!~!~!~^^: The Princess is Definitely
m: You are facing a wall. The wall is made of blue bricks. The blue bricks are an imperfect grid. They are fragile or you are not afraid to hurt yourself on a brick. You are so close to this wall of blue bricks it is all you can see.
m: You have your wits and your red suspenders. You are wearing brown shoes. In your pocket there is a key.
b: ask 'where is my brother?' to wall
m: The wall is not your brother's keeper.
b: hit brick with the top of my head
m: The blue brick explodes. You get one hundred points. On the other side of the wall there is a turtle looking down at you—a turtle standing on the opposite side of the brick wall, on the wall itself, his body a right angle to the wall. Its shoelaces hang over the edge of the brick. Beyond (above) the turtle there is a ceiling of more blue bricks. There is, hanging from that ceiling, a complex of crystals and candles (a chandelier).
b: ask 'where is my brother' to the turtle
m: The turtle says it will tell you if you tie its shoelaces. Or if you stomp on its back, it will give you two hundred points. Or if you take its shell it will let you have its shell. Or if you smash the bricks beneath it with the top of your head it will give you its shell. What the turtle loves is giving.
b: take key out of pocket and throw it at turtle, explaining to the turtle that this key brings bad luck, faces that hover above our heads that swoop down like the sun -- tell him that you want him to have it, as he seems to always have bad luck and perhaps a little more bad luck is enough to turn everything around
m: The turtle shrinks inside its shell when the key smacks its face. Still, the white shoelaces do hang, now from the leg holes. The key bounces somewhere out of sight. The flames on the chandelier's candles lean toward the key as it flies. When the key is out of sight they stand up straight again.
b: tell the turtle that he knows his shoelaces are poison, that everything he touches turns to poison or turns away. tell him you are sorry, so sorry for this -- that you have been in castles like this one many times over and that every time the princess you are searching for turns away and gets further away with every brick smashed and every thing squashed.
m: The turtle reaches for you with its poison white laces. They positively shine.
b: jump up and smash the brick below the turtle. apologize profusely for this, apologize but let him know it is better this way -- that he never should see something like this coming. tell him you remember the ground disappearing from under you once -- riding a platform that looked like an orange mushroom before it dropped from the sky. tell him you're sorry, again, for the key, for the bad luck
m: The turtle gives you all its points. 200 points, and they're yours. The collective value of that turtle's memories. (All the unlucky things that ever happened to the turtle.) (Beginning with its birth in a world built for you, where height is measured by your height, and gaps by your jumps, and only you can run.) You can see a little more of the room above through the brick you have shattered. There is a brother in there, standing on the opposite side of the wall. It is a brother and that is for sure. It has your cap on top of its cap and this is how you know it is a brother. It is facing away.
b: feel top of head for red cap and feel the flatness of the top of your head as this is a world with no hair on top of heads -- call out to brother 'are you my brother?'
m: It comes to you and peers down through the wall. You see now that it is not your brother. It is my brother. My own.
b: start to run backwards and run if this is a world where you can run backwards -- arms out like a sad airplane, or arms at sides, yet quicker than before.
m: The blue wall of bricks recedes and recedes. You see that you are running on blue bricks. You see that the ceilings are blue bricks. You see that the walls are blue bricks. The room is very tall. At its center is a floating coin. A golden coin. Like a golden zero turning. Where does the light that glints on the golden zero come from? ... My brother comes in through the wall. Gravity distends its leg as it comes through, pulls the foot to the floor. Now its other foot. Now my brother's in the room with you. It puts its arms the way your arms are put.
b: think about your own brother, the one who died earlier as you continued on, the one who has left the room to go eat a sandwich that your mother has prepared -- ham and yellow mustard on an egg roll, and how he is probably biting the bread from the top down to even the height out, to make things flat again, as flat as the top of your head. wonder about this brother, here. wonder if he is like yours, tall, with a girlfriend just like yours. wonder where you are. wonder how many points you have, how many coins.
m: You don't have any coins. You have four hundred points. You have two mans. The blue blocks tremble underneath my brother's brown shoes as he runs toward you. ... As you continue running, your back hits a wall of blue bricks. These rattle. ... The brother is twice your height exactly. Everything is once your height or twice your height or three times, or four. Nothing is ever one and a half times your height. The princess is somewhere inside this inside or I am a liar.
b: know that you are not lying. know that you cannot lie: that this is your brother, that the princess is inside this inside, that your brother is twice my height exactly, that he is wearing a hat. look at hands and pray to see white gloves and the beginnings of a flame
m: You have the gloves and inside your belly there is a flower. ... It is good that you trust me. ... My brother's very near.
b: ask brother 'where is the princess?' wait for response and then ask you 'where is the princess?'
m: We are brothers who agree, and what we say is that she is definitely somewhere in this castle. What we say is that exits are any bricks you see. You can break what you want to break because it is a world for you. My brother wants to hug. Its gloves are like your gloves. You can see a rash beneath its green suspenders. The skin all enflamed and pus underneath.
b: break a brick and break another brick. i am not a hugger, i have never been -- i do not touch anything but mushrooms and flowers. i am scared to touch the princess when i find her. i will find her. apologize to your brother. tell him you are sorry. tell him about the turtle.
m: My brother will keep your cap as a keepsake. ... On the other side of the gap you have made in the wall there is the foot of a staircase. Each stair's as tall as you are tall. The ceiling in this room is more blue bricks. In this room there is a coin well out of reach. ... My brother walking away with your cap.
