The little light that might have entered the carriage from the door’s barred window was made void by the band of cloth around my eyes. I had been left in darkness, and the loss of sight seemed to magnify the other sensations around me.
The ropes that bound my hands together had long since began to cut into my skin, and I could feel the blood sliding down my hands and dripping onto the metal floor as the carriage rattled through the road. A poignant iron scent filled the room, and I couldn’t tell if it was the smell of my blood or the rusted walls around me. I would have been worried of dying from infection if I weren’t being executed that evening.
A dip in the road caused an unpleasant lurch. I was forced to swallow my cough by the gag around my mouth. It had already carried a grimy stench, as if it had been drenched in sewage water and set to dry in the streets. I didn’t see its purpose. Surely the peasants and the bourgeoisie would have preferred to hear the sound of the guilty – not that I could have ever been held to the point of such disgrace. I would not let my dignity break in the face of The Widow.
The carriage came to a sharp halt, and I heard a low click and the scraping of a key as the carriage’s doors were unlocked. I couldn’t discern how many men came to escort me; I knew at least two gripped my sides and forced me out of whatever safety I had been guaranteed while I was still locked up.
The sounds came to me first.
The air seemed to falter around me. It was arid; the sun bled through my blindfold. Muddled jeers and taunts filtered through my mind and all I heard were empty shouts as they pulled me through the crowd, digging my hands into my spine and guiding me by the hair on my head. I didn’t make any indication of the pain.
A kick at my shin told me it was time to climb The Widow’s steps, and the wood felt hollow beneath me. When they held me still, I knew that all their starved eyes were watching me, and at last a breath escaped me as the blindfold was ripped away from me and I learned that I was wrong about my onlookers. They were the men, the women, and even the children of the Third Estate. Their eyes held more than the wrath of their blight. Sunken stares were hollowed with a wild delight.
They were here for entertainment — they couldn’t simply let me die in darkness. After all, this was all to bring my crimes to light.
I ignored their stares and fixed my eyes on the window as she stood in front of me: a sculpture of wood and crooked blade. Dry blood adorned her splintered feet.
And so, the rising began.
I didn’t dare to let go of my pride as they strung me up, encasing my neck in shallow wood and hands still tied at my back as I lay on the platform. I could imagine the glistening of the blade that was suspended above me.
They used my last seconds of breath to pull apart my name with a list of crimes. There was only one that caught my attention: treason. I had betrayed the state — lived lavishly while others suffered in poverty. I was guilty of wealth, and I tried to run away from it all. I had to admit, my time in the royal court was truly a life of splendor.
Perhaps we had no one to blame but ourselves.
There had been a tacit dread that had slipped into the court after the peasantry broke away – I was sure that even His Majesty could feel the trembles of rebellion in the streets as their spirits were incited. Everything became coated in sheets of grey. Golden walls lost their lustrous gleam, glass became dull, and the lush gardens began to wilt away. The Hall of Mirrors must have been reduced to nothing but a walkway of shame. It was common to run into a guard at every corner. Paranoia of our whittling defenses could only achieve so much.
The Palace became a cage, although sometimes I was unsure who its bars were protecting.
With the fall of the bastille, the Great Fear that was bestowed upon us only elicited cowardice, but could we be blamed for wanting to escape? Our country was no longer safe.
I remembered how we attempted to flee; a foolish act, in hindsight. We were never going to reach the haven of our allied nations in time. In part we dug our own graves. I could only hope our decomposing would provide fertile grounds for the next empire to stand.
It was long past midnight and long before the sun rose when my carriage had departed my manor. We rode for hours. I was kept awake only from the thought of being caught: every dip, every turn, every whip of the horse’s saddle was a threat. I sat alone and in darkness. I was sure if I lifted the curtains on the carriage’s windows I would see the beginnings of a distant flame being lit against the sunrise.
The carriage had come to a sudden halt, and my fears blossom.
My chauffeur had surely been left dead; the peasants would see no pleasure from his execution; it was my blood they wanted to see.
And so they ripped me from safety, took from me whatever display of wealth they could find on my body, and locked me in darkness once more. A bitter humiliation had began to blend with my fears. I had made a resolution: I would not let my dignity falter.
I heard a glorified shout and a bout of eager cries – malignant sounds.
It was time for the blade to fall.