Site icon Alexander Hammil

Barnacle Geese

Again, for Marissa

It is a hard thing to be pampered, thought the pretty, pretty princess, as she sat in glittering isolation, high in her tower. She looked down on the sparkling waves that ran in and crashed against the rocks so far below, and found a map of foreign lands in the barnacles that opened and closed with the tide. Her wants were catered to, and her whims indulged, but within the tower there were no doors, and no privacy, and no security, and no fancy. Afar on the waves, golden-masted ships swung back and forth over the pelagic deeps, and she saw monsters and mermen and pilotfish in the sundazzle, and drew random little shapes on the sill with her fingertips.

People had been taken from her fourteen years ago, when first she bled in the ways of women, and so now was she attended by ghosts and spirits of the air, and invisible were the hands that worked her toilet, and set her meals, and drew the curtains against the blustery winds. High and alien were the voices that chattered and fell still when she entered a room, in a tongue she did not know and could not learn. She rode forth on cool, calm days, lazy eyes heavy-lidded and hypnotic for the horses and beasts of burden, and, though she rode alone, rode ever safe and secure among her twittering ghosts. Such is the way of princesses.

On a severe and storming day, when the golden-masted ships reared and plunged upon the sea, a shaggy headed beast rose within her and bit and tore and broke, and she threw herself from the high window, eyes wide and calm, toward the rocks below, and the map of foreign lands. Hands reached for her, and her flesh burned to touch them, and she slapped and bit and struggled, but slowed and drifted and hung, and they drew her toward the tower. She sobbed. It was a hard thing to be so pampered.

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