Tigress, in a Cell, Somewhere in France by Emma Venables

You rip my claws from me. One by one. I snarl but I don’t rear. You smirk, never one to show your disappointment, your desire for more. More agony. More pleading. More caving in. No. Oh, how I curtail your satisfaction, flatten it beneath my paws; they bleed – incomplete and raw, over you and your uniform but I will not show you how I am severed within, how many inches away I am from growling for the bullet, the guillotine, the noose.

You think you have all the power, Herr Germany, but your time is ticking away. Can you hear it? Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. I swish my tail. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Ask me again. Go on.

Who’re you?

Who’re you in contact with?

What’re you doing here?

Your grip tightens. I bare my teeth, run my tongue over a chipped incisor – a memory of a previous life – and enjoy the sensation of jagged enamel against muscle. It’s a gesture intended to rile you. I’m in the company of greatness, of justice, of growing room, after all. How dare I do something so trivial, as to explore the contours of my own mouth?

There goes the cracking of your knuckles. One. Two. Three. I’ve been trained not to flinch. I’ve been trained to crush you and were I not backed into a corner, locked in a cell with no clear line of escape, I would. I would crush your legs, manhood, arms, and then your windpipe. Would you plead for your wife, your mother, your aunt with the neck you loved to nuzzle as a child? I’d press – harder, harder – tilt my head to hear the slow gasp of wind leaving sails. 

You caress my throat as if you were thinking the same thing, as if we could somehow be connected by the act of restricting a body’s airflow, of observing skin turn ashen, before leaving the scene. You smell like all men with delusions of power: of aftershave and pomade, of laundry soap and the press of an iron. I command myself to breathe slowly despite the reek of you, the pinch of your nails. We’re nose to nose now. Your eyes are a shade of blue that reminds me of freedom, of home, of my father and my mother, of Toby and Freddie and all the things I left behind to die here in this country, in this town, in your hands. You pose your questions again, leave finger-spaces between your words.

Who’re you?

Who’re you in contact with?

What’re you doing here?

I could spill it all, the ink of my life. Cover stories and back stories. Safe houses and passwords. Field names and code names and real names. Agent drops and supply drops. Ammunition stores and radio transmissions. Parachutes and torches. Co-ordinates and sabotage. I could spill it all: the ink of all their lives.   

My trachea rattles with the effort of keeping my secrets.  I gasp. A weakness that draws a smile, no longer a smirk, across your face. 

Tell me, you say. 

Oh, I’m a tigress, Herr Germany. I’ve no words for you. I’ll just show you the variations of a purr: the crescendo from softness to rage.

Biography
Emma Venables’  short and flash fiction has been widely published in magazines and journals. Her short story, ‘Woman at Gunpoint, 1945’ was a runner-up in the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize 2020. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and has taught at Royal Holloway, University of London and Liverpool Hope University. Her first novel, Fragments of a Woman, will be published by Aderyn Press in 2023. She can be found on Twitter: @EmmaMVenables.

Image: unsplash.com

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