The Burning Queen
By Jeanna Pittman (ZoeyBlueRose)
Twisted from generic
It was all running smoothly, just as I knew it would. But many things could still go wrong in the time that would follow. Despite my doubts, I had to go through with this. With the royal family gone, I would be next to power. I wanted to change this kingdom, make it better. All the current ruler wanted was the compliments that being king gave him. I was determined to accomplish my task. They would have to kill me to make me stop trying. And they didn’t even know who I really was.
I cautiously looked around the next corner. While I knew all the cameras were unhooked, my doing, of course, the guards were still patrolling the palace.
Slipping the sleeping serum into their food was far too easy. As easy as listening in through the ventilation shafts as the family headed to bed early, thinking that they all must be coming down with something. Lighting the chemically soaked carpet that lined the hall to their sleeping chambers was probably the easiest. Pulling myself away from the beauty of the flames was the hardest. Fire is a beautifully dangerous thing and I admired it enough to consider it my only ally.
I then had turned to run when I heard the scream of the youngest girl. She was about four years old and such a fragile-looking creature. I had never heard her be nasty to anyone and, despite her pampered life, she had never looked down on anyone.
She was the one who I’d had the hardest time killing. I had rationalized by saying it would be painless. She would be asleep. At least this way, I had told myself, she’ll never know the cruelties of life.
But now, she was awake and would feel the smoke choke her as she slowly suffocated or the burn of the fire as she was engulfed in flames. I had made sure they would all be sleeping. Perhaps the girl had not eaten enough, or perhaps what she had eaten had had no serum.
Now she would die feeling everything, knowing that she would never see the sun again. My conscience fought against me and I forced myself through the fire. Even as cruel as I knew I was, even I could not live with myself if such an innocent died in such a horrid way.
Running through a blazing fire is excruciating and I felt my flesh burn on my lower body. I pulled the girl up into my arms. My skin was blistering, my eyes tearing, and my throat burning. She wrapped her arms around me tightly and gripped me with all her might. I stepped back through the flames in a way in which she would
not be hurt.
I must have forgotten a particular variable, overlooked something crucial because instead of burning away at the world behind us, the fire exploded, forcing us away. I held tightly to the little girl as we were thrown. I felt the fire lick at my skin and heard the girl scream in my ear. My body curled protectively around her just before my head smacked against something hard and everything went dark.
I awoke the same way most fall asleep—very slowly but, then, all at once. All of the noises around me grew in intensity until they all swarmed around my head like busy bees. It was a great challenge to even decipher one noise from another.
It hurt to open my eyes but I really wanted to know where I was. I opened my eyes slowly, letting them adjust. When I could finally focus on the room around me, I realized I knew exactly where I was: a hospital. The blinding-white room and sheets along with beeping machines and a small tube that I had just realized connected to my strangely scarred arm were clear signs.
Suddenly, the door opened with a soft click. My head jerked to face whoever was entering, flaring up the pain in my head. A middle-aged, gentle-looking women stood near the doorway, a clipboard in arms. When she saw me looking at her as well, she smiled.
“Good afternoon, Abigail. It’s good to see you awake. You’ve been asleep for quite awhile,” she said.
I looked around. Was she talking to me? That wasn’t my name … was it? What was my name? I felt the fear build up inside me as I realized I couldn’t even remember my own name. I couldn’t remember who I was.
“Who am I?” I asked.
My name was Abigail Lynn Saville. At 23 years old, I have forgotten my entire life before now. But, I have been told, I saved the youngest girl of the royal family, Ciara, from perishing in the fire that had killed the rest of the family. No one knows why I was there that night. They figured I had seen the flames somehow or heard the girl scream. In one month’s time, I would be crowned queen of this kingdom. And I will probably never remember who I was before. Or, at least that’s what the doctors say.
No one can figure out who started the fire. There was little that could be found out as most of the evidence had been destroyed by the fire. And now neither of us, Ciara nor I, had any remaining family. When they said they were still deciding where to place her until she came of age to care for herself, I blurted out, without thinking at all, that I wished to take the girl in.
I don’t know why I said that but I knew that I wanted to. It made sense for the future queen to be raised and mentored by the current queen and so it was decided that I would be her new guardian.
It took a full day and night before they decided I was ready to go home. I was to live in the undamaged half of the palace until the side originally made to house the ruler and his or her family was repaired. I told them to take their time. It wasn’t urgent and I wished it to be restored to its original beauty.
I explored the saved part of the palace with Ciara and we decided on two rooms right next to each other. We had quickly bonded and, by the time a month had passed, having had as much information about ruling this kingdom as possible shoved in my head, she was to walk with me during the crowning ceremony. She was excited by the idea and I was glad to make her happy.
The ceremony was extravagant and beautifully put together. The ceremonial crown was placed atop my head. On my finger, a ring was bestowed. I was now married to my country. I could still marry a lover in reality but it was a symbol of how devoted I should be to the well-being of my country. Somehow, I was already aware of what that meant and had no problems accepting it.
After becoming queen, I began to reorganize some of the systems of my kingdom so that we could benefit from the taxes as much as possible. Too much of it was being put toward the beauty of things when it should be put toward the stability of the kingdom. Also, the farmers and the workers were paying far too much in taxes compared to the businessmen. I assisted in developing a new system in which the taxes helped instead of hurt.
