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Monday, June 17, 2013

A Shadow of a Princess’s Dream

Category: Short Story

A Shadow of a Princess’s Dream

I fly alight in the dawn, and my majesty is the truth.  See me spear my rage in your old books, see me pour fury into your hopes, boy, your hopes, boy that I dreamt of too, when I was younger, when I was not what I am now:  princess.

(Princess)

I am your tool, I am apotheosis.
“Princess!”
“Yes?”
“Get down off that balcony!”
I step down.  I move to the table and take hold of the block, one like wood.
“Put it in you already!” my nursemaid commands.
It’s a new format.  I lift my dress, and shift the hlafweard into my waist, under my diaphragm, as I have been trained . . .
My nursemaid smiles.  “It’s easier this time, darling!  Better sit down though!”
I refuse to sit down but I hold onto the edge of the chair as I accumulate the data from the hlafweard, the lord, the system of lords.  The keepers of the bread.
I who would be used must use;  it is politics.  We use a system of light here.  I have not seen my father for eight years.  I am the corridor unmasked, you see.  Have you ever been in a corridor?  Try to come inside:
“Who are you?”
Young men.  Young men.  Hot boyz.  Here in our righteousness I must unwrap this specific throat for your caress, this aspect of your long orgasmic devotion to kings, whatever your chief star system:  I can not dominate as you might think.  I am only a woman.  And I am young.
“My name is Anadone.”
“Who are you?  I can’t see.”
I see him through the colored static the hlafweard allows for me, behind my eyes.  I speak to him, with a darker voice.  I have so many practices;  they tire me.
“Boy, come to me.  I am here for you.”
And in a second, along our Light.  When he seizes me.  Our Old Light!
(music)
(for conquering)

―  four thousand governments

― A long low ocean on a planet flung from orbit, unique

―  The 5 megabit key for the Coliseum Vault, the secrets we’ve been wanting . . .


Tell me, do tell me, temptresses of old, what do you do with them after?  Always a decision, isn’t it.  Some like to keep them close, to feel their humiliation.  Some like to throw them aside, never to see them again.  I take photographs.  To remember my many shames.  And the men’s faces keep me comfort at night.
“Unplug it lady!  Jesus!”
“Don’t speak to me of old gods tonight, Elizabeth, I’m tired.”
I am a working girl.  Call me Rapunzel, if you like, though my hair is black, like they would have my heart be.  Like the storm that is coming.  Like the eyes of my servant, Georges.  Let me tell you of Georges, while we process our new territories.  Light is fast, but it has a speed.  The trick is turning it . . .
Anyway, Georges was born in France.  Have you heard of France?  It’s tres belle . . .

- -

For centuries it was the manorial system in France, before the Carolingians.  Before the Holy Roman Empire. Though it lasted longer in Germany, it thrived in France briefly too:  the hlafweard, or, if you like, the Dominus, the Lord. 
The trouble with leadership is it’s so often underappreciated.  And then when it’s gone some never even quite see what went wrong.  Isn’t that right, Georges?
“My lady?”
“Put on my slippers, will you?  I need a walk.”
My temple, or, if you like, my prison, is not on a planet.  We keep a region of spin under tight control near a quasar (I cannot tell you the region), and it acts as a useful center for communications, and intrigues.  It is narrow, and lonely.  Though I speak with many, I see few.  Mostly just Georges and Elizabeth, my servants. 
“Georges, what are we paying you these days?”
“I am generously compensated, miss.”
“But what?  Are we paying you in gold?  In land?”
“Information, miss.”
“Ahh, a man after my own heart.”
He is so droll, Georges is, in his copper-colored suits and slicked hair and 20th Century stock-broker glasses.  I do love him.  Sometimes I have even wanted him.
He is a man like you might have seen:  sad, tall, lonely.  Dark hair, laugh lines, though he rarely smiles.  Getting fat, a little bit.  Slim fingers on his hands.  And wide, clear eyes, slightly mad.  His madness is what is most useful to me, though as a woman I like his shoulders, for they fit my head.  But it is unseemly for an employer to rest her head on her employee’s shoulder.
“Georges, I’ve been thinking of running away again.”
“Why is that, lady?”
“I don’t know.  The usual reasons, I suppose.  Do you think I should?”  I flick my hair and play coquette, though I am not very good at it.  We here by the quasar have so many layers of irony;  it is one thing the beast does not suck into its obscene gravity . . .
“No, lady, not yet.  Not quite yet, Princesa.”
And then we see the sky redden, here in our tight sloughed off region of time, cut fast down and rewound like a magnetic tape, scraping away our skin ―
“Georges!”
But he is running away from me, away from our tower.
“Georges!”
I run back to the tower.  The sky is talking now.  I hate talking skies.  I hate that I was born to a king.  I hate that I am a woman.  I raise my skirts so I can run faster and slam my shoulder into the oak door and run back up the steps, shouting:
“Lizzy!  Lizzy!”  I am crying, I realize.
Lizzy is asleep, her eyes black.  Already she is defending us.  My God, loyal servants.  They are the strangest, somehow, stranger than all the rest, why does she ―
I bow to our godlet, and allow its wires into my head.  The world of my mammal senses slips away.

