Letter to My Sister In The Old World

Big Sister, 

I know you are faring well in the old world. Oldfather said you would not come back— on that we agreed, though I suspect we felt very differently about the reasons why. 
He likes to ask me about you. I try not to be annoyed, I know he is only curious. This is his way of caring, since he cannot inquire. But what can I say? I know little more about you than he does. And what more I do know, you’ve forbade me to tell. So write back soon, please, or his questions may kill me. 

I took the herb and I dreamt of you.

You were you, back straight, steps sure, hair jet and raven. I was not myself, for I could see my hands, but every time I glimpsed a mirror I could not find myself. Still, I tried to follow you. First down a hallway, but you know how dreams can be. It did not last long. It became a tunnel that swallowed us up, but opened to nothing. Not sky, not water, not even color. Even as I write to you in English, Raja and her dictionary by my side, I struggle to find the words. “Expanse", she suggests, jabbing me with her pencil. “Firmament, like in Genesis!” Her mouth is red from the juice box, but she speaks as though she should be drinking wine. She is growing older so quickly. She even smells like you. 

In the dream we fell through nothing together, and I lost consciousness. When I resumed, you were lying broken in a pile of gleaming coins. Or, your body was broken. The rest of you had left, crawled up from the pile of metal and kept on. And I followed you because I knew you would need me, but you seemed not to see. I stuffed coins in my pockets for later, but they weighed me down, and I began to lose sight of you. I knew then why you had no use for gold. I called your name, but it wasn’t yours anymore. 

We came to a castle. Laughter emanated from its highest point, drawing you closer. Its spires interrupted the #night, and whenever I looked upon it I fought to suppress the urge to scream. But when I failed finally, my screams turned to liquid in my throat and seared my belly when I swallowed. You heard me then, and you smiled because you knew I was learning.

Up, up, up, we went, leaving the earth far below. You said there was much to look forward to. But your mouth did not move, so I did not trust you. 
Though the outside of the castle shone, the inside was filthy. Endless stairs and hallways, taking us everywhere and nowhere, though we were never lost. We were only trapped inside the #glass, looking out, and you scolded me when I pounded against it with my fists. You told me that there was #beauty here, paid for in breath and in bodies. Then you turned and more doors appeared, different than the rest. Shining, polished bronze and rose gold, pale ivories strains and lapis lazuli. The metal was warm to the touch and quivered like struck piano wire.

Together, we willed them open. The room beyond was was filled with a thousand acrid whispers, dull embers and tons of soot so heavy I began to choke. But you were there, standing straight and still striding forward. A figure emerged from the blackness, unfolding himself from a crouch. You spoke with this creature, Balaphet, Keeper of the Crossing, though I urged you not to. We both knew that he was much larger than revealed, that his form stretched on for kilometers in the dark, charred air. He was alone, trying to smile, but it pained him, even though he wanted to. 

Feeling pity, you smiled back until your lips were scorched from your face and you had no choice. 

I woke up then, and everything was as it is, as you left it.

Our city is foreign. 

The Guard infests the streets, doing their busy work. Knocking on doors, dredging the river, taking the names. The citizens are lost. They trade life for a byte. Some eat their fill and lay down to rest sated, for the time. More go hungry by the day. The few on The Hill shut themselves inside and eat their fill, taking deliveries and making orders, opening their windows for a gulp of air or rid themselves of fruit pits. Still, there will come a time when even their fences and sentries are not enough. 

Decay as it might, this is our place. That much is indisputable.

So we will be here whenever you return. This anticipation is a daily thing, bordering on affliction. I sit by the slot hoping for an envelope with your stamp on it, or a picture card with your words scrawled on the back in that wet black ink. I’ll know then, and to my mind it will have been freshly penned, smeared, and delivered by your hands. This is all I want, to follow the trail of your pen with my eyes, discovering your thoughts, and have your voice fill my skull. I need to know how you are sister. Have you encountered wonders on your travels? Are you happy, now that you’ve left? Do you still think fondly of us?

How is your wound healing?

Know that I am cloven without you, and not a day goes by that your name is not spoken in these walls. - Camila