by Samantha Kymmell-Harvey
illustration by Darryl Knickrehm © 2013
Laszlo tried to imagine the body laying before him as nothing but a carp. Or maybe a large sardine. Anything but a rusalka.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets to hide their trembling as he approached the long, wooden table. In the flickering gaslight the rusalka's skin was a translucent map of chartreuse veins, her pale eyes shone like green fire. His brother, Nikola, buckled straps around her arms and legs. Her webbed hands stretched sharp nails to claw him. Her mouth screamed, white teeth bared, tongue flexing. Luckily, Nik was prepared and wore earplugs to mute the siren's deadly song. Laszlo, however, didn't need them.

You cannot ruin this surgery again, Nik used his hands to say in the sign language he and Laszlo had created.

Laszlo nodded and unfolded his leather pouch of medical instruments. The scalpel felt light and cold in his grasp. He turned to his still thrashing rusalka. She was no different than the rest of her kind, a vengeful water nymph who took pleasure in luring men to their death. Rusalki voices poisoned the minds of men, rendering them helpless to their will. For as long as sailors murdered the nymphs, they'd keep claiming their souls. But not my soul, thought Laszlo, placing a hand on his churning stomach as if to silence its protest.

He filled a ceramic basin with water and set it on the operating table inches from her head. Gathering her mass of wet, silvery hair, Laszlo plunged it into the water. He didn’t want her dying just from dry hair. He’d learned that lesson after the first surgery.

Laszlo selected a glass test tube from the rack on his bookshelf. Inside was a minute section of sea sponge wrapped in copper mesh. It was his newest model of vocal filter, designed to remove the poison from a rusalka’s voice.

Is that the right filter? signed Nik.

Laszlo huffed. Yes. What did Nik know of science? He directed the opera, not Laszlo's treatment of rusalki.

With the scalpel, Laszlo cut the netting from the rusalka's face and neck. She then snapped her teeth, inflated her chest, and began to scream. Nik flinched, fearing her scream would force him to jump into the Danube, but the earplugs kept him deaf. Laszlo half-smiled to see his brother squirm. He then clamped a cotton mask over her mouth and nose. Her eyes widened as his steady hand administered the droplets of ether to the mask. After a moment, those eyes closed.

Please let her live, Laszlo prayed as he inserted the filter onto the end of a metal rod and opened the rusalka’s mouth.

She better live, signed Nik, if Hungary is to bow no more to an Austrian Emperor.

Laszlo sat on a wooden stool across from the table where the rusalka still slept, her long hair floating in the basin like strands of silver silk. Her chest rose and fell.

Nik dipped her sharp nails in a bowl of wax like Laszlo had taught him to, adding a new layer as each one dried.

When will she wake? he signed.

When the ether is out of her blood.

How soon will she sing again?

Laszlo shrugged. You know we've never made it this far before. He leaned back in his chair. The newspaper clippings he'd hung crinkled as he leaned his head against the wall. They were his mementos of the day he became Black Turul.

The Black Turul will be pleased, signed Nik. She will make the perfect assassin. With the filter, everyone will think she's harmless.

I hope the trap works, he signed. Laszlo's heart sat like iron in his chest. Maybe his disgusting experiments would finally succeed. There was no doubt in his mind that the Emperor would pay his brother a visit. Nik's recent accolades as the director of the National Hungarian Opera had been all over Buda-Pest's papers. But none mentioned Laszlo, the crippled violin prodigy turned mad scientist who now hid in the opera’s basement experimenting on rusalki. He shivered, dispelling his self-contempt.

Laszlo's gaze fell upon his violin. It still sat propped up against his medical books. Laszlo remembered how it felt in his hands, how the bow would sing the notes to him. Laszlo ran a finger along the strings, wishing he could hear it once more.

Nik tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at the rusalka. Her fingers flexed, feet wriggling too. The creature's thin body jerked forward, still restrained. Wide, pale eyes trained on Laszlo. He quickly steadied the basin as her chaotic movements threatened to topple it. Then she parted her lips in song.

Laszlo could feel the vibrations of her music pulsing through the water. In his mind, he heard her voice in the rhythms, such a pure tone, glistening and crisp like icicles. Laszlo's grip tightened as if to touch her unearthly tones. His heart thumped like percussion to her forbidden song. It was beautiful.

Nik suddenly drew him close in a hug.

Success. Nik’s hands fluttered, nearly jumbling his signs. Her voice is harmless to the naked ear.

