After In the Tower
Amanda liked her room. She didn’t know why, sometimes, her Aunt Tanta warned her against wanting to leave. She had everything she ever needed here, and it was warm, and safe, and comfortable - but most of all, safe.
She watched the television, and it told her about wars and rapes and murders. None of that happened here, in her tower. Nothing bad could happen to her at all, here in her castle. She was the protected princess. She was the safest maiden of them all. And she had everything she wanted.
Aunt Tanta told her she’d been found on the doorstep, a foundling. She told Amanda she was special, for she alone of the five children in the towers had been given Tanta’s personal care and personal visits. She alone had been bottle-fed by the ancient woman, she alone met with her for tea three times a week, rain, snow, or sunshine, summer and winter.
Amanda called herself, Amandianna, Princess of the Southermost Tower. She wrote long and involved stories about herself, about Amandianna, which involved a miniature horse and adventures in and around the tower, being wrested from it by force only to find a way to return, being pulled out into the world and fighting her way safe, back here, to her tower, to her safety, to the dragon who protected them.
Fred had been trying to send messages to the other towers.
Nothing else had worked so far, and he’d been trying for 584 hash-mark group-of-five days plus three.
He’d been growing out his hair for most of that eight years, thinking of the Rapunzel stories his sister had loved, back when he had a family. (He still didn’t have a beard to grow out. He wondered if that would grow faster). His hair dragged on the floor, now, when he didn’t braid it, but the tower was a lot taller than that.
Ripped sheets had just ended up with him not having a bed for a week, after an unseen hand had plucked him back into the tower from halfway down. Messages in balloons vanished into the wind and never came back.
He’d tried to take the dumbwaiter apart for the rope, but they’d just left him all alone and foodless for two days while they replaced and repaired it. “They:” the invisible keepers. He assumed they weren’t machines, but he wasn’t certain. He’d asked for seeds and started growing linen, but his rope had vanished overnight. They hadn’t stopped him from practicing climbing up and down the stairwell walls, but a fall on a slippery patch of rock (Moss, damn it) had left him with a broken ankle (set by maybe-robots while he was unconscious) and second-guessing that plan.
So now he was sending letters in schoolbooks, written in the margins of the boring sections, slipped between the pages, anywhere he could. How long have you been here? Why do you think they want us? Have you ever seen a person, since you got here?
Sometimes he just wrote I’m lonely. What about you?
He wrote one every day, and then did his homework, assigned the same way food was delivered, by dumbwaiter, read a book, ran up and down the stairs, maybe played some games, drew the few out his window, and then wrote another letter. The TV showed him a world so far away, so long ago, it might as well be another planet. The letters, at least, seemed like they might contact someone.
And then, thirty-five hashmarks later, a poetry book arrived with a note in the margins. I was here for twelve hundred days when I lost count. I’m lonely, too.
Next: In the Tower, Continued