With many thanks to Rakina, for her advice/moral support in my own many moments of madness, and to Apythia for her beta skills.
SPINNER’S END—THE HANDMAIDS TALE
I am here, now. Here and now. Sometimes it amuses me to think that I know the meaning of the words that are scattered around my brain like shards of broken glass, sharp and vicious. The truth is that I have forgotten what most of them ever meant. There are words that haunt me, recurring like nightmares; at least they would be nightmares if I ever slept. Sanity... sanity... love... pain... need... darkness ... hope... belonging... fragment. These are the words that seem to follow me like hounds baying for my blood, if I could remember what a hound was, if I had blood.
I pick at these words, like festering scabs, in my many hours of solitude, when the one around whose finger I am wrapped sleeps the fitful sleep of the damned. One of the few things of which I am still certain is that she has less to exist for than I do. I will not call it living. I refuse to call this state of being life. It is existence and nothing more: that much I know without...the word eludes me… although I know that I knew it once...darkness? No. Shallow. That’s it, shallow. I know without a shallow of doubt that Bellatrix has less to exist for than even I.
Darkness. We are moving through darkness, lack of light, light in scattered puddles. The word, puddle, amuses me. At least, she is moving and I have no choice but to go where she carries me. There is another by her side, sister -- I have forgotten the meaning of this word. I think that it means burden, for that is what the other is to her. They speak to each other in whispers. I do not listen. When I listen, their words discomfort me with their hideous insinuations that crawl beneath the surface of my mind like nibbling parasites.
Darkness. The being, thing, entity, person? That I am is always in darkness. When there is light, it is crystalline for it is seen only in facets. Sometimes I think that it has always been so; then sometimes, catching me unaware like a startled bird, I see a picture inside myself. I am almost sure that this thing; this bright flash of poignant bliss is termed memory. The memories make me afraid when they find me. They are merciless creatures that prey upon me like Harpies. They lie to me. The Harpy memories slide inside me like knives and tell me that I once lived in a kingdom known as happiness; that once I owned a thing known as hope.
Pain. This is what the Harpies bear with their memories of the laughing girl that once I was. The pain is not so bad now. Bellatrix no longer screams constantly, I remember that once she did this, now she mostly cackles sharp glee at the screams of others. Before, it was different. I do not know how long before means. I know that the duration of existence is measured. There is, or was, a creature named Tim. Tim is as linear as a snake, slithering on his belly through the existence of other beings. He steals their lives and replaces them with memories and wrinklies. I think that Tim cannot find me, for I have no memories anymore, not whole ones, anyway. When she would scream, I would cower, for then the Harpies, who had grey spectral allies, had complete control over this shattered thing that is me. The Harpies made me see myself, over and over, captured within the downward spiral of being destroyed by Bellatrix. Torture: that is what she did to me; she has broken me, perhaps beyond repair. Why would she not, for it is what she does to others? I do not know why she does it; I do not want to know, but I know that it gives her more than happiness. It gives her… what is that word? The word signifies more than happy or content, perhaps it is orgasm? No, that’s not it, but it’s almost there: Chocolate! That’s it; the misery of other beings gives Bellatrix chocolate.
Pain. There is faceted light that falls through the bloody crystal of my existence; it comes from a portal in which there stands a man. Light is pain. In darkness there is strange ease, for in darkness, there is absence of the things which give Bellatrix chocolate, and the things which give Bellatrix chocolate torment more mercilessly than the Harpies. She follows the man into the grim dark. This place is lined with books. I remember books. I once had many friends who were books, gentle creatures full of wisdom and wit. There is a word that means to aspire without chance of attaining; I think that the word is fish. I fish that I had a body so I could make friends with these books; I fish that I had a nose so that I could smell the perfumed wisdom of their pages. This man that Bellatrix has come to see cannot be one of her own kind, for if he knows books how can he know the chocolate of Bellatrix?
Belonging. He turns, and through the facets of my crystal vision, I see him. Belonging, that is the word that pounces from the shallows at the rear of my mind, a sharp clawed raptor of a word. Does this man belong to me? His face is angular, nose large and crooked; the Harpies often wear a face like this. No. No, the face that the Harpies wear has far fewer wrinklies; it is happier and it smiles even when the Harpies torment me with it. Once I too had a face, now I have only facets, clear crystal through which light falls like glistening pain, transparent.