Laszlo blinked, glancing from the rusalka to his brother. The room spun as the fog cleared from his mind. The surgery couldn’t have worked, not after what he had felt. But Nik seemed fine. In fact, he had already lit a celebratory cigarette.

The rusalka closed her mouth, eyes wide. She knew what they’d done to her. Laszlo stared, watching her lips form rudimentary Hungarian.

"My voice," she mouthed, then screamed again.

Laszlo gaped at her. The operation must have worked. Her voice had obviously changed.

Get her ready for her debut, Nik signed quickly. We’ll re-open in a month. We have to earn our audience’s trust first.

Laszlo signed, A month may be too soon. If she doesn’t sound perfect, then the Emperor will never come.

She sounds beautiful to me. And I’m certain Franz Josef will think so too. It will be the last thought he has.

Laszlo nodded, glancing at the rusalka. She knew not yet that Hungary's freedom weighed on her infamous cadence.

And when you remove the voice filter, it will not kill her or damage her voice? signed Nik.

The procedure is safe. I assure you that the Emperor will plunge head first from the royal box as if leaping into the Danube.

Nik grinned, his mouth opening in an inaudible laugh. He removed another cigarette from the brass case in his pocket. It smoldered between his thin, dry lips. Train her well, Lasz. We're all depending on it.

Over the following weeks, the rusalka made some progress, learning some of Laszlo's signing language. Often though, their sessions ended with her refusing to sing.

As she sneered at him for the tenth time, lips curled, Laszlo turned away. He'd fail his brother, worse, he'd fail Hungary if she wouldn't sing. Frustrated, Laszlo turned to his only comfort, one he had not touched in years, his violin. Eyes closed, Laszlo drew the bow over the strings. The rich vibrations of Hungary's anthem had always soothed him. This time, unable to hear them, no comfort came.

He realized, however, something about it calmed her. She'd stare at him as if entranced, sometimes even humming in harmony. Laszlo knew instantly this was how he could reach her.

Laszlo entered the laboratory. The rusalka's thin silver eyebrows furrowed as she bared her teeth. She sat in a chair in front of the operating table, hair soaking in the basin, claw-like hands bound by rope.

I mean you no harm. Laszlo signed.

She opened her mouth in song, thrashing against her restraints.

Laszlo opened the wooden cabinet and retrieved his violin. Grasping the neck, a memory of his mother came to him. The memory of when she had given it to him.

She taught him his first song on this violin. "Himnusz." He couldn't even read music yet. But she'd sing their country's anthem, and he'd play it back. Together. It was their language. Their heritage. The last burning image from his previous life. He hoped now that this same violin could speak to the rusalka.

He lifted the violin to his chin. It felt cool and smooth. He brought the bow across the strings, adjusting his angles as the vibrations necessitated. In his mind, he heard what his music sounded like, or used to, before he’d lost his hearing. The vibrations were colors. Graceful swirls of blue for the high notes, green jagged peaks for the flats, and red blooms for the robust melody.

The rusalka's eyes were wide ponds of green. Her posture relaxed against the chair, she watched him, her lips parted as if imitating the sound. She observed his every move, leaning in to soak up every note. Laszlo slowly approached her. She motioned to the violin.

"What is it?"

Laszlo strained to read her lips. He signed, Violin.

The rusalka shook her head.

Laszlo sighed. He'd have to try to talk. "Violin." His tongue imitated the movement, as if he could still hear.

"I've never heard it before," she said. "It's beautiful."

Laszlo smiled. "Laszlo." He pointed to himself.


He tapped his throat and signed, Sing?

The rusalka's eyes narrowed. "It hurts." She spoke slower this time. "What did you do to me?"

Laszlo frowned. He'd never had to explain the surgery before. "I filt--" he paused. Words tripped on his tongue. "Filtered your voice."

She swiped a clawed hand at him. "Why?"

Laszlo kept his distance. "For the opera." He rolled up his sleeves and positioned the violin under his chin. "Try to sing now."

Her eyes trained on the black eagle tattooed on his forearm.

"Black Turul."

He clearly read her lips. It was the same tattoo his brother had, as all freedom fighters had.

"You butcher," Cilka said.

"Not me." Laszlo pointed to the headline of the yellowing news page above his head: "Young violinist and brother escape bombing in Buda."

The Austrian soldiers came to our town in the night. A bomb fell through our roof. The explosion took my hearing. The shrapnel took my parents. The Black Turul found us, and because of them, we survived. But I don't do their dirty work.

