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Twai Rice

The Strange Tale of Princess Agamemnon

Part 1 – The Dream

            Princess Agamemnon lived alone.  She also resided alone.  She went to work alone, did her job alone, returned home alone.  She cooked for herself alone and ate alone.  She visited family alone, and she spent time with friends alone.  Her heart belonged to no one but herself, and this to her, was quite as it should be, or at least, how it was.

            But sometimes in the cold of evening when there was no more work to be done and nothing to ponder but life and living and what made them sweet, it seemed to Agamemnon that she had forgotten somewhere along the way to find Love, and her heart would sink at the thought that Love had never taken it upon itself to find her.     

            That particular night, Princess Agamemnon stared out at the bright white snow wondering if real clarity of thought could be found in weakness or in strength, when there came suddenly a knock upon the door.

          Agamemnon opened the door, and there stood before her the most fantastic woman she had ever seen.  She was tall and ethereal with strength rising out of her, emanating greatness, her dark tresses pouring down to the ground like rich espresso, jet white skin luminescent in the moonlight, and her yards of brilliant blue attire floating about her like ocean waves.  Agamemnon stared in amazement, frozen in place as the magnificent creature reached out to cup Agamemnon’s face in her hands.

            “Hello little darling,” the creature’s voice was like angry song. “I’m your fairy godmother.”  Agamemnon tried to reply that she wasn’t Catholic and had never once had a godmother in all her life, but the words stuck in her throat.  “Little angel mine, you’ve been very foolish.” The voice sang angrily at her.  “But tonight, yes tonight my sweet child, you shall go to the Ball and find Love.” And as this seemingly unrelated sentence came to a close, to Agamemnon’s horror, the wildly beautiful goddess’s blood red lips glided down to hers in a deep kiss that was filled with the blackness of midnight.  Agamemnon tried to fight, but her arms fell limp at her sides and her ambivalence melted away into confused resignation.

            What seemed moments later, she awakened with a start, arms flailing as if trying to keep her body afloat, and nearly toppled out of her lounger.  She was alone in her living room once more.  Ah, she must have dozed off.  “I’m an idiot,” she muttered to herself.  She drew to her feet and went to her bedroom, trying to rid herself of the feeling that she was still dreaming, but when she opened the door, she found her efforts to be in vain, for there, rippling across her lumpy comforter like moonlight, was the magnificent dress of the woman from her dream.  Agamemnon hung back in silence, waiting to see if it would dispel before her very eyes, but this too in vain.  The dress lay there, arms outstretched, beckoning her out of her righteous sensibility into a world of dreams that was not to be trusted.      

            Agamemnon edged silently over to her bed and put out her hand tremulously to touch it.  It certainly couldn’t be real.  It was more like water than a dress; she was almost certain that touching it would create rippling circles across its surface.

            A silky white arm fell around her waist. “It’s lovely isn’t it?”

            Agamemnon yelped in surprise to find the woman from her dream standing beside her, clad in nothing but starlight shining through the window, dark tresses billowing down her ivory flanks.  Agamemnon tried to ask the five or six questions that had at once sprung to mind at the same time but ended up gagging and sputtering the word “what?” several times as the strange thing from another world patted her on the back.

            “There, there, dear monkey, that won’t do,” she said soothingly.  “Now, we haven’t much time to lose.  The ball has already begun.”  And wasting no time, she began removing Agamemnon’s clothing.

            “Wait, what are you… what are you…” Agamemnon sputtered, frantically clutching at her garments in her attempt to ward off the intrusive spirit, but the latter was relentless.  Her godmother whipped her shirt off over her head as Agamemnon struggled in vain and then gave her a little push onto the bed to more easily slide off her pants; before Agamemnon could quite grasp her situation, the floating blue dress had fallen down around her shoulders and hips and she was gazing into her bedroom mirror in a daze.  She couldn’t understand what she saw in the mirror.  It was more than the dress that was different.  The gaunt, careless pallor was gone from her face, and in its place a doll-like glow of pink and white (more than likely resulting from her horror and embarrassment, she was sure).  Her eyes were no longer tired and disinterested but betrayed more than a hint of sprightly wonder (probably resulting from the shock she had just received of having a wild ghost forcefully undress her, she was certain).  Her hair, normally hanging limply around her face was fixed up in wild little braids and ringlets all over her head, and it fairly shimmered in the light.

            “My darling, you’ve never looked lovelier!” Sang the womanly beast as she pulled on the jeans and T shirt Agamemnon had been wearing herself only moments ago.  “And tonight you shall find the greatest love of your life.” 

            “What have you done to me?” Agamemnon attempted to yell, but the voice in her ears was breathy and sweet and full of music.  She clapped her hands over her mouth in dismay.  The spiritess came and stood next to her, and they both stood staring into the mirror.

            “It’s just missing one thing.” Mused the fairy godmother.

            “Me!” Choked Agamemnon.

            “Bite your tongue!” The fairy chortled, “No my love, it’s missing the daintiest, most whimsical piece of attire – the one that brings the whole ensemble together and will bring all the young men to their knees in adoration.  It is your gleaming, glistening, made entirely of glass….HAT.”  And the creature brought out from behind her person an immensely tall top hat, made entirely of pure glass.  She placed it atop Agamemnon’s head with some ceremony and as Agamemnon stared at herself in the mirror, too dashed to know what to say, the godmother leant over and whispered into her ear in a tone that was strange and full of real power, “Now, my darling godchild, you really are Princess Agamemnon, the way you always have been in your darkest dreams and most beautiful nightmares; for although you don’t believe it now, this is not a dream my princess.  This is who you really are.”

          And as she finished this strange delivery, her silvery arm snaked around Agamemnon’s curtained waist, and before she knew it, the gorgeous thing had whisked her up off her feet and was toting her out the door of the flat as if she were a piece of shiny, blue luggage.  Agamemnon found herself placed backwards upon what she looked down and found to be a motorcycle, but not just any motorcycle.  Agamemnon had no idea, but what her glistening backside now rested upon was none other than a brand new, never been touched by human hands or any other disgusting part of the human body, Dodge Tomohawk V10 – the fastest, most expensive motorcycle in the world. 

