Chapter 19: Tales from Princess Charlotte
“… But, to everyone’s amazement, the shoe fitted perfectly.
Suddenly the fairy appeared and waved her magic wand. In a flash, Cinderella appeared in a splendid dress, shining with youth and beauty. Her stepmother and stepsisters gaped at her in amazement, and the ministers said, ‘Come with us Cinderella! The Prince is waiting for you.’ So Cinderella married the Prince and lived happily ever. As for the cat, he just said ‘Miaow!’
“I like the story, mommy.” Charlotte said, “Could you tell me again tomorrow?”
“Of course, sweetie.” Jeanette kissed her forehead gently, “Good night.”
“Mommy?” Just when she was about to leave, Charlotte had a question in her little bed.
“Do you think I can marry a prince, like Cinderella?”
“There is no need to. You are already a princess.”
“Yes, really.” Jeanette said, “Plus, princes are over-rated.”
Hi, everyone, my name is Charlotte Lewis. I was born in a magical island.
How do I know? Because you will know once I finish my story, so please sit down and listen.
Me and my mom had a really nice house in that island. It was not big, but we all liked it. My room was very special. It had many beautiful butterflies on the ceiling. No, they are all real. Every single one of them, my mother and I put them there one by one. Every day I would look at the butterflies before I slept. My mother would tell me fairytales stories. The favorite one was the story of Cinderella. I had heard it a thousand times.
Every weekend me and my mom would go for a picnic. We always ended up in front of a pirate ship. It was called “Black Rock”. It had cannons, dynamites and dead bodies inside. It was a real pirate ship in the middle of the magical island. There my mother would get a butterfly from outside of the ship. I am telling you the truth. There was always a butterfly pinned on the ship, different color every time. My mother would take it down and put it into a box, then she would pin a picture of me and her. The next time we were there, the picture was gone and we would see a new butterfly. It was always like that.
Yeah, I knew someone was doing that, but I never saw him at the pirate ship. My mother said it was my father, and she said that he used to see us every week, but there were new rules from the others, and he couldn’t come out that far. So my father could only secretly go to the ship at midnight and put the butterflies there.
I don’t know why someone would set rules like that. It was really not right because I couldn’t see my father. My mother gave me a magazine and showed me a big muscle guy, Arnold something. She said he looked like him, but I didn’t like it.
So sometimes when my mother was busy in the lab, I would sneak out of the base. Someone had put some kind of magical poles around my town. My mother said they were protecting us, but with those I couldn’t get out to find my father, until one day I secretly stole my mother’s password. Yeah, I am sorry that I was really a naughty girl at that time.
Once I was outside, I was free. I could climb up to the trees to pick apples. I could find some hogs to chase. And I could pick all kind of flowers. It was even better after I met Ilana.
Ilana was a girl from the other village. She said the village was very far north. I wondered why she came so far south. She said that she was looking for her father too. The people from the village said her mother was in a comma when she was born. They even had a drawing for her, but she never learned anything about her father. So she thought that her father might be someone in my town.
I told her that I would help her find her father. She was very happy. I let her sneak in the base and she looked at all the men one by one. In the end, we couldn’t tell which one was her father. She said she was still happy because she knew me. We were best friends since then.
There was once that I brought her to our secret Hydra station. Hmm… It was a big tank under the water. Sorry, I don’t know how they built it. Inside there were some nice ladies who gave us a tour. They said that ‘it was designed to redirect energies from the time-space shield to the base. So an evil guy called “Jacob” couldn’t not get near us, because he would lose the ability to predict the future.’ All I am saying was true, I had memorized everything that lady said. I am not making them up.
After that tour I tried to bring Ilana to the Orchid station, but we were caught by Mrs. Maxwell. Mr. Maxwell was a really mean lady. People said she became a witch after her husband, Paul, died. I kind of believed that. She put Ilana inside a cell and asked her all kind of questions. I could hear Ilana cried inside it. I cried really hard outside. People couldn’t stand it, and they finally took me away.
One month later I saw Ilana again outside of the base, she said she would never go back to the base. So we just wandered around in the jungle. She taught me how to climb a tree. It was so easy that I learned it really quickly. Ilana said I was a nature tree-hugger.
The funnies game in the jungle was playing hide-and-seek with the monster. Uh… the monster is a column of black smoke which flying around and making all kind of noise. Somehow he sounded like a taxi printer, believe it or not. He flew really fast. We were jumping from tree to tree to run away from him, but the next moment he was there, circling us and took some pictures of us. Every time we would say “no flash this time”, but he didn’t care. Sometimes I would see him playing hide-and-seek with the grownups too. Oh, I am telling you, those grownups could run really fast, but they didn’t know how to use trees. We would yelled at them from above and said things like, “Climb a tree, you idiot!” But they never listened. So most of the time I saw the monster caught up with the adult, he would scream really loud. We all laughed at that. Then the monster would pick them up like toys, and brought them somewhere else. I guessed they would start a new game in the next jungle.
