Short Stories Mar 15, 2023

Beauty is a human need. I can’t live without it. I have no desire to live without it. We should be surrounded by beauty even in the mundaneness of our lives, in our brief existences. That’s why I did what I did. I’d taken her, stolen her away. Kept her imprisoned for five months in the dark confines of my tower where her presence was known only by small bats, cawing rooks and myself, a physically  unremarkable, socially impaired gentleman. I am not a psychopath, just lonely, perhaps a little obsessive.

For many years prior to executing her abduction, and knowing the consequences of strategic failure, I’d been overwhelmed by the mystery of her magic, and the soul-destroying void of my unrequited love. It was through no fault of my own. It was all her doing. If the allure of her beauty hadn’t been the powerful aphrodisiac that it was, I wouldn’t have acted as I did. I was smitten by the way she parted her moist lips, the gleam in her eye, how she coquettishly turned her head. But my actions had been solely a matter of fulfilling my own needs and completeness, attaining my own emotional equilibrium. Keeping her captive and close by, I assured myself that no one else could ever have her. Margriet would always be mine.

It was a fateful July day when things unravelled. Peering through the iron grille of her holding room, I was gazing adoringly at her when I was abruptly startled. A dozen cawing rooks flapped noisily from the parapets of the castle. A wave of purple-sheened black feathers flashed by the small window mounted high in Margriet’s tiny, concealed room. Iron horseshoes clacked noisily across cobblestones in my forecourt and a half dozen riders dismounted. Orders were barked out by the Bürgermeister. There was a loud rapping at the great portcullis doors of my castle’s entranceway. My skin tingled, heart pounded and hands began to shake involuntarily.

A guttural voice roared out, “Herr Kaufman! Come outside now! We know you have her! Do not harm Margriet!”

The words were icicles plunged deep into my heart. In an instant, my tranquil world was spinning off its axis. Had the Bürgermeister and his henchmen been alerted? How did they know?

Fixed in fear to the wooden floor, I remained motionless and mute.

The rapping actions against the wooden doors downstairs became a splintery assault after a loud report from a Jäger flintlock rifle. The sounds of a forced door and creaking hinge indicated that I was trapped inside my own castle. Multiple footsteps scrambled across the banquet hall and ballroom before they began mounting the stairs. Heavy swords were drawn from sheaths and blows were rained against closed doors and armoire cabinets as the mob made its turbulent way upwards towards the castle tower, Margriet and me.

“She’s mine, all mine!” I caterwauled down the stairwell. “You’re not getting her back. I love her!”

I grasped the heavy bunch of keys which had been suspended from an iron spike jammed into the stone wall. Anxiously thrusting a rusting key into the lock I opened Margriet’s door and seized her roughly in my trembling clutches.  With Margriet in front, I pushed our way frantically up the narrow staircase to the turret at the top of the tower.

“I’m so sorry, Margriet,” I rasped, “I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done to you. It was an unseemly and brutish act, I was wantonly selfish. Beauty should never be locked away or owned by one person. Your smile deserves to be admired forever by people all over the world.”

And as urgent, pursuing footsteps reached the turret door behind me, I kissed her farewell. I pushed Margriet gently over the edge and watched, consumed with awe, as she floated cloud-like towards the earth. Her light frame and canvas body ensured a gentle face-up landing in the long grasses adjacent to the castle wall. Mercifully, Vermeer’s masterpiece, “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” survived the fall. As I plummeted headlong towards her, that brief image of the artist’s model, Margriet, stared benignly up at me with those parted moist lips, a gleam in her eye, and her head coquettishly turned.

I reiterate that beauty is a human need. My final prayer is that Margriet is returned quickly to a gallery to allow the world to be surrounded with beauty even in the mundaneness of everyday life.


Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.