• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 04
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Whip hand

He was not, at first, a mean man, just cold. His father was too, and I didn’t know any better at fourteen. They saw I was strong, and that was fine by them, and it was fine by me too, mostly.

I was like a whip, strong and lean and he cracked me with a mere flick of his wrist in whatever direction he chose. I was powerful alright, but never without his hand. Directing my strength to be used for his will.

It seemed, for years, that until he moved me I stayed still. I saw a ventriloquist dummy once, sitting on a bale at the local fair. Without its master, it was unmoving, but not lifeless exactly; the face a distortion of its human owner. I felt like that when he didn’t tell me what to do. I did what I was supposed to, for all those years. Then I didn’t want to do it anymore.

I can tell you exactly why, what it was that changed in me. I learned to read; that was the start of it.

When we went into town, I could read the newspapers and the posters, and the advertisements. The world was bigger than I ever imagined. My mind became elastic, stretching and looping its way round all the information I could now see.

The things I learned about, well, they were impossible and fantastic. Apparently there was a woman in the city who became a doctor. Can you believe it? Also, a sheep with two heads.

I tried to talk to him about the things I saw, but he was a stone, where I felt like a sponge. He seemed to repel this world and its fascinations, where I was sucking them into me like my life depended on it.

Every time I said something, right from my own head, he would get so angry. That was when he became mean, and I felt it every night. He kept me back, locked me away.

The pitchfork was rusty, and when he tripped and the fork went into his arm, he would not let me fetch a doctor. I tried, I promise you, I really tried to explain that I had read about infections.

But of course he stood firm, monumental in his rejection of knowledge to the very end.