For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt, “Tower.”
She thought the climb would be worse than the descent. Instead, the air buoyed her above the bracken, and her bare feet hardly touched the broken stone. The hem of her green skirt swept the dew-laden grasses, and she felt their kisses linger as she pushed open the door at the base of the tower. He had told her, Go within to find the key, yet she felt doubt.
Columns of white light split the black space around her, as Grace stepped beyond the threshold and heard the heavy thud of the door shutting her inside. She had cried for weeks until the ocean inside of her became an arid desert. There is life in the void, he had said before death took away his last breath, but you have to open to it.
The air inside the tower smelled of sulfur, as though someone had lit a fire inside to ward off the damp, but no flames remained. Grace tried her best to stay inside the columns of filtered light as she made her way to the altar in the center. A book lay open on a dais, its width greater on the right side than on the left. He hadn’t told her there would be a book.
There was no script on the pages, only a foreign matrix of symbols that Grace had never seen before. Yet, her cells stirred with energy as she gazed at the parchment. Triangles overlapped with more triangles bisected by circles, and in the center of it all there was a tiny crystalline stone glowing with a blue light. Grace has hardly aware of her hand reaching toward the stone, and before she could take stock of what she had done, the stone was inside of her mouth.
Grace felt heat pressing against her tongue. Swallow it, a voice that sounded like his filled her mind and her throat convulsed to bring the crystal into her belly. She felt the floor gave way beneath, but instead of pain, Grace felt bliss as she fell through time. In the black abyss surrounding her, visions of the past swirled by, and she watched without need as her body burned through its layers from within.
And then, suddenly, there was only light. Grace’s cells were no longer her own. They had become photons in a galaxy that knew no division. Individual thoughts become one harmonious stream of song, and in that instant that felt like eternity, there was nothing else.
Grace felt her own life return to her with a hiccup, opening her eyes to catch the blue stone in the palm of her hand. The inside of the tower was the same as she had left it, and Grace was surprised, although not disappointed, to feel the cool earthen floor once again beneath her feet. Before she turned toward the door, she looked again at the book opened upon the dais. Its weight, she noted, appeared to be unchanged in its distribution, but the spread pages were now blank. Impulsively, she lifted the page on the right and turned it over. It too was blank, and she knew the rest to follow it would be also.
The sigh that escaped her throat was not of despair, but of hope, as Grace glanced up toward the winding staircase she no longer felt a desire to climb. When the time was right, she knew she would see him again, and Grace pushed open the door, blinking to take in the brilliance of a sun that had parted the clouds.