Alloy Angel - A Fairytale
Once upon a time in the Inland Empire, there lived a beautiful princess. Though her given name is Aurora, those closest to her call her Sleeping Beauty, due to the unfortunate circumstance that she suffers from narcolepsy, an aftereffect of the magical spell cast upon her as a teenager. But her loved ones protect her well from any harm that might come to her because of her condition. Among the most vigilant of her guardians is her Prince Charming, her Mister Right, the love of her life, Sir Vincenzo Diesella. Known for his impressive physique and vast wealth, Sir Vincenzo was the most sought-after bachelor in all the Empire, but his deep brown eyes were fixed only on his Sleeping Beauty.
But even though Sleeping Beauty and Sir Vincenzo were together and had pledged their love for each other, there were still those who wished to do them harm.
It was a crisp, sunny afternoon - the twenty-first of October, to be precise - and the leaves outside had turned from emerald green to gold, orange, red, and brown. Beauty and Vincenzo huddled inside her warm condominum, watching the battle unfolding on the television between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. Vincenzo noticed that Beauty spent most of the first quarter buffing her nails rather than watching the game; he knew that she wasn't really interested in the match-up. But her diligence in remaining by his side was apparent. Finally, as the second quarter drew closer to halftime, Vincenzo glanced up as Beauty stood and gathered up the crumpled wrappers of his Power Bars from the coffeetable.
"Thou hast eaten the last of these, milord," she said, smiling. "I believe I shall make a quick run to yon convenience store to replenish thine supply."
Vincenzo grinned widely. "Thou art a most agreeable lady; I thank thee."
Beauty grabbed her purse and keys from the kitchen counter and left Vincenzo alone with the flickering football game.
* * *
Halftime came and went, and Vincenzo glanced up as the same beer commercial he had seen thirty times before appeared on the screen. He scanned the den. Beauty was not there. She must not have returned from her quest yet, he thought. He quickly calculated that she had left during the second quarter. He wondered if something had happened to her. The game came back on and Vincenzo saw that there were only 42 seconds left. He silently vowed that he would search the entire Inland Empire for her... as soon as the game was over.
* * *
Outside the 7-11, Disgruntled, the eighth dwarf, lay in wait for his prey. He frowned, thinking of Aurora Kaiser. His mildly annoyed feeling turned to hot anger when his thoughts turned to her father. Aloyisius Kaiser had recently finalized hundreds of layoffs from the aluminum plant. Disgruntled's job at the smelter had been his only source of income since being written out of Disney's Snow White script.
Disgruntled perked up when he saw Aurora's vibrant purple Dodge Neon pull into the 7-11 parking lot. He leaned forward until his chest touched the steering wheel of his Yugo. At long last, after waiting in this parking lot for three months, his victim was in his crosshairs.
She emerged from the convenience store, her arms loaded with Power Bars. She pushed a button on her keychain and the trunk opened. Disgruntled slowly opened the door of his Yugo as Aurora placed the load of protein snacks in the trunk. Disgruntled pulled a lead pipe from behind his back as he tiptoed slowly toward her. He raised the pipe as he came up behind her, and then... she collapsed at his feet, snoring loudly, the grating noise of her rattling uvula reverberating off the building. Surprised at his good fortune - Disgruntled wondered how he was going to hit her anyway, she being 5 feet 7 inches tall and he being only 3 foot 6 - he hefted her lean frame up onto his shoulders and retreated with his "prize" to his Yugo.
* * *
Sir Vincenzo stood and cheered as the Pittsburgh Steelers walked off the field victors of the Monday night game. "Twenty bucks richer," he said, smiling as he turned off the television. Now, to see what happened to Beauty.
Vincenzo left the condo and took the stairs to the parking lot two at a time. He walked to his 1969 GTO and slid into the vinyl driver's seat. He turned the key in the ignition and listened to the 400 cubic-inch engine roar to life. Dropping the transmission into reverse, he stomped the accelerator to the floor and grinned as the size 50 tires squealed across the asphalt.
