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The Sleeping Beauty and the Seven Inmates
“She’s a dangerous individual. We’ve come into contact with her before. Approach with caution.”
The police officers were lined up against the wall parallel to the door, signaling each other with their eyes. They had done this many times before, but nothing like this. There was cold, raw fear in each of their eyes, something that had been vacant for so long before.
Approach with caution.
The one closest to the door, the clear leader of the small team nodded her head toward the pathetic door. It was broken, withered, and the hinges squeaked unbearably when the soldier on her left kicked it open. Through the door, they could see a bright red light that seeped through the cracks, but it was nothing compared to how it overpowered the small room that they stood in now. The five of them rushed in, guns raised, tight against their chest, but soon recoiled. Four of them gasped, the noise echoing through each of their earpieces. Now this, the leader thought, is cold, raw fear.
The girl in the center of the room was too still. She seemed frozen in time, levitating lifelessly in the middle of the room, a foot off the floor. The small, shallow breaths were barely noticeable. The soldiers stood in awe for a moment, completely clueless as to what to do. How could this beautiful young girl be deemed a “dangerous individual”? They too seemed frozen in time as they looked at her and soaked in the rose light. The seven men surrounding her, however, were not.
They too, had done this many times, but it seemed like luck had turned against them on this one. They thought they had planned it well enough so that they wouldn’t cross paths with the government, but here they were always, mesmerized by the feat they had witnessed a hundred times before. Four of them stood strategically around her, sharp, pickaxe like weapons raised, and the other three stood facing her, just...watching. Intently observing. After a moment, the team, the government, came to. It was like whatever trace they were under just broke, stopped.
The four dwarves were hesitant at first. It was odd, because they seemed to be skilled and comfortable with their weapons, but they seemed almost frightened of the other people. They inched forward, slowly, but as soon as the team regained their consciousness, they attacked. At least as much as you can attack people who aren’t attacking you.
There really was no fight. The soldiers moved in closer to the circle of dwarves, toward the rose-glowing girl. The dwarves hardly fought back, just jabbing their weapons harmlessly at them, only for them to practically bounce off the black suits. With ease, the soldiers each took a pair of handcuffs and rounded up the screaming men. The four dwarves on the outside were rounded up, taken, shouting at the others, out of the room. The last three, around the girl, drew back, defenseless. They too were taken out of the room.
The leader of the team stood in the now quiet room, with only the girl and her second with her. She was still levitating, still as could be despite the dispute from a few moments before. The leader looked at her second, confused, for once, at what to do, then tapped her earpiece.
“Subject is in our possession. Request for an ambulance.”
The seven little men were separated, of course. They were practically small enough to fit through the bars, and I couldn’t have them plotting an escape plan together. Their names were completely ridiculous; we couldn’t ID them, and they refused to tell us their real names, so we were forced to call them by their pseudonyms. I happily threw Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, and Doc into seven different cells, despite their constant yells of “You’re in danger! You’re all in danger!” Thanks for the reminder, Doc.
I took them into the interrogation room one by one. Usually after a few minutes with someone you can start to get their vibe, understand how they talk and what they mean, predict what they’re going to say. Let me tell you, I’d never dealt with anything like this before.
“Now, ah, Grumpy, let’s just take it easy for a second-”
“Easy? Easy? Oh, right, we’re all going to die in less than twenty four hours and you want me to ‘take it easy’? Listen, bub! You can take that ‘easy’ and shove it right up your-”
(I proceeded to leave when I felt the handcuffs couldn’t take any more abuse.)
“Uh, Bashful? Hello?” I even waved my hand in front of his face. “Anyone in there?”
(I proceeded to leave when a fat tear rolled down his plump face.)
“Now you would be, um, Sneezy, right?” (This one seemed willing to cooperate.)
“Not…” He sneezed. “Not for lo...lo…” he sneezed again. Spit flew across the table and he shook his head vigorously. “So...sorry. Long. We’ll all be dea..dea…”
I left without letting him finish his sentence. I already knew what the ending was.
It was a common theme in all of them. “We’re all gonna die soon...just twenty four hours.” They wouldn’t even explain what it meant, just kept repeating it. They were insane, probably drug users or alcoholics, but I couldn't help but get a little frightened by their repeated warnings. Doc, however, was a different story.
“I suppose you're Doc, then.” I sighed, exhausted after the last six. “And yes, before you even mention it, I know we’re ‘all going to die’. Care to explain? Or are you doing to be cryptic about it like your friends?”
