Memories, the Prison of the Soul


The kiss of flame woke her, fingers burning, burning, burning. She stared at her hands, at the ghosts of fingertips, still there in her memories. The phantom pain lurched in lightning bolts, tracing along the scars on her arms, tracing patterns across her skin – maps to her memories, of lands she would rather were lost. Jerking, she pulled herself upright, pulled herself from her shattered dreamscape and back into the world.

She stared into the street, its soft covering of snow a blanket, smothering the city, smothering those men and women too poor for the workhouse, too poor for even the rudiments of commerce or of common courtesy. Too poor to live. The white hoar-frost painted delicate, filigreed lace beneath her window while the city lay, looming, infinite beneath the glow of gas-lamps – innocent-seeming, yet vicious.

The spectres of her past lived on, busy ghosts, ghoulish in the streets, plucking gentle-fingered, lifting wallets and pocket-watches from unguarded waistcoats. She pictured her own hand, caught in the unforgiving steel teeth of a pocket protector. She pictured the judge’s stern countenance, his words barely a whisper, as she leaned forward to catch hold of half-heard speech.

They cauterised the wound with burning steel, dripping, dripping, its orange blood splashing onto the rough stone floor. They cauterised her wound and the echoes of her voice christened this house with screamed curses and ragged breath. Inflicting her suffering on the dour-faced women holding her down, whilst they inflected suffering of their own on her ravaged fingers – the world stood still, yet seemed to fly by as she screamed into the black, lurking shadows of the night.

They cauterised the wound, and told her to be grateful.

The bars of Newgate prison pressed cold against her missing fingers.

A cage can be a comfort, a trap can be a blessing.

But memories are the prison of the soul, inescapable.

Written using prompts from both BeKindRewrite (with the prompts Orange Blood& Phantom Pain as well as the Trifecta Writing Challenge word, Fly: to seem to pass quickly. Comments and criticism always welcome!

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12 thoughts on “Memories, the Prison of the Soul

  1. dailyshorts says:

    Nice imagery and pacing of the story is great. I really like the last line as it’s such a true statement.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Excellent writing Chris! So tragic. And such beautiful use of imagery. Well done!

  3. Jo-Anne Teal says:

    Strong imagery. You’ve painted a clear picture of the character’s misery.

  4. KymmInBarcelona says:

    Half of the story seems to be about the city – those vivid, pretty descriptions – and yet there she is, this mutilated woman, gauging her pain.
    A very haunting piece, Chris, and that last line!

  5. stankmeaner says:

    The way that you wrote this out took you on a journey in a really short period of time, I am always highly impressed when writers can do that so quickly. That last line? Beautiful…

  6. Tara R. says:

    Yes, the imagery here is so vivid and harsh. A gorgeous piece of writing.

  7. kallanannie says:

    That description of her wound being cauterized is horrifying: stark and vivid and stomach-churning. Really well written.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Sorry I missed this one. A vivid story in a sharply-drawn world uncomfortably similar to ours.

    Added the link now!

  9. […] Chris (when I missed him last week) and another (this week) […]

  10. Christopher Shawbell says:

    An absolute enthralling read, Chris. Bravo! You created some wonderful imagery–I saw shades of white to dark gray everywhere–and your prose was melodic read aloud and kept an even rhythm throughout. Really a great pleasure to read. You are very talented. Keep up the fantastic work. I am new to the inMon crew as of this week, but I intend to remain among you and get some pieces in here and there when I can. I posted first today.
    I look forward to reading more of your work, Chris.

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