Nobody remembers how they were born, and I do not either, but I certainly remember how I died. I was murdered. And I don’t think that many people can boast, like me, that it was done without any damage to their body – at all.
I recall standing beside him one night; he was sitting at his writing desk, fast asleep with his head resting on his arms. A mass of paper sheets covered in hand-writing littered the rest of the space and a good deal of the floor, with one or two pens and several empty ink-bottles thrown in to complete the picture. I carefully extended one hand and touched him on the shoulder – he jerked awake, saw me and nearly keeled over with his chair in utter amazement and shock.
He did not ask many questions. As much as he could write, he was not a great talker. So, our short relationship was exceedingly non-verbal and seemed to come to life only in the darkest hours of the night, when the fine line between dreams and reality is somewhat blurred. Then he would be in awe of me (I could see it in his eyes) and even whisper a few tender words in my ear, but he would become terrified of me as soon as the grey light of dawn filtered through the curtains of his study. By day, he wouldn’t acknowledge I was there at all, let alone talk to me.
Very soon, I began to suffer. Not only because he didn’t provide me with any food and I had to make do with whatever I found in the kitchen, but also because of his spiritual negligence. I grew tired of feeling his affection only when his desires got the better of him, and of trying to talk to him and never getting an answer back. My frustration grew every day, but while I would have liked to shout and scream, to throw things at him and break glass, I was never able to do anything of the sort. Something held me back, and it held me back firmly. I could only watch as he sat at his desk, putting order into the manuscript I had seen the first night and typing it out.
One day, however, while he was away, it occurred to me to have a look at that manuscript. I had never paid much attention to it before, which was probably a mistake, but I didn’t guess then how important it was. I sat down with it and started to read. It was a strange kind of story, essentially revolving around the details of the human body – or rather, of a specific human body, a woman’s. Her every feature and movement was delineated in delicate, almost loving words, her whole person granted an incredible gracefulness by the narrator. Maybe this fondness that the words expressed was the reason it took me so long to realise what so utterly frightened me about the text.
I still have in mind how I feverishly flicked through the pages, faster and faster, until I reached the bit that described the woman’s character. It was contained on one page and had plainly not been given as much attention as the rest. I scanned the text, words like “kind” and “intelligent” jumping out at me, and finally reached the line that made my hair stand on end: “It is not in her nature to rebel; therefore, she remains utterly defenceless and will never turn against her master, let alone leave him.” Her master…
I stood up, walked over to the desk with the sheet in my hand, picked up a pen and drew a line across this last sentence. It felt good. Then, more briskly, I drew another, and another until I found myself slashing away vigorously at the paper, punching several holes in it and sending blots of ink flying everywhere. That done, I found the printed version of this ridiculous “story” and did the same with the last line there, just for good measure. I felt elated – never in my life had I been so free, nor held such power in my hand.
But of course, all good things must eventually come to an end, and they did pretty quickly when my “master” – I couldn’t very well call him “father” after our nightly episodes – finally returned home. I had sat down, wanting to write my very own version of “her character” and when he found me like this he panicked. I remember feeling a kind of savage pleasure knowing that he couldn’t just ignore me now. I had not bargained on the violence of his reaction, however. He lunged towards me, hit me in the face and tore the manuscript from me, cursing all the while. It was when I tasted my own blood that my lungs filled up with air and I opened my mouth wide – and screamed.
I screamed like I had never thought I could. I yelled on and on, shouting insults at him, venting my whole bottled-up anger I had held back for so long. He tried to silence me of course, but I was in such a rage by then that it was all he could do to defend himself from my angry fists. I kept on shouting all the while.
I don’t know how long this went on. Very soon there was knocking at the door and voices calling “What’s going on in there? Open up!” At this, he looked more panicked than ever. Finally, he gave up trying to place a hand over my wailing mouth, pushed me against the wall and picked up the manuscript again. He gave me one look, one that spoke of love at last, but also of terrible regret, and he threw the sheets into the fireplace.
My body dissolved then and there. I recall the pain of being separated from it and the wonder of still being conscious nonetheless. I have never quite solved that puzzle. My nearest guess, however, is that my soul rests between the pages of the printed copy, the one he had no time to burn before the policemen came for him.
Loosely based on the story of Ovid’s PYGMALION.