(This is a post-apocalyptic retelling of Rapunzel. While I am never graphic, I intended this for a mature audience.)
Wired, Part III
He came on another hot night almost three years later. The nights were always hot on the ground, but the sultriness of this one had risen to even my city-top home. I’d seen no one but Mother Gothel in all that time, and that only infrequently. She brought me things, but rarely, since the city itself was so full of treasures. I no longer had to go out on my own; an army of scavenging, cutting, and hauling mechanoids did the work for me.
My hair filled the entire floor, its filaments twisted into cords, plugged into machines, drawing life from electric currents, giving me eyes and ears everywhere.
Even at the bottom of my tower.
He thought he’d surprised me when I looked up from the bank of screens and found him standing by the window. He wanted to believe it and I let him.
I called up the lights and the guns and the sprays and the mechanoids. I’d learned my lesson well.
He squinted in the harsh glare, ignoring death pointing at him from all directions.
Instead, he stepped forward and fell to one knee, hand spread out in a gesture of supplication. “Lady.” His eyelashes fanned on his cheekbones as he play-acted. “Forgive me, Lady, for intruding on you so. I have heard such marvelous things about you, had such curiosity about this tower, that I had to see for myself. I came to gawk as a rude scavenger; I remain to pay homage. Lady, may I stay and speak with you?”
Oh, he was bold one. He lifted his gaze to me and there was nothing but self-confidence in it. Those dark-lashed eyes of blue, that strong face with the faint scars, the firm mouth—he wasn’t handsome but he made you believe it out of sheer force of personality.
Me, I’d always been invisible, washed out and pale, blending into the background.
Yet he had come to me. Sought me out.
At my silent command, my defenders withdrew. I nodded, and held out my hand, and that gesture drew him from the outside… in.
He called himself a prince, and his father a king, and that was true. They were not like the royalty of stories, but like the ancestors of them–men who had earned their power with blood and sweat, only some of it their own. I knew him and I knew his father, but I let him spin tales about himself as he sat at my feet, his gaze on my face, only shifting now and then to my flickering screens.
Oh, but he was good.
He told me of the outside world, of how his people struggled, painting his thieving and murdering companions as present-day Robin Hoods. He told me of the strictures of the Wizards Council, of the way they hoarded resources, and cast them in the light of organic-hating villains.
He didn’t once ask me to do anything for him, save to let him return.
I said yes.
He came every night for that first month, as faithful and prompt as any of my reporting programs. He brought me things, organic things—a sooty flower, a malformed fruit, the shell of a snail. He brought me news, and another way of looking at the world.
And more than that, he brought me touch. Warm breath against my neck. Rough fingers against the pulse in my wrist. Heat on my skin, in my loins.
“Gothel holds such power in the world, all because of you. Is it fair that she hoards knowledge so, dictates what we may do, and where our resources go?” His whisper was dark, sultry, his pillow-talk all about politics and economics. He wrapped his fingers in my hair, and told me he loved me as it cut bleeding lines into his hands. He nuzzled my bone-white skin with its metal and circuitry underneath, and told me I was pure and beautiful. His hands and mouth touched secret places, private places, and after that there was no turning back.
Afterwards, he leaned against my knee, my hair spread in humming web-strands all around us as I tweaked the network in his favor. A change in the hundredth of a place here, moving up a time there, swapping two figures elsewhere.
Before he left that night, he told me he’d rescue me, take me away from my lonely tower.
“If you took me away, Mother Gothel would find us. She made me. Don’t you think she could control me from even far away?” I stared at him, unblinking. I didn’t need to blink much, these days, and I did it out of habit mostly. It unnerved him. I could see it in his eyes.
“Then I’ll find a way. We’ll bring her down,” he swore.
“We must be careful and secret. She checks up on me. I have some idea of how it may be done. I’ll need components, though, things that won’t go through her inventory, that she won’t know about.”
“Then you shall have those.” He stooped and brushed his lips across my cheek. His stubble prickled. I wondered what my skin felt like to him. Was it as cold and plastic as it looked?
Did he love me? Maybe. I know he loved the idea of me—the power in the machine, the spider in the web, the princess in the tower. And he was faithful in coming, even if his visits became less frequent as the months and years went past. After all, he needed me.
It was nice to be wooed. It was good to be courted.
So I accepted his gifts of candy and components. I listened as he proclaimed undying love through lips swollen with other women’s kisses. I embraced him when he came to me, stinking of sweat and sex. I even fantasized that someday we’d run away together, though I knew he wouldn’t leave the dynasty he and his father were building.
And I planned. There was only one place I could go that was beyond Mother Gothel’s reach. I had to time my escape precisely.
© Rabia Gale, 2012. All rights reserved.