CHARNÈL by CT Beesley
This is a tale about an adorable little girl who is confident in colours I wouldn’t normally go for. A girl whose practice it is that if you are to speak of something blue will ask why you do not talk of sapphire, thus why mention a shade of scarlet without the spilling of blood? The innocent’s name is Charnèl, but not after her mother. As you will see, Charnèl likes to make friends; to take these friends back to her house, her own house, where, as you will also see, she eats them.
Her village wears its history on its straight-cut sleeve. It’s a sleepy place where the dust, thicker in places, is made up of dead skin and crushed bone. It is here where Charnèl, a child, continues to lead the innocent ones to her home where she watches, forever in earnest, and with a thrill unlike any my ashen eyes have seen. She preys on children. Adults, when marinated, are savoured for party occasions, excessive company and biblical celebrations. Ear lobes, toenails and genitals make for a greater Easter feast if given time to grow. Charnèl has no feelings for the living.
I find her (as I have always found this family) beneath a mulberry tree planted by her mother, Elizabeth. She is attractive but not stunning and although I believe she feels empathy, struggles with a modern society. I pride myself on being well mannered and courteous when in her company but find that whilst trying to understand her ways, sometimes, like reading a hymn, I struggle to work out where I should rise and fall.
After following a rabbit warren of an entrance I am in her playroom, where for a long time I have been initiated into the mysteries of her house. The room itself is solitary and it hints at being cosy. Human skulls and skullcaps line the walls, inset between local stone and huddled in masses upon shelves. The candle-glow blankets them with supernatural warmth, warmth once buried alongside her mother. Never have I been to a place with so few windows. I sit and pool my thoughts by the pleasant light of an old oil lamp. This place has become immortalised. From reference books I knew it well as the house. Together we call it her house—her name lending it a certain Edwardian elegance.
Old bottles house used candles, allowing the wax to engulf the different shades of glass, night after night. The girl’s face, also illuminated, is, although pale, a compliment to the rest of her features. With her square jaw framing neat, white teeth, which her red, full lips make threatening, she smiles a polite smile at her guests, all of them, old and new, dead and alive. They, in turn, return a tentative and pokey type of grin.
Charnèl speaks a different language to the local children through the fork in her tongue—another inheritance. Nevertheless, the sucking and licking and wetting of her bottom lip helps seek a translation regarding the future of the little ones she has gathered here tonight. It becomes clear from the shadows in their soft eyes that they should prepare for every eventuality.
Charnèl will always smear the conversation with healthy satire. For brief moments I feel sorry for the children, but find comfort in the fact that they do not understand. I feel it an act of heresy to mention such a phrase as: ‘Can we let some go?’ so I bite my own tongue and enjoy the fruits of my veins a while longer. Like catching too many fish and not throwing them back over the side before enjoying supper on the coast, we prepare; soon to be picking bones from our teeth impatiently.
The first child is beckoned to take a step forward, Charnèl’s heretical behaviour maintaining ritualistic properties. The way I know her to kill her victims is random but the way she periodically arranges her skeletons is not. The child’s friend stands keening in the background, a pool of water gathering at his feet and as the ritual begins I take a seat in my special chair. A stir of dust begins to float toward the candles.
All I can do now is pray. It is my turn to say grace.
As if they are a treat on a summer’s day, Charnèl, forever the gourmand, impales her victims before my aching heart and like preparing a pot of tea; the pleasure is in the preparation. Their blood is kept cool in these stone cellar surroundings and so does not flow in haste down the erect posts. The wooden stakes act as small vessels on which the liquid can pour onto a patient tongue and into a waiting mouth, like sap from a tree. My host hands me a crystal goblet for me to fill. I oblige, sip, swallow, and conclude with a noisy sigh of assent. It is customary for the guest to try the beverage first. I approve, of course, before we help each other spread blood and cartilage. Our teeth crush them like gem stones. We needn’t turn our blood into wine.
Whatever you, the reader, may think, my personality isn’t quite as sordid and morose as it may appear. For it is the subject of bones that attracts me here tonight and on most occasions, as well as my hostess and her gracious company. I will return as long as I am invited, though how many repeat visits I have left is uncertain because however much Charnèl says she is enthralled and in love with the fabric of the limestone around her, I know she is not wedded to the idea of staying in this particular hideaway much longer. I hope that she does not choose my quaint and pure and rural idyll as the next dwelling for her clandestine nature, or yours for that matter.
This was a tale about an evil little girl: a small cup of sweetness that invites me to her house, and who continues to do so, just sometimes: for tea.