Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Tower

This is my contribution to TFE's Christmas Poetry Go-Kart. Observant visitors will notice it, er, came out as a piece of flash fiction, not a poem...



It was a dream. I was walking along the beach, somewhere on the North East coast, I think, although there's no specific reason for thinking that. I was walking towards a white tower, which stood on the edge of the beach. It was not unlike a lighthouse: it was circular and the smooth, stone sides tapered. Only, the lantern was missing. The tower was topped instead by a brown, low-pitched conical roof. Perhaps it had once been a lighthouse, I considered. Maybe it had been put to another use and, so, the lantern had been removed.

The closer I got, the more curious I became. I just had to know what was inside it. I made my way gingerly over the slippery seaweed that covered the rocks and the stone foundations around its base, and knocked on the large, brown door. It was so substantial that my knock sounded  like a mere tap, hardly audible above the breaking of the waves on the beach behind me. Needless to say, there was no response.

I turned the handle and pushed against the door. It was unlocked and fell back easily. I found myself in a low, circular chamber. Just enough light came through a small window for me to make it out. (I had noticed several such windows dotted about on the outside of the structure). The walls had once been whitewashed, but were now tinted green, covered as they were with an irregular film of algae.

I made my way across the stone floor to the window. As I did so, I heard the door swing shut behind me.  The window was, as I said, small -about a foot each way- and seemed to be made of "bottle glass". Whatever it was, though it admitted light, it was impossible to see any clear image though it.

Not far from the window, to my left, was the foot of an enclosed spiral staircase, just as you might expect to find in such a tower. I made my way up it, every now and again passing one of the small bottle-glass windows. The staircase emerged in another room. This was very much like the first, though this room was provided with basic furniture. There was a chair, a table and a low divan. The upholstery smelt of mildew and they were all caked in a greasy dust. They had obviously not seen use for a very long time.

There was very little to do except walk around the room and look out of the window. Again, although it admitted light, I could see nothing clearly. There were blue swirls which could have been either the sea or the sky and flecks of yellow that I took to originate from the sand. My curiosity about the tower satisfied -what creatures of instinct we are!- I decided it was time to go.

I made my way back down the staircase to the lower floor. Only, when I emerged at the foot of the stairs I found I was not in fact in the downstairs room but in the room I had just left! I had a good look around me: it was, to all intents and purposes, the same room although now I could see, on the far side of the room, the head of the staircase I had descended only a few moments before. I felt disorientated, slightly nauseous. I could feel myself coming out in a cold sweat. I decided I must have made some sort of foolish error, although I felt sure that since leaving the upstairs room I had always been walking down the stairs, not up.

What was I to do? I had a pencil in my pocket. It occurred to me to leave it on the table and make my way downstairs for a second time. This I did and, when I emerged into the room again, there was my pencil, on the table, just as I had left it.

Sometimes -ever hopeful- I attempt to descend the staircase but the result is always the same. Apart these brief exertions I have been in this room ever since. I sleep, fitfully, on the divan and when I do I dream: I dream I am living my former life. My sister and I sit before the fire, talking animatedly as we often did. Sometimes we sit down to a meal (oddly, all that I need seems to be provided for me in my dreams). Sometimes I improvise on my guitar. I read, I write. I attend to the garden...  And then I wake up - to the cold, to the dim light of the tower and to the sweet, mildew smell of the old divan.

23 comments:

Get Off My Lawn! said...

You must have eaten something from Faerie. Don't worry. You'll get out eventually. It might be a few hundred years and everything you've ever known will be gone... but they'll let you out.

Mad Aunt Bernard said...

I love the way you write, the descriptions are so vivid and ethereal...transfixing.

Titus said...

I am staying of the cheese tonight now.

I liked this, something of Conrad and a touch of Poe.

Titus said...

off the cheese.

Argent said...

Oh, I did love this! Such lucid writing and so nicely paced. You should come and play Wordzzles with us on Saturdays (you can find out more by checking out one of the millions of Wordzzle posts on my blog.) You'd be great!

Poetikat said...

Did you happen to see a U.F.O. in the sky, Dominic? Just curious.

I thought MY Christmas spirit was a downer!

Kat

The Solitary Walker said...

Hey, that was a great piece of writing, Dominic! Loved it.

Liz said...

A touch of 'Tales of the unexpected' here, Dominic... hooked me...love the ending with the old divan...can imagine this as a short film and the zoning in and out of cameras.
cheers!
Liz

Niamh B said...

love it Dominic

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments everybod... Argh! I think I 'm about to wake up!

NanU said...

Wow, now there's a story to get into. Have some of Titus's cheese - you might find a new way out.

Sorlil said...

I like it, in fact it's put me in the mood to try a bit of flash fiction myself!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Nightmare! Good story well told Dominic, would make a great short film.Thanks for this.
Merry Christmas!

The Weaver of Grass said...

A bit scary. If this really was a dream you had then it has similar connotations to the one I had for years of walking on a road and never getting home. Interesting, when I wrote a poem about that and put it on my blog the dream disappeared and I havent had it since.

Lyn said...

That's the same place I've tried to enter many times..my past..always the same though, any way I try to return! Always looking for a better past...

John Hayes said...

Beautifully told; vivid & haunting.

A Cuban In London said...

What an odd dream! You could say that the dream reflects history as Nietzsche put it, a cyclical phenomenon.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Dominic Rivron said...

Pleased you all enjoyed it. Thanks for the comments - a lot of food for thought there. I'll leave it at that, as I've got to whizz off and do lots of Christmassy things. Have a good one!

tony said...

Dominic, have a fine Christmas. Great Robust Dreaming Sir!

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for the comment, Tony. Have a good one too!

ArtSparker said...

A little bit of Poe, but in watercolor tints, in this. Oh and do you know the Nabokov story about the museum?

Dominic Rivron said...

ArtSparker: Yes, there are Poe-like overtones. I don't know the Nabokov story: I'll have to check it out.

Celeste Bergin said...

great image