Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Fiction

The woman awoke.

For some moments she lay silent and motionless, the only sign of life her chest's slow motion up and down, the only sign of wakefulness her unlidded eyes. Then she began to speak.

"I cannot recall my name," she said. "Further, I cannot recall my location; my occupation; or indeed any part of my past. Thus my present circumstances seem rather extraordinary to me, though and because I cannot recall any other circumstances with which to contrast them; therefore I shall vocalize my thoughts henceforth, as there are none others visibly present to violate my modesty or be offended by my speech, and the focus provided by exterior vocalization will aid me in comprehending my current state. So: I will begin by standing."

"It is accomplished - though with some difficulty. First I will describe my surroundings. I lay abed a moment ago; that bed being not overly large, nor made for luxury, nonetheless it seems to have provided me a good night's sleep. (I assume here that it was night in which I slept.) The room in which the bed, and I, stand, is perhaps twenty feet in diameter; I say diameter because it is circular, not rectilinear, rather a peculiar state for a room. Even more peculiarly, its walls are of cobbled-stone, and quite thick stone at that; I hypothesize from that latter fact, as well as from the stairway rising upwards along the far wall, that this is the base of some larger structure, perhaps a tower of some kind. Besides the stairway, the only entrance or exit is a large, wooden door to my right, presently barred. The room is otherwise entirely featureless."

"Before I take any action, I ought to examine my own possessions. I am clothed in a white muslin dress, adorned with pink flounces, and seemingly augmented in structure with - ah - bone? It is exceedingly uncomfortable to wear, in addition to accounting for my previous difficulty in rising from bed; I would gladly discard it, but I see no other clothes with which to replace it, and its remarkable complexity as a garment makes me uncertain that I could remove it if I tried. It has no pockets or other compartments in which useful items might be concealed. Nonetheless, I have learned something from this examination; it seems likely that this is not my customary mode of dress, both from the discomfort and the awkward unfamiliarity I feel with it. I will note this for later; but for the moment I will turn my gaze elsewhere."

"There is no food down here; I must therefore leave it, sooner or later, and I shall choose sooner rather than later. It appears that my course of action is best put to either ascending the stairs or opening the door. The door being closer, and requiring less effort besides, I shall attempt that first. It is barred, but that is a problem easily dispatched; now, I will open it (what a dreadful creak!) and behold -"

A long pause followed, accompanied with some element of wind.

"I will attempt to summarize," she began again. "Before me is a rather spectacular expanse of snow-covered mountains, some of them piercing the clouds themselves. This would be of less concern to me were it not that I, myself, appear to be on such a mountain, and, even further, that there is no solid ground beyond the door-frame until at least two hundred feet below."

"This renders the door somewhat unuseful as an exit, of any but the most final sort."

"Still, I previously surmised that I resided within a tower, and I can - should I squint - see a number of similar-looking towers on distant peaks. (Ah - similar to each other, that is.) It is hard to see much of them, but it does much to support my previous hypothesis - the existence of some towers implying the possibility of more - and, further, gives me one more interesting piece of information. Upon the top of the closest tower, I can see a sort of a curious glitter - like light reflecting from stained glass, or a jewel. Merely decorative? And does my own tower share this feature? Seeing nothing more to investigate from my present location - and seeing a rather real risk of toppling to my death at any moment - I shall close this door, and ascend."

"I now find myself in a very small library. Bookshelves line the walls, though there is no chair or reading-table - did they expect the tower's occupant to read upon their bed? Judging by the books' titles, they appear to be largely composed of histories and biographies - intended for the entertainment of the tower's occupant, perhaps. Most of them are untouched. There may be some meaning hidden within these books - but they are unlikely to go anywhere. I will move further upwards, for the moment."

"Another library-room, much the same as the last. More histories, biographies, polemics, almanacs, self-help books."

"Another library."

"Another."

"A fourth - and several books appear to be missing from the shelves of this one."

