My third filler piece on the Femmes Fatales showcase is one that is dangerously close to my heart. It has 'done the rounds' but hasn't been quite right for any publication so far.
Sometimes the desire to get it out there is stronger than the need to be paid (please don't quote me on that!) so I'm bringing Birthright out into the light. My protagonist is very dear to me, tortured and divine as she is; she makes me remember...
Please be gentle with her.
Birthright by Lily Childs
There is a child in my belly; in my womb. Yet no-one put it there. No-one I know.
Sixty seven years I have drummed this landscape, dancing and playing around the coasts of this island, but it is a good ten years since a prick thrust its way into my orchard.
Voluptuous was I. “Homely” they said. Vibrant of face and auburn of hair. Breasts to sleep against, curves to wallow in. But I slipped, and I fell, until my inevitable profession became one of passing love, a satisfier of desperate lust - over in an instant. Pregnancy, blissful and joyous, became an occupational hazard. I bore one child. It died. I bore a second – to order, and a third; fees of which I only saw a shilling or two, quickly spent. I could bear it no more; thereafter the back street snippers stole my earnings. By my fortieth year their butchery and the syphilis had taken its toll. No more a mother to be. Yet here I lie, a babe inside.
I am half-blind, toothless. My breasts hang to my knees. I can imagine how aroused you are by my unique beauty. But someone must have been, to have paid to experiment upon me. Someone slit me, opened me, stuffed me with nonsense, chemicals and embryos.
I feel it growing. My hands pulse with its heartbeat as I splay aged fingers across my rounded stomach. The size of it pushing upwards makes it hard to breathe. It means I must lay, propped up, when I need to sleep. The child kicks me, headbutts and beats my insides, making me shit and puke ‘til I faint on the floor. Everything I eat, it consumes. All I drink, it sucks dry.
I question the origins of the thing within me; it’s been two years in gestation. But I feel a mother’s love no less. Even as it eats me from the inside out, I adore it. Where it leaches my every last ounce of energy, I offer up my strength freely.
I lie in no hospital bed. No nurse, quack or doctor cares for me. My apartments are regal and glorious though I cannot tell if I linger in a fairy-tale tower or slumber beneath the ground, staring as I do through gaps and spaces. Windows on high, or subterranean vents - I know only that clawed creatures fly by the spines and vines that crawl with unspeakable insects, illuminated by stars and moonlight at the strangest angles.
Maids dress my suppurations, unseen servants deliver my feasts – for they are feasts, and they are extraordinary. Rare fruits dance across pewter platters with vials of rust-brown liquid peppering the scene. Here is softening laudanum; it dulls my senses, opens the blossom of my creativity, speaks with my soul, makes me cry…
Nothing, they tell me, can stop the progress. ‘Perceived genealogy’ means everything. It matters not that the foetus does not usher from twixt the legs of a Royal. Whatever the babe - miscreant or fully formed - they will nurture it, shape it, form it. It is their tool – political, governmental. A forgery. The princess, as in time immemorial will drop the cushion from beneath her dresses to show the next heir to the masses, and to her king. It is as it has always been.
“My son” the princess shall say. “His Royal Highness.” The crowds will adore their monarch as they have for centuries… And me? I will fade away, quietly, discreetly; a simple vessel for the monster.
I fought against this, my destiny. I knew, you see. Parading my flesh, denying my heritage - it was to no avail. The old blood of England fires through my veins. No Queen am I. A whore, they call me, but my mothers have slept with and comforted the Edwards, the Georges, the Henrys and Charleses. They tended the Annes and the Marys even, though no issue came from those unions. We, we are of ancient dynasties, as old as this land; worshipped ourselves once as deities – as Goddesses for the people. Look how far we have fallen.
Labour. Heavy, agonising labour courses through me. I vomit between screams, dropping in and out of consciousness. Women – women of child-bearing age with child-bearing hips unlike me stand around, deliberately ignoring my plight, waiting only for the birth.
It begins. Raging. Stinging. Even in my slack, flaccid, well-used tunnel the creature gets stuck. It flails around in my entry, causing us harm. But still I push. Hours; brutal, painful hours later the thing slithers from my blistered hole. Finally, I get some attention.
They take it away, expressionless.
It lived, I understand. You will know better than I if it was a girl or a boy. In your generation, or your descendants’ history books they will talk of this king or that, this princess or prince, waiting in turn to serve on the throne whilst the government bows its head in servitude. You will not hear, or read of the women left to bleed, untended until they die, their purposes served, again and again and again. All you will recognise are the tales, wondrous and heroic of your leaders, the Kings and Queens of England.
There is no Prince Charming. No happy and glorious benefactor reigning over us. There is only dominion; a bloody empire that accepts no blame.
Blame me. Blame my mothers and sisters.
Swear at me, tear at me. Point your fingers in accusation and disgust. But I beg you - not too much.
I had no choice. We did it for you.
Bio:Lily Childs' Feardom, where her demons dance in tutus.