Her lips moved slowly. "My family is also dead. The Emperor’s nets strangled them in the Danube."

A sour pang pulsed in his stomach. He too had killed her kind. But she could not be as innocent as she seemed, she was a rusalka after all.

Little rivulets of water snaked around his shoes and he looked up to see Cilka standing beside him, her wet hair dripping down her burgundy linen dress. Her webbed hands were cold, soggy velvet encasing his fingers.

She held out his violin, wax nails tapping the string. "You sing beautifully."

In the dim light, he could see the dark singe marks from the fire, the dents from when he threw it in frustration after not being able to hear. His heart ached as he took the instrument back.

Hands. Cilka showed him, veiny palms outstretched.

The rope had worn red raw rings around her wrists. Laszlo bit his lip. If they kept her bound, kept hurting her, she'd never trust him. And if she didn't trust him, then she'd never finish her training and their plan to kill the Emperor would fail. Laszlo took her hands in his. "If you sing for us, I will set you free."

Cilka's eyes widened. "When?"



She had learned this word in sign language yesterday. Yes, Laszlo signed. Cilka nodded, understanding.

With his scalpel, he cut the ropes.

Thank you, she signed, lips upturning ever so slightly. Sitting back in her chair, she pushed her wet hair into the basin. Her eyes narrowed, lips pursing. Laszlo thought she looked darker somehow. Cilka grinned, showing her teeth. "Ready."

Laszlo escorted Cilka on stage, her silver hair disguised under a soaking wet blonde wig. Remember, you will be free. Just sing like you have been.

Cilka nodded. Through the haze of the gaslights, Laszlo could still distinguish the outline of his brother, tendrils of smoke rising from his silhouette.

There you are, Nik signed. He turned to Cilka, looking her over from head to toe. "Stand there." He pointed to the bench placed front and center.

Laszlo saw dark shadows seated in the front row. Shielding his eyes, those shadows were Austrian soldiers clad in their dark blue uniforms. Laszlo drew in a sharp breath as he grabbed Nik.

What are they doing here? Laszlo signed. You said this was a rehearsal.

I invited them.

Why? They’ll kill us once they learn what she is.

Nik took a drag. How else am I to lure the Emperor here? If they see she’s harmless, they’ll tell him to come see it for himself.

Laszlo signed, This is not what we discussed.

I gave you a month. Your time is up.

Laszlo sighed and nodded. He made his way down the wooden steps and into the pit. It was just a barebones orchestra for rehearsal, a piano, flute, clarinet, and now a violin. The opera's aged conductor, smiled and placed a hand on Laszlo’s back.

It’s good to have you among us again, he signed, where you belong.

Laszlo glanced up to Cilka. Her hair shimmered. I've found my music again.

Violin to his chin, Laszlo followed the conductor's hand movements though his gaze drifted to Cilka. Her perfect face glistened in the spotlight as she sang. The crystalline vibrato of his violin reminded him of Cilka's voice. After their rehearsals, when the feel of her songs still vibrated in his bones, he'd compose. He had already finished a new aria. Someday, her voice would give it the life and beauty his pen could not.

As Laszlo drew the final note across his bow, he grinned. Looking up at Cilka, she didn't smile, but curtseyed as the soldiers applauded her. A nervous pang surprised him. What if the soldiers murdered her upon discovering the truth of her identity? The thought of her possible death shook him deeper than it should have.

Laszlo stood to see the Austrian captain approaching, his gold shoulder tassels shimmying. The captain's lips moved, but Laszlo couldn’t read his German. Instead, he watched Nik’s lips.

"I am thrilled you enjoyed our singer today, Captain," said Nik. "You ought to know then that she is special.”

Nik ripped the wig from Cilka’s head. Her silver hair spilled over her shoulders in damp ropes. The Captain grasped his rifle, mouthing the word “rusalka.” His men circled Nik, guns at the ready.

Laszlo dropped his violin in the fray as the other musicians fled. The Captain spoke again, his lips forming more German words Laszlo didn't recognize.

Nik said, "No, Captain. You yourself just heard her and yet you are alive."

Laszlo looked to Cilka. Her skin had a blue glow under the spotlight. Strands of her hair cascaded around her, almost feathery in texture. She was drying out. Laszlo leaped onto the stage and knelt beside her.

"Water." She mouthed.

