The prince was supposed to have come long ago, but she didn’t really care.
Moreover, it was more like she couldn’t care.
She had been put in her tower long ago, on a bright sunny day. Her hair was golden and woven with bright flowers; she wore a baby blue dress that had not a single tear in it. The village had often called her the most beautiful of any of them. She was a gorgeous white Aisha, with captivating red lips and flowing tresses of blonde hair. Her eyes were a piercing shade of turquoise, and shone with the slightest amount of light.
There had been much light in her small village, not a cloudy day that she could remember. Even when the witch came and locked her in the tower room, beams of sunlight stole in through the curtains and Weewoo nested in the rafters.
She never felt hopeless. The tower was just her beginning- her prince was to come and she was to live happily ever after. The end. That was supposed to be it.
Except that it wasn’t so simple. Her prince hadn’t come at all, and she must have been waiting a millennium. She would have left by herself, except for the fact that the witch (whom she suspected had long fled the tower, but she wasn’t sure) had locked the door and sanded down the stairs. The only way out was through the window, but it was a long way off the ground.
There was another thing keeping her back, too.
She wasn’t quite sure what day it had happened- day 3051? Day 3052? - But she woke up feeling... different. Her limbs felt heavy and moved with jerky motions, her hair stiff and brittle. Whence she happened upon her mirror, she screamed.
Her eyes stared back at her, blank and pale. Her pupils had shrunk to pinpoints and the eyes themselves were dull and glassy. Her skin had grayed and blue veins rose in a net around her face. Her lips were dry and cracked. Her hair, once so beautiful, had turned grey as well and was tangled around her shoulders.
This is what she screamed to the morning mist and this is why she could never leave. So many of the villagers would gasp and run in fright at their decayed princess, calling her a monster, an abomination.
So she stayed in the tower, where it was safe.
And she waited for a prince that would never come, especially not now.
It was a day like any other.
The grey clouds had obscured the sky, letting only feeble fingers of the sunset in to dance on her skirt, faded and embroidered with cobwebs. The Weewoo nests sat empty in the rafters, the usual early morning chatter gone for a century now. Her shriveled fingers rested on the windowsill, absently brushing away dust that had gathered over her thousand years of imprisonment.
Something bright caught the corner of her eye and she turned, filled with dread that her prince had come up the tower and turned the key so she could go. So that he could see her ugly face and run, the door swinging behind him, the village ablaze with fright at the newly uncovered monster that lurked in the stone tower that had always been there.
But it was just a stray sunbeam that had reflected off of the mirror, and when she turned to look, she saw herself. Grey, dead, and hideous. In rage and desperation, she flew at the mirror and sent it crashing off the wall and to the ground, shattering into a hundred pieces. She sobbed dryly, having been unable to draw tears for so long. Too long.
“Well, that’s one way to solve your problems.”
Again, she whipped around, expecting to see a prince standing there. And he wasn’t.
Standing, that is.
More of floating a few inches off the ground, bluish feet hanging from a stylish black suit, with brown hair combed into what must have been a fashionable style. Red eyes peered out at her from a face that was almost blurred and see- through, but the face of a Lupe nonetheless.
Her prince had come, all right.
But he was a ghost.
“What, never seen a ghost before?”
She was surprised that her ears still worked- she had figured that they were stuffed with cobwebs by now, but apparently not so. She didn’t trust her voice either, so she just shrugged jerkily.
“Well. You seem to be taking this well. What’s your name?” His snout twisted up in a smirk, canines peeking out from between the lips.
She had to speak. So she tried to clear her throat (didn’t work) and said in a raspy voice, “I was called Penelope.”
“Hm.” He seemed surprised. “That’s an old name. No underscores or numbers or nothing? How old are you?”
“I-I... I don’t really know.”
“Okay, then. Really old. Oh- I guess you don’t know my name. It’s Outstop.”
Her dry lips twisted into a giggle, something she hadn’t done in forever. “Outstop? That’s a ridiculous name.”
“I know, right? But my parents didn’t want me to have a bad name, so they just threw together random words until they found something that wasn’t being used. You should see my brother- his name was Shortfield.”
“I don’t remember my family,” she admitted. “They were so long ago; I guess they just slipped from my mind.”
Nothing more really could be said to that, until Outstop broke the silence. “Well,” he began, “I would offer you a hand, except for the fact that I probably wouldn’t be able to help much. Do you think you can get up by yourself?”
