A/N- this is my entry for the Writing Challenge Contest on the Review Game forum. The prompt was: "All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies. And whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first, they must catch you." - Watership Down by Richard Adam. I've used a bit of artistic license by quoting some of it but hopefully it doesn't detract from the piece! As always reviews and PM's are welcome, enjoy! :)
Being a woman can be a dangerous thing. When men fear Satan and death, when they fear disease and sin, women are the first to be judged.
I had worn so many masks in my life that I wasn't quite sure who I had been when I had begun all those years ago. After seeing my mother abused and beaten, I had known I would not allow men to bend me to their will – whatever that may be at the time. Being young and naïve, though, I used my voice in the beginning. But shouting and screaming, I quickly learnt, wouldn't get me very far.
After a couple of years, I was able to gather wisdom from older women who had either used their knowledge themselves or had simply wished to help a fellow sister. My tactics became more subtle. Speaking and listening were two very different things and often a man wished to be heard but he did not wish to hear a woman in return.
I slipped in and out of masks like the beautiful dresses I had begun to collect from suitors and men who took me as a mistress. That was merely one step on such a long ladder. Training when I could, I became able to wield daggers with lethal precision – occasionally I would find a man who saw my interest as an attempt to gain his affection and would give me a tip or two. Eventually I felt empowered – as though nothing could stop me. When I look back, that was probably my biggest mistake and a sign of my still-lingering youth.
Dresses became part of the mask, as did wigs and make-up. My masks took on personalities – the sultry red-head, the mysterious brunette. That only added to my certainty that I could do it, that I could actually kill men and get away with it. It began as just one or two, I wasn't scared of killing them, they were awful men. I became jumpy though, nervous. I had to strengthen my exterior and those masks began to transform from dresses into skins. But slipping out of a dress is far easier than having to tear away your skin and re-build yourself each time.
I realise now that that is how I was caught. The more difficult it became to change, the tighter the net grew until I was just like a fish - gasping and gulping - hoping to live but knowing it would mean death.
Being beheaded for the public will cause a stir, maybe even ignite the flame in another young girl. I no longer fear death though. Those masks are all I am now, just layers and layers of rouge and silk. I know that death must be the price.
I like to think though, as I sit here in this dank, damp cell, awaiting the axe, that I was more than a killer. The killing wasn't out of want, it was out of my need to restore some semblance of equality the only way I could see how.
As one wise woman told me – whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first, they must catch you.