STONE

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A lady, wearing a blue polonaise and brown balmorals, emerged from the black fog at the edge of a vast, circular limspace. She was greeted by a dead sea of gray gravel, against a blistering-white sky, with neither clouds nor a sun. The last she could recall was the destruction of the town's church, as she fell from its tower. The world went dark before she hit the ground, and before long, she was in the Gravel Pit.

The woman began her journey toward the limspace's center, guided by the wind which always blew outward. After days of trudging through gravel, scaling great peaks and descending low valleys, her path was blocked by an enormous lake of black tar. Jutting out were the exhaust pillars of a long-wasted manufacturing plant; several suburban homes, half submerged, with cracked windows; a lighthouse tower, laying horizontal; and the underside of a large cruise ship. With no way to cross the lake, she was forced to go around. Over weeks, she passed more lakes of tar, each smaller than the last, until there were no more. The mountains shrank into dull dunes. Her shoes became tatters, now wrapped in cloth torn from her dress.

She noticed other travelers, making the same journey. Most were in worse shape than her, and many were drenched in black tar. She approached a man, and called to him, but he did not hear her. She ran and caught up with him, but he could not see her. Somehow, she was not like him. She did not block his path. He continued, and did not take rests as she did. After hours of trailing him, she went to sleep under the gravel. Upon waking, he was gone.

Abruptly, the dunes came to an end. She reached a flat layer of gravel, covering a disk of bedrock, several hundred kilometers in diameter. At the center of the disk stood a thin beam of gray against the white sky. As she approached, the beam widened, revealing itself to be a stone tower. It was a perfect cylinder, perpendicular to the horizon, and extending upwards infinitely, too tall for the human eye to see all at once. The gravel immediately surrounding the tower had been blown away by the wind, revealing the surface of the white bedrock disk. A door of white marble, closed, rested at the base of the tower.

The delicate touch of solid ground under her feet sent lightning down her back and caused her to tremble. She fell to the floor and hugged the ground with joy. Travelers arrived and entered the tower without so much as an acknowledgement of her existence. Eventually, she rose, and approached the tower's entrance. She pushed on the door, as she had seen done by each traveler before her, but it would not let her through. A child appeared behind her, who was able to open the door, and she followed quickly behind.

Inside the tower was a large, spiral stairwell that extended upward to no end. Every few steps, there was a wooden door along the wall. She watched as the child ascended. He checked each door along the wall, finding each to be locked. More travelers arrived, and did the same. She climbed the stairs as they did, following a man as he checked every door. The time it took was inconceivable, but eventually, the man in front of her found an unlocked door, and he entered.

She caught a glimpse of the room's interior- oak walls, a shaggy carpet, couches around a wooden table and a crimson bed. She rushed to the next door, which was unlocked. When she opened it, she found an urban apartment, modernly furnished with pristine white walls; to her, the style was shocking — alien. She attempted to enter, but was launched backwards instead. She tripped and barely caught herself, nearly falling off the side of the stairs. Before she had caught her breath, the next person arrived — a short woman wearing a dark-gray suit — who entered the modernly furnished room. The door locked behind her.

Defeated, the lady traveled back down to the base of the tower, and she found egress through an iron door, tucked away behind the stairwell.

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