Authors: Cassandra Golds
He only just got out in time.
There was a moment down in the foyer when he hesitated, when he sympathised, again, with Deirdre's attraction to death, her fear of life. It would have been so easy to stay, to allow Corbenic to collapse on top of him, to be lost in its destruction as he had once been lost in the living labyrinth of its halls and stairs and landings and vestibules â in the monument of its rooms and its secrets and the ghosts that had haunted it, a monument he had imagined would stand forever.
And life stretched out long and lonely and unknowable before him, like a highway obscured by pelting rain.
But his heart was no longer hidden in the most secret room in the building. And Deirdre was no longer trapped here, guarding it. His heart was inside him, and Deirdre had been set free.
He had paused for perhaps a couple of seconds. He had been running down hallways and stairs, through landings and across vestibules, through the twisting labyrinth of crazy architecture from the room at the centre of the building. He was breathing hard. It was strange not to feel the pain he had been feeling in his rib cage since he was five years old. Oddly, he missed it. But at the same time he felt whole â complete in a way he never remembered feeling before. It was not just because his heart had been restored to him. It was because Deirdre dwelt within it; it was because their love had been fulfilled at last. And it was because his anger had departed forever.
He heard a sound and looked up just in time to see the stairway collapsing, dragging, it seemed, the walls and the ceiling down with it. It looked as if a wedding cake, a large one with many layers, had been pushed off a table at a reception. For a split second he stood motionless, staring at it. It was the unbearable noise that drove him finally to the glass door where â
' was inscribed, and back out at last through the splintered wooden hoarding and onto the street.
The night air outside was still and startlingly fresh. In a moment it would be filled with dust from the collapsed building. There was no one on the street. No one but he knew that Corbenic was collapsing yet. But the noise alone would alert someone soon. Surely it could be heard streets away.
Gal crossed the street quickly and returned to the streetlight under which he had been standing when Deirdre had looked out her window and seen him. He had hoped to catch the sight of her window before it fell â to see her window one last time. And yes, the front of the building was still there, standing straight but doomed as the building crumbled behind it.
He gazed up at her window, remembering what it had felt like to see her ghostly face in it, the black shadows of her eyes, the strange silvery fairness of her hair, her white dress. He had known of course that she was dead, but he had not been afraid. He had longed only to see her and talk to her and be with her. He had longed only to rescue her, as he had not been able to do while she was alive.
He kept looking up at her window â not knowing what he expected to see, hoping to see nothing, hoping to see something.
But the window was empty. And as the front of the building began to waver and to crumble at last, he knew that he would never see Deirdre in this life again.
Soon he could see nothing for dust. When he heard the first wail of a siren in the distance he turned on his heel and began to walk slowly away.
He walked into his future, leaving Deirdre and her grandmother and Corbenic behind him.
And as he gazed into the distance, it seemed to him that he saw a girl on the road ahead of him, a girl in a white dress, with long fair hair. She was walking slowly, deliberately, dreamily, and yet he knew it would take him a long time to catch up with her. She had such a start on him.
But he knew he would catch up with her at last.
I grew up in old, complicated buildings, with stairs and hallways and vestibules and landings, with attics and cellars and even a boiler room. And I grew up looking out of windows, because we always lived upstairs, and living in the centre of town, because these buildings â a nineteenth-century hotel and an Art Deco block of flats â were close to railway stations and surrounded by shops. My sister and I didn't play in backyards â we played inside. And inside always seemed bigger than outside.
When I started to read, it was easy for me to believe that you could get to another universe through a wardrobe door. The buildings I grew up in had so many unexpected portals and dead ends, you felt you could have found almost anything around any corner. I guess that's why the landscape that has always intrigued me most is the landscape within. It has all the mountains and rivers and forests and wildernesses, all the wind and rain and snow and clement sunshine, all the calm seas and tempests, all the meadows and rocky paths there are outside. But the space on the outside can only be so big. The space on the inside is infinite.
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First published by Penguin Group (Australia), 2013
Text copyright Â© Cassandra Golds, 2013
The moral right of the author has been asserted
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