Monday, 4 February 2013
The Downward Spiral
In hindsight, my premature human death could have been easily avoided. Rumours of Elizabeth's cruelty were already in circulation but they were just rumours, right? She was feared but could still lure girls into her castles, Čachtice being the most impressive of them all.
Nobody really tried to stop Bathory, except for a couple of people that were not taken seriously. The year before my departure we heard of a priest who had accused her of heinous crimes but since other churchmen kept silent, Elizabeth literally got away with murder. One could have quickly assumed that she had been demonised because of her faith, after all, she was a protestant in a land of catholics, but I can confirm that she was indeed wicked regardless of her religious affiliations.
Of course, years before her servants had summoned me, Elizabeth had often scouted for girls in the nearby villages. We never got to hear from them again but we assumed they were fine, maybe living in the castle as part of her entourage. There were tales of piercing female cries, of bloody footprints in the snow and naked maiden corpses being buried in the castle grounds but there was no actual proof against the countess.
In 1609, after the death of her favourite servant (and lover), Anna Darvula, Elizabeth had practically stopped sending emissaries. Apparently, she had become more demanding, preferring the company of aristocratic young women. Her servants' visits were a rare occurrence by the time they came to see us but the rumours were still about. We had no real reason to doubt her good intentions though, her invitation sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime. My parents were glad that at least one of their children would be able to escape poverty.
On November 7th, 1610 I was thus taken away from my world by two horrific monsters who were masked as kind, loyal servants of the mysterious countess. I only remember hugging my parents for the last time before stepping into the carriage that was about to lead me to what would prove to be an existence of murder and never-ending darkness. Elizabeth's gruesome headcount would eventually pale before the number of lives I would take. I, however, have not been as "flashy" and unnecessarily gory as her. I am a much more refined killer. I make love to my victims and take them to Heaven before their hearts cease to beat. Whatever pain I may inflict has the sole purpose of enhancing our mutual pleasure.
You and I are in touch by accident, my friend. I should not be typing these words in English, under a pen name that would have sounded strange and even unpronounceable to the naïve girl I once was. I should not have lived long enough to know what a computer is in the first place. Praise the Lord, or whatever divine entity you might trust, that I am not right by your side.
I was meant to remain a 16th - 17th century creature and nothing more but what would I have been if Elizabeth had not snatched me from my home the way she did? I will never know. I sometimes think I would have been an unhappy housewife, a poor spinster, a beggar even. When I feel more optimistic I see my imaginary human life as simple and humdrum but cheerful and somewhat fulfilled according to the standards of the common folk of my time: a house, at least five children, a horse, a strong husband, and many years later, dozens of beautiful grandchildren. My descendants could be wandering the earth instead of me and yet I am more inclined to believe that happiness was never in the cards for me. Back then life was more beautiful in many respects but it was also much harder and uncomfortable. One was cursed by ignorance, lack of choice and even more religious and social constraints than nowadays.
I had this inclination I did not understand, this love for my own sex. What made me different would certainly have forced me into the miserable housewife path, the path of self-denial. For better or worse Elizabeth opened my eyes to possibilities I had not considered. Still, I would not have followed her if I had been aware of the horrors that awaited me. Do not be deceived: that does not necessarily mean I would have fully embraced my human self. Being desperately hungry for life in my own terms but lacking the courage to face social rejection I might have simply commited suicide. It would have been so much better for the world or perhaps not. Once one is sentenced to life there is no painless way out.
We arrived in Čachtice at dusk. With its white walls turning slightly blue as the sun perished, it was the most magnificent and terrifying building I had ever seen. So far, I had not witnessed luxury. By "luxury", I mean what was regarded as such in that day and age. You can imagine it was not really much compared to the readily available comforts that modern life takes for granted. Looking back, the castle was dark, damp and, dare I say, a bit smelly.
I have the hazy memory of a spacious, dimly lit room where seven or eight girls waited patiently. We were instructed to kneel down as Elizabeth entered accompanied by several guards and a woman she called Erszi. It did not take long for the countess to reveal her true colours. Her expression was a mixture of disdain and badly repressed lechery. We were little more than cattle to her.
Well, here you are. Ready to surrender before me. I am your Mistress from now on, she said in a coarse voice. She tried to add something afterwards but a sudden coughing fit stopped her. Erszi tried to grab her by the arm but she refused to be touched. I then realised that she was very frail and ill. Even in that poorly lit enclosure I could notice the deep wrinkes in her forehead and around her eyes.
Once she had calmed down she looked at us in the same disdainful manner and unexpectedly grabbed one of the girls by the hair.
- Tell me, dear child. Would you say I am beautiful? - she said.
- Yes, yyes - the girl stuttered.
Elizabeth smiled, pulling the girl's hair harder until a few golden threads fell on the floor.
- Would you say, my pretty, that I am more beautiful than you?
- Yes, my lady.
I stared in disbelief, we all did. Not only at the painful realisation that we had been tricked by Elizabeth's people but also because of the evident contrast between the countess and her first victim of the night. The former was clearly in decline whilst the latter was at the peak of her beauty. I found the scene utterly grotesque, a gorgeous maiden being forced to praise the countess' non-existent charm and belittle her own loveliness minutes before being slaughered, youth and beauty being her only sins.
- Say it aloud - hissed Elizabeth.
- Your Majesty, you are infinitely more beautiful than me - replied the poor girl.
- What do you like the most about your Mistress?
- I like your eyes, they are like burning stars.
- Is that all?
- No, your Majesty. I am mesmerised by your skin. It is flawless.
- Is it white? How white would you say it is?
- It is as white as snow, my lady.
Elizabeth touched her own face with a trembling hand then opened her mouth slightly, in a creepy grimace that turned out to be a smile, her scarce yellow teeth gleaming acridly.
- Would you like to preserve your Mistress' burning gaze and flawless snow white skin? - she asked mockingly.
- I would, my lady - said the girl.
- Then you will! - roared Elizabeth as she hurled herself at her victim's jugular like a rabid dog.
The girl yelled in pain as the countess avidly ripped her skin. Elizabeth then dropped her on the floor like a broken doll, her face covered in blood.
- Take her upstairs - she told Erszi as she tried to clean the area around her mouth with her tongue - drain her.
Erszi dragged her crying prey by the hair, leaving a scarlet trail behind her. There were a few men waiting by the door and holding some sort of cage which would soon be occupied by the unfortunate girl. Meanwhile, Elizabeth's guards seized us and wrapped us up in chains. Our ordeal had just begun.