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The Problem of Thorns

by Angela Slatter

Around the tower, a wall of thorns, in some places so thick she cannot make out what lies beyond. In a very few spots, she can see grey stone and ravens on an untamed lawn. The road she has taken ends abruptly at the prickly barrier. Left and right, the thorns have melded with the usual flora: she will find no path there. She reaches out to touch one of the branches, but misjudges and snags a finger on a long thorn.

She puts the digit in her mouth, sucks away the welling blood, tastes its metallic tang. The drop of blood remaining on the tip of the thorn gleams then begins to eat away the thorn bush like acid eats at metal. Soon, there is a wound in the wall, big enough for her to walk through. Behind her, the blood continues to erase the thorn bushes as if they never were.

Inside the tower, in a room at the very top of the stairs are the bones, the thread and the canvas of skin, waiting for her touch. On a roughened tabletop lie a quill, a needle and a bottle. At first, she thinks it filled with ink, but closer inspection shows a sluggish dark red: blood uncongealed after passing years. She twists the lid; it comes away with surprising ease. The scent of iron stains the air. She feels ill.

The quill is sharp. She picks it up, feels a tingle in her hand, and dips the nib into the blood-ink. She does not hesitate, sketches swiftly the face of the woman who inhabits her dreams. She knows without knowledge that this is her grandmother. The blood-ink soaks straight into the canvas of skin; it knows where it is to stay.

While she waits for the sketch to dry she picks about the tower, trying to find a trail, a story in the left-overs of a life. There is little enough and she realises the only truth here is that of the bones, for the bones remember everything.

She threads the fine silver needle with a long strand of tightly twined flax and black hair. As she stitches, the thread takes on the required colour: ebony black for hair, white as new snow for skin, red as a ripe apple for lips. She stitches and stitches, and wonders what will happen when she is finished.


I wonder too!

will you tell us? :)

Posted by: CM | December 8, 2008 4:38 AM

Maybe ... maybe not :-)

Posted by: Angela Slatter | December 16, 2008 4:49 AM

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