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A Fairy Tale Ending

by Harrow about a month ago in Fantasy
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a princess and a dragon

A Fairy Tale Ending
Photo by Alice Alinari on Unsplash

I // Dragon Sighting

There’s a crowd of people around you, pressing against you on every side. An elbow jabs into your stomach, drawing a sharp hiss from your lips before you can stop yourself. You duck your head to avoid the eyes of those who looked towards you at the sound. You aren’t a big enough attraction to distract from the focus of the group, and they quickly turn away. You move through the crowd as best you can, slowly twisting your way around people to move to the front.

You’re still a few rows from the front of the crowd when you catch your first glimpse of her. Guards stand all around her, heavy shackles around her ankles and wrists connected to chains held by the guards. The tips of electric wands are centimeters away from her dark skin, daring her to move, to try to escape. She stands perfectly still, with the wisps of black hair caught by the breeze the only movement. She has done this many times before, you can tell. She is the cattle the guards pull out whenever they wish to make their show of power before she is hidden away again wherever it is that caught superhumans are kept. Her eyes capture your attention, hold you captive and unable to look away. They burn as bright as the sun, the oranges and yellows and reds shining with what you know can only be anger and hatred towards her captors. Her eyes, the only outward sign that she is more than human, stare back at those who would mock her without blinking.

You blink against tears welling up against the contact lenses you wear.

A guard captain speaks from beside the group around the captive. We know there are more superhumans hiding amongst you, he states. Bring them forward before sunrise and you will not face consequences.

The crowd murmurs and shifts. None of them would hide a superhuman, you know. They take fright at mice and shadows while the true nightmares parade openly among them. Superhumans stay in disguise because not doing so is suicide. Not doing so would mean capture by the same people holding the angry superhuman the crowd was there to see.

The guard captain beckoned to his men, and they begin to move away. She doesn’t move fast enough, and an electric wand jabs into her back. Her back arches as the current runs through her, and her scream sounds to your ear more like a roar. The crowd moves back, and the guards shove her forward. You stand and watch until you can no longer see her.

II // What Makes A Monster?

You stand in front of the mirror, wondering how your eyes can be the same color as her’s and be so different. Her eyes had been hard lines and a shine of anger. Her eyes had been molten fire glaring at the world. Yours were soft, the sun leaving the world to darkness. You marvel that such a small thing as the color of your eyes was all that physically separated you from the humans surrounding you. Your eyes were the only indication that you were stronger and faster than them, or that you healed faster than they did. You cover your eye color everyday and no one realizes that the monster they fear is walking right beside them.

You wonder why you’re a monster at all. You don’t feel like a monster. Humans seemed to take offense at you simply for wanting to live amongst them.

You hear glass shatter. You turn to see guards coming into your room through windows and doors, guns pointed at you. You try to run, your ears ring as multiple bullets fly through the room. You feel one lodge into your leg, you fall into one of the guards. Hands are grabbing you, pulling your hair, your clothes, dragging you to your knees. You look up into the cold eyes of the guard captain just before something slammed into your skull.

III // A Will To Live

You wake to the Earth moving. You realize you’re being dragged, groaning as pain rings through your temple. You hear metal grate against metal before you’re shoved into a cell, hands and knees scraping against the concrete floor. You lift your head and your eyes meet with fire. She sits on the bench at the back of the cell, legs crossed and eyes trained on you. The two of you stare at each other without speaking. She looks better suited to being the dragon out of the fairy tales you read as a child than to a captive superhuman. How could anyone have managed to subdue a dragon?

After a moment, the cold look on her face softens, and then she is in front of you, pulling you to your feet.

Don’t fret, little princess, she tells you. Surviving here isn’t easy, but you can do it.

You can feel your heart pounding in your chest, blood rushing through your veins. You are certainly doomed, just as all captured superhumans were. None ever came back. You would die here. How painful would they make your end? How long would you suffer first?

But… No. You would not think like that. You could not think like that. You could not give up before it had even begun.

Dragon smiles at you and you slowly smile back.

You’ll be alright, Princess, she says.

