Rated PG; violence, depression
Prompt: Write about a character working a thankless job.
Author's note: Of course I come back after three weeks to give you a long story.
Damsel in Distress castle, room 431, the 17th of November in a dystopian future. That’s where the story begins. Damsel in Distress castle is the official government building and museum of Damsel in Distress (the country). The building is very tall, in the shape of a cube. It’s made from black bricks, with three big windows that make up a wall in three specific rooms. The story begins in the highest of these rooms.
That would be the entire structure if it wasn’t a castle. It is, though, so there’s a giant turret sticking out of the cube like it impaled the building. This is made of grey bricks with a winding, splintered wooden staircase without a railing about as strong as a 5-year-old. The top of the tower has a blinking antenna that makes the sky above the castle always grey. That is where the story ends.
In room 431, with a window as the back wall so that the interrogation remains “open” to the public, Adelai had done it again. She had opened a paper book without explicit permission from the Monarch Supreme, or MS. She had betrayed Damsel in Distress (the country) by reading potentially dangerous material. Adelai didn’t do it because she wanted to learn about 1990s fashion—the subject of the book; she did it because she was bored and had stolen a piece of literature from a Noble Medium, the one who ran the police station. She wanted to see how much trouble she would get in for a second offense. Her job as an accountant was so very boring. Also, she wanted to get back at her archnemesis, the officer interrogating her whose name not even a narrator as great as myself can remember, as it’s 20 characters long.
The "intense" rivalry began about two years ago. The first time Adelai opened a book, she had just seen one in a bookshop, and gotten curious what words looked like sandwiched together all at once. While holding, stealing, kissing, and eating books are all perfectly legal, opening one without permission from the MS is a big no-no. The officer, who was monitoring the bookstore to make sure no one broke the law, saw Adelai glancing at the book, her curly green hair caressing the sweet-smelling page. Adelai’s moss-coloured eyes were full of wonder as she read about nocturnal snakes. The officer ran up and slapped the book out of Adelai’s hand, grabbing the cuffs around her belt and tackling Adelai to the carpeted floor. The officer hand gotten green strands in her mouth and Adelai had gotten a bruise on her forehead. Whilst the officer had apologised for injuring her, Adelai didn’t care. She was not thrilled with the officer or her 60 hours of community service. Not to mention her tarnished record. She couldn’t get paid more than 300 fairies a month, even if her degree stated the number was 450. She hated the officer who did this to her.
“Adelai Volt.” Said the officer, beginning the story for real.
She took a file—a real paper one, too—and set in front of Adelai on the other side of the desk.
“Hi.” Replied Adelai.
The officer shook her head.
“I’m disappointed in you, Volt.”
“I had a purple splotch on my face for weeks, [Demeaning Nickname Related to the Officer’s Name].”
The officer squinted, trying to contain her anger at the nickname.
“I’m going to try and help you, Adelai.”
“No, you won’t, idiot.” Adelai rolled her eyes.
The officer rubbed her temple.
“Listen, I don’t want you to get punished again. I don’t think you deserve such severe discipline. I’ll try to get the time reduced and to make sure this stays off your record.” The officer said.
“Just like last time?”
Adelai said those words very smugly. It’s a shame that she was wrong. In fact, last time the officer had gotten her hours reduced from the usual 120, and prevented Adelai’s maximum wage from dipping down to 270 fairies. She didn’t say so to Adelai, because she thought Adelai wouldn’t be grateful, but rather laugh at her for trying to make up for injuring her. Given what I know about Adelai, that fits the bill pretty well.
“You’re lucky I took control of your case, Volt.” the officer said, refusing to call Adelai Adelai because she deemed it too intimate. “I can get your hours reduced if I say you’d eaten wheat earlier that day. Now, the record will be harder-”
“Not good enough, [Demeaning Nickname Related to the Officer’s Name]. I want them gone. All of it. Record stuff included.”
The officer bit her lip. Her need to please Adelai would not go that far.
“I can’t do that.”
Adelai knew the officer very well, as she was always watching her to find ways to make her life more difficult. She had failed to notice how the officer would watch her back, as after the bookstore incident the officer had revaluated her life choices and was devoted to becoming a better person instead of following the path strictly determined by the law; in other words, the officer was in love with Adelai.
Tangent aside, when Adelai had begun stalking the officer, she had noticed that the officer biting her lip meant she was lying.
“Yes, you can.” Responded Adelai, crossing her arms and leaning back in her chair.
The officer stamped her hands on the desk, gripping its wooden top. She was attempting to look tough. It worked, as Adelai sat up straight and stared at the officer’s dark arms, shivering.
“Not unless you’re seriously injured. And I’m not-”
“Yes, let’s do that.”