At night the jungle started talking. We could just sit there for hours listening to what they were saying. We learned some good sentences from there, like “it will come around at you.” I still remembered that.
The real danger was the bears. They were not black ones or grizzly ones. They were 100% white polar bears and very smart. Sometimes they could stay under the trees for hours, just to get you. I had a good friend who was lost to the bears. Her name was Annie. Her parents cried a long time. Her good friend, Ben, became very silent after that. I guessed he missed her very much. I was grounded for a whole year.
After that me and Ilana always checked twice before we climbed down a tree. It was easy to tell if a bear was hiding below. They really stunk. If the smell was not right we wouldn’t go down. It saved us many times. Those bears could cover themselves with leaves; you wouldn’t see anything from above.
After 3 years, Ilana finally brought me to her village, and I finally met my father. He was a really big man, looked more like a bear. We talked a lot every time we met. Ilana envied me because she never had a chance to talk to her parents. There only “Jacob” was the closest thing like a father.
About “Jacob”, that was the only thing I never figured out. In my town people called him “the most evil man on earth”, but in that village everyone said he was the God; he was the protector of the magical island. I didn’t know which version was true. When I asked my father, he said I was too young to know.
I had personally met Jacob many times, all because of Ilana. He would tell Ilana to do some quests, like going to a cave or climbing down a hole. Of course I would always follow her, and he didn’t say anything against it. In my own opinion he was just a really nice man.
The quests from Jacob were actually quite fun. I ran into their sacred tombs or magical pools. There Ilana would teach me Latin and Korean. At the same time I would tell her stories from my mom. We learned a lot from each other.
There was once that Jacob wanted Ilana to pledge her life to the island. He said it was done to better protect the island, and he would give Ilana a wish. Ilana made the oath and asked Jacob that she wanted to go outside and meet her true love. Jacob said her wish was granted. Her true love’s name was Bram.
I was so jealous of Ilana that I wanted to do the same. Jacob said he couldn’t because I was not belonged to one of them. I said I liked to make the pledge anyway. He agreed on only if that was what I really wanted. I said yes, and he said once I made the oath there was no turning back. I said I knew that already. So he finally let me made the pledge to give my life to the island. In the end he asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted to become a princess. He laughed and patted on my shoulder and said my wish was already granted.
See, this guy really had some magical power. Today back in my castle everybody called me “Princess Charlotte”. My wish was fulfilled, but I didn’t know how to realize my pledge. You see, since we left that island, my mother doesn’t want me to go back. Nobody here knows about that place. So the chance of finding that magical island is really small. Maybe I can never go back there.
Oh, let me continue my story. There is a lot more.
Every time I went to Ilana’s village, I would be grounded for a month, but I thought it was totally worth it. My mom would ask me a lot of questions about my father. And my father would send messages to mom through me. I could see that they really like it. So I sneaked out in a regular basis.
Now when I think of it, I don’t really understand why my mother cannot go to the village to see my father herself, or vice versa. They didn’t look like divorce to me, because they still cared about each other so much. They never talked about what actually happened so I am really clueless.
Oh, right! There was one. I almost forgot. The village had two leaders. Their little son, Daniel, one day said he liked me and asked me to be his girlfriend. I didn’t say anything, but my father was suddenly very angry. I never saw him mad like that. He said a lot of bad words, and kicked him out. I heard the little Daniel cried outside of our tent. It was not a good experience, but I remembered my father said “I don’t want you to end up just like us” that day. I think that’s a big clue.
Do you know what is more strange? One week later, I saw a grownup version of Daniel. He had a beard and he warned me that I should leave the island and never go back. And if I go back I will die there. I was so scared that I ran for my mom.
That day the alarm sounded very loud. Dr. Chang ordered us to do something called “evacuation”. He had us done that many times, but that day it was real. We all went to a submarine. My mother was with me all the time, until someone said my father was outside. My mother left me there and climbed up the steel ladder. After 5 minutes she came back and took me up to the deck. Up there she told me to wave at my father on the dock, and she said it will the last time I saw him.
So I went up and I saw my father. He was wearing a black suit that day. He waved his hands at me, so I waved back at him.
I asked my mother, “Why daddy didn’t come with us?”
She said, “He needs to protect his brothers and sisters, so he is not coming.”
So I asked, “Why? Is there a monster?”
She said, “Yes. There are two. One is a black smoke, and the other one is called Jacob.”
I didn’t understand, so I said, “No. Jacob is not a monster. He is my friend.”
Mommy said, “That’s why he is more evil.”
I didn’t know why mommy said that.
Anyway, we stood on the submarine watching my father on the dock. The submarine started moving, so he was further and further away, until it was too far to see.
At that time, I saw some flashes and heard some gun shots from the island. I asked mother if my dad will be ok. She looked so worried that she couldn’t say anything. Then a very strong flash lighted up. The sky was purple, and we were all blinded by it. The next thing I know, the island disappeared.
