The Palace, In Shadow
Ida stands on the palace’s tallest tower cast in crisp shadow over the desert. A bone wind blows her dress. A bird shrieks.
Turn left, and the palace unfolds: towers into paths, birds into bridge-weights.
Turn right: a precipice, a sea of bones, clack-crash against the pink cliffs and vertebrae-froth on the green rocks and cut slick orange with fish that feast on the last marrow. Ida thinks of flight.
The bone wind whispers On my world, we walk on grass and the paths do not bend beneath us and we turn left and Ida turns left.
The Column, Adrift
“Forgiveness is not to be asked for by the one who defied our geometries.”
A chime sounds in the darkness beyond the old woman’s column and a door opens and Ida climbs the stairs.
The Tower, Lost
Do you remember the stars that we saw from the ground and we knew, if we looked at them from a different angle, we could draw a line to a fixed star?
Do you remember the feel of my lips on your leg?
The scale wind curls around her ankles like the memory of seaweed. Ida walks. The path twists and Ida’s cheek brushes the lake – a water lake, a remnant of a royal paradise, a wall of koi skulls stacked six deep – and there are no birds, at least. No reprimands shrieked at her from walls and recesses, no blocked paths. Traitor! Traitor! Ida cannot say anything to them. The path turns into a door. It slams shut and the scale wind patters against it. Do you remember? Then silence.
A Friend, Where The Trees Are As Ancient As Stars
Ida cannot remember.
Totem slides along a stone-smooth path between tree stumps that gleam in the sun’s light. Each stump is a map of its own past: here, the line-crease of an ancient swamp. Totem stops and Ida steps onto a path like a branch, but it is stone. Here, the bark of an era where people cut every tree and built geometries of wood. Totem’s eye looks up at her. Ida points the way.
Didn’t Totem shatter into pieces? No. Wait. Didn’t Ida reassemble Totem in a geometry of ice? No. Wait. Totem is beside Ida’s feet again and she steps onto the reassuring yellow surface: as hard as stone, yet warm.
Ida cannot remember where she first met Totem. Where Totem fell – will fall? Where she reassembled – will reassemble?
Memory is like a bird. Traitor! Traitor! The word will never change. The memory repeats – will always repeat. Totem will fall, she will reassemble, geometries will turn under her feet, birds will shriek, the old woman will speak, the fossil wind will–
The Column, Unyielding
“What is atonement? Sins are as old and unfading as our geometries.”
A chime sounds in the darkness beyond the old woman’s column and a door opens and Ida crosses the bridge.
The Tower, Found
The green sky is bisected by a white line from horizon to zenith. Ida lifts her hat and a map hovers over the geometry’s end. A bridge leads away.
Do you remember how we constructed its map together, with decades-old chicory strips? My hands still smell of it.
The charcoal wind stains Ida’s dress.
Do you remember how we set it in the barren earth quarry and watched it grow?
The bridge twists expectantly.
The geometry is old. Cracks fill its walls, handhold-large, and Ida climbs down them to the steppe lands. Her legs are stair-strong but her arms shake. Birds shriek. Traitor! The charcoal wind whispers, Do you remember? We had to kick them aside. Ida keeps climbing until her feet touch the burnt remnants of grasslands. No fires feature in her memories, no grass and tulips and animals caught ablaze, only the sand that drifts into the geometries and, now, crunches and snaps with every step she takes towards the tower.
The Palisade, Undone
Ida follows the curve of an archway reflected on a charcoal-stained lake. The sun is an old pearl in the geometry’s heart. It shivers in the stellar wind. On my world, the sun is young and yellow-cheeked. Ida thinks of falling. The lake’s depth is uncertain and its inhabitants unknown: no bones break the surface, no quick lines of the world’s last predators slice its dark body. On my world, the foxes are thick with fur and hunt only the mice, not jaw-shards or grave-rubble, and we open doors. Ida opens a door in a reflected wall and steps inside. Her fingertips are lake-black.
The Column, Afraid
“Foolish princess, your memory is a maze with no entrance or exit.”
A chime sounds in the darkness beyond the old woman’s column and a door opens and Ida possesses a curious certainty, knowing: this is only the second time she has followed this path.
A Friend, Where The Tower Is A Monument Too New For This World
The tower requires two to operate.
Do you Ida remembers remember standing inside the tower on a platform of precision geometry how I stood opposite you on a platform we grew from our chicory map and stepping how I stepped platform to platform to– platform–
Totem slides onto the other platform.
They rise together and no one falls how I watched you fall and Ida remembers a promise: the stars are fixed and the tower’s map is safe as long as one princess reaches a world to keep it how I promised to wait and a portion of eternity is not very long, after all.
No one falls.
The Path, Mapped
The path is a constellation of exit – and Ida, whose feet are bone-cut and stone-cold and charcoal-black and so sore, walks beside Totem, who she broke a hundred times and reassembled a hundred times, and the wind is her apologies, unending.
Budo, At Last
This is what I learnt: that our sins are unending, that our atonement is unceasing, that forgiveness is unattainable. We destroyed our world. Pulled up a planet to put together our maps. We did this, Ida. We will live eternity knowing this. But why hate ourselves as we hated our world? We do not need to walk the bones of our memories every day, every hour, every step.
Budo holds out her hands and Ida steps onto a path of fresh sage and kisses her. Totem slides away, on its own path. Ida pulls at Budo’s hair and the two princesses stop walking.