Please join us in congratulating the runner-up in Page Turner Magazine’s third flash fiction contest: Monsters! Brittani Jenee’ Cal wrote a spine-tingling tale of youthful optimism with an ending that delivers a twist to the hopeful soul. It is with the greatest sense of terror that we present to you, “The Girl in the Tower.”
You’ve heard about the girl locked away in the ivory tower.
The one with the long hair and wild eyes.
Grown-ups tell stories about her to children at night, to scare them into behaving like good little girls and boys. You were one of them once, listening by the fire as your mother lifted the covers to your chin, as if this could keep you safe, as if this could keep her from finding you.
They never tell you that she was once beautiful. That stars clung to the night sky long past dawn for a glimpse of her beauty, watching her run barefoot in the dark as she sang a song to the moon only wolves should know. But beautiful things don’t only call the attention of stars. There are monsters who dress like men, who collect the wildness of women as often as the ashes of kingdoms they have burned to the ground.
They tell stories about the girl they have locked away, and they call her a monster. So, you try to ignore the screams that come from the tower. It’s easier when you’re awake, when the routine of your day is performed by your body without effort, but in the night, they tear through your skull and pull your eyelids closed so you cannot wake until your pillow is so drenched in sweat you dream you are drowning.
When morning comes, you stand at the bottom of the tower. You know you shouldn’t be here, but you have to see her for yourself.
The bricks are painted white, and the paint is old. You look at each one closely, searching for a way inside. There is no door. No way in. No way out.
It’s too high for you to see to the top, so you call up into the sky. You say you are here to save her. You say you have come to rescue her. You say you do not believe she is a monster and have come to set her free.
A rope falls in front of you, and even though you cannot see where it leads, you climb. Your hands are blistering, and each time you grab the rope it burns your skin raw. Your body shakes. You should go back down, but now it is too great a fall.
The only thing you can do is climb.
You climb until you reach a window and lift yourself inside.
You are in a room. It’s dark, and cold, and smells like rotting earth. There is no one here, only a broken mirror that lays shattered on the ground. You pick up one of the pieces, and it cuts your already swollen hand. You hear the blood drip, feel the warmth of it slide down the back of your arm.
You hold up the glass and see the girl they locked away in the tower.
And they were right. She is a monster.
And you scream.