Impeccably Salvaged

Originally published on State of Liberation

Sure, she didn’t get to study any of the subjects most deem important. Her family was too poor to let her study law. She was too weak to advance in physical areas. Not quite clever enough for technological work. Too high in status to dirty her hands in the farmlands.

In the oversized room, golden with the light of a thousand candles, an exciting atmosphere breathes comfortably, like a tamed animal. At the center of an unwound cornucopia of luxury, she is the mistress of the event. She watches the calculated sparks of laughter rise across the musical landscape. Guests have been fed and befuddled with drink enough to dance attractively on the shining marble floor.

A long and tedious learning process has made her the administrator of an evening such as this one. The privileges earned were well worth the time, even if her role is underrated. Dressed in fine emerald green silks, decorated with metals, stones, feathers and lace, she is as though elevated on a puffy cloud, reaching with ease those typically unapproachable in regular society. The powerful and the rich tend her a trusting ear, or bow down in respect at her passage.

Suddenly, a commotion in the south end of the hall breaks the festivities. The room has gasped into silence, alerted by the sound of breaking wine glasses and sudden raised voices. Two men seem to stand a few feet from one another, weapons drawn.

She glides across the room, the smile on her face unaltered. She steps between them, her presence peculiarly compelling despite the tension.
Not a bad education at all. The kind that gets somewhat unnoticed, that makes difficult things look easy and that require unexpected levels of discipline. The kind that saves men from one another.

“Gentlemen,” she says with a perfectly conjured chuckle.

Her imperative tone, though polite and inviting, lets the rest of the guests know that the situation is being controlled; timid comfort spreads among the witnesses of the scene. As she turns around, she nods at waiters and guards in a subtle manor and each finds the strength to shake up and carry on. Some conversation is resumed, food and drink being once again consumed, musicians start playing again, two maids flutter by quietly and clean up the broken glass. The evening is impeccably salvaged, as though nothing has happened at all.

The two violent men seem embarrassed; they casually lower, and put away their armaments. The schooling she has received is often overlooked. Yet, she has learned to be the one with power, among armed men. Each is charmed by her strong presence, her control over the airs around them. Soon they are individually introduced to skillful hostesses, who guide both in separate directions with refinement, towards interesting conversations, flavours, and pleasures.

Entertainers appear just in time and quickly gather a crowd, eager for a distraction. She moves aside, admiring their fire juggling and acrobatics, enjoying the expressions of the watchers. Their ‘ooh’s and ‘aaah’s of fascination revive the room to its former glorious state. The delight of her guests has wholly resumed. She is indeed, the mistress, tonight.

People have sometimes laughed when she mentioned her education. “Just a party school”, they would call it.

Flash Fiction: Unforgiving is Their Game

I curse at my gods when I awaken.

I lay on a lonely strip of sand barely high enough to emerge out of the low tidal waves. Sand and salt coat my burning throat. The sun is harsh on my swollen eyes, the sea lapping at my legs is ice cold. I rise painfully and look across the horizon; I have no idea where north and south are- all around me is gray sky and black ballooning waves. As far as my eyes can see, the ocean surrounds me. I could have ended up anywhere else…I would have drowned while unconscious, passed on in blissful ignorance. Some cruel destiny has pushed me on this strip of sand, that I know very well, will disappear once the tides eventually rise.

I curse because I cannot, now that I find myself alive, simply give up and allow myself to die.

A frustrating hope keeps my gaze moving across the horizon, looking for anything other than the blank, gray sky. A fog starts to roll in, making the task of searching for a passing ship more and more difficult. Light gets caught in the haze around me, making my surroundings unbearably bright and practically opaque.

Every now and again, a single black spot seems to be dancing in the corner of my eye. I try to discern what it could be, but my damaged sight toys with my hopeless mind, sometimes making me certain I can see a small shadow in the distance, and sometimes making it disappear. I want to stop looking altogether. I close my eyes and bend my head over my wet knees, but in not time at all again I find myself staring again at my possibly imaginary dark spot on the horizon. Was I merely kept alive to be thus tormented?

I should have died, but here I am, breathing, and within me the will to continue to live burns vividly. The immense, cold sea cannot extinguish it. My mind has clearly drawn out the line that separates this world and the next- I stand very close to it, but cannot cross it. So long as my lungs have not filled with salt water, that my heart beats, even if weakly, that my brain has not dissolved from dehydration, I cannot help but live. My nature makes me incapable of throwing myself back to the devices of the waves, my body could not help but swim, could not help but struggle to breathe. How cruel the flow of events is, and if puppeteers drive the stream of lives, how unforgiving is their game. Life, in this case, is an insult, cognizance, a tool of torture.

The fog becomes thinner as the sun seems to be getting lower behind the heavy overlay of clouds. The tides reach my knees and the sand, that has until now supported me, become fluid and impossible to rely on. As the sea reaches my elbows, my tired muscles start, by instinct, to tread water. I breathe slowly as I try to take control of my mind, and force my arms to stop. I want to be thankful that my agonizing dilemma has finally reached an end, I want to accept the final and obvious end to my, so far, evaded demise, but then…

I curse, seeing that my mysterious spot in the distance has gotten definitely bigger…and is definitely a ship.




Image CC0 Public Domain ; Unsplash