The Prince And The Ogre


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Scene Title The Prince and the Ogre
Synopsis In which Delia enters an old house on a hill and meets an imprisoned prince looking for revenge.
Date November 23, 2010

”You live with your thoughts - so be careful what they are.”

—Eva Arrington

Night can be blacker and far more foreboding depending on the setting. But when it is night in a wilderness of tangle-rooted trees and thick underbrush, the sort of wilderness where the cathedral domes of foliage blot out the moon and any starlight that might be shining far above the dark clouds of an ebbing storm, it is perhaps the darkest of all.

Thunder still rumbles across the sky, but no whips of lightning have cracked for some time. The icy rain, however, remains constant. In the wilderness beyond the tall wrought iron fence that encircles the unkempt lawn and the dilapidated, hodgepodge of house that sits upon it, the rain echoes as it rattles against leaf, branch, trunk, and ground.

The chattering of animals tucked into their dens punctuates this dark drum line, and wolves report in call-and-response cadences that would chill even the most resolute of hearts.

This is the place of errant, wandering thought. Where ideas are born and run wild with unchecked imaginative power fueling the rumpus. This is the borderland between what is rational and what is disjointed -

- the sagacious and the insane.

The map that she had been given declared this one a pivotal point, the person living within those walls was supposed to be able to help. A seer of sorts that no one has heard from in a countless age. The young woman’s slate colored eyes sweep over the landscape and with a concentrated effort, she begins picking her way from the forest into the long grass toward the fence. With each step, the footprints grow smaller and smaller, until two tiny hands grip the wrought iron bars and a miniature head of brilliant crimson curls peeks her head between them.

The freckles that dot her nose and cheeks seem to stand out against the pale skin of her face and the dark circles under her eyes would suggest that she hasn’t had much sleep. Whoever the young girl’s parents are, they don’t seem to be keeping a regular scheduled bedtime for their daughter. In this place, there is no sleep for her.

Squeezing between the bars, the little girl gets caught by the makeshift pack on her back and stops to remove it and then pull it through along with her. Glancing up at the sky, her eyebrows tweak into worry as another rumble of thunder threatens to bring down a harder rain. Spindly legs carry the youngster quick over the ragged lawn to the front doors. The chains wrapped around the handles bar passage and no amount of rattling does any good. With a whimper, she lets loose the handles and lets loose a long sigh fit for someone much older.

There is a lock, but Delia has no key in her pack, nor has she any means of prying the boards off the windows that flank the most obvious entrance to the great house on the small, sweeping hill. But there is little porch to shield her from the searing wind, and there is that chance that with a house this size - a house that looks like someone stitched five houses together like some strange, architectural Dr. Frankenstein - there might be some window left unbarred, or some side door left unlocked.

The little girl moves away from the door, following the side of the house and letting her hand trace a synonymous path along the wall, her shoes squelching in the mud with each step she takes. Had she come on any other day, there might have been eyes glaring down from the top-most floor of the structure. Unkind eyes full of suspicion. But they are absent from the small, circular window. They do not see the small child make her way to the back of the house.

The chains of swings creak and moan in the wind as they are blown about, threatening to twist up or wind themselves over the bar they are suspended from. An old, rusty merry-go-round adds its choked metallic voice to the song, but the percussion comes from the beating of a half-latched door. It rests at an angle against the stone foundation, set into a slab of concrete that is cracked and crumbling.

No matter how decrepit a playground is, to a child’s eyes it’s always inviting, only the rain is keeping her from running toward it and playing until she wears herself out. With her attention turned back toward the door, her minuscule fingers pry at the latch until it releases from its catch and then she pulls one of them open with a bang.

Whatever the commotion the door made could be discounted by the weather outside, only the absence of the constant clatter might give clue that something is amiss. Shivering from the rain, two bare little feet pat their way down the crumbling steps and into the darkened cellar. While a more intelligent person might call out to find out if there is anyone home, the small child clings tightly to the bundle she carries as though it were a security blanket and not simply a wooden sword wrapped in a discarded scrap of fur.

Behind Delia, the heavy metal door crashes back onto it’s hinges with a thunderous clap that rivals the storm outside. It rattles some with the next gust of wind, but not nearly as terribly as it did before. The cellar that Delia finds herself in is barely dryer or warmer than it is outside. The concrete floor is the sort of cold that crawls up one’s legs without any recognition of shoe or protective clothing.

Somewhere, a pipe leaks, sending water from the ceiling to the floor in steady drops, not unlike a heartbeat.

More importantly, at the timpani-like boom of the door, a voice calls out. It’s small, probably not too unlike Delia’s own small, child vocals, but at this distance, no words can be made out. It is simply a cry, a shout - presumably for help.

Baby teeth chattering, most of them anyway (she’s missing one of her front ones), the little girl’s blue eyes are wide as she tiptoes through the cavernous room. Stepping in time with the drips of water, her tapping footfalls echo their sounds as she inches closer and closer to whoever or whatever made the sound.

