The Dragon Queen by William Andrews

The Dragon Queen by William Andrews

Author:William Andrews [Andrews, William]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781503900349
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Published: 2018-03-05T22:00:00+00:00

EIGHTEEN

I cannot say how many days or weeks I stayed in my bedchamber with the walls closed to the sunlight and the lamps unlit. Perhaps it was more than a month. I ate very little and refused to let anyone see me, save Han-sook. Every day, she brought tea and broth and encouraged me to eat. She changed my linens and bathed me by hand. On warm days, she opened the wall to the courtyard to let in fresh air. I never once went out. We didn’t talk about what happened outside of my bedchamber, and we didn’t talk about the baby. She constantly asked if she could do anything for me, and I always said no.

Inside my dark bedchamber, the spirit of my dead son haunted me. He was everywhere—as a baby lying next to me in bed, as a boy playing on the mat near my bed, as a man in the dark corners staring at me. I had trapped my son’s spirit inside me because I had kept him with me those five days. So I ordered shamans to come and set my son’s spirit free, so it could go to heaven. The shamans came and prayed, lit incense, and chanted as I lay in bed with my silks tight around me. After five days, my son still haunted me and I sent the shamans away.

Late one night I lay half-awake in my bed, numb with hopelessness. I believed that I would die in my bedchamber, and truly, I wanted to. Then a sound came from my study. At first I thought it was the Taewŏn-gun’s guards coming to take me away or perhaps to kill me. I almost hoped it was. The sound came again, and I listened more closely this time. It sounded like crying. I thought it was the spirit of my dead son. Weak and confused, I crawled out from under my blankets and put on a robe. I lit a candle and took it to the door of my study. I peeked inside but didn’t see anything. As I turned to go back to bed, I heard the crying again. It sounded like the wailing of my mother those last days before she threw herself into the Han River. I lifted the candle to the room, and it cast long shadows against the walls. I thought I saw a ghost move next to the tapestry with the two-headed dragon. I took an unsteady step inside the study. “Ummah?” I whispered. “Mother?” The sound of my voice fell silent inside the room. I went closer to the tapestry. I lifted the candle to the dragon. Its eyes glowed in the candlelight with a piercing stare, as if it was trying to tell me something. Its claws reached for me, and its tongues seemed to move up and down. I had never seen it like that before, and it scared me. I took a step back, but the dragon continued to stare and its tongues still flicked.



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