Monday, March 15, 2010

Chapter Eighty-One

The Magic Carpet floats serenely over the rooftops - a sight that would be wondrous, were there anyone to see.

Even at this speed - slow and steady wins the race - the Dwarf can't help but admire how much land they've covered. From the desert kingdom to this silent, nameless city, and soon enough, through the Doorway to their homeland.

The Wolf sulks in a corner, paws folded in front of him. "I want my wishes," he growls.

The Dwarf growls back. "Not yet."

Something about the lamp, something about the Wolf, something about the Dwarf makes him hesitate to hand over his tarnished and perfect treasure. At least, for now.

"You'll get it after all this is said and done," says the Dwarf. "Then you won't have to waste 'em on any necessities." Traces of Cinderella's cunning flavor his words, and he doesn't know whether to smile or frown at how she can manipulate him, even now.

“You know what I'm gonna wish for?” asks the Wolf for the fourth time. He counts them off on his claws. "First, I want all the treasure in the world. Second, I want all the food in the world. Third, I wanna be king of the world."

The Dwarf peers off the edge of the Carpet, and spits. "Well, go and greet yer loyal subjects, your majesty."

Below them, a procession of the dead parades through the cobblestone streets, trailing after the Magic Carpet.

Taking a deep breath, the Dwarf brings one hand to his mouth and sings, “Heigh-ho…” His scratchy voice echoes through the skies. The Wolf, arms still crossed, howls in accompaniment.

“If you can hear us, answer back!” shouts the Dwarf. “Stay indoors! It isn’t safe! But answer back!”

Silence from the city, as it’s been for their entire flight. The random cry from a cat or dog would be welcome, but there is nothing. Even the birds have fled.

“Not even the crickets,” wonders the Dwarf.

“No one’s left,” says the Wolf.

“Course not,” grumbles the Dwarf. “These people were soft and foolish. Couldn’t defend their homes, probably didn’t store up their larders, at least. Probably all starved by now.”

They continue to fly, still at a cautious pace. Someone else in the Dwarf’s position might find the view breathtaking. The girl, maybe. Or Snow White. It is true, this city - so foreign to the Dwarf - spreads out like a wonderful, enormous map, but who remains to see the beauty that once lived here?

All that has been created, all that has been achieved is now lost.

“Hey,” says the Wolf suddenly. “Let’s go check on Cinderella.”

“No,” says the Dwarf flatly, and now it's his turn to fold his arms. The Wolf doesn’t know it, but the Dwarf has purposefully steered them away from the girl and the bonneted dog.

“Why not?”


“But it’s not that far,” says the Wolf. “I can find her. I bet I could smell her if we go a bit lower.”

“No,” says the Dwarf, louder this time.

“Why not?” repeats the Wolf, louder as well.


“Because what?”

“Because it wouldn’t do any good!” says the Dwarf, and he resolutely scans the gray faces in the horde. “What are we gonna do, stay there, waste some of the food and water we left ‘em? They’re fine.”

“Go there,” he adds gruffly, patting the Carpet. He points to a familiar Doorway. “But set us up on that roof first, we’re gonna need you to scout ahead and let us know if it’s safe to go through.”

The Carpet ripples in understanding, and banks toward a high, flat roof, devoid of any windows, stairs, balconies, or nearby trees that the undead could possibly climb.

“Just, you know, say hello,” says the Wolf, his voice uncertain after the Dwarf’s outburst. “Make sure she’s sleepin' all right.”

“We ain’t going back,” says the Dwarf. Stupid creature doesn’t understand. “We gotta go forward. We’ll see her after all this mess is clear. There’s just... there ain’t nothin' more we can do for her.”

If he could, he would’ve built the girl an even finer coffin than Snow White's tomb of glass and gold. Inlaid with platinum, this time, smelted from the doors of the Sultan's palace. Alabaster and marble, take those nice, fancy pillows. It’d be something.

Instead, she must make do with the creaky bed of some poor dead family, locked away in a nursery, sharing fleas and water with some other dead fool’s dog.

“Ain’t fair,” he scowls into his beard. “Ain’t fair.”

“But what if they got her?” presses the Wolf.

“Yeah, what if?” says the Dwarf, and he quickly glares back with reddened eyes. “What could we do about it, ya fool? Nothin’, that’s what. She’s fine. They’re fine.”

He turns around quickly and repeats to himself, more for his own benefit than the Wolf’s. “They gotta be,” he adds quietly.