            The fairy thing, whose name we will soon learn is Irving, plopped down at the helm of the great bike, so that their backs were facing, and revved the engine with ferocity.  Agamemnon struggled to turn her body so that she could better see what was happening behind her back while at the same time trying to keep the glass hat from sliding off her head.  Up until now she’d had trouble finding her tongue, but now in the coolness of evening, the words fell from her lips like silver from a purse.

            “Now listen here, you damn ghost,” she shouted with sudden ease, “you indecent, gaudy—”

            “My name is Irving.” Interrupted Irving as the engine started with a roar, and then they were flying, fairly soaring, down the road.  A Dodge Tomohawk can easily make 400 mph if given the space, and oh, but there was space.  Irving’s maneuvering sent them ripping through neighborhoods and alleys and tearing across meadows until they were well out of the city.  All the while Agamemnon howled as if on fire and clutched wildly at the back of the seat with one hand while groping backward to hang on to her captor with the other.

            “Where are we going?” She yelped when she once again found her voice among the screams, “And why do I have to sit backwards?”

            “We never know where we’re going,” Irving’s angry, sing-song voice effortlessly floated over the roar of the engine, “we can only see where we’ve been and hope that we’re going somewhere WONDERFUL.” And on the last emphatic word, she rose the bike in a fantastic wheelie and broke into shrill prophecy:

          “On we fly into the screams of distant unknown beginnings,

          Until we find our love, until we find our souls,

          And we’ll never return, we must never return

          until what we’ve left

          Is as horrible and as beautiful

          As what we hope to find.

          And we’ll search for years, and we’ll search for hours,

          But we’ll never turn ‘round our heads and look before us,

          We’ll only search behind,

          Search for a million beautiful things,

          Everything we’ve ever hoped for, sung about, wept for,

          Hoping it’s not there because if it were,

          We’d have already found it, and we’d have already passed it by,

          But if we ever should find it, the search is over;

          The search for love is dead in our hands,

          And instead of searching further,

          We’ll must needs return,

          Into the arms of love we’ve already left behind.

 

          “Look behind us! Is it all you ever dreamed of?” The voice broke out of the poetic trance. 

            “Please take me back!” Agamemnon cried, but her voice was drowned in the ruckus, and she spoke not again for the rest of the ride. 

 

Part 2  – The Ball

 

            The Ball was strange, and Love was there, somewhere.  Music floated through the air like lilies on a moonlit pond, and the people, such beautiful gleaming people who knew nothing but grace, did the same.  Many there had found Love, and they floated peacefully in its embrace.

            In addition to the people, there was also a plethora of woodland creatures of varied heights, also dressed to the nines in waistcoats and ball gowns.  Foxes and otters were walking on their hind legs, donning pantaloons and monocles, greeting the ladies with a bow and sometimes a gentle kiss of the hand.  Rabbits and does draped in silky gowns covered their delighted smiles with their lacey fans and threw daisies to the men they found most charming.  A lilting tune filled the room about which myriad couples danced and swayed, some softly and easily and some more jauntily, making great spins and whirls about the room.

            Irving held Agamemnon’s hand very high, grasping it only by her fingertips, as they entered the vast crystal palace.  She whispered something to the doorman, who went ahead of them and announced, “Her ladyship, the Princess Agamemnon, and her fairy godmother, Irving the Wicked.”

          Irving’s blood red lips pursed and her steely eyes became chilled as they walked slowly down the winding steps to the frolicking creatures below.  Even as she donned Agamemnon’s old T-shirt and faded blue jeans, which should have contrasted sharply with the rest of the venue, she looked the absolute picture of stately beauty and perfect whimsy, the essence of fairy royalty all about her.  Every fellow she passed gave a slight but reverent bow, the ladies smiled somewhat playfully while performing a dutiful curtsy.

          A cheery looking fox wearing a top hat and a forest green tuxedo approached them, and grinning coyly, bestowed upon both their hands a kiss and bowed nearly to the ground. 

          “Irving the Wicked, I see you’re still at it.” He remarked smoothly.  “And look at you.  Why, you’re the most charming thing I’ve seen all night.  I do believe you must give me the first dance.”

          “Out of my sight, you thief.”  Irving’s voice quietly thundered. “Unless you wish to return to me the diamond china tea set which you, so much like the rest of your dishonest kind, stole from me.”

          “My dearest,” the fox laughed, un-phased by the abrupt accusation, “chickens and geese perhaps, but diamond tea sets?  I think not.  And what have we here?” His eyes had fallen on Agamemnon who was glancing furtively around the ballroom and trying to sort out all of the questions forming in her mind concerning the strangeness of her surroundings.  She somewhat started when she realized she was being addressed.

          “What an amazing hat.” The fox murmured, staring at the pillar of glass upon her head.  “Quite extraordinary.”

          “You have stolen the set.” Irving continued, ignoring the introduction of a new topic. “And I mean to get it back.  However, at the moment, I’ve no time for nonsense.”  And with that, she rapped the fox on the tip of his nose three times; right before their eyes, the fellow vanished into thin air.  Agamemnon gasped with surprise and inadvertently stuck out her hand into the air which the creature had seconds ago inhabited.  She mentally added one more question onto her ever growing list, but before she could say a word, was whisked away by her dark companion.

          “There is no time for foolishness on this night,” Irving was saying as she blazed through the happy crowds holding tightly to Agamemnon’s arm as the latter staggered and strove to keep up with her.  “This is the night, my princess.  Love is all around us, and now for the first time in your miserable life, you shall see it and feel it.  You shall reach out and brush it with your perfect fingers.  You shall gather it to your shapely bosom in a sweet embrace.  You shall lick its lips with great relish, and it shall mesmerize and destroy you as only true love can!”

          Agamemnon grew tense with disgust at the description of what she was supposedly here to find.  She was unclear as to whether Irving was describing a literal person or if she was speaking figuratively, but either way, was utterly disenchanted.

          “Why do they call you Irving the Wicked?” She asked several times before she was heard.

          “Oh that.” Irving smiled.  “Well.  I am quite, quite wicked you know.  Now come, dance.  There can never be love without a great deal of dancing.”  And with that she pulled Agamemnon close to her and fell into step with the other dancers on the floor.  Agamemnon faltered for a moment, but she soon was forced to keep with the rhythm herself as Irving’s steps remained crisp and even regardless of Agamemnon’s lack of precision.  The fairy became bolder as the music picked up speed, and she made several grandiose spins with her partner about the floor while the other dancers scurried out of their way.  Agamemnon thought she might be sick as the room spun about them and she wondered how the hat was managing to cling to her head. 

