Untitled (part one)

 

(I decided to post a short story series for the next few weeks–just for fun!  It’s rough and will probably change a lot.  Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy it!)

 

So many years ago—it seems more distant to me on some days than others—I lived the life of a peasant.  I was clothed in filthy rags, covered head to toe in stench and ash.  The very hairs on my head were heavy with carelessness.  But strangely, I didn’t notice.  Sure, I lacked security.  Of course I was without comfort; without love; without hope.  But when that’s all you’ve ever known, it’s not necessarily that obvious.  It’s not necessarily disconcerting.  There’s an assumption that, since the majority of the people around you are in the same condition, then it must be accepted; embraced, even.  It’s just the way it is.

 

Then one day, I had ventured close to the castle walls.  I had to, for it was the only way to find food which wasn’t mold-infested or rotting past the point of consumption.  And, not only was the thrown-away food along the perimeter of the wall more palatable; it was more digestible.

 

It seemed to me that it was a very strange thing indeed to, upon finding a decent food supply, discover almost instantly that it was a food supply which caused you to crave more.  And the yearning became almost medicinal—although at the time it felt much more like a curse.  For with the desire came a realization.  And no amount of backpedaling—no amount of diving beneath the trash heaps further from the castle wall—no amount of gorging oneself on the disgusting food source available there—would change the realization; the realization that the food on the other side of the castle wall was undoubtedly even better; even more filling.  And not only that, but there came, gradually but surely, an awareness of my lack of hygiene; an understanding that I was disgusting.  I hated that knowledge, for it caused me to rush in almost maniacal haste to the nearest pool of water, so that I might bathe and scour the layers of crusty dead skin and microscopic animals which inhabited every crevice; every pore of my being.

 

Soon it became apparent to me that, although I could, with much effort, achieve the desired appearance of cleanliness, I nonetheless lacked the appropriate covering; modest raiment which would cover all my insecurities and imperfections.  Moreover, though I had a much less offensive portrayal than before, my skin still contained the foul smell of rot; the horrid reek which had been all I had ever known but which suddenly seemed abhorrent to me.  I couldn’t explain it, for it seemed that the very source of such knowledge came from without, and yet there was no denying its occupation of my very being.

 

Something was calling on me to change—to leave behind the life that was now more wanting than ever.  And yet, what was I to do?  I had no further means by which to improve my lowly state; no discernible hope of reprieve; no way of escape.  I was miserable.

 

Torn between that yearning for something I’d never known, and a frustration that I hadn’t been allowed to simply live out my pathetic life in comparatively blissful ignorance, I continued living in the depths of an impoverished reality, all the while consumed with an ever mounting hope.  Hope was the only word I could think of to describe it, although in the moment it seemed more like an absence of any hope at all; strange.

 

On I went, day after day, until I caught a glimpse of someone at the top of the wall.  It was strange to me, for I noticed that this person was not a guard—for to be honest, no guards were needed.  The kingdom was impenetrable.  No, this person—a young woman of about my own years—was dropping something from the top of the wall to the places at the foot of the same; to the places where I had foraged for that better food so often since that first sampling.

 

I waited, cowered behind a pile of refuse, watching her.  Her skin and hair were clean and fairly glowed, and I knew instinctively that her fragrance was comparable to her appearance.  But it was more than that.  There was something almost indefinable about her countenance.  It was as if she possessed all the inexpressible things I craved.  I wasn’t jealous of her, oddly enough.  But rather, I was enamored by whatever invisible thing it was which she possessed, and which I so obviously lacked.  Eventually, she had emptied her basket, and after taking a meditative look about—seeming for the span of a heartbeat to be looking directly into my shadowed eyes—she left her perch and was out of sight. 

 

I waited.  When I was fairly confident of my anonymity, I approached the wall.  I use this word, approached, very loosely, for my methods were far from bold.  I found one self-concealing heap after another, ever inching my way toward my destination.  When finally I arrived at the wall’s edge, I discovered something perplexing.  It seemed that the mysterious dumping by the young woman was that same food I had so been helplessly craving and therfore loathing.  But why?  Why would someone who seemed to contain no use for the excesses in life—for her royal robes were nothing akin to boasting or pompous, as one might have expected—be so apparently willing to throw out such delectable cuisine?

 

I shrugged, for who was I to question this woman’s motives?  For was I not the benefactor of such sacrificial giving?  Such generosity?  I ate all I could manage, and although I craved more, I somehow managed to stop myself from overdoing it.  After all, too much of a good thing couldn’t possibly be a good thing, right?  So, I put what remained in my pockets for later, and I left the scene as carefully as I had encroached.

 

Much later, with the only accompanying sound the scuffling of the pilfering rats, I lay there, wondering what the other young woman might be doing at that very moment; at that instant.  Was she sleeping, as I should have been?  Or was she busily gathering more of the food I would feast on when my current supply was gone?

 

I’m not certain that rest ever did come that night, at least not rest of the caliber a body and mind requires to function properly on the following dawn.  But I managed, and as days unfolded into weeks, and weeks into months, I eventually became used to the presence of the woman on the wall—always appearing when my supply had run out, and my hunger was gnawing.  And eventually, it occurred to me that I could no longer imagine myself choking down the bits of garbage I had once been so used to.  I needed the sustenance she provided.  My life, by this time, depended upon it.

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