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Mnemosyne

By Ekaterine Xia All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy

A gentler wound than love

I see her from a distance, through blurry water and misty skies. The curve of her arm, the arch of a delicately pointed foot, and the ankle-length sweep of hair the color of the deepest sea. I see her in the endless mirrors that cover the walls, ceaseless reflections leading me back, back, back to a place I know only for pain and desolation.

Eyes of a sunlit, shimmering sea stare at me through time and space, her gaze full of empty space and broken promises. Broken wings trail from her shoulders, bent as the rest of me is. Unsalvageable, as I am. Hard to imagine those wings once carried the pride of a country, once held aloft the hope of a nation. Easier to recall how they broke so very quickly with only a few blows. Perhaps because they were never meant to carry that weight. No one should have had to carry that burden, the task of saving an entire kingdom of souls.

Just as well that she failed. If she had succeeded, how many more women would have we lost to the task of attempting to placate a tyrant? How many more princesses would we have crowned, royal in name only, their worth lying solely in how much pleasure a man could derive from between their legs?

Sometimes I see a man.

Isn’t it always a man? Laughter doesn’t travel in this realm I find myself in, just the memory of mirth, but I make do. When constant anger, pain and sorrow eddy around me like waves in a storm-tossed sea, that rare solace of something brighter is always welcome.

Golden-skinned, tall and lithe, he bends over her, midnight hair mingling with night-sky strands. He cradles her in his arms, crooning softly in her ear. She doesn’t respond, her eyes blank, her mouth soft with dimly remembered sorrows.

Distant pain rumbles when he comes and so I turn away, diving deeper to get away. Never trust a man. The words echo but I don’t remember who said them. Was it even someone trustworthy?

It doesn’t matter.

I’ve left it all in the past, left her behind.

He can have her, that empty shell of a princess, and I don’t care anymore what he does with her. He can’t, won’t hurt her. Not without me.

It’s all the physical, isn’t it? Did anyone ever care about what the princess was beyond the superficial? How demure, how sweet, how beautiful and graceful. How much can we trade for such perfection?

I don’t blame the people for selling her to the highest bidder. I don’t even blame him for buying her. I blame them for giving me hope that there could have been something better, something more beautiful than duty and obligation out there for her.

Close your eyes and think of the country, the people. Close your eyes and smile, the only acceptable response from a princess in the face of tyranny. Close your eyes and bite your tongue until you taste the pain because it’s better that you bleed than others do. Close your eyes and suffer the sentence, the heavy weight of the accusation of treason. Accept that the man you took into your body, into your heart, whose essence melded with yours, never truly knew you at all. Same as the way you never knew him.

There is no water here, no deep and abiding ocean, but I’ll make do. I ever have and ever will. So long as he cannot find me here, cannot seduce me to land with his honeyed promises and false oaths. It is safe here, far away from the land that broke me, just as far away from the sea that betrayed me.

She tried to hang on to the ledge after they threw her from the window, to fly with those crumpled wings, but she failed in the end. I wept for her, wept for her shattered dreams, but I could do no more for her than that. Useless, soft, harmless tears. All I had to offer, just as all she had to offer was her soft, defenseless, useless body. Useless because it didn’t buy her what she needed, not even what she wanted, not even the price of her original submission.

She struggles against his arms and he releases her, agony etched on his features. She spins away from him, lifting her arms to a lover only she can see, the rare smile blooming on her lips. He stares after her, eyes glassy with pain as she chatters wordlessly to the air, guileless, mindless, innocent in a way that cannot be touched by him anymore.

I smile and turn, spiraling into the deep, locking myself away from her. She is happier without me and I love her enough to grant her that solace. Memory cannot hurt without a body to feel pain, after all.


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