          Eventually the music grew deeper and the rhythm slower.  Agamemnon grew more relaxed and cleared her throat in order to address her fairy godmother.

          “Irving,” she said, “No disrespect obviously, but if I’m here to find love, then why am I still dancing with you?”

          “Ah, but you are impatient!” Exclaimed Irving.  “You must practice caution my dear godchild, for loneliness is like a madness.  It makes us hurl ourselves into the arms of danger.  Loneliness will destroy you.”

          “But you just said earlier that it was true love that was going to destroy me!” Agamemnon gasped in annoyance. 

          “Silence!” Thundered Irving, and Agamemnon was silent.  Irving released her but kept hold of her hand and led her over to the punch bowl.  As she was serving them some punch, she directed Agamemnon’s gaze over to a collection of fellows sitting and smoking on a divan.  One of them was an elderly gentleman with a long, gray beard and a hunched back.  He was holding a long twisted walking stick which he kept raising and pounding on the marble floor, possibly to make himself more heard amongst the others.  One was a young boy, possibly thirteen years of age, with golden hair down to his ankles and a small harp.  The third was a white rabbit carrying a large pocket watch, and the last was an attractive young man about Agamemnon’s age wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase.  The latter kept attempting to get a glimpse of the rabbit’s pocket watch and seemed fairly impatient. 

          Agamemnon watched the four of them for a while before noticing that Irving’s head was about two inches from her own and she was staring at her intensely. 

          “Can I help you?” She asked with some irritation.

          “Which is it?” Irving asked her.

          “Which is what?”

          “Which is your Love?”

          Agamemnon stared at the ghostly beauty in astonishment and then back at the strange assortment of masculinity. 

          “What, out of those?” She asked finally.  “Do you want me to pick one?”

          “Not pick.  One of them is your Love.  Tell me which one.”  Irving was not smiling.  There was no playfulness in her tone.  She seemed almost sullen.  Agamemnon was at a loss.    Once more she turned her eyes to the men, the rabbit, and the boy who seemed to be having a heated discussion about something, though she couldn’t imagine what the four of them would have to talk about.  She was painfully aware that Irving continued to stare at her expectantly.

          “Well, not the kid at any rate!” She answered helplessly.  Irving nodded impatiently in agreement.

          “True, it is not the child.  Which is it?”

          “You mean you know which one it is?” Agamemnon asked.  Irving nodded.  Agamemnon frowned.  “Then you tell me.  Which is it?”

          “Do you really want me to tell you?” Irving asked.

          “Of course!”

          “Very well,” Irving sighed.  “If I must.  It is the elephant in the room.”

          “What is?” Agamemnon asked after a pause.

          “Your True Love.”

          “What?”

          Irving pointed.  Agamemnon looked.  There, standing behind the divan where the men were talking, was a large elephant wearing a monocle and a top hat.  She had barely noticed him before but hadn’t thought to include him with the group talking.  She took a moment to respond.

          “You mean the elephant is my…true love?” She clarified.  Irving nodded. 

          “Now, I’m sure you wish that you had waited to find out, don’t you?” Irving said gravely.  “Do you see how your loneliness has made a fool of you?”  Agamemnon didn’t know what to say.  

          “Are you telling me that if I had waited,” she said slowly, “it might have been one of the others?  Possibly the good looking one who looks my age?”

          “No, better.  It would have been the rabbit.” Irving answered, quite seriously. “Best not to dally any longer as your loneliness may drive you to desperate hysteria at any time.  Go to him, and may the gods of Love warm the blood in your veins!  May passion melt your icy sinews and overcome the steely bonds of propriety! May romantic instincts make him like fire in your mouth and arms and the blackness of night engulf you like—”

          “Please stop!” Yelped Agamemnon in embarrassment, unable to listen to any more of the somewhat suggestive blessing.  “Irving, I want to go home.  This whole dream is ludicrous, and I’m ready to wake up.”

          “Love is not a dream.” Irving told her.  “Love is an angry buffalo that eats you alive.”

          “A buffalo now?  Where are you getting these metaphors?  I don’t love that elephant.  I want out of here!” And with that, Agamemnon turned tail and ran.  She wasn’t sure where she was going and could see no semblance of an exit anywhere.  She set her sights on one aperture that may have been a doorway covered with flowered vines and made her way for it without turning to see if she was being pursued. 

          Once through, she found herself on a large white balcony, overgrown with plant life and large blooming roses.  She sighed and leaned against the railing, staring out into the night.  There was a rustling in the bushes beside her that made her start. 

          “Who’s there?” She whispered, worried that it was Irving.  A furry head popped out.

          “Only me, child.” It was the fox from earlier who had admired her hat. 

          “Oh you.” Agamemnon turned her gaze back out to the stars.  “Didn’t you disappear earlier?”

          “Ah yes, it was quite painful.” Answered the fox, climbing out of the bushes and brushing himself off.  “Your godmother is tyrant.  A madly gorgeous tyrant.”

          “I don’t see how she would be my godmother.” Agamemnon murmured.  “I’m not even Catholic.  She’s just a crazy woman, and this is the weirdest dream I’ve ever had.”

          “Woman!” The fox laughed.  “Why, Irving is no woman.  Oh, she’s certainly ravishing as all get out, but she’s no woman.  She’s a creature.  A monster.  A devil.  She does and is what she pleases and nothing else.  If she chooses to be seen as a beautiful woman, then she will be the most beautiful woman alive, but that’s only what she is at the moment.  There are no rules governing Irving’s existence; she is nonsense, poetry, and horror combined.  If you dare to understand her, your heart may explode.”

          Agamemnon listened patiently, but in her opinion, the woodland creature was exaggerating.  She felt as though everything in this madcap world of oversized roses and excessive dancing was simply and exaggeration of something that might have in a more subdued form made perfect literary sense. 

          “Irving is just as ridiculous as the rest of you.” She told him.  “You’re all an absurd bunch of children’s characters.”

