|Jeanette Winterson [bbc]|
from Jeanette Winterson's The Daylight Gate:
Day and night are the same. Fitful cold aching sleep, pain, thirst, tiredness even when asleep.
The straw moves underfoot with lice.
The air is stagnant. Breathing is hard because the air is so thick. Too much carbon dioxide. Not enough oxygen. Every breath keeps them alive and kills them off some more. One of the women has a fever.
The door opens. The gaoler is there with a dripping flare.
"Nance!" he shouts, and shoves the flare in the socket. He leaves them light while he takes the woman; it is his way of signalling something . . . what?
The flare throws grotesque shadows on the black stone walls of the cell. No, it is not the shadows that are grotesque; the women are grotesque. Shrunken, stooped, huddled, crippled, hollow-faced, racked and rattling.
Alizon uses her hands to make a play-theatre. Here is a rabbit. Here is a bird. Old Demdike sways back and forth in her soiled dress.
It is raining a little, and Jane Southworth goes to her station under the grille, opening her mouth to the rain. She lets the rain on her face be her tears. None of the women cry any more.
She thinks of Hell, and is it like this? She thinks that the punishments of the Fiend are made out of human imaginings. Only humans can know what it means to strip a human being of being human. She thinks the Fiend has a kind of purity that humans never have. She thinks that godliness is ridiculous because it exists to hide this; this stinking airless doomed cell. Life is a stinking airless doomed cell. Why do we pretend? She can smell strawberries. She knows she is going mad. Let the rain come.
A rat runs over her foot and drinks from the indent of her shoe.