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Three Lives, Three Deaths
I'm so cold. That's the only thought that I can manage.
My long hair is stuck to my skin, my dress and the soles of my feet frozen to the block of ice that is the stone floor and wall of my cell. Having been completely soaked before thrown into the dungeon, my dress is practically attached to my body. I don't dare sit forward for fear of tearing the skin off my back like it did my right hand, so I let the stone draw the heat from my tiny body. The blood from my right hand has frozen to the floor, but my left hand is free. I numbly try to wipe an icicle of hair out of my face, but my pale, blue fingers have long lost their fine motor capabilities. The snow piles around me, melting from my body heat and then freezing into the layer of ice that is slowly encompassing me. I remember when they had first thrown me into the cell...was it minutes or days ago? I had landed on hands and knees in the snow, desperately coughing water out of my lungs while the guards laughed behind me before slamming the door. No one has come since.
I'm going to die here, I numbly realize. Most of the cells in Paris are insulated, safely away from the horrors of France in January. Everyone else they had tortured for information regarding Gwendolyn's whereabouts had been locked in one of those, assuming they hadn't died in the desperate hunt. It isn't just a coincidence that the only victim of waterboarding had been tossed into the ice and snow. No one's coming.
I cry softly, the tears freezing on my face. I clumsily try to wipe them away, but my fingers may as well be made of stone, if stone could burn with pain. My vision is blurry, but I can see that the place on my wrist that the ropes had rubbed raw is turning strange colors, the blood freezing to the shreds of skin. Is that bad?
The pain is gone, numb. One eye is frozen shut, and I feel safe enough to close the other. Suddenly, my skin begins to feel a touch of warmth, and I give I little cry as the heat enwraps my body because I'm safe, aren't I? The cold is gone so I must be safe at last....
In retrospect, maybe piracy wasn't the smartest life choice.
I'm slightly jealous of my male crewmates, already hanging from the gallows at this little port I will never learn the name of. When we were captured by the Spanish fleet they knew they were doomed, but had told me to feel hope. The soldiers would never lower themselves to killing a lady, they told me. Well, instead they've chosen to let the ocean do it for them.
Tied to a post under the pier, I can see the tide coming in. Crabs scuttle curiously over my feet as the warm water slowly laps against my shins, then my knees. I strain against the ropes to no avail; the soldiers tied me tightly. I reminded myself that, under most circumstances, I would have found this very hot. I try to concentrate on this though. I calm down.
The waves are drenching the top of my corset by the time the sun finally dips behind the horizon. The sky glows pink, then faded into ash as the stars began glimmering far above me. The water cools. Crickets chirp off in the distance. This isn't the worst way to die.
Panic erupts as the water touched my face. I begin to scream, thrash, sob uncontrollably. The waves lap up against my mouth and I accidentally swallow a mouthful of water, leaving behind the taste of salt and little animals. I turn my face to the dark wood and darker sky above me, and for a moment all I can see is beautiful. A wave covers my entire face, leaving me coughing and screaming. Another crashes over me, and another, the intervals between shorter every time, until the sky is covered by a layer of black liquid. I scream and scream but no one comes to help. I relax. It's okay, everything will be okay. I succumbed to my fate.
The sand is cold and clammy around my bare feet. My hair and clothes are dampened from the mist, rising from the ocean so I can't tell when the air stops and the water begins. I can't see more than 10 meters out into this freezing fog, nothing to promise safety or rescue. The sun has disappeared, and light is fading. Soon, my predicament will be more severe.
I walk backwards, away from the ocean, towards the trees that mark the middle of my island. It isn't very big. The island, I mean. Maybe about 125 meters in diameter, although it's more crescent-shaped than circular. There's a cave I've been calling home for the past few hours, some trees, and a handful of animals I'm praying are herbivores. A freshwater spring falling into a pool just large enough for bathing had been my one stroke of fortune, although I'm beginning to regret that bath as my body struggles to warm my wet skin. My hair is soaking heat from my head, as are my feet. I need to get warm, and fast.
I try to stumble back towards my shelter, but my feet and hands are so cold that they're less responsive, and I feel every twig I step on hurt me. I trip over a rock, invisible in this growing, misty fog, and plummet to the earth. My chin hits the ground, and I bite my tongue so hard that warm blood fills my mouth. My eyes widen and water from pain. I spit the blood on my fingers, hoping they'll thaw, but they feel next to nithing. It's becoming yet darker, and I'm surprised at how quickly cold sets in. Pushing myself up, I stumble on, trying to reach a destination that may very well be my tomb.