          “Shall I tell you what Irving really is?” The fox asked, suddenly staring out into the night, apparently inspired by the conversation.  Without waiting for a response, he lapsed into a rhythmic chant that hung and grew in the night air as thick as the beds of roses that surrounded them.  His refrain was as follows:

 

          “She is cold, gray wind, swillowing down the fairway,

          Coursing through the starlit music of the night.

          She sees all she sees in the twilight of the morning sun,

          The folly of a sing-song slumber.

 

          “She is only what she feels in the early morning dew,

          If you touch her you will shatter,

          If you love her, you will die.

          You will wither like a flower

          As she hates you ‘till forever,

          As the folly of a sing-song slumber.”

 

          He stood still for some time, and Agamemnon thought she saw a drop fall from his eye.  She pitied him for a moment despite her weariness at hearing more about the wonders of her alleged fairy godmother, and she ever so gently placed the tips of her fingers on his shoulder in a gesture of consolation, though it remained unclear for what reason he would need it.

          “She is… quite something.” Agamemnon ventured in an attempt to be friendly to the poor fellow. 

          “Quite something,” repeated the fox.  “Quite something.”

          “Do you… love her then?” Agamemnon asked him quietly.

          “Love her?” The fox exclaimed.   “Didn’t I just now say that to love her would be to die?  And yet, how can I help it?  How can anyone help it?  Beautiful, mad thing!  She’ll be the death of us all, devil take her!”  He put his head in his paws and moaned.   Agamemnon bit her lip and patted his back sympathetically, not in any way used to such confidences being thrust upon her.  He reached up and took her hand, gratefully pressing it to his lips.  For a moment there was silence. 

          “If you love me so much, why don’t you give me back my diamond china tea set?” A deep, icy voice broke through the brief calm causing the pair to start and stare about them looking for the owner.  Irving’s head rose out of the bushes from whence the fox had just emerged earlier.  Agamemnon gave a little shriek in spite of herself and began to run away until she realized that the outer layer of her skirt was being grasped firmly in Irving’s steely grip.  The fox was momentarily stunned, but he quickly regained his composure.

          “Let the child be, my dear.” He told her.  “Love will find her soon enough, and then the whole story will be over.”

          “I am unconcerned with and contemptuous of any advice you may have for me.”  Irving answered.  “Where is the set?”

          “I tell you I haven’t got your precious tea set!” Protested the fox, finally showing some semblance of frustration at the persistent accusations.

          “Very well, I see you must uphold your banner of deceit, so proudly woven by your disgusting race.  The hourglass on your soul has been turned.  You are quite welcome to despair, it would be more than appropriate.  And as for you.” She turned her sights to the young woman fighting to free her skirt and get away.  “It is time for you to address the elephant in the room.  Your True Love.”

 

Part 3 – The Banquet

          The three of them entered a grandiose banquet hall into which all of the other creatures were also filing, clasping each other’s arms smilingly and continuing their conversations in low voices.  They all began finding their seats at a banquet table, nearly a mile in length, or so it would seem; it appeared each place was clearly marked with a name engraved in marble and a small figurine of the person or animal to which it was assigned.  Agamemnon took her seat next to Irving and looked down at her figurine with the towering top hat and what seemed to be jazz hands.  She glanced sidelong at the empty seat to her right, and to her dismay, saw that the engraving on the placeholder read “Elephant,” and that none other than the form of just such a creature was depicted in the marble beside it.

          “How can this…elephant be my true love?” She hissed to Irving.  “Shouldn’t my true love be a handsome prince of some sort, or at least a man?”

          “Take your hat off, you wicked child, you are a guest at an extremely formal event.” Irving told her in a loud voice, causing Princess Agamemnon to flush with embarrassment as several dignified guests turned their sparkling eyes upon her.  She clumsily grabbed at her glass top hat, but to her chagrin was unable to get it off.  Try and try as she might, the silly thing was stuck as if it were glued.  It did explain why it hadn’t toppled off yet, despite all the activity of the evening, but this was no help to her now.  The stronger her effort in pulling the hat off grew, the stronger she felt the gaze of what felt like an audience around her, impatiently awaiting her to meet the expected level of decorum set forth by the rest of the guests.  She bit her lip and was about to cry out to Irving for assistance when suddenly there loomed a terrifically large presence behind her and a deep, composed voice penetrated her confusion and momentarily distracted her from her despair. 

          “Are you having some difficulty?” She turned to see none other but the elephant in the room.  He bowed slightly as their eyes met.  After a brief pause, the princess stood up in alarm, and then, not entirely sure of her actions, she sat back down and stared at him.

          “My hat won’t come off.” She confided in him finally.

          “Well, what does it matter really?” He asked her with a smile and began to take his seat beside her.

          “Nothing to me, but to everyone else…” She began, but as she glanced around the room, she realized that not a soul was paying her any attention.  She had imagined them all staring relentlessly at her all the time, but this no longer seemed to be the case.  She was sure at any rate that Irving would berate her cruelly if she did not comply with the standard of formality; however, when she looked beside her for Irving, she found that she was not even in her former place, but had once again disappeared!  Princess Agamemnon sighed to herself and leaned back in her chair.

          “Apparently it doesn’t matter to anyone.” She muttered.

          “Or possibly it does, but they are choosing not to take notice of it.” Answered the elephant as he dipped his trunk in the bowl of lemon water set before him and began to dab himself with it all over. “Such is generally the case when someone behaves in an unorthodox fashion… or to be fair, is simply unorthodox.”

          “So you do think I’m being unorthodox to leave my hat on during a dinner?” Princess Agamemnon asked, curious to know his opinion.

          “Oh yes,” he replied seriously, “but it shouldn’t matter to me a bit.  I’m not even supposed to be here.”

          “Neither am I!” The princess exclaimed.  “I don’t even know what I’m doing here!” The drinks were being poured.  She reached out and took a drink before anybody else at the table did without thinking about it.  The first sip made her dizzy, and she set it down quickly.  “What is this?” She murmured, looking down at it.

