We dedicate these episodes to the memories of Kimberly Proctor and Tyeshia Jones.
Flowers for the Dead
by Jamie Mason
The acoustics of the concrete stairwell magnify sounds ten-fold, a hundred-fold as Kyle climbs. His breath, his footsteps, the squeak of his hand on the steel railing reverberate, echoing up and down the depths of the great man-made cavern as he rises floor upon floor toward the Magician’s penthouse. I must be crazy, he thinks. The raw magnitude of The Magician’s sorcery is so powerful, the force of his will such that he must avoid contact with others, spend the majority of his time locked up in this tower lest he bend the world to his will with a stray thought. The light from improvised torches causes the spiral sigils and vaguely sinister runes inscribed on the walls to flicker and undulate like dancing demons. Kyle pauses. Stares up into the half-lit darkness. Then plods on.
A firefly glow on a landing far above: Kyle concentrates on it as he mounts step after step. Gradually the glow broadens until it defines the stairwell in a foliage of shadows. The rhythm of Kyle’s feet slow as he mounts the last set of stairs to a landing marked with a large number 13 painted on the wall in black. A ragged wall of cement chokes the stairwell leading up. The landing itself, lit by an improvised candelabra of paraffin-filled tin cans, is empty save for a young barefoot woman in a red evening gown who sits reading a book in a chair. She glances at Kyle, slips a black ribbon between the pages and leaves the leather-bound volume on the seat behind her as she rises.
“How do you enter the flames, child?” she asks.