The Assassins of Purpleopolis
A short story.
In Purpleopolis, the rivers flow like blackberry wine, across the cracked orchid-toned earth, and the sun sets behind chalky wisteria walls. Empress Violetta observes the world below the turrets of her castle, where the plum-dark sky becomes one with the rooftops of her empire. She analyses the details of her carefully curated queendom, indigo eyes lingering on the blurry spectrum of the colour of her mind. There are days when her skin, too, takes on a tinge of lilac, as though the ink that tainted every brick and road of her city had seeped into her flesh, and imbued her with its hue.
Purpleopolis is a walled city, each stone of its foundations inscribed with the magic of its maker. Empress Violetta sought to create a world where each citizen would see with her vision. The ultraviolet empire was always meant to be a utopia.
Empress Violetta was young beyond her years, her skin taut and smooth as though she had not existed for an eternity. Aubergine-coloured hair flowed in waves down to her hips, soft as silk. The weight of her universe rested loftily above the purple velvet robes that adorned her shoulders; it would have crushed her bones into an ashy dust if her resilience had not thwarted it. Empress Violetta conformed to the system she herself had created, in an effort to forget the days when half her mind was red and the other half was blue. Empress Violetta had knitted together the polarities of her existence so intricately that she forgot she had not always been whole.
As the purple sky finally faded to black, and lavender stars began to twinkle in its dark mass, Empress Violetta drew herself away from the window. She felt a chill in the air before she was aware of his presence. The dagger pierced her skin with a dull ache; Empress Violetta had long been numbed to the pain others inflicted on her. As she fell to the ground, her previous murders reverberated through her mind.
Empress Violetta was eight years old, and she felt the sting of needles sewing her skin together with witch’s threat. Measuring tape caught around her neck like a noose, and she choked on the prison of conformity. The witch wrote down numbers Violetta could not read, numbers that would tell the world what she was worth. Finally, the witch poured a bitter poison down Violetta’s throat. As the young empress took her final breath, she yanked the needle from the witch’s hand, and sewed the tape measure across the seam of her skin, the place where her blue half met her red. In her death, Violetta made herself whole. In her death, Empress Violetta was reborn.
The next time our purple empress was killed, her assassins sought safety in numbers. They swarmed on her as a herd of sheep, rams with brutal horns that tore her skin to shreds. Violetta lay in a heap of blood and bones upon the ground. As her attackers left her for dead, she clawed at the earth with her fingernails, digging runes into the ground to commemorate her short, pitiful, futile life. Violetta’s blood blossomed upon the parched earth, and the marks she had made with her nails shone with a violet light. Empress Violetta closed her eyes for what she believed would be the last time.
When death came to claim her, his legs shook with fear, confronted with the magnitude of the unlived life before him. He turned away, and let Violetta’s lifeforce fizzle out on its own.
This time, when Empress Violetta did not die, she chose to live, and thus, Purpleopolis was born. Violetta built walls to protect herself, and let those who passed her tests enter the empire. Purpleopolis became a land of safety, where rules and restrictions cut pain off before there was a chance for wounds to fester. Purpleopolis was a haven, and Empress Violetta swore to protect her people. She did not see the cockroach scuttle in, did not feel him enter her flesh. He scurried under her skin, draining her of her lifeforce. Empress Violetta lost herself then. She was a husk, a walking corpse; she was not dead yet, but she might as well have been. But even a clever cockroach could not kill the empress. Assassin number four injected her with a steady stream of venom, and there were times when even Violetta was convinced this was how she would die, but her resilience grew. One day she knew her death would never come from the hands of another creature. Empress Violetta would outlive them all.
As she lay paralysed on the floor, Empress Violetta looked up at the assassin that had stabbed her. This creature terrified her more than the witch or the sheep or the cockroach or the teeth of a snake. Beneath the black, monk-like cowl that obscured his head, Empress Violetta saw that the figure that stood before her was no more than a human man. He knelt to the ground, dagger in hand. She still could not see his face, but she felt the heat of his body radiate from his leg into her arm. The hooded assassin sliced open her wrist and squeezed the empress’s blood into a fountain pen, and began to inscribe a story upon his own skin. Her story.
Empress Violetta felt the life leave her body. She was his now, and the deep dark magic he stole from her was stronger than her immortality, stronger than willpower or resilience. It was the magic of her own blood, her own history. The magic she denied herself. Empress Violetta was empty, and the vessel of this strange man was almost full. In a desperate attempt to reclaim the hands of her own fate, Empress Violetta took the dagger and sliced into the man’s skin. His blood flowed blue upon her fingertips. As the assassin’s hood fell from his head, Empress Violetta looked with horror into her own indigo eyes, and watched as the blood that stemmed from her wrist lost the blue that made its purple hue, and stained her scarlet red.
The Assassins of Purpleopolis