Back on to the gondola, the translucent veil separating us. Back to ride the sun-dappled channels of the aqueducts. For she is there—Azure dress—both above and below me. If I lean, and she mirrors me, we may just be able to touch hands. Perhaps, we can set our eyes upon the faded bands of pale skin looped upon our fingers. Perhaps we can forgive. Yet it is both possible and impossible. She is parallel/she is a story higher. Shoulder to shoulder/head to foot. The pillars that hold her aqueduct up I pass through like a stone forest. Whilst my gondola shall snake backwards, following her wake in an endless pursuit, hers now ends, its journey cut short by a glacial waterfall that pools into the stream just behind me.
At a glance, the whole entity makes sense. The aqueduct and structure appear sound. But focus too long, hold concentration, and the impossibility is made manifest. Sense becomes nonsense, a word repeated for too long.
Such is the town of Amerema. The town of impossibilities. The world of enigmas. Möbius strips of canals. Staircases that take you to the same piazza, whether you go down or up. Walls become footpaths and footpaths become walls. Shimmering columns of water stand parallel with their bricked counterparts.
She exits her gondola, a man tying it upon the dock, inches away from the lip of the falls. Cataracts of cobalt dress emblaze my retinas as she turns to leave, a frosted nemesis to the fiery silks upon my own body.
If she has noticed me, it has been merely through her peripheral.
Rings glint like silver stars on our hands, freshly clad. I run and she chases, our scarlet dresses like burning twin meteors entwined in an endless pursuit.
Down and down and down and down the stairs go. An eternal loop. Terrace then mezzanine then lobby then terrace then mezzanine…
I’m the faster one, the staccato snaps of my heels chiming upon each step. Swifter and swifter, and then I am the one chasing her.
We promise each other in a café whose chairs are upside down from their tables.
Earrings tug my lobes backwards. Blood rushes to my head, making body numb yet head clairvoyant. She smiles as I unclasp the velvet box. Inside are the rings, meant to conceal the disks of faded skin already on our fingers. Together, we plan to leave town, hand in hand. We plan to step into the sunrise. Meet it as it vaults over the hills. The gasp of dawn light will glint flawlessly off of our bands. Two blinding coronas of light. Silver to gold.
She blushes, matching the magenta of her pea-coat.
Up and up and up and up. Lobby then mezzanine then terrace then lobby then mezzanine then terrace.
I can’t keep this pace; each lick of her violet skirt is more faint than the last. My ring clicks upon the pearl stone of the banister, singing out to her.
Suddenly, the staircase goes no further, the Amerema trickery at an end. She bursts through the door, escaping on a floor I didn’t even know existed. Somehow, somewhere, above the terrace.
When I try to follow, exploding through the doorway, I’m greeted by a concierge, his uniform pressed and flawless as the ornate lobby that surrounds him.
He asks if I’m ready to check out.
In a bistro our chairs are perpendicular to one another, cemented upon their own vectors. When our hands meet, they can’t help but be at twisted angles, our fingers entangling but not embracing. They only clasp for an instant, before retreating into our own respective laps.
Words spill out, sentences drenched with reassurance. But body language contradicts, opting to smirk out truths.
Perhaps she’s right side up, perhaps I am. Neither of us can remember.
The pond below us is a galaxy of water lilies.
We stand on opposite ends, her indigo heels teetering on the middle cylinder of a three-pronged bridge. It thrusts out to me, a bronze trident. I stand on the left side of twin paths, two simple stone archways, jutting out like a tuning fork.
Two bridges/one bridge. An undecidable crossing, too fickle for reality. Somehow they connect.
I run towards her, fork to trident. Yet stone gives to air. Air gives to water. I fall, the shock of the pond embracing me like coils of barbed wire.
My dress blooms as I sink, petals of scarlet satin to match the lilies. The color fades as it loses light. Upon the bridge, I can see her looking down at me, face a rippling distortion.
A smaller splash, inches from my body. The water detonates as another object falls from the bridge.
Capturing the glint of the sun one last time, the silver ring and I together sink.
A stranger beckons to me; I can see her through the veil of the waterfall. Her dress the color of an orchard prickling with autumn ripe apples. She leans upon an archway, the gates of Amerema.
Beyond is the country, and beyond that, towns more distant. Straw colored fields and streets and buildings that align with gravity. Beyond lie staircases with an ending, streams that reach lakes, and lakes that reach oceans.
She gestures again, a smile blossoming onto her lips. The countryside gestures with her.
But I can’t.
I step back. Into Amerema.
Back onto the gondola, the translucent, liquid veil separating us. Back to ride the sun-dappled channels of the aqueducts. For she is there. Azure dress both above and below me. Further downstream than I am, yet if I lean, and she mirrors me, we may just be able to touch hands…
Sam Jowett is an aspiring writer and a procrastinating law student. He has two essays he really ought to be working on and a novel that is glacially progressing. You can find his fiction on The Occulum, Crab Fat Magazine, Mad Scientist Journal, and other dark corners of the web. Follow him on Twitter @samuel_jowett for cute pictures of lizards.