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This is it? This is how my life is going to end? Murdered for impersonation? Impersonation I didn’t even do?! Those are the thoughts that race through my head as the people advance towards me. I turn around and run-but wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s the middle. I’m pretty sure you want to know the story from the beginning. So, here it is…
My long, dark hair whips around my face as we’re sailing along, across the Atlantic on a ship headed for New York from England. I taste the salt, and the sea spray lightly patters my face as we part the waves. Oh, couldn’t my freedom just last a bit longer? Just as I’m looking out over the railing into the horizon, a battle cruiser slides up next to us.
Puzzled, I look across the way and see the other ship waving a Dagestani flag. We’ve been saved! The crew starts running around, fearing a collision, trying to steer the ship away, they don’t want another Titanic on our hands. But they’re too slow, and the boat just sidles up next to us, and the people throw a gangplank across, like they’re pirates, and just come on board. I shrink away from the railing, and watch from behind some barrels.
The first man to step on our ship, starts addressing everyone, taking command of this prison vessel. The captain, a hardy woman, steps forward, and asks, “excuse me, just who do you think you are?”
In heavily accented English, the man gives her a sneer and responds, “Little girl, this does not concern you. This is my ship now. These,” gesturing to the crew and the rest of the prisoners that came up from under the dock, “people are mine as well. Go, play.”
She puts her hands on her hips, “Hello? I am the captain of this ship, and these are my prisoners.”
“Oh, prisoners? No wonder we heard screaming. We had come to investigate, and possibly reign your under the law. Pray tell, what have these people done?”
“The usual, thieves, murderers, political treason committers, you know the type.”
“Why did we hear screams, then?”
“Oh, the crew was having some fun,” she says, sinisterly.
“You’re treating these prisoners horribly, you don’t deserve to be captain,” he then addressed his people, “take this ship! She is unfit! ATTACK!” They storm the ship, and a short battle ensues. They, outnumbering the mercenaries, quickly overtake them, and in turn, capture our capturers. I stay behind the barrels, not interfering, until the battle had resolved, and I stepped out from behind the barrels. I say, “Thank you for freeing us,” and I see them turn to the few original crew left, which is only one other guy. Then the Dagestanis gasp and fall into deep bows and curtsies. I look around, bewildered, looking for a crown and snooty expression. The Dagestanis start murmuring to each other, and they advance towards me.
I step back, a little freaked out. Luckily, the last guy left speaks Dagestani and he translates for me. He says they are claiming I am their lost princess, who was lost at sea years ago, because I look exactly like her.
I scoff, “Ha, me, a princess? Are you kidding me? If I was royalty, don’t you think I would remember?” I tell the sailor to try and convince them that I am not their princess, and he tries, but they are adamant. They herd me onto their ship, to haul me back to Dagestan, and on the ship, they give me the captain’s quarters. It’s quite strange. They keep nodding and smiling and bowing, even when I’m trying to ask questions. Not many of them speak English, and the ones that do, they shrink away from me, claiming, in broken English, that royalty doesn’t talk to normal people. I’m lonely, and I keep trying to talk to the other sailor, but he’s been accepted as family and I haven’t been able to say anything to him.
We’ve been sailing for a couple hours, and I’m on the railing of the ship, wondering when I’ll get home; when a little boy in ragged clothes comes up to me and offers me something. I kneel down, and I take what’s in his hands, something wrapped in plastic. I’m not quite sure what it is, but the little boy pantomimes eating something. I’m guessing it’s food. I shake my head, but he pushes it towards me, and saying in broken English, “for you.” I look up, and see that all the people on board are watching the “princess”, wondering how she’ll react. I smile cautiously and open up the plastic and hold the object with my hands. It’s slippery, with slime all over it, and it almost slides out of my hand. It’s red, and squishy, and as I look at it closely, and I deduce it is a raw slab of meat. I gesture to the sailor to come over to me.
“What in the world is this,” I mutter, while still managing a smile.
“Oh, this?” He grins. “This dish is Dagestan’s national dish, the people’s favorite,” he says delightedly.
“The people’s favorite? It’s raw. How do I cook it?!” I ask, my voice unnaturally high.
“Oh, you don’t,” he cheerfully says.
