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Author's note: This started as an assignment for one of my college classes. The assignment was, take the story of Rapunzel and remix it however you'd like. So, I made a story. If it gets enough positive feedback, I'm thinking about adding to it and hopefully creating a full-blown novel out of it one day.
All around them things were exploding. Test tubes filled with days worth of decoding, boxes stacked full of test results, incubators that used to be home to thousands of children, but now lay empty. This was their lives work, now being destroyed in minutes.
The two scientists looked down at the two year old who would now hold the restoration of mankind on her shoulders. This tiny child, Rapunzel they had called her, was the key to solving this whole mess; one experiment that had gone accidentally, wonderfully right. She would be alone in a matter of seconds; alone to figure out how she must use her gift to save all that she would come to know.
The scientist kissed his wife on her cheek as a silent tear escaped her eye, but just one. They still had a job to do.
The last thing that entered their minds: their son, Alexander, at home with the baby-sitter.
They had failed him.
And their world went black.
Pop-pop! Bang-bang! It was utter chaos; all around shots were being fired and men lay wounded or dying. He knew he should do something, but all he could do was duck his head and run. Oh and pray that his cover wasn’t blown. That was pretty crucial to his survival. This whole time, which had really only been about two minutes, all the rebel could think was “why am I here” or “what the hell is going on?” As far as he could tell, there were no attacks scheduled for today.
Either way, he figured he’d better get out of there, and fast. He looked around, checking his surroundings as he’s done so many times in training, and found a small clearing of rubble to his left. If he could just…
But of course it wouldn’t be that easy. One of his men stepped in front of him and the rebel knew what he had to do; he took out his pistol and before he could even register the shock on his comrade’s face, he shot him and ran for the clearing.
On a normal day, the fact that he shot that man so easily would have tugged at his conscience, but right now he had more pressing issues. Like getting out of this mess alive.
And figuring out where he was going…
He slowed his pace to a walk so he could catch his breath for the first time all day it seemed. Now that he was slowing down and actually paying attention to where he was going, instead of just navigating the streets and turning corners mindlessly, he realized he’d never been to this part of the region before. The government never brought him here, and he doubted the rebels even knew this space was here.
But uh… where was here?
It was 9:30 in the morning, and that meant Mother was long gone. She always left at the same time every morning, and that was before I was awake. But what did it matter? I wouldn’t have been able to see her leave anyway. She always keeps me locked in my room until the last minute.
I rolled over to face the lone window in my room, and came face to face with a white cat.
“Good morning beautiful.” I liked this cat. She was my friend. But I had to be careful because if Mother ever found her, she’d be dead.
But she was my only friend, and I was determined to keep her. You could say I was a little jealous of her and her freedom.
That and she reminded me of myself. Oddly enough, her eyes were the same metallic blue that mine were. If I could have ever gotten up close to anyone else, I’d bet no one had the same color eyes as mine. Mother said that made me special.
“You hungry?” She meowed in response. “Good.”
About an hour later, I was full of pancakes. And my floor was full of pancake batter. And so was my wall.
I was laying on the couch with my cat when I heard it.
Someone was walking around outside. That was odd. Mother came home at the same time every day. And this building was abandoned except for us. I listened closer.
Oh God… they were a man’s footprints. As soon as I realized this, I scooped up my cat and a kitchen knife and bolted to my room, slamming the door behind me.
Mother had always told me stories about men; how vile and cruel they were. She said they were heartless and would steal anything and everything from you. I gripped my cat closer.
THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.
It sounded like he was… Banging on my door? Oh God he knew I was in here and he was going to break in and steal my cat and…
And the door flew open, sending the chain lock flying into pieces.
I held my breath.
Oh my God. Oh my God… Oh my…
My door flew open and I closed my eyes not wanting to see what happened next.
I felt warmth beside me, and I heard his breaths. Then I heard his heart. Strong. Steady. I opened one eye. Then the next.
“Are you, uh. Are you okay?” The voice that spoke was strong and deep, but its owner looked more like a boy. Sure he was tall; the guy was crouching and still had three feet on me, and he probably had more muscle in his pinky than I had in my entire body, but it was his face. He looked like he never needed a razor in his entire life, and he had huge bright green eyes that sparkled more than any star I’d ever seen.
