You’ve read my story, but you do not know my name. You’ve visited my world in books, paintings, and film and yet you never knew I existed. You’ve chased white rabbits and had tea with mad men, you’ve raced right by me while being chased by a cruel monarch and yet you never saw me standing by.
I’ve lived my life here in this place where things become curioser and curioser, all but a prisoner in my own home. She will never say my name… in fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard her so much as mutter it. I’m “girl”, I’m “music maker”, I’m “entertainment”. But I have no name of my own, nothing to reveal who I truly am. I am the one whose birthright threatens her existence. I’m the one who was stolen from her mother’s home in the middle of the night by mad men bearing hearts on their arms.
I am the girl who grew up in the dark, waifish and scrawny, with only a piano to keep her company, learning to play on the distented keys, learning to ignore the way they changed positions, to anticipate their “off” days and pull out pleasant melodies even when the creatures within didn’t want to sing on tune. I am the shadow that’s never spoken of, overlooked and underfed, kept secreted away in a dark, cramped room where I’m forced to sleep on the floor in the curve of the piano’s front.
I play because the melody is my only friend… even when I’m allowed out of my prison, I’m not permitted to speak, nor to be spoken to. They’re not allowed to look at me, the fops who curry her favor, nor am I ever allowed to make eye contact with even the lowliest chamber maid. I don’t know why no one come for me… I can only assume they believe me dead, beheaded like so many others who failed to stay in the Queen’s favor. Why she hasn’t killed me, I’m not sure… but I am sure of one thing…
She will come to regret it.
For tonight I sip from a small vial, feeling myself shrink to the size of a door-mouse, and crawl beneath the door to my prison. My bare feet carry me at a dead run through the winding, confusing corridors of this cursed place, and I hear her screaming in her sleep… I hear her calling for more blood, more death, more heads. I hear her screaming in to the night, but know that no one will go to wake her, for fear of her screaming again… and meaning it this time.
It’s in the great hall that I find myself after nearly an hour of running on my tiny, spindly legs. There are no guards, the room is empty and closed off… I only managed to get in by sliding under the door. Inside, I find the package I hid two days ago… Nestled behind the sheet music on the great piano I’ve been forced to sit at for hours at a time, literally chained to the leg of the thing, I find a piece of cake, wrapped in linen. A nibble brings me back to my normal height and it is then that the real work begins…
I’ve seen enough of this prison, I’ve heard enough of the screaming, I’ve experienced enough of the horrors. I’ve been pinned beneath the man with one eye while he growls and presses my face in to the dirty sleeping mat, his body slamming against mine again and again. I’ve shed enough tears in this place, been mocked by enough furniture and been part of the scenery for far too long. I’ll suffer it no longer. The book of music is right where he said it would be… He could die for helping me, but the look of rebellion is in his eyes as it is in mine, and he’s far from the castle by now, leaving me behind to finish the task set.
With the old music knocked aside and the new music open in front of me, I put my fingers to the keys. Before I’m three notes in, I can see the piano morphing, growing, changing. It goes from a grand wooden thing, stately and unyielding in it’s box-like form, to something alive… growing from the top of itself up, until the wood becomes shaped to the very castle I’ve been trapped in since I was a babe. The guards can hear the music, but cannot figure out where it is coming from… it fills the place, sounding as if it’s in every room, and the fires in their braziers and candles and torches are leaping with vigor, licking at the walls, the ceilings, the curtains… licking… searching… for something to spread to.
I can tell it’s happening within moments, because screams erupt through the palace. People are calling for water… others are screaming to flee as the fire engulfs entire rooms and shatters windows. I can hear her… my captor… my tormentor… screaming. ‘Who is burning my home?! OFF WITH THEIR HEAD!’ she cries, but soon enough even her shrieks are blocked out by the roar of the flames. Above me, the castle atop the piano burns. I watch fire erupt from the windows, watch great, ghostly trees begin to force their way up and through it, and listen to the rumble around me as it happens…
Fire purges the evil within, and nature grows up to reclaim the land that is rightfully it’s own. The floor beneath me quakes and I watch the black and white checkered tiles begin to slip and slide, great blocks of stone carried in by slave labor, as it shifts out of place. My own stool drops a bit as the piano is forced upward, but still I keep playing. I will play until it is done. I will play until they all burn… even if it means I must burn with them.
My mother swore an oath never to harm another living being, but I have no such promises to keep.
I am the White Queen’s daughter, and I am taking my kingdom back.