zero summa cum laude
Trisara climbed the bone-white steps, spiraling up without end. Around and around. Every thirty steps there was a broader landing with a narrow window open to the elements. It was snowing lightly outside, though a few windows down it had been rain. She watched the flakes for a few moments and then continued, the hem of her heavy robe shivering over the cornice of each step.
The weather was not the only change she noticed ascending the tower. Higher on, across from each window was a recessed shelf holding a small bust. She studied each one because she had been trained to observe. Carved of wood, chiseled in marble, cast in bronze, leafed in gold, the figures shouldered stern chins and far-gazing eyes, their wide scholastic collars angled high the same as Trisara’s, though none of the faces were as hers.
Were their motives, their methods, the same?
To climb. To observe.
To what end?
The tower was a closed system. Knowledge fixed. Results imperative. Each step watched, counted, coveted. One and then one. Ever so. Zero sum.
Upon a night, Trisara stopped at a window. Stars close at hand, frosting her features and the figurine opposite. Cold. Fixed. Complicit.
To stop now was not understandable. Not understood.
Trisara knelt. She listened. She observed. Herself.
She once knew of breezes and fluttering wings. Of leaf and soil and sea. Of melodies and sighs. On her knees in the starlight she felt these. One and one and one.
Robes whispering across steps above and below. Throughout the tower. Others. Climbing. It could be believed. It had always been believable.
Trisara finally believed it.
She stood and reached in the nook for the bust. It did not resist. Even when she dropped it from the window, from the starlight, it gave and gave and gave.
Depthless. Expansive. Ever more.
Her eyes widened, her pulse quickened. Trisara bounded up, skipping steps, observing everything, forgetting limits.