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The Climb

2 Apr

The Climb

 

Winnie flexed the toes on her right hand. With her left she clamped down on the misaligned brick and pulled herself up. She was almost at the top now, almost at the end of her journey. She threw her head back and let her neck extend so that she could see just how far she’d come. Down below the streetcars looked like caterpillars. She wondered what would happen if she wept. Would the frenzied specks be washed away? Would panic ensue? Did it really matter? It was no longer her world. She belonged to the sky.

Climbers usually left the ground once puberty hit and they had enjoyed their right. Climbers bore only one offspring. Once that baby was born and all twenty toes were counted. The parent was free to seek the homeland.

Winnie had been terrified that she would bear more than one child like Davinia. Climbers did not consider multiple births to be a blessing like the Swimmers or even the Creepers. It was the mother’s duty to choose the strongest of all her babies to be raised by the governing body and then throw the remainders into the subways to be crushed underfoot by the commuters.

Winnie would never forget that day. Never. It was carved into her memory like the Roman numbers on the side of the building she climbed. Davinia had made her choice and the governing body had looked in the holy scrips for a name. They chose Florence to be forever known as she who eats Prozac and carried the child into the great Lilly Hall.

Davinia waited until not even the scent of them remained and then she tore her birthing robe into wide strips and bound her two remaining babies to her breast. Taking long strides that built in momentum until she was almost flying Davinia hit the wall and began scrabbling as fast as she could. Winnie could not believe her eyes. Davinia was committing sacrilege. Not only was she making the journey skyward with the unblessed but she was contaminating the very clouds themselves with the living dead.

Even though Winnie knew in her toes that Davinia was committing blasphemy there was a part of her that prayed that somehow, someway she would triumph and cross the line to sky before the Disciplinarians could shoot her with their strength drainers.

‘Faster’ Winnie screamed to herself as watched Davinia desperately searching for a toehold. Davinia was almost there now. She just had another story to go. Winnie felt her hearts exploding in her chests. ‘Safe.’ Davinia was safe. The Disciplinarians had finally arrived but it was too late. Davinia was over the line and could not be touched. Winnie turned away. She would think of Davinia safe with her two babies all the way home.

A sound like buildings collapsing almost burst Winnie’s eardrums and then nothing, not even the low drone of the billions of pigeons nesting wherever there was a merest hint of space. Winnie did not need to turn around. She knew then that the great book of Pharmaceuticals lied.

Winnie preferred to remember Davinia safe and skyward rather than broken on the ground and she made a promise to herself, a promise that she was keeping now.

Winnie sat with her legs dangling over the edge of the gleaming silver building. She could feel her baby moving inside her. Baby? Perhaps there were more. It didn’t matter now because even if there were a dozen little climbers inside of her they were all safe and she would name them after the clouds.

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True Sentiment

28 Feb

So I am kind of cheating here because I wrote this story a while ago but I have had a kind of stressful couple of weeks and tonight my agida is over and I am inexplicably sleepy in that little kid conking out kind of way. I am blessed (and I rarely use this word) with amazing, loving, kind, fucktabulous friends. Two of whom in particular made it possible for me to breathe. Anyway I really love this story which is not typical of what I write at all but it deals with love and profound connection.

 

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True Sentiment

 

Magda and Elizabet were really more like sisters than friends. And really it would have been easier on both families if they had been for they loved each other with that obsessive intensity that only little girls are capable of. They truly believed that death would come if ever they were separated and in fact it almost did when at the tender age of 7 Elizabet came down with rheumatic fever.

Magda barely ate or slept for the two weeks that Elizabet lay near death in her room just across the alley from Magda’s own. In fact the distance between the two houses was so small that had Elizabet’s window been open Magda could have climbed across and sat with her friend but for the first time since the two girls had befriended each other the window was shut and locked.

And when the wait was finally over the news was not good. In fact from Magda’s perspective Elizabet might as well have passed away. The fever had left her friend blind and her parents were sending her hundreds of miles away to a place where Elizabet could continue her education in an environment that would also help her deal with her new dark world.

‘If only they had let her see Elizabet’ Magda thought ‘then maybe she would have lost her sight too and she could go with her friend and not be stuck here with no one to play with but roly-poly Yeorgi.’

The week before Elizabet was to go on the train with her parents Magda ran away and was missing for a day and a half before the milkman found her in a comatose state soaking wet on the bank of the river. She was so cold her lips were blue and when she finally regained consciousness she had been struck as sightless as her friend.

The village Doctor told Magda’s parents that he was certain that the girls sight would come back, that it was a case of psychological rather than physiological blindness but the child wept so piteously at the idea of being left behind in her new state of sightlessness that her parents finally relented and allowed her to go to the Institute for the Blind with her friend.

For the first time ever the girls had a fight. Magda found the school absolutely terrifying while Elizabet had assimilated in no time at all. They were still inseparable but Elizabet seemed to be positively gifted at overcoming the hardship of being blind while Magda struggled with everything. For some reason the comprehension of Braille eluded her and she could not tell China from England on the big globe that dominated the front of the Geography room. Before her accident Magda had been a gifted pianist but now she played so clumsily that her Liszt sounded like a toddler banging the keys. Elizabet on the other hand was becoming a competent flute player. But none of this mattered to Magda because she was with Elizabet. They shared all the same classes, slept side by side in the dormitory, bathed together and spent every free period heads practically conjoined whispering about the things only best friends talk about.

In fact Magda would have gladly spent the rest of her life-like this if it hadn’t been for the well-meaning Head Mistress who saw in Elizabet the making of a teacher somewhat like the famous Annie Sullivan. She had written to Elizabet’s parents who were of course delighted that Miss Hutsler thought Elizabet might be able to actually make a living for herself and gave the headmistress permission to do whatever she saw fit to make their handicapped child self-sufficient. Of course Magda was thrilled for her friend until she found out that it meant Elizabet would be leaving the Institute at the end of term to go to America and study at the school that Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller had set up for those gifted like Elizabet to become teachers for those living in perpetual twilight like herself.

It was then that a miraculous thing happened and Magda started to make huge strides in her own accomplishments. Soon she had recovered almost all her skill on the piano and she and Elizabeth would perform short concerts after the evening meal for the students and teachers in the conservatory. She even surpassed her friend in the sciences. But when it came to Braille she was only moderately adequate. Still however the headmistress decided that Magda too should go to America and become a teacher.

And there they stayed until Elizabet now 85 had been diagnosed with a tumor in her stomach that could not be removed. She wanted to die at home. But before that she wanted to revisit the Institute where the two girls had grown into women and found the means to live happily together which would have been a miracle even for sighted women.

Together they stood at the foot of the long staircase that led up to the enormous front doors. Arm in arm they wandered the deserted hallways until they came to the old geography room and Elizabet placed her hands on the enormous globe and gave it a spin.

It was only then that Elizabet took her friends face in her hands and said “Thank you for all these years my friend.” and kissed her on the lips.

Magda with tears in her eyes stared at her friend`s wrinkled and spotted face framed in the silver braids wound tightly around her head like a crown and said “How long have you known?”

Elizabet smiled and shook her head. “I have known from the beginning Magda. I may be blind but I have always been able to see you.”

The two friends continued their tour arm in arm even after the sun had disappeared from the sky and they were wandering in the dark. Even though the electricity was still on in the long-deserted school Magda did not turn on the lights. She was after all with Elizabet and as long as they were together Magda had everything she needed.