He sighed a lowered his head slowly, and I think he tried to press his fingers to his head, but they were handcuffed to the table. He let out a long breath. “She’s dormant now,” he explained, shocking me. “In twenty...” he looked at a silver watch on his wrist. “...One hours she’ll be active again.”
I nearly bubbled over in excitement. This one, this one was actually sane. He was willing to explain in a sense that I could understand, one that didn’t include crying or uncontrollable sneezing or threats. “Who?” I asked frantically in fear that he would stop talking at any moment. “Who is she? What do you mean by ‘active’?”
He chuckled hollowly. “Who do you think she is? You seem like a clever guy, Mr. Hunter. I’m sure you could figure it out.” He looked up at me with tired eyes.
What was he talking about? How could I recognize a random girl that we pulled from an old barn? I had never seen her before, and she was completely unrecognizable. However, there was something. Not her, and not the weird men, but all of them, all together. I couldn’t tell what it was, but there was something ringing a bell in my mind.
I shook my head. “I’ve never seen her before in my life.”
He scoffed and shook his head back. “You don’t have to see her to know who she is. Just try and remember.”
The hospital was so cold. There was a dense chill in the air, and it enhanced the smell of lemon and decontamination. It made me want to puke. As I was walking down the long halls, I silently thanked myself for going into criminology and not medicine like mom had wanted me to.
The room numbers blurred as I whizzed past them. 208...209...210...Finally the room number 210 came into view. My skin itched. It was exactly the same as all the others, a gross peachy beige color, but somehow it still stood out from all the others. I knocked gently on the door three times. I wondered if anyone would answer.
After a moment, the door swung open and I jolted back, surprised only by a nurse in blue scrubs. Slightly embarrassed, I cleared my throat. “Hi, I'm Agent Hunter.” I flashed my badge at him. “The receptionist said that our mystery girl was in here?”
“Yeah,” he replied, swinging the door open even further to reveal the girl. “We still can’t identify her. Doctor Norris thinks she might be a runaway orphan, or an illegal immigrant or something. You guys got anything yet?”
She was fast asleep, or in a coma, I couldn't tell. Either way, she was resting peacefully, her arms crossed and her hands resting on one another. From a distance, it was hard to tell whether she was breathing or not, her breaths were so shallow. However, the consistent beeping of the machine confirmed that she was. She looked so foreign in this environment, all the clean, white, bedding. The modern technology. She looked like she belonged in a fairy tale instead. Gosh, she was pale.
“Nope,” I answered, stepping into the room. “Nothing. This sleeping beauty of a girl really is a mystery.”
“Really?” He asked, intrigued. “I heard that when you guys found her, she was levitating. Like, crazy, supernatural, flying. Is that true? I just think its so in-”
I coughed. “Nurse, ah,” I looked at his ID. “Khanna. I admire the enthusiasm, but classified details should stay classified, I think.”
His eyes grew wide and he shook his head in understanding. “Yes, I suppose so.” He walked over to a cabinet and started folding blankets. “Well, feel free to try and get something out of her, I guess.”
I walked over to the side of the bed where she lay. Yes, I intend to, I thought. But what, and how? Agent Peters said that she seemed unconscious when her team found her, so if she had already been out for this long, when was she going to wake up? If she was even in a coma. The doctor said it was a coma-like state, but there was something different, something unfamiliar about it. I approached her cautiously, a part of me afraid that she would jump up at any moment. That was a big factor. Despite her closed eyes and shallow breathing, she seemed so alive. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
She was so pale. Her face, arms, hollowed eyes. Yet her cheeks and her lips were blood red. Her short black hair was tied up in a perfect red ribbon. I mean, she really did belong in a Disney movie.
Looking back at the nurse, who had moved on to scrubbing the sink, I extended my hand hesitantly, unsure as to whether I was allowed to touch her. I looked back at her rosy face, and brushed my fingers gently across her cheek, as to try and find any reaction. There was nothing. Not a glimmer of anything. She seemed so empty, so vacant, yet the presence of the beeping told me otherwise. I touched her forehead, and this time it was different.
There was no reaction in her face, but my finger started to tingle. It wasn’t normal, like your foot or your hand falling asleep, it was like a low level continuous shock. It didn’t hurt at first, but the tingling started to grow, more aggressive, and soon it spread to my entire hand. I pulled my hand back from her face. “Ow!” I exclaimed out loud, clutching my hand and looking at the nurse, but he didn’t seem to notice me. Didn’t seem to hear me. It wasn’t stopping, it felt like my hand was on fire. I was panicking because it wasn’t stopping.
