The child has a faulty heart, the Healer had said. She won’t live long but I can give her a mechanical heart.
Mechanical Heart by AN9374
The Queen, devastated over the fact that her newborn baby was imperfect, happily accepted the offer. The child was to be kept inside at all times, away from anything that could raise her heart rate. No jumping, no riding, no running, no watching tournaments – nothing. Just a quiet life inside the castle, and the child might live a full forty years.
So the operation was done, and the mechanical heart was beating steadily in the young girl’s heart. The child was raised in the castle, with several servants and maids attending to the young princess.
As the years passed on, the little baby grew into a slender, fine-boned girl, with straight brown hair that cascaded down to the small of her back. A slight spray of freckles scattered her pale, heart-shaped face. Her eyes were scarlet, a strange color for eyes, but it added to her beauty. Though some might describe scarlet as the color of blood, everybody thought of roses when they saw her eyes. At the age of eight, she was already described as a desirable beauty. Mira will grow to be a beautiful young woman, the servants would sigh. If only for her heart. Bright and intelligent, Mira would spend hours inside her chambers, writing poems of life and love.
The Queen was very well pleased with her daughter’s beautiful appearance and ladylike behavior, but her own body was growing weaker and weaker, and there soon came a day when she became bedridden. But her servants attended her well, and her lovely daughter visited her often; so the Queen was mostly content.
“Good morning, Mother,” said the princess, formally, as she visited her mother one morning. Though only eight years old, Mira was graceful and lithe, and she glided into the Queen’s bedroom chamber, her icy blue dress brushing gently against the stone floor. The Queen smiled weakly at her daughter; her strength had diminished once again. Her once bright golden curls now lay limply on her shoulder, and her beautiful hourglass figure was now reduced to skin and bones. Yet she still radiated an air of fragile beauty, a superior goddess lying on her deathbed.
Mira curtsied delicately in front of her mother; her respectfulness never failed. Her mechanical heart beat steadily in her chest. She turned and sat gracefully beside her mother.
“How are you feeling, Mother?” She asked.
“More or less the same,” the Queen answered, coughing delicately into her lacy white handkerchief. A servant walked in and curtsied, a silver tray in hand.
“Your medicine, my lady,” the servant said, placing the tray on the Queen’s bedside table. “The royal Healer has given you a special herbal tea as well. I shall be back when you need me.” With that, the servant curtsied again, and walked away, her grey skirt swaying as she quietly disappeared into the hall.
The Queen reached feebly for the tray and carefully lowered onto her lap. She took a sip of the herbal tea and winced at the bitterness. She always preferred sweeter drinks. It was the usual things; the royal Healer had been giving her the same medicine for a while now. She reached for the china teacup again, and lifted it gently. Had teacups always been this heavy, or was her strength diminishing rapidly? She wasn’t sure.
All she knew was that the teacup had slipped from her fingertips, and now lay shattered on the ground. She had watched it all with horror – the slim handle had slipped from her fingers, tumbled down the quilt, and had hit the stone floor with a great ear-shattering crash. Shards of china flew in all directions, a once beautiful teacup now lying in unrecognizable pieces on the floor. Her mouth opened and closed in silent horror.
She, the Great Queen of Almeda, who had attended so many dinner parties with great elegance and pride, had shattered a teacup.
And her lovely daughter was laughing.
Loud, silvery bells of laughter rang through the room. The Queen flinched at the sound. It was unlike how she had taught her daughter how to laugh – faint, dainty giggles muffled by the elegant covering of the hand. The princess had always obeyed her without fail, yet here she was, laughing loudly and in a very unladylike way.
All because she had shattered a teacup.
Her face red with embarrassment, the Queen hastily rang the service bell that hung overhead, calling her servants to her chamber. To the princess, she cried, “Mira! Where have your manners gone? Go to your chambers and stay there until you have learned to become more ladylike. I shall send an etiquette instructor to remind you of your behaviour tomorrow.”
Mira rose from her chair, covering her mouth with her sleeve to stifle her laughter. “Yes, Mother,” she said, almost mockingly. Then she turned around and left.
Mira threw herself onto her large, four-poster bed and laughed loudly. Unbeknownst to anyone, she had two very different faces. There was the fake Mira, who was obedient and elegant, quiet and mature. Then there was the real Mira – the wild girl who longed to go outside and play. The outdoors were the only place where she could really have fun. She would spend a few hours outside at night, when everyone was asleep. She would take out the crossbow that she had stolen earlier, and would fire into the trees. On good nights, she would strike a small animal, perhaps a pretty little song bird, or if she was lucky, a little grey squirrel. The little bird would explode in a little puff of feathers and blood, and she would laugh. How funny it was, to see the little bird explode like dynamite. She would walk up and pick up the pieces. If there were any, that is. Sometimes there was nothing but blood and feathers and little shards of bone. But when she was lucky, there would be more bones. Some intestines, maybe, or even a heart. Sometimes she would strike its body and the head would remain intact. Those were the good ones. She would keep that, the little head mounted on a small piece of wood, hidden in her closet. The eyes wide open in horror, its beak slightly open – how beautiful. And funny, too.
She threw her head back and laughed some more. Teacups were fun too. She hadn’t thought she could have fun in the boring castle, but she was wrong. Oh, that teacup. The way it shattered – it was so funny. It had slipped out of her mother’s fingers and hit the ground with a sound that was music to her ears. The cup had almost bounced before it exploded into little shards of glass. And her mother’s face when that had happened. That was the funniest part. Her mother’s face, eyes wide as saucepans, her pupils dilated. Her mouth, wide open, gaping like an open door. It was hilarious. Just hilarious.
