Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 221



No More Secrets

The only windows were high above her, so the room should have been darker. She let her head follow the walls all the way along the interior of the tall tower. The sun entered in only at the very top of the space, two eye slits looking back down even as she looked up.

Her heart pounded in her chest, faster than it ever had before. She kept her chin pointed upward as if, staring high up, she could tell herself she had not seen anything in the unearthly light at the base of the tower.

So many bodies.

Her feet moved of their own will into the room. One. Two. Three. Four steps. The door behind her stood ajar. In the distance, Conomor screamed.

The outside of the palace looked like fine stonework. It was only on the inside that the trees and plants revealed themselves. It was only on the inside that hints of starlight (Silver thread, she thought) crept through, and only here in this tower room that the darkness itself illuminated everything around it. 

The darkness pulled at her ears, dragging her back down, even as the windows above tried to hold her eyes captive.

They were equally strong, the light and the dark, but the dark had an ally that the light did not. A new scream.

Had Belle not had so much experience choking down her screams and letting them out only on her own terms, doubled over on her knees and howling them into the ground, this one, by far the largest she had ever felt, might have killed her on its way out. However, she no longer even had to clench her teeth to keep them inside. She locked her throat, instinct more than awareness, but she could not hold it down and still look to the ceiling.

She looked down.

She could not count the number of bodies.

It was not that there were so many. Her mind could not process what she was seeing, not completely. Oh, yes, my husband. Yes. You have been married before, was all she could tell herself.

She backed out of the room. She pushed the door shut. She did not lock it. She returned to her room.

Belle was not thinking what she should do. A distant part of herself watched her own body walk, stumble back to her room. She rang for the maid, but no one came. She looked down at her red-stained palms. Not oil. Not rust. Blood. She was not surprised that no one arrived at her room. A part of her knew what to do, what she had to do.

Piece by piece, she took of her clothing and left it in a fabric pool at her feet. She went to her closet and took out her perfect wedding dress, soft as starlight and gossamer, and stepped into it. She pulled the laces as tight as she could and knotted them across her front. In her belly, she wrapped the monstrous scream in what was left of the fear and the thrill, and she made her way to the altar where she and Conomor had been wed. He will find me there. She did not question this knowledge.

It was a fact.

She marched through the palace where no servants nor even Entendtout were to be seen to wait for her husband in the garden cathedral.

Her hair was a mess. Her palms were blood red and the same stains despoiled her dress.

She looked like all of the dead women in the tower.

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