Laszlo darted for the water pitcher backstage, but the captain's soldiers restrained him, pinching his arms behind his back.

"No. You don’t und--stand. Th-- is -- ick." Nik’s lips moved too fast to read.

Unable to sign to his brother, Laszlo thrashed in the soldiers' grasp. Cilka clawed at her throat, mouth gulping as if for air. Laszlo pushed against the soldiers, but their grasp only tightened.

"She needs water, let him go," Nik said to the captain.

The captain's lips spilled more German.

"I assure you this is no trick. If you do not let him get her water, she will die."

The captain examined the rusalka as she writhed, back arching in pain. Laszlo bit his lip, looking to the captain. With a wave of his hands, the soldiers' released their grip.

Fumbling, Laszlo grabbed the pitcher from the vanity and raced back to Cilka. Her mouth gasped as he poured water over her head. Her skin restored to its translucent pale green.

Now please show the good captain that your voice is harmless. Laszlo pulled Cilka to her feet. He held her hand in his, his heart racing.

The soldiers mouths hung ajar, eyes wide in terror and joy as the rusalka sang. As the notes rang out, a smile broke the captain’s stern expression.

The music, vibrating through their joined hands, brought Laszlo to his knees and he wrapped his arms around Cilka, drawing her in close. She smelled of rosewater. Her skin was soft and icy, her voice perfection in its cadence. He looked up at her. She smiled darkly, running a waxed finger down his cheek. Her eyes narrowed as she ran her nails down his throat. Paralyzed, he remained in her arms until her melody silenced.

Shaking, Laszlo stood to speak to Nik. His brother, however, was already in conversation with the captain.

Nik nodded. "Yes, she is a wonder. We have the only show of this kind."

The Captain shook Nik's hand and took his leave.

Nik signed as he approached Laszlo, They are informing the Emperor and Empress. They will surely come to Buda-Pest. He hugged Laszlo.

I have the perfect song for her debut, Laszlo signed. I wrote it for her.

Nik shook his head and turned to leave. No. I have already planned the Emperor's last song.

Laszlo squeezed Cilka’s hand, running his fingers over her wax-sealed nails. He could not lose her. He would not let Nik take his muse from him.

Laszlo found Nik in the box office reclined in his leather chair. On the mahogany desk in front of him was a letter, scraps of wax seal dotting the paper red.

What brings you out of your laboratory? Nik signed, then took a cigarette from his brass case.

You must reconsider our plan.

Nik pushed the letter across the blotter. It’s too late. The Emperor and his wife are attending Friday's performance.

We can still free Hungary, but without Cilka.

You’ve fallen for her! Nik’s body shook as he stood. You are not going to ruin all we’ve worked to achieve for some monster.

Laszlo slipped into speech, "She’s not --" but his tongue failed him. A monster, he signed. Heat pulsed from Laszlo’s ears to his cheeks.

Nik took a drag. The smoke spilled from his lips like fog. "I don’t know how she’s doing it, but she’s poisoning you. Somehow, she is seducing you," he said.

You're mad. Laszlo signed.

"Don’t you see what she's doing?"

Don't you see what you're doing? You treat her like some sort of animal when she isn't. She is innocent. Just like we were. We meant nothing to Austria and that bomb took our family from us, crippled us. Now we've done the same to her. She ought to be freed.

Nik’s face flushed scarlet. "The cost of freedom is necessary."

Anger spread from Laszlo’s throbbing temple down his arms, humming like a cello. I want Austria’s claws out of Buda-Pest but without killing those who don’t deserve it.

"You are so naive. There is no other way."

But there is. I will kill the Emperor myself.

Nik mashed his cigarette butt into the tray. Absolutely not.

I see I’m wasting your time. Laszlo started for the door when Nik grabbed him and spun him around. His hand whipped across Laszlo’s face, pain blooming like a hot coal. Nik clutched his wrist and ripped his sleeve straight to the shoulder.

“Do not forget the promise you made,” said Nik aloud, showing Laszlo his own eagle tattoo, wings spread wide, talons ready. "If you betray us, you know the cost."

Laszlo yanked his arm away. As you said, I know the cost of freedom.

Laszlo opened his medicine cabinet and removed his violin case. Folded in the bottom was his new aria, composed for Cilka alone. His hands shook with excitement as he unfolded the score and handed it to his muse.

This again? Cilka signed. But your brother wants me to sing your country's national anthem, not your aria.

Don't you like it? My aria is perfect for your voice and I want you to sing it for the Emperor. It will be our debut.