          “Oh, but you quite belong here,” the elephant continued.  “I am so vulgar an oddity that no one must speak of me.”  There crept a note of bitterness into his otherwise calm voice.  Princess Agamemnon heard what he was saying, but the swallow of what she had supposed was champagne had caused a heaviness to fall over her.  She stared silently down at her hands.  The elephant, now somewhat grumpy from hearing his own thoughts aloud and realizing the truth of them, glanced over at her with a frown.

          “Ah, I’ve made you uncomfortable.” He said.  “And you say nothing, and will not even acknowledge me with a look.  You see, you do quite belong here, and it is only I who do not.”  Feeling he had made a fool of himself, he got up and brushed himself off abruptly, making ready to take his leave.  Princess Agamemnon only halfway understood what he had just said, but moreover was concerned that there was definitely something wrong with her and also stood up.  She clutched her head in her hands, but only felt the cold, hard glass of her foolish hat.  The elephant’s trunk reached out to steady her, as she had begun to stagger.

          “Are you alright?” He asked in alarm, seeing of course that she wasn’t. “You mustn’t drink spirits if you haven’t the stomach for them!”

          “I’m sorry… you’re wrong… I’m the one who doesn’t belong here…” She mumbled as the room spun around her. “I have to get away!”  She pulled away and began to run.  She heard a voice call after her, but she could no longer make out anything.  She only knew she had to get out into the open air where she could breath.

          As she made her way onto the balcony overlooking the gardens below, the night winds hit her and she felt she was able to breathe again, despite the persisting weakness throughout her body and mind.  A blur of loveliness already stood there in the starlight, treacherous and magical as always.  Irving turned away from the gardens to glare icily at Princess Agamemnon; however, the latter was in no position to recoil.  When she saw the familiar meanness glowing there before her, she reached out in spite of herself, tumbling forward, and began to cry.

          “Irving, what’s happening to me?” She choked.  “I drank some of that wine they served, and I think it’s killing me!”  Nausea overcame her once more and she fell helplessly into Irving’s gorgeous white arms.

          “Nonsense, my pathetic little troll, it’s not killing you.” Irving said somewhat mockingly, though some of her iciness melted away as she said it.  “And that was not wine, that was the finest, purest spirit you shall ever encounter.  Get on your feet, my dear.”

          “I can’t, Irving, I feel terrible…” Princess Agamemnon murmured. “I need to find the ladies’ room.”  Irving sighed and shook her head.

          “Very well, to the ladies’ room then.” She relented, with mocking emphasis on the word ‘ladies.’  “Come and assist us you vile canine.” She looked straight into the shadows, where for the first time Agamemnon spied the dark figure of the fox, who had apparently been hiding and keeping witness the entire time.  Once found out, he neatly emerged from the shadows, carelessly flicking the dust from his waistcoat, refusing to show any sign of embarrassment.

          “So you knew I was there the whole time, did you?” He smiled at them and bowed slightly.  “The powers of darkness give you an unfair advantage, you know.”  He came up alongside them and took up Agamemnon in his arms.

          “You are too terrified of me to ever fully leave my presence.” Answered Irving, eyes black as coals.  They made their way through the great dance hall towards a stairway that seemed to stretch and billow upward into darkness with no end in sight. 

          “Why ever should I be terrified of you, my dear?” The fox replied as they began their rapid ascent.  “It’s only that I’m such a simple creature, entranced and drawn in by shiny objects.”

          “You know that once I find you guilty of theft once and for all, your fate will be sealed as tight as a drum, so you are terrified to take your eyes off me.” She retorted.  Agamemnon sensed that the farther they came up the stair, the darker and denser the air seemed around them. 

          “Mistaken and lovely as ever.”  The fox said with a haughty grin.  “How could I ever dream of stealing anything from you… other than a kiss perhaps?”

          “When I find you out, I’ll have you hideous head served to me on my diamond china platter.”  She smiled coldly at him, and he laughed politely.

          The three of them plunged into darkness, and Agamemnon could see and hear nothing for some amount of time.

          “Are we still looking for the restroom?” She asked finally in a low voice, feeling that the general atmosphere had grown somber.  She received no reply, and lapsed back into silence.  She wondered at how they could so easily find their way in complete darkness and was momentarily grateful for their company – she never could have found this particular restroom on her own.  The cold was also encroaching upon them, and chills ran along her spine and limbs.  She buried her face in the fox’s shoulder, and he seemed to bring her closer.

          After what could easily have been another hour, they came to a halt.  Irving cleared her throat and the fox straightened his posture respectfully.

          “La Toillete.” She announced; and they entered the room. 

 

Part 4 – The Toilet

          The bathroom was three stories high with large glittering fountains at every turn and arabesque statues of attractive men and women in their pajamas blowing soap bubbles which floated and swirled all around.  Also, everything there was made entirely of ice, and the temperature was below zero. 

          Agamemnon stared around at the ice, bubbles, and statues in sheer astonishment.  She for the moment forgot everything leading up to this point including how sick she still felt and the icy air cutting through her insubstantial ball gown.  Everything else she had seen up to now paled in comparison to this bewitching ice palace that smelled strongly of soap.

          The moment was soon over as she began to shake violently from the cold and the realization came upon her that this room lacked any sort of the necessary functional qualities which would traditionally characterize a restroom.

          “What is this?” She exclaimed in agitation through the chattering of her own teeth.  “I’m going to freeze and die if I don’t get out of here soon!”

          “She is a mere human child,” the fox pointed out to Irving, as he hadn’t taken it into consideration earlier.  “She very well may die of the cold.”  Irving gave a small gasp of annoyance and pulled a bottle from her back pocket.  She took Agamemnon’s head in one hand and poured the fluid down her throat.  It burned her throat like fire and made her gag a cough, but her body instantly warmed to a comfortable temperature.  It also made her head start to spin like mad and her stomach lurched.

          “What was that?” She gasped hoarsely.  She was now warm, but the nausea that had begun to subside now hit her again with full force and she began to flail about. 

          “It is, of course, the spirit made of wild amaryllises, greedy lust, and fear of death.” Irving told her, still heartily annoyed at having to play caregiver.  “You should know, you had a watered down version of it downstairs at the banquet.  They generally mix it with soda water.  Now whatever did you need up here?”

          “I’m dying!” Sputtered Agamemnon, feeling her stomach twisting inside of her.

          “We best get her to a lavatory.” The fox advised, seeing that she was beginning to wretch.

