La Belle Mort


“Young woman, you do realize, if you could be with child, you may plead your belly?” The judge had tired eyes.

Eliza remained quiet, and the audience tittered.

"Very well. Elizabeth Jane Morton, you are sentenced to be taken hence to the prison in which you were last confined where, after three Sundays have passed, you will be hanged by the neck until dead. May the Lord God have mercy upon your soul.”

Gypsy…succubus…witch—murmurs, as she was lead away.

Had they looked beyond the snow white skin, wild black curls, and eerie calm, they’d have seen the bones of her knuckles shining through her skin; she held her hands clenched painfully tight to keep from lashing out at all of them and going absolutely mad.

********

A cell to myself at the end of a narrow, gloomy hall. Dank, always cold. Oozing drips stain walls rust-brown. Insanity—cackles, moans, and screams. Fleas, mice, and slithering sounds in the darkness. A cot and rough blanket. A long bench to sit upon. Small comforts from charity Ladies; they bring gifts, the smell of perfume, and pity. New pleasures—ink, quill pens, and paper. Solace.


Eliza fought slumber; it crawled with dark dreams and beckoned with greedy fingers. Hours, long and black, were spent struggling to cling to awareness, her life dwindling away.

Regrets stung. Time was short, and peace was as elusive as life. Insanity promised everlasting oblivion, and she was tempted to succumb. Writing gave her temporary respite. There was no one to write, so she wrote for herself, poems, thoughts, letters she would never send.

Dear Lord Dover,

Do you sleep peacefully?

Do your children fare well without their governess in their nursery? Despite what you have done, my prayers are with their poor little souls.

I wonder where you hid the necklace and if it calls to you in your dreams. Will it haunt you, as surely I will if there is a God and he grants wishes?

My life is forfeit and still I would rather this death than your wrinkled hands upon me.

Elizabeth Jane Morton


She folded her notes into tiny paper birds and sailed them into the courtyard. Sometimes, they landed in the shadows of the gallows themselves, but usually the wind caught them and carried them away to join the plentiful refuse littering London’s streets.

*******

A “new” dress—top too tight, tattered skirt. A string to tie my hair—blessed relief. Small things mean so much.

She documented everything, writing furiously, clinging to sanity.

A hanging—crowd swelling, sudden, and boisterous, fathers lifting children upon their shoulders, vendors selling meat-pies and posies. It was like a country fair, everyone smiling, fun in the air.


Her mind screamed, ‘Don’t! Look away!’ but she was compelled to watch.

They led the prisoner out. His head was down, but Eliza saw the glistening tears on his death-pale flesh. Placed under the gallows, his feet centered atop the wooden trapdoor, he wept openly.

His legs were pinioned, to prevent his soon to be flailing feet from finding purchase on the brick-lined walls of the famous Long-Drop below. The noose was fitted, a large knot of rope adjusted to rest, just so, beneath his left ear.

The hangman—cloaked in black—the very specter of death.

The prisoner wailed—a high-pitched whine—when the hood was placed over his head. Did he open his eyes then, when the cloth covered his face? Did his lashes catch on the fabric, and did he take it in his mouth, dry and musky, as he gulped air, grunting and snorting? Did each prisoner have a new hood, or did that frantic man, about to die, smell the deaths that had come before his, lingering in the cloth?

Ghastly, snapping sound ringing out of the pit. Imagined? Surely so; the crowd had cheered when the man fell out of sight.

Life passes too slowly, too quickly. What prayer will save me from this fate?

*******

Eliza was sleeping the first time he came, at dusk.

“Don’t be afraid.”

She was—trapped in here, weak from lack of real food and sunshine; she was helpless.

The man sat on the narrow bench. He was rather fine looking, his face somewhat stern, and his clothing somber. A cleric, Eliza decided, calming.

“Has that much time passed? It must have, for them to send you.”

“I want to help you.”

She held back a bitter reply; no one could help her. “I don’t believe in God.”

“I am the only one you need to believe in.” He spread his hands wide, as if to dare her to argue that he was anything less than flesh and blood.

Eliza remained silent and he reached into his pocket, pulling out a square of paper. He read, “Life passes too slowly, too quickly. What prayer will save me from this fate?”

“That is mine!” Eliza bolted from the bed.

Too slow. He tucked the note into the folds of his coat. “Yes, I know.”

He handed her another scrap of paper, his fingertips brushing her wrist as it changed hands.

Her cheeks flooded with color and she escaped his gaze, reading the words on the page.

Proud beauty, angel amidst foul circumstance.
I hear you calling
and know you weep.
Let me guide you in your dark journey,
and give you peace in this dread.
In this ruin, find faith in me.


What manner of cleric was this?

“I told you, I don’t have faith.”

“And I told you, have faith in me.”

“I don’t understand.”

He lifted his hand, tracing the path a tear made down her cheek.

Eliza had ached for a caring touch, a hug, someone to talk with. She held very still, quivering under his fingertips.

