What the Prisoner Loves

By Rana Mizu

“Will you stay here, with me? Forever?” the little girl’s voice echoed gently against the soaring walls of the old church. “Yes. I will be here, forever. My sweet darling, don’t ever leave.” His rumbling voice spoke caressingly, like firm hands holding one safe from a fatal fall. The girl’s voice sighed, and the ancient rusty bed groaned miserable as she curled in for the night.

One more strike…CLANG! The hole was just big enough now. Squeezing through, the girl barely avoided lacerating herself against the barbed poles that made her cage. Her hands were already bloodied and torn by shoving the bars for such a long time. Those bloody hands represented perfectly all those many years imprisoned and tormented by her only lover…the only one who would ever love her monstrous body.

She was out, finally, free at last from the cage. The sun streamed in from the cracks in the worn and decrepit ceiling…it had never looked so beautiful before. The millions of dust specks perpetually floating in the air created brilliant sunbeams that fell to the ground, highlighting perfect circles that could so easily be portals to a magical land. But right now, all the girl wanted to do was reach the sun that shone through her enclosure, and find the beautiful sky that extended forever beyond it. She only barely remembered the sky, before her master had found refuge for her in the old church. It was a faded memory, one filled with hate and fear and disgust, cowering in dark corners and scrounging for edible mash that could be found in dumpsters and the backs of alleys. In those memories the people hurt her, ignored her, spat on her grimy, dirt-smeared face, or kicked her out of their way as they walked through the busy street. But even though these memories were best left forgotten, she still remembered the sky, and remembered the longing she felt for it, to reach it, to hold it all to her chest as she flew through its gentle winds. That same longing captivated her now. She stood up, held out her hand, and reeeeeeeeeeached… Huge leather canopies spread behind her, flapping energetically. With a run, a leap, and a huge flap, she flew upward, slowly spiraling towards the soaring ceiling above.

The air in her wings felt so beautiful, so glorious. This is what she was born for; this is what she was meant to do. Freedom called her like an audible voice, drawing her closer and closer to that gap where the sun shone through, and she could break out like a butterfly opening her wings from her trapping cocoon. But just before she could reach her hand out, and touch the sky—the huge, rotten, oaken doors burst open, and her master raced in, crying in anguish and carrying a rifle in his arms.

The man knew this day would come, knew that soon, his caged monster would fight for her freedom and escape, leaving him forever behind, just like everyone else he had ever known. He thought back to his parents who were gone, their skeletons eroding away on the ocean floor where their cruising ship had so long ago perished and sunk. All around him during that time his friends moved on moved upward, leaving him behind. The entire town knew him, knew his pain, and yet they saw fit to ostracize him in to the dark back corners of the town, simply because of the scars he dug into his face out of desperation when his parents died. He was worthless, despicable--no one wanted him. His twisted mind even made out that his parent died just to avoid coming back home to him. These thoughts plagued him constantly, tearing him down and demeaning him.

All that changed when he spotted the young girl, beaten, worn, dirty, and tired hiding behind the corner of an old dilapidated building. For the first time, he saw one even more excluded by society than he was, and a burst of compassion gripped his heart. Reaching his hand out, he silently offered friendship to the young girl, an offer she had never known before. Hesitantly, she accepted it, and he led her to his favorite hideout, the old church. That afternoon had been the best in his life, watching the young girl play in the church. As the evening wore on, she turned to him, and beamed the most innocent smile one could imagine directly at him. After that, individual moments became blurs in all the sunlit afternoons they spent together or the silent nights just watching the stars traverse the sky. Quickly after he found her, the man gave the girl a bed and showed her a stream where she could bathe in private. He often went all around the marketplace, buying special delicacies to bring home to her. Eventually, after she had grown to trust him, she revealed her deformity—a pair of small leather wings protruding from her back. Now he knew the reason why she was ostracized, and immediately his desperate heart took advantage of this. Here was a person, no—a creature, someone who could never leave him, like his parents and his friends, and thus must always love him. “You must stay with me, my dearest. Do not venture out into the world of humans, for they will always despise you.”

