I woke up lying flat on my back in a bed of wet powder. I stared at the bright blue, cloudless sky above me and the tips of the iced over trees that seemed to touch the blue. At first, I had no worry of the moment as I listened to the bird’s chirp and fly over my face, then I wondered. Where am I? I wasn’t in the coffee shop anymore. The guy I was talking to wasn’t anywhere to be seen. No footprints disrupted the soft snow all around. Something about these surroundings was familiar, as if from a dream; had I been here before in my fantasy world? The wet snow crunched and made a faint hiss as it started to melt at the touch of my somewhat warm body. If this really was my dream, it seemed all too real. Cupping my hands into the snow I threw a pile of the snow onto my face, but the cold powder felt so real that as I removed my hands from my face. I waited for the ambient mumbling of the coffee shop to enter my ears, or the soft, cozy cushions of my couch to appear under me; but there was nothing except the trees. Snow. Birds. My backpack. My backpack? The only thing from home that made me relax just long enough before the full realization I wasn’t actually home set in.
Hanging from a tree about ten feet away was my navy-blue backpack. My body was so cold, the snow had soaked through my cream-colored sweater and skinny jeans. Each step I took toward the object sent one spike of pain through my body. Dangling from the pack was a tag fluttering in the gentle breeze, but for my cold hands it was difficult to get a hold of it. I could barely hold the piece of paper steady enough to read it.
Find Logan. Trust only her right now!
Destroy this note immediately.
How was I supposed to find anyone in this forest? I couldn’t see civilization through the thick trees and the darkness beyond them. Crumpling up the note and stuffing it in my pocket I attempted to pull the backpack closer to me. It felt like it weighed hundreds of pounds because my frozen body was growing weaker and weaker. I was praying there was some sort of jacket in here to warm me up a bit or at least a fire kit or a flare. Unzipping the backpack, I was speechless when I pulled out multiple fairytale books. Everything from Cinderella to Peter Pan. Confused as I was, I stared at the individual covers; the artwork was amazing. They looked like similar artwork of when I was at the coffee shop. Running my finger across the details and I could feel the brush strokes of the paint brush used to create these masterpieces. The detail was so clear and concise it looked like it was photographed just like the previous one. I Placed them back in the backpack and moved to the next pocket. As soon as I saw a granola bar I immediately gobbled it up, settling down my roaring stomach. On the side netted pocket, something sparkly caught my eye. I pulled out a little jar corked at the top containing dancing dust. I read the tag attached: Pixie dust. Use wisely. Pixie dust? Seriously? Where was I? This can’t possibly exist unless… “but even that couldn’t be possible,” I murmured to myself. My thought was suddenly interrupts but the sound of a crack and pitter patter of something moving quickly. I held my breath in hope of hearing something familiar, but the sound of my heart pounding made it hard to hear for sure what was approaching. It almost sounded like something running... an animal? Wolf? Fox? Horse? The I heard the piercing crack again. It echoed through the trees as I came to a conclusion: hooves.
I shoved the jar back into its pocket, then flung the whole thing over my shoulder. I trudged through the wet snow as the hooves grew louder, then to my sudden surprise the horses flew right past me knocking me back to the ground. My face planted back in the snow; when I looked up I saw a black Victorian-style carriage drawn by two horses. Red curtains drawn over the windows were not disturbed by movement inside as I expected the door to open. All was quiet for just a moment then a figure jumped down from the front. I thought my eyes were playing tricks at first because it looked like the figure was wearing a suit of armor. Blinking my eyes a couple times turned out I wasn’t wrong; a black knight approached with such anger in his footsteps. The horse whip in his hand dragged in the snow behind him.
This was all too real to understand!
“How dare you trespass on the Queen's highway?!” His snake like voice hissed through the punctured holes on the side of his helmet. He raised his whip to strike, and for a split second I could see the piercing blue eyes staring right at me. I couldn't find words to defend myself. I curled up into a ball, covering my face with my arm and waited for the crack on my back.
“Wait, Lucifer,” a lady’s voice demanded. I peeked over my arm to see a woman in a long, black dress with a burgundy hat. A fat, fluffy feather which seemed to barely be attached to the hat lazily fumbled in the wind during this dead silence. Her cheeks were as rosy as her apple red lips which were complimented by her white teeth.
The snow crunched under her feet as she strode toward me. The woman lowered herself down to my level gently sliding her finger across my ruddy cheek. Lifting my chin to meet her gaze, she gasped, “My dear -- you’re freezing,” She paused a moment to examine my figure and tangled mess of hair before continuing. “Lucifer, look at her! Help her into the carriage, we’ll take her to the palace with us,”
“Your Maj--” He started to protest with a slight bow of respect.
