PRW Runner-Up Tour: Red Revenge by Caity H.

Posted by on Mar 20, 2014 in Project REUTSway | No Comments

Alice in Wonderland

 

She wouldn’t see it coming. No one would. How could they? He hadn’t even seen it coming until his eyes opened and that first breath entered his lungs. He hadn’t expected, didn’t understand. How could life find a way into a body that had none?

As he walked through dark corridors, bathed in a red tint, he wondered if she would be surprised to see him. Would she scream, like he had in their last meeting? Would she run, as he had tried to? A dark laugh gurgled up through his windpipe, meeting the stagnant air. She could scream, run, order her guards to attack, but nothing would stop him. How meager were her ways when life had given him a second chance, another breath? She would be as helpless as he had been.

His footsteps, sluggish and unsteady, scraped over the red tile. Each ragged breath burned, tasting of blood and rot. But he kept going, kept walking. Their tale wasn’t finished and wouldn’t be until the fat lady screamed. And scream she would. The entire land would hear. They would hesitate; stopping to wonder what could possibly make a sound so vile and wretched. He knew though. The creature, that woman, would suffer for all the bloodshed she’d caused.

Slowly the dim light became brighter. He was almost there.

Had she changed? Could a monster like her even try? He scoffed, shaking with anger. There was no way. She’d set her fate in stone long ago with the choices she’d made.  And he would offer no mercy or hesitation. She hadn’t.

The ax in his hand grew heavier, his body not used to the weight. With each passing day his body was growing weaker, each hour. What use for strength did a corpse have? None. Until revenge presented itself, smiling like a Cheshire cat. Now strength was precious, to have any meant the odds were on his side. They wanted him to succeed, to put that monster in her place, in her grave. He wouldn’t let them, whoever they were, down. They had given him a gift, the breath of life that had brought him back. He had no plans to take that for granted. He would use this second chance, and she would feel his revenge.

A red haze closed over his eyes, coating the kingdom in a blood color. It was no different than before, but this time he was the one who wanted only to see red, to cause pain and torment. He shivered at the blackness in his cold, un-beating heart. She would’ve been proud of what he became, who she turned him into. What her tyranny had brought. What was dead now lived, with revenge seared in his mind and body.

There came a door, made of wood that was once so clean and pure, filled with natures scent and feel. But not anymore. Now it was dark, blood staining the surface, falling deep into the cracks, so deep that it could never be scrubbed away. No amount of repentance or cleaning could ever take away the blood on her hands. They would be stained red, like the rest of her palace, like the door to her chambers.

He stopped in front of the door, leaning close enough to smell the wood. A twisted grin fell over his lips. The wood smelled like him; dead, rotting, bloody. All her victims were thrown upon that door, their blood spilled and used to paint over every innocent splinter. His blood was there. So much had been spilled on the day of his death. And so much more would spill on the day of hers.

Using his shoulders to push, the doors fell open, revealing the room of the woman who’d seen him killed. He gripped the ax tighter in his hand, moving to the bed where she slept. Her chest rose and fell every few seconds. She looked so at peace, unaware of the fate that would claim her. He couldn’t have that. She needed to see his face, see the grin he wore when he took his revenge.

“My queen, don’t you know it’s rude to ignore your guests?” his voice was grainy and his throat rough. The air that fueled his words digging through the grim and gore that filled his lungs. It was unnatural to hear his own voice again. It had been silent for so long.  His voice sounded like a stranger, like it didn’t belong to him anymore. Maybe because it didn’t. It belonged to the man he used to be, not the ghost that he was.

He watched in fascination as the Red Queen turned over, eyes blinking to adjust to her sudden awakening. Upon seeing his body looming over her, she jumped away, scurrying out of bed and over to the opposite wall. Black spades stood out against the red wall, black diamonds, clubs, and hearts were painted on the opposite walls, which were also blood red. Everything always had to be red.

