The Caged Songbird Dies Slowly

I’m dying. I’ve been dying for almost ten years. He won’t let me go in peace though, or at all. I have to keep singing but I’d rather be all the way dead instead of halfway there.

My brother’s greed keeps me alive and I wish it were a habit I could kick for him. He loves the money I bring him and if I had the power to wonder, I’d think about what this deal leaves me with. It seems that I’m on the road to death but the streets all circle around and lead me nowhere.

I spend a lot of time thinking of this existence I’ve been forced into. I think about death more than most girls my age but don’t mistake me for someone who wears black and contemplates suicide. As if I even could. My brother Russell is careful with his commands. He’s sure to leave me with enough of myself to sing the songs his people throw at me but not so much that I begin to question him. 

He’s asked, with his careful words, that I not harm myself or others and that I do as he bids. I don’t know how he does it and I can’t ask, but those careful words keep me trapped. The only time he is cautious and sure in his life and it has to be with me. Careful. That’s a word I’ve run over in my head a lot. Full of care. Caring. He’s neither of those but I wouldn’t mind if I were still my own person. If I were a person at all.

I remember my first kiss. A boy named Kyle. He sure knew how to kiss. I wouldn’t meet another boy who could kiss like him for ages and even then, it lacked the sweetness of that first time. I bet Kyle has free will. Bastard.

My thoughts are fewer these days. Russell couldn’t hold off decay forever and though I stopped looking in the mirror eight months ago, I’m not sorry about my appearance. It’s the one thing I can do to defy my brother. He may be able to make me sing but he can’t make me perform in public anymore. 

Roman. He was another guy who knew how to use his mouth for something other than careful words. Such a good kisser but I’m sure he had tons of practice. He slept around, but I didn’t mind. Roman gave great hugs too, like he was genuinely happy to see you. Like you were the one person in that very moment he wanted to be close to. And maybe that was true.

I’m thinking of these past men because I miss the touch of them. Not them specifically, just a man, any would do at this point. I’d be happy with a man simply tracing his fingers across my cheek. I want that closeness so much.

My cheekbones are still high and lovely but the left one isn’t covered with skin and I think it goes without saying that men prefer skin, especially the non-rotting variety.

I perform later this evening. I gargle water constantly to prepare but I don’t swallow it. My body doesn’t process water or food anymore. I’m most disappointed about the food. I miss bacon cheeseburgers terribly.

I try to think about not going on tonight but I can’t finish the thought. Russell’s careful words again. I wonder instead about this state of perpetual decay I’m in. It’s only a matter of time before my throat starts to melt away like my skin is doing. What will he do with me then? Will I become someone who hungers for flesh? Brains sound as appealing as they ever did, which is not even a teeny bit.

Maybe the lore is just lore and I won’t shuffle and moan for flesh. Maybe I’ll just disappear.

I used to love when Jacob would brush his mouth across my skin while reciting his latest poem. He had great hands too. Adept at so many things. He wrote beautiful poetry; so full of hope. I hope he’s still the same and choke on the water as I try not to laugh with it in my mouth. It’s been a long time since I’ve hoped for anything and to hope for hope seems silly.

I cough and I’m sure I swallowed some water. I spit out the remaining into a bucket and with the water comes a piece of something. I’m not sure what it is but it looks gross. I’ve accepted I’m not beautiful on the inside. I’m related to Russell after all.

What I feared seems to have come sooner than I guessed. I try to sing a bar and I sound like a mangled corpse. My voice finally matches my body. Russell hears me and barks out a command.

“What the hell was that? Do it right.”

I’m not sure, but I think I sound worse the second time. Russell only has the patience to count money. He backhands me and I hide my smile because I think my bare cheek hurt him worse than me.

“You’re no good to me if you can’t sing!” He yells and spits but I notice he’s cradling his hand and I’m satisfied with the trade.

Russell pushes me hard and I don’t bother to catch myself because it’s not like I’m saving my precious body for anything. I’m surprised he touched me though. Twice even. Since I stopped looking alive, he’s stayed out of arm’s reach.

My brother starts to kick me. He kicks me over and over. One of his men hands him a baseball bat and not to be left out, he has one for himself and another. They must do this a lot to have three bats at hand. 

They bring their weapons down and I can feel the pain but it’s far away and dull, almost as if it’s not happening to me. The sound is with me though; I can hear my bones breaking with near perfect clarity. Though it’s not the sort of touch I wanted from a man, I take it silently because they’re giving me what I want. I’m finally going to be at peace. I’ve wanted death for so long that I wish I could cry, I’m so happy.