I felt my foot slip off the edge of the balcony. My heart began to race and the last thing that crossed my mind was "why was I wearing stockings on a wet balcony". As I fell everything began to darken, my mind and my vision. I could slowly feel myself dying before I even reached the ground, as I was told by my mother I would. "They say the houses in Paris can be so high that if one fell, they'd die before they touched the stone". I exhaled my last and tensed my muscles, bracing for the feeling of my spine cracking in two when suddenly the unexpected softness of velvet came in contact with my body. Screaming and shouting echoed around me as I came to. The merchant, whose cart I had landed in, was hurling curse after curse at me for ruining his fine fabric that he was going to use to prepare a new robe for our dear king. I slowly hunched my shoulders forward and rolled backwards out of his cart into the muddy street. My head was spinning as I slowly regained my senses, the light piercing my eyes, the smell of mud and wool penetrating my nostrils, the taste of dirt and life filling my mouth, the cold wet stone beneath my hands and the sound of a great crowd cursing and jeering at some poor soul who was serving his punishment on the pillory before Notre Dame.
I gradually pushed myself off the road and allowed my body to fall against the nearest wall. It was a hot summer day, the skies blue and the sun breaking through the gables and roofs, forcing everyone who didn't have the pleasure of occupying a spot in the shade to wince their eyes shut. I sighed, looking down at my dress. Filthy. The pale green of my skirt had become a sort of brown with green blotches. I noticed my stockings were muddy and had also obtained a sort of faded brown hue that replaced their former white.
The crowd by Notre Dame was getting louder and more belligerent. The curses I overheard being hurled toward the hopeless man were taking on even crueler tones the longer I heard them screaming. Half of me felt the urge to go investigate what the man had done to warrant such curses, while the other half of me wanted to go inside, wash up, and attempt weaving my blanket again. I pushed myself from the wall that I had been leaning on and made my way back to the house whose balcony I had fallen from. My eyes were focused on the ground, watching for any sharp object that had the potential to puncture my feet, when I noticed my skin of water that I had laid on the ledge of the balcony. I smirked, assuming that it must have been kicked off when I slipped to my almost-death. I picked it up and continued walking, attempting to ignore the curses (which, even now, were filled with more malice and contempt than they had been) that were being shouted ever louder in the square.
"You killed my baby with your gaze!"
"Demon from hell! Go back where you belong!"
"You deserved a thousand more lashes!"
"They should tie you there to bake in the sun until you die!"
"Hideous creature of Lucifer!"
Then suddenly a hush swept through the crowd and the smallest voice, weak, shaking, hurting, echoed through the crowd.
"Wa-ter. Water. W-a-ter" it cried. The silence of the crowd began to slowly dissipate as murmurs turned to laughing and again to cursing and jeering. The weak voice continued to, almost delicately, call out for water. I felt my heart jump forth, and to be honest, it dragged me before my feet even thought to move toward the pillory. First I was carefully, slowly, walking, and then gradually my walk became a jog, then a sprint, and finally before I even realized I was dripping with mud I was pushing myself through the crowd, and running up the stairs to the top of the pillory where I knelt, fumbling to pull the cork from the skin of water when my gaze shifted to find the mouth of the poor victim.
I froze when I saw the creature before me. His face was twisted, one eye was normal while the other supported a great mass, the size of a stone you'd find by the river. His mouth was puckered, his lips cracked and dry (clearly why he was so thirsty). His nose looked almost like that of a pig: pushed backward, looking in a way puckered like his poor lips, only much larger and stranger looking. There were remnants of rotten vegetables that had been hurled at him all over his poor face. His eyes though…they were the color of the Cine, blue and deep; his hair was the color of fire, or leaves in the middle of October. The great mass that was his head rested upon to uneven shoulders, one so much higher than the other that the shoulder blade formed a great hump on his back that was raw and sticky with blood from the flogging he had apparently just endured. His breathing, which was labored, caused his hump to rise into the air before slowly descending and rising again. He was kneeling, but one could even tell that something was wrong with his legs also: the parts that were visible were uneven and either larger or smaller than they God had meant them to be.
I was abruptly brought back from examining the poor creature's body when the same delicate, weak voice from before whispered to me: "wa-ter". I shook my head, realizing that I had popped the cork from the skin, and I held it up to his lips where he greedily drank every relieving drop of water that remained in it. When I felt it was empty, I pulled it away from his lips and began to examine his face again. Though it was deformed horribly, you could still sense some sort of docile, benign character that lingered behind it. Though the edifice of his temple was grotesque and malformed, the gentle demeanor of this man showed through (though how I do not know). I saw a single tear fall from his cerulean eyes before I felt the large rough fist of one of the men of the crowd drag me down from the pillory screaming something about how the thing is meant to be punished and that I was giving him too much pleasure by even making eye contact. "The bell-ringer should have never left his perch with the gargoyles" he barked at no one in particular. As we approached the edge of the crowd, I jerked my arm from his grip and slowly made my way back home.
As I laid in my bed that night I couldn't seem to drift off into sleep. The events of the day kept replaying in my head, but most of all I couldn't seem to forget that face, those eyes. The poor meek man who was being punished, it seemed, for his unfortunate appearance. While he was rough and coarse externally, his eyes seemed to beg for affection, to beg for one to gaze deeper beyond his twisted figure and into his soul. The Eucharist in his church, one might say.
Eventually I was able to let these gripping thoughts pass from me and I drifted off into an uneasy sleep.