[Written for a Flash Fiction Writing Challenge, where this piece won first place.]
The Spoils of War
by Laila Blake
They come with fire and screams of terror. They come like the plague in a child: every instinct inside of you draws you to try and lend aid and warmth. But as you do, the plague finds your hands and your face and your tongue, it finds your weakness. It enters your body silently… and then it kills.
I have seen my city burn a long time ago. I saw the odour of death around the child but here I stand in the temple of my beloved Athena – and the smoke is finally burning my throat. The screams make me want to look away, but for all my life and all my prayers, that was never my choice to make. I am a seer – I see the truth, I am a witness, I am a woman. I saw it coming – and all I know is that I tried.
I have spent my life at the mercy of men – men have given me sight, men have envied me and hated me, men have called me a liar, a madwoman and a whore. Men have loved me, cursed me, men have locked me away, men have died and broken me. Men have forced my eyes to see and forced my mouth to close all my life.
Troy, my beloved Troy, is burning. I want to weep but my eyes refuse to blind me, however temporarily. They have seen my brother fall before the gates. They recognized him despite the blood-caked dirt that was once his skin. We placed the coins on his eyes to pay the ferrymen with. He didn’t have to watch the city burn.
I am Cassandra and I will be remembered. I was born daughter of a king and I will die the spoils of war.