Love. I love this man? The Harpies say that he kissed me; they say that I kissed him. They whisper that it was good; better than chocolate. He is the heaven that I will never know again? I want to weep; I know that they are right, cruel, yet correct. Sadistic and demonic but honest. I am certain now that he did kiss me, but since then, Tim has kissed him. I see the wrinklies on his face; I know that he has memories where I have blank spaces. I realise as I watch the many facets of his face that perhaps the blank spaces are a blessing, for there are many forms of pain and some hurt more than others.
Sanity. Is sanity a form of torment? I think that if I had this sanity-thing, then I would know his name. His name signifies love. I yearn for him. The Harpies remind me of a thing called touch, and I want that now, where only moments ago I knew not of its very existence. Tim has ignored me for a long while since I actually wanted anything other than oblivion. Now I want him. I want to own a being that is not crystal, not adamant, so that I may know what it is to be held in his arms once more, and know the touch of his skin and the beat of his heart, the caress of his soul. Desire, I desire.
STOP IT!!! STOP, STOP, STOP! STOP THIS BECAUSE I CANNOT BEAR IT FOR ANOTHER MOMENT! PLEASE! IT TEARS, IT RENDS, IT BURNS MY SOUL!!!!!!
Stop. It will not stop. It will never stop. This too, I know without a shallow of a doubt.
Fragment. My mind is only a fragment; an incomplete thing. Part of the being that is meant to be the complete me sleeps. Gods! I do not even know my own name anymore! I sleep. The real me sleeps in bliss and chocolate and dreams of him, safe in slumber, never to awaken. I am a fragment sacrificed to madness and torture to save my greater soul. But there is another fragment: it calls to me now because he is near, a subtle siren-song of belonging and completion. This man carries a small part of me within him. I feel it, and I feel the part of him that sleeps with me, he too is incomplete.
Insanity. I am insane. I know this also beyond shallow of doubt, perhaps it is a blessing. Sometimes I suspect that there is more sanity in my insanity than there is in the world outside my adamant prison.
Need. He kneels on the floor with the sister-burden. I stretch my sense like a screaming flower for the light of his voice. I need it like those who live need oxygen. The sister-burden speaks, “Will you, Severus, watch over my son Draco…”
Severus! His name is Severus! I love Severus! I need Severus! Severus belongs to me! Severus owns a fragment of my soul. I know joy and chocolate and all good things at this revelation.
Hope. There is no hope. Severus my love is a man. I was once a woman, a laughing girl who kissed Severus the man. Now I am a tortured fragment of insanity trapped forever in a diamond ring on the finger of Bellatrix who is far more insane than I. Pain, darkness, insanity; these are my existence from now until the end of Tim. Sanity, belonging, love; these things will never be mine, or his, ever again. He is my chocolate and I need him, but I can barely remember what he tastes like.
There is no hope. Insanity is my comfort, I welcome it as Bellatrix slips back into the darkness.
Author’s note – read this as you will, for it can be interpreted many ways. But for those of you who are interested, I wrote this from the point of view of Mahaut, the original character in my trilogy. She spent eighteen years transfigured into a diamond ring on the finger of Bellatrix Lestrange after the evil bitch had tortured her. Mahaut survived by splitting her mind, leaving a small part on the surface to amuse her tormentor and sending her true self into a deep sleep. This was the only control she had over her own fate, since being the stubborn individual that she is, and convinced that she was about to die, she refused to die mad. The small part of her that stayed on the surface went quite insane and re-lived her torture, courtesy of the Dementors, while Bella was imprisoned. When I read “Half-Blood Prince” I suddenly realised that Mahaut would have seen Severus whenever he met with Bella, and I began wondering what she would make of it: would she be worried for him? Disappointed that he still worked for Voldemort? Angry? Then a few days ago, I realised that by this point she was probably so far gone that nothing would make much sense any more, so that is what I tried to write. Whether or not it was successful or not is up to you, but I would appreciate your opinion?
By the way, Margaret Atwood is probably my favourite author of all time, and this piece was intended as a homage to her, if I had a fraction of her genius I would be a happy woman indeed, and a far better writer.