Put your feet down,
So unique and new was the voice, so familiar and yet so alien, that she could not help but be both drawn to it and and driven further by it. The water of the world faded away, and with a gripping pressure vicing her elbow, her nose and mouth broke the surface to find the sweet honeysuckle air and the aromatic moisture of autumn leaves begging her to live, live, and breathe, breathe—
And she said, not with her mouth and her voice, but with the contours of her naked mind-fabric alone: Genny? Please tell me that's you.
This World Made from Her, this place woven out of the unspooled tangles of self, pulsed like the interior of a heart; its membranes were the thoughts of trees, and its breadth the blackness of a void spattered with the paint of the thoughts that had been shredded out of her.
The thorns would leave their canyons. But here, they'd turned her inside-out.
This World Made from Her coalesced almost instantaneously: she tasted rust in her mouth and witnessed as a fluid metal, like molten steel, poured out from the darkness and shaped a perfect ingress of iron around them, like a prisoner's cell layered in a thousand age-old cages of attic. And carved with a thumbnail or knife-point onto every bar, every cross-arm of metal, there were all those words that had been torn out of her.
The water faded from underneath them, and in sopping skirts, Gloria's legs could withstand the weight of her own body anymore: she fell to her knees, to her hands, and discovered only then that her clothes sagged off her like the dressings of an old window. Her skin slumped, her fat had vanished, and all that was left of her was but canvas and bones.
She plucked a blue thorn from the back of her hand, but the damage was done.
Built out of her, this pocket of existence had taken from her, left her frail, tiny, and jittering like a sick bird.
Her sallow face turned up, then, to the Other Genny. In diluted admiration. In complete mortification, that in the glow of red, red hair, she should be so fragile.Why a cage, Glour'eya?
came a soft question, but that the wounds had been cleaved and this World Made from Her constructed around them, they blared from the walls like a guardpost's horn. Why this form?
To hide the things I fear that others will see, to shut myself from view.Did you learn this on your own?
She taught me, even if
If she's the labyrinth
then I'll be the prison.
The hand and the pinkish stump shot up to clasp over her own ears, crushing her hair against them. The murmur of public thoughts faded to silence. So when she spoke, the words came from her heaving lungs and up through her dry mouth.
"You're afraid you'll hurt me," Gloria said. "You're terrified you'll pull the world down around you, with one misguided thought. That's the — the glass on your back
." A Jernoan turn of phrase. A breath of hot, desert air sizzled in the rusted cage, then blew back into coolness. "You've been afraid of it for — for ages, haven't you? I can see it; I can see it, burning like the Glass Sun, even if I'm blind to everything else. Because that's how we think, fractured girls like us. What will we hurt next," she said. "What will we tear apart?"
The nostrils flared. They did not have long left here. Her eyes flickered gray and blank, and a Black Oil burned on her tongue.
"Teach me," she said, "to help you bear this. You cannot ruin me, or tear me out of existence, I promise you."
Gloria Wynsee knew nothing
of Genny Tolleson's true capacity for power, but to a stubborn soul, to one that thirsted to see and be seen (I am here, I am here!
), no feat seemed incomprehensible.