Jezebel, Part 4
Jezebel walked into the woods. The morning was warmer than she’d expected, but it was cloudy and cold still. She weaved through the trees, by the river clouded with ice, and past the bends in the water. She went west and stopped suddenly. A large doe stood lapping water at the edge of the river. It looked up and its wide onyx eyes stared into her. The doe went back to drinking.
She looked from the deer to the river and noticed the water was dark, almost purple. The farther away she looked red became more prominent, until it was all she saw. There were deer carcasses strewn along the north edge of the river. Their stomachs were cut open and guts and blood spilled out onto the black pebbles. She counted fourteen deer, nine bucks and five does. A man popped from the knoll above the bank and looked down at the animals. Another man, and another, and another came up until a large group stood on the knoll overlooking their kill. One man stood out among them all, with a sword on his hip and long blonde hair. His shoulders were broad and he grimaced as he looked on.
Jezebel felt a stone in her stomach. It kneaded the flesh and fell. Elijah gripped the sword as he talked to another man smoking a cigarette, Jeremiah. He followed the group down below the knoll until all the men left, letting the deer continue bleeding out.
The doe next to her stopped drinking water and pivoted. It walked away, looking back for only a second before disappearing in the brown trees. Jezebel followed its path slowly, the sky pink and red when she tracked it through the village. She went into the supplies cellar instead of continuing. She went to the corner where the wolf was hung by its feet and untied it, flung it gently over her shoulder and walked out of the building.
“Jez! What are you doing?” Jeremiah saw her and ran up to her from the street.
“I’m taking this.”
“What the hell is going on? You can’t just take that meat.”
“It’s not just meat, Jeremiah. Come on! We killed it.”
“It’s just meat. We need that to survive the rest of the winter.”
“Not this one.”
“What are you talking about? Course we need that one. We need all of ‘em. Bring it back. We won’ have enough for the emergency stock without it.”
“The emergency stock will be fine without one animal.” Jezebel pushed past Jeremiah and strode to her cabin.
“Now, hold it, Jezebel. Jus’ because you’re king doesn’t mean you can rule us—”
“The hell I can’t. That’s what it means to be king, doesn’t it?”
“Fuck the monarchy. You can’ rule people that don’t wanna be ruled. We’re not putting up with this.”
“You don’t have to put up with this. But I see no ‘we’ here, so until I do I’m taking this wolf.” Jezebel clung to the fur and made her way to her cabin. She slammed the door behind her, dropped the body onto the table and sat on her bed.
She felt it had all been a charade. The fact she was king, that she was the first woman to be leader of the village, it was all a kind of mask for those that needed it. She wore the twisted grass and wood crown, with the two ribbons belonging to a woman who barely remembered ribbon at all. She started a fire in the mud fireplace. It warmed the room quickly. Jezebel sat on the bed and stared at the wolf. The wolf’s face was covered with fur and loose skin, but she was able to make out slight hairless slashes around the rims of the eyes. The wolf’s legs jutted out over the edge of the table, and she saw a small red area in the chest fur.
Nighttime came and brought silence with it. Jezebel remained sitting on her bed with her legs crossed. The wolf remained on the table. Before darkness fell she had pushed the fur out of the wolf’s eyes and was able to stare into them. She looked at the scars, the criss-cross patterns that were stretched too far away from the socket. The wolf had been sniffing the air before Elijah shot his bow. Sniffing the air. It had paused to smell the things around it, to understand its surroundings, and an arrow plunged into its chest. The spot on its chest stood out from the lighter fur.
Jezebel connected herself to the wolf. There wasn’t a bleeding hole in her chest, but she knew it was there anyways. She felt a grassy spot where her father had been, reading her bedtime stories that turned into images of a disfigured corpse. There was a burned spot where Anna singed her way into the head of the king a year ago, her uncle. And now a fur lined hole held the wolf that she had imagined, then seen in front of her with eyes she would recognize anywhere. She stood up and went to the shelf and picked up her crown. It was light in her hands, almost weightless like the ideas of monarchy and ruling. She turned it over, ran it through her fingers, looked at the knot, and tugged lightly on the ribbons. She held the crown over the fire in the center of the room and let the flames light the ribbons. It spit but licked up until the grass and twigs caught quickly and she dropped the remains of the symbol of her rule into the burning pit. She sat down on her bed.
“Jezebel!” Elijah ran into the house, letting a rush of icy wind past him. It hit her face hard, but she didn’t flinch. “Jez, what are you doing? Jeremiah said you went crazy, that you took—” Elijah closed the door. The fire shuddered. He stared at the wolf’s corpse on the table and back to her. She blinked.
“I couldn’t let him go,” she said. “I couldn’t see the wolf go. I didn’t want him to go anywhere.”
“What are you talking about?” He hung up his coat and went to the bed. He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her in tightly.
“I had another dream…and I think it’s coming true. I needed the wolf here, I couldn’t watch him be cut up in the supplies cellar.” She started crying, her tears burning her stoic face. She couldn’t talk, so she let the tears fall heavier and heavier. Elijah wiped them away with his fingers.
“It’s here, Jez. The wolf is here, don’t cry.”
“It’s my fault, though. That he’s here at all. I’m sorry, Eli. I just couldn’t…”
“It’s okay. It’s okay.” He wiped the tears before they fell to the bed. He tightened his grip on her shoulders until her head was crooked in his side. She coughed. She stopped crying and looked up at Elijah, his long hair in front of his eyes, so she tucked it behind his ears.
“Are you okay?” Elijah asked.
“A little. A little better.” Jezebel sat up. She rubbed her face with her hands, pulling her hair out of her eyes, and looked at Elijah. She put her hands on either side of his face and kissed him.
She didn’t know why she did it. The stone that rolled in her stomach hours earlier was still there, but warm so that when she looked up at him, his golden hair hiding his eyes, it felt like warm, softened butter. And when she tucked his hair behind his ear the stone grew hotter, so when she sat up and looked into his eyes she saw everything, the sword and the deer and the blood, and didn’t care. She felt his hands cup her neck, then her breasts, and this time she pulled him into her and they lay down on the bed. The fire crackled and the wolf’s dusty fur formed wavy shadows on the wall like the ocean.
Lightning and snow mixed in the sky. Jezebel stood in the center of a field, with tall grass she recognized. Silhouettes around her. Tall black bodies like trees. Jeremiah. He pulled a small knife from his hip and threw it at her. She dodged and stood straight. A girl with long curly blonde hair. Anna held a detached hand in hers, dead and living fingers laced together. She spit fire. Another man. His long blonde hair glowed in the jagged lightning and he ran his fingers through it. Elijah pulled a sword from his hip. She stood and stared. Lightning. Her hand grew heavy. A sword appeared. She pointed it at Elijah. He stepped back. Lightning and snow fused over him and crashed down on them. She broke under the weight.