- -

I was taught visual programming from the age of three.  It is of the highest importance in our rule.  Can you think quickly?  Do you have a sense for color?  We are always hiring.  Speak to one of our agents on Earth, or Aelena Seven.  Bring a map you have drawn yourself.  We still love quality, you know.  It is why my father’s kingship survives.
When I was six I programmed this hallway:  see it with me.


The Hallway

Yes, here it is.  I’ve slowed it down for you;  part of me must go on ahead (money to be made and borders to defend!).  The white is pure nostalgia:  I always loved the Terror Ships of Galactic Empire in George Lucas’ films.  See here, I made this wooden table.  The teddy is my oldest friend.  His name is Lucifer.  I know, morbid.  Well, I had a difficult childhood.
“Lucifer!”
The doll opens his eyes.
“Hello, Princesa.”
“Don’t call me that, Lucifer!  We have guests!  One of the far travelers is here with us!  Be polite!  And call me Ana, for God’s sake!”
“Yes, Princesa.  Ana.”
I pet his fur;  isn’t he soft?  The trick to organic structures in visual programming is to follow your instincts ― what else is there?  I remember thinking, as a girl, the doll is like a window, and so it is, just touch his head and you’ll see the shimmer at the far end of the hallway.
Clearly you know how flexible reality is but the trick for me has always been knowing its meniscuses, its surface tensions.  As you caress the Teddy, the milk of the shimmer will sense you too, and you must decide what kind of information you want to transmit.
I’ll make this easier;  already I have won, you see;  the me I sent ahead has won, and I am left back here, with you.  You are so slow.  Well, there’s charm in that, I suppose.  He he he. 
So concentrate:  it is moving into your head.  Here in my hallway you feel the shiver.  It has decided to feel with you;  the shimmer from far away has.  Welcome it;  like you would welcome a storm, we will shelter you.  Hold the Teddy.  Let the shiver from afar know that the Teddy comforts you;  it’s interested in that.  No, no, it’s not a betrayal.  It’s a friend, like you are a friend.
Some have said my designs are madness, that my programs are unrepeatable.  That they’re organic to the point of sentience;  but I disagree.  I say they are palm trees, and I am a Hollywood starlet, and they sway in the breeze for me.

- -

I remove my head from the wall, and the wires slip back into it.  Elizabeth is asleep.  I climb into bed too;  I am exhausted.  As always, I dream of men.  I am still technically a virgin.

