Queen of Swords: a novel

Chapter XXXI – The House of Swords

As I slept in my juror’s chair I was visited – tormented, I should say – by the strangest dream. I never even think about my husband, yet there he was, as the young man I knew he’d been from film and photograph, able-bodied, healthy, loading some dirty old truck with fishing gear. He wore one of those stupid hats festooned with hooks. Why those people don’t catch their own brains with those hats I’ll never know. I suppose it proves they haven’t any.

He gestured to me to come over and I went very unwillingly because I knew he wanted to take me with him and I didn’t want to go. Then – here’s the horrible part – he swelled up all dark and horrible and tried to get a net over me. He turned into my stepfather.

From beyond the grave he was laughing at me, thinking he’d got the better of me. My fear shot up; how many times would I have to kill him? But he will never capture me; I am too strong for him. I will never let go. The two of us can die here fighting but I will never give up. He leaped on my body as if, because he was my first, therefore he owned my spirit, but I wrapped the net around his neck and began to pull. It seemed my own air was cut off, I was choking, but even if I had to die to destroy him, it was worth it.

And after death, what? Would I rule my captured souls in hell? We’ll see. Even if all I earned is oblivion, it would be worth that risk to spit out my final rage into the face of the cold universe.
But where was I now? This was not oblivion, but eternal loneliness. Suddenly it seemed that I was shut away forever, out of the excitement, out of the light, in some dark, dank, dripping cell. Down at the bottom of the well, wrapped in an unholy embrace with my rotting stepfather’s corpse… Someone was shaking me. How dare they?

It was Lacey. I woke up sweating and shivering and filled with rage. I could feel the drool – old people’s drool – hardening into crusts at the corners of my mouth.

Lacey’s hand brushed my arm. “Are you OK?” Her face approximated some semblance of concern but I was certain I had caught a glimpse of the secret glee hidden behind her eyes; unholy joy that I, too, was human, aged, imperfect. That her disgusting fate, entropy was stalking me as well. Roughly I pushed her hand away.

“Don’t ever touch me again,” I snapped at her. Unbidden human touch is so disgusting. Less majesty. The nerve of some people.

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