“You don’t have to understand, Lizalamb.”

She blinked. He’d called her Lizalamb, just like her father once had. How odd.

“I’m afraid.”

“Of course you are, but you can conquer your fears and all will be well. This I promise. Have faith.”

He untied the string she’d used to tie her hair back and reached into his pocket once more.

Red ribbons, bows that give girlish pleasure. His voice gruff as he gifted them. What a strange, fascinating man.


Eliza nibbled on her bottom lip, the treasures clutched in her hand, red ends trailing from her fist. “Will they let me keep them?”

“Yes, Liza. No one will bother you anymore.”

“Thank you.”

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24 comments:

Blu Arcadia said...

This is unbelievably beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your writing. You have an amazing gift.

Zander said...

blu,

Thank you for reading and for the lovely note.

This was a tough story to write. Knowing it touched even one person is the true gift.

I hope you continue to enjoy what you find here.

Zander

Blu Arcadia said...

This is the kind of story that I find myself wanting to read over and over again. There really are no words for it. I can imagine it was difficult to write as it pushes past most people's boundaries of spirituality, sexuality, and sensuality.

I have added a link to your amazing writings on my current blog. I hope that is ok with you.

I'm really glad you've elected to set aside some of your writings for this blog. Thank you again for sharing your gift.

Zander said...

blu,

I'm honored you linked my site.

Thank you.

Zander

Anonymous said...

Dark and sweet, tears and fear and absolute surrender and lust. Such a story, it resonates on so many levels.

Thank you.
Jae

Beth said...

This has made me cry -- and it is a rare gift, to make me cry with the written word.

Zander said...

jae,

Hearing from readers like you is such a joy. This story is one of my favorites too. Thank you for sharing the love.

Z

Zander said...

beth,

I admit...I like making people cry (twisted, I know). Thank you for reading and for your tears.

Z

Lydia said...

Wow. Can I just say...wow?

Why haven't I read you before?

Z. Vyne said...

Lydia,

You probably have. I publish using a few names, in a variety of genres. Zander Vyne's work IS different though. I am pleased you enjoy it.

Z

oatmeal girl said...

I am without words. A rare thing for me.

Except for this: when I read "She came" I nearly did myself. And no, I wasn't touching...

Z. Vyne said...

oatmeal girl...your words leave mine quieted. This story is very special to me, and knowing it touched you means more than I could say. Thank you.

Z

verbiwhore said...

This is exquisite. Fucking beautiful. I've never seen your work before tonight, but I'm very impressed. Thanks for sharing. Fucking beautiful.

Z. Vyne said...

verbiwhore,

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. They mean a lot to us writers.

This story is one of my favorites too. I'd love to check out your blog sometime. Send me an invite.

And, I hope you find more to like here, as you wander.

Zander

Anonymous said...

Zander,
I only just discovered your eloquent art this of many dark morning hours of mine. Your prose inspires not mere lust, but deeper, more forbidden contemplations as well.
I admire your dedication to your readership as well and find your ever viligent replies in their own way inspiring and arousing.
Your attentiveness and creativity leave me wanting more and forshadow many fond returns to drink in this wellspring of dark and light you've created.
-known by so many names, choose one which calls to you-

Z. Vyne said...

Anon,

You certainly have a way with words yourself. I hope you find more here to enjoy and comment upon.

Thanks for reading with me...
Z

Charlotte said...

This is such a beautiful piece of art, evrytime I read your stories I feel your words tumble and fall over every inch of my body, pushing me higher.

You have an amazing talent Sir.

xx

Z. Vyne said...

Hey Charlotte,

It gives me great pleasure knowing my stories are enjoyed. Thank you for letting me know this one touched you.

Thanks for reading with me.

Z

gd said...

Where do i begin. Not the first visit for me, but i absolutely had to leave something for you, to express my adoration of this story.
It crawled into me and left me in awe and tears - something i don't often do. i am deeply moved.
If i wrote - this would be the story i would need to write.

~Eliza looked into his eyes—death’s eyes, the hangman’s eyes, William’s eyes.

“Have faith,” she heard him whisper. And, then there was only darkness.


... so much contained here for me than anyone would ever guess. Fucking dark and beautiful. Just the way it should be. Thank You, Z.

Z. Vyne said...

gd,

It's one of the best feelings in the world, knowing a story I wrote moved someone. This one is really special to me, so thanks for taking the time to leave such a heartfelt comment, and for reading with me.

Z

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Vyne
Oh my, what a delight to read this beautiful offering. You are a gifted storyteller. The ending was very unexpected, and made me catch my breath, (something that dosen't happen often enough) Please keep writing.
Yours thankfully
webwitch62

Zander said...

webwitch,

I won't stop writing, if you don't stop reading...

Zander

Mitzi Szereto said...

Fabulous story; I'm so pleased to have you in the book!

Z. Vyne said...

I'm honored to be in the book, Mitzi, and hearing rave reviews everywhere I go.

Thanks for stopping by!