- -

“Ah, you’re still here.”
“Yes.”
“You speak our language.”
“Yes.  I was taught it.”
“You are the visitor I showed my hallway?”
“Yes, I am he.”
“I have been rude.  Tea?  I will make it.”
The visitor says nothing, only nods.  I step from my bed, still in my favorite blacks and scarves, a bit bedraggled.  A wind blows through the room, smelling of rain.
“I feel I can see you clearer now,” I say.  “How would you like your tea?”
“Milk and honey, please.”
“I’m afraid we’re all out of honey.  The last storm took our apiary clean out!  But I have aspartame.  Would you like aspartame?”
“Fine.”
We sit, and drink.
“What brings you here, guest?”
“I want to know.  I want to know how you do it.”
“How I do what?” I say.
“How you rule.”
“You are awfully forward for a spy.  Haven’t you any more flirtatious tactics?”
“No.  No, I haven’t.  But you are very beautiful.  That is why I dislike you.  I dislike beautiful women.”
“Why?”
“Because they are cruel, of course.  Their beauty makes them so.”
“Always?”
“I believe so.  You are cruel too, though you do not seem to know it yet.”
“Oh, I know it well enough.”  I sip my tea.  “You are a very tiring guest.  Did you bring me a gift?  My visitors always brings me gifts.”
“Yes, Princess.  I bring you your servant.”
And he put Georges’ head on the floor in front of me and I screamed.

- -

I am the princess.  I fight for freedom.  I am your symbol.  I am your hope.  I am your fantasy.  My breasts and hips, my lips.  My eyes of hate and darkness, and of love.  My legs that cut through space and through your mind, limiting your dimensions, your thought, your manliness.  I am this weapon;  I am made for you.
I am sorry if you are confused.  Perhaps I made a good governess once;  if so, that is long gone.  I do this for my father;  for him, I do anything I can.  May he return.
As I told you, I reside near a quasar.  Have you ever seen one?  It is a peculiar feeling, isn’t it?  Like coming home?  I am always coming home here;  one of the many tortures I despise.
“Elizabeth!”
She shuffles into the room.
“Yes, my lady.”
“Prepare my horse.  I am leaving.”
“I thought you might.”
“Yes.”  And I smile.  “You’re coming too, after we bury Georges.”
I know it is the hlafweard that you want, visitor, guest, spy, aspirant.  I know you think to capture its logics as we have done, but it is a generational awareness, can’t you see that?  What would you do with it, even if I gave it to you freely?  You would not understand the first thing about it.
But we can come to understand it, lady.
“Shut up shut up shut up!”
“Princesa?” says Elizabeth.
“Nothing.  Is my horse ready?”
“Almost.”
Elizabeth is so good to me.  I was bred to rule.  Raised for it, selected for it in the womb.  Power is a prison.  You who claim to be wise, do you know what that means, guest?  That it is a surrender?  That I surrender every time I use the hlafweard?  That I must accept this truth to use this tool?
You will be tortured for a very long time, princess.
And I scream, and Elizabeth gives me a shot.

- -

We are riding.  I have never liked it.  Relativistic travel is nauseating.

- -

Imagine the universe.  You know it is like an eye?  Spread through the milky fluid, strands of matter stick together, messy, glowing, interfering with the retina.  Floaties.  We are the floaties;  the mess in the eye of God.  I know, rather Gnostic.  Still, Gnostic mysticism is quite useful in our kingdom. 
Map the floaties;  the slip and slide of their movement;  their habits and patterns and desires.  Yes, all matter has desires!  Did not the Teddy desire you too, guest, as you desired it?  The shimmer remembers that, you know?
Shhh, I must accept my future-past selves, I must reassess . . .
It is my father.  Dear God ―

-  -

Suicide is shameful.  Why I can’t succeed, I do not know.  Elizabeth is too good at stopping me from reaching death.
“It was father, Elizabeth, it was father ―”
My voice does not sound like mine.  I am older, too.  I want to die.  Please let me die, God.  The guest is still here, he is sitting by the wall.
“Guest, why do you look like Georges?”
“I am Georges, princess.  The Georges you forgot.”
“Well tell me of France then, Georges, if you’re really Georges.  Do that.”
“It was my home country, princess.  We love our cuisine in Longuedoc.  I miss my cheese.”
“Go off and die,” I hiss at him.
And yet I do recognize my voice.  It is never far from me.  It is the voice of abuse.  I am what I do to others ―

- -

That is the other part of ruling.  You never do it alone.  And your family wants to kill you.  As in wolf packs, cutting off the pups’ heads when they grow inconvenient for the new alpha, the new lord, the new hlafweard, the Keeper of Bread . . .
My bread is rising, father.  I will make you eat every bite.