And his heart…
But a tilt of his head reminded me that I still hadn’t answered his question.
“Yes. I… I’m alright. I’m fine.” I tried to steady my voice, but it couldn’t have shaken more if I was being tossed around in a blender.
“I’m sorry about your um, about your door. Doors. It’s just, this building looked so old, and I didn’t think anyone lived here anymore.”
“We do. We live here.” I didn’t really know why, but I felt like I could trust him. This stranger that just burst into my house.
“We? You and your… you and your cat?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. I didn’t really laugh often. Mother says its useless. “No. I meant me and my mother.” He looked around, causing his blonde hair to fall into his eyes. “No, she’s not here. She’s working. I guess. She usually comes home at 4:45.”
“How old are you?”
“And she still keeps you locked up while she’s gone?” his green eyes seemed to darken.
“Mother says the world is bad. She says I’m not safe.” I almost whispered.
“I wont hurt you.” He held out his hand to me. “As long as you don’t stab me with that thing.” I hadn’t realized till now that I was still clutching the knife. With a shaky laugh, I out the knife on my table, and graciously accepted his hand. My cat lept from my grasp and curled around his legs, purring.
“She likes you.”
“I like her.” He looked at me. I’ve never had a guy look at me before. I could feel the heat in my face, so I turned.
“Who are you anyway?”
He seemed a little caught off guard by my question, because now he was the one looking around nervously.
“I’m uh.” He hesitated. “I’m Staff Officer 6-oh-2, at your service.”
A number. Not a name. I hadn’t realized, but I was kind of hoping he didn’t have a name.
“What are you doing here?”
“To be honest, I’m not really sure. I was just…” he cleared his throat. “I was just training with my squadron and got separated.”
“And ended up here.”
“Yeah. Hey, does anyone else know you live here?”
“Just the people Mother works with I guess.”
His eyes lit up. “Does your mother have a um. You know. A name?”
“NO!” I yelled. “ No she doesn’t! How dare you! Who do you think you are? Even if she did it wouldn’t be any of y…”
“hey look that’s not what I meant. I’m sorry, okay? I just thought, big building like this, someone’s gotta know its here. I mean, it’s practically a tower.”
“Mother likes her privacy.” My voice was icy, which was unusual for me. But I didn’t like him insinuating that my Mother had a name. I mean, she was against the rebels, but she wasn’t part of the Important Ones.
“Yeah, I can see that. I better go. Sorry for intruding.” He turned to leave, and I realized I didn’t want him to leave. This was the first actual human contact ive had other than Mother, probably since I was born.
“Yeah. Don’t wanna piss off your mother.”
“But. But she wont be home for six more hours. I don’t really… I don’t want to be alone.”
This was a bad idea. A very, very bad idea. We hadn’t even made it part two flights of stairs when I started regretting leaving my house. This was crazy.
“You coming or what?”
I thought of Mother, who left everyday knowing her daughter was safe at home, with no contact with the outside world.
But then I thought of myself. I was 19, and hadn’t even seen the outside of my apartment building. I didn’t know what fresh air felt like when it blew, I didn’t know what it was like to hear footsteps on the streets or to listen to the across-the-street banter that I had read about in books. No, I needed to do this.
“Yeah, I’m coming.” And with that, I pushed the final thoughts of guilt and doubt to the back of my mind and continued down the stairs.
We finally reached the bottom and stood before a large black metal door that looked to be at least 100 years old. With one solid shove from 602, the door flung open and I was drowning in sunlight. I couldn’t help but gasp and back away.
“What's wrong? You okay?”
But I couldn’t respond. The only time I’d seen sunlight was from the barred window in my room. And even then, I had to close the curtains when Mother came home.
I never actually felt it on my skin…
I outstretched my hand so a single ray could fall onto it. Giddy from its warmth, I slowly began throwing in more of my body, eager to drink in all the sun’s warmth. I saved my face for last, and shielding my eyes, I threw that in too. I could feel the warmth radiating through my body.
“You really like the sun, huh.” 602 was watching me, his green eyes wide.
“I’ve never actually been in it before.” Before he could ask more, I stepped out of the door and into the world.
