It was never my intention to make my suffering fodder for your edification, but these are the consequences of this experiment, I suppose.
I will tell you what transpired. Please do not reply with well-wishes or sorrow. I do not require it. Try not to reply in anger, if that is your feeling at the close. I ask that you simply observe as I have tried to, and take it for what it is worth. I was not the person I am now. And this person has very little in common with that predecessor, such that when I look so far back, I have very little emotion invested in my actions, and what little emotion I have is either anger, shame, or the memory of suffering.
If you have read the first Snack, you know that I was in France from the mid 1300’s to 1400’s, until the debacle and depravity I witnessed there. I became very disgusted and annoyed with humanity. I changed from someone looking upon the world with honest wonder and an apologetic deference because of my condition, to someone very rageful and very, very despondent. I ceased to care whom I hurt, or how. I wandered through the south of France, across to Spain. I never settled. I lived hand to mouth and left bodies on the path behind me. I simply did not care.
Recall that at this time, I could not read. Very few people could. Religion was handled with an iron fist and the only legitimacy came from the Pope. It was a dark time; the last Crusades had filled everyone with fear for new faces or new ideas. But regardless there were several reformist movements active at the same time. When the royal family of Spain – the same King and Queen that dispatched Columbus on his quest- got wind of these many attempts to undermine the Church, they sent to Rome. They demanded the Pope take action and sanction a new Inquisition. A witch hunt. The Pope was ambivalent, but they began to blackmail him, saying that they would establish their own if he did not sanction it.
I knew none of this. I wandered to Madrid because I heard of mass migrations and sought to conceal myself among them. As I neared it, I learned that they were Jews being forcibly cast out by the Spanish monarchy. These people had lived there for years. Some knew nothing else. They were businessmen, traders, craftsmen. They owned property, had families. They were Spaniards. This did not matter.
In other parts of the country, dissenters and resistors were rounded up and tortured. Some were put to death in public in large groups. But in 1492, the Inquisition had not yet reached Madrid. I arrived and believed I was safe for at least a time. I knew almost at once that I was wrong.
People had that subdued mood about them, the one that hangs like a film over everything, dimming the sun and setting the air alight with crackling energy. I tried to find work. With Jews being exiled, there would be plenty. I had some papers, given me by a priest, documenting my religious devotion, my skills- at least, this is what he told me they said. I thought I would find a new home, but it all ended rather quickly.
Rumors came, as they usually do, that the Jews were rising up, that some had made pacts with the devil. That moors had been summoned from the dark recesses of Northern Africa. That devils were come to tempt their daughters and seduce their virtue from them.
There was a young lady. I will call her a “sensitive”, because I haven’t any other word. She happened upon me one day near her father’s usual stall. He was a grocer, I think. I am uncertain because I never knew her from anyone, but over the course of a few days, I noticed her following me through the market as I was sent on tasks. At first, she stared, but then began to slink after me, watching me walk down alleys, marking my habits. I surprised her one afternoon by doubling back. And as soon as she gasped, I realized I had done the wrong thing. She knew what I am. There was a moment of utter stillness as I thought of killing her. I hesitated. She saw it on my face, and she ran.
Days later she began to act strangely- a mental breakdown caused by our encounter, I will wager. More than likely combined with the ubiquitous underlying psychological disorders of the day, a fear of hellfire, a fear of her father uncovering her affections for some illicit partner. I really cannot say. But apparently, when she finally collapsed in exhaustion and tremors, they begged to know what had caused her infirmity, and she told them it was I.
At the time, I had given my services to a local widower. He was the proprietor of a small stable. I tended the animals and in turn received a place to live. No better than a horse pen, but something like the Hilton in those days. They came in the night, in a familial mob. They caught me unawares, eating my fill. I was sleepy and obvious in my Monstrous Glory. As the horses became even more agitated, one man set fire to the mews which was arranged in the gap between two buildings, abutting a courtyard. I was pinned, and as I stood there, they dragged the man and his children out of their home. I knew that I could run, kill a few of them, possibly escape, but something in me was just tired. I did not want to see the man harmed for his kindness to me. And to be perfectly honest, I wanted to die.
