Notre Dame is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my whole life.
That church and I have something in common.
We’re both made of hard and cold stone.
I saw her dancing that morning, and there my house of cards collapsed.
I was pervaded by an instinct that I had never felt before. Blood started boiling, it began an excruciating path in my veins, gifting me with an unknown warmth.
I had repressed those feelings for my whole life, and in a split second she had managed to ruin it all.
That moment, I knew for real what the Devil was. After having preached for so long, I found it in front of me.
And it was when I saw the captain, that Phoebus de Chateaupers, getting close to her, lascivious, that I knew the bitter taste of hate.
I felt the rot devouring my limbs, tired for actions I never had the strength to make. But in that moment I felt I owned a vitality lost in the recesses of memory, of a youth too far to still be alive inside of me.
Then I realized that to have the sweet taste of Esmeralda down my throat, I would’ve sacrificed tears and blood.
Except, they weren’t going to be mine.
She’s alone now, my Esmeralda. I’ve tried to grasp her in any possible way, but she’s refused the flattery of power and flesh, she’s rather keep her virtues, that silly little girl.
I get closer. The bars masking her face make her look older, she looks more like a girl.
“Good morning, gypsy.” I tell her, cold. She frowns, in a gaze of pure hatred.
“What do you want from me?” she shouts, leaning against the wall of her prison.
“You know what I want, even though you pretend to ignore it. Your chastity is naïve, much more than mine.” I mock her. She winces, horrified.
“I see the look in your eyes. My brother, Clopin the Trouillefou, has warned me from it some time ago. I know it conceals animal yearnings, somethings vile and corrupted” she says, determined. I laugh at her.
“Corrupted? Animal?” I repeat. “Yes, perhaps your brother’s right. But he forgot to add that it’s a delight one must give in to, someday.” I say, with sheer languor. I open the door to the cell, go inside and close it behind my back.
She stays there, foolish, like a modern day Ariadne waiting for her Theseus, on an island skimmed by a sea of sin. She knows she’s made a mistake, and it makes her less sure. What she doesn’t know is that for Phoebus she’s been nothing more than the momentary amusement to relieve him from the anxiety of the wedding. A temptation that it’s not easy to resist, I have to give it to him.
I go so close that she can’t escape me. I see her crouched in a corner, shivering, scared. I laugh. Little Esmeralda doesn’t know that inside a man there’s a demon, that this sense of dismay of hers does nothing but pushing me toward her.
I reduce the distance between us to a minimum, I breathe in, intoxicated by the sweet scent of her skin.
That poison burning my throat, leaving me unfulfilled.
I feel rage raising inside of me, gall running through my veins instead of blood. I go through a slow metamorphosis, from man I become beast and she, just her, is my prey. I grab her by her hair, I tilt her head and I rest violently my lips on her throat. The more she struggles, the more she screams, the more my touch becomes cruel. It’s a vortex of infinite sensations, ethereal, that are slowly devouring my soul.
“Get away! You are never going to have me.” she shouts, scratching my face. I let her falling hard on the ground and I slap her.
“You’re at my mercy. You’re mine already.” I snarl. She stands up, barely so. She stares at me with the sharpest look I’ve ever seen.
“You might even have my body, you can take it by force. But this” she puts a hand over her heart. “This belongs to the man to whom I’ll choose to give it. And that man is never going to be you.” I half-close my eyes, grabbing her wrists.
“If you don’t change your attitude, rest assured that you will never get the chance to give your precious heart to anyone.” I hiss, then my lips are on hers, and this time I’m almost delicate. I taste the blood flowing on her face, still fresh of what my hands have inflicted upon her. She shivers, but there’s no fear in her, only anger. I take a few steps back.
“You’re cursed.” I tell her, my voice peaceful, that doesn’t truly express what I feel. “In what spell have you bound me, witch?” she smiles, defiantly.
“It’s the worst spell of all. It’s made of lust, of greed. It’s called ‘man’.” I let out a chocked scream. I don’t answer, and I rush out of the room.
On the door, I stop for a moment in front of the guard.
“At the stake. Tomorrow morning, in the square.” I declare, determined. “Let that be a warning to all the other witches.” I add, whispering.
I go back to my chambers, I think about what has happened. I went too far, I’ve shown my weaknesses, a thing on which a woman feeds.
There are secrets and sensations that should be buried three feet underground, to become the due worm food, so that they don’t come back to the surface anymore. But some of them are more tenacious than any being reigning on earth, some stay whole, they ripen, and one can’t recognize them until it’s too late. And I hadn’t been able to kill those sensations. The price was for the Esmeralda to be paid, her death would have been my catharsis.
I’m the rejected and she’s the convict. It’s a price, all in all, fair.
I smile, thinking about Quasimodo. To that awkward way of loving the gypsy, to what he would’ve given to keep her with him. He’s too the unaware victim of an ancient witchcraft, leading him to rave. As anyone who’s seen her.
At dawn, I’ll see her tenacity and her stubbornness burn. And with her, are going to die temptations as well, daughter of the Devil.
I hit the wall with a hand.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
Fire is the only thing in the world that is truly inextinguishable. Water can dry, plants perish, like animals, like men. Fire survives, it regenerates from itself, it doesn’t need anybody to be born and revived. When the world is going to be an arid desert, fire will be its master, for it will have defeated everything else. The only thing it will miss in its dominion, will be the dominated. For it has killed, wounded, disfigured anyone trying to come closer. The winner is alone, a greed hermit.
I see that very same fire coming closer to brush the miserable clothes of the Esmeralda.
With a gesture I stop the executioner, and I go to her.
“You still have a chance.” I whisper in her ear. “You can die, or you can be mine.” I lay a hand on her heart. “Truly mine.” she looks at me with despise, as if I was nothing more than an insect.
“I will burn today, until death will take me away. You will burn into the flames of Hell for the whole eternity.” she hisses. I sigh.
“This is your doing.” I say, turning my back on her while she’s burned alive.
I smile, sadly. The gypsy’s soul has left this earth. I’ve freed it from that body full of sin, I’ve been strong enough to make her perish in the name of my salvation.
I see the fire consuming her limbs. I see my face in those flames.
I won. And the winner is alone, for the defeated has left this earth.
I grit my teeth. I still feel the venom inside my mouth, the taste of her flesh that penetrates me violent to my bowels. I go inside my cathedral.
Me, Notre Dame and the fire. A triad of death.
And my death has devoured Esmeralda as well. My decision to never live, to hide behind the cloth.
I tear my clothes off of me. The same pyre that is still burning, is living inside of me.
I will join you soon, Esmeralda. I will be there tormenting your eternal rest.
You are my Hell.