By: Anne Boleyn
Writing Prompt: Yes
Date: 26th Jan 2022
The pigeons arrived with the dawn, messages rolled into tiny cylinders tied to their legs. To deliver their notes, a task of essential importance to their avian minds, the makeshift mail service of gutterbirds utilized all the gifts granted them by the eons-long crawl of evolution. In the most ideal of circumstances, they pecked away at windows while their would-be recipients slept peacefully on the other side. Some awoke eager to begin another day of manufactured corporate magic, while others regained weary consciousness only to be greeted by miserable hangovers. None were eager to touch the feathered, filthy messengers, but the birds could be particularly insistent and were unafraid to meet any hand that dared shoo them, defending themselves with an onslaught of beak and talon. They flew past doors that were open only a second with all the daring of a kamikaze cuckoo, and courted death by divebombing the heads of any who might try to ignore the royal summons they were entrusted with. One was unlucky enough to meet a charred end when he braved the depths of a target’s chimney. Another of his more cunning brethren was able to impart his message after an impressive and seemingly impossible amount of shitting on a 2007 Honda Civic, utilizing automotive geometry to ensure his excremental payload made a clean opening of the driver’s side door utterly impossible.. Many were intrigued enough to read the summons, unwrapping the weathered parchment to see words scrawled in ink by an ostentatious hand. Few took it seriously.
Most Royal Greetings, Princesses
Through the power of what you call “on-demand streaming,” your strengths, weaknesses, wants and struggles have been revealed to me through my mystical glass rectangle. As it so happens, I require a team with a very particular set of skills, as well as working knowledge of the kingdom I will soon lay siege to. I tell you this not to stir any pangs of loyalty you may feel toward your rodent overlords, but to offer you the opportunity to carve off your own pieces of the empire before I carve it up like a roasted hen. As princesses, I trust you have no shortage of ambition. A desire to be something greater. As a queen, I can offer you that. Both in the stirring example that I represent and in the glorious quest that I set before you. You need only accept my generous offer and true power will be yours.
Queen Anne Boleyn – First of Her Name, Undisputed Ruler of Queenshire, Somewhat Disputed Ruler of Brooklynshire, Future Ruler of Dizz Knee World and All Magicks Contained Therein
A map was attached, with a location many of the princesses were passingly familiar with. Most declined, not wanting to jeopardize their gainful employment and risk invoking the wrath of one of the world’s most powerful corporations. And so they went to work in the park that day, as they always did. The Ariels, the Auroras, the Tianas, the Rapunzels, the Moanas and the Annas. In costume, in character, out of the queen’s reach.
Only four answered the call, trickling in curiously and reluctantly to the Little Caesar’s less than a mile from Disney World. They arrived as themselves, out of character and either interested in the mysterious offer or just hungry for pizza that was hot and ready(like anything that had been cooked, really). The foursome exchanged glances, some recognizing each other from work, others recognizing the out-of-place-ness of the others in the nearly deserted excuse for a pizza restaurant. There was a Merida, an Elsa, a Jasmine, a Belle. One of each, no doubles. The quartet took a booth to themselves, exchanging small talk and awkward hellos. The Merida took a pizza for the four of them, but none ate.
“Soooo,” said the Jasmine, slicing through the small talk with scimitar sharpness. “Anne Boleyn. Pigeongram. This must be like an absurdist YouTube prank.”
Tires screeched to a halt outside and the four glanced through the dingy, sun-streaked windows. A white Prius made no effort to park, the driver seemingly eager to drop-off his passenger. A woman with the complexion of curdled milk hopped out of the backseat. Black carriage books clacked onto the cracked asphalt, but were hidden by the voluminous skirt of an equally black dress as the woman stood to her full, unimposing height. Her hair was mostly white with a hint of lavender, except for one streak of darkest plum. The hair was teased up to make her seem more imposing, though it threatened to topple over at any moment. After a stretch, she reached into the Prius’ backseat and grabbed a duffel bag, dragging it out where it smacked onto the ground with a series of metallic clangs. “Odd,” she said, squinting disdainfully at the Orlando sunshine. “There should be a brigade of battle-ready princesses here.” Her eyes scanned the Little Caesars, stopping on Merida, Elsa, Jasmine and Belle. Then the eyes squinted further, disdainfullier.
“Well, shit,” she said, dragging her duffle back past the sidewalk to the restaurant’s glass door. She propped it open with one boot and gave the four a nod. “Hi, I’m Anne. You must be the princesses.” Elsa nodded back. The others stared.
The driver of the Prius bellowed through the passenger window. “You good?” He offered a thumbs up that seemed insincere.
“Yes, Jerome,” Anne bellowed back. “Excellent motor coaching on your part. Wave to the princesses and five stars will be yours.” Jerome started to wave with his thumb, but corrected himself. Only Belle lifted her hand, the slightest of acknowledgments, before the Prius drove off.
