Author’s Note: Hey! This story is a collaboration of Sia and Phila. Sia wrote Irene and Phila wrote Stella.
Link to her profile: https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/queen-philosopher/
"What in the world?" I murmur, staring at the wall.
"Not world, this is not a world, hmph." It retorts in a surprisingly high-pitched voice, not what you'd expect from a grey wall.
"What do you mean?" My sister asks.
"To continue beyond me, you have to pass a test and no I don't speak in rhyme, it's cliche,” it continued, “You both shall see what the other thinks, and I will see if it entertains me enough, if it will….well, I may let you go or I may not," the wall muses, its purple mouth moving.
"What?!" we exclaim simultaneously.
"Now you shall see."
Almost immediately, the light went out.
A spotlight flashed over Stella, who was now stuck inside a glass box. Suddenly, there were three versions of her, stuck in their boxes, pleading with me to free them. Suddenly, they all distorted. The first Stella shrunk down and down and started fidgeting, and then she burst into tears.
"That is what Ms. Stella, I believe, thinks of herself."
The second Stella grew bigger and bigger, taking up the whole box, her eyes the biggest feature, staring down at me. She pointed a finger towards me and screamt.
"I'll tell Daddy!" And started laughing maniacally.
"That, is what Ms. Irene thinks of Ms. Stella.”
The third Stella remained the same size, but her clothes changed into formal attire, memories flooded around me of Third Stella in meetings, earning money, and others, but the last one was of Mother saying "I'm proud of you." To her. Her eyes watered, and suddenly I heard a thump, and we were back to Crazyland.
"Now, it is Ms. Irene's turn.
I crumple to the ground as the glass box disappears from around me. It had been deafeningly quiet inside the box. I could see nothing except Irene’s face morphing into horror. Then suddenly a small television screen appeared in front of me. Flashing my thoughts and Irene’s expressions. I had banged on the glass, screaming to let me out. But no one had heard. I pant heavily, as Irene bends beside me and holds my hand. She is suddenly wrenched away and put in the same box. I run towards her, but invisible bonds hold me in place, I’m forced to watch as her body dissects to form three of her. The First Irene looked extremely vulnerable, like a wounded animal, but then she stood up straighter, a determined look on her face.
A voice flashed, “That is what, it seems, Ms. Irene thinks of herself.”
The spotlight went to the Second Irene who immediately shrunk into a hissing snake, who darted around, looping around itself. It could betray. Betray anyone who tried to come in its way. The voice hummed amusedly, “That is what Ms. Stella thinks of Ms. Irene.”
I crumple forward weakly, feebly trying to wrestle against the bonds when the spotlight moved on to the Third Irene, who had a confident look and a determined stride. She wore a armour made of silver, and a warrior crown. She looked like a warrior queen. The voice whispered, “And this is what Ms. Irene wishes to be.”
"You think of me as a SNAKE?!" I yell at Stella, half annoyed, half amused.
"Well, you think of me as a freaking GIANT with humongous eyes!"
"Well I may be sarcastic, but I'm not a BACKSTABBING SNAKE! And maybe I think of you that way, because you're ALWAYS there! Always hovering around! It's like- like you're jealous of everything I have! It's like you want to BE ME! You've already convinced my Dad that you're the best one, so why not just kick me out of the house? I'm pretty sure your Mother Dearest would like THAT!" I ranted, my face red.
"Oh SHUT UP! JUST SHUT IT! Can't you see? Yeah!- well maybe I am jealous! Maybe it's because I've never GOT to live in a beautiful house, I've never GOT to have a dad, nor have I ever GOT to have A BED! It was always BACK TO THE TRAILER FOR ME! Drunk dad, tired mom, and me! EVER BEEN THROUGH SOMETHING ACTUALLY PAINFUL?! AND NO, I DON’T MEAN CHIPPING A NAIL, PRINCESS!"
"Don't you dare call me a princess, Stella. And, ha!- a matter-of-fact YES, I HAVE BEEN SOMETHING ACTUALLY PAINFUL! Ever had a mom who abandoned you as a kid? I think NOT. Ever had a father with low pay, so low that you had to eat bread and margarine everyday? EVER THOUGHT WHY I'M SO NICE AND 'FAKE', AS YOU CALL IT, BECAUSE I HAVE TO PROTECT MYSELF? I have to protect myself, Stella! Protect myself from all the bad people out there." I scream.
"People like… m- my mom." I finish, whispering as tears streamed down my cheek.
"That was amusing," smirks the wall, and rises up to give us way.
"If you ask me, Irene would be a fancy to the Light Grey Prince, and Stella to the Dark Grey one, after all they are looking for brides."
"What?" Stella spits.
"They are searching for queens, crazy ones, and you seem to be fit for the role," the wall shrugs.
"We're not crazy." I say sternly.
"If you're not, then why would you be here? We're just lost, like you. Waiting to be found. We're all crazy here, just ask the Gutterflies," it said, as a creature sprang out of the wall.
It was the fox we had earlier met.
