At Least You’ve Got A Brain…


Wari had chains no one could unbind, shackles that bore farther into the skin than the metal cufflinks she currently had. With a despairing sigh, she wished she could reach her chafing wrists, and wanted to punch her snoring jailer in the head for forgetting it was lunch time. A simple meal that she was supposed to be eating, including bread, a small apple and some water was sitting there on a tray beside him, untouched. Her mouth dripping in saliva, she imagined tearing into the loaf of bread, a flood of taste touching the tip of her tongue. And she would be able to have it… once the darned jailer woke up.

    She tried yelling, but to her dismay and annoyance, all that came out was a whimper, further reminding her of how long since she had drank any water. She took in a mouthful of her own spit, fat liquid scraping the sides of her throat. It only momentarily staved off her body’s complaints. It soon bothered her again with its pains and its noises. She again, wanted to punch the man who was prolonging her bodies complaints.

     The only reason she was alive was probably because she still had some fat on her body. But the last few weeks had slowly taken off her baby-fat layers, now slowly ebbing into an uncomfortable, unhealthy range. Underneath her shirt, she could almost imagine her bones protruding from her pale skin like the ones beggars had. She hated thinking she had become one of those ugly street-knaves, but looking at her condition she knew she was past that. Her hair, once arranged in neat braids, was now a snaggletooth beast of flying hairs. Anything that had once made her beautiful, her round face, her smooth hair, her balanced limbs, were all gone. Now, with only a dirty husk of a girl underneath.

    And, to make it even more stupid and sickening, this guard thought it more important to sleep than to keep her alive. She wanted to chew off his gnarly ear and spit on it.

    Ah, forget it, let the ranker sleep, she cursed in her mind, settling against the cold gray wall. It was uncomfortable and it poked her back with its multiple pointy rocks, but it was the only way her back would stop its creaking. Sighing, she tried to think of her folks, and how they must have thought of her now. A dirty criminal she bet.

    Perhaps her mother would cry for her. But even in that thought she wasn’t so sure.

    It had been a simple crime, one she’d ‘committed’ many times before. She had spoken in informal terms in front of an ambassador, attempting to compliment him on his colorful robes and how nice his face looked. He had turned a deep shade of rouge and thrown her in the dungeon. Now, all her fate left her was a possible hanging. All for speaking like an idiot.

    She supposed it might have been overstepping her bounds. She was but a commoner, and a peculiar one at that. She had always had the knack for talking to people she had never met before. It made some people friendly, and somehow, she had justified this for her need to make friends. But, of course, no one makes friends with an ambassador. She should have thought of that.

    Her stomach gurgled beneath her, the sound feeling foreign in her ears. She could almost imagine the water eating away at the walls of her stomach, jumping up inside of her to try to escape. And all because the stupid guard was asleep. When she should be eating.

    Madness! Madness, if Wari could say so herself.

    She finally let her anger bubble into her voice, letting out a hoarse grunt. It took a few sputtering noises to get the man to startle into consciousness.

He looked at her with half-open, shadowed eyes from behind a nest of brown and golden hairs. He had ridiculously tan skin, from too much time out in the sun. He wore the regular soldier’s armor: thick plates over his torso, shoulders and knees, and chainmail in between. The king’s crest, a golden shield split into four, with a sprig of rosemary at the bottom right corner, surrounded by a passionate, bloody red, sat in the middle of his chest. His hands and feet had thick metal gauntlets that restricted movements, but made sure no one lopped off any fingers or toes. Not that those protected from torture or anything.

    “Oh, you’re probably looking for a meal, idiot,” the man said, throwing out the insult like it was a common term. She had heard that name enough, so she didn’t care.

    The gates opened with a startled creak, the tray skirting across the floor to her feet. The guard lumbered over and undid her shackles, for now, so she could eat. She then proceeded to scarf down the offering, allowing herself to praise the Lord during the meal, so as to not offend him for not praying beforehand. The bread, though dry and stale, made strength bloom within her again. There was not enough water to satisfy her paper-dry throat; however, it still soothed its aching channels. She was grateful for the refreshment.

    “Guard-sir,” she said finally after the meal, adding the sir quickly so not to offend him. The man had been about to nod off again, the bags under his eyes twitched as he opened his eyes. He was surely not grateful for conversation right now, but she could not take anymore silence. She was running out of objects to still her raging mind. “Please forgives me askin’, but I wanted to know what a chain-tagger like you is guarding me for. You’s a looking a lot finer than some stinking prison watcher.”

    He only stared at her for a moment, and took in a breath. “No use talking to wasters like you, But if you must know, I am here because I cannot fight. I am a useless soldier. I cannot take the life of another man quite like my own. It is not in my nature on in my breed. I will not kill.”

