"Are you scared?" I ask Dad over the phone.
"What do I have to be scared about?" he says. "We're locked in our rooms."
He's always been tough like that, stoic, but I wish I could see his face, hug ... [+]
The Earth is Nothing More Than A Marble
There is a story and it goes like this. There is a tower of brick and stone, raised up like a mountain. Its peak puts holes in the bottoms of clouds. A princess sits by the window at the top, and she is so far up that she can see the curve of the earth. On windless days she opens the glass of her window and drops pebbles and pieces of wood and yes, sometimes small lizards she has caught in her hands, off of the side and watches them disappear well before they touch the ground. They spiral down and down into nothing. It is like they are vanishing into the beyond. Sometimes, as they fall from all the way up, the princess will let out a sound. She has never been taught language, so it is a guttural tangle of noise. Sometimes the wind carries this wordless sound as far as it can, but the noise also vanishes before it falls to the earth like the pebbles and pieces of wood and yes, okay, sometimes small lizards with their heads bitten off.
One day there is a prince. There is always a prince and this one has a mouth mostly full of teeth and smells only mildly of toe-fungus and what will come to be called halitosis, and, okay, let's be honest, has at most fifty percent of his teeth but has some and has only ever met one person with the plague so needless to say, he is a catch. He is knocking on the door at the base of the tower and tapping his steel plated foot. He is expecting the princess to walk down the many flights of stairs and throw open the door and cry on his shoulder thanking him, even though the tower is so tall he cannot see the top of it, even if he cranes his neck and looks straight up its side. The princess is at the top, not hearing anything, let alone an expectant knocking, and she is throwing pebbles and pieces of wood and yes, small lizards with their heads bitten off and, yes, okay, fine, sometimes birds she has lured to the window sill with headless lizards and grabbed and snapped the necks of out of jealousy for their wings and is watching them shrink and shrink and shrink until they pop out of existence completely like a contracting universe.
The only slightly smelly prince decides the princess is being held captive because why else would she not have answered the door, and he brandishes his too large sword that he cannot quite hold right and kicks down the door.
The princess is daydreaming and practicing the caw-cawing of birds. She is biting her nails and rocking back and forth slightly and yes, it is unnerving to watch. She is not wondering what she looks like. She is not reading books that will teach her to daydream about princes because she cannot read because she has no language inside her, only deep feelings that sail on the wind – all vowels without consonants. She has watched the books that were in her tower's intestines sail away on a breeze out into the great beyond, past the window that takes something and makes it smaller and smaller until it is erased and only sometimes takes nothing and makes it bigger and bigger until it flies into her room and she can catch it and rip it apart and try to stick its feathers into her skin, wondering if she, too, can fly.
There is a princess at the top of a very tall tower who eats only birds and lizards, and there is a mildly smelly man climbing an endless staircase who thinks she is daydreaming of a prince. He does not mind that these stairs never seem to end and that he is sweating profusely and that this sweat is dripping down his forehead and stinging his eyes. There is a princess at the top of these endless stairs and she is dreaming of him and that promise is enough to make a man climb forever.
In this story the princess has long and matted hair. Her skin is coated in dust and scabs. There are scars where she has burrowed holes into herself and buried bird bones and lizard heads. She does not daydream of falling because when she leans her body out of the window, she feels a deep knotting fear turn her stomach over, and she sweats and screams because she does not know that humans often keep their deepest fears inside. She dreams of biting the heads off of lizards and tasting the soft metallic flavor of their blood and yes, yes, fine, she dreams of the small, vibrant pop when the birds' necks snap, but mostly she dreams of growing large black feathers of her own and floating away and flying and shrinking and watching the world around her grow and grow like she is looking at it through a dewdrop as she vanishes.
And my, there are a lot of lizards in this tower, the prince is thinking as he climbs. And the princess is digging into the stone wall in front of her and is breaking her nails.
The prince comes huffing and puffing to the top of the stairs and hears a noise like a bear swallowing a fox swallowing a rabbit swallowing leafy vegetables from behind a locked door. When he hears it, his skin raises like it is trying, all at once, to crawl off of his body. But there is a princess dreaming of him behind the door and nothing will keep him from her.
The princess sees a strange, shimmering thing break the boundary of her life. The wooden door with her fingernails lodged into it explodes off its hinges and lands with a thunderous roar in the center of her small room.
With his helmet in his hand and his blonde hair and smell wafting in the breeze of an open window, the prince stares in horror at the disfigured and hunched princess standing among a pile of lizard and bird bones
The princess has never seen anything this large before and she wants to know if the great beyond can swallow it and, okay, she also wants to know if her teeth can cut through his scales, and yes, she also wants to know what his blood will taste like, and so she lets out a sound that freezes the prince and she rips his head from his body with her bloody mouth and drags him to the window and pushes him up to the sill. She rolls him off and peeks her head out and watches him fall and fall and the great beyond makes him smaller and smaller and smaller until even he, this largest of all things, is just a speck and then nothing at all.
There is a story and it ends like this. The princess, having killed the prince, wants to know if the great beyond will swallow her. Feathers weave their way out of her skin as it blisters. She climbs onto the window. She peeks over the side and her stomach tightens so much she is certain everything inside of her will be forced out of her mouth, and yes, she jumps this time.
The princess expects to watch the world around her grow, as the great beyond reduces her to a dot on the horizon, but instead her feathers carry her up. Instead, she looks down and it is the great beyond that is shrinking. Instead, it is the world and its towers and princes and clouds that are shrinking.
She is growing, and beneath her the world is slowly receding like it is a pebble or a piece of wood or a lizard without its head or a bird with a broken neck or a very dead prince. The earth is nothing more than a marble and it vanishes from beneath her as her wings continue to flap. The princess becomes the largest thing in the universe, and yes, that is the story, and this is the end.