The Redeemer of Flesh

Prologue

The walls of her prison kept moving.

Didn’t they?

Or did the holes in her memory make it seem that way?

She wandered from one room to another in this place that felt like a house eternally folding in on itself, searching for a way out, a clue, anything that would help her piece together where she was and what had happened to her. The walls and ceilings looked solid, all panelled with beautiful red wood, while the floors were polished grey marble, deceptively permanent, decorated here and there with rugs made from an untreated yellow fibre. She liked the rugs. They were pleasantly rough underfoot. Occasionally she paused by one and lifted its corners, praying to find a trapdoor beneath or even just the name of the rug-maker. Nothing. No doors, no names.

On the nth attempt she discovered the bloodstain, hideously large and dark with age, and she decided not to look under any more rugs. For as long as she could remember not to, at least.

If she could only get her thoughts together…

But it was useless. Her memories were a tapestry torn to confetti, and her mind was a feeble pair of tweezers. No sooner would she grasp one fragment than another would slip away.

At some point, she hesitated on the threshold of a hallway. Wasn’t she just going back the way she’d come? And what were those paintings on the walls? Certainly she’d only just noticed those. That art style, what was its name? It started with an X. Expressionism, that was it. They were expressionist. She didn’t like their expression.

She walked on. The rugs, she liked those at least. Pleasantly rough underfoot.

When she came to the room with the door, her body remembered it. She’d been there before. There was no mistaking that dropping-away feeling in her stomach, the sweat breaking out on her palms. Some part of her that was deeper than memory itself had kept its own record, and it was trying to warn her.

She moved towards it anyway.

The door was completely smooth, a single piece of the same wood that lined the walls. She could open it, she knew she could. One of those millions of fragments had the key, if she could only find it.

By the door was an oval window, the size of a portrait. Her scalp prickled as she drew closer. She almost had the key, she could feel the arms of the tweezers closing in on their prize, yet even as they did there was a certainty growing in her that there were things worse than being a prisoner and some of them were very close at hand. But she had to know. She was at the window now.

She looked outside.

She screamed.

The door opened.

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