Eve began by singing.
“Old man river…”
She didn’t really know the words. But Eve lifted her eyes so reverently that she eventually started a game of tossing her skull back and trying to catch it with her eyeballs, try and see inside of it. Oh, headache. Her song gave way to swaying from the shoulders, forcing that jaw to open wide. Eyes crossed to get the low notes, and then she became impatient and sang from the roof of her mouth to try and enjoy high notes, if not her own voice.
“Fine then, I’ve a terrible voice. But why an old man? Why a river? I never thought of the Father in that way.”
Talking was hard. Eve looked down past her toes and the tangle of twigs. It took several dizzying breaths to recover from the strain in her arms. A bird perched overhead, she heard it. By now, Eve recognized the slight flit of leaves above, and then the nagging silent presence of some beast watching.
Eve tried whistling next.
The bird cocked its head to the side, when Eve glared upward. “Sing. Little thing.”
He sang. Or, she. Eve really didn’t know sexes. A twitter, a twatter, then a soaring, heady clear note.
“Oh, how pretty. Sing me another!” Eve pressed her back up against the tree’s trunk and whistled hard and angry.
The bird hopped, scrabbling one way, and then hopped confidently back in place. Its little throat swelled with something wide, loud, and majestic.
“Well, I’m angry, I can’t help it!” Eve lashed in her rope binds, and almost lost balance on the small wood ledge a cropping of close twigs afforded the ball of one bare foot. After resting her neck, Eve made herself check the woven bough canopy. No more bird.
At last, Eve thought of the heat, and the ache in all her muscles, that the insides of her mouth began to seem tasty, the want of spit to drink now vexing, the cruelty of having absolutely nothing to do—
“And now, of course, I need to take a shit.”
All of these things passed, for Eve, on the first day.
The next morning, Eve slept in. Tiny treat for herself. The stripped tree trunk she was bound to was exceptionally comfortable when she wasn’t fully conscious, Eve found. Her stomach growled, which offset the painful fiber burn just inside her elbow. Fine timing, not bad. Afterward she hiccupped, and that reignited her headache.
“Could my body, possibly, become a symphony? One horrible state offsetting another?”
Another stomach pain and she broke wind. It hardly wasn’t anything at all now that her stomach was empty. And no, she was not downwind of herself. Though, if she had managed to be, through the sheer force of her will, that would have been far more impressive than living the high-life on a stake-and-pyre. Eve scratched a toe to one foot, cleaned two fingernails with a thumb. She arched her back until the pain between her shoulders went numb. A crack of her neck, an itch between her buttocks, a cry for help, and then a strong, defiant lurch of her stomach.
“And that is how my body sings… a symphony for everything. Let me yawn,” she did, “Let me cry.” But not that, “We’ve even got a dance for the little brats.” Eve wiggled her knees against the ropes bound just below them. “And a shimmy for the men!”
She couldn’t. Even. Shimmy in her state. Eve remembered the amazing row at the Hook n’ Catch. Ten men, ten men, all gone rabid for a shimmy. Eve finally cried for the fertility dance she could no longer give.
And that was Eve’s second day.
The third day was a blur. She wailed and wished for someone to save her, or else have mercy and light the damned pyre! The rank stench of her own dung was awful. So awful!
“Father Tuckman, I beg you pleaaaaase. I’m a witch, fine, burn me. Or, will the pretty bird come back and bring his friends? Can you all team together and snatch a torch from someplace, if the problem is that you don’t like me? Damned birds. Damned deer eating grass right in front of my face, I hate you all!”
Three birds sat on the branch of the oak extending far ahead. Eve licked her tears, dared to smile a little. Two streaks of white made her squint and look fast at the ground, but not before either cheek was stained with the avian warpaint.
Eve shrieked like a banshee for all of the fourth day until she was hoarse and every stupid little bird had abandoned its nest.
For the fifth day, Eve was silent. Of course.
On the sixth day, Eve was very glad to be alone. Two unholy urges had claimed her, and she was far past mental and physical stamina. She was impressed by her acumen in settling the two together. She felt herself a sage, she wished it had occurred to her earlier, she would have been pleased if it had occurred to her when first, as a girl, she stuffed a pillow between her legs and bucked!
