The Garden

"… between extremities

man runs his course;

a brand, or flaming breath,

comes to destroy

all those antinomies

of day and night …"

-W.B Yeats

*

She was standing in the garden, brushing the tops of the tulips. She looked like some sort of celestial being in that white gown, almost floating above the path which was surrounded by perfumed flowers of every kind. He had given her that garden, so that she would be happy. In truth, she didn't care whether or not she had a garden. It didn't make him come and take her away, so what was the point?

She fingered the petals of the roses, their sweet scent wafting into her nostrils, not letting out a sound or moving when she felt a large hand on her shoulder. She had long stopped doing that. Her heart was pounding hard when he spoke, though, as if it wanted to jump out of her chest and fly away, away from him.

"The garden … you like it?" Gentle, caring it sounded like a lover's voice, but she knew better, resisting a shudder.

"Yes, milord, very much." She answered softly, turning to face him.

Her eyes met his shade-protected eyes, willing there to be defiance in them, but not enough for him to beat Pazu. She couldn't bear hearing his screams again, moaning into her pillow, until he returned, panting and covered in blood, and drawing in close to her sobbing form, whispering words of comfort until she fell asleep from exhaustion of crying.

"Please, my dear, call me Muska. I have told you before." He scolded, sounding vaguely playful.

Her mouth gaped stupidly at the thought of this man, this man, who had killed thousands, destroyed towns and cities, and beaten her beloved Pazu until he could no longer speak.

Yes, she had been able to see him, once. He was a gibbering mess from all the beatings, and the smell of urine hung about him. She had shamefully recoiled, too used to the expensive cologne of Muska. He had recognized her, though, whispering her name as if it were a prayer, and sobbing, Sheeta had taken him in her arms, kissing his neck fiercely and stroking the back of his head until she had to be pulled from him and dragged away. His whispers would haunt her forever, knowing that it was all her fault for what had happened to him.

"Sheeta, Sheeta, Sheeta …"

"Sheeta? Lusheeta, are you alright?" Muska's voice cut through her thoughts, sounding concerned, but she knew better, oh lord, did she know better.

After she smiled (her heart not quite in it) and nodded, his hand slipped from its place on her shoulder to her waist, curling around it and pulling her towards him.

"Shall we go back inside, darling?" His voice was husky in her ear, heavy with suggestion, and Sheeta felt bile rising in her throat, but she managed a perfect smile and they headed back towards the palace.

That same smile had been practiced time and time again over the last six years; she probably could've done while she watched people dying painful and horrific deaths, laughing heartily and clinking champagne glasses with Death himself.

She let him unclothe her, without hitting him or running away like she had the first time.

She let him kiss her passionately, caressing her and murmuring her name over and over again.

She let him climb on top of her, as she looked persistently toward the wall, his groans almost drowned out by the buzzing she forced herself to hear.

And during this, all she could think of were these small words, repeated over and over again:

"What a sick comedy my life has become …"

*

When Muska first came into power, he ordered the robots to destroy the ancient tree and burn all the roots which were slung about in the throne room. Sheeta, still trembling from the shock of Muska's triumph, swore she heard a scream of something old, something other-worldly. She had curled herself in a tiny ball, wondering why she was still alive.

He had ordered the nobility in the world underneath Laputa to come up above and swear allegiance to him, King Muska. The earth down below was shuddering from the horror of being forced into submission, and no one dared defy this mad new king, who, when making speeches to the unworthy people of the world, would make words such as 'power' and 'new world' sound so terrible, so frightful.

This new world he spoke of was degenerating into something worse then what it had been. People starved, diseases spread, and anyone with money, desperate to get away from the horror that surrounded them, paid themselves into Laputa, which was beautiful, and violently different, it was hard to believe it floated above the moaning land below, sick with hunger and putrid diseases.

Muska was satisfied with the ways things were; if so many people were hungry and sick, they would not be able to form rebellions, and bring him down. But even if there were such things, there was no doubt they would be destroyed immediately. But this knowledge, this extra precaution was comforting to him, and made him feel safer.

With all this power, comfort and luxury, Muska felt there was something missing, and his thoughts wandered to Sheeta. He had kept her on an impulse, thinking that she might come in use later. She was pretty, in a quiet way, her soft gray eyes and dark hair tempting, sweetly.

