They should have let me die.
My first conscious thoughts in what seemed like hundreds of years came almost completely unbidden to my mind. The words seemed hazy as I listened to them in the silence, and I knew that they meant something, I just couldn't figure out what they meant. Words were foreign to me; sounds were something I couldn't process.
They should have let me die.
I had been listening to silence for far too long, broken only by the rains that came and went and the occasional breeze. I didn't feel the rains, I couldn't know the breezes except by the fact that they broke the terrifying calm of the room in the turret.
They should have let me die.
Who were they? Dim memories crackled through my brain like pages of an old ledger, the writing cramped and illegible, the paper crumbling with age around the edges. My mind was hundreds of years old, no matter how young my body was. I vaguely pictured a man and a woman telling me to sleep, that it would all be well when I woke.
And what was it that had awoken me? I realized that for the first time in longer than my memory, I had felt something. It was almost as though the dryness and crackling of my memories was leaving me, and the warm moist air was bringing me back to what I knew must be reality. Warm? Moist? How could I know these things? My befuddled thoughts chased themselves around my slowing awakening consciousness.
They should have let me die.
For the first time in years, it seemed, I opened my eyes. At first I wasn't sure that they would open, and indeed, they tried their best to keep me confined to the blindness and coldness that had been my life. The warm yellow light of the room shocked me, robbed me of the few thoughts I had, all but one. It took me several moments to process what it was I had felt.
A boy knelt over me, shock and horror written on his face. I could hear the footsteps of another running down the winding stairs that led from the turret. I tried to speak, but my lungs, weak from long days and nights of inactivity, could barely hold the air necessary to do so. My voice, rusty and old, couldn't form the words that would naturally have sprung to my lips.
"Can you speak?" the boy whispered, his eyes still round with fear.
I nodded, trying to rally the strength to actually do so. "Who are you?" he asked.
I couldn't answer him. I didn't know. "Can I help you somehow?" he pressed, trying anything to get me to speak. Tears sprang to my eyes, the wetness surprising me. I had thought that I would be completely dried out by now.
"Please speak to me," he pleaded.
Finally I found my voice, dozens of questions pressing themselves to my mouth at once, but instead all I could do was whisper.
"They should have let me die."
The boy was still staring at me for several long moments after the breathless whisper that had been my first speech in years. When he did speak, he surprised me by not reacting with shock or fear, but by tilting his head slightly to the side and asking, "Who?"
His accent sounded strange to my ears, but the word was a familiar one. I struggled to remember, but the harder I tried, the further away the memories went. "I don't know, exactly" I croaked.
There was a long pause as he seemed to process my words. I wondered if my accent sounded as strange to him as he had sounded to me. "Why should they have let you die?" he asked.
"I really don't know," I said again, my voice sounding slightly more natural this time. I tried to sit up, but at first my body refused to obey my mind. My legs felt like lead and my hands wouldn't turn themselves to help me prop my weight up. I shifted slightly in the attempt, and considered it a small triumph. I hadn't moved in a long time. The boy realized what I was trying to do and put an arm behind my back to help. Normally I would have shrugged him away, and I hated that I couldn't. "My thanks," I muttered as he made no move to let me sit up by myself.
He surprised me again, this time by throwing his head back and laughing. When I realized that I could raise an eyebrow in annoyance, I immediately did so, eliciting another laugh. "What on earth is so funny?" I choked out. My anger only served to render him almost incomprehensible.
"You-cough- sound, eh, so incredibly thankful," he finally managed through tears of merriment.
"I am, really," I admitted. "I've been here for quite some time." That was a large understatement, actually. I had no idea how long I had been asleep, but some nagging memory told me that it had been years and years.
He sobered then, as he looked at me, and eventually he said, "They told us you weren't real, that it was all a story. It scared us nearly to death to see you here."
Scared to death. The words brought back my initial longing, the desperate need to experience death for myself. Surely it must be better than sleeping all alone in a turret for hundreds of years. "What are the stories then?" I asked him, wanting to know whose fault this was, who had condemned me to sleep here alone.
"The legend of the spindle," he said, running a hand through his hair. "And the sleeping princess. You weren't supposed to be real though."
"How long ago did the stories start?" I asked, trying not to let my impatience show.
"Just before the plague," he answered. "So many died, we all just thought that story of the princess who didn't die was made up to comfort the sick ones."
My mouth was dry, possibly from fear, as I asked him, "When was the plague?"
"Must be nearly one hundred years ago," he replied, somewhat miffed by my insistence.
One hundred years. The distant memories sparked to life with those three simple words. In an instant I could feel the prick of the spindle, Yjuri's triumphant laugh, my mother's gasp. My throat remembered the chill of the potion that she poured down my throat as I lay dying. "One hundred years, Rosie. You'll just sleep, and everything will be fine."
How I wished my godmothers had never given mother the potion!
"Are you all right?" The boy's voice brought me back from the past, and I realized that I was shaking.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "You don't look fine."
"How did you find me?" I questioned him, trying to take the focus off myself for long enough that I could stop the tremors that ran through my body.
"My friend John hit the lever by mistake," he began, and I was confused. What lever? "The stairs just appeared there, and we ran up them. We weren't really thinking. I mean, we certainly didn't expect to find you here."
It didn't make sense to me, why had they hidden me away up here, especially if they had taken so much trouble to keep me from dying. Wouldn't they want someone to find me, to wake me? And what had happened to Yjuri after they had discovered his plot to kill me?
He knew this would be worse I thought, and I realized it was true. Yjuri had the last laugh after all. He had hidden me away, left me to sleep in a living death, probably sure that no one would find me. But now that someone had awakened me, what on earth was I to do? They should have let me die.
"What's next?" the boy asked, unconsciously echoing my thoughts. "I mean, now what do we do?"
"I have no idea," I told him.
"I guess you better come home with me then," he replied. "Until we can figure out what to do, that is. I mean, unless you have some other plan."
"I don't have any plans."
"Can you walk?"
"I should be able to," I answered, swinging my feet slowly to the edge of the bed. A shiver of pain ran up my back when they hit the floor, but I bit back a sigh. I had already shown enough weakness. I stood shakily, and the boy offered me his arm to lean on, which I accepted without questioning.
Those first steps were excruciating. I was an old woman trapped in this body, and I had to move slowly, methodically. The boy walked along with me at my own pace, not rushing, not carrying too much of my weight. I loved him a little for letting me keep my pride.
I held back my tears as we walked through the ruins of what had once been my home. He led me out through hallways that seemed full of the ghosts of my past: Sarai, the scullery maid, Jarko the tailer, my mother and father. The worst ghost was the shadow of Yjuri, the young man who had captured my heart and betrayed us all. I couldn't help but remember him with every corner where we had stopped to talk, or when the boy and I came to the Great Hall and I remembered Yjuri's first day with the court. He had turned his cape upside down and given me a bouquet of flowers that appeared from thin air. We hadn't known then the magic that he was really capable of.
Too soon it seemed, we reached the outmost gates, and by this time I could no longer hold my tears in check. The boy looked concerned, but didn't say anything as I turned to take one last look at the castle that had been my home. Goodbye Mother. Goodbye Father.
As I watched, Yjuri's magic had its final say, and the castle crumbled on its foundation, a brownish dust filling the air. The boy coughed. "I'm glad we got out of there when we did," he muttered.
I wish we hadn't, I thought. Goodbye Yjuri. You should have let me die.