Then, it felt like a ton of bricks had landed on my head.
It was so sudden, like a blinding flash of light overtook my brain. I yelped and pressed my hand to my head. If my hand was still hurting, I couldn’t feel it anymore. It was nothing compared to this. Through my fuzzy vision, I tried to look over at the nurse, but he was just standing there, folding shirts. It didn’t matter; I couldn’t get a word out anyways. I think I fell to the floor.
Then, he was just there.
The room was gone, the hospital was gone, it was just a guy standing in front of me. He looked around my age, maybe younger. He had a tan and deep green eyes, and his rough skin was overtaken with a scruffy brown beard. He looked tired, worried, but there was content in his eyes. Happiness. He mouthed something to me, or at least, I think to me. I couldn’t tell what it was. Gunner? Money? Happy? I couldn’t tell. As soon as it had begun, it seemed, it was over in a flash of hot white light.
The hospital room came back into view, and for once I was grateful to see it. “Geez, what happened?” I pressed my hand to my head. My other hand was resting on something. “Did you see that?”
“See what?” When my eyes focused I could see that my hand was still resting on Sleeping Beauty’s forehead. Shock ran through me and I pulled my hand back in fear that the whole thing would start again.
“What do you me-” I started, but was interrupted my the obnoxious ringing of my phone. Annoyed, I pulled it out of my pocket and answered it. “What? I asked impatiently. “I’m kind of busy, you-”
“Save it.” Naomi Peter’s voice was clear and sharp on the other side. “Our seven little culprits are gone.”
I hit my fist on the table. “What do you mean, they’re gone?”
“Gone, Hunter.” She rolled her eyes. “Escaped. Somehow, I don’t know.” She walked over to the table and took the remote. “I mean, just look at this.” She pressed a button, and the screen rewinded back to the point where they were still in their cells. “One thirty seven, when you were at the hospital.” She fast forward a few seconds, and I watched the tiny clock turn to one forty.
“Wait, where are they?”
“I don’t know, that’s just the thing.” She crossed her arms, leaving the screen frozen on an empty cell. “They vanished. God knows where, or how.” She shook her head and set the remote on the table. “I’ll make sure to tighten security on the place.”
I nodded vacantly as she walked out of the room, the door squeaked open, but stopped when her walkie talkie buzzed to life. I looked back at her and she stepped back into the room hesitantly. “Peters,” she responded quickly and professionally.
“We’ve got a break in at the hospital. Multiple armed criminals. Looks like they’re trying to take one of the patients.
Her eyes widened. “On my way.” She looked at me suspiciously. “Wasn’t that where they were keeping the girl?”
“Oh my…” I dashed out the door with her, leaving the screen frozen on the empty cell.
By the time the two of us got there, the back of the building was already surrounded by police cars. The sirens were wailing and the lights were flashing. It made my head hurt like before.
“What, are they still in there?” I asked a nearby cop. I looked up at the building, at the second floor. I assumed it was room 210.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “Seven of them. All armed.”
Armed? I recalled Naomi saying that the only weapons they had were pickaxes, nothing that we couldn’t handle. “Armed how?” I asked impatiently. “Is it really something we can’t risk?”
“Just a few guns,” I said. “But with the girl and other patients all over the place, we don't risk anything. I mean, where would we take the injured, a hospital?”
I shook my head. Of course, I was stupid. “Send a small team in. Officer Peters and I will go with them.”
Naomi, five cops and I rushed into the deserted lobby of the hospital. It was like a ghost town. I assumed all the people had rushed out of there and the doctors and nurses were trying to evacuate other patients. “Room two-ten. I’m sure of it.” I told them as we rushed up the stairs, guns drawn. We reached the second floor and turned the corner into the hallway I had walked down just hours before. There was no one in the hall, either. Just a few vacant gurneys and a nurse huddled in the corner shaking with fear.
“God, Khanna, is that you?”
His head shot up to reveal a crazed look on his face and messed up hair. “Help! Help!” He said quietly. “They’re in there!” He pointed to a room, the one the girl was in. 210.
The door was halfway closed, and from the crack that was open a soft rose-red light filtered through the air. There was hardly any noise coming from the room, and I could only wonder what they were doing if they hadn’t left yet. If the men were trying to take her, then why hadn’t they taken her yet? What was so important that they risk staying and increasing their jail time. Breaking and entering a cabin in the woods was one thing, but breaking and entering a hospital was an entirely different story.
