Official Damsel artwork by Mijin Jeon. Go see their work! They rule. Now on with the story….
The lights shine in my face and I try to remember that this time I chose to be here. Fate of the world, and all that. I used to think that was just an expression. Opposite me is Richard Gupta, floating in a lounging position, which I know he is doing to taunt me for my disability. ‘I can fly and you can’t’. Twat. He’s the head exec. for the team that’s been on me since that was a thing, sitting proud because he’s finally got me. At least, that’s what I’ve let him think. I’m here, in this TV studio, for my own purpose. The bright red walls warn me of danger but I’m already well aware. Perhaps the warning is for him.
Dick has a tick and that is to touch his slimy head every time he starts speaking. I don’t know why, but it makes me smile as I wonder if he even knows. He does it again as the rest of the crew quieten down around us, focusing on their tasks. There’s two camera guys, who adjust them to get my clearest picture. I guess they need a spare just in case one breaks or something. There’s a guy with those clunky headphones on too and he’s carrying a boom mic over our heads, which is a lot easier when you can fly, and he makes sure they don’t miss a word. There’s some others standing around, who probably should have something better to do, but are fascinated by what this rebel is going to say. I don’t mind. They can stay.
Dick gestures like a TV host. “So, Sara, we’ve got a lot to cover today. Let’s ease people in and why not start with who you are and what your… role is. Your original role, I mean,” he says with a massive smile. He knows what is at stake. We’ve had our ups and downs but we agree that this needs to be done, even if he doesn’t know the end game. He twitches, waiting for my answer.
I try to smile for the cameras, for the crew watching, for the audience which I hope is watching at home – if there are any homes left by now. Can’t forget that ticking clock.
“You said it, I’m Sara. I’m the damsel.” I shift on my stool, the shoddy construction that it is, with splinters up my butt, and I’m thinking about how to worm my way forward to my goal. No, enough worming, sneaking and timidly stepping around all the bulls and the elephants. I am the bull now. The biggest fucking bull they’ve ever seen.
“And, for those who have been living underground…”. He turns and smirks at the camera over his shoulder. “What is the damsel?”
I realise we have time to kill but perhaps not this much time.
“Boy, you are starting it off easy aren’t you?” I reply. “If I remember from my mum’s history lessons – Hi, Mum! – years ago, centuries actually, the world society, newly formed, was crumbling, no collapsing would be a better word. All the infighting amongst factions and continents was destroying the nations themselves, not just their newfound unity. When people have the power to punch through mountains, countries get shook up pretty quickly, right? But amongst it all, a girl was born, the weakest (most pathetic) thing in all humanity.” I gesture with opening arms, almost losing balance on my stool.
“And what did she do?” he interrupts with.
Is he afraid the audience is going to forget he is here? Let me speak already. I need to move things on. I try to swallow the retort before it escapes. This is the best I’ve ever told this story – I’ve told it a lot – and I’ll be damned if he’s going to ruin it.
“The story goes that she was so beautiful that news of her birth spread quickly around the world and the fighting stopped. Just like that. Everyone wanted to see the perfect girl.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“Curiosity, at first, but it continued. She was a delicate beauty that couldn’t survive in such a harsh world, as it was, but the people couldn’t bear to harm her. So they united again, under her; she became a reminder that should the fighting ever start again, the beauty of the world would be lost. However, she grew old faster than anyone else. By 40 years she had lost a lot of her beauty, by 70 she could barely walk, which she was better at than most people because she never flew. Then she died aged 74, when most were in their prime. The world was united in mourning. A great funeral was held and for 100 days barely a word was spoken – now, that bit I don’t believe. The greatest world event ever happens and nobody speaks? I consider that some kind of poetic, artistic license. Anyway, romanticism aside, when the mourning was over, the news came to the leaders of the world union, that another flightless child had been born in the east Asias. The founding leader himself flew to see the child with his own eyes and despite her dimwits, disability and horrid drooling problem, she was as beautiful as the girl before her. There was much rejoicing.”
I paused for a breath and to swallow some of the water on the stand by my chair.
“So, it was peaceful again?” Dick chimes in.
“Yes, but the child grew to be so beautiful that many would fight over her, proclaiming themselves best to safeguard her. She was often captured by rivals to be prisoner in their court, brief skirmishes occurred too, but all the people of the world remembered the feelings they had when they first saw the girl: happiness, contentment and peace. Peace always returned as long as the girl was safe. So forever, she was helped. Villains were drawn to her, but so were the heroes, to save her. The more pure their soul, the stronger the pull, or some nonsense like that. She became known as the damsel, and since then to each generation a damsel has been born to unite the world and maintain peace.”
“Peace…” He snorts, and I want to punch him in his slimy face. “And now the damsel is you, Sara.”
I sit up straight. Solemn. We’re getting to the good stuff now.
“And do we have peace?”
Everyone is quiet and for a moment the pressure gets to me. I can’t help noticing all the faces watching me. They all look so angry. No, resentful.
“We did. Last Tuesday, briefly over lunch… but that’s not entirely my fault…”
“Riots, vigilantes, people being crippled by a mysterious…well, we don’t know what but they’re saying that an end is coming. They’re fearing the worst.”
That was enough. Now he’s just showboating for his own ratings, and in the middle of a damn apocalypse. “Hey, you’re not a reporter any more, Dick.” I make sure to emphasise his name. “Let’s keep it on the goal here.”
I could see the anger flaring up behind his eyes. He doesn’t like being talked down to by someone a fraction of his age. It’s not my fault I mature quicker than him. He can’t have been a day over 120. Punk.
“We’ll get to that in a minute. We have the time, the studio is booked, and we’re going to start at the beginning so everyone fully understands what is going to happen here tonight.” He stands up and waves his arms to gather more attention, like magic, out of the air. He pauses, confident that all eyes in the city, possibly the world, are focussing on this moment. “You’re going to tell us how it all went wrong. So why don’t we talk about the first day, when you came out to the world, a world with a tenuous link to its essential damsel. What happened on that first day, Sara?”
“You mean when you burst into my life and plastered an unsuspecting teenage girl all over the media for money?”
“Properly,” he says.
Oh come on, Dick. I was just having fun.
Sure, I hadn’t been the damsel the world wanted right from the beginning, but that wasn’t my fault. My parents chose to raise me in secret. It became my fault after that first day; the first day of public high school. After a lifetime of being homeschooled and secluded my parents had decided to thrust me into the spotlight, and I didn’t even know why.