          “Oh very well.” Agreed Irving.  They set out together, gliding on the ice, taking great strides.  Irving was the first to do a miniature pirouette on the ice, executed with perfect precision.  The fox answered her with a graceful twirl of his own.  Irving spun again, this time more majestically, clearly putting more thought into it than previously.

          They deposited Agamemnon at a crystalline lavatory shaped as a head with a very open mouth.  She fell upon it and wretched, gasping for breath.  She stopped momentarily, shuddering, and then gripped the sink again with great heaves.  Try as she might, nothing came up.  Finally she sank to the icy floor in resignation.  She looked around for Irving and the fox, but they were nowhere to be found.  Taking several deep breaths to steady herself, she pulled herself back up and looked over the sink into the mirror above it.  When she did so her jaw dropped, and she clutched the sink and leaned forward, gaping at her reflection in the mirror.  The woman in the mirror staring slack-jawed back at her looked less like herself than ever before.  She had certainly been appealing to look at before, with her hair done up and some extra color in her cheeks, but now she was wildly beautiful, eyes and mouth shining like fire, and facial structure melted and chiseled into smooth, shimmery perfection.  Her hair had come loose beneath the glass hat and had sprung away from her head in a mass of dark, weightless waves toppling all about her shoulders and back.

          “Glorious!” Extorted the fox, appearing from behind her, causing her to start.  “Quite a change for the better!”  One thing had led to another out on the ice, which had resulted in him and Irving performing an elaborate ice ballet, falling wildly into each other’s arms in a frantic kiss, and then becoming embarrassed and not wanting to make any further eye contact.      

          “What’s happening to me?” She shrieked.

          “What did you expect?” Irving asked impatiently.  “After gulping down all that magical liquor?”

          “Is that what did this?” Agamemnon cried.

          “You act as though it were some kind of curse!” Exclaimed Irving.   “My dear, you have never appeared more who you truly are!  The wildly beautiful Princess Agamemnon, creator of fairytales, singer of songs!  You’ve seen this reflection before in the darkest pits of your heart, where you live as a goddess among the idiots!  Awaken, my excellent twit, to the gorgeousness of your very own soul!”

          Agamemnon stared dazedly in the mirror, hardly hearing the fairy’s nonsensical spiel.  It really was a wondrous countenance, and somehow familiar.  But of course, it would be familiar – somewhere buried in all that loveliness was the real her – her own silly, boring self.  It was that part that she knew all too well – the part of her who got anxiety about going to work in the morning; the part of her who let her laundry pile up; the part of her that watched pointless television for hours at a time; the part of her that used to have story-like dreams and ideas for wonderful melodies, but who had now grown dull, drab, and tired.  The magic had been there once, even if it was only in her head, but somewhere along life’s weary path it had faded away.  After all, a child can’t play with dolls forever, even if she wanted to.  And oh, how she had wanted to.

          But there was something else there.  It was all twisted and ethereal, yet she knew it was her, like a picture of herself she had drawn as a child with a giant moon in the background and stars that had faces. She remembered gazing proudly at that picture and knowing what an excellent depiction it was of what she saw in the mirror, her mother’s child.  She remembered…

          “No!” She exclaimed suddenly turning away from it all.  “It’s not me!  I’m not Agamemnon!”  She faced Irving and the fox, who were quietly observing her.  “I’m not a princess.” She told them.  “My name is Cathy.  I work in an office – I sit in a cubicle and do work on a computer and get paid pretty decently, enough to pay my rent and my car payments…that’s what I do, I pay my bills and go to work and watch TV in the evening, and go out to eat on the weekend.  I’m just like so many others – I wish I could get a promotion at work, I say I’ll go to the gym but don’t, I skip breakfast and increase my caffeine intake, I’ll date someone for a while but one of us always gets bored, I get weird if I don’t take my anxiety meds…I’m not on the lookout for love or excitement, I just want to be comfortable and have a little fun now and then without getting myself into trouble.”  She looked back towards the mirror warily; her reflection seemed to be taunting her.  “I don’t want to imagine I’m anything else.” She muttered, almost inaudibly. 

          “My darling, stupid goose,” Irving hissed, wrapping one steely white arm around her shoulders and the other around her waist.  “You are the illustrious, the devastating, the bewitching Princess Agamemnon.  The ball is all for you, and your True Love is there waiting.”

          “What, the elephant?” Agamemnon cried.  “How can my true love be an elephant?”

          “The elephant is only a metaphor for everything you secretly know.” Irving bellowed.  “For what is obvious to us all, but left unsaid.”

          “Well, he doesn’t like it, he told me.” Agamemnon snapped, suddenly pulling away from her godmother.  “And I don’t like it either.  I don’t like any of this, and I’m done with it.  I don’t want to be illustrious or devastating, or daydream about finding true love.  I enjoy fairy stories, but I don’t want to live in one!”

          She could hear the clock strike twelve.  She began to run away, slipping and scrambling across the ice.  Irving and the fox watched her gravely.

          “It’s as if she truly knows nothing.” Irving mused quietly to herself.  She turned her cold gaze upon the fox.  “Similar to the way you act as though you know nothing of my flawless tea set.  I, of course, am fully aware you are both deceiving yourselves, and attempting to deceive me as well.”  She glided off across the ice while the fox watched wistfully after her.

          “If only I could deceive myself, you evil thing.” He said to himself with a sigh.

 

          Princess Agamemnon half ran and half tumbled down the flights and flights of stairs, trying to get the image of herself in the mirror out of her head and trying to forget the strange, childish warmth that had come over her at the vague memory of the picture of herself among the smiling stars.  And then, strangely enough, all the colorful images that had surrounded her throughout the evening became confused with memories and sensations of dreams she had dreamed in the past but had forgotten, or were they dreams at all?  One moment she could tell forgotten dreams from memories and another it was impossible.  For one brief moment, everything came together and made perfect sense; but the next moment it was confusion again, and she couldn’t remember how it had made sense the moment before. 

          Once she had made it to the foot of the stairs, her eyes fell upon the large door where she had first come in, and she scrambled across the marble to it with gasps of relief; however, once she reached it, she was unable to find any apparatus thereupon by which to open the said door.  Search as she might, she could find no way to get out, to her utter dismay.  Finally after grabbing about and staring hard to be sure she hadn’t missed anything, she sank to the floor, dejected.