He remembered his old uniform, red in color. He could remember going home, splotches of red paint all over him. Death was the first time he’d escaped the smell of paint. Part of him longed for it, the sense of normality it brought him.

“Guards, guards!” The Red Queen called, her round body pressed hard against the wall. Her nails scratched against the walls behind her.

“They’re not here,” he told her, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s just you and me.” He watched the fear in her eyes grow. The emotion filled him with glee. She deserved to be scared, to worry about what was coming. If only she knew. He almost wanted to tell her what was coming, to watch her squirm. What would it look like for her to be on the receiving end of fear instead of the one delivering it?

“How did you get in here?” she hissed, glaring daggers at him through half-closed lids. Her face, once pale and delicate in sleep, was hard and red, bursting with anger for the injustice she thought was being done to her. “Where are my guards?”

He walked around the bed, letting the head of the ax drag against the floor. The sound grated his ears, and he could tell by the way she winced that she, too, disliked the sound. “That’s not important.” He set the ax on the bed, an action that the queen seemed to appreciate. “You look different,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.

The Queen stared back at him, her arms pressed flat against the wall like she was preparing to leap and fly away. Blood red nails curled down, her hands beginning to clench into fists. He sighed, leaning back slightly on his heels. She’d gained weight since their last encounter. Maybe if she ran after her kills, instead of waving her hand, the dresses she wore wouldn’t be so tight over her bosom and abdomen.

“You’ve gained weight.” The observation brought him pleasure. She deserved to rot for what she’d done. Trapped inside a body that was more sluggish than his. He’d died. His limbs were numb and cold. Yet she was the one that moved like death had already taken her. Pitiful. When his death had taken place, she’d been more nimble, almost graceful. But no longer.

“How dare you say such a thing?” She snarled, face darkening with rage. “You insult your queen!”

“I do,” he acknowledged with a grin. “And I would continue to do so for the rest of my days if I could. But I fear those are limited.” It was unclear if he would remain alive after the queen was dead. What use did he have to live, then? No one knew him, not anymore. Revenge was all he wanted, all he needed. Once the queen bled, death could take his breath away for a second time.

“You impudent mongrel!” she cried out. Launching herself from against the wall, she strode up to him, pointing a finger at his face. “You will die for such words.” Picking up the ax from the bed, she swung with all her might. “Off with your head!”

The blade passed through his body, but it didn’t hurt. Not like it had the first time.  The first time felt like yesterday. The smell of paint fresh in his nose, the sky tinted orange as the sun began to set. It had all happened so suddenly. One moment he was free, the next he’d been seized by guards. Without a trial, the Red Queen had yelled those infamous words, and his head had fallen from its place atop his body. He could still remember the pain of the ax, the scream that was cut short.  Soon she would know his pain.

His head fell from his shoulders, rolling to the floor near the Queen’s feet. The tile was cool against his cheek. It was so unexpected, to feel again. He almost wished his head had rolled further. Maybe after he’d finished with the Queen, he would retreat into the world of Wonderland and experience things again. He’d feel the wind on his face, the sunshine.

The queen stared down at him, a smile stretched out across pale lips. It wasn’t often she went without red lips. She must’ve felt practically naked without that beloved color on her lips. “You should’ve stayed in hiding,” she muttered, moving her leg back to kick his head.

His arms outstretched, stopping her from carrying out the action. “I wasn’t in hiding, my queen. I was buried.” A devilish grin captured his face, watching shock and horror cover hers.

She gasped, falling backwards to the floor. “H-how is that possible?” She stammered, twisting to move away from him. He would’ve called her simple minded for not understanding. A peasant who was lucky enough to be born into royalty, but he couldn’t. He himself didn’t understand how it was possible. But it was, and that meant her reign was coming to a close.

