THEN: Were it not for the fact the sun singed peasant girl had gifted him that wretched Mozarab chess set, taught him the rules and then left him to his own devices it is likely his sanity may have remained intact. Sometimes the kindest acts miscarry – perhaps equitably so when the gift emanates from the delightful daughter of an evil nutter you have murdered!
It had been ten years or thereabouts since the gruesome fatted gaoler had for an inexplicable reason delivered up to him, the prisoner in the tower the now redundant iron torture chair. He remembers the event as if it were yesterday.
“It’ll serve you well, and as I always say an iron chair without red hot coals all aglow beneath it burning the arse of some poor bleating bastard is just a simple chair by any other name. Besides all you’ve got to your name…well OK you don’t officially own them as such…is that straw mattress and your piss bucket.”
“How come you don’t need it anymore?”
“Got a new bespoke torture chamber down in the dungeon…kitted out like I don’t know what…you name it we’ve got it…Iron Maiden, Rack, the Judas chair, the lot.”
To this ‘one day to be executed, right now a lifer’ in solitary even a chair of dubious history became his cathedra…the envy of the ghosts and lice.
His crime? Attempting to prove that unless you know ‘evil’ it is impossible to know ‘good’. His hands-on philosophical experiment in this regard had backfired somewhat when a body was found in the Tiber. Albeit under thumb screw duress he freely admitted a guilt he would have freely admitted regardless! Still that was a long time ago – even to one who had almost lost track of time.
NOW: This day we find, sat airily and cross-legged within his precious iron chair, the long since unshaven, not recently hosed down prisoner waiting for a rare guest to arrive. He hears the commotion heralding her arrival first. The guards’ crude unruly laughter, a sexual jibe or two as she runs the gauntlet, makes her way up the spiral staircase and along the slate floored corridor to his fusty cell. Those ruffians even call her Miss Clever Clogs yet he is unable to fathom whether or not this is compliment or insult.
“I mean it’s been how long? Seven, eight summers passed…maybe longer…wow how time runs away. Anyway how’s the chess coming along?”
“I don’t know if I’m a winner or a loser…it’s doing my brain in. You should have warned me about the mind game tricks of solo chess.”
“Sorry about that…do you still play though?”
“Addicted I’m afraid…riddled with dilemma’s born of chess…it’s all had a perplexing effect on me. Take today for example…your impending visit…because of the polarities of the end game I cannot decide on an appropriate persona…should I be victor or vanquished; decent or indecent; proper or unseemly…choices, so many choices.”
In idle chat the girl tells him of the goings on in the outside world…the worst harvest ever, the night the citadel burnt down, a rout here, a pillage there, the Black Death, even her seven new tabby kittens, then asks, “Out of all the choices buzzing around in your head which self in your heart of hearts suits you best do you think?”
“A kiss…I want to be a thin air kiss…both chaste and salacious all at the same time…here one minute, gone the next. A kiss is the mayfly of love I think.”
“You really are the oddest man you know…plainly your wish is beyond mortal gift…whatever I have something for you…the thing you wrote of in that message you had had smuggled out yonks ago.”
“No it cannot be…surely not…not…the wool stuffed cushion for my iron chair?”
With that, and from under her flowing robes she produces said cushion and hands him it. Her parting shot as she leaves? “I think I’ll call you the ‘King of Subjectivity’…mind the guards don’t spot it though!”