Caged

Written for Flash Fiction Challenge: Song Shuffle Stories, posted Jan 6, 2012 in Chuck Wendig's TerribleMinds blog.

Snow stung Anneke's eyes as she ran through the village, her father's words ringing in her ears. I didn't raise you to be a whore! Get out! Go to that man you've been spreading your legs for — if he'll have you.

How had he found out? They'd been so careful! But in a small town, people talk... Well, they'd certainly be talking now. His shouts could be heard halfway across the village. As she ran, half-blinded by tears and melting snow, she felt everyone's eyes on her, every once-friendly face now turned away, mocking whispers echoing in the sound of the icy wind in the trees. There goes the slut. Didn't you hear...? And she always seemed like such a good girl...

By the time she banged on Gerrit's door, her hands and feet were numb, and she was shivering violently. She wasn't dressed for the cold — she'd barely had a chance to grab a woolen shawl as her father threw her out. But Gerrit would take her in — he'd promised to marry her, after all. Surely then the scandal would be forgotten.

Finally the door opened. Gerrit's eyes widened and he hissed "Anneke? What are you doing here? I told you never to come here!"

True, he'd said they needed to be discreet, but he'd said it was to protect her reputation... That hardly mattered any more. "My father found out about us! He threw me out! Please, let me in — I'm freezing!"

"Damn it, I can't! You need to leave. Now. Before —"

He was interrupted by a woman's voice from inside: "Dear? Who is it?"

"No one important, love — just a beggar." He stepped outside quickly, pulling the door shut to keep the woman inside from hearing. As Anneke stared in horror, he thrust a handful of coins into her hands. "Take this and go."

Finally she found her voice. "But — you said you loved me! You said —"

He laughed incredulously. "Men will say many things in the heat of passion, my dear. It's not my fault you were foolish enough to believe it all." And with that he turned and disappeared into the house.

She staggered backward through the snow, conscious of everyone staring, some with pity, some with laughter. The cold now seemed like a living thing, embracing her, sucking the life from her body just as Gerrit's betrayal drained her soul.

Somewhere deep inside, her heart turned to living ice, and she opened herself to the cold, letting it course through her, fill her, replacing despair with icy determination. She reached out, and ice began to envelop the house, locking all within in a crystalline, inescapable cage. The cries of the villagers seemed very far away as she let the cold flow further, seizing one after another until she stood surrounded by frozen statues, the whole village a vast, sparkling ice sculpture.

And at its heart, Anneke, her lips frozen into a final smile, because no one would ever hurt her again.

The song iTunes provided me with was "Caged" by Within Temptation. Lyrics here, live video here. I think the lyrics influenced the story more than the title did... And yes, I gave the characters Dutch names as a nod to the band's origins.

Tags: 

Category: