La vie – labyrinth
La mort – labyrinth
Says the Master of Ho
– Jules Superveille, “Le maitre d’Ho”
How had she got here? It was so hard to remember. These tunnels, underground chambers stretching around her in the dark ...
Dark, yes. How could she see at all? There was no perceptible source of light. Had she somehow developed new senses, grown new night-adapted eyes? So much else had changed, so little was left of who - or what - she had been.
Looking down, she saw the lantern in her hand. So that was it!
But ... a strange lantern it was. The handle like a rope of hair wrapped round her wrist, the swing of it somehow heavy, unresponsive.
She lifted it up to examine it more closely.
And saw Pat's eyes.
Those eyes were still open, glaring at her. That much she was certain of. She'd walked a fair way since then, since realising just what it was she was holding in her hand.
And, when you thought about it, that went some way towards explaining the length of steel in the other hand. The crusted hot sharp cruel knife she couldn't bring herself to let go of for a moment.
Pat's glazed, accusatory eyes, by contrast, she would have dumped miles ago, heaved into one of the pits and adits besieging her path. But by now the long hair was so caked and tangled around her wrist that there was no breaking free of it. Short of hacking through it with the knife, and that she balked at still. Not good old Pat -- false friend though she might have been.
She'd been the one shouting near the end: "Take her, take her - not me. I'll do anything you like ..." But it hadn't saved her. Nothing could have saved her then. Saved any of them.
So what or who had intervened on her behalf, spared Phil from her friend's fate? Had one of those thugs had a change of heart, looked beyond their game of jutting cocks and cruel instruments of pain to see a person, see a woman stretched on the rack of torment?
And yet, it wasn't her blood on the knife, she realised. Nor was it Pat's (thick and copious though that had been when the narrow blade descended). They'd left her alone after that, she realised now -- left her alone in the dark.
Had one of them come in for a quiet ... ?
Had he bent over just a bit too low?
Had she ... somehow?
(Where had she learned to be so quick and sly?
With her ex?
Her mischievous little daughter?)
Had she slipped it in between his ribs?
Cut her own cords with it?
The slashes around her wrists were smarting still, come to think of it ...
Rolled his obese corpse from her?
Eased herself up on hands and knees, with infinite precautions, crept through the dark until she bumped up against a wall?
Followed it around until she felt free air, crept on, and only realised when she got outside in the corridor that that thing rolling ahead of her was Pat?
One part of Pat, that is - Not the naked, jointed haunch still jutting from the guillotine.
And the light?
Where was that coming from?
Could it be?