, a dark, brooding, and menacing wretch, far greater than any heathen portrait my persecutors paint upon my name. Once my glorious dirge finally reached its completed grandeur a smile played across my weary face; a sentiment alien to the long duration I’ve been in this accursed captivity. But a vile loathing lay just beneath this sentiment, and I knew that well, an old friend for which I’d grown much accustomed.
I read the lines quietly to myself countless times with the light still remaining of this day; I knew my sight would not serve me in the later hours, and it was imperative that I internalize my soul’s physical form so I may give it voice throughout the night. As the day drew to a close, and the sun retreated from what I was about to unleash, an inhuman glee seized upon me. I imagined the terror that would soon grip any guards unfortunate enough to be within the castle this night, and many nights to come.
As the last hint of day abandoned the narrow windows of my chamber, I drew a long deep breath, its sensation more akin to dragon’s fire than the stagnant air of my walled chamber, and I began to sing. Dulcet tones with deadly intent began stalking the castle corridors, like some slow, lethal predator inching ever closer to its prey. My mind grew intoxicated with the way my dirge leapt off the nearby walls, like cats pouncing on their next meal. Somehow, these observations alleviated any pang of loneliness, as these elegant, agile specters became my new closest friends.
I grew to lose count of the number of times I sang this song on any given night. My dark ballad was my new sustenance, and I left the stale bread to any rodent that still braved entry into my chamber. The only time I took of the bowl of water was to wet my tongue and throat, so that my glorious song might yet live. I wasted away, yet I found comfort in my final condition and, as I finally slipped from life one fateful night as I was singing, I envisioned droves of cats, pouring through the streets and into buildings like some unstoppable flood of relentless, fur-covered death.
I have liiiiivvvved my life.
I shall liiiiivvvve in memory.
What you’d learrrrrrrrrned in strife
Shall not beeeeeeee the truth of me.
When the caaaaaats of God
Come ascennnnnnding viciously
Uponnnnnnn the sod
That cast meeeeeee to misery
I shall sleeeeeeep my last.
My resolllllllllve is fading fast.
Though my smiiiiiiiile remains
With the thoooooooooought
Of all your fuuuuuture pains
Of all your future pains…
Of all your fuuuuuture pains…
Of all your fuuuuuture pains…