• By Nikki Mackenzie (she/her)
  • Art “Jelly Window” by Dorothy Hamilton (she/her)

The lady in the tower sat there for years. Though the tower was beautiful, and she could see for miles, the gilded walls around her were a prison. The tower had many colors—gold and green and blue and red all joined together in a shimmering mosaic. It sparkled in the sun, and if you came close enough, you could see that it grew right out of the ground with no seam in between. It was made of the earth—and because of that, there were no doors. She was trapped.

It made her skin itch, sometimes. It itched when she saw a bird flying away, when the leaves fell. When something else got to be free. She didn’t want to be trapped. Who does, really? To spend the good years of one’s life wasting away, in the middle of nowhere? No one to talk with, to talk back to—to be Rapunzel, with no wicked mother but the earth?

Each day, she woke and paced about the tower. There wasn’t much to do, so she began her days by tidying up the debris that had come loose or fell into the tower overnight. Even that didn’t take very long, so she spent most of her time in song.

She sang to herself, and to anyone listening, every day. She sang of floating through time, of her loneliness, of her pain. The fading echoes when she finished reminded her of who she used to be, although at this point her memory of that person was becoming very clouded.

Years of silent song took their toll. She could always count on the branches to whistle back—until they broke. The young rabbits would twitch their whiskers in response—until they left their nests. Every reaction she could glean from the world around her eventually left.

Each day, the lady worked her voice down to a croak, and then would start afresh in the morning. As time wore on, her voice changed. It got tired—first it sagged at the edges, then went gurgly all over, then finally it hollowed out in the middle. She started each day with a croak, and yet she kept on.

Eventually, her voice faded away. All she could do was faintly hum the tune she once sang over and over to fill her youth.

On her deathbed, she was still alone. All alone, in her gilded, earthen tower. Even in all her years, no people saw or heard her, or even thought to try. And when she passed, not one person knew.

The tower absorbed her body, took her into itself, and cared for her in death like it had done all her life. ▲