Part 8 of 12
'“You are the one I have always been looking for,” she said, staring deep into my eyes. She did not look at me in the same haughty, condescending way anymore. No, it surprised me a bit, that she seemed to admire, perhaps even fear me.
What had I done to cause her opinion of me to be altered? What had I done indeed? I had been imprisoned for God knows how long, I had lost my mind, talked to myself, screamed at the void, cursed, blasphemed and masturbated... and that was about it.
How would any of that cause the most formidable woman I had ever known, to change her opinion of me so drastically?
She had taken me out of the dungeons, to her private quarters. She resided in no less than eight rooms, all of them lavishly decorated as if they belonged to the queen of France. Never had I beheld such splendor!
There was one room in which all the walls, the ground, the ceiling and every piece of furniture were different shades of green, with gilt linings. Yet the greens were not mere paint, there were ever so many types of marble, silk, brocade en even jade.
I was sure the linings were actual gold. And then there was an even more lavish room in which all the walls were covered by thick tapestries. Which told the story of a lady and a unicorn. It was embroidered with the lady and the unicorn appearing on all walls of the room, in eight different scenes.
The quality of the embroidery appeared to me as supernatural – 'how on Earth could any mere mortal have created such a multitude of fabulous shapes on such a vast scale?' It was bewildering.... and yet even that paled in comparison to the main room, a place that looked like heaven itself.
Shall I even begin to attempt to describe it? Never had I envisioned the possibility of a space so vast, so perpendicular, so white, so complex and yet instantly recognizable as a space that made perfect sense. The walls in the octagonal hall were white, without hardly any embellishments. Next to hundreds of candles in octagonal candle holders; yet the shape of the hall rendered any other decoration redundant...
Sunlight burst through eight small windows in the round lantern and dispersed through the room as if it had been sent through a diaphragm. I was later told that this space had been conceived by the tortured mind of the brilliant Roman architect, Francesco Borromini. How it ever came to be built in a French monastery will always remain a mystery to me.
Here it was that I was reunited with Léonore. She was seated on a grand white fauteuil, in front of the impossibly white fireplace. She was wearing spotless white garments, like an angel. We embraced each other and she cried, yet I, although I can not deny I was moved, had no more tears left to shed.
No, they had dried up indefinitely. “I have a confession to make to you, my dear, darling Justine,” she said. “You see, I was responsible for everything that happened to you. I have been an accomplice all along.” “It does not surprise me,” I answered.
“Does it not? It always did quite unsettle the others...” she said in a weak voice.
“Not her, sweetheart,” Héloïse interrupted, “she is different than the others.”
“Well, I guess you must be right... you always were and she has been interred for so much longer than anyone before. Héloïse, how could you be so cruel to this poor creature? How could you have left her in that cell for three years?!” Justine exclaimed.
“My dear Léonore, you have no idea, you can not understand any of this, and it's better if you don't,” Héloïse answered peevishly.
It began to dawn on me that very strange things were happening to me indeed. What had appeared to me to be a long, drawn-out period of incarceration, perhaps days, perhaps weeks, had apparently been three years...
I looked at my hands and saw that my skin was tougher; I felt my hips and noticed that they had widened; I touched my breasts and felt that they had grown.
I turned to Héloïse and spoke: “you have taken three years of my life! You have taken three of the most precious years – you have taken my youth!”
“Don't despair,” she answered, “and don't be angry. Three years is a small price to pay for eternity-”'
'GODDAMMIT JUSTINE!' I said, 'your story has now really exceeded all bounds of absurdity!'
'Ah,' she whispered, 'did you expect any of this to be straightforward, Basilio?'
'Any of what?' I replied
'Never mind... Allow me to finish my story.' she said
'All right, all right,' I muttered.
'Héloïse had a surprise in store for us, for that evening, as the three of us sat in front of the fire, in that magnificent hall, she had her servants drag in a large sack that contained something, or someone, that was wildly kicking and moving about.
“Young ladies,” Héloïse lisped, “I have brought you a present. Please do open it.”
Léonore and I exchanged glances that betrayed curiosity, excitement, and fear. Together we untied the rope with which the sack was closed. We released what turned out to be a naked man who was bound and gagged.
The man had long black hair that curved over a well-proportioned body. The muscles of his arms and chest were exceptionally well-developed. I couldn't suppress a peek at his over-sized penis.
“Mon Dieu!” I screamed, “it's Jacques!”
“Do you mean to say that you know this unfortunate individual?!” Héloïse spoke.
“Yes, it's Jacques!” I repeated, temporarily lacking the capacity to elaborate.
“Well,” Madame said, “I had no idea that he was Jacques, but I do know that he's a sinner and that he needs to be punished. You can do with him as you please.”
I stared at Jacques, quite in shock, but then I began to laugh, as I saw the complete bewilderment in his eyes.
“How on Earth did he end up here and why is he a sinner?” I asked.
“This, this... Jacques has worked for us as a gardener for a couple of months now. He feigned to be mute and a simpleton... so he could be around the girls and the women of the convent without raising suspicion, and much closer than any other man ever could have.
Many of our girls began to regard him as some sort of pet and of course, they all greatly admired his athletic body, that he continuously displayed in a way as if he was utterly impervious as to what he was doing and what effect it had on the young ladies. We caught him making love to one of our teachers. And in my dungeon, it soon became apparent that he did have a voice after all.”
“Hahaha,” I laughed, “that's brilliant! Who would have thought dear old Jacques would have such tricks up his sleeve?!”
“You condone his behavior?!' Madame Héloïse cried.
I looked at her, not in the least intimidated, and said:
“Of course I do! It's brilliantly perverse scheming... I don't just condone it: I applaud it! And so do you, don't be a hypocrite, Héloïse.”
Floris is a Dutch illustrator, storyboard and comic artist based in Amsterdam.
Follow him on Instagram @florispieterse
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