“That was not a suggestion. It is an order,” she demanded strictly. She stood a good foot shorter than the knight, but her tone demonstrated she was the authority figure.
The last thing I wanted was that whip across my face, so I quickly hid the slight smile on my face as Lucifer unhappily stomped toward me. His gloved hands grasped my arm and heaved me to my feet. My body was so cold I thought my legs had forgotten how to function, but Lucifer’s grip on my arm was so tight it wouldn’t let me fall. He didn’t help me into the carriage, but I didn’t care. My mind was too distracted when I saw the inside of the carriage. Red velvet seats, black lace window curtains pulled to the side and pinned by ribbons. Lucifer threw my backpack in beside me with a loud clatter.
The Queen gave a good long glare at the bag. If I really was in the fifteenth century, they wouldn’t have these here. “What an interesting, um, interesting satchel you have there, my dear.” she stated politely after a long moment to gather her words. Not knowing what to say to that, I just nodded in agreement. “And who would have thought trousers would look somewhat well on women?”
What she said caught me by surprise. “Oh,” I exclaimed abruptly, giving a weak smile. My two toned blue jeans were now drying up, but still really cold.
“Well, how did you end up in this side of the forest, my dear?”
I opened my mouth, but my teeth still chattered as I replied, “I-- I have n - no idea.”
Her facial expression changed from curiosity to sympathy as she listened to the crack in my voice. “Aw, you poor thing. Here --” she waved her hand, then appeared beside me a wool blanket whose warmth instantly set in the moment I wrapped it around my frigid body. I had to have been dreaming. Magic isn’t possible; unless this isn’t the real world, which I’ve forgotten where in that world I’m from, this had to be a dream.
For a long moment I was silent. I closed my eyes as I listened to the sound of the wooden wheels trek across the gravel and dirt road occasionally hitting a rock or a pothole which made us both jolt and jump. I felt almost relaxed as the carriage took us farther and farther into the wood, or out of the woods, I was no longer aware of the surroundings. The Queen just observed me during the whole ride. Looking up and down from my soaked Converse to my stringy hair as if she had never seen someone like me before; which I was quite positive she hadn’t. Before either of us could come up with the next conversation starter there was a little knock at the window behind the Queen causing me to jump a little at the sudden noise. From ear to ear her red lips stretched into a smile as she scooted to the edge of her seat.
Her perfectly done nails grabbed the lining of the curtain drawn over the window to my right, then said, “Welcome to my winter palace, my dear.”
I nearly fell out of the carriage as my eyes looked higher and higher to find the top of the tallest tower, but the top pierced the graceful clouds hiding its roof. The stone structure laid perfectly, not a brick was out of place or old.
“Come, darling,” urged the Queen.
Right on cue, giant silver doors opened wide revealing a huge room which, by the furniture, looked like the throne room. A single, tall chair sat alone on the other side. Stain glass windows behind let in the setting sun light making the gold pillars and walls seem to glow with the joy of the Queen’s return. “It feels good to be home.”
After introductions were made to a few staff members, I was then ushered away to “my room”. She ordered them to "take care of the lost one" and "get her cleaned up for dinner". The Queen had mentioned taking care of an important matter and would meet me for dinner in an hour. By this point, I had the wool blanket hanging over my arm. My clothes had mostly dried, and the palace had fires lit in every room. The maid who was ordered to take care of me said nothing the entire journey to through the palace. She was short, with wrinkling dark skin as if she worked in the sun all day. Her nose had a bump in the middle and came down to a point. The only imperfection besides the wrinkles was a lonely black wart on the left side of her nose. If witches existed, she would fit their description. Finally, we stopped in front of a set of doors which looked exactly like every other set we’ve passed. She flipped through her cast iron keys. Carved into each one was a grinning skull. What an interesting taste in design. After she fingered through five or six, she finally fit one into the keyhole unlocking it with a faint click. The orange rays of the sun sparkled the room. The fire was lit, and a faint chime of a grandfather clock cooed from the corner. I lost my words at the sight of the beauty the room held within it. A four post bed with lace curtains, silk bedspread, soft sheets and the pillows were like clouds. I felt almost at home in this room. Although, the judging eyes of the maid burned a hole in my enthusiasm. She grunted, then put my backpack on the table next to the window. Before she could open it, I quickly rushed over before she got too far into it. I didn’t trust her. She rolled her eyes, gave a definite humph and strutted out of the room. I didn’t want to be rude, but she was way worse.