But I was shocked. Everything down here was… brown. The streets were covered in dirt, the buildings had no sign of life. Even the trees, which I’d ever only seen in pictures, were not green as I had read they were, but brown. Brown and lifeless. Up in my bedroom, everything looked so blue. The sky was within fingertip length.
I reached up my hand, only to feel air. Empty, dirty air.
I turned around to face my building. Surely it would posses signs of life, color, anything.
But it was the same. The bricks were faded grey with chunks missing and over half the windows were either gone or falling out. I couldn’t even pick out my bedroom window.
A tear slid down my cheek.
“You’ve never actually been out here before, have you.” I shook my head. He let out a deep breath. “I’m told it never used to be like this.”
“What happened to it?”
All of Mother’s stories, they were true. The evilness of men. The hatred. The wars It had, however slowly, town the world apart. And we were left with the end result.
“Does it look like this everywhere?”
“Not exactly. Some people still have green. Not a lot though. And some are still trying to fix their buildings, but they’re so old. And kids just vandalize them again anyway.”
“Maybe Mother was right to keep me hidden.”
“No. No she wasn’t. A world like this, needs a little color like you.” I looked at him, and he smiled.
“Show me the rest of it?”
“Of course.” He took my hand and, together, we turned to face the world, however dark it may be. “There is something I want to show you though. I think you’ll like it.”
He wouldn’t tell me where we were going or what it was he wanted to show me, all I knew was that it seemed to take forever to get there. But the scenery on the way there… it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
Mother would read me stories before I went to bed as a child. I never really took interest in the words, but mainly the pictures. White houses, with huge green yards, a father happily kissing his wife on the cheek as the children played together. I could almost hear their squeals of laughter. Everything seemed so… colorful.
But here… in real life, things were different. Houses were brown, and falling apart, dirt covered areas where grass should have been.
With one family in particular, instead of laughter I head, “Get out of my garden! You have no business here! Those are my rampions!”
“Quiet old witch! I’m not going to let my pregnant wife starve because you’re too greedy to share!”
Without thinking, I ran over to the two neighbors.
“Please! Don’t fight. You need to get along. We all live here. We all need to help make it better!” I help my breath, as 602 ran over to me, ready to defend me.
But there was no need. The old woman stretched out her arm, holding the rampion towards the man.
“She’s… she’s right. We are neighbors. I suppose its ab’t time we start ac’in like ‘em. Here, take tis yerr wife. Feel free to help yerrself. Just don’ eat me outta house’n home.” I thought I saw her old lips crack into a small smile before she turned to head back into her house.
“Thank you. And I … uh. I was wrong. You aint no witch.”
She just waved her hand in the air. He turned to me. “G’day ma’am.”
602 turned to me. “That was… I’ve never… How’d you do that?!” He was literally scratching his head.
“They just need reminded that it’s not just them in the world.” He just shook his head.
About five hours later, or probably more like ten minutes, we finally stopped walking.
“Okay. Now… Close your eyes, and don’t peek. Or I’ll know.”
I obediently covered my eyes, and 602 took my hand, leading me through a series of turns. After my asking several times if I could look yet, 602 finally said yes (after threatening to turn me around and send me home multiple times).
“Okay, but… before you open your eyes, just know its nothing super special. It’s just, nice. And quiet. It’s just somewhere I like to come alone when things get… stressful.” He let out a sigh, and I peeked out through my fingers. He looked sad almost. His green eyes were looking somewhere far away, and his blonde hair kept falling into them, and I found myself longing to push it back, to get a good, full look into those round eyes, that seemed to sparkle with long ago memories.
Then they turned to me, and I squeezed my fingers shut. He let out a breathy laugh. “You can look now.”
One hand at a time, I uncovered my face, and my mouth fell open.
Instead of the dull brown I was used to seeing everywhere else, this was a different kind of brown; a golden brown that seemed to reflect the sunlight. Tiny crystals were shooting the sun’s rays back up at me, sending the warmth directly to my face. I bent over to touch it. It was fine, and gritty, but felt soft on my feet and in between my toes. It wasn’t dirt. It was… sand? I think it was called sand. It sloped downward, as if inviting me out. But something was missing. This didn’t look like the ocean’s I had seen pictures of.
