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  • the third
    adam blackrock
    1 Sep 2002

    I'd never seen my hand tremble like it did during that final pause when I'd reached the top of the obelisk. That last handhold was the most difficult. It felt like my body was of steel and not flesh, that in my hand I held three gallons of water, and not just my silver ring. And on top of all that fatigue-induced weight was the fact that there was no handhold on the surface of this giant pillar. In fact, when I did get my head and shoulders onto the top, I realized it was a polished marble surface. Swinging my right leg up was as difficult, but once it reached it wasn't too hard to roll onto my back, away from the perfectly vertical climbing surface. My skin crawled at the surrealistic nature of the massive tower. A thirty-yard square and countless stories high, the sides were ideal for climbing, with perfect handholds and resting points. I'd been climbing for that entire day, and for an unknown amount of days before. Even though that tenseness in my spine had been with me for every second I spent on that ascent, screaming at me to stop, to turn back, I could not. Reaching the top was a disturbing relief. I stood up and swayed from exhaustion and vertigo, for I could see for countless miles through the light fog of that day. It was cold on the obelisk, and I was shivering as I took steps forward, away from the edge, to see the two I had pursued up the precipice. The man looked to be my age, with my height and build. His eyes were cold, without compassion, and he didn't stop staring at me as he lit a match and held it to his cigarette, and then flicked it in my direction. It didn't go out as it came at me through the air and landed at my feet, but I couldn't watch it burn out, I think that would have been too much for me. The man then sat down, cross-legged, on the polished marble and for the first time took his eyes off me to study the floor, tracing patterns with the fingers of the hand not holding his smoke. The woman was only slightly shorter than I, with skin that would seem pale had she not been wearing a painfully exact and beautiful white dress, which rippled in the breeze in just the same way as her hair. Her back was to me when I looked over to notice her, but she turned so I can see her profile. She held three long stem roses in her arms, and she looked at them like they were mirrors; not surprised, but still interested in how that image could have been. I took two steps in her direction, disregarding the man who sat nearby, before she drew one of the three roses apart from the others and held it at arms length, level with her face. One more step and she had tossed the flower over the side of the obelisk. My heart felt like it was drowning as I watched it leave her hand, and I quickened my speed to a hurried walk. She held the other away from her body, looking slightly down at it before she let it fall too. I would have vomited if I could have, but the only thing I could do was wretch and gasp; it felt like my chest had contracted tenfold, and my eyes teared from the cold air and helplessness. I reached her side as she looked at the final rose, holding it over the edge with only her thumb and forefinger. A pleading look behind at the man was answered with a commanding "Stop!" Right as he finished she dropped the final rose. She looked down ashamed, with tears in her eyes, and I couldn't look at her again.