By Eva L.
Darren sat herself on the piano bench. She placed her fingers on the keys and started to play the exotic, graceful melody of ''Greensleeves.'' E, G, A, B, her fingers seemed to dance fluidly on their own. The pure sound rested comfortably on her ears and teased them for not being any more acute.
Darren finished, with her thumb holding the last note. She grew light-headed and rested her head on the piano keys, making a horrible sounding chord. Pain seared through her mind. Colors blended and tortured her eyes. The soft blue of the living room sofa mutated into a bloody maroon, the sunlight from the windows shone black, and the white of the piano keys was a putrid, dark indigo. Darren forced herself to shut her pained eyes. The colors seeped through her eyelids and danced in her brain, their heavy feet pounding against her consciousness. She passed out with one word in her mind: death... at least, that’s what she thought it was.
Eternities passed. Darren opened her eyes and saw a wooden ceiling. It took her a minute to realize that she was lying on a four poster bed with a canopy and burgundy silk bedsheets. Darren groaned. Is this the afterlife? she thought. Or am I still alive? Just like in the movies or the numerous books she had read, Darren pinched herself. The pain seeped through her skin and into her flesh. OW! Well, at least I’m alive... somehow.
She looked down at her body and found that instead of jeans and a T-shirt, Darren was wearing a gorgeous, chartreuse dress. It was long sleeved with white lace cuffs around the wrists. The lace formed a V around the waist and neck. While the body of the dress was taffeta with rhinestones, the skirt portion had a long, silk train. Darren gasped. Where am I? Who am I? Am I royalty?
She got out of the bed and pushed the satin canopy aside. She gazed at the room. It was more of a chamber designed in the 16th century than a room. The walls were burgundy and the curtains on the windows were lavender. Along one wall was a bureau with a large, oval mirror lined with pearls on the perimeter. Darren swung her feet off the bed and slipped them into the chartreuse high heels with rhinestones that matched her dress perfectly. Even the size fitted her feet exactly. What’s going on here? she thought.
Darren stood and made her way to the windows and gazed down. Three stories below, she saw a garden with a maze made entirely of perfectly trimmed hedges. The sky above it all was serene with only a couple of fluffy, white clouds. On a day like this, Darren would be skateboarding down asphalt streets, watching out for traffic or hanging out with friends around the neighborhood.
A feminine voice spoke behind her, “Hello, stranger.”
Darren spun around. There stood a woman in her late twenties with beautiful, dark hair that matched her eyes and complexion.
“Pardon, but who is in thy presence?” the woman asked. Darren noticed she had an English accent. Thy presence? Darren wondered. Ha Hello, Mrs. Shakespeare
“I’m Darren... and I don’t know why I’m here, or how I got here...and who are you?”
“I’m Anne. You have an accent...are you from the south?” Anne questioned further.
South? Darren asked herself. Does she mean Texas or Antarctica? “I’m from the east coast.”
Darren felt like smacking herself on the head. She meant England. “I’m not from England, Anne.”
“Not from England...? And that’s ‘Your Majesty’ to you.”
This lady needs a check-up, Darren thought to herself. ''‘Your Majesty’? Who do you think you are?”
“Who do I think I am? ” Anne yelled. “I’m Queen Anne Boleyn. And if you do not tell me what you are doing here, you are to be sent to the dungeons and have the demons feast on your flesh. ”
Queen Anne Boleyn? King Henry VIII’s second wife? Darren was incredibly confused. Is it still the twenty- first century?
Darren curtsied awkwardly. “Your Majesty, may I ask what year is it?”
“I haven’t had a single wrinkle in four hundred seventy- five years, stranger.”
Darren started to panic. She did the mental math. Four hundred seventy-five years from 2006 would be the time Anne Boleyn took Catherine of Aragon’s place as the Queen of England.
“Darren,” the Queen said, knocking Darren out of her thoughts, “there’s no one else in the castle. I haven’t seen a human in all these years.”
Darren blinked. “Why? Am I not allowed to go home?''
''There’s no way out of this castle. I’ve tried to escape for nearly five centuries.”
No, Darren thought frantically. “No. There has to be a way. It’s a dream. It’s all a dream. Who’s stopping you from leaving?”
“The demons,” Anne said. “They guard this castle. If you are not careful, they will possess your soul.”
What kind of joke is this? A voice in her head answered her thought, No joke at all, Darren. The voice was alien to her and undoubtedly evil, but it was also syrupy and luring. Come, Darren. Come hither. Your life’s been harsh... school, homework, teachers, parents... don’t you deserve a nice, long rest from all that? Come...
Darren screamed even though she couldn’t hear herself. Hell was pulling at her, clawing at her mind. She screamed again as merciless agony forayed her head and entered every one of her thoughts and memories. Happy thoughts...crushed. Funny moments...shattered. Joyful feelings...destroyed. To Darren, the pain never seemed to stop and she felt like it would last forever. It felt like it would kill her slowly, torturing her. Slowly, the pain dulled to a strong throbbing in her brain and her heavy breaths matched the throbs.
Darren found herself writhing on the wood- paneled floor of the burgundy room. Her screams had quieted to helpless whimpers. She started to cry hysterically.
Anne rushed to Darren and was kneeling by her side. “Oh, you poor thing,” Anne exclaimed with sympathy. “Lucky you. Other people don’t stand a chance.”
Darren didn’t bother to ask what she meant. Her energy was being sapped away quickly, so she fell asleep on the hardwood floor.