- -

Forgive me.  Pardon-moi.  Je m’apelle Georges Armignac de Longuedoc.  I know she is evil, but we do not kill her yet.  In the confession is mystery, yes?  And what is mystery but land?  Vous comprenez?  Croyons, once we had empire.  And we will again.  We make the land, now.  In the mysterious.  Our railway is coming. 

- -

Outside the fortress, I touch the side of my dress to reassure me that my gun is there.  Long sleeves cover my wrists.  Elizabeth smiles at me.  I will kill him.
The gates open, and the wind is brought to a pitch, and I strike a pose:
And you must listen to this part, please.  This is the part you must remember.  I am Anadone and I know I have been evil but know that this is the truest part of the record, the part you must understand, not the part that comes after.
I am riding through:  I am a princess.  Not a prince, but a princess.  Royalty, but the strangest kind.  I can marry, and my name will change.  I can slip away into the womanness of me:  I am recyclable this way.  A woman, even more than a princess.  And less.  But see me, anyway, for this is the symbol we may never outgrow:
I cry at the sky, my teeth a sword, and my dress is thrilling to the mobs, a cut of ash, as my eyes are blessings for their dooms.  I am princess and they are my children, they are my mats on which I cut my battles like I would an album, secreting away my kiss into its vinyl grooves.  I hold my horse’s neck and he is with me and the eyes of children are jewels.  They see me and they see the mystery of this realm, a slight diminishment that is power:
I am above, and they below, and they rule forever.  A thousand thousand millennia.  I am temporary.
The king is ahead, my father.  I dismount and curtsy.
“Father,” I say, with a smile.  And he smiles back.  Politics.

- -

“Four thousand governments!  Astonishing, Ana!  I am so proud of you!”
He refills my glass.  I simper, as best I can.
“It’s Elizabeth, father, she really is amazing.”
“You’re all grown up, my daughter.  Your mother would be so proud.”
If she ever wakes up.
“Thank you, Daddy.”
And he rises and steps behind my chair and strokes my head.
“You’re a good girl, Ana.  You always will be.  You serve our kingdom.  You are beautiful.  And terrifying.”
And I shiver.  He is my father.

- -

I have killed him.  What was lost;  is lost.  I know no other reason.  Once we were called nuns.  How many were virgins?  I want to cut off my own breasts, that have never given milk.

- -

What is an empire, anyway?  I want to die planetside.  I want my horizons to be real, even if I am cursed with noble blood, and cursed with history.
I keep mother in the basement here, like father did.  She is like a mascot to me.  What does she dream of?  Father?

- -

“Lady?”
“Don’t call me that,” I mumble.
“Lady, I’m Elizabeth.”
“I’m dead, leave me alone.”
“You’re not dead, lady.  Wake up.  Someone is here.  A guest.”
I sit up and it is you.  You again.
“What do you want?” I say.
And he flickers a little.
“Who are you?”
And I hear your scream.  It’s what you wanted:  worlds, and times.  And I laugh, and Elizabeth with me.  Is there a pleasure greater than another’s pain?  Our schadenfreude could be mapped like a star . . .
Well.  What else is there to say?  I am forty now.  Infertile, they say.  If I want a lover, and do I?  If I do, it’s somewhere I don’t want to see. 
I will comb my hair out today.  I will be beautiful.

- -

The sky is strange to me here.  Often I dream of my Father.  But more often, I dream of my tower, when I was young.  When I stepped onto the ledge and let my hair blow in the wind of the quasar . . . everything was possible.  What do you see, in this record?  Only sadness?  Some say I am a happy woman.  But I will never be a queen.