We, the council and I, also began to develop systems to help my people. Monetary support for the poor and homeless, as well as more funds for schools and other community necessities, were better managed with our new systems. Everything seemed to be going well and the people began to see me as a truly good queen.
But then …
I was sleeping in my room when it happened. I had a vision. I may have been able to do this, to see the future before the fire but, of course, I could not remember. Perhaps it was a side effect of the injury to my brain.
In my vision, I was on a plane and looking out to the wing. And then, the captain announced over the intercom that we had to find our seats and buckle our seat belts as we were about to hit some turbulence.
Everything was fine our first wave. But the second wave was much stronger and, as I looked back out the window, I saw that one of the engines had begun to smoke. I screamed. The captain assured us that since it was only one engine, and we were fairly close to another airport, that we should be fine. That was until another wave hit, knocking out two more engines. People began to talk of terrorists, about how unlikely it was for so many engines to go at once. Many began to weep as we knew that the plane would not make it. We were dropping too fast. And then … we crashed.
My eyes shot open and I sat up in bed with a start. It’s just a dream, I told myself. But that didn’t seem to help. Somehow, deep inside, I knew it wasn’t just a dream. Five days later, I was proven right when a plane filled with passengers crashed in a farmer’s field just outside the borders of my kingdom. People spoke of terrorists, just as the people on the plane had. But I knew it was all my fault. I could have stopped the plane, I could have … What could you have done? I asked myself. People would have thought you were crazy. No one wants a crazy queen.
As weeks passed, more and more visions began to fill my head. More and more people were killed under my rule. I did not know what to do. One night, when I could not seem to force myself to sleep, the vision hit me while I was still wide awake. Many buses would be rigged with explosives that would go off mid-rush hour, just in time to catch the people who would be heading home to their families. I had to do something. But what? Even as queen, I felt helpless to do anything.
For a few hours, I roamed the halls of the palace. Only a few security guards were roaming, protecting me and my adopted daughter. None interfered with my business, which I was glad for.
Somehow, I found myself in the damaged part of the palace. I was told that it was too dangerous to be in or near it but I was curious. I saw the progress they were making in reviving the beautiful palace. But I also saw the damage caused by the arsonist.
As I moved through the destruction, I began to feel a pulling at the back of my mind, as if I was desperately trying to remember something. As I examined a particularly strange charred mark in the destroyed wall, my memories came rushing back. I hadn’t wanted to remember them, it seems, as they weren’t particularly nice.
My mother and father had perished in a fire when I was 17. Because of the “kindness” of the king, I was taken in and allowed to live in the in-law quarters, which were empty due to the absence of both the king’s and the queen’s parents. As I still had the curious mind-set of a child, I often wandered the palace next door and discovered many secrets about the way the king managed the taxes. I did not like what I found one bit. He used most of it for himself, to feed his many addictions. I had found where he hid the money but had left it alone, knowing that taking his money would not be as effective as ending his corrupt reign altogether.
I became the bad guy in the eyes of the people, planning to overthrow the king who was loved by the ignorant people who had no idea that their beloved ruler was causing much of their suffering. And then, I truly become evil when I no longer wanted to just end the reign of the king, but the life of him and his whole family. I wanted to be queen, with the power to control so many people. I was the villain in this story.
I thought briefly about turning myself in … but I had too much self-preservation for that. And … I could make up for it in my own way. I had been the arsonist, the one people speculated was a terrorist. And now a real terrorist is running about, wreaking havoc on people’s ways of life. And I could stop it. I knew when, where, and what before anything even happened. I could be the one to save the day instead of the one to ruin it.
As soon as I had brought myself back together, I put together a plan. I didn’t think it would work, but I had always been good at persuasion and talking in a way that made people want to trust me. Back then, it had been bad for them, good for me. But now, it would be good for everyone. I didn’t feel so helpless anymore.
I ran to what I called my office and used my business phone to call the bus station. Calling the police would result in an investigation against me instead of for me. There was still the risk but I had the hope that they would be grateful, not suspicious.
“Upstreet Bus Network. How can I help you?” a strangely cheerful voice asked.
“This is Queen Abigail. I would like—”
I heard a little gasp and sigh.
“Good morning, your Majesty. To what do we owe the honor?” the woman asked.
“My … advisers and I have come to believe that the terrorist group that has been striking our country will attack your bus station next. This should happen around rush hour tonight. We advise that you up your security and call in the police force around this time.” I tried to sound as professional as possible but my voice wavered slightly. I hoped the woman didn’t notice.
“Right away, your Majesty. Thank you, your Majesty. Should I alert the press?” She sounded as if she couldn’t think of anything else to say. But what else do you say to a call like this so early in the morning?
“No, no … that will only cause panic, which is what the terrorists want. They can get their story after everything is under control.”
“Of course, your Majesty.” She was quiet for a moment. “Should I keep you informed?”
“No, that’s all right. I will simply watch the news with everyone else,” I said. “Thank you, though.”
A soft click was heard as I placed the phone back in its holder.
I sat down on my office chair, leaned back, and closed my eyes, hoping with all my heart that this would work. Maybe I can be the hero instead of the villain …