Susan This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 8, 2011
By , Petersburg, WV
This story is not a fairy-tale. There are no mythical beasts or valiant heroes. The only similarity between the two stories is a beautiful maiden. However, the comparison stops there. Before we take our first despairing steps into my eccentric mind, introductions must be made. I’ve been called by a multitude of names, some unkind, but, if you wish , you may know me as Leon Snow. The year is 2079 and I doubt that I will live to see the next sunrise. Do not fear. Death will be my escape, the only freedom that I stand to gain from this dismal place. I have been here for seven years, but I still awaken to the sound of my own voice, screaming her name like a curse into the sardonic sun.

If you’re reading this, my wish has been granted and my story has been found. Be warned that it is not a story for those who have not yet uncovered the world’s cruelty. Rather, it’s a story for one who knows something of what its like to be eviscerated by another. Like when your own self has turned on you and the feeling of anguish when you realize that there’s nothing left and no one cares. If that stirred a spark into your unfeeling heart, then please proceed.

The year was 2072 and I had just been convicted of treason against the kingdom of Barrendall. I recall seeing my lovely Susan’s devastated face and then a shadow advancing toward me. There was a sharp pain and then the blackness of my own soul consumed me. I came to at sea, inside of a small canoe. On my right lay a knife and a gun with one bullet, the traditional objects given to those who suffer this form of punishment. I considered the supposed use of the gun for a lengthy period of time. The notion of ending my own life repulsed me, but I cannot deny that the option appealed to me. Why slowly starve, when I could end it all here and now?

Then, my beloved’s face filled my mind. I could almost see the challenge in her eyes. “Don’t give up,” she seemed to be saying,” Return to me!” The image evaporated, and although I clung to it for as long as I could, it faded as rapidly as a rainbow. Closing my eyes, I determined that I would fight as hard as I could to never again fall prey to the persuasiveness of playing God with my life. My fate, for now, shall remain in the hands of my Maker.

With a little more investigating, the vessel yielded a small tin of biscuits and a miniscule canteen of water. Heartened by my find, I allotted myself a tiny swallow of water and one thin wafer from the tin. Even with these basic necessities of survival discovered, I knew that I would need to find land. Soon. Once more I considered my options. If my calculations were correct, I was heading south, on calm waters and at a leisurely pace. Regretting every insignificant second that I had slept through geography, I could only recall that there was not much south of Barrendall. A number of uninhabited islands, perhaps, would become my only sanctuary.

I sailed for two weeks. My water had become so stagnant, that only the truly desperate would have drank it. Unfortunately, this applied to me. The biscuits were gone, two days past, and my stomach was as barren as my heart. Once more the gun looked more and more friendly. Once more Susan’s glorious scent pervaded the air and drug me away from the gates of H*ll itself. Severely weakenend, I did not give into the demons’ lunatic demands, I merely allowed them to consume me as I tumbled into the forgiving bosom of sleep.

I was jolted into awareness by the sudden absence of the constant rocking motion of the canoe. Struggling against sleep’s fateful grip, I forced my eyes to peer over the side. Sand, beautiful sand. It was the same color of heaven, of my Susan’s golden halo. Only this discovery gave me enough strength to clamber out of the canoe and my exhausted eyes lit upon a coconut laying in the sand. Scrambling for my knife, I drove it into the meaty heart and drank the sweet nectar that pulsed forth. Thus energized, I split the coconut off a rock and greedily ate the meat inside. My stomach had become so shrunken in size that even that diminutive amount had it protesting. I drug my canoe away from the tide, higher up onto the beach. Securing it to the best of my abilities, I formed a make-shift shelter so I could wait out the blistering sun.

The more time that I spent on the island, the more I learned about it. For instance, it was usually too hot to venture out in daylight, so my wanderings were strictly nocturnal. With only these limited hours, it took me three day to make a more permanent shelter. The sturdy jungle trees with their large flat leaves made it simple to construct a three sided shanty. When the work had tired me, I worked on gathering a nice supply a food. The feeling of starvation was a sharply unpleasant one and I hoped to never experience it again. By the time that this was finished, the sun was starting to appear over the horizon. Physically, you could say that I was fine. Mentally, not so much.

