It was a long climb, not Everest high
, but high enough to be a bit of an effort on her part.
She shouldered her bag on her shoulder to shift the weight of her purse, paper, a ball point pen she stashed away in the side, and a tiny bottle of bubbles.
Above her, the white, crisscross staircase was muted gray in the crescent moon, and the black sky sighed at her through the thick, steel support beams.
Three a.m. and the entire forest was quiet and cold and asleep. She was the only thing here with eyes to see tonight. She was the one piece of thought stirring the tapered steel tower.
There was no way to tell how close you were to the top of the fire tower, the metal floorboards connecting the skewed metal stairs blocked everything above but a single peek through center to the next level. She could only estimate her progress by the size of shadowy objects on the ground below or the gradual closeness of the rails as she neared the spire.
She'd made a promise to herself that she would count her orbits on the next visit- but she'd made such resolutions before about quitting smoking or remembering to send a postcard to her grandmother in Illinois. None of those promises ever came to light. They washed away from her like footprints under dreamy waves - lingering, lingering, then gone.
The spiral became tighter and she knew she was close. She knew enough of the graffiti of the tower to know when she was almost there.
The last turn greeted her with a "Henryville Sucks!" painted in lazy loops on the plywood around the base of the landing. There, she looked up at the unlocked trapdoor above her, then pressed her bare hand against the cold metal and pushed it over.
There wasn't a time when this place wasn't a wonder to her. She knew that this place was intended as a watchtower to spot fires in the forestry, but it had become a different thing to many people.
There are places in this world where mundane, forgotten things have learned to weave their own magic. She wasn't sure if this was because they needed some kind of mystical energy to remain whole in this world, or if it was because those secret places drew magical people.
She had heard or known of a few places: some odd tunnel in North Carolina, the quarry caves near Corydon... the fire tower at the Henryville Forestry was hers. She'd never actually seen those other places, but she'd heard stories, and knew enough to be able to recognize a talisman of good just by word of mouth.
Her footsteps clanged on the metal floor as she moved across the upper level and stared at the open air. To the north, the Floyd Knobs bristled with leafless trees under the stars. To the south, the last hill fell down to the valley below and the skyline of Louisville glimmered and played along the Ohio River like some kind of glass toy set.
She listened to the silence and breathed fog. She could feel the earth move far below her, could see a fingernail moon inch through those few trees brave enough to grow higher than the tower. She could almost hear the city from here- almost feel the rumble.
Almost... lingering... just a little more... magnificent. Almost lingering was it? Bliss.
She pulled out the paper and pen from her bag and scribbled absently as she leaned over the rail as if to catch some brief whisper from those lights. She drew scribbles... lazy circles that turned over and over with random words: paint ... paper ... dirty river ... gravel under my feet ... paper in the window panes... hand tickling the back of my neck... gone for good... betrayed... his fucking Mustang... the color of his eyes... maybe I shouldn't have cried... maybe I should have made him cry... don't look down ... let him go where he wants...
It was all scribbles. At one time in her life, those random thoughts would have taken the form of bad poetry. Now, they labored in circles for only a little while here on paper.
She folded the paper and carefully tore it into confetti before scattering it into the still air. She watched the white bits and words turn and dance circles again before melding with the dark shadows below. This was how she dealt with her past; this is how she dealt with anything that broke her heart, this was how she celebrated her pain- and it was right to do it in a place that brought her joy. She brought everything here and left it in confetti. This place could take it. It was strong, it was magic, it would endure in good spirit.
With her penance done, she removed the small plastic bottle of bubbles and blew them into the air. Before, she would've walked the long spirals back to purgatory. But this was something new to her routine- she'd just grabbed them - and it felt better. She was satisfied.
She smiled in secret and watched the fragile globes quiver out of sight, then went home and drifted into the mercury lights of her city below.