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Ida In The Labyrinth

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Ida has done a terrible thing. She knows it, even if she cannot remember exactly what it was. She climbs, climbs, climbs to the top of the tower and yes - there on the floor is a tiled lotus symbol.

She takes off her hat. A shape rises out of it, perfect and symmetrical, spinning and spinning as it hangs in the air. Ida’s chest aches as she watches it - with relief, with longing, with awe. She is glad to be rid of it even as she wants to snatch it back and keep it forever.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

She must not keep the shapes forever. She know that, even as she does not know how she knows it.

The mists fade from her eyes. She is standing in a vast garden, water-circled and airy. She remembers -

- dancing, laughing, skipping along the edge of a pool with a fountain. She is with someone, several someones, and she turns to look back at them -

Ida turns, and the watery garden shifts, and she is standing in a shadowy courtyard. She does not see a lotus tile, but she knows she must go on until she does.

She walks to the end of the pathway, and turns, and finds herself in a red-stone grotto with stairs going down, down, down.

Ida begins to climb.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

She tried, once, to pause on a balcony and look inside the hat. Maybe if she could just hold the shapes, she could remember. Maybe if she held them, it would be easier to give them away. Maybe if she held them, she could keep them forever.

There is nothing in her hat, until she reaches a lotus tile and then there is. Sometimes Ida wants to cry but she never does.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ida rounds a corner and finds the Totem. She is not certain what she feels when she sees the Totem, not like when she sees the crows (guilt) and the strange shadowy figure with the onion hat (more guilt, plus annoyance).

The Totem is… nice. She thinks she likes it. It is certainly useful, and seems friendly. The crows shriek at her and the figure with the onion hat says confusing, condescending things. The Totem simply is.

The Totem sinks into the water, and Ida realises she does like it after all, because she is afraid without it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sometimes Ida thinks that if she can just move the monuments correctly, if she can shift a walkway there and nudge a stairway there that suddenly everything will make sense again, as if her memory is a building to be put back together.

Sometimes she almost thinks it will work. She will walk through a doorway and end up on another structure and for just a second, as she passes through, she thinks oh of course -

But then she’s through to the other side, and it’s gone again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Totem is back. Ida is pleased. She thinks the Totem might be glad to see her too, but it’s hard to say.

She wonders where it comes from, and how it gets back to her each time.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The crows upset her. Sometimes they are useful, holding down buttons or triggering the ancient stone machinery. Mostly they scream at her.

Ida is fairly certain they are right to scream at her, and it’s frustrating not to know why.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The lotus tile is on the ceiling and Ida doesn’t know how to get to it.

She paces around the walkways on the floor, looking for something that will tell her what to do. There is no Totem. There are no buttons or dials. No crow people shrieking at her.

She paces from one side to the other. The door she came in through is shut and will not open.

Ida paces to another corner and then she sees it - a curve in the floor, perfectly positioned to take her onto the wall, and once she’s on the wall there is probably one to take her to the ceiling and the lotus tile.

Ida walks, and ignores the voice inside her saying buildings don’t work this way.

Useless voice.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Her surroundings are always beautiful. Sometimes she wonders about the people who built these places. Where did they go? Why would they leave?

How did they create these wonders?

She can see the machinery that drives the buildings - gears and dials and elevators and waterways - and it makes sense to her that this wheel will turn this building and then she will be able to walk across the balcony and find the lotus tile.

But it is strange to her at the same time. If it makes so much sense, why can’t she see the path immediately? Why must she walk and turn and manipulate her surroundings and run into dead end after dead end until suddenly the way is in front of her, as obvious as if it had been sitting there in wait the entire time?

She does not ask. The Totem does not speak and the crows only shriek and the being in the onion hat would only be frustrating.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The crows seem content, but also angry. It makes sense to Ida, but it does not make sense that it does make sense.

Sometimes her thoughts are harder to navigate than the strange buildings.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ida does not remember how many shapes she has returned. She does not know how many are left. But every time she starts to feel tired and frustrated she passes a crow person and some part of her brain that lies undiscovered (unremembered? Perhaps) says this is why.

And she keeps going.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There used to be so much color. She remembers that sometimes. And she had a different hat, one with many points on it instead of one. It was significant somehow.

Perhaps one day she will find a lotus tile and that will be the shape that comes out of her hat, and she’ll remember why it’s important.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Why is there no furniture? Did the people here not sleep, or eat?

Ida does not sleep. Or eat.

Once there were banquets. Whatever those are.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Totem comes back. It helps her ride an elevator up to a tower but it cannot fit on the gondola afterwards. Ida continues on alone.

Two towers later, the Totem is back. Ida is glad even as her mind says illogical.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It is nice to have a friend. Sometimes the beauty and the crow people make her feel so lonely. The Totem is bright and cheerful and she has no idea why it exists but she is grateful for it. It helps her and there is no feeling afterwards of another thing I have taken like there is with the crow people.

Ida does not know what she has taken from the crow people. They are not like the being in the onion hat, so the shapes do not belong to them. Ida carries nothing else with her. She cannot return whatever it is she has taken from them, and every time she manipulates one of them into holding down a button for her or moving a walkway into the right place for her to get to a button herself she feels… bad.

There are no answers, so Ida keeps going.

There is always another building. There is always another shape.

Sometimes there is also the Totem, and that is nice.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Once there was a princess who wanted. She wanted a pleasant life. She wanted beauty. She wanted to own.

Once there was a princess who gave. She gave herself, and she gave the beauty she had taken.

Once there was a princess who found the last lotus tile, and gave back the last shape, and watched with an aching kind of awe as the crow people became brilliant with color and flew up, up, up into the sky, crying aloud with joy and relief.

And Ida sees the many-pointed hat (crown), and remembers why.