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Tell Tale Interactive
Reality is not worth it; being as it’s cruel and heartless. Mapped in straight lines and sharpened edges, creativity is limited. As a child, my eyes saw things differently than most. A tree was not simply a tree, but a mystical castle built to take me away from this even and dull life. I was called Lola then. Lola Green. Some insist I still go by that name. Like Sister Rogers,
“Keeping the name you were given at birth will remind you of who you were before the accident, Lola.” They try to help wherever they can, the nuns at the orphanage.
I simply replied, “Well, ain’t that a bite.” That girl is gone; swallowed by the same evil that chewed up her parents six years ago.
My name is Snow White now. I do not intend to take the classic fairytale as my own, just the name. Snow White is pure magic. Talking animals, a hidden cottage; so much better than my life. I try not to think about my life or those who have come and gone. I try not to think at all. My head is an empty shell. A blank canvas. I fill it with colorful images instead; unknown to any person here. I am glad they cannot follow me. They would not appreciate my friend’s clumsiness or his brother’s constant frown. Snow White embraces it. It would be a mystery to them to understand why I would rather spend hours locked in my head with seven tiny men, than be with one who was real. I already had a man. In fact, one who loved me and took care of me. One who read me stories when I could not fall asleep. One who framed artwork of my rough design, calling it beautiful. I did have a man who was real, but he’s gone now; bringing Lola and her mother along with him.
Maybe they found happiness in the world they are now. Maybe they did not mind leaving. He, at least was never her anyway. Always caged in his mind. Living in a different world. A happier one. A lighter one. No worries. No feelings. Just floating, higher and higher; fueled by sweet dust. Lola called it Pixie Dust.
“ It makes you fly,” he used to say; spinning her around the room and humming a tune. He seemed happier, those days. She wanted to accompany him in his flight above the clouds. She would give anything to find the Pixie Dust supplier. Mother thought differently. The devil’s mist clenches and suffocates its victims with fake ecstasy.
It was early morning when my father was shoved out the door, mother chasing after him in regret. Her frenzied mind took control and drove her into a ruby red Hudson. Father’s ruby red Hudson. Time stopped when they left. Left this world for another one. Lola left, too. Leaving an empty shell cracked and broken. Snow White fills this shell. Brings it back to life. She leaves this world, for a new one. A happier. A lighter one. This world is my comfort. My closest relations being mythical creatures. They do not stroke my hair or frame my art, but they are there for me. Always. They do not run. They do not hide. They do not die. Most importantly, they do not trust Pixie Dust.
Every night, Sister Rogers comes to our room at exactly midnight. It takes her fifteen steps. Ten up the antique spiral staircase retrieved from an old mansion in the late 19th century; five across the narrow hall laced with portraits of past nuns. She stops at the door , catching her breath and regaining proper posture. She’s a bit plump. She reaches for the brass hand crafted door knob, the heavy door makes a low sound as it scratches the floor. 1,2,3,4… She takes thirty-four steps down the path between our cots. Ten neatly placed twin sized bunks are divided on either half of the room. Sister Rogers walks by each one. Making sure everyone is in their bunk,sleeping. She checks for a muffled light or an unauthorized opened book.
I sleep on the last bottom bunk closest to the corner window. I lay tummy up, one eye pinched shut, the other opening slightly to see Sister Rogers. 23,24,25… , her face brightens as she walks into the moonlight. My other eye pinches shut and I wait for her to turn back around. I sense her linger by my bedside.
“ Godbless, Miss Lola.” Hesitating, she saunters gently out of the room and closes the door behind her. 1,2,3.. Fifteen steps back to her bedchamber. 13,14,15. My shoulders relax and I open my eyes. I wriggle my fingers beneath the sheets and reach for my notebook.
I reach under my pillow for my flashlight and pencil, moving my head underneath the sheets. I go to the page where I left off last night and resume doodling my latest escape route. On the first page, the window beside my bed takes up the center of the page. One leg hangs over the side and a shaded pouch lies loosely on my shoulder. The next page, my hand swings to catch the vine draped down the tall tower. When I reach the ground, I draw the stone cobbled path that leads me to the rabbit hole by the willow tree ( That runs onto page 4). That is the first entrance. It is covered by a few untidy shrubs with long green, scratchy beards. They will let you in if you have a few jokes. I am not that funny, so I will have to cut them down.
