Clang! The sound reverberated throughout the hall as Faith made her way down the ladder. Her metal foot was slippery on the iron rungs. She resisted the temptation to point her toe as she descended; she physically couldn’t and the effort caused her calf to cramp above the prosthetic. The sound was a reproach. Before, in the other life, she would have reveled in the acrobatic opportunities of the ladder, trying tricks like reaching her legs into the splits while she hung suspended from her trustworthy hands. She would have gloried in her strength and her fearlessness, entertaining herself on this long climb down. Now she had a syncopated reminder to stick to the route, no deviations.
At the bottom she spotted the plinth right away. She walked to it, carriage proud in spite of the limp. She placed her hands on the indentations on the side of the pedestal and a low hum erupted from the stone. Her fingers felt the warmth of the energy first, as it flowed from the stone. Lights shot out past each of her fingers and curved to make circles around her. A golden orb appeared on one of the circles and rotated around her slowly. As it passed her face, she touched a button on its side, and it projected an image of a dance studio into the space before her. A teenage girl in leotard and tights drew her toe up the side of her muscular leg and extended it forward. Faith felt the girl’s satisfaction in reaching the leg higher, energy flowing out beyond her pointed foot. The girl fanned the leg to the side and turned toward it, whirling into a lyrical dance across the room. Faith watched the girl look at herself in the mirror-lined walls. She experienced the freedom in each of the girl’s leaps, the pleasure of focusing and accurately executing her landings. The girl was alone and uninhibited, thinking she was unwatched.
Faith took a black tile from her pocket. She held it, felt its cool smooth surface, weighed it in her palm. She touched the button again and the studio disappeared.
On the stone pedestal there was a notch where the tile belonged. So far, everything had appeared as it had been described to her. All she needed to do was insert the tile into the slot, and Faith’s foot would be returned to her, whole. She could leave the chamber and would not have to see the girl undergo her own loss in exchange. Faith would never see the girl again.
But she couldn’t hide from her own memory. She knew what it would be like for the girl. The shock and loss the girl would feel upon waking with her foot inexplicably transformed into metal. The way she would be shunned, as frightened people took comfort believing she must be to blame for her misfortune. Would she find her way to this chamber as Faith had, to make this same excruciating decision to transfer the affliction onto someone else? Or would she simply live, maimed until her death?
Faith pocketed the tile and returned up the ladder. Perhaps tomorrow.
Created for Vicente Ruiz’s Google+ group weekly writing exercise Click to see original exercise.
Inspired by the image Ancient Discovery by Julie Dillon.
Julie Dillon’s DeviantArt gallery: juliedillon.deviantart.com/