IV // Hunger

The pain remains long after their torture instruments are gone from your body. The wounds will be scars tomorrow, but they’ll quickly be replaced by new ones. There are far easier, far less painful ways to test the endurance and healing capabilities of your race, but you know the scientists who study you will look for any excuse to hurt you. Human response to fear is to harm, you have come to realize.

You have stopped trying to figure out what exactly they’re testing with each time they take you. It doesn’t matter; you just have to maintain your will to live. Dragon told you to choose a point to look at and think about nothing else until they are done. You study cracks in the walls and the dirt that covers it. The torture ends and you are brought back to your cell until the next time they wish to study you.

Dragon is sitting on the bench. You sit on the ground in front of her, your head leaning forward to rest against her legs. Silence surrounds you both. After some time, you raise your head to look at her. She is staring out the cell bars, a look heavy in her eyes that you can only describe as… loneliness. Agony. Sorrow.

Hesitantly, you reach up and lightly brush her jawline with your fingertips. She turns to you; you see hunger in her eyes. You realize just how starved for attention she is. She’s held herself aloof from every superhuman they brought into this place for fear of losing herself when they were gone.

So why did she open up to you?

Her fingers touch your jawline briefly, hesitantly.

V // Lullaby For a Monster

Dragon isn’t there. You sit on the bench and close your eyes, losing yourself in your breathing until they bring her back. When she returns, sweat is dripping down her skin, carving patterns in the dirt. She collapses on the bench beside you, curling herself up half on your lap. Her hands shake, and the air she breathes onto your leg is hot. You brush your fingers through her hair, careful not to pull too hard when you encounter knots and mats of blood.

You begin to sing softly. Your voice carries the lilting melody out only loud enough for her to hear. You sing of freedom, of forests where humans cannot find you, of a fantasy where you both are safe.

Her hands still. You trace her jawline lightly with your fingertips. She falls asleep, and you continue to sing. You hope the words will give her pleasant dreams. Gods know there is a lack of good things in this place. Your hold on this fantasy becoming reality is all that keeps you going, day after day. One day, the two of you will escape. You’ll move so far away from here, no humans will be alive for miles around. It’ll be the two of you, safe, together, for the rest of your days on this world. No more nightmares, no more pain, no more fear. One day, it will be your reality.

VI // The One Who Writes The Story

The guard captain smiles at you, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. They remain as cold and hard as ever. He stands on the other side of the bars to your cell, safely out of your reach if you were to try anything. You won’t. You sit on the bench on the other side of the cell and watch him.

What do you think this is, little monster? he asks. This isn’t a fairy tale, you aren’t a princess. This is the real life, and monsters like you don’t get happily ever afters with other monsters.

You remain silent and stare at him. You will not let these people affect you. They will not control your life forever. The captain leans closer to the bars, voice lowering just a bit.

But I have the power to rewrite your story, he said. I can give you a happy ending, little monster, you just gotta promise to be good. Can you do that? he asked. Can you be a well-behaved little monster princess?

You smile sweetly at him. You don’t understand, you tell him. It wouldn’t be a happy ending if you are involved.

He spits through the bars and stalks off.

No one writes your story but you.

VII // Raw and Bleeding and Blind

You are returned to the cell bloody and bruised. You stand in the middle of the cell while Dragon rages around you. She is silent while she paces, but you can see the urge in her eyes to yell and scream and cry. She is furious. If she were truly a dragon, she would bathe your captors in fire until no one was left standing in your way. You understand this is why she kept herself so detached from those that had come before you. Her ties to you would be needles and knives in the very core of her being if your life were to end.

You pull her into your arms, lightly tracing shapes on her back with your fingers while she shakes with anger. Her head rests on your shoulder, her fingers pushing into your back to push your body closer to hers. The two of you sink to the floor, and you whisper that you are alright over and over. You know that she knows you’re lying.

Later, she washes the blood from your skin with a gentleness that you know extends to no one but yourself. She vows that she will make them pay for putting it there. You tell her to be quiet. Do not let them hear you say things like that, you say. She turns to the bars and shouts it at the top of her lungs.

The will only hurt you for this, you tell her, please stop.