Anne dragged her dufflebag to the booth. Not bothering to sit, she then removed the black lace glove from her right hand, seizing a piece of pepperoni pizza that had begun to congeal before Merida bought it. “Had to get an Uber from New York to Orlando. Was all set to take a skyship, but you know how scrutinizing the air constables can be. I wouldn’t have been able to get so much as a polearm through and then how am I supposed to conduct a proper siege? Jerome was remarkably understanding, though.” She gave the duffel bag a kick, and yanked the zipper open with her still gloved, pizzaless left hand. A bright metal shortsword sat at the top, and the princesses could see knives, metal knuckles, even a mace inside. It was a miniature medieval melee arsenal. Anne took a bite of pizza, surveying the table as she chewed. “I take it the remaining princesses are en route?”
Merida looked to Elsa, who looked to Jasmine, who looked to Belle. Heroically but reluctantly, Belle answered. “I think we’re it.”
Anne hmmed, taking a second bite. Her chewing crescendoed as she looked them over. “That’s bothersome,” she said, swallowing. The pizza half-eaten, Anne motioned with it to emphasize her rhetoric. “One of you dies and now it’s so much more dramatic. If one-in-fifty gets, let’s say crushed beneath a giant cog, much less tragic. I was so hoping for a Mulan, too. Leadership, critical thinking, swordswomanship. Still, better than an Ariel. Either legged and useless, or fishtailed and flopping all around.” The queen shuddered.
“So anyway,” said the Jasmine. “I’m–”
“Yes,” Anne interrupted. “Princess Jasmine of Agrabah. I trust you picked up a spot of skullduggery from the street rat of yours. Can you handle a dagger?” Anne didn’t wait for an answer, instead sliding a concealed knife from her sleeve into her left hand. She it into the table with inhuman quickness.
“Uhhh,” said the Jasmine. She seized the handle, adorned with a ruby-eyed falcon, and tried to pull it free. With some effort, it finally came loose, but she nearly elbowed Merida in the face. “Sorry. And my name isn’t really Jasmine it’s–
“Let’s stay in-character,” Anne interrupted again. “Both for legal reasons and for funsies. Merida, I trust you know your way around a longbow. Elsa, your cryomancy will prove invaluable. And Belle, well, you’re an alternate. I put you at D-tier. Lots of people read books, it’s no reason to be so smug.”
“Oh shit,” said Elsa, pointing across the table at Belle. “You’re Conspiracy Belle. Everyone told me not to talk to you.”
Anne quirked an eyebrow, but didn’t interject when Belle jabbed a finger in Elsa’s direction. “Hey, fuck you. If you were on the forums I’m on and actually did a little research-“
“Belay this talk of grumpkins and snarks,” Anne said. “Your ethereal inklings may yet prove useful, but my grand scale attack plan will need to be modified into something more clandestine. Blood Money is days away and if I’m to win, I need power. True power. Tell me, princesses. What is Walt Disney World?”
Jasmine was the first to answer, however reluctantly. “An overpriced, overhyped, humid nightmare.”
Belle seized the opening. “A hotbed of Illuminati–
Elsa interrupted. “A job until my podcast takes off.”
Only Merida offered the sort of earnestness born of blind consumerism and a desire to find some small amount of joy in the world. “The Most Magical Place on Earth?”
“Very astute, Merida,” Anne said, snarfing her pizza further until it was no more than a piece of a crust between her thumb and index finger, perfect for gesticulation. “Your princessly minds might yet not be capable of fathoming the raw, untapped mystical energies flowing through the universe. But my mind has already pierced the psychic veil, no big deal, and through some reading of my own, I have deduced that this Lord Dizz Knee – be he scholar, charlatan or wizard – would’ve had sense to build his kingdom atop a reservoir of power so that he might more conveniently harness it. Why else would he need a pallid legion to guard his subterranean secrets? That’s the pitch, princesses. We brave the depths of Dizz Knee’s crypt and find the orb or staff or tome which turned him from man to god. And when we do, the power will be mine.”
Crunching through the last of her crust, Anne took another piece of pizza. “Or ours, of course,” said Anne, motioning at all four Disney World employees. “Pending your survival.”
The queen led her minions through the park under the cover of dusk. The princesses opted for street clothes over their costumes, for the sake of practicality and to hopefully preserve their jobs. A maintenance door to the underground tunnels was easy enough to find, but Anne was disappointed to learn that Jasmine lacked the lockpicking experience one might expect. Belle seemed to have better luck with a series of hairpins and a YouTube tutorial, but it was ultimately Elsa who had the foresight to bring a crowbar that easily popped open the door.
The tunnels themselves were a web of winding pipes and concrete, with park employees milling here and there. None seemed particularly surprised, their higher faculties perhaps still held in Dizz Knee’s undead thrall. When Anne noticed the lack of violent tendencies, she deduced that they must press further, to where the bloodthirsty henchmen guarded their master’s secrets. The tunnels kept winding, with more stairs and fewer lights. After half-a-dozen flights, the queen’s neck itched. Surely they were getting close.
Merida screamed in the low light, and the snap of a bowstring echoed around them. Merida screamed again, and they realized that her initial scream was at the sight of a large rat, not affiliated with the Dizz Knee Empire despite his place of residence. She nocked an arrow, but being inexperienced with a traditional English longbow, it slipped from her fingers and the string popped her in the eye. Jasmine was able to piece together a makeshift eyepatch from hair ties and a cotton pad that Anne was unfamiliar with, so that their journey could continue.
