This tower once had floors of gleaming ebony, and walls of lacquered white. Its spiral staircase rose in fluted curves. On the top floor was the Krisis, a chair meant and named for judgment. Carved from a single block of wood, it was etched in glyphs of vision and discernment.
The Krisis was the Watcher’s chair.
There were many incarnations of the Watcher, each new one coming on the death throes of the last. Sometimes, they seemed cliché — an ancient crone or mage, cast in bony wrinkles and harsh decrepitude. At other times, the Watcher was impetuous, almost whimsical in form — a child playing with a yo-yo, a cheerleader, a housewife with a feather duster. For several hundred years, the Watcher had the body of a lithe and graceful dancer, muscles twitching with the cost of sitting still.
The dead arrived in droves or trickles, first climbing up the endless stairs, then traipsing down the hardwood halls until they reached the Krisis. Without a trace of anger or remorse, the Watcher offered them a final judgment, sent them left or right. No one knew what lay at either end. None returned with stories of redemption or damnation, tales of beatitude or torment.
They simply disappeared, left or right, beneath a bone-white light that lit the faces of the dead without a single shadow. It was a terrifying strangeness.
The last Watcher in the tower was the first to see the blister in the paint. He was a young man, handsome, who liked to twirl a pen knife in his fingers. The blister was a small, raised spot, hidden in the corner. It nagged against his heart. He began to doubt the perfection of the tower, of the Krisis, of the startling, strangling light.
The blister spread and reproduced. Flakes of paint fell off. The floor picked up a shallow scratch. The Watcher grew entranced with ruin. He forgot to herd the dead. He forgot his left and right. He saw nothing but the tower’s degradation, the slow tumble towards decay. Soon enough, the walls bore wounds of stripped and peeling paint, mold between the lathes exposed and all the drift of dust.
The Watcher spun the knife between his fingers. Faster, faster went the blade until it whirred a demon heartbeat. He threw it hard and let it stick. Then he stood up from the Krisis. He walked away, turning neither left nor right, just strolling down the central hallway until he disappeared.
Left alone, the Krisis trembled, cold. It could not judge without a witness, a living pair of eyes. All around, the dead began to pile like stones along a beach. There was no one to direct them. As its glyphs faded and then vanished, the Krisis rocked from side to side in desolation. Then, like a flame blown down to ash, the wood was nothing but a chair, deserted. And the bone-white light went out with a quiet, final pop.
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