    “Well, that’s quite fine then mister. Must say I like guys like you. Fightin’ against the rest of em’. You ought to feel proud, not shame for that.”

    “Oh shut it idiot, what would you know? You know nothing of honor, of serving your country; you know nothing of the price of a name. I mean look at you ragger, you do not give your hand to escape and you will rot in prison until your hanging. No one will remember, or have their heart sour over your leaving. Idiots such as you just cause problems to whoever they are birthed to. They ruin everything. I plead that others will feel grateful after you pass. And I was assigned to guard you. What does that make me?”

    “The fool’s fool,” she said, grinning. But the man didn’t laugh; he didn’t even spare a giggle. He gave a horse’s snort and leaned farther back into his metal chair. He looked ready to fall asleep again, though this time; he had a sour mood to stop him. His breathing never slowed.

    “Well, never said I didn’t agree with ya. I’ves been a problem since I could remember. When I was a kid, my mamma had to reign me in, tell me I shouldn’t talk to strangers. I never listened. But then, she locked me in the house, told meh that if I left she’d flog me with the board agains. Then I just went into my head. My head told me lots o’ things. My head knows I’m wrong. All the time. And I knows I’ll never be right. I think it’s a darnst crime that nobody threw God in the crankers for what he did for me. He stole friends I could’sa hads. I could’sa hads brothers who didn’t look at me funny. I could’sa had a lot more fun if I hadn’t had my head parts taken from me in mah mom’s tum,” she founder herself close to tears now, hot hot tears. But it felt good to tell him everything. She’d never been able to tell anyone anything. There had never been anyone to listen.

    “Oh quiet,” he said finally, though he had never interrupted him. Hari decided she liked this man. He listened. So she just spoke about a lot of things in her life, until her chin was dribbling spit and her eyes were tearing up. Then she stopped to think.

    “Ya know, I dun think it’s wrong. That you dun fight. I wassa excited to see dem fancy peoples, and yknow what, I dun care if she lef me here. I di what I wanted. You di what you wanted. The way I see it, you did what your heart cry for you to do. Pains in the chest mean bad thing. I know it best. It make everything bad. But you made the pain go away. Though yous won’t be happy now, watching me. But yous like you’s self later. You’ll see. At least you’ve got the brain,” she said finally, letting her now-parched throat rest.

    He didn’t say anything to that, not for a while, at least. Days went on and he gave her food, and sometimes she’d ramble on about how she was. He seemed annoyed at how much she talked, and sometimes, he’d throw in some water just to have her shut up. But he always listened.

    The day she was to be hanged, he simply sat in his chair again, looking all sleepy like always. He didn’t look at her like usual. But she wanted him to look at her.

    “I gonna die today, you know,” she said, her eyes hotter and stuffier than she liked, “I dun want to die. But I gotta die, dun I? No one wants a gal like me anyways. I’m a useless mongrel.”

    He didn’t say anything.

    “But I did want to say thank you again. For having an ear. I know I’ms annoying. But it’sa better dying without all of these regrets. I think about dem mistakes of mine everyday. They like to spin in my head. But they dun hurt as much anymore. So thanks.”

    He still didn’t say anything.

    Two chain-guards came in that afternoon to take Wari away. Both of them had their faces blocked by metal masks, but wore the same emblem and metal guards as Wari’s guard. They took off her chains, and she felt glad to be able to feel her wrists again. She looked at her guard once more, looked at those dark eyes of his and saw some light in them. A spark found itself in her eyes

    “Ah, so dem eyes were brown.”

    The guards began to take her away, and Wari accepted her fate. She knew she wasn’t worth the world. And the world wasn’t worth her. She didn’t curse God for it or anything. She didn’t hate the world either. But she did wish she had been born normal. She hated being different. She hated being alone.

    Then, she felt the metal arms go limp, and she instantly fell to the ground, sprawled into a heap of limbs. She was lifted off the ground and thrown onto a shoulder, metal poking into her tum. She looked to see who saved her, and she found that familiar mop of brown and golden hair in her face. He carried her away from the jail, away from the bars and the cuffs and the chains. But Wari still wondered why she had been saved. What had she done to deserve this?

    They ran and ran. Ran from the world and everything in it. To someplace, any place, that could take them in.

    Amidst the arid wind, on the execution ground, one extra rope hung beside the others. And, on that day, not one of them failed their duty.

~~~

That selection was called “Brains”. J Please give some feedback if you can! And feel free to be as honest as you want.

See you Friday!

A.C.Rooks

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