“Hey,” said Elsa, her voice bouncing off the walls, slicing the silence to ribbons. “You do know the Onion is a comedy website, right?”
The queen chuckled, still fearlessly leading her party into the unknown. “I agree, the idea of a living Onion is quite amusing. But a vegetable doesn’t spring to life and start a website without some manner of sorcery being involved. I trust this Onion has some insight into the otherworldly. Come to think of it, consuming the Onion might just give me it’s power… But no, I’ll – OW!”
Anne’s foot hooked into something, dropping her to the dirt and concrete floor of whatever low-end tunnel she had led the princesses to. They made no effort to help her up, but the queen was quick to dust herself off and straighten her hair, which was threatening to topple left and collapse. Unhooking whatever caught her foot, Anne stood back up and examine the item. Blinking, a realization slowly came to her. “A ribcage. How peculiar.” She turned the ribcage over and over again, for further examination. Her face lacked the horror of the princesses’. “Perhaps an ill-fated adventurer. I do believe we’re getting close.”
A towering figure shambled forth from the darkness. The outline was humanoid, but given to an unsettling and utterly inhuman canine aspect. A green hat, faded with time, sat crooked on the thing’s head just over its floppy ears. Two teeth jutted from an open but lifeless mouth. It lumbered with the slow walk of the reanimated dead. Only then, did Jasmine illuminate the dog-man with her phone flashlight. “Is that…” she began. “Goofy?”
The costume was worn and faded, but patches of stains in red and yellow and brown occurred in random spots. Rips and tears all over revealed pale skin underneath. Thought it advanced on Anne, Goofy’s lifeless place eyes showed no sign of understanding. Its woeful moan echoed and seemed to fill the tunnel. “UUUGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-HYUCK!”
Belle seemed oddly satisfied. “Wow, Zombie Goofy’s not just an urban legend. Anybody else wanna give me shit for believing Reddit?”
“Don’t suppose one of you could pass me a weapon?” the queen asked, dodging Goofy’s first lunge. “I’m in a bit of a morning star mood, but I suppose soon-to-be-eaten beggars can’t be choosers.”
The dagger flew from Jasmine’s hand, flipping through the air. The falcon handle struck the side of Goofy’s head, further stupefying him and buying Anne the valuable seconds to search the ground where she found the ribcage. “Hm,” she said, right hand clasping an unknown object that seemed suitably weight and bludgeon-friendly. The ribcage’s owner was helpful enough to leave the rest of his skeleton nearby, including a thick femur. Anne held it aloft as if it were Excalibur and then her wrath reigned down. Goofy retreated, stumbling clumsily backward, before collapsing against the tunnel wall. “Thanks so much for the assistance,” Anne said, examining the femur.
The princesses’ all seemed horrified. At her, at undead Goofy, at the actually dead skeleton. Anne shook her head in disappointment. “If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think he’s a real zombie.”
Elsa and Belle exchanged looks of understanding. Merida’s unpatched eye blinked in disbelief.
Anne nodded at the princesses, pointing to a series of teeth marks running along the length of the thigh bone. “Just a cannibal.”
The park manager was not necessarily understanding of the incident, as the details of what Anne Boleyn and four park employees discovered in the depths of Disney World were too horrifying to make sense to a mundane mind. He did, however, know that he would need to keep the incident from becoming publicly known. The queen knew as well, long before she placed a duffel bag full of bones on his desk.
“This park of yours is notably less magical than I hoped,” Anne said. “Tragically, no phenomenal, cosmic power for me. But I trust we can reach an economical understanding. For all we know, this is the skeleton of Lord Dizz Knee himself.”
“It isn’t,” said the manager, wearily picking through the bones. His tired, miserable eyes suggested this was not the worst thing he had seen in the park. “Just tell me what you want.”
Anne laughed. “A large question, that. Obviously, a golden statue of myself. We can negotiate whether or not it’s standing atop a pile of my Blood Money competition. But enough with this princess business. Not only do I rule Queens, with a fifty-fifty split between velvet glove and iron fist, but I also make them. Quite literally, in fact. Queen Elizabeth I, ever heard of her? Can’t quite squeeze those four out of my womanhood, but I do think Jasmine, Elsa, Merida and – ugh – even Belle have earned a quartet of queenships.”
The manager shook his head, dead eyes still on the bones.
“Can’t do that,” he said. “It’s a brand thing. If you keep this cannibal thing quiet though, they can all get an extra dollar an hour.”
Anne crossed her arms to keep herself from grabbing the femur and bludgeoning the man. “Two,” she demanded.
He sighed. “Two.”
“And open tabs at all your parks for the five of us,” Anne continued. “Park entry, merchandise, food. For life. That shouldn’t eat too much into your profits.”
The manager’s shoulders slumped. “Done,” he conceded. “I’ll get the paperwork started. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy the most magical fucking place on earth.” He motioned to the door.
“Suppose I’ll try,” said Anne, visions of rides and bludgeonable mascots and park pizza dancing in her head. “But really, what’s more magical than commerce?”