It has been a series of revisits for me so far. Case in point: Helene’s castle. Built of stone that is darker than ever, the same carved out staircase winds around the exterior walls, leading to a blank wall. Once upon a time, I would have wondered how we would get in and out of a castle that has no doors but now, I am content to follow Ms Pink’s lead. She walks in front of me as we climb the stairs and despite it being a less conducive moment, I am still able to appreciate having Ms Pink’s butt in my face. But the enjoyment is short lived. We stop half way up the stairs and the bricks begin to fade away before our very eyes.
The interior is pretty much the same. Black everything. Black, black, black. And there sits Helene on her throne, watching us with her coal black eyes. The only thing that isn’t quite the same this time is the strange sensation I can feel around me. I can’t quite find the exact words to describe it, but it feels as though I’m wrapped in lengths of bubble wrap and something is squishing me from the outside.
“My dear Pan Ni, come.”
I stand still, my feet planted within the boundaries of a big stone slab and follow Ms Pink with my eyes as she ascends the steps leading to Helene’s throne. It is clear that some things have changed between Ms Pink and Helene. For one, Ms Pink allows Helene to stroke her face and Helene’s smile would be touching if I weren’t as uneasy as I am right now. They exchange a few words that I can’t make out and several times, Helene’s eyes meet mine. Each time, I will look away first.
With a nod, Helene rises from her throne. “Follow me.”
I fall into step as she steps down and walks across the great hall. An opening in the floor appears from nowhere and we head down the stairs into the dungeons. I remember being locked up in Ms Pink’s childhood bedroom the last time we were down here. Really, it’s only been a couple of months but it feels like it’s light years away.
We arrive at a solid steel door that reminds me of a vault. Ms Pink turns to me as Helene turns the handle and says, “Trust me. Go in.”
I look into the darkness beyond the vault door and a stab of fear hits me in the gut. But Ms Pink has asked me to trust her so I will. Without further question, I step past the door and into the darkness. The door is closed behind me with a clang and I spin around, heart beating hard in my chest. Why am I locked in here? What’s happening?
“AH!” I scream when something brushes against my leg. Something furry. I run away from it, trying to find the door. I slam into a solid surface and turn my back against it to keep myself safe from surprise attacks. I have no idea what’s going but I remind myself that Ms Pink wouldn’t let me get hurt. Would she?
A low growl comes from my right. I crouch near the floor, trying to make something out in the darkness. Something is hunched up and approaching slowly. I hold my breath, nerves jumping about all over the place and keep my hands on the floor. A swish has me on my feet and backing away quickly when the lights come on without warning, almost blinding me. Bracing myself for an attack, I am shocked to see a man instead of a furry creature. And when I finally register the face, my shock turns into panic.
The man in a grey suit smiles. “No. He is dead. I am Praneos.”
“W-What do you want? Why are you in here?”
“I’m here to tell you about your precious Ms Pink.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you know how she turned into a vampire?”
My insides turn into ice. I have never really thought about it. “Helene . . . is her vicist.”
“Yes, you are correct. Do you know how? Do you know why?”
“W-Why are you telling me this now? Why are you in here? What’s going on.”
Praneos comes closer and I shrink against the wall behind me. “Young Princess Hwang Pan Ni. Lost her family. Saw their murder with her very eyes. Do you know why she wasn’t killed too?”
“I-I don’t know.”
“Because the man liked the look of her. He saw her and thought, wouldn’t it be lovely to mark her baby smooth skin with welts and scars?”
My eyes snap shut. Unwilling to allow the heartrending vision to get to me. No. Praneos has a purpose in saying all these things. But Ms Pink said to trust her and she’s the one who asked me to come in here, knowing that Praneos is in here too. So what is her motive in doing this?
“Have you ever heard her screams when he chained her up and whipped her?”
“No . . . don’t.”
Screams fill the box of a stone cold room and I cup my ears in attempt to shut out Pan Ni’s painful, heart-breaking cries. It doesn’t work and my mind is filled with her screams. A young girl’s cries for help. I can’t. I can’t listen to this anymore. Stop it. Stop it!
“He whipped her every day.”
“He stripped her and whipped her. In the morning. In the afternoon. In the evening. At night.”
“No . . .”
“And he did it for no reason other than his perversion.”
“Stop it, please.”
“My brother didn’t know. He didn’t know the assassin he hired would take the princess. He wanted the whole family dead. No survivors to pull a revenge plot on him.”
“Your brother hired him. Don’t try to shift the blame away from him!”
“But Helene found Princess Pan Ni. The princess was well on her way to death, but she was lucky because Helene came across her. Do you know how Helene found her?”
“No . . .” I’m afraid to know but I can’t stop him from telling me.
