The Tower. Short Story.

This has been an interesting week so far, as some of you are probably aware, I got my second ever review, which was exciting, I was compared to Edgar Allen Poe which is, in my opinion, extremely high praise so I was extremely pleased with that.

Then, on Monday, I chased a bird around the garden with my sister. It had a tag on it’s leg and couldn’t fly, we were not sure if it was a pet or injured, it didn’t seem to have a broken wing or anything and it had fairly bright plumage, so we captured it (my sister grabbed it with her hands, she’s diseased now, so we don’t go near her, but I digress) and we brought it to the vets.

We were told that another bird had been brought in a while ago, also tagged, so they were unsure if someone was capturing birds and breeding them or even just tagging them, but they had a guy who took in the last bird and he might take this one. My sister has said that if they can’t find a home for it, she will take it. Interesting way to get a pet. We were talking about it on the way to the vets, just bringing it into a pet shop, in a plastic basin, covered with a towel, and asking what kind of cage we would need. Que them ringing the SPCA while telling us they have the perfect cage in the back, but it will take about twenty minutes to bring it out.

Anyway, enough rambling, on with the show!

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The Tower

She climbed the stairs slowly, not wanting to be out of breath, though she could easily rest at the top.
She had broken through the chain, breaking it easily. There was a large ‘KEEP OUT’ sign which she ignored, though before she would have been extremely nervous, to the point of almost shaking.

She was wearing a long, flowing dress, her favourite, with a pair of high heels. A necklace adorned her neck, its pendant covered in jewels which flashed and sparkled in the light, drawing attention to the hollow of her neck. Her eyes were equally decorated, earrings dangled and bounced, teardrop shaped jewels hung suspended by clever twists of wire, making them seem to almost float after her. Her wrists were circled by thick, jewel encrusted bracelets which jangled as she moved.

It was quite a long way to that top, so she kept her steady pace. She could sit if she desired but the stairs looked filthy. She had carefully applied makeup after cleaning away the tears. It seemed a little odd doing it, but she wanted to look her best. She had never really felt attractive in life and she hoped, in death, she would gain some secret beauty that had been previously denied.

With each step she thought of what had drawn her here, how as a child she would look up at the tower in awe and imaging all the adventures going on inside as the knight rescued the princess, slaying the evil dragon, troll or sorcerer, all to win her hand and together, they would marry and enjoy the rest of their lives. She imagined the lone witch, looking down at them all in disdain, cursing them in ancient languages with a raspy, seldom used voice, dumping disgusting ingredients into her boiling, bubbling pot. She thought of her own prince and how happily ever after was quickly and decidedly replaced when she was. He was gone, off with some unknown tart. He had a child with her, the mystery woman. A child. Something fate had never deemed her worthy to carry.

She was alone in the world. No prince would touch her again, not after she had been cast aside, like so many pieces of ephemera. Who would want her? They probably all talked about her behind her back, behind those sympathetic looks and clucks they were secretly laughing. Gleeful that it was her downfall and not theirs. Well, they wanted to talk about her, so she would give them something interesting to talk about. She would live on in legend, she would be loved.

Her breath came in angry gasps and her cheeks were flushed, she pushed the thoughts away, trying to calm herself. It would do no good to dwell on it all now. She wanted to be happy, at peace. Her calves had started to burn, a deep ache steadily throbbing with each step. She could do it, make it to the top. She had to.

She stood atop the tower for a few moments, steeling her resolve, she took a few deep breaths of the cool night air. Her chest no longer heaving from the effort. She stepped closer to the window and carefully stood on the ledge. She didn’t know if it would support her weight, it was old, but that didn’t matter now. She looked down at the ground, so far below, after all, it looked a lot higher from where she stood. She took a deep breath, then slowly, as if in a dream, she stepped forward into empty air and silently, she plummeted to the ground. The clouds covering the moon moved aside briefly, illuminating her white dress, causing her to shine like a falling star momentarily, before the earth, as though enamoured with her beauty, rushed up to meet her.

There was a meaty thud and a loud crack when she landed, her last sight was the ground rushing towards her and, as she turned in the air, the sky, covered in a million stars, spectators that came just to see her die. Just before she struck the ground she smiled faintly. They had come to see her off, she was loved.

She looked serene, lying there. The fall should have smashed her body to bits, but, by chance, it had preserved her in her dress. She had gained what she wanted, what she needed. In death she was indeed beautiful. Her skin unnaturally pale, the diamonds shining brilliantly.

Bugs, with no knowledge of petty human desires or thoughts, trundled across her body, unaware of the sacrilege they were committing, simply happy that they had a meal before them. Rain fell from the grey sky above her, falling onto her upturned face, dripping into her milky eyes until they overfilled and spilled down her cheeks, like the tears she would never cry. Her dress becoming filmy and obscene as it plastered against her cold skin. Her underwear painfully obvious to anyone who would see, but no one did.

She would lie, alone but for the sun and moon, the stars and the bugs who all came to her final feast. She would lie like this, host to a perverted dinner party for three days until a group of teenagers broke into the grounds, on a dare and instead, stumbled across her body.

At first they thought that maybe she was sleeping or passed out. Then they saw the paleness of her skin, the bugs moving to and fro, they could smell the scent of putrefaction and together, they would run. Not telling a soul of what they saw until one, in a fit of screams woke from a nightmare and told his parents.

In death she was more famous than she had ever been in life, everyone for miles around and beyond knew her name, it hung on their lips, dripping in gossip and a hint of distain. Floating on cigarette coated breath, spoken over coffee and whispered over back walls. Tales in the playground were rife, turning those who found the body into minor celebrities in their own right.

In death they all knew her and she was beautiful. Buried, as she had hoped with her jewels, lonely protectors guarding her earthly body against diminishing beauty. When her body was gone and rotten, when there was nothing left, they would still shine, bright and proud, at the people who gazed upon them.

They stayed with her for years, slowly sinking downwards as the supporting flesh rotted and was consumed until finally, they saw light again. The flashlight of grave robbers. Hastily grabbed, their protests unheeded, they were shoved into a bag and she was quickly covered again. Finally alone, stripped of her refinement, her body would rot, unattended, unloved and, should anyone open her coffin again, they would no longer see the beauty of the jewels and wonder what gorgeous woman was given them and by who, perhaps by a suitor or as a dowry. Instead, they would see her as she truly was.

A woman, unloved and alone.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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