My horse leads the parade, dappled grey and gold. Swans waltz with elephants behind us. They curtsy in time to the music and whisper, “How pretty she is. How kind.”
A siren cuts through the music. I open my eyes to the ghost of my kingdom. My subjects have fled. All that remains are boarded-up sideshows. The paint cracks and falls from my steed, but I imagine a proud stallion, fresh coat gleaming.
I dismount. The shock of landing jars my bones. I long for the days of royal banquets and castles. A cursed princess has nothing but her clothes and her memories.
The sirens are closer; I hear the engines of the troll chariots now. The trolls will expect children, spray-paint in hand. I’ve seen their marks on the boards: Jez and Cyfer and DJ. It’s their kingdom now.
Blue lights flash at the entrance. I hear the slam of the chariot doors, see the torch beams on the broken gate. Troll dens are not the place for a princess, but I’ll forego my pride for the sake of a warm meal.
I pat my horse on the nose. “I’ll miss you.”
Polenth Blake lives where the mushrooms bloom in autumn. She loves dragon mythology, cephalopods and things with eyestalks. One day, her stories will grow eyestalks and slither away.