They already hurt me, she says, what more can they do?

You do not answer. You raise a hand and lightly trace your fingertips along her jawline.

VIII // Torture By Any Other Name Is Still Torture

She glares at the strangers outside of the cell. You sit beside her, the picture of grace and calm. She bristles at being on display. You calmly accepts this as you has so many other things. You will not let them control your life.

The scientists proclaim that their tests are proceeding as planned. The subjects are providing invaluable data, they tell the strangers. The strangers nod. They are satisfied with what they are being told. They deem their money spent well on this research. They do not question the scars covering her flesh and yours. They do not ask about the fresh wounds covering the scars. They do not care. Monsters and beasts do not deserve the pity of humanity. You have heard this spiel many times before.

You wonder once again what makes you the monster. Why are you the bad guy when you have never hurt another soul for any reason other than self defense? But humans fear what they do not understand. Different equals wrong. Equals evil. You, who simply want to live in peace, are bad. They are the heroes of society that will study you so humanity will have no reason to fear the rest of your kind.

You had never realized before that study meant torture.

The strangers leave. The scientists reprimand her for behaving so poorly. Later, you trace your fingertips along her jawline to remind her that good still exists.

IX // The Future We Write

You lay with your head on Dragon’s chest, your head rising and falling with her breathing. Her fingers twist around your hair, her voice rumbling through your head.

We cannot stay here, she says. This is no way to live.

Do you think we can make it out? you ask. You have wanted to leave for so long, but now that you are truly talking about it… You’re scared of failing, of what that would mean for the two of you.

We do not have a choice, she states. If we do not leave, we will die here. I want to see the outside again, she says, and this time, without the guards dictating my every movement.

What will we do when we’re free? you ask.

We will run far from here, she says. Her fingers still in your hair. We will go to the place that you sing of, where we will never see another human again, she whispers.

You shift so you can see her face without moving off of her. Her mind is far away, in this place where the two of you will be free together. You brush her jawline slowly with your fingertips.

Just me and you, for the rest of our days, you whisper.

You yearn for this to be your future with everything that is in you.

X // Fairy Tale Endings

The day comes when she feels you both are ready to make your break. How she had managed to steal the small blade she used to pick the lock of your cell, you don’t know. She has her ways, and that is enough for you. The facility is dark as the two of you slip away from your cell, the scientists and most of the guards asleep in their own beds. You know your luck will not last; you will meet with someone soon.

The apprentice scientist that spotted the two of you was inches from the alarm when Dragon caught her, choking her into unconsciousness. If she had been racing against a human, she would have made it to the alarm.

You don’t make it much further before the alarm sounds, though. Someone else found her body slumped on the floor. The alarm rings, piercing your eardrums. Dragon grabs your wrist, and the two of you sprint down the exit route she has memorized. You don’t remember much of the rest of the run. Screams and shouts of terror filter through your ears but do not remain in your mind. You know, in some part of your subconscious, that some of the screams are drawn out by your hand. You notice nothing but Dragon before you, and the desire coursing through you to reach the exit.

The same intense focus that brings about the end of the heroes in stories is the same thing that brings about your own. You stumble as the first bullet rips through your leg. The second lodges in the ankle of the same leg as you fall to the ground. The third rips into your shoulder seconds after. Your scream rings down the halls.

Dragon skids to a stop several feet ahead of you. You shout at her to go, to run, to save herself. You know she won’t. You can feel the ties snapping, sending the knives flying into her soul. The tears streaking down your face are more for what you’ve done to her than for yourself.

She is on her knees beside you; guards circle up around the both of you. Pain shoots through you when she pulls you into her lap, but you do not protest. If you are going to die, you want to die in her arms. That is the closest thing to a home you have ever had.

Her tears fall off her cheeks and mingle with the ones sliding down yours. Her head dips, her hair covering the two of you from the guards all around. Her fingertips brushing your jawline are the last thing you are able to feel.

The captain was wrong; this is a fairy tale. Fairy tales never have happy endings.

Fantasy

About the author

Harrow

25 | he/they | part-time writer, full-time cat dad

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