So I went back reading my blog from last year, and around these times I had published a fiction post just for the fun of it. Reading through it again I thought that this Autumn character sounds like fun, and then I was suddenly inspired to write another short glimpse into her life. Maybe this will become a series, who knows.
- So you're saying THAT woman, who's currently in my bathtub, is some sort of Imperial assassin?
- It's true, Colleen. You better believe me.
- Is a bit hard, Jackson, with her looking like that.
- She's been held captive for ages, Colleen, so she's bound to be a bit banged up. Don't worry, she'll be right as rain in no time, just you wait and see.
- Uh-huh. I'll put the kettle on then, shall I?
- Yeah, that'd be great.
She could hear them clearly to the bathroom, if you can call it that. It was more like a niche in a wall, surrounded by paper-thin plaster walls, a gas lamp on the roof and the tub the sole artifacts within. The tub wasn't even big enough to stretch one's legs straight. But still, the warm water was a luxury, the smell of soap a heaven and the murmur of voices from the other rooms a bliss itself.
Seven years in a hole in a ground is a long time, Autumn thought, resting her head back at the edge of the tub. The scabs in her body were itching, but for now she was resisting the urge to scratch them till blood flowed. Her tattoos were faint, almost colourless now, and they hadn't moved in a long time.
She tried to remember the last time she had had a warm bath like this, but the memories eluded her, and her mind only conjured up images of the man she'd rather forget. It seemed not even seven years of misery were enough for her to replace the pain of rejection.
She grabbed her matted hair and soaked the tangled mess under the bathwater, then started scrubbing it cleaner with a sparsely toothed comb. Lots of hair fell out, some of it in big clumps. The water was dyed dirt coloured, with floating hair and earthy matter. There was even moss growing in some of the bigger hair clumps that she tore from her head with violent pulls.
Not that he would love me better now, seeing me in a messy state like this, she thought. Her body was lean, the joints black and aching, her breasts and bottom sagging after having lost almost all of the body fat she had ever possessed in her body. She had yet to take a look in the mirror, but she could feel her scapped lips and scars crossing over her face itching with the soapy water. Even some of her muscles had started to be eaten away as her body took to desperate measures to survive.
Finished with her hair, Autumn stood up in the tiny bath and attacked her skin next. The scars and scabs opened and bled as she rubbed herself up and down and removed the dirt from her skin along with its upper surface. Her nails needed cutting, but for that she had no better instrument than her teeth, and she was yet reluctant to use them for that purpose, as they felt loose in her gums. A part of her wished that he could see her now; a part of her wished to show him what she'd become in these years; while at the same time, another part of her wished only to be closed in his arms, to throw herself at his feet and kiss them.
Rising from the tub, she finally took a look of herself in the broken mirror on the wall. Her nose was red and running from her scrubbing it - she was still quite sure there were things inside - her scalp was showing in some places and the hair was still too long in others, her eyes were surrounded in black and blue and looking into her mouth, there was blood in the gums. The whip slashes on her face were also bleeding, since she had ripped open the scabs and her lips were swollen and colourless.
Looking at herself, Autumn could but agree with Colleen.
Everyone rose when she exited the bathroom. They'd been drinking tea in the only other room that comprised this girl Colleen's apartment. The window showed a scened of brick wall on the other side, closely built blocks of flats offering no other comfort to their denizens apart from a roof on their heads and walls to bar the windy cold. Looking at them, looking at her, Autumn sighed.
- I will need some other clothes. And something to cut my hair and nails with. Her previous clothes were in a bundle on the bathroom floor, but even had she wanted to put them back on, they were too rotten and full of holes to cover or warm anything much. The man, Jackson, jumped at her words, but the girl just shrugged and went to explore her closets. The boy was quiet and returned back to his mug of tea. Jackson hurriedly found a fresh cup and pouring some of the steamy liquid in it, offered it up to Autumn. She accepted it with thanks and drank deep, not minding the jolts of pain that went through her mouth and throat with the spicy drink. Not likely to keep anything solid down in a while, she thought, and then Colleen returned with green overalls, a red shirt and a blade and scissors.
- The scissors aren't too sharp, but knife's good enough, if it works for you, she said offering the items to her.
- Thank you, Autumn said and retreated back into the bathroom, leaving her unfinished tea in Colleen's hands. She changed into the clothes, which hung on her despite being clearly Colleen's size. Her ankles showed a bit and her shoulders had it a bit tight, but otherwise they were much better than the prison wear. The scissors proved too dull to work with, as expected, so she shortened her nails in the fingers and toes carefully with the blade, then gathered her hair in her hand and sawed a good armspan of length away, so that it fell only slightly below her shoulders anymore. Smoothing it over with the comb she decided that it would d have to do. She could always tie it up or something, once it dried.
She returned to the people in the other room, who this time didn't get up but just sat nervously around the table, looking at her.
- You wanna eat something? Jackson asked, casting fearful looks around him as if worried something would jump at him anytime. - I can go and get something, if you like.
- I don't think I can eat much anything yet. It's been too long with no food, Autumn said, finished her tea from the cup on the table. - I don't suppose, she then said to Colleen, pausing. - You've got any rice?
- Yeah, it's about the only foodstuffs we get from the city nowadays. Some half a kilo left still. Shall I put some cooking?
They were mostly silent while the rice cooked and when Autumn struggled to eat it. She managed half a bowl before giving up, worried that her stomach would turn if she tried any more. Setting the bowl down on the floor, where she had taken to sitting, even though Jackson had tried to offer his chair to her and remained standing akwardly even after she refused, leaving the third chair unoccupied, Autumn looked around her in the tiny flat. Rain started to patter against the window glass and turned quickly to rivers snaking their way down and panes. Colleen rose at the first sound and installed her water distillers to the outside wall, which started to drip drink water into the containers. Autumn still didn't speak, and neither did the boy or Jackson. Finishing her task, Colleen returned to her stool.
- So, what's your plan? she then asked Autumn.
- I don't know, she anwered.