The officer squinted her eyes to prevent herself from screaming at Adelai.
“You don’t understand what that means, Volt.”
Adelai scoffed, worsening her posture again.
“I break my legs with a crowbar and the hours are cancelled because no one wants to keep track of them and assign them again.”
The officer nodded.
“Sort of. You need at least two broken bones for them to throw away the work. But the record requires a brain injury. One that could be deemed enough that you could plead crazy brains and not get your maximum wage reduced.”
Adelai grinned. The officer realized what she was saying and tried to undo her words.
“It would be impossible to fake that, Volt! Don’t even try. You'll just get in more trouble. It’s not worth it.”
But the officer knew she was too late, and Adelai grabbed her arm and pulled her around the desk. Adelai hugged the officer.
“Help me, [Demeaning Nickname Related to the officer’s name].”
She didn’t say please. But she spoke softly into the officer’s ear, so the officer said, “Fine.”
“Those stairs don’t look safe.” Adelai held back her archnemesis’s shoulder before she could climb out the narrow window onto the weak staircase.
The officer shrugged off Adelai’s grip. “Why would the Damsel in Distress castle allow something unsafe? Torture instruments in the museum and the break room aside.”
“Because this is a rickety set of stairs no one’s used in 20 years?”
“Damsel in-” the officer stopped herself, remembering she was defending something she didn’t believe in. She didn’t have practice having unique opinions out loud if she wasn’t with Adelai.
“There’s no other way to the roof.” the officer said.
“Doubtful.” Adelai responded.
She took the officer’s hand. She led her away from the end of the hallway and back into the lively sections of the building. The officer wrenched herself free when someone hurried past them to get to the washroom that wasn’t infested with sheep.
“What are you doing?” The officer said under her breath.
“Finding a secret entrance. The ones higher-ranking officials use. Not Officer Mediocres like yourself.”
“I mean taking my hand. These people know me. It would be weird if I held your hand. You’re a prisoner.”
Adelai didn’t want to admit that since the officer had helped her make a plan to get to the roof and use the antenna to give her temporary brain damage by making clouds in her mind, something had changed. The officer spoke about how severe enough brain damage could get all consequences dropped and Adelai didn’t hate her. She didn’t think of spitting on her badge once. It was strange, but she actually enjoyed talking to the officer. The officer obviously didn’t hate her, but Adelai had always ignored it, because that would mean her hatred was unjustified. Adelai wasn’t ignoring it now. It hit her hard, and made her want to hold the officer’s hand.
“I did it because how would you know the way to the secret entrance? We would end up lost with you. I was leading you to it.”
“You know where it is?”
“It’s more likely I know than you do.”
The officer couldn’t object to that.
“Fine, but how about you wave me towards the direction you want to go?”
It disappointed both of them when Adelai agreed, and they started on an hour-long path to find a clearly marked elevator next to the infested bathroom with a sign saying To the Roof.
It’s always cloudy over the Damsel in Distress, but it never rains. Thick, black puffs start at the tip of the turret, which ends in a triangular cone. The clouds then spin around as they get farther away from the tip, looking like the black-and-white optical illusion that’s been banned in all provinces except Knights Land.
Damsel in Distress (the country) declared that all government castles be cloudy overhead, to make everyone a little bit sadder before they entered the building. The antenna assures of it. Due to it always touching the tip of the tower, black clouds are always above the Damsel in Distress. If the building was a person, it would be very depressed due to always being in contact with the antenna; the thing was barely approved by the Faction of Deadly Artifacts, or FDA.
Essentially, all this is saying is don’t touch the antenna. It will leave you extremely sad for weeks. You’ll barely be able to eat your morning baking soda. Naturally, this means that Adelai wanted to do it to get out of consequences for opening a book.
“Half a second should do,” The officer said as the elevator opened onto the roof, where in the middle a cone was sticking out of the turret.
On top was a blinking red sphere held by a grey metal pole. The pole wasn’t rusty. As said before, it never rained up here. The clouds blocked that from happening.
“How long will it leave me depressed for?”
The officer wasn’t 100% sure, but they gave their best guess to please Adelai.
“Six weeks. Enough time to wave your punishment.”
Adelai was pleased. She was already being reckless, so she reached for the officer’s palm and squeezed it. She didn’t hate the officer as much as two hours ago. Adelai’s mind, after years of conditioning, screamed at her to slap the officer. But she didn’t.
Adelai let go and followed the officer out of the elevator. The latter had exited so Adelai would miss the blush reaching across her cheeks.
“So, just climb the cone, and touch it for exactly half a second, and jump down. You’ll be depressed. Everything will be great. Well, terrible in your mind. But after that everything will be great.”