She sniffed at him. “I’m not so useless, even if I’m not as lively as some.” She placed her bony fingers on the ground and pushed herself up, knobby knees not really supporting her. “How did you get in here, anyways?”
He stared at her blankly. “I flew. Duh. Ghosts tend to do that.”
She felt extremely foolish saying it, but she needed to. “Are- are you my prince?”
“Uh...” His transparent fingers scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Well, I guess. I’m not royalty. My family was- um- famous manufacturers of wooden instruments like-ah- like cellos and violins. I’m- I’m pretty rich then, I guess, maybe. But I'm not royalty at all. I came looking for you because I wanted something to do with my life. And then I had a run in with Jacko and I didn’t want to go back to where everybody would be staring at me all the time, so I just kept on looking and I finally found you. But I think you waited much longer than I did.”
She inclined her head politely. “Yes. I was sent up here before these woods had even grown.”
“Well then, princess, why haven’t you left yet?”
“Do you see my face?” She gestured angrily to it, the pale eyes, the raised veins. “Everybody would be terrified of me. They would call me a freak. I can’t go out there!”
Outstop blinked. “Really? I’ve seen people like you before. It’s even considered stylish to most people, since a Zombie paintbrush is very expensive. Just between you and me, though, you’re one of the better looking Zombies...”
Not it was her turn to be surprised. “Paintbrush? What?”
“You know.” He flapped his hands in the air, trying to show what he meant. “Those magic things you use to become different colors. That’s how I got this way, you know.”
“You- painted yourself? I- I thought you had actually died or something!” She was shocked. That meant- no, she couldn’t think that way. But so many other things she thought would never happen were coming true...
“Yup! This is all 100% paint!” He grinned proudly. “Now, let’s go! I don’t think you want to be up here for the rest of your life! And I'm not giving you a choice!”
He tried to grab her by the hand and pull her out but his arm passed through hers. She jumped back to avoid him anyways and shook her head violently. “I can’t go! I don’t want to be out there so ugly as I am now!”
Outstop’s face turned dark. “You aren’t ugly! Look at yourself!”
With trembling fingers she picked up a large shard of mirror, tilting it to reflect her face.
Her reflection was the same as always, yes, but now she saw it differently. She saw the defined cheekbones and otherwise delicate features. She saw the beautiful pale shade of blue her eyes held and she saw the way her silver hair glimmered in the early moonlight.
She saw herself, and she knew she could not stay there any longer.
Penelope flung open her tower door, breaking it off the hinges, the wood long rotted. “Let’s go!” she cried, jumping down the stairs, feet sliding madly. The witch had sanded down the stairs so they were almost a slide, but she slid down with no greater pleasure. Outstop floated behind her.
“Now that’s the type of attitude I like,” he commented, his smirk returning.
“Oh, be quiet,” she said, playfully punching his arm. Her hand slapped onto the suit he was wearing and felt only a bit of resistance as she hit him. “And while we’re at it,” Penelope told him, “you may want to consider getting yourself a new paint job. This isn’t very practical.”
“I was able to float up to your window,” he pointed out. “Besides, if I have to ditch my color, so do you!”
“No way!” she shot back. “Why would I do that when I finally am starting to like it?”
“You smell!” Outstop retorted. “That’s why!”
As the two bickered, Edna watched from the shadow of the Brain Tree. She grinned to herself as she watched the two disappear into the Haunted Woods. She had almost thought that painting the princess Zombie had ruined everything, but apparently not. She was still able to let herself leave.
Penelope would never have to know that her ‘prince’ was not actually royalty at all. He lied about his lineage of famous instrument manufacturers. His family owned nothing but a small specialty store that sold hand- carved wooden whistles. She would never need to know that Edna herself had snuck into the tower and poured Rainbow Fountain water on her and painted the girl Zombie.
Outstop would never have to know that she was not a real princess, but merely a girl she had picked from Neovia long before it had grown to what it is now. He would never need to know that she had paid Jacko to give him the Ghost Paintbrush so he could float up and reach Penelope, finally.
But it looked as though her princess had finally been rescued and as she watched the light of Outstop’s glowing appendages finally dim, she turned away and pulled up her hood, smile growing even wider. They didn’t need to know that Edna had orchestrated the entire thing, to see if she could bottle misery. (It would be such a wonderful weapon. She knew so many people would pay very well for it.)
Looked like they had all finally gotten their happy ending.