Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Behind the Crimson Curtains By Bria Purdy

They told me it would hurt. The first time.

All the women, draped in their scraps, frozen blue cheeks hidden with rouge. Prowling the streets, hungry eyes and crimson mouths, whispering filthy promises. They spoke their sweet husks. Then skim the thigh, despite the cold. Reel them in.

She found me, that night, a mass of bones and sleep, hunched in a doorstep. She told me I had pounced, when she bent down to check my pulse, to check for halted breath, faint signs of life. They were there- only just. She says my limb were like lead, unwilling to move. But my fingers were strong, and they grasped the warmth like a lifeline, tasting stiffness as my fingers tightened into claws.

And I suppose that's why she took me. Because I wasn't dead; because I was a survivor. Because I had everything she needed all in a pretty, young package. She told me that, later. That I was pretty enough to be worth something. I could make her money. She said it with the gleam in her eyes. My young, slender limbs.

It was always cold here. With the constant smog and bleak city streets. Always noise of horses and hectic women hustling their children. Even here, behind the crimson curtains, I hear them squawk and shriek.

I only have to go out sometimes, only when her face is red and her eyes blaze with blue rage. Even the fires in her eyes can't escape the bitter cold. It seems to seep into everything here. My lips remain cracked and brittle. But that's okay. They don't usually like to touch my lips.

I watch, sometimes, from the small window, perched at the topmost corner of the room. Perching on naked tiptoes, I watch. Entranced, I see them slink from wall to wall, sallow faces hidden behind powdered pride. You can't tell they're shivering from here; they move with easy grace. They're like spiders, inviting the fat, juicy flies into their webs, which are laden with promises of pleasure, yet laced with poison of the deepest kind.

It doesn't take long, for the dark figures to come. Hats pulled low, thick coats pulled tight. I can never hear what they say, these somber ghosts, but the women cackle with gleefully deadened laughs, leading them into darkness.

I can voices now. Low and grumbled, they vibrate through the walls, traveling through the floors, making my feet tingle. My heart beats numbly.

She throws open the door. They come in. I am frozen, but one lethal warning and I move as though someone else. The door shuts firmly when she leaves. We're alone. I am quiet as I lay my head against the cool, unforgiving ground. I know not to move too much; not to make a noise. Silence is my only freedom. When he leaves, I lay here on the floor, unmoving. I hadn't noticed before; there is a long, cruel crack in the yellowing plaster, which clings to the ceiling.

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