« Bargain | Main | The Toll »

On The Stairs, She Realises

by Alex Dally MacFarlane

Follow the pieces of me down -- yes, yes, bare-footed and leaving toe- and heel-marks behind you like a carpet -- follow my steps, let your hand slide down my rail. Don't stop. Don't climb, don't reclaim the things you left behind.

"It is a long way down," she said quietly, lingering on a step engraved with sirens. "Such a long way."

Had Suriyen known it would take this long? Had he told her? She could not remember -- but that was the point. The spreading gaps in her past made truth of the tales sung by the mountain-dwellers about their magical staircase.

She still remembered Suriyen, and that meant she had descended not nearly far enough.

You're a feast of stories, my pale-ankled lady. The scandals of a court are variations on motifs -- but oh, they entertain!

I will devour the reports your lover-spy shouldn't have told you, I will help you keep him safe.

Her legs and feet ached, but she continued down. Here the steps were painted yellow and slick with moisture that ran down the side of the mountain. One bore wedge-shaped markings, indecipherable.

She had been ordered to do this. Though she could not remember why, she knew there had been an order, a secret journey from her bedroom to the top of the mountain, a threat followed quickly by a promise.

"If I am ordered," she said to the stairs, "then I must obey."

They did not respond. Of course they could not; metal had no mouths. "What is it like to be so silenced?"

So full of your life -- I am gorged, pale-ankled lady, crammed with you.

Ahead of her lay grass and tall trees, a stream, and a man standing beside the water. A broad, tall man, scar-faced and smiling, who called out to her.

It took a moment for her memory-stripped mind to process the words. The stairs had left her language, at least. "But so much else is missing."

"Come on!" the man shouted. "You're almost done! Four more steps, darling, and we can be together again!"

"But why is so much gone?" Tears ran down her face. She could not remember the reason -- just that she felt so empty, stripped of things she had cherished, and it hurt.

"You had to do it, it was for your own good, oh Iya, no!"

Her legs hurt with each step that she climbed, leaving the man -- Suriyen, her lover -- behind, re-learning her self.

Will you leave me something? You were delicious before I ate too much.

"I will carve mouths into you, stairs," she panted, almost collapsing onto a step as long and wide as a table.

And I will speak.

Post a comment