I had never been captured before. And while I may have been recognized for my condition before, it had never happened like this. I did not know what to expect. I thought it would be more public, a heretical trial on a platform, before a panel of adjudicators from the Chruch as happened with Jeanne de Arc. But there were other things at play.
There was no High Inquisitor in Madrid, you see. There was no expert in the arts of demonic exorcisms and how to gain confessions. The men, simple tradesmen, had only stories. They improvised.
I was chained and stripped, beaten quite severely, such that I recall very little of the trip to the cellar- not because I was unconscious, you see, but because I was not myself. They examined me physically, poking me with sharp things and watching me heal, as if I were a massive pincushion. One of them hit me across the face with a club. I managed to snap at him, and then my teeth were of intense interest. They used hot irons to force me to speak, laying them on my skin like little spitting brands, all the while repeating prayers. Prayers that God should preserve them from me; the irony of it… I told them that if they did not let me leave or kill me outright, there would be consequences. I was ignored.
The woman was brought down. By this time she had convinced two other girls of the curse beneath which she labored. They too began to feel afflicted. I was forced to listen to her talk of her dreams, accusing me of all manner of “unnatural” acts.
I listened to all of it. I hung there and I let them do this. Partly because I believed that I deserved it, I suppose. Partly out of a desire to see that dark part of the human mind, the part that could explain all the suffering I had witnessed. Partly because I wanted it to end, and I thought they would free me, when I have never been successful at it myself. But her father and her older brother began to talk, and they decided it was more pious to deliver me to their priest with all my secrets revealed, my summoner exposed. Thus, they would escape suspicion of being my cohorts, and would be lauded as heros.
I do not like to talk about what was done next. The flesh can heal, but the mind does not, and it has been the subject of many conversations with Victoria. I cannot cry or scream for my life. It is not in me. But if I could adequately express my misery, I doubt it would mitigate a damn thing.
Every time I was asked who sent me, what my hellish name might be, whether or not the people I knew were responsible, I said nothing. Most of my limbs were broken, I should think, though by that time I could not discern which part of me was injured. They tied weights to my feet and dragged me over a kind of work horse structure, as I could not stand . The pain was fascinating to me, how it always seemed so fresh. It is the only thing that felt new to me at all. I don’t know how to address it except that I surrendered, I was shocked into silence. I do not know how to explain myself.
They shoved iron into my mouth, to rest if it would hurt me. They laid crucifixes on my skin to see what it would do. Silver did nothing. Their science was cruel but in no way invasive, which did not suit them. They pried loose claws and teeth. Other things are not fit for mentioning.
But what is most important to say, is that they did not laugh or mock me. This was not an occasion for mirth. this was an act on behalf of God to spare them of an evil that was real and right before their eyes. If I had seemed more human doubtless they would have taken some measure of delight in attempting to expose me for a monster, but being obvious, spared me from having to witness that. I would have occasion later to see such behavior- as tormentors are bullies, and bullies find sport in it, because they are joyously undoing their own flaws by painting their victims the embodiment of them.
I do not know how long I held my own, hoping that at every moment they would tire of the sport and cut off my head. I know that it had to be at least into the next evening, perhaps longer. I became less and less coherent.
I have a vague sense that one of them was trying to enlist my aid. It was a man, I think. I could have imagined all of it, but I think I remember him whispering to me. He wanted to know if I could be pulled from the service of my master.
When I woke…it was utter carnage. I had slipped my bonds. How? I know not. They were still locked. The woman was a bloodless doll with her stomach in her lap. She stared into open space, directly at me as I came awake. My accuser still.
Several of the bodies were torn limb from limb. Her father and two brothers, I think. Another young lady in the hall, a man at the top of the stairs. All of them killed quickly and all in very bloody fashion. The walls were spattered. The floors were pools of deep russet.
