A couple of months ago, my story World Climber was published. Life has been so hectic, that I never got around to making a proper announcement. So here we be!
The anthology is called The Ways of Magic, and it is the second Deepwood Publishing anthology of which I have been a part. This particular story is probably the most “out there” one I have written in terms of setting. Every other story I have written is at least recognizable, but this is a whole different ballgame. Let me know what you think. Follow the break for a preview.
Joel V. Kela
Aaron climbed, upward through the dark and folding stairwell, one foot in front of the other. One two three four one more. Round the landing. Spin clockwise this time. Two shuffle steps and a hop. Up the matching flight. Eight nine ten again. Pale lines gave light from where they glowed along the rough-stone walls. The lights ran parallel with the stairs and flicked off after he passed. More flared to life as he rounded the next landing. Step after step. Cream stone with dark brown trim. Upward and up, to life and love and the seeding of the world.
The sweat ran down Aaron’s forehead and into his eyes, and he stopped on the next landing. He wiped at his eyes with his bare arm. He wore no clothes–they had grown too small long before.
He noticed his hair had come loose. Bending over, he let it hang down in front of him, all the way to the floor. He wound it and twisted into a knot like his father had once done. Aaron’s hair had grown for a long time. He had climbed for a long time.
The question filled him with regret. He had kept a count through the first years, landings and days. Yet somewhere the columns had merged, his tally had failed, and he lost his count. His fists tightened. How long? Long enough for his body to grow from that of a boy to a man. Beyond that? He couldn’t guess.
But one thing he did know.
“Who are you?” His father’s voice rang in his head as though the man stood beside him, as though the years had not passed between them like the endless flights and stairs of the tower itself.
“Why do you climb?”
“To know God. To seed my world.”
In Aaron’s mind, his father smiled.
And Aaron climbed.
His Father’s World
The day he was born, his parents took him to the tower.
The birth was a painful experience, and as his only point of reference had been the warm and wet of his mother’s womb, the press of labor and the chill of the evening air stung hard. He screamed as his father lifted him from her thighs, trying out his lungs and kicking against all that empty space. His mother took him into her arms and gave him suck, and while he drank from her breast his father wiped him down and wound him in cloth. Better, he thought there in her arms, but not as good as inside.
When he’d eaten his fill they put him down to try his legs. He managed to walk across the soft ground beside the birthing pool–the moss tickling his bare feet–all the way over to the gnarled trunk of the great white tree which spread its branches over them. But when they led him out from beneath the tree and he saw the tower, he wrenched free and tottered toward it.
The tower rose from the bright and waving grass like the spoke on which the world hung, as perpendicular and settled as–God himself. He thought about that, wondering what it meant. His eye followed the tower all the way up as it rose against the purple-brown sky and thinned to a faint white hair.
His mother took him in her arms and carried him toward the base of the tower. He twisted around to watch as it rose and grew over him. He sucked one thumb and wrapped his other hand around and around in his mother’s hair. He loved her.
They moved around the circumference of the tower, and he saw a door cut in its base. Black, and half-buried. They stopped beside it.
His father reached between his mother’s legs, and his hand came back bloody. The big man took him from his mother’s arms and smeared blood all over his tiny hand too. His father pressed both their hands against the wall beside the black door, leaving two red prints–one large, one little.
His father set him down, and standing tall he didn’t even reach his father’s knees.
He took careful steps toward the black door, yearning to open it. To go up. He wiped his hand on the tall grass and looked up to the sky. Up to his father. “What is my name?” Words felt strange on his tongue, but he liked how they tasted. “And who is God?”
His father flinched and stared down at him so long it seemed he wouldn’t answer. But then tears appeared in his dark eyes, and he knelt. “God is the maker of all things,” he whispered. “Your name is Aaron. And I am your father.”
Aaron nodded and turned to his mother. She wore a white gown now, and all the blood from her legs was gone. Tears ran down her tan cheeks, but she smiled. And her hair was black gold melting. “My son,” she said, holding out one hand. “Come. I will show you your father’s world.
Aaron nodded and took her hand, and she lifted him into her arms.
Yet as she guided him through the mountains of cut glass, and the winding rivers of the open plains, his eye kept returning to the tower. Tall. And certain. And as she sang to him of short time and fed him with berries and breast-milk and honey, his thoughts kept moving back to it. Better, he thought as she showed him the pearl fields and the waterfalls cascading down to the valley floor. Yet he turned and squinted toward to the tower and its black door. But not as good as inside.
One foot in front of the other Aaron climbed, back and forth through switchbacks of memory. He remembered the time he tripped and split his knee open on the top step’s corner trim. He’d been early in his climb then–only a boy still–and he’d cried for hours on the landing, cradling the carved likeness of his mother to his chest. He had wept for so long it shamed him now. But the stone beneath his feet had grown warm, and the air had tensed, so he had stood and limped on as he’d known his father would have wanted.
He’d grown taller that night…