Darren woke up with cramps and sore muscles from sleeping in such a weird position and on a very solid floor. She groaned loudly.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” Anne’s voice piped from behind her.
Darren immediately stood up, despite the cramps and demanded, “What happened to me?”
“The demons tried to acquire your soul.”
Only now when Anne said it, did Darren believe.
“Only people with a pure heart escape the demons’ wrath,” Anne added. “The others who do not escape become avatars of the demons.”
Darren thought for a moment and questioned, “And are you an avatar of the demons?”
“Luckily, my heart is pure...enough,” Anne answered with a wry laugh.
“Show me how to return to my world.”
Anne made a face. “I told you, it’s impossible. The gates are fifty meters high, constantly locked, and guarded by the demons. And beyond that is the moat which is as large as a small sea. And there’s demons beyond the moat. It’s out of the question.”
“I don’t care,” Darren replied stubbornly. “I’m going home.” She paused. “Your Majesty, are you King Henry VIII’s wife?”
“Yes, well, betrothed anyway. After the king sang me the song he wrote for me, I ended up hither.”
King’s song, Darren thought. King’s song...
“Greensleeves! ” Darren exclaimed. “The king’s song for his beloved was Greensleeves!” And she started to sing the lyrics:
“Alas, my love, you do me wrong, to cast me off discourteously. For I have loved you well and long, delighting in your company.”
Anne joined in at the chorus:
“Greensleeves was all my joy, Greensleeves was my delight, Greensleeves was my heart of gold, and who but my lady greensleeves?”
Pain seared through her mind. Colors blended and tortured her eyes. The burgundy walls altered into a vile asparagus green. The metallic white of the pearls around the bureau mirror shifted into a repulsive dark orange. The blue of the sky outside the window changed into a daunting gray. And once again, Darren grew light-headed. Darren didn’t bother to scream because she fainted the instant the pain touched her mentally because it was unbearable.
Darren woke up in a place where hedges with bright flowers surrounded her. She was unbearably exhausted. She rolled over and saw Anne lying on her back. Anne’s face was sheet-white and she looked dead. Darren gasped at the possibility and hurried to take her pulse. No, don’t be dead, I still need to get home and she’s the only one who knows the directions of this place. Anne’s hand felt cold but Darren found a faint pulse.
“Anne,” Darren said softly. “Ma’am...Your Highness...Your Majesty...” Darren tried to find the right title. Then, she heard Anne moan weakly. She tried to sit upright but fell back.
“Darren, pluck that flower off the vine and give it to me.” Anne gestured to something behind Darren. There, growing solemnly on the hedge was a magnificent, sea-green flower. Darren stood, snapped the stem of the flower and gave it to Anne. Anne brought it up to her nose and sniffed it. Almost immediately, the color came back to her cheeks and she stood slowly with renewed energy. Anne tucked the flower in her ebony hair.
“How did you...?” Darren started to question.
“This flower can cure almost any sickness. It’s called Demons’ Opposition.” Anne hesitated. “We’re out of the castle...WE’RE OUT OF THE CASTLE!” Anne’s eyes filled to the brim with tears of joy. She danced gracefully along the hedges humming Greensleeves. Darren recognized some ballet moves that were altered through time.
The sky grew darker. The wind rushed quickly. Leaves from the hedges fled from their home on the thin finger-like branches.
Escape not, the demons whispered. You will perish before you do. Join us or you will enter that fate.
Anne stopped dancing and screamed, “THE DEMONS! ” If the situation hadn't been that dire, Darren would have been on the floor laughing.
Anne grabbed Darren by the arm and ran. They ran so fast, Darren didn’t even know which way they turned in the maze. Left, right, right, left...it was all a blur.
You cannot escape fate, Anne, Darren.
Anne made no attempt to slow down, instead she ran faster with Darren hot on her heels. Darren’s lungs burned. She gasped like a fish with no water. Anne started to sing the second part of Greensleeves:
“Your vows, you’ve broken, like my heart. Oh, why did you do enrapture me? For I remain in a world apart, but my heart remains in captivity.”
Darren realized what Anne was getting at. If they got out of the castle by singing Greensleeves, why can’t they get out of the maze, too? Darren sang, hoping the song wouldn’t return them to the castle.
“Greensleeves was all my joy. Greensleeves was my delight. Greensleeves was my heart of gold. And who but my lady Greensleeves?”
Extreme pain seared through her mind. Colors blended and tortured her eyes. The green hedges were suddenly a atrocious pink. The dark gray of the sky was white. The world spun out of control. Darren thought the pain from the last episode couldn’t get any worse but this time, it was doubled. Darren thought she really did die.
You didn’t listen. You didn’t join us. Now, you can’t turn back.
Darren woke up with a beautiful scent in her nose. Her eyelids fluttered open and saw the green flower in her face. She used her hand to nudge it away. Anne was looking down at her. Darren got up and saw a beautiful, glittering ocean with the sun sinking behind it like a child hiding behind the covers.
“We need to get out of here,” Anne said with ferocity in her voice. Darren was a step ahead of her.
“I have been ready at your hand, to grant whatever you would crave. I have both wagered life and land, you love and good-will for to have.”
Darren sang the song with as much desire for home as she could muster. She’d had enough enough pain, enough sorrow, enough, enough, ENOUGH!
This time, instead of pain, there was a slight tingling tickling her mind.
Darren found herself sitting at the piano. She hesitantly placed her fingers on the keys. She started to play Greensleeves with tears rolling down her cheeks.