Cilka’s eyes narrowed. Why change the song now? You said if I sing what he asks, then I will be free.

Laszlo placed a hand on his chest as if to soothe his heart. Do not trust my brother. He would never let you go, he'd rather have you killed. But together, we can make our music. It is our way to freedom, as I promised you.

You speak as if you will not give me my voice back, she signed.

Cilka, do you want to poison me? Do you not see my feelings for you? Laszlo took her webbed hands and brushed his fingers over hers. Something pricked him, like sea urchin spines. He pulled away. The wax coverings had cracked and peeled away, her sharp nails fully exposed.

I am rusalka, she signed. Just as you are not free without your music, I am not free without my voice. Give it back to me.

My muse, surely you do not mean me harm. Laszlo longed to hold her, to show her. You've brought music back to me. We can be free, together. He leaned in to kiss her pale green lips, but she pushed him away, a snarl on her face.

"Turn around," Cilka mouthed slowly.

Laszlo did. There in the doorway stood Nik, grinning.

The Emperor is coming tonight, he signed, then closed the door behind him. Remove the filter.

No, Laszlo signed, then wrapped his arm around Cilka's narrow waist.

Nik’s lips parted in laughter. You still think you love her. You are a fool. He pulled Laszlo close. Watch, brother. Nik faced Cilka so Laszlo could watch his lips spill his suppressed truth. "Did Laszlo tell you how many rusalki he has killed with these surgeries?"

Her eyes grew wide.

Nik continued. "Nine."

Cilka’s mouth parted in a mute scream. She backed away from them, hands seeking the basin. Laszlo’s face tingled, lip trembling. Vomit burned at the back of his throat as he watched Cilka hurl the basin at him. It shattered silently at his feet, shards spinning across the floor. Mouth open, she lunged at him, razor nails jabbing through his wool waist coast.

“I’m sorry,” Laszlo forced his voice. She raked her nails across his chest. It stung like fire.

Nik leaned against the door, arms folded.

Cilka wrapped her fingers around Laszlo's throat, opened her mouth and started to sing. The vibrations were like an injection, instantly tainting his veins. Laszlo gasped and looked to Nik, yet his brother did not act.

Thrashing, Laszlo leaned over his cabinet. Cilka held tight, catching her breath to maintain her song. Laszlo reached for the ether mask, fingertips just brushing the cotton. He blinked, trying to rid his sight of the fog that now filled it. His hand finally clasped the mask and he clamped it against her mouth. The song stopped as her eyes widened in shock.

"Help me," mouthed Laszlo to his brother.

Nik swiped the ether bottle from the cabinet and administered the liquid through the mask. Cilka’s eyes closed, her body relaxed, nails unhooking.

Laszlo hoisted Cilka onto the operating table and fastened the straps. He slid the basin behind her head and let the silver strands soak it up. His eyes burned as he ran a hand down her cheek.

I had to do it. She was poisoning you, signed Nik.

Laszlo nodded, clenching his fists. I know. Now get out so I can do your damned surgery. He opened the door and shoved Nik out, smearing blood from his open wounds down Nik’s pristine shirt. He slammed the door and slid the bolt into place. The photos crashed to the floor, their glass mixing with the ceramic shards.

Laszlo folded up the leather pouch of surgical instruments and locked it inside the cabinet. Next he unlocked the drawer just underneath. Inside glittered a small pistol. He tucked it into his jacket pocket then ran a hand through Cilka’s hair. For us.

In the darkness of the opera’s underground, Laszlo let the walls guide him. He climbed the stairs to the mezzanine, hand clutching the wooden railing. Something rippled in the air like applause. A sliver of flickering light sliced the blackness. Running his hand along the panel, he found the knob and twisted.

Laszlo stepped into the circular corridor. Glancing in both directions, he saw that all of the private boxes were still open, their red drapes tied back by golden rope. Tonight, the orchestra would be playing from the first box instead of the pit. Nik said he wanted nothing in between the Emperor and Cilka. Laszlo ran a hand over his pocket, feeling the pistol before he entered the orchestra's box.

Nestled in the gilded chair of the front row of their balcony box, Laszlo observed the scene. Nik had extended the stage’s apron to allow for the Roman columns of the grandiose garden set. A floral screen covered the stage, crystal chandelier casting glints of color.

