Fantasy Fiction Teens & Young Adult

         I was your princess, not in your typical sense of the word. I wasn't royalty, not by a long shot. I wasn't from some big, hot-shot family of nobility. Hell! I didn't even really know my family of mob bosses, criminals, lovers, fighters, and Native Americans. But I knew that somewhere, to somebody, I was a princess. I’d learned that from watching The Little Princess with Miss Sara Crew. My world was about to change, for better or worse, I had yet to discover. I was about to trade my life for another one and journey where the road may lead.

         I'd been looking for an escape for months, plotting and planning for the right moment. But, you never know until you're given the opportunity. Christmas and New Years' came and went in their whirlwind and tornadoes. Easter came with the fresh smell of roses and left with a sense of mixed dread and glee as Spring Break would draw to a close and school would be back in session. I knew I needed to act, sooner than later, so I struck out at ten that fateful night.

        "Where you goin'?" An older man in a black pick-up pulled up beside where I was walking along the road. Having heard all them stories of human traffickers, and having been obsessed with murder and crime shows, I backed up several feet, ready to bolt.

         "Away. Far from here. And not with you."

         "You look too young to be out here at this time o' night, miss." It was then that I knew who he was. He'd been my uncle. But he'd died seven years prior. He must've seen that dawn upon me because he laughed, a deep throaty laugh that he used before he got real sick. "Shaylan, get yer ass in this truck."

         "But.....How? Why? What?" I stuttered to find the right words. Finally, I settled on an outburst. "You're dead!"

         "Dead and here. Hop in." Hesitantly, I did so. "Now, Lannie, where you goin'?"

         I shook my head as I began to confide, partially, in my not-so-dead uncle. "Ten years ago, I was kidnapped. I got two sisters back where I'm from, but I'm scopin' out a place for 'em and myself to stay. Ten years. Abuse. I'm leavin' there. They don't know it yet."

         "Shaylan, miss. Where you gonna find somewhere for the three of yous? You have nowhere to take them two. But yous got somewhere to take yerself." I looked up into his hauntingly brown eyes, full of question. "That's right, Miss. Yous got somewhere n you know it." I shook my head.

         "No! I won't leave them in the clutches of them soul-suckin' bastards! You don't understand! If they stay, they're dead!" I cried out. He laid his ice-cold hand over mine, sending shivers up my spine.

         "Girlie, I do understand. One of 'them bastards' was my kid brother. Now, I'm yer guardian angel. However, you need to look at me." Tears pooled in my turquoise eyes, and I refused to look at him.

         "No. You're not." I was angry, with him, at myself, at the world. "You're my dead uncle. I'm hallucinatin'. This is all a dream."

         "Lannie." His tone was stern and gentle, causing me to look at him. To my horror, I could literally see through him to the other side of the leather-interior vehicle! "I'm fadin fast. Now, you can stay there for four more years. Or you can leave yer sisters, yer two adopted cousins, and yer animals there. Leave everythin you know behind except a rucksack of clothin, a bottle o' water, n yer school gear. I'll watch over yer folks n animals, Girlie. Now go!"

         He disappeared in a wisp of smoke, leaving no evidence he was there but the truck and a pack of his favorite cigars. I took them as a pack for tinder and started my ten-mile trek through the rain, back to where I came from. The clock struck five as I reentered the back door. The next morning dawned at eight o'clock as I rose from a restless three hours of sleep. I waited until noon, contemplating my options. Every detail from the night before was seared into my brain, and I knew I had to leave. Gathering what Uncle had told me to, I set my bag by my window.

         "I love you, Patience." I stepped across the hall and into her pink room that sported Ninja Turtle curtains and bedding. I wrapped her in a hug. Startled, she hugged me back.

         "Love you too, Shaylan." I smiled and kissed the top of her head before going to find my other sister.