“WHAT,” I explode. I flash a quick smile at the startled people. “I mean, what?”
“Yes, you eat it raw. It tests your strength. If you are able to eat it all, it will prove to them you are their destined queen,” he says, as he turns around and walks away.
“ALL of it? Wait, what? QUEEN?! I thought I was merely princess,” I screech, at his retreating figure. All I hear in response is a laugh. I look at the people’s expectant faces, and I laugh nervously. Oh, Rakia, what have you gotten yourself into? I gulp and look at the meat, with some blood leaking out of it. I snag the sailor again, “at least tell me what this piece of meat is. Please,” I whimper, fluttering my eyelashes. Some charmer I am, with dirt all over me and a whimpering tone.
He sighs, and I know he has caved, “it’s heart, of one of the mercenary prisoners. They say if you eat an enemy’s heart you will gain their strength and will ne victorious in the end. ‘Tis tradition.”
Horror and disgust crashes over me in waves, and I almost pitch the meat-someone’s heart-overboard. “Someone’s HEART?!” But it was in vain, he was fleeing below deck. I smile grudgingly at the people, and I take a small bite of it the heart, holding my nose. I gag; it’s tough and hard to chew. The people cheer me on. I get blood on my philtrum as I take another bite; but that’s all I can manage before I run to the edge of the boat and puke it all out. Everything. I pitch the heart, football-style, over the railing into the ocean. SPLASH! I’ve never heard such a relaxing sound. I wipe the face with my sleeve and turn around, expecting sympathy, but all I see are glares. One person yells something, and the all starting shouting and clamoring and advance toward me. I see out of the corner of my eye the sailor has come up on deck when he heard the ruckus. I run to him and grab him.
“What’s happening now,” I ask fearfully.
He listens to the shouts and then smiles ruefully, “you have failed. The people have lost faith in you. They don’t believe you’re the queen anymore. You’re only a foreigner who has committed treason. I’m sorry, I cannot be affiliated with a criminal.” He starts to walk away.
I scream, “wait! What will they do with me now?”
A sort of gasp-of despair, of longing, of agony-escapes me. “Now,” I ask sadly.
“Oh, no, later, when we’ve safely docked. We’re headed for Turkish shores to refuel. We’ll have to wait until then.”
I back away from him, thinking about all I’ve done in my life, which seems quite short now. 22 years in comparison to 60, it’s not a lot. I’m not even married yet! This is it? This is how my life is going to end? Murdered for impersonation? Impersonation I didn’t even do?! I look up, to faces of scorn and distaste, directed at me. I buckle under the pressure and my knees give way. I huddle into a small ball with my head tucked under my knees.
The sailor comes up and pats me on the shoulder, silently comforting me. “Listen, I’ll talk to the captain, eh? Try to lessen your sentence. Alright?”
I look up at him with wide, fearful eyes. He takes that as a yes, and ambles off, presumably to talk to the captain. I watch his retreating figure, and exhausted, I drift off into a fitful, dreamless sleep. I’m roughly shaken awake, and I blearily open my eyes. “Where’s the fire,” I croak and I stretch my aching arms and rub my eyes.
It’s the sailor, and he’s looking at me gleefully. “We’ve landed!”
Fear creeps into my heart and I instantly wake, “and you’re happy about that,” I screech.
“Yes, I mean, no. I mean, whatever,” he says, perplexed, and he waves his hand as if to wave away the words. “No, the reason I am happy, is because your sentence has been lessened!”
“Wait, so I’m not going to die,” I ask hesitantly.
“Nope,” he says cheerfully, and sits back on his heels like a puppy waiting for a treat. “But, you will be thrown overboard now that we’ve docked. That stands to be the verdict,” he says hastily, and he looks away.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I say wearily, “alright, I know how to swim. I’ll most likely live. Thank you for everything.” I smile at him, for real, he has done a lot. I’m about to ask for his name, and maybe his number, hey he isn’t too bad, but then I’m approached by some of the Dagestanis. I face them, unafraid of my sentence, but really I’m afraid. I’m then seized by some of the Dagestani crew. It frightens me, and I struggle to get out of their arms, but they’ve tightened around me like boa constrictors. Next think I know, I’m toppling over the edge of the ship, and tumbling into the murky water with a large splash.