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September 26, 2022

The Captive

By Dan Mulhollen

My name is Alexandra Bromley, and I must begin by stating the unfortunate fact that I died long before you came upon this manuscript. Do not fret, though, dear reader, for it is much more likely that I died of sheer boredom than anything particularly unpleasant.

Courtesy demands that I am transparent in my writing, and I shall strive to be courteous. So let me say that on the 24th of June, the year of our Lord 1901, I was taken from my place of residence -- make that taken against my will from my place of residence -- and brought to this place. No explanation was given, nor is any likely to be given. I was not harmed in any way. For their part, my abductors were quite the gentlemen; that being apart from their masks, handcuffs, and revolvers.

This is an old place. Perhaps a fortress at one time, later turned into a prison. Yet there are no guards, no warden, no other prisoners. I've sometimes climbed up the spiral stairway to the tower and looked out at the barren landscape. Other times I've gone down to the dungeon and gasped in horror at the torture devices.

Honestly though, the horror was short-lived. In recent months I've almost wished there was someone here to torture me, at least giving me that much human companionship.

There is someone, of course. Every morning there's a package set outside my bedchamber (the small cell containing my bed). The package contains sufficient food and drink for the day and a small collection of soaps, tissues, and other hygienic supplies.

Early on, I tried to wake up early in order to catch my custodian. I'd leave my cell and sneak around to a side hallway. Yet this is a clever individual who would simply leave the package elsewhere. One time, I did get the briefest of glimpses. Someone thin and not particularly tall, and I do remember short hair, rather the color of saffron.

A girlish boy? A boyish girl? Perhaps some odd androgynous imp brought to life to be my captor? The latter possibility amuses me greatly and in moments of fancy is my preferred choice. I've sometimes thought about trying to draw his attention (I believe the rule is when in doubt of one's gender, to use the masculine). I wonder if he watches me while I sleep. Perhaps he's something less than a gentleman and watches me while I bathe. Perhaps some impropriety of my own would cause him to show himself.

I am still at a point where breeding forbids such actions. Yet I have heard that with isolation comes madness. I now long for that madness. To run from the bathtub down to the dungeon; to strap myself to the rack and shout, "Come and get me!"

If paper and ink were a luxury, I'd start writing this anew, omitting the last two paragraphs. Yet the longer my imprisonment continues, the more difficult decorum becomes. On moonlit nights, I'll sometimes stay up in the tower until after sunrise. Those are dangerous times for me as I start to see myself in other times, other realities.

Then I am no longer an English-woman, nor a disciple of our Lord and his apostles. On those nights, I pray to Selene, Goddess of the Moon. I pray to know the truths kept from me. To know what there is left of worth in my life. To know if this treason and apostasy is not actually a blessing.

And she answers. She shows me the errors of my upbringing; the folly of class and social standing. Would I not be happier now, she asks, as a scullery maid, free to go to the music hall after my shift? And she addresses my imprisonment. She knows there is happiness to be found in solitude. She is a seductive one, yet the Redeemer rises every morning to put her back in her place.

Why, you'll ask, of course. Why should a young woman be taken from her comfortable home and abandoned in this ancient citadel? I can hazard too many a guess. Born into a family of over-reaching ambition. Uncles, well-connected. Aunts prone to scandal. An array of shady dealings, secret societies, and owed favors. I am a hostage in some twisted political game. All that is missing are the specifics -- and I'm not particularly sure I want to know those, anyway.

Perhaps, gentle reader, you might have read of a woman rescued from the ruins of an old prison, naked and ranting. That is as much of a happy ending as I can hope for. Of course that is completely unlikely, and I am resigned to living out my life here, growing madder with every year.

Perhaps one day I will catch my care-taker and we'll have tea. Or perhaps one day he'll catch me in a fit of madness -- doing something totally unseemly -- and be unable to contain himself (herself) (itself). Either way, that will provide some companionship.

It is something to hope for.

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-10-08
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