The maze of rooms is confusing and difficult for the child to make her way through, more than once she’s passed the same totes and boxes. On her third time by, she picks at a box of empty shell casings and carries them in one hand.

plink… plink… plink…

Every few paces she drops one of the casings behind her, like a trail of breadcrumbs that won’t be eaten by the birds. Her eyes widen to terrified circles as she imagines the horrible types of creatures that would eat empty bullet shells and her careful tiptoeing becomes a hurried speed walk through the labyrinth.

That voice doesn’t stop it’s call, and as Delia nears it, punctuating the voice with the rhythmic, cardiovascular shell casings hitting the cold floor, it grows louder and more distinct.

Please! I didn’t do anything wrong! Please, just, let me out!

The voice, though unbroken by puberty, is decidedly male and peppered with tearful sobs. It isn’t until Delia travels down a long, twisting hall with few branches off of it that she finds the source.

In a room piled high with all sorts of containers, from bankers boxes to plastic totes, and with stacks of loose, moldering atop them, a little boy sits against a wall, his knobby, scabbed knees poking through holes in his jeans as he hugs them to his narrow chest. He lifts his tear-stained face when Delia enters, despite the fact that the only light comes from small windows set in the foundation, and the storm beyond prevents whatever moonlight might have streamed in. The towers of boxes cast long, spider-fingered shadows across what little open space exists.

This is a different sort of wilderness.

“Who’s there!?” the boy calls out, his piercing blue eyes almost glowing in the dark with sheer intensity. For as much fear as there is in his voice, there is an accusatory tone as well. Delia isn’t supposed to be here.

No one is.

Moving past the boxes, Delia’s large round eyes spy the words on one of them and she puts the box of shells down, ignoring the boy for the moment. She recognized a word that’s a little more interesting than he is right now. “K-Krisss-tuh… Krrisst-mmmaaasss, Christmas!” Giving off a little girly squeal, she claps her hands and jumps up and down a few times before calming enough to pull it out of the tall stack it’s in.

Christmas means presents. This is a box, it must have presents and if there’s one thing Delia likes, it’s getting presents.

Flipping the makeshift pack from her shoulder onto her back, the little redhead rubs her hands together as a greedy expression washes over her features. 1973… One thousand nine hundred seventy three presents shoved into that one box. All for Delia. The box says Maury, but it’s obviously a mistake.

Her ten little fingers make for the hole in the side that’s punctured for a handhold and she reaches inside, curling them up to get a good grip. Then she pulls and pulls, and pulls, as hard as she can, caring little for the fact that the entire stack it’s on is teetering worse than Uncle Brick at a New Years Eve party.

“No, don’t!” shouts the boy, and he springs to his feet with a vigor one might not expect to see in a small child chained by hands, feet, and neck to a basement wall. He lifts his hands to wave, the chains rattling even as the moldy cardboard slips against plastic, and sheets of paper start to slip off the peak of the column.

Like a tree being chopped down, as soon as Delia pulls the box past the half-way point, the column teeters to the side, knocking into the one next to it. The entire forest of forgotten or suppressed memories falls, one tree after the next. After the final crash, papers and photographs flutter through the air in a slow descent, like lingering bits of sawdust.

The boy stands cowering, his arms folded to protect his head. But as soon as the ephemera clears, he straightens, quick to want to hide his cowardice. “Why did you do that, you stupid girl!” Like before, his voice is accusing, scolding even, and glares across the ruins at her with eyes that could burn holes through skin.

Landing on her back with the box on top of her, Delia groans before she clambers to a sitting position. There’s going to be bruises, most likely, but the thrill of opening presents has overtaken her senses. When the boy (now in clear view thanks to the absence of the stacks) begins to scold her, she sticks her tongue out at him and shakes her springy curls. Boys are dumb. He didn’t even try to open the presents.

You’re stupid! You’re a boy! Boys are made of greasy grimy gopher guts and mashed up monkey meat.. and and… feet!” Her high pitched voice is a little squeaky, telltale of her young age of perhaps six or seven. Old enough to lose one of her front teeth but not grow a new one just yet, leaving a little gap to whistle through. Concentrating on the box again, she opens it, only to begin throwing out leaves of paper and old pictures. She’s looking for the gifts.

Her little jaw drops and her eyes widen to the size of saucers as she reaches in and slowly draws out an anorexic looking stuffed elephant. In front of the little boy’s eyes, it plumps out and goes from moldy and faded to plush and new. A rainbow of colors spot its coat in a tie dyed pattern of various pigments, as though she couldn’t quite decide which color to pick. Hugging it to her chest, she squeezes her eyes shut and grins. “I like getting presents.”

“That doesn’t-”

But the boy’s voice is cut short when new life is given to the toy, and his own sharp eyes go wide with amazement. “Wow,” he says after a moment, dropping back against the bricks with a thump and a clank of his chains. “How did you do that?” For all his blustering only moments before, the boy imprisoned in the cellar is awash with admiration now.