“Yes, friend,” she quietly replied. The man smiled, a smile of evil and twisted love, a smile of utter power. “Call me master,” he said.

And she believed him, all her heart and mind believed him, even as he grew to fear her wings and her desire for freedom, even as he held her in prison, coming only once a day to prepare food for her. She believed him, as she huddled into the cold corner of her cage, because it was true, wasn’t it? No one else would ever love her; everyone would despise her, just like he said, because she was not human. And what then, would freedom gain? Nothing.

Yet freedom still held such a great allure for her, her wings longed to open and fly outside of this small cage. The man knew that, and knew even before he opened the door what had happened. He knew she would escape, but still it hurt, the very idea of her leaving him behind, like everyone else had, cut him deeply, bleeding his lifeblood from his heart. She chose to leave him. Even this little one, whom he wanted to love more than anything else, had chosen to leave him. Bursting through the door, he held a rifle in his hand, and while tears blurred his eyes and thoughts of desperation clouded his mind, the sound of a bullet exploding from the rifle echoed through the church. Flying true, it hit its mark.

“EHWAAAAAAAAAH!” People walking absentmindedly by the old church suddenly stopped, cowering, eyes darting back and forth. The shriek was inhuman, demonic. Its ghostly echoes brought fear even in the bright sunlight of a summer day. The people, still frozen like ice on the streets, could hear rustling, crashing, banging sounds coming from inside. A second gunshot broke through a huge stained-glass window, shattering brightly colored shards all across the street. People ran screaming, scattering away from that haunted church. No ghost should come out in bright of day. No beast should cause terror in public places. Whatever was in that church was something much worse: a monster.

Pain! All though her shoulder and back, reaching deep probing fingers into her heart, ripping it into hundreds of screaming pieces. Searing, ripping, burning pain, then the paralyzing pain, followed by falling, tumbling, crashing against all those knobby, bruising decorations lining the walls of the church. FLY! She thought, and the ground stopped rushing up quite as fast as her wings spread out, but the fire burned, tearing her flesh from the inside out. “AHHH!!” the loud cry burst from her mouth, followed by pitiful whimpers that escaped her lips as the ground slowly, painfully, met her feet.

The girl crumpled against the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. Blood poured in a thin trickle from her shoulder, pooling on the ground. “Please, Master, it hurts. I want to fly so much, but it hurts so badly…”

The man stepped slowly out of the doorway, separating himself from his own silhouetted from that blocked the doorway. Over his shoulder, the last tendrils of smoke poured from the tip of his rifle. Walking steadily across the huge room, he slowly placed the gun down, and began to bandage the shoulder of the girl, wary of her huge bat-like wings. “It won’t hurt for much longer. That bullet only barely grazed you. You should be fine in a few minutes,” he said, wishing that he could even hope it was true. He continued to talk soothingly, reassuringly, bandaging her gently with a healing hand, hiding the anger and rage and hurt that had gripped his mind only a few seconds before. When he was done, he sat down, just looking at this creature whom he loved, whom he hated. He feared more than anything that she would not, could not, love his despicable self, and that she too would leave him, forever. “You can’t ever fly again. I don’t control the bullets, they fly of their own will,” he lied desperately. “You can’t stop them, and they will always fly after you when you lift your wings to the sky.” He reached forward and caressed her hand. “Don’t ever fly away from me. I am the only one who loves you; the world will hate you if they see you. Stay with me, stay with me forever my sweet darling.”

The girl—the bat girl, the child of the devil and hell’s fire—turned slowly to look at the man. “I love you, master…” and collapsed. Her vision faded to black, she didn’t understand what was going on. Why wasn’t the pain leaving, why was she gaining no control of her body? Why did her master say that it wouldn’t hurt much longer? It hurt so badly…no one would ever love her…no one would ever truly love her…she was trapped here forever… But the pain never went away, because the bullet had not grazed her, it hadn’t even left her body. Her broken heart was tired of pumping around this metal lump, so it stopped, never to beat again.

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