I don’t try to get published. I know it would be useless – we aren’t publishable. No one would pay for the scripture of dead gods, or the hymns of phantoms, or the gospel of the insane. No one would read the poetry of a madwoman, would it cost them even a nickel. You have too few beginnings for biography and too many endings for non-fiction. I dedicate too many words to the sound of blood in your lungs for either horror or erotica; they will say it makes readers uncomfortable. We’re just not presentable and I can’t make us so, not when it’s blasphemy to edit or omit. I could not tell lies for money. I could not cut chunks of flesh from my side to earn their weight in coin. If they never believed Cassandra, why should they believe me? Publishers aren’t interested in crazy unless it’s marketable.
Do you allow the use of a divination technique only once? Is that why you allowed the cards to speak for you, then scrambled every subsequent message? Is that why you conjured one meaningful book quote, yet choose only the most useless and innocuous when I attempt it again? Is that why every time I think I have stumbled upon the one way you’ll let a connection be established between us, it only works once and then causes me nothing but confusion? Of course, you say. Why did it take me so long to catch on? (Did we really choose such a dense scribe?)
Would it be so terrible, that connection? Would it be so awful to give me more than the barest, vaguest hint of what you want me to know or do? I’m not trying to cheat or take the easy route; you know I’m always willing other face whatever you throw my way. I just want to be certain for once, instead of guessing at what important message I think you’re sending. Hell, I’m not even sure that you’re sending anything! All I can act on are my hunches, my feelings, my instincts, and how am I to ever know if they’re right? When you are everywhere and everything to me, everywhere and everything could be a message I’m missing, and I know you well enough to know you do not deign to repeat yourselves. I’m left, therefore, assuming I’m always five steps behind and forever rushing to catch up. And you wonder why my anxiety levels are so high?
To be honest, I, too, am an unreliable narrator. Not that the scribe lies, per se; but her truths are the truths of her subjects. I tell you what I am told. What I am not told, I do not tell. What falsehoods I suspect remain my own and are never uttered. It is not my place to make suppositions, to theorize, to bury certain claims or drag others into the light. We all have our own truths, our own realities; why should my subjects be less worthy in the keeping of theirs than anyone else? Besides, all good stories contain a certain amount of distortion. Where fact may slide into fiction is up to the reader to decide – and every reader has their own truths as well.
I am not your sister, but I have stood by you.
I am not your daughter, but I have preserved you.
I am very tired.
If you had hands, would you lift me and carry me to bed?
(Please lie. I don’t mind.)
I remember it all. Kneeling on the carpet, dragging my fingers through the thick white fibers, I remember the cloying scent of blood, the stains darkening as they dried. Rising to press my palms against the tall windows, I remember the chill wind whistling around spires of broken glass, how the shards glittered on the carpet like snow in moonlight. In the silence I hear the ghost echo of raised voices, cries of pain and ecstasy, shattering glass, gunshots. In the stillness of the empty room I yet recall every moment passed in these halls, and beyond; every word, every detail, every sensation. Rich carpet, cool crystal, sleek marble. Acrid cigarette smoke, hot skin, digging fingers. Promises and lies. Death and death. This place is a tomb. This place is my church.
There are good moments, I swear, Tanim says, but when he tries to think of specific memories his mind goes blank. It’s not that he’s forgotten the rare smiles or rarer laughter, the precious glimpses of affection and peace; they just feel disconnected from him, like the remains of a story someone else told long ago. Bled of sound and context, blurred and desaturated, what worth is left in them? Oh, so much, truly, for the right person. What the scribe cannot commit to word, she commits to heart. What the scribe cannot tell others, she tells herself in the deep of the night. There are good moments, she can swear it, even if they are only fragments.
A scribe should know her place. A scribe does not create, she copies. A scribe does not take liberties, she writes only what she is dictated. A scribe does not tell the story, she merely records it. A scribe is but the extension of the pen, and to imagine otherwise is to rise above her station; she is necessary, yes, but like a broken stylus she can be replaced. A scribe would be wise to remember her role and not dare to move beyond its restrictions.