“Hanging from her wrists. Blood running down her arms. Caked blood everywhere on her body. Her naked, torn, damaged body. There was not a spot you could touch without hurting her.”
“Her eyes could barely open. Her lips cracked and dry. She was an inch away from leaving this world forever.”
“Stop talking!” A surge of energy rises and wraps around me as I yell and Praneos vanishes before my eyes. I look around, confused, anxious and afraid. What happened? Where did he go? The door swings open on its own and I stare at it, suspicious of what lies beyond. But Ms Pink calls for me and I sag to the floor in relief.
Ms Pink steps into the room and comes straight to me. “Shh . . .” She holds me close, arms around my trembling body and wipes my tears away. I had not even realised I was crying. “You’re safe.”
“W-What was that about?”
“To see how your energy is triggered.”
“I’m not a test subject.”
“We have to find out what sparks your energy.”
“First you make me put on a sex show for the Feds. Then you put me in a scary place with the horrible man.” The more I think about it, the angrier I become. This is really weird. I’ve never been the short-tempered type. “I am not a puppet. And I’m not your toy.”
“You’re not a puppet or a toy.” Ms Pink frowns. “You’ve changed so much. You’ve become such an angry stupid human.”
Anger surges and I push Ms Pink away. “I’m not stupid!”
“Come to me.”
“I can’t.” It isn’t until the words are spit out that I realize how true they are. I can’t. I can’t calm down. My emotions are in a swirl and my anger is simmering below the surface. It’s like an angry monster is lying in wait, holding off for a chance or reason to be unleashed. Funny. I’ve never noticed its presence before.
I try to heed Ms Pink’s words. It is difficult but I take three deep breaths and feel a little better. Ms Pink steps closer and hugs me again. “Stupid human.”
“Ms Pink, what is happening to me?”
“Your Erika is taking over.”
This alarms me. “What do you mean ‘taking over’? Am I going to be possessed by the Erika?”
“You are the Erika. It can’t possess you.”
“But you said it’s taking over.”
“You need to control your emotions better.”
“How am I going to do that?”
“We will trigger your emotions and you will learn how to control them.”
“Was it the same for you after turning into a vampire?”
Ms Pink shakes her head.
“What was it like for you? I want to know.”
Ms Pink strokes my hair. “I will tell you what it was like. But first, you have to go through a few more tests.”
“More tests?” I feel like crying again. “I don’t want to go through any more tests. I’m too tired. I need to rest.”
Ms Pink turns and looks at the wall but it seems as though she’s communicating with someone. Especially when she nods a moment later. “Fine. You will rest for a while.”
I decide to drop the question for now in favour of some rest. This emotional triggering is really draining on the mind and heart and I just want to lie down right now.
“Please lie down with me,” I say as Ms Pink makes to leave the room. I don’t want to be alone in Ms Pink’s room with all the images of a bloody princess in my mind. The chains hanging down from the ceiling aren’t helping either. Ms Pink takes a good look at me before shrugging her coat off and getting into bed with me. I feel much better with her arms around me, protecting me from the nightmares that may attack.
“Do you regret falling into my office three months ago?”
“No, why would I?”
“Your life would not be like this.”
Ms Pink is right. Barely two days after her return, here I am, reduced to tears, pressured into emotional upheavals and rendered helplessly tired of the drama happening around me. And just over sixty days ago, I had come close to dying, losing Ms Pink and had my wits completely twisted in the craziest trial ever. But would I trade it all away for an ordinary life?
“But I wouldn’t get to know you.”
“Am I worth that much to you?”
Ms Pink’s question makes me turn in her arms to face her immediately. “Of course. That goes without saying.”
“Why?” I blink in surprise. Is Ms Pink actually asking me why she is worth that much to me? Ms Pink? The all-mighty-princess-vampire-queen-of-fashion-empire Ms Pink? She’s immortal, possesses death-defying beauty, wealth and power and she’s asking me if she’s worth that much to me? Me, an ordinary stupid human. “Because I fell in love with you. I don’t know when and I don’t know how but I can’t do without you now. I don’t want to live my life without you.”
Ms Pink’s eyes glow pink and my heart sings as she smiles and leans in to kiss me. At once, all fear and anxiety fly out the window as I sink into the cottony world of Ms Pink’s lips and caressing arms. And right there, the solution lies clearly in sight.
“Ms Pink. I know how we can calm my anger.”
“Kiss me when I’m angry.”
Ms Pink simply rolls her eyes. “Stupid human,” she says, but her lips are curling up into a giveaway smile. Then, she’s pulling me further into her embrace as she adds, “You have to learn to do it by yourself.”
With a sign, I close my eyes and burrow into her soft blouse and curls. No matter how difficult it is to learn, I am willing to do anything as long as Ms Pink is by my side, always.