If I get through the shrubs, I’ll reach the willow tree who will ask me a few oddball riddles, which I’m already prepared for. Then, I’ll jump into the rabbit hole and continue my journey.
“Lola!” I scribble in the riddles next to the tree. “Lola, I know you can hear me! I will yell down to Sister Rogers if you do not answer me!”
I punch the top bunk, “Hush up, Penny. Your whispers are so loud, I am sure they woke Sister Rogers and she is already climbing up the stairs.” I put my pencil and flashlight back under my pillow and hide my journal under the cot.
Penny’s hand appears from the top bunk, holding a small parcel of paper, “ Lola, take it. It’s for you.”
“ What did I say about calling me Lola?” I swat her hand away. She’s always trying to meddle in my work. Wanting me to take her with me. She would just slow me down.
Now her head appears over the ledge, her black, mangled hair falling over her eyes , “Fine, Snow, just take a look at it. Please. Pretty plea...”
“Ok I will, just stop whispering so loudly.” I grabbed the bundle out of her hand. Carelessly, I unravel the papers. It is difficult to read because her letters are all jumbled up. She has some type of problem where she mixes her words up. She takes extra classes with Sister Carrie, but she still needs more work. I try to decipher it as best I can :
“Lola, do not get upset with me, but I stole a look at your journal. Sorry, I just wanted to know why you are always awake at night. I think you want to run away from here, don’t you? I can tell by your drawings and the way you do not take anything seriously here. Well, I want you to know I feel the same way. We should runaway together!”
The other papers were her own doodles of an escape route. She attempted to draw the window, but it turned out a regular square. On the last paper, a small circus tent was drawn with two stick figures with wiry hair standing beside it.
“Penny, you cannot come.” I wrapped the papers back up and tossed them back to the top bunk.
“Why not, Lol… Snow?”, she sounded heartbroken. I felt bad, but I could not let her come. I just could not.
“ Penny, you are just not ready. You drew a juvenile circus. Where I am going, you cannot act like a child. I am sorry.”
“A child? Juvenile? Maybe it is just me, but calling yourself Snow White and drawing pictures of talking bushes seems a lot more childish than me simply trying to be a good friend. Goodnight, Lola.”
She rolled back over into her bed. I waited a few seconds. I know I was harsh, but I just cannot take her along. I have to go alone. I could hear her crying into her pillow. I kept pondering my decision until sunrise. Sister Rogers footsteps followed the staircase all the way to our room.
“Good Morning girls.” The usual morning sounds ruptured the quiet of the night as small feet scrambled out of their beds to stretch, dress and freshen up.
“Good Morning Sister Rogers,” we said in unison. I get up from my bunk and slip my slippers on. I start down my mental checklist. Make bed, get dressed; today is Wednesday so I will wear my grey dress with the ruffled collar, brush my teeth, comb my hair. The bathroom is crammed to the roof with ditsy girls. I wait outside, holding my toothbrush and comb. Penny comes toward the door. She is about to smile her usual silly grin and wave to me, but she stops herself, turning around as if she forgot something. Maybe she is still upset with me.
The days go by so long at the orphanage. Another reason I want to leave so badly. Walking down the narrow corridors, everything is a mundane ashy grey color. The wallpaper is lifeless. Our clothes are a clouded neutral to match our equally bored dispositions. I just cannot wait to leave this miserable place.
I walk by the library and see Penny settled against a bookcase trying, I guess, to read the fancy lettering of a Shakespeare play. I do not know why she tries so hard to combat her problem. I would have given up a long time ago. Besides, there are plenty of picture books she would enjoy with ease. She sees me peering at her through the door. Slamming the book, she scoots across the floor to the other side of the book case so I cannot see her anymore.
Oh, well. She will get over it soon, I bet.
“Ladies, it is time for a break.” Every weekday after noontime, we are allowed two hours outdoors. My favorite time of day. We all get in a line, I linger towards the end. When we are all settled and have quieted down, Sister Rogers leads us out the back door. The line follows a path between a wood picket fence and the orphanage, where it leads to a small area of grass closed in around concrete. The backyard covers enough room for games of tag or jumping jacks. Most of the girls just sit on the ground and talk. There is as a tire swing on one of the trees. That is my usual spot. I sit there for the whole time, swinging back and forth, dreaming about magical places beyond the treeline.