Directly to Laszlo’s left, wide open and without obstruction, was the Emperor’s box. And Franz Josef himself sat in full dress uniform, monocle glimmering, white mutton chops trimmed, and gloved hands clasping his wife’s.

The curtain raised and Nik stepped center stage. He began to speak but he was too far for Laszlo to read his lips. The conductor signaled the trumpet players who held up their horns and puffed out their cheeks. The Emperor and Empress stood and waved to the clapping audience.

When Nik retreated off stage, the spotlight remained where he had stood. The curtain peeled back to reveal a garden pond beneath a full moon. Cilka reclined in the water combing her silver hair, like Diana at her bath. Her damp, gossamer gown glistened in the gaslight. Laszlo grasped his violin, breath quickening. This would be over soon.

A sharp rap broke his thoughts. It was the conductor’s baton on the music stand. He then brought his baton up in a smooth swoop and Laszlo drew his bow across the strings. The deep crimson notes of his own aria vibrated nostalgia in his fingertips. Laszlo smiled imagining how Nik must be reacting backstage to the change in song.

Cilka rose from her pool and crossed the stage, eyes fixed on Franz Josef, water shimmering between her pale, webbed toes. Holding her arms wide as if to beckon sailors into the Danube, she began to sing.

As the first notes left Cilka's lips, Laszlo watched the audience's faces, each transfixed, eyes wide in awe. Even the Emperor smiled. Laszlo's heart quickened, excited at his own rebellion. Surely, Nik had realized by now the song was not his. Surely, he realized no one, not even the Emperor, was being affected by her voice. He must have realized what this aria truly meant.

Now was Laszlo's chance to act. He let the violin slip from his shoulder as he scanned stage left. In the darkness, a wisp of smoke snaked from behind the curtain. Nik wouldn’t be too far backstage. He was coming. Laszlo had to strike now.

Laszlo slid his hand under his jacket and removed the pistol. He steadied his gun on the balcony, keeping his back to the orchestra. Nik, ran onto the stage, waving for the orchestra to stop playing. Confusion stirred the crowd. Many even stood. Including the Emperor. This was Laszlo's chance.

Laszlo squeezed the trigger. People screamed. Guards raised their muskets. All eyes shot to the Emperor.

It was Nik's body, however, that fell. Crumpling to the stage, he collapsed into a puddle of seeping blood.

The opera-goers faces contorted in horror. The Emperor himself shouted something, he just stood but Laszlo could not read his lips. The orchestra’s rhythms had stopped. Laszlo, however, stood motionless, smiling.

I hope you suffer, my brother, Laszlo thought. I hope you feel the pain you wished to inflict upon my Cilka .

Laszlo leaned forward against the oak banister, his smile widening.

Nothing is more important than her.

Cilka's wide eyes looked up from Nik's body. They narrowed and lifted toward Laszlo. Lips curling into a frown, she knew he had not taken out the filter. She knew that all of this was part of Laszlo's plan. With a pain-filled breath, she clenched the edges of the filter and unleashed a deathly wail.

The oak banister vibrated with her wrath. Her eyes darkened, blazing with ethereal fire. Laszlo, gazed to her, transfixed.

And then she began to sing.

The vibrations were slow at first, like a waltz, but then they grew faster. His vision blurred, dizziness flooding his mind. Yet Laszlo could not tear his eyes from her. Her pure, crystalline voice infected him. He felt her song in the floors, in the chairs, in the very fabric of his box. The height of her aria was like a crystal harp string. The depths of her melancholy were waves clawing a rocky shore.

Intoxicated, Laszlo swayed and as he gripped the railing, he heaved himself onto it. His siren called. We'll be free, together. His fingers, sweaty, slipped and over he tumbled.

A pain surged through Laszlo like a hot blade. He lay still on the stage’s apron. Cilka released the wall and stood over him, her hair raining droplets upon him. She held his face in her clammy webbed hands, "Freedom means only one thing. And now we both won’t ever have it."

Laszlo looked past his brother's corpse at Cilka's shape disappear behind the floral curtain. As his blood mixed with Nik's, he reached for her, crying out, pronouncing her name as loudly as he could perceive. She didn’t look back as his last breath left him.


© 2013 Samantha Kymmell-Harvey

Samantha Kymmell-Harvey is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Her stories can be found in Lacuna Journal of Historical Fiction, Fantastique Unfettered, and Underneath the Juniper Tree magazines. Samantha lives in Baltimore with her husband and two cats. You can see what she's up to on her blog: or on twitter as @skymmellharvey.