          It appeared that most of the other guests had already left.  The banquet hall was quiet; the ballroom empty.  She appeared to be quite alone.  With a sigh, she embraced her knees to her chest and dropped her head down, unwilling to make anymore vain attempts to understand or respond to whatever fate was befalling her. 

          The last stroke of twelve chimed.  The glistening top hat slid off her head and clattered to the floor.

          “You’re still here too, I see.” A voice said to her, after some time had passed.  She looked up reluctantly to see the white rabbit standing before her.  “Do you know what time it is?  You’re late.” He dangled his pocket watch directly in front of her face.

          “Late for what?” Princess Agamemnon asked glumly.

          “Late for work, like me.” The businessman said, coming up behind the rabbit and grabbing at his watch so he could see the precise time.  “And for dinner and bedtime and meetings and outings and anything else one can be late for.  Damn it!  I knew I had stayed too long.  These parties always go too long!”  The rabbit snatched his watch back, greatly annoyed.

          “Why? What time is it?  Seven o’clock?” Guessed the young boy with the long hair and the harp, joining them with a yawn.  He had no sense of time, and he was never late for anything.  “What am I supposed to be doing?”

          “It’s past midnight!” Snapped the young man. 

          “You’re late.” The rabbit informed him.

          “Late for what again?” Yawned the child.  “And which one is midnight?”

          “For everything!  Everything!” The young man cried dismally.

          “Quiet!” Came the voice of the old man as he shuffled in with his walking stick.  He turned slowly to Princess Agamemnon who stared up at him timidly.  “It’s not late at all.  It’s Time.” He told her.  There was a long pause as the two gazed upon one another.

          “Time for what?” She finally asked, clearing her throat.

          “It’s Time that makes fools out of us.”  He clarified.  “It’s Time that makes us forget who we are.”

          “And who are we?” Princess Agamemnon asked resignedly.

          “That, my dear, is the elephant in the room.” He answered her.  She stared coldly at him.

          “What is?” She asked.

          “What is?” He repeated, laughing.  “Why, that fellow over there!  Surely you see him!” He used his walking stick to direct her attention to the elephant who was meandering toward them as they spoke.  Agamemnon groaned and put her head back down. 

          “Of course she doesn’t; nobody really does.” The elephant told them, trying to keep from sounding resentful. 

          “I see you, I see you!” Agamemnon protested without raising her head.  The elephant glanced at her sympathetically, now regretting his pettiness, and patted her softly on the head.

          “Kind of you to say, but unnecessary.” He said to her.  “I came to tell you your mother called earlier and left you a message.”  Agamemnon raised her head slowly and stared at him. 

          “My mother called?” She repeated.

          “She sent you a package that should have arrived today.  You may want to check your porch.” He continued.  “She’s been cleaning out the basement and trying to get rid of old junk, but she didn’t want to throw out anything that you might want to hold onto for nostalgia’s sake.  You were always such a packrat as a child, you know.”

          “I know, I know,” she nodded in confusion.  “So you’re telling me my mother called here just now…”

          “About the package.” The elephant agreed.  “You always had more toys than you knew what to do with.  Well, you know I never blamed you.”

          “Blamed me for what?” The princess rubbed her temples miserably.

          “For forgetting about me.”

          “What…?”

          “Don’t be so dramatic.” The rabbit scoffed.  “She forgot about all of us eventually.”

          “Did she forget about me?” Yawned the boy.

          “Yes!”

          “I forgot.” He said sadly.  “Why did she forget?”

          “Who knows?” The man in the business suit shrugged. “No one can remember everything.”

          “I can.” The old man cut in.  “I remember it all.  But I won’t tell you.  If you don’t remember, it must not be important to you.”

          “Elephant!” Princess Agamemnon exclaimed, looking at the elephant with the top hat and monocle.  “My elephant that I lost…  I slept with him every night when I was six or seven.  He was just gone one day, and I thought he would turn up, but he never did.  Then I just forgot…”

          “It’s okay.” The elephant nodded.

          “I loved him.  I really did.” She said to herself.  “But I forgot about him.  I was just a little kid.”  She looked up and stared narrowly at the elephant as the early childhood memories and feelings flooded through her mind.  “I didn’t mean to forget him.  He was just gone one day.” She paused and bit her lip, not wanting to become emotional but finally cried out, “Where have you been?”

          “Things get lost.” The elephant answered consolingly.  “Lost in closets, under beds, friends’ houses, accidentally thrown away, or outside in bushes.  It’s not important.”  Before he had even finished this thought, he found her clinging to him tightly.

          “How could I have forgotten you?” She choked.  “You went everywhere with me.  I remember it all now, I wrote stories about you.”

          “You wrote stories about all of us.” Muttered the man in the business suit.  “What did you think all of this was, anyway?”

          “So the secret is finally out!” Boomed Irving’s charming voice from the foot of the stairs.  “Why, Princess, you’ve dropped your hat.”  Agamemnon turned her head without releasing the elephant. 

          “What is the point of all this, Irving?” She asked, dismally.  “I know now that this is all a dream and that I’ll have to wake up at any second, but what was the point of putting me through all this?”

          “Why assume that this is all my doing, my perfect, young dope?” Irving cooed angrily at her.  “Perhaps a more fitting question is why you have put us through all of this?”

          “That’s absurd, you know very well you’ve been running this show from the beginning!” Cried the Princess.

          “Have I?” Irving sneered.  “I am not the lord of this world or the next, and I never have been nor will be.  I, much like all of these sad fools, am just a silly pawn in this mad game you created.  Yes, you, my dear, are the insane magic Princess of this madcap kingdom, but just like you did with our lovely elephant here, you simply forgot us all one day and became distracted with shinier toys, leaving us to whirl about like idiots in a fog!”

          “Yes, I forgot you!” Bellowed the Princess.  “I forgot all of you because I grew up and went on with life like we’re all supposed to!  I can’t help it if you’re all whirling around in space or somewhere – you should have all disappeared into nothing!”  She turned back to the elephant and kissed him affectionately.  “Goodbye, my love.” She whispered to him and hurried to the door.  It opened the second she turned the invisible doorknob as she somehow knew it would.  She turned and took one last look at all of them.

