1. Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum

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(DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner.)

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***Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide in the early paragraphs.***

Autumn 2024

He's there. Every night the same. Looming at the foot of the bed, watching me through the cover of darkness. Nude body gleaming in the moonlight like an apparition, and I knew all too well the things it was capable of. The rings like talismans. The eyes that subjugated. The arms that constrained. The legs that stalked. Ink, everywhere. Hieroglyphs of a past life, of which I was not invited to make inquiry. He wanted me subdued in every way conceivable. Mostly spiritually, though at times physically. And The Room was made for that. With someone like me in mind. Even now I could hear metal against metal. Mellifluous. Tethered to pigments he had awakened in my imagination. Rousing my most primal depravities. Things that had been slumbering in me since time immemorable. Things that could not be undone. The witchcraft cast over my heart. The images implanted in my thoughts. The demons conferred to me. The blood on my hands.

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I'm not one of those girls, you know. Frightful, oblivious, forfeiting. The led. The victimized. Oh no, my friend. I was aberrant. Gorgeously so. I didn't scare easily, you see. How could I? Take a look at me, I dare you. No parents, no siblings, no roots, no direction. An unemployed college dropout with no money, no prospects, and no friends. The lawyers had drained my bank account from the moment I signed the dotted line, and whatever they left behind was spent on food, rent, and paying the interpreter, who by now was just a glorified babysitter because I was trapped alone in a foreign country. Believe me when I say, I'm this close to putting some guy's musty dick in my mouth to replenish the Ramen. I am fucked, my friend, and not the good kind.

Still, I wasn't the tragic type, you know? I wasn't to be sympathized with. I sincerely don't want your sympathy. I've always sort of veered away from everyone and everything, particularly people's presumptions of me. Even though I looked it, I wasn't one of those girls. Trust me...if I was one of those girls, the learned helplessness kind, the face of hardship, the stuff of battered women's shelters, I'd have put a gun in my mouth and tried to empty the clip a long time ago.

Wait, don't be alarmed. It's only natural, you see. Suicide runs in the family. Here's yet another difference between them and me. Those girls. I wouldn't go out the clean way. No pills. No car exhaust. No hanging. No siree. I'd brain myself, unquestionably, just to make an impression. Ruin your breakfasts while you mulled over the morning news, thankful the featured events didn't hit close to home. Become a cautionary tale and all that. I wouldn't mind making a few headlines. It'd be the only legacy I had going for me if I didn't finagle my way out of this latest mess.

To be straight with you, if I was one of those girls, I'd still be in that goddamned cellar. Which is why once I realized I'd been hunted, there was no crumbling or accepting my fate. Every fiber of my being dictated that I counterattack, and so I did. Went scorched-earth on that motherfucker and got out alive. But that's a story for another day. Or, perhaps in a few hours when I took to the stand and yet again testified before dozens of tight-lipped foreigners, upon whom the impact of my words and experiences will be lost in translation. My own trial had taught me that. Now it was time for his. But talk is cheap, and I've had enough. Let's get on with it.

Closing the top button on the old-lady-blouse loaned me by my interpreter— boy was translating expensive these days, 200 bucks an hour—I yanked it off and replaced it with a white cami; one with a modest, lace-trimmed neckline. Now I slung the jacket in place, and it all came together. Yeah, this would work. Finally, I stepped in front of the mirror long enough to check that my bun was still tidy despite the humidity, then flipped my reflection the bird before heading out. It was an awful habit I'd developed since moving here. Yes, here. To this dilapidated three-story townhome of despair, situated on the edge of 'I'm fucked,' in some little-known district in northern Italy. Like something out of a Tarantino film. Certainly no Billionaire's Row.

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