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Girl in the Tower

by HelenKlus 

Posted: 03 September 2009
Word Count: 1420
Summary: There is no art or science in the tower, no freedom of movement or speech. From her office window Martha can look out upon the icy planes but she knows that she will never leave. Martha is a criminal and knows all sorts of things she is not supposed to...

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Chapter 1
The little girl watched as the shadow of dusk swept over the forest. The trees were grass and she was a giant, she could not see below their murky surface. Light spilt through the blinds, illuminating dust which danced in front of the windows. She watched single lit particles spin until the light went out inside of them. She liked to disturb things and watch them fly, illuminating the room like tiny stars in a contained universe. It was the only beautiful thing in a building that had the personality of an office.

The room was dominated by a large blank screen. It sat at the head of a long table where her meals rose up in china plates that were always stuck to the surface, forcing her to stay. When she was learning, it glowed with texture, colours and sounds. She followed its instructions and it produced stern criticism and rewards. She had learnt what to do long ago. There were internal commands and there were external ones. She had learnt to eat everything as soon as it was given to her. Stored food could disappear when she was not looking and she never knew for certain if she would get her next meal. She knew that there were things she could do to stop the hunger but she had not always known what.

She had learnt to talk with dogs barking until she could pronounce their names, wagging their tails and nuzzling into her hands as she put them through the monitor. But most of her lessons were difficult and tedious. For five days in a row it made her watch films and then it told her, in its automated voice, to write a report which she would be graded on. Good grades were always rewarded. After these five days were over, there would be two days where the tasks were fun. She got to bake cookies, make prints out of potatoes or play with toys and games that always seemed bigger and better than the ones she could keep.

Sometimes it let her choose what to look at. She had watched as things spiralled inside of black holes. She had seen giant squid bring down sharks and stroked the wet noses of dolphins as they came to the surface of a warm ocean. She had seen stars explode from a hundred feet away and the screen had burnt her hands.

Sometimes it scared her. Spiders had crawled out and run across the table, making her edgy for days. Some creatures had revolted her skin, making it itchy and sore. Some had made her jump. There were others that she couldnít touch. An unbreakable window had protected the room as things spat at her or teeth or claws grazed at the inside of the screen. But she came to appreciate whatever it gave her. It was only turned on for seven hours a day and the rest of the time she was on her own.

The room that she slept in was small and plain. It contained only a single bed and a place to store her clothes. There was no door to separate the two rooms and sometimes at night she caught the screen facing her bed as a thin line of light crawled over her face. She had only ever seen people from a distance, through the screen, but sometimes she heard strange noises at night. Once she had seen glimmers of a manís face in her dreams and was sure he heard her thinking about him. Sometimes things would appear by her bed in the morning. Objects that echoed things she had dreamt about, a red duffel coat, a silent music box, a toy train made of wood. She never knew why they appeared. They were always part of stray, unconstructed thoughts. She never got anything she asked for.

She got on with life as if this were normal because that was all she could do. She enjoyed her own company and her imagination held her to reality. She put up with the days because she could look forward to the nights when she lay in the dark and pretended she was somewhere else. As her eyelids fought for control she would fall to sleep wrapped in thoughts of wondering girls and imaginary heroines. But then there were times when it all became too much and she had broken down without knowing why.

She had explored her surroundings as soon as she was able. There was a small hole in the wall behind the screen which led to another small grey room. On one side were the closed doors of a lift which never came, on the other was something which intrigued her even more. She walked though clear doors, out onto an open staircase. It wound down in a long spiral. The circumference got ever smaller and after twenty floors it came to an end. The stairs only went two thirds of the way down. She had dropped pieces of cutlery and timed the difference. She had looked down with morbid curiosity but the open space between the steps scared her and after a short while she had stopped going back.

There were other places to explore. Eventually, she had managed to prise the lift doors open and found a smaller case of stairs that went straight up to the roof. There were no boundaries at the edge just as there was nothing to block her fall below. It was cold but there was hardly any wind and she had felt a strong urge to look down. Too scared to stand, she crawled along the floor on her belly and lay near the edge. Sharp toothed branches curled over, wrapped in orchids and vines. Her hands followed them to the outside of the vertical walls and she glanced over. For a few moments she had held it together long enough to really look but then she thought of falling. She imagined how high the trees must be. How she would crash into their branches as she fell, desperately grasping at anything to stay alive. She backed away and turned around, staying on her belly until she could slide back through the opening and down the stairs.

She had gone back that night and lay in the middle to watch the stars rise. At first appearing out of the black only when she looked deeply into it, then soon, one by one, they snuck out of the corner of her vision and into the main focus of the sky. A band of dust stretched out across the horizon and she knew she was looking into the plane of the galaxy. She looked up longingly. The stars didnít seem any closer than they did through the windows but she felt safer knowing they were looking back. Maybe they would be able to protect her now they knew she was down there.

She felt a little sick inside when she looked out of the window the next day, but it still intrigued her and dark vines often held her in her dreams. She had never been able to forget that feeling of freedom, of knowing that, had she wanted to, she could have jumped. She looked to the forest and to the sky and knew there was more than what was available to her here. She kept going by promising herself that one day she would escape, and if she didnít, well she would be very unlikely to survive the fall.

Then everything changed. The dead screen suddenly came to life with a roar of static that made her jump from her bed. By the time she was in the room it was showing clips of people, voices rung out and then she saw a picture of her own face. The abrupt disruption to routine scared her but there was a surrealism to it all which kept her captivated. With another hiss of static the screen flicked off. It came on again sporadically throughout the evening and she was afraid to move away all night.

She arose with the alarm the next day and ate her breakfast as normal. Then she left the table, went to her room and tied the bed sheet around her waist. She climbed through the ripped bolster wood and began to walk down the spiral stairs. When she got to the bottom she broke the window and, without looking down beyond the concrete wall, she lowered herself over the edge.

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