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The Messenger

He knows he did the right thing. Knows it. The queen has told him. The king has told him. The child--sobbing at first, but later playing with his toys--tells him that. The little man--hardly a man, really, some sort of demon--deserved it, after all he had done, and besides, had ripped himself in two. No one had touched him, not even the king. Not even the queen.
The messenger had only delivered a rhyme. A name. No more than that.
And yet, the messenger has his first nightmare that night--of his own hands reaching down to his feet, to tear himself apart.
No. He did the right thing.
It was the queen, after all, who had toyed with the little man on that third day, knowing full well what his name was, and yet listing other names first. And the queen, after all, who had stayed in the castle, instead of going out herself to find the names. The queen who had made such a bargain in the first place. The queen.
He had only followed her orders. Orders intended to save a child.
And before that, the king who had demanded such an impossible task--straw spun into gold. The queen's father, who had brought her to the attention of the king and bragged of her talents. The men--all men--who had locked the girl up in a room with straw, following orders.
The nobles, the soldiers, the servants, who had not asked questions, but simply accepted the gold.
The messenger had done the right thing.
He had.
Obvious, that something had been wrong from the beginning. No one could spin straw into gold. No one.
And yet, they had crowned her queen.
He was only the messenger.
A messenger who had brought the name to the queen, and saved the child.
He tells himself that as he falls asleep.
And again in the morning, when he wakes to find his fingernails caked in blood, and a long wound along his stomach, quite as if something inside him, too, was trying to split in half.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 7th, 2022
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