“Isn’t there supposed to be water here?”
“Yes. And there is, it’s just so far out we can’t see it anymore.” He was looking out to the middle, to where the gold of the dry sand met the blue of the sky, without a drop of water in sight. “It used to come up to right here.” He pointed to his knees. “Something with the earth spinning and gravity pulling made the water come up in waves. You could stand here with water at your knees one minute, then at your waist the next.” His eyes snapped open. “Or so I’m told. My parents never saw it either.”
“It’s beautiful.” I whispered, fearing if I spoke any louder I’d break the spell of the moment and all of the water from so long ago would come towards us and drag us away. So I sat down, burying my toes in the sand, and watched 602 drift back into he stories of his childhood.
And that’s how our days went for a few weeks. 602 came over around 10:30 in the morning, and we would walk around outside until 4, when I had to get home before Mother did at 4:45. Like clockwork.
Some days he would have to leave early and join the rebel forces, but that wasn’t too often. He didn’t really like talking about his work much. Every time we did, he seemed to get upset. Like the last time he look me to see the ocean.
“So, how much do you know about the Important Ones?” he had asked me.
“I don’t know. Not much I guess. Mother never really talks about them. But when she does, she says that They’re the only good left in the world, that whatever They do is for us.”
“Do you believe that?”
“It’s kind of hard to.”
“What do you mean.”
“No it’s not.” He looked at me with such sincerity that if he asked me to tear out my heart I probably would have.
“I don’t know.” I sighed. But he waited, expecting me to continue. “It’s just, sometimes I think she’s blind. I’ve seen it out here. I know how unhappy people are, how… poor, how… broken. I see the kids in the streets with no shoes, ragged clothing and shrunken faces. I hear them crying. I know this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” I haven’t quite advertised it yet, but I had started making it a habit to fill my bag with extra food to give to those little kids. “Sometime I wonder, if the Important Ones really are trying to help, why do they keep us like this? I don’t know. Sometimes I wish Mother would actually let me out, so I didn’t have to sneak around. I feel like I could help make things better. Somehow.”
“I wish I wasn’t so restricted.”
“What do you mean restricted? You’re a rebel for crying out loud. You have no rules.”
“I have more than you know.” And just then, his buzzer beeped. “I have to go. I guess there’s this… I don’t know. ‘Key to Mankind’ we’re looking for, and someone thinks they have a lead. They think she’s near by.”
“Yeah. As if the key of mankind is a person. Just one person.” He rolled his eyes.
It was only 1 o’clock today, and we were walking around of the occupied parts of the region, when 602’s pocket started talking.
“…is required… quarters… state… emergency… immediately!”
602 grabbed the buzzer and turned it off.
“Something like that. Look, my Fa… the rebels need me back. I have to take you home now.”
Something wasn’t wasn’t right, and I knew it. His face had gone pale and his eyes dull. There was an urgency in his voice that I’d never heard before. And it scared me. So without hesitation, I followed him.
But as I turned to go, something caught my eye. It was a random spot of color that was thrown onto one of the brown trees. The color was a picture. The picture simply said, MISSING under the image of a girl. The girl had long golden hair that seemed to shine against the brown. She was smiling, her white teeth radiating from the picture. But it wasn’t the girl’s golden hair or her white teeth that caught my attention. It was her name, spelled out above her head. RAPUNZEL the poster spelled.
But then I noticed her eyes.
Her metallic blue eyes.
My metallic blue eyes.
It wasn’t until I felt 602’s arms against me that I realized I was falling.
And then I was sitting.
On warmth. Digging. Burying. Burying my toes.
602’s face sitting in front of me.
When I was little, I used to cover my ears and still try to listen to Mother talk. I found it entertaining because her voice sounded muffled and far away. Well that’s how 602 sounded. Only my hands were at my side. I checked.
“Who’s Rapunzel?” I asked.
“No. That’s impossible. I don’t have a name. I’m not Important. Only They have names.”
“So do you.”
I looked at him, just as he pulled out a tiny silver device and put it to his ear.