As I began scouting out the rest of my room, the maid returned with a dress across her arm. Laying it out on the silk bed, she said, “The Queen hoped you’d wear this to supper tonight.”
Her voice was hoarse and deep as if she gargled nails this morning. I would be lying if I said she didn't scare me. The dress she brought in was a lovely shade of purple with half sleeves and long white lace which cuffed them. As I admired the outfit, a little tap at the door snapped me out of it.
“Come in,” snapped the maid, her voice went up slight at the end as if she was annoyed about the disturbance. The door creaked open and the face of a girl around my age peaked in. Her eyes were big with curiosity. Her dark chocolate hair pushed out of her face by a ragged hair band, but the locks draped over her shoulders in a stringy mess. A smudge of soot stretched across her cheekbone. “Clean yourself up, Logan.”
Her fingers quickly grasped her cinder-covered apron without saying a word. The smudge disappeared, but the sneer of the maid beside her stayed focused on Logan.
Logan? Is this the Logan the note was talking about? I thought. So many questions flooded to my head, but they were quickly settled back in my mind before my facial expressions gave too much away. I don't know who I can trust here, and I definitely don't trust the witch maid over here.
“This is Logan, she will help you get ready for supper tonight. She can not speak, but will write down anything she needs to say.”
With that final word the maid left, slamming the door behind her. She scared me. It still felt like her eyes were looming over the room.
I wanted to immediately ask her question after question, but what the witch maid said kept me from doing so. She can't speak; how am I suppose to get my answers?
Logan was sweet and gentle. She treated my personal items with care and a soft touch. As I sat in front of the mirrored desk I saw her touch the bottle of pixie dust on the side of my bag. She stared at it for a long while before acting as if she never saw a thing. She turned to me and saw the longing look in my eyes. She knew I had questions. I began to open my mouth to say something and she immediately put her finger to her lips. She drew what looked to be a question mark with her finger in the air then pointed to her wrist, tapped twice, then pointed with her finger up and then down in a short, quick motion. My mind tried to piece it together, then my eyes met hers as I saw her mouth "later". I nodded to let her know I understood. I turned back around in my chair. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I don't know why. Was it because I felt like I could trust Logan, or was it the fact that she knew the answers and I found who I need to talk to. I was ready to go home and I couldn't wait until dinner was over so I can go home.
Logan cinched up my dress. It was so tight I almost couldn’t breath. She grabbed my hand and led me to back to the fancy, mirrored table by the door. The mirror reflected my dress; it was gorgeous. She pulled out the chair, gesturing for me to sit. It was comfy. Logan grabbed my tangled auburn locks and began to brush through it with a gentle touch.
The clock chimed eight forty-five and with a silent gasp Logan grabbed my arm and escorted me down to the dining hall. Her footsteps pitter pattered across the shiny floor until they stopped in front of giant, skinny double doors, then rapped twice with knuckles.
A soft voice replied from the other side, “Enter.”
Logan opened the double doors revealing a room twice the size of my bedroom. The Queen stood at the far end of a long table with a gold goblet in her hand. Logan curtsied before her and then dismissed herself.
“Oh! Look at you!” exclaimed the Queen. “I had hoped that dress would fit.”
“It’s lovely,” I replied. “Um -- I...”
“Have a seat, darling.”
I obeyed without another word. As I walked to my seat, I couldn't help but take notice to the high ceiling, trimmed in gold molding with rafters of the same color meeting in the center to support the chain which dangled down blossoming into a chandelier as big as the sun. The candle light it displayed shimmered on the gold pillars as if it was on fire.
“Unburden yourself, dear,” the Queen said softly after the kitchen staff served us roasted quail. “You seem to have something on your mind”
“I-- I don’t know where I am, or how I even got here,” I bursted out. I hadn’t realized how I said it until it came out. The Queen sat back in her chair and smirked.
“You, compared to the rest in my kingdom, are different, but I naturally assumed you came from a different realm or kingdom far off.”
“You could say that.”
“Your clothing was quite interesting, I apologize for not having anything similar for you to wear during your stay here,”
“Oh no, this is quite alright.”
“And speaking of your stay here, you are more than welcome to stay as long as you like.”
“Thank you,” I smiled weakly. “It’ll be only until I can figure out a way back to where I came from.”
“Oh,” the Queen said astonished. “And have you figured out where that might be?”
I sighed, then muttered. “Not yet,”