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“I didn’t mean it,” Lucy says plaintively. She looks at all of them, their faces still and silent as marble, and her lip trembles.
“But you did,” they sigh, and the wispy voices are all around her, inside her head. “Disobedient child; you paid the price.”
“Stop!” she yells, covering her ears with her hands.
“We know what you’ve done,” they say, staring at her in disappointment and sadness. She closes her eyes, and the tears slip out from under the lids, catching on her dark lashes. “You were brave.”
“My brother; where’s my brother?” Lucy sobs.
“Lucy, pretty Lucy,” the voices whisper and sigh as they all rustle around. “Poor little pretty Lucy.”
“I didn’t do it,” she whispers as she sinks to her knees, her arms over her head. Her curls, as black as calligraphy ink, tumble down around her shoulders. “I didn’t do it.”
The dance was the most important thing in the world, and Lucy had begged her brother to let her go. He’d sent her to bed instead.
“You have to stay, Lucy; they can’t find you,” he’d whispered. “They mustn’t find you, Lucy.” And then he’d swept out in his costume of black silk—he was the Dark Knight.
She’d run all the way here and slipped inside the sparkling ballroom. The guards at the door waved her through.
“I’m Lucy,” she told them, and they smiled at her with teeth that sparkled all the colours of the rainbow.
“We’ve been waiting for you, Lucy. Go join the party, Pretty Lucy,” they said.
Lucy was dancing. She whirled past the line of dancers, all in their costumes and their masks, and they stared at her with cold eyes, leering out of the slits. She was frightened, and she screamed, but the tall god who was holding her hand twirled her around and pulled her close, and then she was swept away, along to the next line. The tall god handed her off with a bow, and the King of Eggs was twirling her into an upbeat waltz. Lucy’s heart was pounding, and the music was faster now. She tried to keep up.
“My dear, you look lovely tonight,” the King of Eggs bent down to whisper in Lucy’s ear. “Whatever you do, don’t take off your mask.” He beamed at her, and spun her across the tiled floor before she could open her mouth.
Lucy caught sight of her brother as she escaped the King and ran for the ice table. He didn’t look happy, so Lucy crawled under the ice table and hid, because she was that small and she didn’t want her brother to be unhappy.
Angels danced on the ceiling and Lucy counted them in her head until she’d gotten past a hundred and couldn’t remember what came next. A pair of dark red boots appeared in her vision as they approached the table, and Lucy held her breath and hugged her knees to her chest. The boots turned around and walked away.
When Nyan Kwaya came to pull Lucy out from under the table she tried to dodge his grip and fell into the ices.
“You mustn’t let them see you!” Nyan Kwaya yelled, but Lucy didn’t hear him.
Lucy’s dress was blue and it was beautiful. The Joker told her so, in a hushed whisper that smelled like liquor, and even though Lucy didn’t think she should believe him she did anyway because it felt good.
Everyone was wearing a mask and Lucy had one too; she couldn’t remember where she’d gotten it. It was fine and made of porcelain. It was a silvery colour with roses and ivy painted along the sides. She remembered what the King of Eggs had said and she didn’t take it off.
There was a river-god, and his mask was like the roaring waves. He waved to Lucy and she waved back, running across the dance floor.
“Oh, no, you’re not supposed to be here,” the vampire sighed through his fangs that looked terribly real as Lucy darted past. There was a white rose on his dark mask. “Oh, no.”
“My dear, how is it that you’re alone?” the Gingerbread Man said sorrowfully, catching Lucy as she ran between his legs. She was pulled up short, and she tried to catch her breath to explain that she had been doing something, but she couldn’t remember what she’d been doing. Someone called to her, in a high voice.
The clock struck midnight and the Stout Prince cried out with grief and turned away to hide his tears. Lucy tugged her hand from his grip and ran.
The rooms were all the same, and each door led back to the ballroom. Lucy fell and cut herself on a sword that someone had left lying carelessly in the centre of the room. her blood was red on the white tile of the floor, and it stained her dress.
“Lucy, pretty Lucy, you’ve gotten hurt!” a rooster exclaimed in horror, and he tried to smooth away the blood on Lucy’s hand. It just went all over his feathers and dyed them red, and Lucy screamed until the rooster disappeared.
The ice queen was standing over her, a disapproving look on her cold, cold face. Lucy knelt at her feet, sobbing, and her brother lay in front of her. His mask was still in place, and Lucy didn’t want to see what lay beneath it. Her chest shook with sobs, and the silver knife in her hand shuddered.
“Kill him,” the queen commanded, and Lucy screamed, the tears making tracks down her face.
“I warned you Lucy,” he sighed, and Lucy covered her face with her hands.
“You broke the promise; you have to kill him now,” the queen said coldly, and she was staring down at Lucy.
“I never promised! I never promised anything! I only danced!” Lucy yelled up at the queen, and she wanted to rip off her mask and stomp all over it.
“Kill him!” the ice queen shouted.
“Poor Lucy, pretty Lucy,” they all said sorrowfully, and they were clustering round her watching. The silver knife was wet with blood and there was blood everywhere, and a dark red rose unfurled slowly across the blue dress.
When her brother awoke the spell was complete, and the princess was dead because of the promise they broke.
“We told you not to. Poor pretty Lucy,” they whisper, and she cries.