Note: Here is my prequel to Angela Carter’s short story ‘The Bloody Chamber’, titled ‘For I am no Lover of Lilies.’
There was always so much mystery and curiosity considering the Marquis’ previous wives, especially his first one who we know solely as the opera singer. I wanted to twist how Carter suggests the Marquis becomes corrupted, by instead making it so it was his first wife that was the real culprit behind all the hideous goings-on.
Unlike the traditional trope of man corrupting woman, I reversed this to create a Marquis tainted by his monstrous wife.
Hope you enjoy it!
The flood lights obscured all vision of the audience. As I squinted into the sea of faces, they were merely misshapen, throbbing toads, croaking a chorus of applause.
The customary curtsy was applied, my dress sweeping upwards just enough to give the red-blooded half of the audience enough stimulation to cause a violent ruckus with their wives that evening. Flowers were handed to me, a trifle of ivory lilies.
Lilies. I detested the idea, they were not the flower for me.
No, I wanted the stifling, oppressive scarlet of the passiflora. The succulent womb, dripping with ripe juices.
Lilies were for children, like the sticky-handed young girl who approached me after the show. Quivering and shaking, yet complementing my feat in singing Isolde.
Her father picked her up and carried her out, singing sweet melodies in her ear.
She would be fated to a life of misery; that was of no doubt.
But there was a man of much more interest to me in the audience that evening.
A young man of twenty-and-five years. A waxen face with an absolute stillness, with a dark mane that had yet to earn its grey streaks of experience.
The ruby choker was divine. Hand-crafted and personally selected, it was my very own extraordinarily precious slit throat.
Then the ruby opal was presented, in a leather box, wrought with antique gold. It was excessive and unrestrained and it was mine.
And yet, he seemed almost afraid of calling me his own.
After our brief honeymoon in Paris, he brought me to his home. Recently acquired following the death of his uncle, the castle had a faery-like solitude and lay at the bosom of the sea, miles away from any human contact.
The hollow chambers and blood-soaked battlements were devoid of life and gaiety, so I would fix this for him.
The library, a shallow orchestra of arrogant censorship; nothing but the classics of Shakespeare and Homer. There was nothing with substance; with passion embossed into its pages.
And so I wooed him, still innocent and untainted.
The Adventures of Eulalie at the Harem of the Grand Turk, he read, fingering the scarlet binding.
‘It’s a most succulent work of artistry’ I cooed, tracing my hands underneath his navel, ‘my very favorite work, and a collector’s item too. Oh darling, we simply must have it.’
And his eyes widened, he grew afraid. He opened the book to see the depraved images below, and he shrunk from me. He gulped deep mouthfuls of air, and that was the last time he entered my licentious library. A liberating den where I would, for now, have to find my comforts.
My Marquis would avoid me. He was frightened of such a willful woman. When I touched him, he quivered with delight and rapture, until he saw the malicious gaze in my eyes, and would hurry away, mumbling horseshit about paperwork and servants being about.
So I sent the servants away. I was the mistress of my chateau and I did not want them there.
Weeks later, my husband was away, and so I prepared for his return. I procured a glistening matrimonial bed, wrought in golden leaf and onyx silken sheets. Upon each corner stood gargoyles, carved out of luscious ebony.
Then upon each wall, a mirror; mirrors upon mirrors. Mirrors paved upon the ceiling, mirrors stained upon the floor. As I lay upon that bed, I explored myself in the most exotic expression of mutilated love I had ever experienced. The marquis arrived, entered the room, and fell to his knees before hastening away.
But he was still unable to control his moans and weeping as he christened the drawing room next door.
We did not speak for weeks after the incident. My Marquis was small and weak, he was no man who could tend to my needs. I would need to train him, as you would a bedraggled puppy or a child.
Whilst he roamed about the house, I would amuse myself vehemently in the library, or explore the vast regions of the house.
It was then that I discovered the cobwebbed stairway on the left wing of the manor. A dim, dusky stairwell that led to a worm-eaten oak door, with a rusty iron key inside the lock.
Upon further inspection, the door opened up into a large chamber. No windows, no light, nothing but utter darkness.
Heretic’s forks and breast rippers lay stacked upon the walls, splattered crimson and umber with years of love and abuse. An iron maiden lay upon the wall, alongside a great wheel. But by far, my favorite gift was the renaissance catafalque. Empty, rotten and simply a perfect fit.
I would woo him downstairs with complaints of a damp chill and crumpling brickwork, then lock him inside with no way of escape, hiding the key where he would dare not linger.
He would stifle a groan; shake and quiver as I approach him, but would remind him of the words of my favorite poet:
‘There is a striking resemblance between the act of love and the ministrations of a torturer.’
And he would finally give in.
Slicing my ruby slit-throat from around my tender neck, he would mount me in my coffin with reckless abandon. He would lose all self-control as he exploded with sensations never before comprehended, shaking the entire island with his moans of lamentation.
He would be so engrossed, so physically enraptured that he wouldn’t even notice me leading his hands up to my throat, encouraging him to tighten his grip and tighten it ever further.
Then, shattered and spasmodic, he would raise his dripping head and look down at what he had done.
My smiling lips and lifeless eyes would glisten with satisfaction, knowing that they had corrupted another.
This would be my bloody chamber.
Want to read the rest of my ‘Lilies‘ series? Although this project hasn’t been up long, you can read the series as its updated here!
Copyright © 2016 Rebecca Sherratt, (adapted from ‘The Bloody Chamber’; copyright © 1979 Angela Carter).