‘YOU CAN FEND FOR YOURSELF NOW,’ the master of the orphanage said, shoving a raggedy bag at my chest. ‘I’ll put no more clothes on your back, nor keep you fed.’ He sent up a prayer to the sapphire blue morning sky while I stood there with a grin on my face and muttered, ‘May God have mercy on us all.’ My smirk almost split my face in two. Religionists truly are the easiest of prey. Utter a curse word and they’ll think you the reincarnation of sin itself. And truth be told, I never could resist a good jest. This time, I’d poisoned his vicious little dog. A mistake perhaps but not one I could bring myself to regret.
The gated entrance shut in my face on a scream and I recalled the first time I’d come here. The master had found me, lost and stumbling over my own unstable feet, covered in ash and sweat with tears streaming relentlessly over my cheeks. Then, without a single word, he’d stuffed me inside a wagon filled with ten or so adolescent boys my own age and driven us here.
At the time, he’d claimed to be a kind man, claimed to cleanse the misguided of sin. Later I would come to understand his definition of cleansing was to simply beat it out of us.
‘Forget what you once were for that is past now,’ were his first words to us, his signature black rags rustling at his feet. ‘You are no one. Pretend to be anything but and you’ll find it a sore mistake.’ He’d locked gazes only with me as he’d said this, twirling a varnished orange-brown cane in his hands, and I wonder whether he’d known even then that I’d never obey. I wasn’t nameless, nor would I consent to be anything less than what I am. So for a year I’d goaded him and I was finally free of this godforsaken prison I’d for so long been forced to call home.
Throwing the bag over my shoulder, I wandered from one plague-infested backstreet to the other, fisting the front of my shirt as I shivered against the bitter winter cold, a light misting of acidic-tasting rain soaking through my threadbare clothes. Countless beggars passed by, dragging bare feet along, their toes blue with frost; some didn’t even have toes anymore. Or fingers for that matter.
The land was a violent one. If disease didn’t strike, raiders did. Still it was said our village was alluring despite the wretched feel that swelled fast and fervent from within. Strange, for whilst the wretchedness was easy to see, if the village held any allure at all, I was blind to it.
[...To Be Continued]
© 2018 “The Bad-Wisher’s Lament” by Morgan Wright
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