short short story

“Hermit or dragon-slayer – which shall it be?”

She’d always rather fancied the idea of being a hermit, though without delving deeper was rather uncertain as to whether “hermit” – the word, she meant – applied only to men.

Perhaps women weren’t afforded by linguistics the right, obligation or freedom to be an officially solitary soul.  Women did the solitary thing all on their lonesomes: they married into solitude, they brought up their children in solitude, they grew to old age in solitude, they looked to spend their final days quite alone.

Maybe not all women.

In her case, for sure.

And now she had a choice: a difficult choice.  She could either become the hermit her husband demanded she be – or slay the dragon he’d become.

“Hermit or dragon-slayer – which shall it be?”

Maybe just invisible zero.

Maybe that was her fate.

Or maybe, even at this very late stage, there was still time to square circles she’d long looked to square.

In a sense, she already knew this was pretty damn impossible.  But even so, quite foolishly she still held out hope.  Hope had been a terrible guiding light in her life: the oncoming train, etc etc.  She wished she was a hopeless person, in the sense not of being useless but of being without hope.

It’d be so much easier, it really would.  So much easier to be without hope.

And how could she achieve her goal?  That’s what she really couldn’t see.  She had very few means; none at all really.  Everything was morally, and rightly so, in the hands of her dragon-husband.  It was all his property; she, meanwhile, was just about disabled (though not so you could exactly tell); and if not hopeless, and in the absence of any job certainties at all, then bordering on the fairly and unhappily useless already.

She guessed where it was all going to.

She could see what would happen.

Like so many women of her middle age, love would be subtracted from her daily existence; joy would be a minus on the balance sheet of emotions; and pretence (ie our marriage is just about perfect, my dear; our holidays, oh you can’t believe the emotion) would become a pretty clear fixture in the mix that was life, for just about all the rest of her life.

Hermit, then?  She imagined it would be so.

A life of contemplation.

A contemplation of lonely soul.

And there was nothing to escape the sadness of her fate.

Nothing at all.

No one left to save her.

Unable, even, to save herself.


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