Gilda My Dear
They found the child atop a pile of gold and they adopted her without a second thought. Barely a year old, her raven hair flowed, in its waves and frills, around her manger. Dark was her countenance and complexion yet the townsfolk called her the Gilded Child, eventually settling to Gilda, and eventually she looked when the name was yelled at her though it often took several attempts. No one in the town tried to discover her lineage. Asking after her true name earned little more than befuddled glances.
“Call her Gilda and she will respond to you. Take more from an empty pantry, will you?”
Gilda walked through town one day, a young girl of ten. The streets, littered with the extravagancies that her arrival had purchased, were nearly empty of people, the sun arching high overhead and casting its soporific spell upon the town. Everyone slept and sounds were rare. Gilda padded on alone. Seeing her among the barren corridors, one might think to have found a ghost, so lost her gaze and meaningless her path. Yet she wound her way among the buildings, scrawling as she went with a slug of feces stabbed on a stick. In the bleary twilight, the townsfolk found their white walls smeared, picket fences striped. They tore them down and built them anew.
“Jeffery, your damned big dog is running around town with shit on his tail!”
Young suitors from other lands and municipalities came to court Gilda, the Gilded Child. From lands miles and horizons away, they came in rolling caravans, atop hirsute dromedaries, affected by and drawn to the tales of a woman of fortune. But when they arrived in the town, all they found were empty streets. The townsfolk were gone having spent all that remained of the gold twenty years discovered. In the town square, where marble statues hid beneath every gargoyle cornice of the surrounding buildings, Gilda sat among a ruin of crates, fumbling through new clothes and shoes, though they were years out of fashion. The suitors quickly fled.
“As forlorn a land and woman I have never seen and hope to never encounter again.”
Gilda took her time in disassembling the town to reform it in her vision. It did not take long. She was fiercely determined and possessed incredible strength. Neighboring towns could see the billowing dust and smoke from her handiwork. With the broken blocks and splintered timbers, she dragged them together in a heap and day upon night upon day she built her dream. It was beautiful. At heights unimaginable without pulleys, workhorses, and teamwork, Gilda crafted a dark tower, rising over the hills and decrepitude of the town. This too could be seen and feared from afar.
“Darkness does not always come at night.”
“I am not so crazy,” Gilda said.
“No, you are not so crazy.”
“But perhaps talking to your reflection may be construed as crazy so you should abstain from doing so in the presence of others.”
A thoughtful pause; “Are you considered an other?”
“Many times have I walked past that formidable collusion of wood and stone and through the murder holes and machicolations have heard a number of people speaking to one another in pitiless tones.”
Concealed in her tower, Gilda walked easily through her years. She stayed mostly in the upper levels, between the eightieth and the ninety-second, because she detested the pressures of Earth’s surface and believed that gravity made her reflection wrinkle faster. Every other year, she conducted tests to see if there were more wrinkles on her reflection’s face than on her physical face. The results were invariably off by several counts, and Gilda took this as a good sign for the relationship with her reflection, otherwise tensions would rise and give way to bickering, which harried household chores and small talk. In the eighth year of Gilda’s Reformed Calendar—a chart filled with the positions of the stars and the distance between the northern star and the moon—a man appeared at her gates (she used her telescope from the top floor to see him), and he sat there, not speaking, for several months. Initially, she thought him a salesman—a clever one, for she felt tempted to discover his product. Then she thought him a squatter—one that never ate or defecated or swore at himself. It occurred to her after a year’s time that he was dead, had died the moment he sat, and was mistaken by passersby as a grotesque deterrent. She descended to the first floor. This took her ten days.
She approached the carcass cautiously, as if the sun-dried skin, crinkled up like a bad newspaper, would leap from the yellow monkish clothing and surprise and coax her into buying a box of tampons or allowing him within the tower. He was odorless. Gilda bent to inspect his face. Freckles dotted his fleshy cheeks, and a slender white mustache drooped at the sides to a thin white beard. His eyes were shut in calm repose, thin wrinkles extending from the sides like lightning bolts. Slowly, his lips curled into a vast grin, lifting the preposterous mustache. She slapped him.
“Have I offended you?” he asked, rubbing the slapped cheek.
“I’m not familiar with this custom.”
“It’s everyone’s custom!”
“In the way that you’ve done, yes.”
He thought on this for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak, his teeth horridly aligned and white, but he decided against speaking and stared at her. After a day, Gilda gave up and said, “It’s no good playing dead now.”
“I think you are correct,” he said, “but that was never my intent.”
“So rude. One should always have the correct intent behind their actions. I once covered an entire town in dog shit so that the dogs would feel useful.”
“I can’t speak to dogs, but they kept shitting and sometimes even more, so only a fool would think it didn’t work,” and she smiled. She felt her face for fear that it was the spontaneous growth of a new wrinkle.
“You are not so crazy.”
“I have found my other,” Gilda laughed.
The neighbors celebrated when the dark colossus haunting their horizons crumbled, but when they approached, hopeful for ruins, they found two towers jutting from the ground in obscene defiance, as if the predecessor had simply shrunk and duplicated, and at the very top, a skybridge connected the pinnacles and dead in the center sat two figures, holding hands that would never lose touch.
I wrote this after reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My main concern with this brief short is that it represents my writing after reading a masterpiece. I don’t have much hope for the rest of my writing. Therefore, I would like to apologize to Mr. Marquez’s descendants for the transgression(s) that this story imposes on his reputation and achievements. Also, that book was crazy. I’m also aware that skybridge is not a word. It’s staying. SKYBRIDGE. Sleep on it.