“Why, hello again, not-crazy-people-in-the-crazy-world,” he smiles at us genially, “so how are you doing? It’s been a year since I last saw you,” he suddenly plops down on the ground and starts sobbing, “I missed you.”
“Wait...didn’t we see you just now? About a few hours ago?”
“A...few...hours?! You don’t remember me?” he bawls loudly. We look at each other guiltily.
“Oh, we missed you too,” Irene lies. I shrug sheepishly as she glares at me.
“Uhm, Mister Fox, perhaps could you tell us the way out of this place?” I say, eager to get over with this.
The fox starts laughing, “A way out?” he cries, “A way out?! That has got to be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard, oh my stars and stockings, a way out, oh by my lovely bushy tail, a way out,” he doubles up, shrieking with laughter.
We exchange annoyed glances. Irene stiffly asks the fox, “What is so funny about that?”
He looks about wiping his tears, “What’s so funny, she says, what’s so funny, oh my, oh my.”
“Well, if you won’t tell us, I don’t see why we should stay here much longer, come on Irene.” I say crossly and we get up to walk away when he springs in front of us.
“Oh no, that wouldn’t do, not at all, I’ll tell you the ‘way out’ only if,” he pauses, looking at us.
“Only if what?”
“Only if you answer my riddles,” he says happily.
Irene and I debate mutually when the fox says, “Oh you don’t need to answer really, but then I won’t tell you the…’way out’” he pauses, “Oh and I forgot to tell you, you’re on my land, so you can’t get out of here until I allow you to do so.”
“What?!” we exchange horrified glances as Irene clutches my hand.
“This is all your fault! Why did you have to run after the ferret, oh now we’re never going to get out of here,” Irene wails.
“Look, I’m sor-” I begin when the fox interrupts me, “Well...you can get out of here, only if you answer my riddle,” he says. This time we don’t hesitate to accept. Not like we have a choice.
The fox clears its throat dramatically and proceeds, "What is the animal which looks like a book, speaks like a brook, and cooks with its foot.” He looks at us expectantly while we stare at each other stupefied. “And your time starts now! You have 1 minute.”
“Wait, it is timed too?” I ask frantically
“Of course it does,” he says and pulls out a teacup from the pink grass. He peers into it and says, “50 seconds left, hurry up!”
“Hah, really? I don’t think so.”
We exchange frustrated glances as we try to answer.
“Time’s up, girls! Make yourself comfortable, you’re stuck here forever,” he smiles at us with satisfaction and starts spinning towards his...home apparently, if that’s what you call a house made of butter.
“At least tell us the answer!” Irene shouts after him.
He turns around and looks at us bemusedly, “You really thought there was an answer?”
“BAHAHAHAHA, TRICKED YA,” he laughs and disappears with a poof.
Irene rounds on me almost immediately, “GOSH, THIS IS BONKERS, I MEAN WHY DID YOU EVEN DRAG US HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND HOW DO WE GET OUT, THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, OH I SHOULD NEVER HAVE FOLLOWED YOU, WHY DID YOU EVEN RUSH AFTER THE FERRET?!”
“Irene, I’m sorry, look, I thought the ferret spoke and I don't know why, I just had to follow it, I’m so sorry, look, I promise I’ll find a way out,” I reassure her, while she looks at me despairingly. I look around and try to test the boundaries of the fox’s land. Then I gasp, “WE’RE IDIOTS, IRENE.”
“Happy realisation!” she mutters under her breath.
“Oh dear lord, why didn’t we realise before that we could just simply walk out of here, it's not as if the fox is watching.”
“Wa-WHAT? Oh, oh, oh, OH! I get it,” she says. We walk towards the forest and as soon as we reach, darkness surrounds us.
We hear the fox’s voice, “You think I would let you off so easily! Hah, think again!” he giggles.
The darkness lifts like a fog and I see...gigantic puzzle pieces?
“If you figure it out, I’ll let you go.”
What in the world? Seriously.
"Okay, what's the final picture?" Stella asks with a deep sigh.
"Oh….I don't know yet, see for yourself!"
"How do we pick up the pieces? They're huge for God's sake!" I laugh hysterically.
"Make yourself big!" He says, shrugging.
"Wha-? O-okay. We can do this Irene. Let's try to imagine ourselves bigger, huh? Is it working?" Stella says, closing her eyes as tight as possible.
"Oh lord, Stella, it is!" I say imagining myself bigger.
Suddenly, the pieces are small, and our shoulders reach the pink clouds.
We start picking up the pieces, and placing them on the flat land under us.
"What?" Stella exclaims, as she picks up a flowy, blue piece and another piece appears in its place.
"I'm going crazy," I say, my head spinning.
"Darling, you were always crazy! You just went normal from time to time," the fox says, grinning with its silver teeth.
"Hey- we could attempt this, and if it doesn't work, we could at least try to charm the princes to let us out," Stella suggests.
It had been a long time since we were here, but things don't seem so crazy now.
We had been searching for hours, and now we're tired.
"I hope you're doing terribly, my dears." The fox says, leaning casually in the air.
"What's your name?" Stella asks, staring into the almond, ever-changing coloured eyes.