"And now a long, winding stair, curling around the solid core of the tower. Having nothing else to remark upon, I will note this: though there are no windows anywhere that I have seen thus far, there is nonetheless light, smoothly emanating from the ceiling, walls, and floor, casting no shadows. This seems familiar to me, so I hardly know why I remark upon it, but - "

"Ah. Here I am, in some sort of dining room. Here is a table, chairs, and a number of books, presumably taken from the library below. There is silverware, plates, and against the wall, some number of cabinets - I will examine them now. This one is empty - and this -and this. They contain only empty boxes and wrappers, presumably for food. Whoever lived here has entirely exhausted their food supply - unless there is some concealed somewhere else, which is possible, but not likely. No decorations upon the walls, nothing else of note - save that which lies upon the table."

"The books that I mentioned lie alternately open and closed. There is a pile of closed books on one corner of the table - largely biographies and histories, I think, seemingly written on the sauciest subjects. I'll flip through this one - ah! Yes, I would call that saucy. The other books, scattered about the table, fall into another category - one which I hadn't noticed in the libraries below, perhaps because all were taken here. Law - the law of a specific nation, the New Flemish, if I'm reading this correctly. The passages the books are open to vary in particulars, but they all seem to cover one specific topic: the status of fiction in New Flemish law, and the punishment for its creation."

"I'll skim through them. It appears that the New Flemish have a tremendous distaste for fiction - a contempt - a hatred. They consider it degenerate, foul, inhuman. Minor fictions, such as might be used to save social face, are punished by a public denunciation. Larger fictions are subject to corporal punishment - even, ah, especially among juveniles! And in the most severe cases - when someone is caught creating, or worse, peddling entire compendiums of fiction - the punishment is..."

"...let me read this."

"Offenders of the worst sort are exiled, imprisoned within remote towers built especially for the purpose. Clothes are provided for them; their old clothes are impounded, so they can smuggle nothing in. They are given enough food for two weeks, a supply of books with which to occupy themselves during that time, and a small vial containing a very specific chemical, designed to remove all long-term memory. They may drink the contents of the vial within two weeks, thereby destroying their memory and rendering themselves innocent of the crime they committed. In this case, transport will be provided back to New Fleming, where they may make a new life for themselves. If they do not drink from the vial, no transport will be provided, and they have a choice of deaths: the slow death of starvation, or the swift death provided by the doorway on the bottom floor."

"I had not noticed before. On the floor of this room, a few feet to my left, is an empty glass vial."

"So - one last set of stairs. And - yes - above me is a great stained glass ceiling, displaying a magnificent mosaic of Lord Flemish's face. There's a loud noise, and it's - it's opening -"

"I apologize for the interruption," a voice boomed from above, "but I wished to congratulate you on your wise choice. Your past self's wise choice, of course! We have been listening through the tower's walls, and we are all very impressed at your deductions. Most of those imprisoned here must be explicitly informed of what transpired to them, but you figured it all out yourself!"

"You should see a helicopter landing before you now. It will take you back to New Fleming, at which point you will be free to do whatever you wish. We all wish you the best of luck, and suggest that - should you wish to write up the story of your deductions this morning (being certain not to slip into the error that brought you here, of course!) - it would be very apt for publishing in one of our many magazines!"

"Thank you!" came the reply, and, its passenger now onboard, the helicopter rose ever-swifter into the sky. Behind it, the stained-glass dome closed, and the silence reigned once more within the tower, empty and unoccupied until maintenance staff came to prepare it for its next occupant.

Its previous occupant would be well advised to leave New Fleming before that time came; for on the center of the table in the dining room, surrounded by books on New Flemish Law, lay the vial; unopened.

3 comments:

Calvacadeofcats said...

there are several resons to believe thate this did not actually hepeon. I will go into detaile about at least 5 of them. First off, the main character cannot possibley .....gurgle cough ........gasp aaaaaaaaaaagh ..............................................................

Calvacadeofcats said...

i regerete to inform you that the esteamed authrur of the last commont has died on a posein

Calvacadeofcats said...

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