At that moment, light filled his mind, and he realized what he was missing; a wife, a queen, somebody to stand beside him and share his nights. It was true Sheeta was young, but in a few years, there would be no disapproval. After all, she was the Princess of Laputa, so it would only make sense if she were to become Queen.

He suddenly took a turn to a less attractive idea; what if she wouldn't comply? Despite his power and appeal, she was awfully stubborn – and in love with that silly fool, Pazu. He had tried to save her, in vain, winding up in the dark dungeons of Laputa, so deep down below that light was a foreign idea, seemingly made up. It clicked in his mind; if Sheeta would reject him, defy him, he would torture Pazu himself, allowing her to hear his screams.

His hands folded together, he smiled smugly, leaning back in his chair. Yes, it would be perfect, and he would become the ultimate power, sharing the glory with his magnificent kingdom, all of whom would bow to him as he walked by, including Lusheeta, and his throngs of supporters would cheer:

Long live King Muska!

*

Sheeta (who Muska persistently called Lusheeta) was seventeen when she was ordered to marry Muska. Full of fire and defiance still, she refused, saying she would rather die. It was unlikely she would ever forget the smug expression on his face, not once faltering at her blunt refusal. Her hands flew up to her mouth to stifle the scream that was building up in her throat when he told her of Pazu. She had assumed everyone was dead, but the thought of Pazu alive made her want to exclaim in joy and cry in horror. Muska's heavy hinting of Pazu's torture if she would continue to refuse him was likely, especially in Muska's unstable state of mind.

She had swallowed slowly, only prompting the lump in her throat to choke her, a tear down her cheek. She turned away, not being able to face his horrible grin, and murmured something about 'thinking about it'. This seemed to satisfy him, and he left, the click of the door music in Sheeta's ears. When the footsteps had faded, she began to scream at the top of her lungs, tearing down the pretty lace curtains, pushing over the desk, spilling ink onto the floor, pulling books from their shelves, and throwing them down with a violence which wouldn't have been out of place in a battle. She tired quickly of her tantrum, her hoarse screams fading into hiccupping sobs, falling onto the ground and beating it weakly. She soon succumbed to sleep, and she dreamt about the garden, and the tree, and the robot she and Pazu had found, all those years ago.

*

She was a pale bride, looking washed-out and thin, and terribly out of place in the grandeur of the church, but all the lords and ladies gasped and gushed anyway, whispering what a beautiful, lovely bride she made. Hearing this, Sheeta almost wanted to snort, but remembering her current position, returned to her somber sulking. Muska (she refused to call him King, even it was only in her head) watched her with hawk-like eyes at the end of the aisle, almost expecting the slight, doe-eyed figure to bolt at any moment. As much as she wanted to, she knew she couldn't for Pazu's sake, and as slowly as she could, she walked towards Muska, towards her dim and unwanted future.

'I do's said with blushes and nervous stumbles, shaking hands slipping rings on fingers, awkward bumps and coughs to find each others lips … that's what Sheeta expected on her wedding day, if it came. A childish embarrassment, but full of light passion and secret longings; this wedding (if you could call it that – could it still be a wedding if wasn't consensual on both sides?) was stiff, cold, and forced. Forced by her, forced by the witnesses, who knew it was fake, and even forced by Muska, who looked like he wanted to crush something.

And her wedding night! Where to begin? She hadn't thought that far in her silly girlish wedding dreams, but she had a fair idea what was supposed to happen, and dreaded it, more than anything. So when Muska had turned to her, eyes hungry and sickening, Sheeta began to yell profanities at him, biting, kicking hitting until he stepped away, hair falling into his eyes and panting. She froze mid-insult, knowing what was coming, and in a violent fit of desperation, threw herself at his feet, crying and begging until he kicked her, an expression of disgust on his face.

"Compose yourself, silly girl. You are a queen now." And with that, he left the tearful, afraid little girl, door wide open, and soon, she heard the shattering screams of her Pazu, and Sheeta tried, moaning and sobbing, to bury herself in the cold stone of the floor.

Upon returning, ready to taunt Sheeta with the blood that splattered his suit, and the sobbing cries that could still be heard, he was surprised to see Sheeta, no longer crying, lying asleep on the floor, still in her wedding gown. She looked beautiful, and Muska almost felt a softening in his heart for the exhausted girl. Gathering her in his arms and relishing the feeling of her beating heart against his chest, his eyes widened when, in her unconscious state, she murmured something in her sweet little voice, and cuddled up closer to him.