But before he waits too long for an answer, a grin spreads like wildfire across his dirty face. “Hey! I bet you could help me get out of here! Couldn’t you? I know you could. Cause you’re like, all kinds of special.” Either Delia’s act of elephant revival was truly impressive, or this little boy has an agenda.

His size gives him authority. He’s bigger than she is, so he’s probably right. Maybe. Delia’s eyes slide toward him as she hugs the elephant to her chest and he’s met with a solemn expression. “Did you get caught by the ogres?” Because everything has to be the fault of the ogres. “I have a giant, he’s taller than ogres. And I have a unicorn too, I got her when I was the queen of the Abberjininnies.”

Scrambling to a stand, she pats over to the boy and inspects his chains. With all of the knowledge of an expert, she nods firmly and purses her lips. “Yep, those are really ogre chains. Are you a prince? Because ogres like to eat princes on their toast.”

The boy is silent for a moment as he watches Delia make her approach and inspect the shackles that bind him and tie him to the wall. As she talks, a smile conspiratorial smile colors his face. “A big nasty ogre,” he says, bending down slightly, even though Delia is barely shorter than he is. He lifts his gangly arms up to mimic a stooped figure with hooked, claw-like fingers, and the gesture makes the chains rattle in accompaniment. “He’s huge and fat and mean, and he smells like rotten garbage.

Lowering his arms, he adopts as regal and deposed expression as he can muster. “I was just playing upstairs, and he broke out of my dungeon and attacked me. And he locked me up down here. But if you help me get out of these chains?”

His smile grows wider still, and his eyes narrow as he leans down, placing his hands on his knees as he looks straight into Delia’s eyes.

“You can help me get him. And if you do, I’ll let you keep that elephant. It’ll be like a royal medal.

“I want a crown,” she states firmly with absolutely no room for argument. “And lipstick, because I’m a queen and queens wear lipstick.”

The elephant is gently tucked under one of the little girl’s arms and she pulls the pack off her back. Into it, the elephant is safely stowed while she draws out a wooden sword from its depths. The weapon is dropped to the ground at her feet with a clank of metal against concrete, something that just doesn’t fit with the lumber that it’s made of. When the pack is replaced and the elephant is safely riding in its papoose, Delia bends to pick the sword up with both of her hands.

“Okay… Watch out! I’m gonna chop you free!” The exclamation of her plan is coupled with bringing the sword up over her head. After a quick glance at him, the heavy ring of metal against metal is sounded off when the weapon strikes a heavy blow against the chains that bind the boy to the brick. Sparks fly as she strikes the chains again and again, with every blow the links grow weaker and weaker until they finally break.

The process leaves the boy with the shackles around his neck, wrists, and ankles, but the measure of freedom that comes with being untethered is more than enough to make him spin around in a gleeful circle and clap his hands together, even if the chains still dangling from him rattle as he does so.

“You can be a duchess, which is way better than a queen, and I will find you so much makeup in the royal chambers!” He looks with awe from Delia to the sword she wields, unable to believe the stroke of luck. “You should let me hold that, though, in case the Ogre comes. That way you won’t get hurt when his nasty green acid blood goes spurting everywhere.” It’s said with solemnity, like a true prince passing down a royal decree.

He looks around him, rubbing what little of his wrists he can get to with the slight shifting of the manacles on his thin arms. “We should get out of here quick. You can turn the chains into candy-strands, right? That way we can eat. I’m hungry - the Ogre didn’t let me have anything to eat. Not even oatmeal.

“No! It’s MINE!!” The roar of protest from the little girl is enough to shake the foundation of any normal dream. Yanking the sword out of his reach, she tucks it into her own belt and sticks her tongue out at him. “A duchess isn’t better than a queen. I’m a queen! I’m a queen!!” The last echo is punctuated with the stomp of one bare foot against the cement.

A dubious glance is given toward the chains and when Delia wraps her hands around them they don’t turn into candy but melt into tiny fluttering butterflies which are infinitely prettier than candy. With a squeal, she chases the fluttering insects waving one hand toward them as they careen up and away from the pair of children. When the last one is gone, the little redhead girl plods back to the boy and heaves a long sigh. “I’m cold… and bored… and I want hot chonklit.”

This time, the boy’s wide-eyed amazement at Delia’s prowess is short-lived. Throwing his head back, his face splits with a grin, and he shoves his small fists against his sides, arms akimbo. “I know where the kitchen is, Elephant Queen!” he proclaims in his best ‘deep voice.’ He points toward the hall Delia wandered down to find him, as if a cavalry regiment were waiting behind him for such a command.

But there is no cavalry. Only the brick wall and the ruins of memories. And the boy breaks the statuesque pose to thrust his hand out to the little girl.

“My name’s Reuben. I think we’re gonna be best friends.

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