“I need patched through to the President.” There was a murmur on the other end that didn’t seem to make him too happy. “I don’t care!” He yelled. “This is sergeant Alexander. His son. I’m sure he’ll make an exception.”
I tuned out. The only words I heard were, “Rapunzel… whereabouts… known”. So not only did …602… have a name. But he was about to give me up to whoever was looking for me.
Who was looking for me by the way?
He snapped his phone shut, and paced back and forth. Then finally, he came to a stop in front of me.
“Okay. So, Rapunzel.” I couldn’t help myself. I slapped him. Hard. In the face.
“I don’t have a name!” I yelled at him. Regardless of everything, he seemed very calm. Which only seemed to make my anger grow. “But you have a name.”
“And I’m the President’s son.” He added.
“You’re a spy.” He nodded. “You lied to me.” I could help but notice the hurt flash across his face.
“I didn’t want to.” He was quiet now. “But I can’t take back what I did. All I can do is try to fix it. And those people that want you, they’re no good.”
“Who wants me.”
“The Important Ones.”
“I know. I know I am. But that doesn’t mean they’re good. Besides. I’m a rebel too, Aren’t I?”
“Why do they want me?”
“I don’t know. Remember what I said about the key to mankind?”
“Yeah. But what do I…”
“I don’t know that either. They don’t tell me everything. I play both sides of the field. It’s too risky. But I know they want you. But they’re not getting you.”
“But you just told…”
“No. I didn’t tell them where. I told them I knew where. You’re going to stay here, and I’m going to lead them away from here. And when it’s safe, I’ll come back for you. And we’ll leave. You and me. We’ll walk across the ocean for all I care. I’m getting you out of this.” He closed his eyes. “I can’t believe I’ve been so blind. You were right in front of me the whole time…”
Then he did something I would have never expected. He put his hands on both sides of my face, pulled me close, and touched his lips to mine. His warmth radiated off of him, filling me from head to toe. His lips her soft, and his fingers traced my face. When he pulled away, I found myself yearning for more.
“I promise I’ll come back for you.” And he stood up and walked away.
I passed the time by drawing pictures in the sand. I drew a family; a father, a mother, and twins, a boy and a girl. I realized that this was the family I had always dreamed of. Twins would be perfect.
“There you are darling! I thought I’d never find you! I put up those poster knowing you were with him…that traitor!” Mother ran over and hugged me.
“Mother? How… But. What?”
“I cam home early from work today and found you gone. But of course I knew you had been sneaking out all week. Some of my coworkers had told me they’d seen you about the region with a mysterious young man. So I put up the posters.”
“But my… my name?”
“Of course not darling! I only put that on there so that boy would reveal himself. You needed to know the truth. But we need to leave darling! He’ll be back any minute with the President and I don’t want to find out what they’ll do to you.”
“No. 602… Alexander… he’s good. He’s leading them away.”
“Darling, what have I told you. Men aren’t good. There is no good left in the world. Would he have lied to you if he was good?” I don’t know what to think right now. I found out I have a name, I found out I don’t have a name. I found out my bestfriend, whom I may have some very strong feelings for, has a name and wants to run away with me.
My mother, who had locked me up my entire life to keep me safe, but had also kept me away from the wonders and pleasures of the world. I am 19 and had just had my first kiss.
I needed to think.
And hey, maybe the walk home would be the perfect time for that. Mother grabbed my arm and led me home.
Once there, the only thing that changed was her grip, that tightened. I was no less confused.
Then she shoved me inside, slamming the door behind her. She turned to me, her eyes black, and the corners of her mouth turned up.
“We’re home.” She called out in a singsong voice.
Before I could ask whom she was talking to, another voice answered my question.
“I was about to send the troops out for you Gothel. What took you so long?” A man, three times my size and about as wide as the doorway stepped out from the shadows.
“Who’s Gothel?” I asked.
“Sorry Blake. Rapunzel here wouldn’t make up her mind. I almost had to drag her here!” Mother answered.
I turned around to face her.
“That’s right dear. He was talking to me. Gothel. That’s my name.” She almost spat at me.
“But you said. But no. You cant. I just…” The room was starting to spin. I couldn’t handle this anymore.
And then I heard footsteps outside.
A man’s footsteps.