She smirked to herself and stared up at the crimson canopy. Red was her favorite color. Red was the color of her eyes.
Red was the color of blood.
How she loved the color red.
Four years had passed, and the Queen had finally died. Mira, now twelve years old, happily watched her mother’s corpse burn on the pyre. Of course, she didn’t show her emotions. Mira was a good girl who loved her mother. She stood with a stony expression. Most people thought she was trying to stay strong and not break into tears, but it was quite the opposite. She was desperately trying not to laugh.
Burning things were quite fun too.
The King, after falling into a severe depression after his Queen died from disease, decided to remarry immediately to relieve himself from the loss. And so the bride was chosen – a beautiful young woman with wavy golden locks and startling blue eyes. Mira, after deciding that she didn’t quite like her new stepmother very much, decided to show the true Mira to scare her away. So that night, she snuck up to the new Queen’s chambers with a small bunny she had trapped in the woods and a hunting knife.
Of course, Mira’s skills had grown since she was eight. She no longer simply kept a crossbow. She had a hunting knife, and various traps set throughout the woods. Simple little explosions of feathers and miniscule showers of blood no longer satisfied her. She wanted something bigger. Something more interesting. So she learned how to set traps. She would trap rabbits and squirrels and tie them up and slowly cut them open. She would take out the heart, the lungs, and carefully mount the head on a piece of wood. She had many heads now. So many in her closet that she had to burn a few of them to make room for others.
So one night, Mira tiptoed into the new Queen’s chamber and gently shook her awake. “My lady,” she said, politely and formally. The Queen, bleary eyed with sleep, glanced at her with glazed eyes, as if drunk.
Then Mira smirked and pulled out the hunting knife.
Unfortunately, Mira didn’t quite get to the fun part. The Queen started screaming, and she started laughing so much that she lost her grip on the little bunny, who hopped away and disappeared. But the screaming was fun, too. The way the Queen opened her mouth so wide and screeched so loud people on the other side of the Kingdom could hear. The way she jumped out of bed in her nightgown, running around like she had lost her marbles.
Mira threw back her head and laughed wildly. Screams were fun, too.
The following day, the King exiled the princess from his castle. The people were afraid of madmen, and the princess had gone insane. After all, the new Queen had told him everything. And he believed every single bit of it, because he was a little crazy himself.
Surprisingly, Mira did not mind giving up her comfy, cushy life in the castle. In fact, she enjoyed life in the woods more. She had everything she needed – her crossbow, her knife, her traps, everything. When she was hungry, she caught herself a rabbit or a squirrel and skinned it herself. It was fun to skin them, especially when they were alive. They would squirm and wriggle, but her grasp was strong. When she was lucky, she would catch a deer. Deer were even more fun, because they were bigger. She soon realized that live male deer were extremely dangerous, since they had antlers, but she decided to solve that problem by placing blades on the side which would drop down when a deer fell into her trap.
Two years had passed; and Mira had grown into a tall, skinny girl. Her skin was no longer pale and translucent and her hair was no longer silky and long. The elegant, mature princess had died. Of course, the mechanical heart still beat steadily in her chest, but the real Mira persevered.
News of war had spread through the kingdom and Mira was more excited than ever. War meant so many things. For some, it meant a giant catastrophe where innocent people died and terror ruled through the night.
For Mira it meant wonderful symphonies at night and great shows during the day. Extra points for the bloodbath.
Then came the news of the bomb.
It was supposedly buried in the castle’s top-secret arsenal, and would be used in case the kingdom was in peril. The plan was to pretend to surrender, and gift the neighboring kingdom a beautiful ship. Of course, the bomb would be stored in the hull, and when the King boarded the ship, the ship would explode in a shower of wood, flames, and blood.
As usual, Mira had other plans for it.
At night, she snuck into the arsenal. Having lived in the castle for a good twelve years of her life, and having raided it several times before, raiding the top-secret arsenal was a walk in the woods. She had her hands on the bomb in no time.
Then she slipped into the Queen’s chamber.
“We meet again, my Lady,” Mira said, formally and politely, but grinning like a madman. “You do remember me, do you?”
Of course, there was no response, as the Queen was deep in her slumber, her long lashes closed and brushing softly on her smooth white cheek, her golden curls splayed over her embroidered pillow. Mira laughed silently and set the bomb to explode in two hours, and slipped it under her pillow.
“Good night, my Lady,” she said mockingly. “Sweet dreams.”
Then she left, her laughter resounding through the silent stone walls.
Mira was lounging lazily in her tree when the bomb went off. The explosion knocked her out of the tree and she fell, hitting the ground painfully. She heard a sharp crack and realized that her spine had snapped. Oh well. She didn’t feel any pain.
In fact, she felt ecstatic.
She struggled to get to her feet, but they weren’t responding. In fact, she couldn’t feel them at all. But that was okay. She could still watch the show from here.
She laughed as the castle, once standing proudly on the hill, tall and magnificent, cracked in two, its pieces tumbling down the hill like the way she would roll down the hills in the summer. Blood bubbled upon her lips, but that was okay. She liked the taste of blood. It tasted like blueberries.
The last thing she was aware of was that it was raining.
And the rain was red.
Red was her favorite color.
Ten years later, a baby boy was born in the kingdom south of Almeda.
“The child has a faulty heart,” the Healer said, sorrow in his golden eyes. “He won’t live long, but I can give him give him a mechanical heart.”
The Queen happily accepted.
Written by AN9374