Once upon a time there was a kingdom, be-knownst by all the lands, and revered by all its occupants. This kingdom was filled with systematically built fortresses of concrete and steel, towers that seemed to ascend forever, and black asphalt roads that bent around every corner. Small aerodynamic carriages of plastic, metal and rubber economically poisoned the air as they carried about the kingdoms occupants in style and speed. Pretentious, pushy vendors pedaled all manner of conceivable wares from symmetrical stalls that lined the hallways of vast indoor market places and glimmering screens transported a symphony of sound and color, from far and wide, into every home.
That aside, what made the kingdom truly great was its surface. All the bleakness of reality lay beneath the synthetic gleam of cheap boot polish, perfectly parted hair, powdered faces and polite smiles. The iron bars of every window were hidden behind neatly trimmed, taut hedges and electronically watered flower beds, brimming with a perfect co-ordination of colors. Benign racism was termed ‘affirmative action’, date rape was ‘boys-being-boys’ and homophobia was religiously justifiable. Yes, there was massive social oppression, yes anyone daring to live an alternative lifestyle was made to suffer, and yes none of it mattered to the majority of this kingdom.
From birth all children of the kingdom had their fate mechanically allocated. Every little girl had to be a princess, a beautiful helpless object, like the color pink, and wait patiently for her prince charming/knight in shining armor. She had to be a virgin or else she was a whore. Every little boy had to be a prince or a knight, like the color blue, and driven by an overwhelming compulsion to kill dragons, enchantresses, cultural minorities and other supposedly evil creatures. He had to resign himself to the monotony of a repetitive day job and swear an archaic oath to dutifully defend heterosexism or else he was cast out.
There were many children in the kingdom that grew to faithfully fulfill their allocated fate. This tale, however, is about one who did not:
“Kayla, what am I to do? I am to be the bride and victim in marriage to this prince and his happily ever afters”, exclaimed princess Kiya as she dropped rigidly down onto the hardened mattress of a canopied bed, creasing the factory made quilt that was to be kept perfectly straight during the daylight hours.
“Marriage? Have you not told your parents about us?” the handmaid asked pretentiously when she already knew the answer. She sat down beside Kiya, unknowingly adding another ripple of creases to the quilt.
“Yeah right!” Kiya replied, her voice dowsed in sarcasm and then returning to its natural tone “I did mentioned to my mother once, years ago, of my love for another girl. She recoiled, said that it was a passing phase. Thank god I didn’t mention that you were the subject of my affection.”
“That’s true,” Kayla conceded reluctantly. “They would have seen us separated long ago”. She let her head fall upon Kiya’s shoulder, a familiar, and yet still welcoming alcove for the heavy weight of her consciousness. Her long un-kempt hair silently whispered songs of rebellion as it fell about her face and covered her dark complexion. “I would have lost you” she said and then paused a moment, contemplating submission to the still present cravings of her small ego, cravings for the seductive re-assurance of posing yet another already answered question. “Tell me, do you want to marry this nameless prince?”
“Ha-ha, I’d rather slit my wrists with a straight razor,” Kiya answered with a tone that clearly illustrated the stupidity of such a fleeting thought and then added, “I love you Kayla, you know that.” Both hearing the sudden click of approaching footsteps they paused, pulled away from each other and turned expectantly towards the door. Silence again. They waited a moment and then continued.
“Run away with me then! The night before your wedding, under the cover of dark, we’ll take our leave of these walls. What do you say?” said Kayla enthusiastically.
Kiya paused, pretending she needed a moment to think the matter through, or at least to play her polite part in what had become a long anticipated act, and then she replied, “You would have to make all the arrangements, lest anyone be the wiser, but you know I will!”
Unbeknownst to Kiya and Kayla, the king stood outside the servant’s chamber. Having overheard fragments, he pressed his perverse, prying ear against the paper thin door and listened in on the whole conversation. He rushed to his study where he called, with haste, upon the prince to whom his daughter was betrothed.
“Hearken, brave prince!” the king said, “You must go about this task as I tell you now, lest there be no happily ever after.” Hearing that his bride-to-be had taken a female lover did not bother the prince. Like many of the kingdom’s care-free occupants, he lived under the false pretense that two women were only ever romantically affectionate for the pleasure of men. He was so shamelessly immersed in his own egotistical projections of self-importance and dull delusions of effortless sex-appeal that he could not comprehend the more likely motive of these two women. But Kiya and Kayla intended to elope and leave him shamefully stranded at the alter and that he could not abide.