b: jump up each stair as if you were a child, one at a time, stomping loudly each and every time. look at your brother walking away with my cap. wonder how this will effect future events, photographs, love, not having to take your cap off when going to church or eating a meal. think you are better off without it. think that your brother needs it. he looks ill. you should go to him, narrator. you should have paid attention to him and not me.
m: We shouldn't talk about me. I am like the top of your head. There is nothing good to say. At the top of the stairwell there is a hallway lined with doors and pictures. The pictures show the princess' skirts, their pink shimmery folds, and then in another picture the white skirt beneath that, and then in another picture the white skirt beneath that. And then in another picture, the white skirt, beneath that. The barest hint of flesh in its bottom right corner, possibly the photographer's thumb. Exits are northeast, north, northwest, and back down the stairs.
b: appreciates you wanting me to find this princess, but i am concerned for you -- when i talk about my brother you talk about yours: making him large and monstrous, scaly, even, like the reptiles i've seen, grotesque, even. he is gone now and we don't know where he is. head northeast.
m: My brother is gone and we are done with all that. I am no longer here. There is only the princess. You open the northeast door. On the other side there is a series of challenging jumps over lava. The first jump is three yous wide and the platform on the other side is two yous wide. On the other side of that platform there is a gap four yous wide and the next platform is three yous wide. Above that platform there is a Thwomp. The final gap is five yous wide and there is a fireball jumping up into the middle of that gap. Play; play.
b: jump across the first jump and land on a platform, running backward to stay on it. run as fast as i can and jump again, shoes tied, thank god, or thank you, or thank whomever. watch the thwomp, wonder how long it has been throwing itself at the ground, when it started, who told it to be there -- if it was born that way, if it hasn't moved in decades, why its face looks in pain, always. think about looking up at it to ask if it would stop but you are gone now -- you are no longer here, and so you cannot change the pattern that is established. jump from that platform to another one, avoiding the fireball. wait. keep waiting. keep waiting.
m: The screen scrolls right. You are in the part of the castle that looks exactly like the legs of the princess except they are giant, and the pink skirt is giant, you can make out her ankles or her simulated giant ankles, they are white, they are enthroned in red shoes, nothing like your brown shoes these red shoes, and the frilly fringe of white, of skirt beneath skirt. Exits are through the skirt and platforms leading up the skirt. (And the Thwomp never fell, only trembled, and thought of how long it had waited for this moment, and was sure that you could be the Thwomp's, but it was too afraid, it did not know what it would do when you were dead and it was no longer waiting, it has no points or coins to give, no real memories, only the thrill of evading the Thwomp, which is what it gave you.) (Now it has been scrolled off the screen and all you can see are these skirts.)
b: wish to go back and tell the thwomp to crush your brother, that the purpose of stone is just that: these bricks are made of stones -- they are fragile and they are transitory, where the thwomp is immortal. think of immortality. think of stars and of heavy breathing. walk up the entrance of the skirt, running your white gloves along the walls to let the world know you are not dead.
m: You pass through many veils of skirt. You brush them aside with your hands or you do not. They tickle your face. Layers and layers of perfume and then some other smell. It is what it is and it is not me I am not that smell. The white skirt layers begin to explode around your body ad the bricks do explode. White flecks of white flecks of. You come to the center of the skirts. It is a grand ballroom. The legs stretch up above you into the night sky. Ghosts hover here and there. There is a castle at the center of the ballroom. It is as tall as two of you. There is an exit, also, on the other side of the skirts: you could leave this place. You could decide to learn nothing.
b: call out to the ghosts: did you go to the castle? did you exit? know there is no princess in that castle as there is a princess in this castle. know that you are sorry for all of this, that there is a castle in another princess. think of the other princesses. think of the castles lost. ask the ghosts if they have seen the fireworks
m: The ghosts are not your brother's keeper.
b: stare at the ghosts. freeze them in their tracks. know that they will follow me out of here or into there. they will always do that. throw fire at the castle
m: The ghosts all want what they can't have. They do not recognize your face. The little castle burns down. Inside there is a cannon pointing up. Its fuse is long like a shoelace left to dangle.
b: wish to fly like the ghosts. wish a lot of things. want what they can't have. jump in the cannon and throw fire at the fuse.
m: Where do you aim the cannon while the fuse burns? Where do you go? What do you want? What have you always wanted?
b: i want to die like my brother. i want to be eating a sandwich. i do not know what i have always wanted. i do not want to tell you these things.
m: Through blue blocks, then, layers and layers, through night sky, through princess skirts, through princess, through princess skirts, through princess, through castle in princess, through princess in castle in princess in castle, through and out, through and out, through desire, through wanting, through night sky, through skirts, through blue blocks and princess and skirts, through princess, through wanting, through one coin, just one coin, through want. I was never the princess and I am not here. Through want. Through night sky, through big stars. Through want. What do you want to tell me?
b: if i could tell you, i would let you know about how i never collected the coins, how i had no desire for another life, how i never had time for bricks, i never had time for anything, for bridges, for clouds, for anything but movement. if i could tell you i would tell you that i am sorry that i am in another princess and that these things mean nothing to me, that there is nothing learned except through experience and repeating, repeating. i have seen that turtle before and i will see him again. the thwomp will never stay still. my brother is dead. your brother is dying. this is all that i want to tell you.
Bio: Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Recent work appears in Hotel Amerika, DIAGRAM, and Fairy Tale Review. His collection of Tuscaloosa Missed Connections, So You Know It's Me, and Come See For Yourself, stories about New Jersey, were released by Tiny Hardcore Press. Level End, lyric essays based on videogame boss battles, will be released by Origami Zoo Press in 2012.