A sonnet, illustration and footnote from Crow Carriage:
Open Eyes To The Unknown
Add the footsteps upon the stairs, eighteen
at least you are aware before the groan
of the unwieldy door, the rattled keys
that underscore your confinement alone.
Open eyes to the unknown. Only darkness
which amplifies each sound of what
would scurry on this ground. Hirsute harshness
from which you seek to hide. Feel for blanket
atop this mattress and beside though none
you find within your reach. Dare not wander,
bare feet, beseeching shelter, aid, someone
two floors above. Monster you dishonored,
loved has sequestered you with your own kind
inside a mischief35 for mendacious minds.
35A mischief is something that a human can commit, much as The Mistress of Malice
did this evening breaking the one cardinal rule of her host: do not interfere with the experiment. The experiment, years of his labor, involves young women of her own village the nobleman doctor collects and keeps upstairs. There are exposed to his protocol of laudanum in pink milk inciting terrible dreams and the consequent cortisol production – essential to the doctor’s lifework of solving Addison’s Disease, which took his own dear brother’s life.
None of this a layman could understand. It’s why any guest to The Doctor’s home, which had not been terribly many since the experiment’s conception had been caution and consigned to the first floor.
The adolescent Mistress entered the home of The Doctor, a recipient of much grace after
a life of abuse. The Doctor’s generosity with the child was manifold – he had taught her the requisite skills to kill her abusive relatives, offered her a beautiful room on the first floor with a lady to wait on her every need. He had ignored his own needs for yet another young
female subject for his work to aid this girl. All he had asked of the child, as he would any lay person, was that she not interfere with his work on the second floor.
And yet there had been mischief, Mischief of the Mistress. The child had waited until The Doctor slept soundly, after a day of draining scientific work to better mankind, so that she might take advantage of his fatigue to climb the stairs and break the only rule.
Of course, she hadn’t known that the laboratory where his adolescent subjects slept and nightmared for him in perpetuity had a night duty nurse much more formidable than the doctor himself. His dearly departed mother had offered her services to his experiment long ago as a matron of the laboratory in the nights when The Doctor and his human assistant must attend to their mortal need for sleep.
Mother makes quite an impression on the adolescent subjects, her death form quite unlike the beauty The Doctor knew in his youth. Her bloody, beastly visage a warning that keeps the girl in bed. The form had obviously scared The Doctor’s young new mischevious houseguest who had wandered to the forbidden floor. It scared her enough the sound of her head bouncing off his parquet floor when she had fallen in fear had woken the Doctor who lifted the devious child into his arms.
But what to do with the girl now? The first thought was to lock her inside the experiment and forego looking for another always essential subject to nightmare and provide her cortisol infused blood to his lifework. There was, though, the risk of contamination with one as willful as this. That could not be allowed.
And so to the basement, he had brought her and left her inside its depths, locked. There was a bit of poetry to this plan and karma that appealed to The Doctor. He had brought a mischievous girl to the mischief as she had craved – though maybe not in this form. You see, The Doctor, as a scientist would know that a mischief is also the name for a group of rats. His basement was teeming with them. Not a scientist herself, she might not know this, but he would leave her there nevertheless alone in the dark tonight where she might learn.
Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of sixteen books of poetry including Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Crow Carriage (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press), The Meadow (APEP Publications) and Golden Ticket forthcoming from Roaring Junior Press. She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com