Kayla was preoccupied carefully packing what few necessities she could afford to and making stealthy arrangements for her and Kiya's midnight departure. She didn’t notice the prince enter her chambers, take up a self-righteous stance, and lock the door behind him. The king had already seen to it that the princess and the other servants were studiously tending to the wedding arrangements and well away from the castle. The prince was alone with Kayla. Suddenly aware of his presence she turned and addressed him.
“My lord, you’ve startled me.” she curtsied politely, “What brings you into my quarters?”
Wielding a colt revolver he spoke, “I have come to slay thee, wicked enchantress. Thou shalt not deprive my princess and I of our happily ever after.”
“Wha… I don’t unders…” she began, terrified, knowing well what he meant, but not how he'd come to know.
“Kneel before me” he demanded. She was neither weak nor helpless but the scales were unfairly tipped. Like in all fairy tales fate favored the prince and so did the .38 caliber pieces of perfectly cast lead that sat snuggly inside the revolvers chambers silent waiting for their tailored purpose. Kayla knelt and brought her hands together like a preying mantis on its death bed in a catholic confession box.
“Please, I beg of you, have mer…” The prince forced the gun into her mouth. She didn’t dare move, save her trembling jaw that tapped her teeth attentively against the barrel and the tears that now rolled down her face with freedom and fluidity, carving out their own artistic path across the canvas of her stark cheek bones.
“Make it look like suicide, just as the king hath instructed,” the prince mumbled to himself in a barely audible tone before he blew the back of the handmaids head apart. He wiped his prints from the gun and placed it in her hands. He routinely straightened the quilt on her bed and then left.
The king, providing the prince a supposedly perfect alibi, confronted the princess upon her return. “My beloved daughter! This day is one of sorrow. Your servant girl, she has taken her own life.” His words were stained with false sincerity and the slightest hint of remorse as he now saw his bidding done.
“Come see, this is all that remains of her”. Kiya stood silently, staring at the blood splattered wall, that mimicked some piece of contemporary art, and the corpse of her lover piled upon the floor beneath it. She forced back the tears that persistently threatened her cool composure. She knew immediately the extent of her father’s deceit; that he was somehow responsible. “Come now, my dear,” he said, a little disarmed by the intensity of her suffering and wrought with a genuine desire to comfort her. He placed a maternal arm around her pale neck and gently ushered her away from the room. “We must not let this besiege tomorrow’s joyful occasion. You are to be wed, rejoice!” In a voice so cold and removed that it cut through the stiff, stale air like the hot blade of a machete through rotting fruit she said,
The next morning guests congregated in the main dinning hall like mindless worker ants about a fallen sweet, waiting anxiously for the marriage ceremony to commence. Kiya however was no-where to be found. The king was dis-heartened and a little distraught by her absence but routinely told him self this was to be expected. After a frantic, frenzied search for the belated bride, the queen finally found her in the bathroom of the servant’s quarters.
“Kiya? Kiya! Is that you?” she said in a tone of frustration and disappointment that only a mother could manage, as she entered the dark room. She groped the walls like a hormonal teen on her first date until she found that special spot: the light switch. The light flickered and coughed before illuminating the room with its sterile fluorescent glow. Kiya lay still in the bathtub unyielding to her mother’s calls. As though respecting her desire for modesty the diluted red water prudishly covered the top of her pale pink breasts. On the titled floor beside the bath sat a polished straight razor. The queen in a panic grabbed her daughter by the shoulders and violently shook her naked body. “Kiya! Kiya! Sweetheart are you…” she screamed with frantic desperation but prompted no response “No! no, no, Kiya!” Kiya’s eyes were wide open but showed no sign of awareness, no tiny spark of anything that might be optimistically miss-interpreted as life. It was then that the queen noticed her wrists, a bold and blatantly obvious detail that had escaped her in the chaos and confusion. They were slashed vertically. Kiya had opted to join her lover in death rather than be subjected to a union, forced upon her by a kingdom that neither understood nor cared for her. On the tiled wall above her, where she’d pressed her open wrists like pen to paper in one final, immortal, bitter expression of her deeply rooted cynicism and dis-contentment, were the words in blood: