Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In the crowded walks of the cold city, the cobblestones clacked with the hard falls of heavy horseshoes. Flecks of snow and soot intermingled in the air, as men in dark cloaks and boys in barefeet looked busy on the cold winter day. From high above them, she sat behind her walls of glass, looking down at their comings and goings. Her soft, cool, alabaster hand reached forth and brushed against the glass, as if afraid to ripple the surface. She sighed.

From her vantage point high in the highest room of the large house she could see where all roads and paths in the city wound, like many spools of thread knocked over by her cat and scattered and mixed on her floor. She had traced their ways with her fingers many times, alabaster on ice as she found out their endings. Yet still she simply sat and sighed.

Visitors would oft come to her house. Tall men with short minds and short men with long minds and plain men with dull minds. Callers who stood beneath her window and waved to her in her castle of glass. She often waved back, and might even grace a smile. But she never came down, never rose from her crimson seat or dared to pass the raven doors. She simple sat and smiled and waved to the callers.

Several tried to break her out. But her glass castle was precious to her and she would not let them touch it. No sooner had they touched the door, then the castle grew enormous wings of velvet midnight and rose into the blue heavens. Some of the callers would stay for a while, staring up at her flying castle. Some felt scorned and left to find other castles. Some planted their feet beneath her castle, and through time eventualy turned into trees. So she amassed a small forest beneath the flying castle, and a small army of scorned lovers, and a whole country of men who would gaze longingly at the sky from time to time.

Some said she had gained true power. She had risen from the ranks, to that of a princess or a goddess, swaying men and ruling their hearts, never letting them have what they desired. Others said that she was no princess, but a witch, whose enchanted castle was made to break the hearts and wills of these young men and keep them hoping in an empty vanity. I decided to pay her a visit.

I took my top hat and umbrella and walked briskly through the square. I reached the eratz staircase that had been built over time by lovers trying to reach her, but instead, I spread my own ebony wings and flew up to the door. There, hovering before the large archway, I notticed that the doorway had a handle, but no keyhole. Instead of touching the door, I levered the handle with my umbrella handle. It opened with a click. I stepped inside as the scent of attar of roses flooded over me. Within, the air grew frigid and cool, and the feeling that all the world was watching me nearly overcame me. Yet still I pressed on towards the ever winding staircase and its road to the highest room.

I ascended the staircase and found only one door, at first thought to be raven hued. But as I drew to open it, it moved and I saw that it was in fact two ravens, blinded in one eye each, with writhing bodies that slithered across the entrance to the room. I bid them good day, and they eyed me each with their one good eye, as if searching my soul. When I felt their probe, I immediatly told them. I was not there to woo the witch-princess. I had merely come for tea. They saw the truth, and the light that was there, hidden deep in my breast, and allowed me to pass.

Her chamber spread out large and warm, with deep grained mahogany bookcases serrounding the entire circular room. In the center, was a small stone wall, also in a circle, and from this well rose a giant tree, old and knotted but glowing with soft golden light. The oaks heavy roots had overflown the well and spread across the floors, eventually going up the sides of the circular walls like pillars. The wide branches spread across the endless roof, and gold glowing leaves shivered gently in the ethereal wind. Beyond the leaves I could barely catch a glimpse of the universe spreading forth in stars and galaxies and supernovae and comets. She sat on her crimson chair, looking out over the world.

I sat opposite her. We talked. She smiled. I asked questions. She gave secret answers. The dialogue went back and forth until finally I stood to go. She smiled sweetly but the room got colder. The light in my breast sprang forth and burned through the illusion. The tree and the well and the bookcases and the roots and the stars and the warm golden light were gone. All that remained was cold, frozen ice.

"Won't you stay and have tea with me? We can read some of the great works."

"Can't you see that the bookcases are gone? Do you think you can still fool me with your illusions?"

"What do you mean? They are still here. Just look around."

That was when I realized it. She was no princess. She was no witch. She was a prisoner. Gazing into her cool, sky eyes, I saw the pain of a distant hurt that had crept in and never left. She had hidden in her castle, but it was no castle, it was a prison. A cold, uncaring prison, who shut all others out, and kept her illusions alive inside.

"Will you come outside with me?" I asked.

"Lets read one of the ancient tomes."

"Will you come outside with me?"

"Lets sit and look at the tree!"

"Will you come outside with me?"

"I'm not sure if I can trust my heart with anyone again..."

"I don't want your heart. I just want you to stand up and move again. To walk past the ravens that guard the door, to walk down the staircase of ice and contempt. To break down the keyholeless door. And descend the eratze stairs outside."

"But... but... they are out there!"

"People are out there. But if you could see. Could see past the icey illusions, you'd realize that you've kept many prisoner in here with you as well."

The multitude of faces stretching out into eternity around me nodded in agreement. She began to look past me, almost in fear, as if seeing them, before meeting my gaze again. Her eyes looked hurt.

"I wi-" and then there was another knock on the door. A new caller had come.

A yewman in green stood at the window and gazed up at the glass castle. She turned her gaze to him and smiled. He smiled back. It was as if I was no longer there. I sighed, the light that burned brightly before fading. The hope was dying and I knew why. It could not live long in this castle of styfling darkness. So I spread my inky wings and broke past the ravens and flew from the castle to find the sun once more. And I said a prayer for the prisoner in the glass castle. She was trapped in her ways and her castle was on a road that led to nowhere. The thread had been cut long ago.

1 comment:

  1. jean, that was truly incredible! you have such a talent for short stories.

    i really love all the imagery... it is rich and deep and very meaningful.