The urine was meant to be a failsafe, should some person come by, having heard her, and choose to set the pyre at her toe-tips ablaze. Eve resolved that she wouldn’t even save herself at this point. But the pressure in that sacred place was now a boon. She squeezed thighs, tensed, and rubbed as best she could, mouth open and tongue half-out.
Oh, if only happy once-beau could see her now. Epitome of refinement! He would regret his choice, now, certainly. Eve tried not to think of this man, and instead wondered if she could turn around, bound as she was, and grip the stripped tree between her knees…
On the seventh day, Eve was ready to die.
“Perhaps… perhaps it’s fitting that I should be bound up here. Around and around up here, in these ropes. I have been abandoned after this brazen and fast life. I have been forsaken by god and men. I had none but my conscience to keep me company, and I have broke—broken, breaked? Ugh, a great many rules, committed quite a few sins all by myself. And so I have terrible company in the end. Even alone before Him in Heaven, I am still such a terrible, ridiculous fiend.”
And then, it rained. Eve lay there and let herself be soaked. The water was warm. It tasted sweet when she drank it. The trees offered little cover. The drops slipped along the stripped tree to which she was bound, into every fiber of the ropes that bound her, chest and legs, to it. The thing’s branches slipped a little in the mud that pooled beneath it. The water washed away the foulness of her state, without and within. When night fell, she shivered with cold, but Eve was happy. And perhaps that would be nice, to die happy.
The crickets started their music, and the night things crawled along her legs. How nice of them, to say hello. Eve wondered what would be the last thing she’d like to think about, when it all ended. The woman’s head lolled to one side, and then she sneezed forcefully and came to, gazing at the stars.
Transubstance’d the bread.
Gone the wine.
A miracle left upon the altar,
But I’d fallen asleep by that time.
It was something that Eve recited, in her head, during Chapel. Why did it come to her now, when no one else was praying?
Hail to thee, Marie,
Pregnant full of His grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art though amongst all women…
Someone was praying! “Helloooo! Help me!”
And bless’d is the fruit of that womb, which pleases us…
No, he was too far away. What in the world was he praying?
Holy Marie, Mother to the Father…
The Father had been weaned? Oh, it must have been scandalous, where was the husband? Do tell!
Pray for us sinners.
Now, and at the stake-and-pyre, for all of our deaths.
“…Sir? Might you pray for me?”
Eve looked to the East, through the trees. The direction of sunrise. Of course salvation would come from that direction.
“I was tied way up here. And now I’m cold. Please…”
Was there someone speaking to us?
“There is more than one of you? Then you must come, right away. Bring the entire army, tell the King!”
It must be some kind of possession. Evil things are happening in this realm now… let’s not mind it.
Eve became angry. Eve balled her hands into fists. Judge her? Dare he to judge her? She had not survived seven days of misery to be abandoned by the faithful. A gray cloud passed over the moon. She began to reach, with what, she did not know. But Eve was too angry to question it. Justice was him seeing her. Righteousness was him knowing her despair, craving it, avenging it.
“Be you Lord or pauper, ignorant soul…” He was a warrior. Eve saw the sword the man dropped. “You will come to my aid, seize that bridle,” He did this too, “You are East, and I am West, fly!” This man mounted and his steed galloped in a frenzy, though he neatly guided them deft of night-blue shadows of trees.
And then, something to make it real. Something to make it stick, but what? “Cymen Ruecross,” for that, undeniably, was his name. It nearly blinded her through the enchantment, white light which pierced through a complex weave of green thorns, “Your Marie… she has asked you to find me, to save me,” suddenly, Eve had a good look at him, so felt compelled to add, “…and to love me. You wouldn’t dare go against her will, would you?”
Damsels had been friends to Dragons and Knights in the same way that Dogs had befriended Cats, and Cats adored Mice. A trap, a trap! Oh, but how would he know? Cymen was not made like Eve.
On my honor, most pristine Lady. Heaven itself will be our happy witness. You shall be saved.
Poor, poor Cymen.
1 Tie Me to the Tree :: 2 But First, a Snack of Strawberries :: 3 Five Love Stories :: 4 Robin in the Hood :: 5 Even Crispy Children :: 6 A Good GAFE :: 7 Last Chance Through the Flames :: 8 On the Rogue, Damascus