Today, I stand by the fence at one end of the yard. Right over the fence, there are a few rows of trees and right pass those leads to the main road in town. Leaning against the fence, I try to act normal, glancing at Sister Rogers every few seconds. I wait for her to turn around or look the other way. Instead, she starts walking right toward me. Oh, geez, not now Sister.
Before she could make it all the way to me, Penny runs out from a large group of girls. Tugging on Sister’s dress she says, “Sister Rogers! Mary and Meredith are at it again. It might get really ugly soon.”
“Oh, dear! Mary! Ladies do not pull each others hair, now you stop that at once!” With that, she was gone and had forgotten all about me. I wanted to thank Penny, but she was lost in the crowd of girls. It was the perfect time to get out of there, though, so I pushed on the one loose wooden boards on the fence and crawled through it. I ran through a thick carpet of autumn leaves and colorful trees before reaching an entrance to the main road.
I breathed in the crisp, green air of the town. Men were walking down the busy sidewalks with suitcases and black fedoras. Women strolled down the streets with bulging fur coats and rose colored lipstick. I made my way down the road, admiring the outlandish store fronts and swell looking cars drive by.
The streets were overflowing with color. The town really glowed and so did the people in it. A group of boys and girls, not that much older than me, got out of two nifty Cadillacs. The boys all had jelly-roll haircuts and wore leather varsity jackets The girls were wearing classy poodle skirts and newly purchased saddle shoes.
“Charles don’t be such a goof,” one of the girls said as the boy, Charles, put his arm around her.
With a charming smile he says, “Oh, come on Dolly, you know you got a kick out of that. He didn’t even know what hit him. One minute he’s flying right passed me; thinks he’s gonna win, but does anyone ever beat me?”
“That’s right, never. I wait ‘till they get good and comfortable and then I floor it. Flew right past him, I did. Boy was he surprised.”
The group walks into the town diner, Patty’s Perfect Pancake House. I run up to the window and peer in. The marble tile floors reflect off the mounted records on the bright white walls. The counter where the kids sit is striped red and white. A couple of the girls skip to the jukebox machine, their skirts floating up and down, and I can hear the muffled melody of “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog” begin to play. It’s always been a dream of mine to see what this place looks like.
Charles plays the air guitar and swings his hips from side to side. The girl from before starts dancing with him and everyone is laughing. I giggle from the window. A young waitress comes out on roller skates carrying three hot fudge sundaes and two strawberry milkshakes, one topped with several tears of whip cream.
I imagine myself, in a beautiful yellow skirt like the girls in the diner. My hair is curled in delicate ringlets and rests on my shoulders. I have a red bow tied into my black hair and I dance among the other boys and girls. We all become friends and share a root beer float. A boy in a varsity jacket asks me to dance and I blush. He tells me to stop being so bashful and takes my hand. We dance and my yellow skirt floats around me with the music.
“Excuse me, Miss.” My face is pressed against the glass at this point, I’m sure I look ridiculous. I slowly peel my face away from the excitement inside. I turn around to face a tall man in a grey business suit. He’s wearing a childish grin and there’s a friendliness in his eyes. His hands were casually placed in his pocket with each thumb sticking out the side.
“Sorry, sir. I was just daydreaming. Am I blocking you, sir?”
“Well, not anymore. I couldn’t help but notice your bright, wide eyes peering in through the window over my Banana Split Sundae,” he chuckled, but I was so embarrassed.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” I lowered my face as my cheeks turned beet red.
“Relax, child. No harm was done. I come here every Wednesday for a treat.” He puts his hand his mouth as if he feared someone would hear him and leaned in close, “ The ‘ol wife at home doesn’t want me eating too many sweets, but I can’t help it. You understand, don’t you?”
“Yes, sir,” I nodded. My hands were nervously twisting around my dress.
“ Hey, why don’t you come inside. I’ll get you that root beer float you wanted.” He hopped towards the door and held it opened for me. I didn’t have that much time to think, so I timidly followed his lead into the diner.
We sat down at the bar across from the older kids. They were still laughing and dancing. The waitress came to take our order. I looked at the old man. He gave a reassuring nod, so I ordered a large root beer float. We sat and listened to the music and I watched the kids some more.
“Say, what were you daydreaming about earlier, miss?”
“Oh, nothing. It was silly.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t. You know I daydream all the time. My friends sometimes call me Dopey. After one of the dwarves in…”
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarves!” I couldn’t contain my excitement.