What I say now, I say through honesty only. I am not proud of it. Please do not tell me that I was within my rights, if you mean to, because that is not true. And I’ll thank you to remember that at the time, I believed myself better than my species and better still than man. I was a creature whose cleverness was unparalleled. I was someone who was neither subject to fancy nor to dullness. In many ways, my still-forming rules of the hunt were founded upon the principle notion that I would never be like you, most especially in how I kill. I was forced to bend to your society, work within your shadows, but in those days the shadows were so long that I had hardly any trouble.
No children, not ever. Because that was something even you could not claim, a level of control you could not reach. I claimed that and then I lost it.
There were two little ones. Both crumpled in a heap in a small courtyard off the kitchens. I think I crushed them with my bare hands, but I could not bring myself to touch them while awake. The liver mortis had already set in, leaving little lavender tide lines around their limbs.
I sat on the dirt and stared at my handiwork. I waited for the men I knew would come. I waited to be taken to the priest, or dragged to the Inquisition. I waited for hours. But the silence stretched and I realized no one was coming.
I left them there. I stole all that I could and I left them. I do not know what was thought of the horror that was uncovered the next day. Perhaps they imagined it was a thief, a roaming band of angry, displaced exiles or an angry witch. I really cannot tell you. We didn’t have newspapers (or anything like them) for another twenty years or so, and I couldn’t read anyway. I can tell you that within the year, the Church came to Madrid, and carried on. Thus began the heights of the Spanish Inquisition.
I crawled into myself and refused to come out. I do not know how long. A few years, perhaps. I walked back to France, because it was what I knew, though the journey took me ages. I eventually struck east, intent to go to China, and see the Silk Road like a Venetian. I cut through to the Amboise. As I traveled, I became even more angry than I ever had been before. I did not just fail to comprehend humanity. I hated it. And then I met him. And he made me certain that I would never again trust any human, whether I knew their suffering or not. It was not until Strasbourg that I began to see the frailty in the human mind- truly grasp that you cannot conceive of a universe that does not pattern itself after you, swirl around you, focus upon you. The world’s difficulties were sent to torment you, because why else would they happen? Even being ignored, having an average and uneventful existence was somehow planned by a deity that could apparently care less while demanding submission and devotion. To me this was the very definition of an abusive relationship, and even stranger, one you invented and inflicted upon yourself. What a tremendous pressure and burden to put upon a mind. I think I understood after the Dancing Plague that humans torture themselves far more.
A profound sadness took me. And I despaired. It was offset only by contact with Hans, who was very kind and never pressed me. He taught me what he knew and never expected me to do anything but learn.
That is the story. Or the important parts of it. I will spare you all the emotional torment in between.
Monsters are not natural. They don’t simply exist. We make them. We are them, become them, when we exist in conflict with one another instead of awareness of each other’s flaws and difficulties. The men who tortured me had every reason, for to them I was a dire threat. My explanations would not have mattered in that frenzy. Humanity was simply not aware enough to converse with me upon the notion that other species exist. The concept would have been heretical.
But at the time, I could not foresee a moment when it would be possible to have that conversation, the one I am currently having with you, gentle reader.
In my experience, most men do what is best for them alone, and feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and mirth at this notion. That is their most basic drive of survival, and I cannot fault them for it, any more than I can a dog for biting. The barest civility keeps them in check. All it takes is one circumstance that gives them permission, and they revert back to that selfish animal. This is why manners are so important, and composure is the best armor.
I know that this week has angered you, filled you with fear for your own survival, but I caution you- do not lash out at the monsters you see. They are frightening because they seem to be strong and outnumber you, but they have stories, reasons they think what they do. You do not need to pity them and they will make their own consequences, but if you mean to disarm them, you cannot yourself become a monster. You will not like the results.
I know this story is a depressing one. Much of my life is. This is one reason I always caution you to stay away. I cannot make it any more enjoyable for you. I cannot change what has been, nor do I owe you that. I can only offer it as something from which I have learned a great deal, and hope that you may do that same.