“You needn’t worry about what is possible, my queen. You’ve such a short time left, why waste it pondering the unexplainable? This is Wonderland, we are impossible. Our very own Alice used to think of three impossible things before breakfast. Is it not possible that this is one of those three?” he asked, his body stepping around its severed head. The ax, which had fallen to the ground, glinted in the light. Not a trace of blood rested on its edge. He would soon fix that.

“Who are you?” She finally asked, confusion written into every pore of her face. She was like the doors of her room. She’d once been so innocent and pure. His queen, how far she had fallen. Unable to be denied, her rage had driven her to become famous for four words, the four words she’d called out earlier, and the same words she’d shrieked so many times before. If not for him and his ax, she’d be screaming them again in the future.

Using his foot, he turned his head so that he could see her better. Her body quivered when his gaze rested on her, his body and head separate. He couldn’t blame her. Had he been in her position, it would’ve been terrifying. What must he look like? A body with no head, ax in hand. He must’ve looked like the nightmare the Queen was to Wonderland.

“A ghost, maybe. I can’t be sure.” He sighed, drumming his fingers against the wood handle. “I’ve never had a name. I was just someone to paint the roses.” He was a no one. Even if he had a name, she wouldn’t have recognized it. He’d spent endless hours of painting the roses when they didn’t turn out right. A white one here and there, pinks and yellows. They were all painted red, covered up and hidden away like beautiful secrets. The only time they’d interacted was on the day of his death. He’d been playing a game, a harmless game. But the ball had knocked into one of her rose bushes, one of the bushes he’d painted. That single accident had caused her to explode, to take his life. All because of one rose bush.

A growl ripped through her throat. “You’re nothing and no one. Leave now.” She was trying to use her status to intimidate him, scare him into running away. But that was in the past. He’d been in death and darkness so long that nothing she said could scare him. The Red Queen could do nothing to make him leave. Fear was the one thing she’d had on her side, and that was gone.

“I would say long live the queen, but I think we both know that will never happen.” He bent, his eyes watching the ax move from the floor into the air. With a firm grip, his body moved closer to the Queen who cowered on the ground. Raising the ax above where his head should’ve been, a grimace of a smile spread across his face, laughing at the Queen as she shook against the wall, paralyzed in fear.

“I am your queen, you can’t do this. It’s treason. You’ll be hung for your transgressions!” In her fear she’ must have forgotten that he couldn’t hang. One needed to have both head and body attached for that to work. He did not.

Gripping the ax tightly in both hands, he cleared his throat to remind the Queen to look him in the eye. She glanced over at the head on her floor, her eyes wild, still unable to comprehend how it was possible that he could live through two beheadings.

“Please,” she begged. Her voice was barely above a whisper. For a moment he wondered if he was doing the right thing. Should he have mercy, let her live? She quivered, hands clutched together tightly as if she were praying. But she had too much sin on her hands, too much blood. Her time had come.

“Off with her head.”

He raised the ax, swinging it with all his might. A scream rose, transforming into a pained gurgle as the ax sliced through her. Dark red liquid spilled from her body, coating the ax blade and handle. Splatter hit his arms and body, mixing with the blood that had rained down from his own neck the day he was cut down.

The queen’s head rolled from her body, eyes still wide from the terror that had captured her the seconds before her demise. Blood stained the ground around her, her body slumped over from being hit.

A sense of relief flooded him. She was gone. The Red Queen was dead.

He dropped the ax, the metal hitting the floor with a clang! The creatures and people of Wonderland were free. The Red Queen could no longer hurt them. He turned, stooping to pick up his head and replace it on his neck. It was an odd sensation, replacing one’s head.

He exited the chamber, leaving her body to rot, and started toward an unknown location. He was unsure where he could go, or how long he would live after killing the Red Queen. But he knew his life would end better the second time around. Better than the Queen’s had.

Was this the fairytale she’d imagined for herself? A bloody ever after? Even if she hadn’t, he felt it was a fitting end for the queen who’d given that fate to so many.

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