"My name is Ruswiddle Lost, thank you." He says, disturbed.
"Oh-okay." I whisper, holding in my giggles.
After another few hours, and some "Star Leaves" as dinner, I think, this place has no value of time, and it's actually a little soothing.
"STELLA!" I scream, as Stella flinches from her thoughts, we had given up, but something struck me.
"I'VE GOT IT!"
"Got what, Irene?"
"IT'S AN ABSTRACT PAINTING! IT'LL MAKE SENSE HOWEVER WE MAKE IT! THE EXTRA PIECES ARE A TRICK!" I scream out of satisfaction.
"Ms. Irene is very smart," Ruswiddle acknowledges.
"Oh- Irene!" Stella says as she runs up and hugs the soul out of me.
"Oh- gosh- Irene!" She gushes, tears streaming down.
"We can go home!" She yells, talk about sister bonding in the weirdest places.
"Haha, this is hilarious. I never said I'll let you go home. Ms. Stella, how are you so logical?" Ruswiddle laughs hysterically.
"I said 'I'll let you go.' As in, I'll let you go to the next town!" Ruswiddle screechs with laughter.
"What?!" Stella spits her face turning red with anger. Her hair starts to stand straight on top of her head, and starts turning red from the roots.
Ruswiddle backs off disappearing again into black and white swirls and a puff of grey smoke.
“Even before you say it Irene, I’m already admitting, it is my fault, look, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean-WHAT-” I start suddenly, as I get smothered in a hug, “pwoosh, what are you doing?”
“Hugging you, of course, dummy,” Irene answers gruffly. We part after sometime, and after an awkward pause, I say, “So how do we get out of here?”
“Maybe we can find a way out of the ‘next town’, it doesn't hurt to try,” she shrugs.
I nod and we start walking, “IRENE!” I shout.
“What?! You almost blew my feet off, whispering like that,” she grumbles.
“WE’VE BEEN WALKING FOR AN HOUR,” I shake her vigorously.
“Wait, we have? I thought we just started?”
“No, no! We’ve been walking FOR AN HOUR,” I shout again, trying to get the point across.
She realizes what I mean immediately, “We don’t know the way,” she whispers.
I suddenly plop down on the ground and start sobbing, my hair drops down, and turns sky blue, so does Irene's. Irene looks at me concerned.
“I’M HUNGRY,” I wail. Irene sits down beside me and we both start sobbing, “WE’RE HUNGRY!!”
Suddenly a delicious aroma surrounds the air. We automatically start moving towards it and arrive in a…… “GINGERBREAD TOWN,” we shout simultaneously.
An old woman comes out of one of the endless cottages made of pastries. She smiles at us genially and invites us to eat with her. Almost immediately, two children run out of the cottage shouting, “STAY AWAY FROM HER, SHE’S A WITCH!”
I look at them bewildered, “Hansel and Gretel?”
They turn around and say simultaneously, “Yes?”
“Wait, what? I didn’t know you existed..I mean, like in real life.”
“Of course, we don’t!” the laugh, “We’re thoughts!”
“We all are thoughts here, you, me, all of us, we’re simply thoughts!” they say.
“Why don’t you come in for dinner?” they look up at the skies where the green sun was rising, “The sun is almost setting,” they say.
Stella glances at me.
"We have no better choice, so yeah." I say, shrugging.
"Okay. Lead us the way." Stella says, staring at Hansel.
"Way?" Gretel asks, puzzled.
"There are no ways!" Hansel says.
"Just skip to the left, skip to the right, you'll be at your destination, but extremely light." Gretel recites.
We have no choice but to follow their instructions. Suddenly, we arrive at a house, made of butter. It looks like Ruswiddles, and I am proven right when he floats out of the chimney.
I suddenly realize I'm floating, and everyone else is too.
"Stella, why am I floating?" I murmur.
"The spell? It said that you'll be at your destination, but extremely light. What is wrong with you?" Hansel says, scrunching his nose.
"Goodbye, the sisters, goodbye Hansel and Gretel! I hope you all are horrible." He says, scratching his ear.
"We certainly are." They recite.
"I-I guess we are too." Stella murmurs.
"You certainly look like you are." Ruswiddle peers at us as Stella frowns.
"Stand up, have some candy!" He says, gesturing towards empty plates and candles.
"Where. Is. The. Candy. Ruswiddle?" Stella says, our hair flaming up red again.
"The candy is here, can't you see?" A creature comes out of the ground, picking up a candle and licking the flame off. Gretel does the same.
I realize it's the ferret, and Stella does too. She doesn't say anything, and nor do I.
"Mmm, strawberry." Gretel murmurs.
I grab a pair and give one to Stella and one for myself.
I lick it, and it fires up my tongue, suddenly, my tongue feels as cold as ice, and then, after the flame is down my throat, I feel the strawberry hit.
Stella shares the same reaction.
We grab a few more, and they keep appearing.
I see a goose waddle out of the clouds, and float down to the table. It starts swallowing the flames down. Its had about thirty, and now looks addicted.
Gosh, this is gonna be one heck of a dinner.