Helena and the Wrong

(Jaan tämän kirjoittamani epäinspiraatiotarinan pahoitellen, että se on englanniksi. Aivoni ei oikein taivu suomenkieliseen kaunokirjoittamiseen.)

By rights, Helena should have died at birth. She was born with a Wrong, and everyone knew that people with a Wrong were better off dead, anyway. But Helena was a princess, and her mother the Queen hired the best magician in the world to ensure that she lived. The magician, whose name was Emery, was skilled and worked tirelessly night and day, and so she survived and thrived--Emery was even good enough that he was able to hide her Wrong, so that to look at her, no one even knew.

Helena’s parents kept her alive and helped her keep the Wrong hidden. She had a moderately happy childhood and lacked for very little, as princesses generally will. Her mother the Queen and her father the Royal Engineer told her that she could be anything, she believed them. She received very good advice and nothing but encouragement and saw and tried out many things, another perk of being a princess.

When she reached adulthood, everybody thought her ready for a glorious future, ready to take her place among adults. She did not want to be Queen like her mother, nor an engineer like her father, but neither parent minded this at all, and kept telling her she could be anything she wanted to be. She didn’t really know what she actually wanted, but figured that life would show her the way, and did all the jobs that came before her. She kept the Wrong deep inside her, refused to let it have its way with her.

For a decade, everything was fine, or so she thought. She worked diligently to learn and grow, although it was hard with the Wrong inside her, gnawing at her innards, twisting and turning. It also took up much of the space inside her that people usually fill up with skills and competence; there was only space for one skill and a few thin strands of competence, but she felt full up so she though this was normal.

But deep within, the Wrong had spawned, almost as soon as Helena had been born. The new Wrong was tiny to begin with but it grew, and what made it grow was the work that Helena fed it. As Helena worked harder and harder the new Wrong grew stronger and bigger, until it began to push out all the competence and drain the skill. Helena felt it but could not understand what was happening, so she worked even more, and more, and more, and the new Wrong ate it all and swelled until it, too, gave birth the yet another Wrong. By now Helena was in a bad way but she couldn’t tell anyone, because Wrong was not tolerated and she would have been banished if people knew, for all that her mother was Queen.

Eventually the day came when the three Wrongs together became simply too big for Helena to contain, and with a dreadful tearing sound her skin broke apart and the Wrong burst out of her, soiling the palace with a sticky, stinking mess. Helena screamed, less because of the pain than the thought of her Wrong exposed. In panic, she tried to mop up the Wrong, but she was too late. People gasped in horror and fled, and Helena was left standing in shame beyond shame in her own Wrong.

She ran to the magician in his rooms in the tower. He invited her in, found a needle and thread and patched her up, using all his skill to sew shut the tears in her skin. He made her whole again, and with one wave of his wand he made the mess of Wrong downstairs disappear without trace. Helena washed herself thoroughly, and when she was done she felt clean again and quite like herself.

When she left the magician, she found that she’d have to leave—as she passed, people looked at her oddly, and even when they didn’t she felt sure that as soon as she was out of sight they would talk about her and either laugh or be disgusted. She took her things, said goodbye to her parents and walked to the neighbouring kingdom, whose kindly King gave her a place to live in exchange for her hard work on behalf of his country.

Helena began to work again. Since no one here knew about her Wrong, she could get a new start, and she thought she could live with the Wrong inside her as she had done for so long. Every now and then she sprung a little leak, but each time she travelled to meet the magician in secret at the border, in a small cabin by a river, and he mended the tears. It was expensive, and because she was no longer a princess she had to pay for everything out of her own pocket. The trips took their tool, too, and Helena got very tired. The more stitches her skin had to endure the more fragile it became, and the more it cost to repair. She found it harder and harder to keep the Wrong secret, but still she thought she was doing okay—she was not learning much because the Wrong was taking up all the space, but she kept trying to grasp at the strings of competence and tried to hide the leaks.

Then one day, out of the blue, the King called her to him. There had been complaints. People had begun to notice that something wasn't right, and what with one thing and another they had come to the conclusion that she was full of Wrong. The King told her that Wrong could not be tolerated in polite society, but what was more, he was offended and sad that she had lied. Helena tried to protest that the Wrong would not hurt other people, but the King put on his regretful face and told her to leave his kingdom.

Shamed and frightened, she did.

When she reached the river that ran between the two kingdoms she paused on the bridge. Where was she going, exactly? By this time her parents had died and there was no way to go back to her old home—not that she really wanted to, either. She could try to find a new kingdom to live and work in, but by now her patchy skin was so frayed that it leaked Wrong at every step, and there was no space inside her for anything but the Wrong.

Perhaps she could get rid of it? She leaned across the railing of the bridge and looked into the water. Surely that much water would wash away the Wrong? Quickly, before she could change her mind, she jumped over the railing and dropped down into the cold, dark stream.

She was right—the water rinsed away the Wrongs. And then it rinsed away the last shreds of her empty skin, until there was no Helena left at all.