Then banging on the door.
It flew open. “Let her go Gothel.” Alexander yelled.
Mother just laughed. “This is all your fault you know Zander. If I really wanted to hurt her, I had 19 years to do it. We would have been fine locked up here. But then you came along. She can’t be released into the world Zander! All our hard work!”
“I’m just one person! Why can’t I leave? 602? You said yourself! One person can’t make a difference!” I was sick of everyone talking about me like I wasn’t even in the room.
“I was wrong. You are the key. It’s you. You’re the one the rebels were looking for.”
“But why!” I yelled.
“Gothel. Care to explain? I think you’ve kept enough secrets.”
“It should have never come to this ion the first place.” She sighed. “Zander, don’t look so cocky. There are things you don’t know too.” Her wicked smile crept back into her face. “17 years ago, a group of rebel scientists banned together, thinking they could create a good human race. Altering DNA, changing chromosomes, anything. I was one of them. But I was also working with the Important Ones; reporting the scientist’s progress. But they weren’t really making any. Experiments were failing left and right. They were children, created in test tubes for one purpose, whose lives were cut too short. They lost hope. That is, until you, Rapunzel. You were… and accident. That went wonderfully right. However you were made, you’re special. You were… a powerhouse of some sort. You gave the other experiments… power. You gave them goodness. Whatever you have in you, that’s why you’re eyes are so blue. You and the other experiments. So, naturally the Important Ones wanted the experiments gone, because they were threatened. You were, and are, the only thing that can over throw them.”
“What does any of that have to do with me?” Alexander asked.
“Why do you think the rebels let you in so easily. Do you honestly think you’re the President’s son? Would he rick his real son going behind enemy lines?” Until now, I forgot Blake was here.
“What are you saying.”
“You’re real parents were the scientists who created your girlfriend here. Up until we blew them up that is.” If I would have blinked, I would have missed it.
Alexander flung himself across the room, and on top of Blake, punching him repeatedly in the face. Blake was so surprised he couldn’t even react before Alexander pulled out his gun.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you.”
“Because then you wouldn’t be any better than them.” I threw in. “You think shooting him will bring back your parents? Or those little kids?”
“It’ll be a start.”
“No. It won’t. It’s just like them. You think anger will fix anything? Killing people will bring the dead back? They’re gone. Do you think it’s honoring them to rip our home to pieces from anger? There’s only one earth. We all have to live here. Why can’t we all enjoy it in the process?” Zander lowered his gun.
“She’s right. My God. Have I been so blind?” said Blake.
I took the gun from Zander’s hand and set it on the table. He put his hands on my face, looking into my eyes.
“I’m so sorry. They were right. You are good and can save us.”
“That’s sweet. But I will not let you ruin all my hard work!” I heard a click, and felt cold metal press against my temple. “I worked so hard to get where I am. So hard to keep you away for 17 years. You will not ruin it for me now.”
She pressed harder. Zander’s eyes grew wider, the green fading.
“One move and I’ll pull it lover boy.”
I saw a tear slide down his cheek. I thought of everything in a single moment; the little children in the street, the happiness they felt when I handed them the food, the ocean, Zander’s fluid movements, the bickering neighbors, the brown streets, the self-entitled Important Ones, my white cat, who I had the sudden urge to name Evangeline.
All of this rested on my shoulders. I could save it. I could turn it around. I could make a difference.
With one quick motion, I swung my arm and flung the gun from Gothel’s hang, catching her off balance. I didn’t mean too, but I smacked her so hard, she fell backwards into the glass window, plummeting to the brown world below.
I stretched out my hand to catch her, but I was too late.
Zander grabbed me, and pulled me into him, planting kisses all over my face.
“I thought. I’d lost. You. I’m never. Leaving you. Again.” He looked into my eyes. “I love you Rapunzel.” His eyes twinkled.
“I love you too, Alexander.”
A few months later
“Zander, where are my test results?” He was always losing things.
We had re-opened his parent’s lab, only this time no spies, and we had begun research again. We were determined. If I was going to turn the world around, I couldn’t do it by myself.
Though, I wouldn’t have to be by myself for much longer.
I was due in six months.
One boy, and one girl.