“Everything is not great, officer [Last Name].”
The elevator doors had opened again. The owner of the voice walked out, a disappointed look on their face. It was the officer’s boss. A sheep. Jess-Jess Formings, head of Damsel in Distress, was standing on the rooftop, clomping their hooves and fluffing their wool to show they’re above their officer and the person she should have been interrogating.
After gathering the sheep to organize an infestation in the main bathroom was taking a walk to make sure no non-sheep had become stuck in the area. They were exiting the washroom when they heard footsteps. They saw two humans wandering around, not sure where they were going. One of them was Officer Mediocre [Last Name]. The other was the one who had opened the book. The officer should have been asking how long they had been reading, what they had learned, and their motive behind the crime. Instead, the criminal was leading the officer to elevator.
“Ha! Look!” the criminal yelled, running to the elevator. “I found an entrance!”
The officer was surprised that the elevator leading to the roof existed. Formings had shown her it themself a few months ago. But she had been out of it for a while now. They almost called the officer’s name, but the two humans ran into the elevator without noticing them, under the bed sheet that served as the door. Formings had followed them, more intrigued by their activities than the infestation they had organized.
“Archer Passable Formings.” the officer addressed them with their due respect.
She would have done so anyway, but this time she did it to conceal her fear.
“You’re the AP of this branch?” Adelai asked. “I thought you were taller.”
Formings turned to Adelai. “I had leg surgery a few months ago. I was all wobbly, so I had to get shaved down.”
Adelai nodded solemnly. Formings liked her attitude. They moved their attention back to the officer, who was staring at Adelai fondly.
“What are you doing here, Officer Mediocre?”
Adelai raised her eyebrows. She was not used to hearing the officer addressed by her title.
“I’m. . .”
The officer was not good at lying.
“I want to know,” Formings disliked not knowing things. "And you criminal? What’s your name?”
“Adelai Jizabel Volt.” Adelai responded, winking.
She had also said her middle name for the benefit of the officer.
“Adelai, what are you two doing up here?”
“We. . .” Adelai’s smug attitude was gone.
Adelai was also terrible at lying.
“Oh, for crying out loud.” The officer sighed, breaking the silence.
She ran at Formings, knocking them to the ground. The confused sheep cursed and thrashed under her grip. The officer pinned their hind legs with her knees and their front legs with her hands, resisting the wiggling and temptation to lie down on Formings’ soft coat. She looked back to her startled companion.
“Do it now! Formings isn’t part of the deciding committee!” The officer yelled.
Adelai was frozen. After a moment, she spoke with a raspy voice.
“But. . .the AP is here.”
“They aren’t a part of the deciding committee! They can’t even talk to the judges! Now, Adelai!” The officer struggled against Formings’ shorter legs.
Adelai nodded, noting the first time the officer had used her first name. She ran to the middle of the rooftop, where the cone was. She started climbing the rough tiles, using her skills from that month she was cursed as a mountain goat. It was harder with feet, but apposable thumbs made gripping onto the surfaces as she climbed much more doable.
Adelai scrambled to the top of the cone, holding on to the pole as she stood up to not trip and crack her head open on the concrete. The rejuvenation process would take at least two days, and would be very expensive. But there was no cure for depression.
Adelai held on to the pole with her right hand, leaning back a bit from the pole as she reached up for the ruby sphere. Her palm made contact with the ball, and her entire body was seized by an overwhelming feeling that she was worth nothing. There wasn’t a single thing that mattered. She was nothing more than an instrument for pain. She could die and no one would care how much her rejuvenation would cost.
It wasn’t the sweat in her right hand that lost her grip on the pole—Adelai Jizabel Volt did it of her own volition.
Two strong arms caught her. The person they belonged to was panting heavily, their body wobbling. They fell onto their knees, hugging Adelai close to them.
The officer had seen the gloom overtake Adelai and jumped off of Formings. She made a run for the antenna to comfort the person she should have been interrogating. Instead, Adelai fell, and she had to catch her before she had to be rejuvenated.
“Are you okay?” The officer asked, giving Adelai room to breathe after holding her to her body so tightly.
“The earth has long ago destroyed. We are all characters in a play, creatures in a story by a cruel author.”
Through her gloom, Adelai was smiling. She was great.
"Getting out of the trial is going to require some work." The officer said. "But the committee doesn't trust Formings at all, so I think we're safe in that regard."
Adelai's grin grew brighter.
"Thanks, [Demeaning Nickname Related to the Officer's Name]."
The officer was about to say “you’re welcome” when Formings spoke up, still on the floor with sore apendages.
“Officer Mediocre [Last Name], you know you’re fired, right?”