Life was bleak until she passed by. And yet, it was not her physical existence that held his attention- the mere idea of her was what consumed him.
He could never make out her face from behind her woven cloak. Each day at a half hour to sunset, she would glide past the barley fields that lay just beyond his window, with an elegance that Venus herself would envy. Her age was impossible to guess, as was the color of her eyes and the amount of rouge that she used on her cheeks. He was left to imagine every detail about her- her favorite foods, what made her laugh, where she was headed so eagerly to at the end of each day. And her name- what a magnificent name it must be!- was known only to her and the gods.
Before her, there was only hopelessness. There was only desolation and pain. A lifetime of imprisonment, eons behind a barricaded door.
They said he was insane. They called him names. Bewitched. Devil-spawn. A lost cause.
For a long time, he believed them. His mind was unwell. It was his fate. Now he must suffer.
Until her. She carried hope in her step and happiness on her shoulders. Through her, he envisioned a life beyond four chamber walls and a flea-ridden mattress. He was married with a beautiful family. The soil was always fertile and the harvest fruitful. But most importantly, he was free. He fantasized so much that he had a hard time telling his desires apart from his reality.
He gave her a name. It was a name barely deserving of a woman as celestial as she. He thought her to be a princess, taking an evening walk to escape the business of royal life. She dressed as a commoner to avoid attracting attention, but he was able to see past her guise. He wanted to break his window and call out to her from above. Perhaps he could send down a letter, or a basket of fruit (if he had access to such items).
And yet, part of him did not want to meet her. Part of him wanted to stay locked away in a world of fantasy, where every interaction played out exactly as he wanted. He had barely considered the possibility that she could be unkind or even foolish.
He decided that the first step would simply be to see her. If he could convince them to let him out of his room, even if just for a few moments, he could sit by the front window and finally catch a glimpse of her face. He could go outside (outside!) and take down whatever was drying on the clothesline. When she passed, he'd remark that he had little time to do his outdoor chores, as the storm was coming soon. She would turn in surprise and ask, "A storm?" to which he would reply with some lie about the color of the clouds just beyond the valley.
He pounded his fists against the door. The sound of clinking cups and laughter reached his ears from the lower level of the ranch. He threw himself against the door and screamed until his voice turned raw. Beautiful woman or not, he had to free himself from this prison.
Sunset was near. He made a fist, so tight that his knuckles drained of all color, and punched the glass window. Nothing.
He tried again. His joints pulsed with pain.
The glass cracked. He struck the window once more.
The glass shattered. He fell to his knees and cried in agony, unable to move his fingers.
Years ago, they had installed iron bars beyond the glass of the window. They knew he could not resist the possibility of escape for too long. Yet, he was not discouraged. He dragged himself over to the window and looked at the ground below.
His pained screams had a different timbre now. They used to bounce unheard between the same six panels of wood. Now, they were hushed, drowned out by the wind and the grass. A glorious sound.
He waited for her, rattled with anxiety.
It was sunset. He stared out the window, hot tears flowing down his face, and tried to silence his shaky cries. Silently, he asked to be shown mercy just this once. He asked anyone who would listen. He asked the gods, he asked life, he asked himself. Please let her notice me. I want to be free.
It was then that he noticed his bleeding knuckles. The sight of the blood made him feel ill. He sank down to the floor and fought off a few waves of nausea that were the product of disgust and overwhelming angst.
She never came.