The Storyteller

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis Read Free Book Online

Book: The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis Read Free Book Online
Authors: Antonia Michaelis
queen shook her head. ‘How can a man be wearing my name?’
    “A third earthquake made the ground shake, and the first trees fell.
    “‘It is the island,’ the mare said. ‘Run, my little queen. Run to the highest cliff. Run quick. The island is sinking.’
    “‘The island is … sinking?’ asked the little queen. ‘How can an island sink?’
    “But the mare just inclined her head, silently.
    “‘I … I will run to the highest cliff,’ the little queen said. ‘But what about you? Aren’t you coming with me?’
    “‘Run, my little queen,’ the mare repeated. ‘Run quick.’
    “So the little queen ran. She ran as quick as her bare feet would carry her; she ran like the wind, like the storm, like a hurricane. Mrs. Margaret woke up and peeked out of her pocket fearfully. As the little queen reached the bottom of the highest cliff and started climbing up it, the night was torn open and a light came crashing through. The light swept the little queen off her feet, but she kept climbing on her hands and knees, higher and higher on the bare, rocky cliff, and when she arrived at the top, she turned and saw that the light was coming from the island. It rose from the middle like a column of fire, and she covered her face with her hands. All around her, the other cliffs broke; one after the other, she heard the pieces fall into the sea. Her heart was paralyzed with fear. Finally, after an eternity, the earth stopped quivering and the little queen dared to look up again.
    “The island had disappeared. Only a few cliffs were left, sticking out of the sea. In the sky, though, there hung the memory of the light that had risen from the middle of the island like a flame. In that nightmare light the little queen saw the sea. And the sea was red with blood.
    “It was made of crimson waves, carmine froth, splashing color. It was beautiful, like a field of poppies on a day in spring, though spring was far away. The little queen realized that she was shivering. And in that instant, she understood that winter had come.”
    • • •
     
    Anna heard a chair scraping the floor, being drawn back. She blinked. The dining room was nearly empty. Two women in striped coats were wiping down the tables with wet rags and throwing angry looks at those who hadn’t yet left. The handsome student was no longer sitting at Anna’s table. When had he left? Had she said goodbye to him?
    “And then?” she heard Micha ask. “What happened then?”
    “Then it was time to go,” Abel replied. “You can see they want to close. Is there any space left in your tummy for chocolate milk or an ice cream?”
    “Oh yes,” Micha said. “I can feel an empty space right here, see … there’s actually space for ice cream
and
chocolate milk.”
    “You’ve got to choose,” Abel said, and Anna heard him smile. “Let’s go back to the kitchen, shall we?”
    Anna got up in a hurry. She wanted to leave the room before Abel saw her face. She put the orange tray with the barely touched potato-dog onto the conveyor belt, where it was sucked into a hole in the wall on two moving rubber strips. Gitta’s mother would have liked the tray and the rubber strips—they were probably easy to sterilize.
    Anna pulled the head scarf tighter. Then she remembered that she wasn’t the one sitting on the edge of a cliff in soaking-wet clothes; it was somebody else, and for the millionth time that day, she felt extremely stupid.
    She reached the kitchen without being seen or recognized. Abel and Micha took their time—the kitchen was crowded with people. Anna felt herself becoming almost invisible in the crowd; she dissolved into the anonymous mass of students and pretendedto study the party flyers lying on the windowsill. And then she heard Micha’s high, childish voice behind her. She let the voice pass and then turned and followed it between glass shelves laden with cake and sandwiches. Suddenly too close to the voice and its owner, she busied herself with

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