The seven of us crept toward the door, Peters in the front. We were at the door, the only thing separating us the door frame and the thin wood of the door. She ducked down and peered cautiously into the door. My heart was pounding in my chest. Were they going to shoot her? Did they even have it in them? Grumpy could obviously get a little aggressive, but none of them seemed like killers to me. She inhaled sharply and turned back to us.
“It’s exactly like before.” she panted. “Four of them have guns, but we should easily be able to overpower them.”
It wasn’t explanation enough. “But what? What are they doing? Trying to break out?”
She seemed hesitant. “No, they’re just standing.” She looked at the five officers behind me. “Just like before.”
I nodded. I would see soon enough. “Okay,” I said, looking back at them. “Let’s go.”
Peters switched to the other side of the doorway, gun raised, and looked at me. I nodded, almost encouragingly. In one swift movement, she kicked open the door and I swung around the corner, the small gun my only shield from the horrors inside.
It was meant to come out strong and loud, but I couldn’t help but trail off after what I saw. The girl was hovering, just hovering a foot off the ground in midair. She looked exactly like she did before when she was just an innocent girl in a coma, but now a red light surrounded her, like a cloud. And she was hovering. In midair. The seven short men were squealing, raising their guns. They looked terrified of the weapon in their hands, like it was so unfamiliar to them, even though it was pointed at us. Or at least, I expected it to be. When I looked, really looked, their eyes were aimed at something right behind us.
I spun around just in time to see the door slam shut and a tall woman step in front of it.
“Ooh,” She said in a regal, evil voice. “A bonus.”
Peters spun around too. “Who are you?” She raised her gun.
She really was an odd woman. It was like she had just stepped out of comic-con. She wore a long, deep purple dress that trailed a few feet behind her. It had a tall black collar that made her neck look a few inches longer. I had to look twice before I processed the crown on her head.
“Paul Hunter.” She grinned. “What a pleasant surprise.”
My eyes widened at hearing my name in her mouth. “How do you know me? How-who are you?” The gun was slick in my hands.
She chuckled. It was annoying. “Paul, I had the pleasure of killing your great-great-great-great-great grandfather. And now I’m going to kill you.”
Then it was my turn to laugh. But before I could tell her she belonged in an asylum, I heard a small gasp from behind me. I turned around. “He’s…” Grumpy was saying in awe. “He’s the one?”
“The one?” I shouted. “The one what? None of you are making any sense! I can’t tell if you belong in a mental hospital or a Disney movie!”
“You’re...he’s…” Grumpy started to explain, but was cut off. By what, I don’t know. He coughed, and made a choking noise. Doc rushed over to help him.
“I think I’ll do the explaining.” The crazy woman said, her fist raised in his direction. She brought it down, and he stopped coughing.
“You crazy little…”
She cleared her throat, also regally.
“What the Disney movies forgot to include,” She started, pacing across the room, “Was that Snow White was having a little fling with my very own huntsman.”
I looked over at her. Snow White? It made sense, her pale skin, the seven little men, but it was utterly insane. “You don’t expect me to believe that this is the real Snow White.”
“All tales are true,” she explained. “Most of them just happened so long ago that no one can remember.”
I scoffed. “Then how is she here, perfectly young five hundred years later?”
“I was suspicious of their relationship,” she continued, ignoring my question. “And jealous of her beauty, so I sent him out to kill her, see what would happen. He didn’t, of course. So I killed him. Him and his wife. Only their child survived.”
“Not Snow White's?”
She laughed. “No, he was quite an unfaithful man. So as it would appear, you are the only one alive today who can wake her from the coma the prince brought to her. You see, the prince was in love with her, so the kiss only awoke her body but not her soul. Ta da! A coma. Tonight, being the five hundredth day of her coma, it is the last time she can be woken up. After that, she dies.” She crossed her arms and looked at me. “So, Hunter, I’ll make you an offer.”
“Don’t wake her up, and you walk out of here with your life.”
That’s when I heard the gunshot.
I looked over at Naomi to find her arm outstretched and her gun smoking. I looked back at the Evil Queen. She didn’t even flinch.
“Alas, only a dream…” she said, and faded away. I looked over at the girl and the seven men.
Grumpy looked at me, gun raised, and smirked. “Pucker up, Hunter.”