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The Gate, My Beloved; My Story, Its Key

Amanda C. Davis has an engineering degree and a fondness for baking, gardening, and low-budget horror films. Her short fiction has appeared in Shock Totem, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and others, including previously in Daily Science Fiction. You can follow her on Twitter (@davisac1) or read more of her work at .amandacdavis.wordpress.com.

There is nothing here, in the bright bronze center of the desert--nothing but the great walled city with gates shut tight, and at the base of them, clutching them for comfort, me.
I have come so far that I forget where I started. The city begs for stories, in words I can only hear through my fingertips. My head is full of them, but I do not know whether they are mine.
Here is one.
There was a daughter of a goatherd with seventeen daughters--neither eldest nor youngest, only a kid in the middle of his flock. When he choked on a hard piece of bread, his many captive wives fled to the far corners of the desert with whatever daughters they could catch. No mother caught her, so she lived with her father's bones and tended the goats. Once she followed a lost goat to a cleft in the rock where it had wedged itself and there remained bleating. She tugged it free, and two of its legs broke. She ate the goat and made shoes of its hide.
A sad story. All true stories are sad. I claw at the gate, but it will not open for such a story. Here is another.
There was a sorcerer who was loved by ten women and adored by thirty sons, and the thirty-first child was a daughter who married a king. After the wedding, she slew the groom so she could present his throne to her father. Yet her love was never worth the love of his sons, although she made him the handsomest gift. Rejected, she found her way to the city gates and there wept night and day.
I want to finish the story beyond its end. As far as I know, the city gates never opened for the sorcerer's daughter. But I do not see her bones here. Was she ever here at all? I may not know her ending, but I wish for her everything I wish for myself.
Still: the walls are empty. They weep for stories. I wish they would weep for me. But I am not a story.
Listen. There were two sword-maidens of warring tribes who met each other in the cliffs, and fell to blows. Full-formed soldiers sprouted where their blood spewed. The maidens bled and fought for days, sowing armies that slaughtered each other in kind, until there was no more blood in either of them. The sword-maidens died and the soldiers turned to stone.
A sad story, but is it true? I have seen the man-sized stones in the red-walled ravine. I doubt. I believe.
Maybe, having sprung now from my lips, they are all my stories. Maybe I have tended goats, slain kings, raised armies of my blood. Maybe I have nothing left but my place here in the shade that will be gone when the sun passes over the glorious, withholding wall.
I do have one more story. The beginning is true.
We will see how it ends.
Hear, city:
There was a woman who followed her heart to the center of the desert and there found a city gate as high as the sun, as bright as bronze, as tightly-sealed as the woman's sand-ruined lips. She rested against the gate and begged it to open. As she waited her sight began to waver like light upon glass, glass upon fire, fire upon water, water upon air. She told stories she couldn't remember learning. She confused her own story. She began a new story:
There was a woman curled in the hot sand beside a wall of bronze that never allowed itself to become a door.
There was.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Author Comments

I love stories within stories. Here's another one: fairytalemagazine.com/2011/04/peril-of-stories-by-amanda-c-davis.htm.

- Amanda C. Davis
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