Something that night stopped Muska from waking the sleeping girl and having his way with her, and even he is unable to explain it today. Sheeta had no knowledge of this, and when she awoke in a nightgown next to Muska, who was absently stroking her bare arm and staring up at the ceiling, she assumed, with an angry blush, that she had been taken advantage of while she slept. Too prudent to ask Muska, she rolled over, escaping his spider-like touch.

*

Over the next few years, nothing improved in Muska's political system, him still being the maniacal dictator he had always been, and the world struggling to pick itself up from the depression it had suffered, or in his twisted relationship with Sheeta.

When she had found out about the hungry, diseased people of the world below, Sheeta begged Muska to release the suitable antidotes and sufficient food supplies, both of which he had, but he stoutly refused, saying they needed to stand on their own two feet. Frustrated and seeing no other way, she tried a different sort of persuasion; seduction. To her immense surprise, Muska responded, and in return for these 'favours' he would send supplies down to the world.

Sheeta found herself in moral dilemma; she felt better helping others, but getting that help … she shuddered. It was the only thing she had to offer as a person, and it sickened her to do so.

Muska, psychotic as he was, decided Sheeta needed somewhere to escape to; somewhere she could spend time alone. That was when he ordered the robots to begin making the garden. Sometimes, in her dreamy, nostalgic moods, Sheeta had told him her vivid memories of the garden she and Pazu had found (although she was careful not to mention his name), how beautiful and sweet-smelling it had been. It was times like these that made Muska feel jealous, that mere flowers and trees could make her smile, really smile, but he couldn't.

Oh, of course he knew she faked all her smiles, laughs and conversations with him; he wasn't completely blind. He would have preferred it though. If somehow, he thought that she really loved him, that she had married him by choice, that she was here, not because he would torture Pazu if she was wasn't, but because she truly wanted to be. It made him angry that she didn't mean any of it, but he knew he couldn't have her any other way. She hated him, passionately. And he … he didn't know what to think of her. He didn't allow himself to think that far, he would get out of control and that would be the end of it.

But he did know this; he would spiral down into nothingness, dark emptiness filled with fear and horror if it just meant he'd get to go with her.

*

The garden was ready within a week, already blooming with beautiful and strange species of flowers, shaded by enormous trees where trilling birds made music in impossible harmonies, and colourful insects enjoyed the floating aroma of the delicious flowers.

Sheeta looked at it blankly. It was beautiful, yes, but everything was beautiful here; Muska, the noble folk, her. All beautiful people, dressed in beautiful clothes, living in beautiful quarters, eating and drinking from beautiful golden cups and silver knives and forks, while laughing, talking, smiling beautifully. She thought to Pazu. He certainly wasn't beautiful, and never had been. He was locked away in ugliness as she was locked away in beauty, and beaten when Muska felt she deserved it. But he had something she didn't in the stifling confines of Laputa, and longed for desperately.

Freedom.

To even taste that word on her tongue made her shudder with delight. To be living simply in her old valley with Pazu, happy, laughing real laughter, not the buttered up pretty one that she used so often these days. They had both dreamt of Laputa all their life, this mysterious, floating land of treasure and beauty and enigma, but now, as they both found themselves here, trapped in cages, hers gilded and his rusty, they wanted nothing more than to get off it, and never come back or think of it again.

Slowly, Sheeta turned, pretending to pick a flower, noting the guard that had been assigned to watch her was not there. Perhaps Muska 'trusted' her enough to be on her own. She pressed her nose to the perfumed flower to hide her wide smile. Then, without any sort of warning, she began sprinting toward the edge of the cliff where a cloud drifted lazily, and laughter bubbled up her throat and out her mouth as she leapt from the green grass into the arms of possibility, just for a moment. Then she dropped, falling quickly, the beating her heart nearly blocked out by the deafening wind rushing past her ears, but not quite.

And while this was happening, everything going past her at infinite speeds, Pazu suffered his last beating, feeling his heart slow. So in that tiny moment before Sheeta hit the ground and Pazu's head lolled, one word was in their heads, screaming and whispering, violent and calm, loving and hating:

Freedom.

*

A/N: Thanks for reading, lovely person. I'd love you a ton more if you'd review. :D

Um, yeah, just to clear a few things up; I estimated Sheeta and Pazu to be around 15 when the movie took place, and Muska in his late 20's , early thirties. So yeah, I'm not sick, I promise, I'm just exploring possibilities. :]