“Why, yes. Are you a fan of Walt Disney’s work?”
“Oh, yes. I know all the dwarves names by heart. There’s Doc, he’s in charge and then there’s Sleepy and Sneezy. And then Happy and Grumpy, they’re the funniest. And then Dopey, who's just a real goof.”
“And don’t forget good ‘ol Bashful.”
“Yes, and then there’s Bashful.” He starts chuckling again. “Sorry, sir, but what is so funny?”
“Oh, it’s just so nice to see a young child with such great imagination. I assume you picture yourself as Snow White, do you not?”
“Yes, yes I do.”
“You would make a wonderful princess.”
“Thank you. Most people think I’m silly for dreaming like I do. Even the other girls at the orphanage think I can’t be helped.
“You live at the orphanage? I don’t believe Sister Rogers has ever let a girl out by herself. She must be getting nicer in her old age.” He winks at me as my drink comes. “ Imagination is a very useful tool, you know.”
“Oh, yes. I dream all day. It helps me cope, if you know what I mean.”
“Ah, well dreaming can only do so much, miss.”
“What do you mean?” I took a sip of the soda. Tastes like Wonderland.
“I mean, if you’re not careful, you could dream your whole life away. It will catch up with you one way or another and then you’ll be sorry you didn’t fix your problems sooner.”
“So, I shouldn't dream at all. But you just said imagination is good in a child?”
“Imagination is different from dreaming. When you are imagining, you are pulling ideas from your reality. When you’re dreaming, you are escaping from life.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Oh, yes very bad. It could get you in a lot of trouble. You could waste all your time dreaming about a better life, and then wake up and it’s all passed you by.” He slapped down money on the counter. He stood up and put on his coat and hat.
“Where are you going?” I asked as he nearly walked away.
“Well, I have some living to do. And so do you. I hope I made one dream come true for you, Lola. Until next time.” He tipped his hat down, over his face and turned out the door.
“Wait! Mister!” I barrelled out the door, turning around and around, looking for him, but he was gone. I felt a drizzle hit my nose. The sky must have turned grey while I was in the diner. The drizzle turned into a drop of rain and a crackle of lightning appeared in the distance. I started running home. If it started raining, Sister Rogers would have everyone go inside. I had to get back before she figured out I was gone.
I ran down the sidewalks, now vacant, through the soppy trees and fallen leaves. I nearly slipped a couple of times and my moppy hair was clinging to my eyes. I reached the fence and found the loose board. I couldn’t see anything and ran into someone.
“Ouch, Lola. Just be patient. Look the lines moving right now. We’ll be inside shortly.” I could hear Penny’s agitated voice though the roaring winds.
We got inside and I guess no one noticed I was gone. After we all got dried off and put on some fresh clothes, I tried to talk to Penny. She was sitting on her bunk, reading something from the library. It suddenly dawned on me what that old man was talking about. Penny has been through hardships, just like me. She can’t read like me or the other girls. I used to think it was pointless for her to fight it. I would have just spent my time dreaming of a place where all books were read aloud to me. Penny is smarter than me after all. She’s really living.
“Lola. You’ve been staring at me for five minutes and you are blocking the bedroom door. Do you want to say something?” Penny’s standing in front of me now, her thumb is keeping her place in her book.
“Yes. Penny I want to say… I want to tell you… I … I’m sorry..”
“For what, Lola? I mean Snow?”
“You don’t have to call me that, anymore. I’m sorry Penny for being rude the other day. Well, everyday. I really admire you for being so friendly all the time and being the only one here who doesn’t treat me like I’m stupid. I wish I could have been a better friend. ”
“Do you mean what you say, Lola?”
“Whoo hoo,” She yelped and hugged me tightly, jumping up and down. This girl never loses her enthusiasm. “ I knew you were nice deep down. You know everyone has bad days. I completely understand, I’ve had them too. Like that time Mary wanted to play cards and I snapped at her and that other time when …”
“Penny!”, she was talking so fast I could feel her exasperated breath on my face. “ We have all the time in the world to talk. You can slow down.”
“I know I’m just so excited to talk to you again. It was so hard being mean. I don’t know how you do it.” She took a deep breath, “So, what were you doing out all day?”
“Oh that. Let’s start from the beginning.” We both sat on her top bunk. I grabbed my flashlight and journal. I started drawing out the story while retelling the events of the day.
“ Once upon a time…”