Yeah. The whole island disappeared like a magician said, “ABRACADABRA!”, and PUFF! It’s gone. Our submarine was drawn to the big water hole that the island created. Me and my mom both fell into the ocean. Luckily we were saved by our guys.
Since then we came back to England and lived in a castle. We had a really good time from then on. My mother became an activist who always protested against prejudice and slavery. I became a princess, just the way I always wanted. And we all live happy-ever-after.
“Charlotte today gave us a really interesting story.” The teacher said. “I never expect anyone can write such a long story in such a good detail. Let’s give her a round of applause.”
Little boys and girls gave out their best cheer. Charlotte bowed to them in a princess’s pose.
“You did a great job, Charlotte.” The teacher said, “But our topic is ‘stories of our parents’, not a fairytale. So please next time write something that really happened.”
“They did happen!” Charlotte protested, “Every single word of it is true.” She almost cried.
“Well, then I will give you mother a call. I have to tell her that she has a daughter that was way too imaginative.”
“Please call her.” Charlotte still insisted, “She will confirm everything.”
“I am really sorry for that.” Jeanette apologized over the phone, “She is really into those fairytales.”
“That’s ok. Tell you the truth, your daughter has an amazing talent of telling a fancy story. The way she said it was so good that for a moment we were all thinking it actually happened.”
“Haha…” Jeanette laughed drily, “Yeah, she was always like that.”
“Ok, next time tell her to write something real, and something much shorter.”
“I will. Thank you for taking the trouble of calling me.” Jeanette said.
After hanging up the phone, Jeanette made another phone call.
“Dr. Wang? My name is Jeanette Lewis and I was a coworker of Dr. Chang.”
“Oh, Mrs. Lewis, what can I do for you?”
“I know that Dr. Chang had a way of brainwashing, right?”
“How do you know? Oh, of course, you guys were coworkers. He would never tell any outsiders about this.”
“While I worked with him, my daughter was accidentally brainwashed by him with all kinds of crazy ideas. Dr. Chang said I could use your equipment to erase everything that was imprinted. Is that true?”
“How could it possible that she was ‘accidentally’ brainwashed?”
“Tell you the truth, he needed a child for his experiment at that time, and I voluntarily nominated my daughter. It was a stupid decision. Now my daughter was infested by a lot of fantasy fables, and she is telling everyone those things. She can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy anymore. It is really not good for her.”
“I am sorry to hear that. Dr. Chang was not here for a long time, but I will do my best to help her, but are you really sure you want to do that? Once she was brainwashed. She will lose all the memories, including the real ones. Her childhood memories will be all gone.”
“I knew the consequences and I had been considering it for a long time. It was not an easy decision for me. Now she is getting worse and saying her life belongs to a magical island, and she needs to go back there. It makes me really really worry. I am afraid one day she will do stupid things, and it will be too late. I’d rather her forget everything than put herself into serious danger.”
“I agree with you, Ma’am. But I have to warn you, our experiments are still risky. One of our patients is in a mental hospital now.”
“I will take the chances.”
“Alright, bring her here tomorrow and we will start the examination.”
“Thank you so much.” She hung up the phone and wiped a tear from an edge of her eye.
“As he thus spoke, the good dwarves felt pity for the prince and gave him the coffin. The prince had his servants carry it away on their shoulders. But when they stumbled on some brush, and this dislodged from Snow White's throat the piece of poisoned apple. Not long afterward she opened her eyes, lifted the lid from her coffin, sat up, and was alive again.
‘Good heavens, where am I?’ she cried out.
The prince said joyfully, ‘You are with me.’ He told her what had happened, and then said, ‘I love you more than anything else in the world. Come with me to my father's castle. You shall become my wife.’ Snow White loved him, and she went with him. Their wedding was planned with great splendor and majesty. They lived happy-ever-after.
“Mommy, I still don’t understand.” Charlotte asked, “Snow White was so nice. Why would anyone want to poison her? She didn’t do anything bad to her step-mother.”
“I know, sweetie.” Jeanette said it sadly, “Sometimes we adults do horrible things. Sometimes we even have to poison our own children.”
“We have no choice.”
“Mommy, you are not going to give me a poison apple, right?” Charlotte was joking. The answer was unexpected.
“Yes, I will.” Jeanette wept silently. “I have to protect you, sweetie.”
“Will I wake up and see a prince?” Still thinking it as a joke, Charlotte looked at her mother with curiosity. Why she was crying?
“I hope in the future you will. Maybe you will remember your dad, and his butterflies.”
“I won’t forget that.” Charlotte pointed to the ceiling, “They are always there.”
Jeanette slowly raised her head, staring at the big blue butterfly in the center, she said, “Yes, they will be always there. I will remember them for you. One day I will tell you the whole story, whether you believe it or not.”
She finally kissed gently in Charlotte’s forehead, “Good night sweetie. Tomorrow we have a lot to go through.”
“Good night, mom. I love you.”
“I love you with all my heart, sweetie!” She slowly closed the door.