Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Cloak-A Very Short Story

The Cloak


It was another day in her inexplicable existence, and she rose from her bed because it had ceased to give her comfort. She knew that today she must go into town to buy groceries if she was to have anything to eat, but she considered going hungry for the day. In times past she had gone for days without food in order to delay the ordeal that the trip meant, but as she grew older she learned that this was foolish. It was not that she despised the trip any less, in fact her hatred had grown. But delaying the unavoidable only caused her more discomfort. And so she dressed as she prepared herself mentally for the cold wind that shook her windows. Lastly, she donned her black cloak without which she never left her house. It protected her from the harsh breeze and the cold eyes that she had noticed looking at her when she had still dared to look at the townspeople. It protected them from having to look at her and in so doing, it protected her from their looks of disgust. She had been told when she was young that she was not pretty, and so she hid her ugliness in what even then was an old and rancid piece of clothing. It was preferable, she thought, than to hide her ugliness behind beautiful clothing: better the ugly truth than a pretty lie. And as she grew older and came to know herself more, she did not care that the cloak became ever more black and hideous. However hideous the cloak was, it was but a hint of what lay beneath it. And so she left her home and began her walk toward her destination. The cold weather was a good reason for her to hide behind the cloak all the more, so that her face was all but hidden. She walked until she saw in the distance a group of people walking toward her. She pulled the cloak still closer as she felt the coldness rise within her. This coldness she had long come to recognize as hatred, and its chill grew ever the more keen as the days and years passed. This black ice within her soul grew with every cold stare, was fed even more by each averted glance. But as the people passed her, she would not allow herself to observe their reaction. Instead she concentrated on the horrible swell of emotion that grew within her, forcing her to exert all her will simply to continue her pace. No sooner had this group passed than she looked down the street to see a couple approaching from a distance.

Anything that grows within us, left unchecked, will eventually overflow us and spill out onto others. And so it was with her. Though she continually pushed the hatred down, tried to contain it, it ever and again sprang up stronger than before. Until, on this day, the hatred found her too small a thing to pour itself onto; she was not a big enough target for the hate she felt. A lifetime of self-hatred taught to her by the outside world sought a victim other than her, whom it had already drained. The equilibrium between self-loathing and hatred for the outside world that caused her suffering was lost, and that which was contained for so long spilled over. For so long was the eruption contained that the overflow was explosive. The rush of released energy made her giddy. Her deepest vileness she could no longer contain, nor did she want to. She was exalted in the cataclysm that finally found release; today she would no longer bear alone the burden of her repulsiveness. She thrilled at the thought of exposing her deepest, darkest self to those who would be horrified by it. Eyeing the approaching couple, she removed the cloak that would no longer shield an ugliness which was no more her fault than the world's. Freed from the cloak, her skin was awakened by the cold breeze. She wore a maniacal smile on her face, as though she could feel the blackness radiating from her. She walked on in a fury, and as the people approached she stared them straight in the eye in challenge. But the couple simply smiled genially, and walked on.


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