A Number as a Name
by Sarina LaBold
Twisting and turning like a grotesque parasite, it leached into my body leaving me without control, ripped through my memories and my virtues and razed my being into an empty shell that it could inhabit and use; my mind and body were becoming weak, leaving an opportunity for others to take what was mine, but I held steadfast to that parasite I had claimed as my own, what I had begun to live for—power.
* * *
"Princess! Your chariot awaits you!" Mother reminded me from the bottom of the staircase.
"Coming." I replied, still straightening the satin bow on my new purple dress.
As I was driven to school, I looked with disgust at the shabby gray uniforms most students wore. No one could make me wear one. School was bad enough—classes were boring because I knew everything, the students were drab and disobedient, teachers were grouchy and unwilling to listen to my reasonable complaints—it didn’t need ugly uniforms, too. I went to school to pretend that I was learning. What a waste of my time. I could have found followers anywhere.
"Hey, Anna," one of my minions broke my stream of thought. Sometimes lower class people just never learn. Sparing him, and me, the humiliation of answering to such a lowly name, I pretended not to hear him. "I apologize, your Highness."
"That’s better. Now, what is it that I might do for you?"
"Will I be able to be in the grace of your company this afternoon?"
"Well, I suppose."
"I like your dress," one of his friends commented.
"Thank you, it’s made of the finest materials, imported from—"
"I saw one just like it at the discount store."
I snorted. "Are you blind, child?"
They didn’t need to know. I had been keeping secrets from everyone it seemed—even from myself. I haven’t wanted them to realize that I’m losing my power, so I guess I need to perform a random act of violence today. Kindness is over-rated. No one should be treated fairly if everyone can’t be. I certainly wasn’t.
* * *
"Princess Anna? What’s today’s assignment?" They always kept their reverence for me, attempting to remain on my good side: They’ve all seen what happens when they don’t.
"First of all, I need you to fetch the girl who attempted to insult my wardrobe." Nasty peasant. Just one more person who thinks they can treat me ignobly.
After a few minutes, she came into view. Struggling to break free of my minion’s grasp, the girl vehemently denied my accusations. "But I did see it. Honest!"
"Nonsense. Take her to the pit." Ah, my old friend. When was the last time I put someone down there? It’s funny that a simple sinkhole found accidently can arouse such fear and reverence. "Do not pity her! View her as an example!" As her screams pierced the night, another sound joined her voice—sirens. "Move quickly! Someone will need to keep an eye on my horrible, fake parents so they do not interfere." Everyone scattered into the darkness.
The sirens grew closer. But I wasn’t worried. What could they do to me? I walked out into the dark, alone.
The flashing red and blue lights came as a surprise to my dilated eyes. I’m not sure why I found the need to go toward the pit. Perhaps I wanted to watch her suffer like I did. But it wasn’t the same; she could escape through an unconscious state—a blackout. I was never so lucky.
The policeman glanced at me. "I didn’t expect anyone else to be responsible for this crime. Take Anna down to the station while I bring this innocent young lady to her parents; they must be worried sick."
Just the mere thought of those creatures made my blood curdle. I could feel my power diminishing, yet it was still racing through my pulsating veins like a motorbike. I had to get away for the sake of my power, myself, and my future. So I ran.
The branches tore at my dress, leaving pieces dangling from the bottom. I didn’t care. I kept running. Beads of sweat ran down my face, reminding me of when I first acquired my power. I was not in control. Something pushed and shoved me until I gained what I have now, but it was not me. It was not Anna. And I am not her now.
Memories began to flash in my mind: Mom and Dad, the old house, the fire, my parent’s funeral, and adoption day. No one will ever believe me that the fire was an accident: I knew that they would’ve been mad at me if they saw the mess I had made, but I just wanted to make a nice dinner. They hadn’t been home in a week. But the messy house was incomparable to my life being swallowed in flames. Why couldn’t these new imposters have left me at the adoption center? Then I would not be here now.
The ground came at me quickly. Wet mud caked the side of my face, and a hand grabbed my arm. "You can’t run forever," the policeman warned me.
* * *
The bench was cold against my mud-caked skin. I looked around, feeling someone’s eyes judging me. A man’s face was pressed against the cool steel bars that held him prisoner. His orange suit seemed out of place against the hard, white walls. Then again, my purple dress didn’t compliment the scene either. I wished I had a number like his. A number as a name: a title without care. What would those imposters call me then? Our past conversation reverberated through my thoughts: "Well, your name’s Anna now. Who cares what they wanted to call you. We’re your parents, right?" I didn’t want a name anymore—not the one I was left with when I stood at the funeral by myself or the one that I was given to satisfy a couple of self-centered jerks.
* * *
"Are you sure it was her, Officer? She’s just a girl! You can’t question her! Do you know what that will do to my reputation?"
"Sorry, ma’am. This girl has something wrong with her."
"But I just talked to her teacher this afternoon. He said that she didn’t even need to go to the principal’s office today!"
"She didn’t, but she left school early with the other students she controls. She thinks she’s royal. A dictator, if you will."
None of this was true. I just wanted control for once. Control over my life.
After the police gave me a warning, we went home. Father was silent until we pulled in the drive. The key slipped easily from the ignition, and he unlocked the doors. "Anna, why didn’t you tell us about…about…"
About what? How my parents died? How I stood alone at their coffin? How we never spoke about my feelings? No—they’ll never understand. They’ll never be what they should be. Or have a child like they should.
I opened the car door and once again slipped into the darkness. This time I just went into the house. I knew they wanted to talk, but now it was bedtime. In the thirteen years of my life, I had never been so exhausted.
The nightmares that ravaged my sleep were comforting: the parasite was leaving me for good. I think tomorrow I’ll take the bus. And maybe I’ll even wear jeans.Last Updated: 3/31/11