Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Skull Maiden

In Glenborrodale Castle, there once hung a doctored picture. It adorned a wall of the dining room, where it was beheld by many pairs of admiring eyes, yet still withheld its secret. A slender fair-skinned young woman in a heavy crimson brocaded dress gazed softly into a crystal ball. Her focus entirely taken by what she saw, her countenance devoid of emotion. Was she pleased, relieved, shaken? Were the tidings fortunate or sorrowful?
Those who looked upon her posed these questions and more. She appeared innocent, but could you be sure? Was her work witchcraft or a gift? With her head bent and eyes cast down, she betrayed no clue as to what she was seeing, let alone thinking or feeling. Was she witnessing scenes of humble life or incoming death? Her apparent calmness always affected guests in the dining room so that each would speculate, as they consumed, their future happiness or doom.
Whoever sat on their own before the picture addressed her in a pitiful whine or whisper: Tell me my fate... My destiny...
All minds, at times, have a burning curiosity to know the unknown; to stake a small claim on their prosperous future or to divert the course of predicted tragedy. Unfortunately, in this instance, the widely-held assumptions were incorrect. She did not know destiny. She could not see into their future. The crystal ball, after all, was not her primary apparatus, it was secondary. The real tool of her trade was deemed too horrible, too sinister... If someone had pulled back the dark blue curtain or looked more closely the truth would have been seen, but it wouldn't be discovered until much later when the painting was cleaned.
When the skull once more emerged from behind the curtain, many human minds had been rummaged in and a vast number of lives meddled with. Mind pictures had been read, recorded, restored or stolen; the originals or copies now the rightful property of the Skull Maiden.
Whatever you might have heard, she existed. She came from a long line and their methods were before their time like Leonardo da Vinci. The Skull Maiden pictured, it's said, was the most beautiful, but also the most dispassionate. Her warm eyes left you cold for her focus was so clear, so unwavering, and nothing could disturb her cool exterior. To be in her presence, as I understand it, was chilling.
But you don't get that sense from either the no skull or with skull picture. The skull is a relic of all the maidens' endeavours combined to delve into as many minds as possible in their allotted time. To alter people's past and present memories, to change how they might create those in the future. To understand the mind and build a foundation, then a bricked wall from historical memory. To partake in a form of sorcery with spiritual and scientific connotations. The left versus the right brain. It was one big game. A study where consent was not sought, which would now be considered unethical. 
Memory, as each Skull Maiden learnt, is not infallible. It waxes and wanes, nobody's memories, even of the same event, are the same. The crystal ball traced the readable ones and the laying of hands on the skull's temples unlocked them. The skull would glow as the maiden's fingertips probed and pulled ancient or newly-made memories from its person. All would be opened, their contents logged and a copy archived in a translucent brick. After which, some were wiped, some restored, and others modified, before being returned to the person. There was no protocol. It depended on the whim of the Skull Maiden.
An individual's mind picture may change, yet it always retains some essence of its story. The Skull Maiden however loses the intellect, that capacity to divulge her own. She is all memory – she remembers so much, she forgets what's hers to own.