         "Love you, Zamara." I didn't tell either of them that often enough. I wish I had, but what is cannot be undone. She nodded, the closest I’d ever get to an “I love you too.” However, to her utter shock and horror, I hugged her fiercely until she pulled away from me.

          “What the heck, Lannie?” I shook my head, knowing she’d understand later that day. Finding my two toddler cousins, I scooped them up into a bear hug and handed them to their mother. Then I found the chihuahua and Shi-Tzu, who seemed to know that I was leaving. Angela pawed at me while Bowie whined and followed me into my green room that sported four-year-old Barbie bedding and curtains.

          “You best’ve been right ‘bout this, Uncle,” I murmured under my breath. I shut my door, opened my window, and pulled out the screen. Swiftly, I buried it under a pile of clothes in my closet. Dropping my bag out the window, I jumped out and hit the ground running. I felt like a fugitive like I’d always seen in them NCIS shows. I ran down the road, and about five houses down I slowed to a walk. A neighbor pulled up and offered me a ride. I accepted. Within minutes, we were back where my dead uncle had met me the night before. I had her stop at the pickup, which I could now see had skulls and crossbones on it. “Thanks, Darling!” After my boots hit the pavement, I waited for her to go on and rifled through the truck for anything useful. I found a lighter, a couple of cans of corned hash beef. “Thanks, Uncle!” I kept going. 

          About twenty hours later, my feet were sore and going numb. I was ready to drop from no sleep and pure exhaustion. My boots were soaked from keeping in the wood lines where I could, to hide from anybody who might recognize me. I am a princess. I kept chanting that mantra in my mind as I trudged through the muck and the mud. My destination was about a mile away. I heard an engine behind me as I walked down the backroad. “Need a lift, Lannie?” I turned around, never in my life so grateful to see a dead man behind the wheel. I climbed into the passenger side.

          “Yer a tough little thing. Made it fifty miles in seventeen hours? What’d you do? Walkthrough the night?”

          “Yes. That n shortcuts through woods.” He nodded as we pulled back into the road. “Straight west, followed the sun best as I could. Hit the roads when I reached the end of the woods.”

          “You’d make yerself a fine soldier, Girlie.” I shook my head and sank into the black leather. My flannel was soaked with sweat and tied around my waist. My jeans were covered in thistles, briars, and mud. My hair, braided that morning, was frayed to bits and wild. My cheaply-made boots were soaked, muddy, and tearing apart.”We’re here, Shaylan.”

          I looked around at the place I hadn’t seen in four months. The previously white door had been painted red. The concrete porch now had a roof-type thing over it. A square, homemade, metal fire pit sat in the small front yard by the stone walkway. It was a dead-end road and we were the last house there. I stepped out of the truck and went to the front porch. I could hear my dead uncle getting out of the truck and coming up behind me. I was a world away from my starting point, with a dead man walking alive. 

          I entered the house when nobody answered the door. The door opened into an entirely new dimension. “Am I dead?” I turned to my uncle in confusion. He laughed and shook his head. A small green-eyed girl greeted me. 

          “‘Bout time you showed back up!” She took my hand and tried to run.

          “Stop. She needs rest, Lass.” He turned to me. “Welcome home, Doll. Yer in the livin’ land o’ the dead. All of us dead people bring the livin' ones who need safety and help. Here, yer a princess to everybody, especially that young feller over there.” I looked and stopped dead in my tracks.

          “Austin?” He smiled and nodded. “Holy shit! I knew I was a princess!” I flung myself at him as hard as my worn-out body would let me. I’d fallen in love with him but the military took him overseas, never to be seen again. “I just didn’t think I’d be a dead man’s princess!”

          “None of us are truly dead, Shaylan. All here are wandering spirits who found a home to rest in peace. Including you.” I knew that from that point on, I’d never again talk to my sisters and cousins until it was their time to come home, but I could watch them grow up and give them a chance I never had by protecting them.

April 06, 2021 18:44

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