Sleep only takes you away for a while. In a way, you’re entirely defenseless, because when you give in, your carefully constructed mental shield tumble and the things you dread are allowed to run rampant in the mind. When I’m sufficiently recovered from the night, I’m left alone. The sea is a melancholy soundtrack to my thoughts and memories of her. Sometimes I allowed myself a selfish indulgence and conjured Susan from my mind. However this made the longing worse and more intense. On these occasions I would spring to my feet, certain that I had heard her tinkling laugh or the tread of her bare feet on the sand. Looking all around and seeing the utter nothingness, would cause me to fall, heart convulsing, to my knees as uncontrollable sobs wracked my frame. Each time, I would swear to myself to never do this again, that my sick masochistic streak would never again consume me. I found myself praying that her pull on me would, over time, become easier to resist, less addictive, as it were.

Instead it became even stronger. As time passed, I would find myself needing that simple moment of bliss more and more often. I knew that it would harm me even more, but strangely the intoxicating pain would become what I needed to feel alive. The dark realization had sunk in that I was the Minotaur in my own personal labyrinth. Hideous inside and out, my Ariadne would never return to me and I would remain trapped here, without even a courteous Theseus to end my suffering. Only my divine guardian prevented me from unleashing my wicked soul.

Still, I managed in the best way I knew how. The years passed and I let the humanity bleed out of me until I was rather feral. My voice had become so deteriorated that it was just the most feeble rasp. For some odd reason, I clung to the ability to write, practicing in the sand. As time had journeyed onward, my eyes had lost their strength and even a glance into the vicinity of the sun was too much for them.

Strangely, I had never even fantasized with the notion of escape. Some part of me acknowledged that I would die here. The only spot of light in the darkness was fading. By my calculations, it has been seven years. Seven years of endless night and lost hope. I had expected her to move on by now, even accepted it. She deserved someone better than me, perhaps a god. If our places had been interchanged, there is no way of telling what I would have done.

It was a few days past, when the end began. The moon had been full, her face reflected almost perfectly on the placid sea. I was trying to catch a fish with my knife, a rather simplistic act that I had done a number of times. For some reason, something went wrong that one time. I has stabbed down with a quick thrust at the ripple of silver in the water and instead the knife went into my own leg, just below the knee. There is something shocking about seeing the red of your life’s blood pumping out, your own throbbing heart accelerating the process. I stood there, transfixed for a moment, and then threw myself out of the water to grab a palm leaf so I could fashion a tourniquet of sorts to wrap just above the wound.

From my meager knowledge of medicine and the human body, I knew that this would be what caused my death. There was simply no way of treating it and I was not particularly eager to prolong my life. Once more, my friend, remember that death is not a cause for alarm or grief. Within four days, my leg has turned an unpleasant color and the odor of festering flesh clings to me. I can feel myself losing my tremulous grip on reality. Demons haunt me by day and by night. She haunts me as well. Laughing, crying, living, dying, she’s right before my hazy eyes. And it’s in these moments of delirium that I feel whole. The realization that maybe I would see her again, in some form, made me weep tears of joy and wish for my departure to come unhindered. I am certain that I will find myself to be in the fiery grip of the devil himself, but to punish me for my sins, he might just allow me the occasional glimpse of the angel who fell for a demonic creature.

Did I not warn you that this was not a fairy-tale? Did I not inform you that this story is one of longing and the curse of being mortal and powerless? I am hoping that whoever has stumbled onto this manuscript will take it back with them to their home. Treat it gently for this will not last forever. Please, if you have any desire for the world to know this story, transcribe it into your own hand.

Death is coming for me. I’ve collapsed onto the sand, letting the sun rain down on me, blistering my skin. The docile sea laps at my feet, giving me courage. Smiling at the sky, I unwrap the leaf and think only of her face. The sun dissolves into nothing and my soul will be released, perhaps free enough, to race far to see her, my bird dressed in white.

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