          “This time have the decency to disappear.”  She told them all solemnly.  “As your Princess, I command it.”  And with that, she disappeared from their sight into the darkness.

 

Part 5 – The End

            Princess Agamemnon could feel the darkness around her without opening her eyes.  She could also feel the warmth of her bed, and the wrinkled sheets around her feet bothered her.  She knew she had been dreaming and that she had just woken up, but she didn’t want to be released just yet.  She could still see them all in her mind, and the feelings she had felt were still fresh though slowly fading away. 

            “How can dream feelings be so much deeper than real feelings?” She thought to herself, still feeling the remnants of sadness left from the last few moments of her dream, and wondering why she was now clinging to them, trying hard not to forget them.  Little by little it was disappearing from her mind, try as she might. 

            “Oh well,” she thought, beginning to feel more herself again.  She yawned and stretched her legs out with a little shudder, and turned over to snuggle deeper down into her covers; however, when she rolled over, she bumped into something beside her.  It was cold and hard like steel.  Agamemnon gasped and sat up in bed with a jolt.

            There lay Irving, head perched on her hand, grinning a wide, icy grin up at her.  Cathy gawked at her speechlessly.  Neither said anything for what seemed like quite some time.

            “Irving?” Agamemnon finally stammered, clutching at her blanket.

            “Cathy?” Irving returned, her spooky grin growing ever wider, showing a set of what appeared to be shining glass teeth, much sharper than they had ever appeared before.

            “What…are…you…doing… in… my…bed?” Agamemnon stammered, eyes widening as she noticed Irving’s bare white shoulders resting above the blankets.  “Are you naked?” 

            “Why, yes,” Irving affirmed pleasantly.  “But then, so are you.”  Agamemnon glanced down and flushed, realizing the ghost was telling the truth.  She hugged her blankets ever more tightly around herself.

            “I’m still dreaming!” She groaned. 

            “Oh no, my dearest moron, you are quite awake.” Irving yawned, climbing out of bed.  “And I need to try something on you.  It belongs to the beautiful princess Agamemnon with whom I had the pleasure of dancing with at the Ball yester-night.  The clock struck twelve, and she was gone into the night with the other stars, but in her haste she forgot this.” Irving pulled out from under her pillow the shimmering, translucent glass top hat.  Agamemnon stared at her.

            “Irving, what do you want from me?” She asked.

            “Nothing at all!  That is, nothing at all if you are not my illustrious Lady Fair… the magnificent and terrifying Princess of Stars and Moon… then I should leave you quite alone.  But only the hat can tell.  Will it fit snugly on your terrible little head, or will it topple to the floor and break into a million pieces that will blow away like fairy dust in the wind… and I along with it?” 

            “I get it, sort of like Cinderella, but with a hat,” grumbled Agamemnon.  “Put some clothes on!”

            “If you don’t know who you are, then we’re all lost in oblivion!” Roared Irving, suddenly rising up, white with rage.  “This is the end of the story!  Tell me your name!” 

            Agamemnon stared in alarm at the fairy-demon, who now seemed more frightened than angry.  Her eyes rested on the hat, and the strange feelings of childish warmth that had risen up when she had looked in the mirror before began to poke at her again.  She could tell her mind was grasping, but at what?

            Suddenly she jumped out of bed, and throwing on a robe, she ran out of the room.  Down the hallway she went and through her small living room to her door, and flinging it open, she stared out at her snow-covered porch.  There it was. 

            She pulled it through the door as it was too large for her to lift and brushed the snow off of it.  Grabbing some scissors she went to work at the tape.  She buried her arms in the Styrofoam packing, feeling around for anything really, but knowing deep inside what it was she was reaching for.  One by one, her childhood memories emerged.

            Handfuls of trinkets she had collected as a little girl, such as rings, lockets, and snow globes.  Stuffed animals, dolls, books, Christmas ornaments, VHS tapes.  She held each item in her hand for a moment, letting the strange familiarity creep over her.  Plunging once more into the box, she pulled out a stuffed elephant – her dear stuffed elephant she thought she had lost for good.  She gazed down at him with affectionate surprise.

            “My true love.” She said to herself with a smile before setting him beside her and going back into the box. 

            There at the very bottom of the box were several folders full of pictures and stories she had made.  And there living quietly in those faded stories and drawings they all were.  The fox, the boy, the old man… the rabbit, the businessman… the mad ice bathroom with the bubbles and statues, and the ball with the woodland creatures… crazy Irving, her fairy godmother… and there was she, Agamemnon – the wildly beautiful, magic princess of the fantasy world she herself had created, surrounded by stars with faces.  She began to laugh in spite of herself as tears sprung to her eyes.  She put her face in her hands and sat there in silence. 

            “And what, pray tell, is THIS?” Bellowed a voice.  Looking up she watched as Irving, who had previously been watching quietly from behind her, reached down deep into the box, all the way up to her waist, and pulled out a giant, shimmering tea set.  “You had it all this time?” She screeched.  “I might have known – you villainous, haughty twit, I should have realized…” She trailed off as Agamemnon rose slowly to her feet, seeming taller than before, with an icy expression that was suddenly very serious.  Her eyes were bright, and there was deep color in her cheeks and hair – she was suddenly quite majestic.

            “Do you dare speak to your Princess that way?” Came Agamemnon’s voice, with chilling calm.  “This, my dear godmother, is my diamond china tea set.”

            “And who, pray tell, might you be?” Irving asked, her eyes narrowing into slits.

            “I am Princess Agamemnon,” she declared, “Creator of Fairytales, Singer of Songs!”  She reached into the box again, so deeply this time that her head was buried in the packing, and she pulled out her glimmering blue dress from the night before and slipped it over her head.  It rippled down her back and legs and spilled across the floor.

            “Well?  Where is my hat?” She demanded.  Irving pulled it from behind her back and threw it straight up in the air.  It came down directly upon Agamemnon’s head, and it fit perfectly. 

            “My lady,” Irving gave a deep bow.

            “Come,” Agamemnon commanded, holding out her hand.  “The universe awaits.”

            They walked out the door into a world of ice and bubbles, poetry and song, and True Love that waits forever and never forgets.

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