On a three-legged wooden stool, Rianna was sat with her back hunched and her face enclosed tightly inside her cupped hands. She was beginning to fade. The flicker of her birthing spark waning, as if it were a trophy diminishing in sheen with every passing of the clock hand.
The scuttling rustle of a black beetle in the corner woke her up from her sad thoughts and she sighed and leaned her head back against the decrepit, damp wall. Cold and lonely, the bustle of the beetle’s movements was a welcoming reminder that life beyond her own still existed outside this godforsaken place.
Nearly seventy and odd years had she seen of this cavernous cell, its rank corners odorous with foul stenches that wafted up from the other rooms below where Arcana kept her favourite monstrous specimens and on whose bodies she conducted the most heinous experiments and dissections. Sometimes unearthly screams could be heard from these neighbouring honeycombs of unseen evil, and on those nights for Rianna the comfort and solace of sleep was callously withheld from her.
She was a Muse which meant that food was never a concern. Indeed, she was created to feed the mind and heart of her Chosen One. Whilst lying on her makeshift bed – a mournful plateau constructed of flint – she would always fall back on thoughts about her Chosen One and the torturous emptiness that must have been inflicted on his soul throughout the course of his life, for she was the spark that never came, though he had waited and waited and waited until his last dying breath. Since their life forces were connected she knew that he no longer was a living part of this world, he had died a very long time ago and that she had failed him. She blamed herself for the tragedy because it was she that had become the gullible prey to Arcana’s false pleas for help, luring the once bright Muse to the castle and then locking her away in this boxed cell, an abyss of dark things whose door and walls were clamped down by ancient and dangerous incantations not even conquerable by The Crone and her allies.
She knew her time of end was drawing near. Sooner or later Arcana would initiate an escalation of her treacherous powers, exacting a mass holocaust of all Muses in the world and the shadow era would begin. A new world, whose mast would wave and flutter at the bidding of the grim reaper’s deathly shrieks and cries. She prayed and prayed every day and night, but it seemed that no one was there to hear her. Oh, how merciful it would be for her if someone could spare her this misery of witnessing the end of human creativity. She wished to fade away faster than she was already. Despondency had taken her completely and the huge weight of her hopelessness, tantamount to the rocks that surrounded her, was pulling her down to the centre of the earth. She slipped and fell off her stool and lay still on the dusty floor.
The scuttling beetle returned, however, and this time it came close to her and though its eyes could not be seen, Rianna felt them, and they were not mocking or devious. Instead, she was certain that this dot of an insect was trying to tell her something. Pressing down on the floor with her palms, she lifted her head and the world spun a little before she returned back to the room. The absurdity of what she did next did not perturb her, for she addressed the insect.
“What is it, little one?” She spoke like the faint light of a star.
The beetle did not move at first, but then it turned around and paused. Its body was facing the miniscule window in front, the only remembrance Rianna had of the notion of day. The beetle shuffled towards the window and raised the front part of its body slightly higher, conveying to Rianna that she ought to come over and peer over. She was terribly weak, but from somewhere deep within she found that she could still muster enough strength to listen to the unspoken instructions of her multi-legged, midget friend.
“Alright… I am coming”.
She got up on her feet and they wobbled a bit, so she quickly reached out her hand and placed it on the cold wall next to her to prevent herself from falling over. He throat, though parched and coarse, she swallowed hard, and there was an unusual tenseness in her gut, a feeling that she was not quite alone in all this. She had not sensed this before, only now.
She edged carefully forward. When she reached the window, her figure no less insubstantial as an apparition that had never seen the fertility of spring, and whose lamentable silhouette flanked on either side by two great sentinels of igneous dark plinths of stone mined from the roar of volcanoes that time had forgot, Rianna saw below was the teeming life of the village. But it was not somehow the same scene she had observed for all these years, for she could feel a blazing surety that there was something anew.
It was Hope.
She was more enlivened than ever and with her tired eyes she combed over the panorama of the landscape, trawling unceasingly through the fanfare of people and tents and trees for something that would vindicate her belief.
She had yet to see them but knew this much already, for everything in her told her so, assuredly, that something amazing was afoot, and that one of them had an old carpet bag – a beggar’s trinket that would change the course of history forever…
What happened next? ♥♥♥
Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Oxford University Museum Of Natural History | Oxford University | Oxford | UK 2016
Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Corfe Castle Village | Wareham | Dorset | UK 2016