I felt a draft. The cold damp air had frizzed my hair and the curls around my face now adhered to my brow like resin, the touch so disturbing that it woke me to my senses. I opened my eyes to a sky bleak and morbid. How long have I been asleep? And who thrust open the shutters so that this foggy drab slithered into my room?
Who removed the gable?
I shuddered, more from shock than from cold. The gable? The rooftop is gone?
My heart leapt as I reached for my robe. How long I’ve been sleeping I had no idea. It seemed like only an afternoon. What could have happened in such a short space of time that the gable to the tower was removed? Did the Croatians roll in the catapults whilst my father dined? Had the knights forsook their posts to satisfy their incessant appetite for wine and in so doing forfeit our kingdom to a handful of rogues? And why did they leave me here?
I flew to the window and sucked in the gust of wind, stunned by what I saw, or did not see. There were no sycamore trees, no cottonwoods as I remembered. The roses were gone, the dusty road that once meandered into the woods had disappeared. I raced to the four windows on each wall of the tower. Blood drained from my face as I beheld the horror in every direction. The fields to the south where once the peasants farmed drowned by a raging sea. The hills to the north, a blanket of water, churning into an ebon sky. To the east the mists hovered so close to me any sign of a village had vanished. To the west the hope of day fell past the horizon.
“Father!” I called as loud as I could but there was no answer. Perhaps he was in the throne room.
I opened the tower door and began the spiral down the stairs, the wind whistled through the corridor and forced me to hold onto the rail lest I lose my footing. To my right an ingress beat against its sill, an entry I did not remember until I clutched the wooden handle and looked inside. Among the rubble of fallen stone from ruined walls lay a lone spinning wheel. A strange sight, stranger still was how my memory jolted when the rays of the setting sun lingered on its spindle. I remembered that wheel, though I should not. Only the servants worked the wool. My father had refused that I lay eyes on such a tool even though when I was young, I begged him to let me try my hand.
Again the wind whistled through the skeleton of my family’s castle. The call of a gull beckoned me further down the stairwell but by now the rungs were loose and dangerous. A musty smell permeated the hall, and before me nothing but debris, and pools of foamy sea met my eyes. There was no further to go. The castle had fallen well under water and turned to stone. I was alone on an island eroding away from a hammering ocean, an ocean that should have been miles away. Despondent I climbed toward the tower again. I would lie on my bed and let life have its will with me. I shall dream of sunny days and handsome princes, as I had before I awoke.
I peered into the room where the spinning wheel stood and paused, digging into my memory. Perhaps I could recall why only I and this lowly instrument were all that was left of a proud and industrious kingdom. The wind blew so hard now that the wheel moved round, and the spokes sang, beckoning me near. I submitted to its call, entranced by the strobe of light that flashed through the room as it spun.
Someone laughed and I pivoted around to see who, but I was alone. Again a sound, this time I knew it was the gull. Below the squawking bird, the tail of a whale broke surf and splashed. Drops of sea and salt flew into my face and though I had no reason to, I laughed.
“Come,” the voice said.
I spun around again so quickly that I pricked my finger on a spoke of the wheel. So clear to me now, I had pricked my finger once before and had fallen asleep. This time I will not doze. This time I will answer the call of the prince of the sea, for it is he that swore to rescue me.
I tore off my robe and stepped through the window onto the tumbling platform that had once been a lookout. From here I could see that the fate of the castle was evident. Should I remain here I would meet my doom. But the great white whale waited for me. I stretched out my arms, my toes curled over the edge. The wind picked me up as I jumped, my hair danced wildly in its flurry. Like a falling star I fell and splashed into the water but I was not cold, nor did I dive far below the surface, for the whale lifted me from death, his silky body warm against my flesh.
And now together we skate across the swells. How far we will travel, I do not know.