down below

There is a trapdoor in the floor of the basement.
Don’t open it, the adults say, with their faces the color of weathered stone
but I did
and I went
down
down
d o w n.
Below I found a world made out of stone and glass, with flowers that sang about sunlight they had only heard about in legend
further still was a princess whose name had been stolen by the wind.
If I got it back for her she would give me a great treasure and tell me a great secret.
I am not fond of treasure, but I like secrets.
So I went.
First I met a man who cried tears of fire.  I listened to his story.  I gave him my handkerchief.  He gave me one of his tears.
Second I met a man who cried tears of ice.  I listened to his story.  I gave him my locket.  He gave me one of his tears.
Last I met a woman who was met of stone and wood, who danced with the wind while remaining rooted in the earth.  I told her my story.  She gave me a kiss and said it would carry me far.
And at the very bottom I found a cottage.
Inside was a person who was barely an outline, but whose small heart was filled with glowing silver light.  Wrapped around it was the name of the princess.
I asked for it back.  The wind covered its heart and shook its head.  Down here it is too dark, too quiet, and even the earth itself has begun to forget.  A name is precious, even if it wasn’t really yours.
I took out the tear of fire and I gave it to the wind.
I took out the tear of ice and I gave it to the wind.
I hesitated, but I took the kiss of stone and wood and I gave it to the wind.
Each of these things turned bright and silver and for a moment I saw its face, and it was the same as the princess’s.
There was a tremendous flash, and I saw nothing.

When I awoke I was on the floor of the basement again.  In one hand I had a smear of silver dust and in the other a rose that crumbled to dust when I opened my fingers.
Was one the treasure?  Was one the secret?  I wanted to know.
But the next time I went down to the basement
the trapdoor was gone.

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