“Wow, it really is you,” the little girl’s expression was almost comical, “you look just like you do in the movies!”
Princess Nella chuckled. “Yes, fair maiden. It is I, the real Princess Nella, and I just adore your gown!”
The girl was dressed exactly like she was. They hugged and took pictures together, then her attendant ushered the girl down the stairs. “Thank you, Nella,” she called back. “You’re my favorite of all the princesses!”
Nella waved after her, beaming.
Each day in Enchantmentland was happier than the last. Her joy at meeting her young subjects never ceased.
It was what she lived for.
An announcement boomed from the facade of Fairy Tale Castle above. “Attention, Enchantmentland-goers, don’t forget to come and meet Princess Nella and her friends, the stars of Spellbound 17, Nella’s newest magical adventure. Available on iBrain and Mind Mapper today!”
The clips from her latest film played, hovering enormous in the blue sky above the castle spires.
It truly is a happily ever after, Nella thought.
She smiled brightly even as a familiar shock of pain tore through her abdomen, making her flinch and nearly lose balance.
She did not know what the pain was, but it was always with her. Like a cold blade twisting itself ever deeper into her gut.
Sometimes it got so intense, she feared it might rip her in half.
Nella suspected it to be the work of Befana, the evil witch who plotted to ruin her happily ever after in each new movie.
But she had the love of Prince Darren and all her animal friends. This was stronger than Befana’s spells or any amount of pain, and so she bore it with a royal grace.
The next two subjects in line approached her. “Good day to you, fine gentlemen, is it not the loveliest of mornings in our fair Kingdom?”
One man with very long hair projected an iBrain screen from his temple. “Just a selfie with the two of us today please, Princess.” Nella gazed into the screen made of air and struck her most regal pose.
But instead of seeing a camera image of the three of them smiling, a video started playing.
A young woman in a dark room was sobbing into the camera, hair disheveled. “I’m begging you, please, someone hear me! Don’t let them do this to me… I’m a human being, goddamnit! It’s my body, it’s my damn face!”
Nella stared. The woman looked exactly like… no, impossible.
Hands grabbed the men on either side of her and hauled them away.
“Your name is Carrie Johnson,” the long-haired one cried after her. “You’ve been dead for over thirty years. They told everyone you were sick. They murdered you! All of you!”
There was alarm in the crowd. The next little girl stepped up.
Nella smiled her biggest smile, but the pain in her abdomen was suddenly unbearable, as though it would tear her apart.
Carrie Johnson… Carrie… Johnson… She trembled violently. She looked around for something to hold onto.
Then it burst.
People gasped and shrieked as a swampy liquid gushed from her stomach, exactly where the pain had been. It soaked her gown. It filled her eyes, turning her vision green.
Nella stumbled forward, still trying to greet the girl, who screamed and cowered in fear.
Strong hands seized Nella. “Get the kid and her parents free park passes,” a male voice commanded.
They dragged her through a secret door in the castle and descended into the tunnels below.
Down they went. As her body fell apart, the wall blocking Carrie’s memories broke open.
Last she knew, it was 2055. Had thirty years really passed? Had she really died?
Strange memories flooded in. The meeting with the legendary Frank P. Olsen. “I will make you immortal, my dear. You will be adored by children for centuries to come!”
She signed the contract. Then the imprisonment. The extractions.
They were wheeling her through the dim tunnels on a gurney. “Another one gone haywire?” asked a woman’s flat voice.
“Damned inherited memories,” answered the attendant. “They can block them, but they just can’t get rid of them.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
They passed through a massive chamber filled with a hundred plus tubes, each one full of swamp-green liquid.
From what Carrie could tell, each tube contained the exact same man. A thousand identical twins. One had been released and they were dressing him up in red and blue spandex.
Freedom Fighter. Star of Freedom Fighter 43, his latest film coming out next month.
No. That’s not his name… Carrie thought. He was the actor Chad Oliver. They starred in her very first film together.
The men pushed Carrie through chamber after tube-filled chamber.
She had to look away from the line of half-formed Quackie McQuackers clones.
Without his feathers, he was a nightmare. All veins and pulsating tissue. Four-fingered hands jammed with black hoses.
“Nasty,” groaned the attendant, “it works so much better with human DNA. Don’t know why they even try it with the animal characters…”
Inevitably, they came to a chamber filled with Carrie Johnsons. No. Princess Nellas. Carrie watched her own face in tube after tube, hair floating like seaweed.
One was being drained of its fluid. The Nella inside slumped forward. A ball gown and tiara were already waiting.
“We’ll go ahead and take the new one out,” the attendant said to a man in a white coat.
“This one’s done for. Salvage the important stuff. The rest is scrap.”
When she saw the giant syringe, Carrie tried to speak, but her mouth no longer worked.
She felt it stab into the cavity of her abdomen.
The doors of Fairy Tale Castle swung open. Princess Nella stepped out, arm in arm with Prince Darren. “Please welcome the stars of Spellbound 17!” The crowd erupted in applause. They snapped photos with their iBrains.
Nella beamed brightly. It was such a magical moment she barely noticed the pain.
Jay Taggart currently lives and works in South Korea. He writes short fiction and poetry in his spare time.