As he shifted gears and took off toward the highway, he went over in his mind where Beauty might have gone. Unless something was wrong, she would have returned home by now. Of course, he had noticed how bored she had become with the game. Perhaps she went to her stepmother's house? Vincenzo gunned the engine and steered the car toward the trailer park where Snow White lived since her divorce from Aloyisius Kaiser.
Sliding out of the car a few minutes later, Vincenzo pounded on the thin door of the trailer. The door instantly opened, revealing a once-pretty pestersome shrew. "It took you long enough! Where is s.... Vincenzo? How nice to see you." Her dark hair--graying now--was looped around foam-covered curlers and a long, thin cigarette hung from her lower lip. A tattered blue bathrobe was draped from her bony frame, exposing skin marked like a roadmap with varicose veins.
"Thanks," Vincenzo replied. "Been a long time. Say, have you seen Beauty around today?"
"Nope," Snow answered. "Ain't expectin' nobody, either."
"Sure seemed like you were," Vincenzo retorted.
"Well," she drawled, "looks can be deceiving."
"Or revolting," he said under his breath.
"What did you say?" Snow demanded.
"No kidding," he lied. "I said, 'no kidding.' Look, I'm looking for Beauty, so I'll catch you later." Without another word or a backward glance, Sir Vincenzo hopped into the GTO and headed back toward the city and the next place he could think of that Beauty might have gone: the jewelry store.
* * *
Midas' Gold & Jewels sat on the corner of Sixth Street and Whispering Pines Road. Vincenzo brought the GTO to a screeching halt and got out of the car. He walked into the building where the owner of the place - Midas himself - stood behind the counter, the daily newspaper clutched in his leather-gloved hands. "Midas!" Vincenzo called. "How's the work coming on that ring Beauty and I dropped off?"
"All done, Vin," Midas replied. "Here it is." He handed Vincenzo a velvet covered box.
Vin dug some money out of his pocket and handed it to Midas. "Have you seen Beauty, by chance?"
"Not today," Midas said. "Why?"
"She went out for Power Bars during the second quarter and I haven't seen her since," Vincenzo replied. "Here's my cell phone number," he continued, handing Midas a card. "If you see her, give me a call, all right?"
* * *
Disgruntled left the still snoring Beauty behind and got into his Yugo. Only one last thing for him to do, and then Snow would pay him and he could finally get his dream underway: developing his own sitcom for FOX. With Beauty safely stored away in the aluminum plant, and the ring the last piece of the puzzle, the end was finally in sight; he could taste success on the tip of his tongue, and for the first time in his life, Disgruntled smiled.
* * *
Vincenzo ran through the mall, looking inside every shoe store, every clothing boutique, every pillow and bedding shop. Beauty was nowhere to be seen. Just as he decided to move on to another locale to search for her, his cell phone started playing "The Hustle."
"Yeah?" he called into the device.
"Vin... this is Midas. I haven't seen Beauty, but something just happened I thought you should know about."
"Well, right after you left, this little guy comes in claiming to be you and asking for the ring I just gave you. I told him that it was more damaged than I thought and that it was in Toledo being repaired and that it wouldn't be in until Tuesday."
"I'll be right there," Vincenzo said, clicking the cell phone shut and running back toward his car.
And there it was, plain as day: a tiny silver footprint on Midas' burgundy carpet. The pointed shoe style and tiny size--maybe two inches wide and three inches long--told Vincenzo more than he needed to know: whoever had been here not only had recently been in an aluminum plant, but was also a dwarf. And where there were dwarves, there was Snow White.
Vincenzo growled low in his throat and turned to Midas. "You said he came here after a ring?"
Vin frowned and punched a number into his cell phone.
* * *
The telephone was ringing. The telephone was never ringing. Rip stared at the contraption for several seconds before picking up the receiver. "Hello?" she whispered tentatively.
"Hey, Rip... it's Vin. I need a favor."
Rip pushed her braided armpit hair to the side and leaned back in her computer chair. "Sure; shoot."
"I need any information you can give me that would link one of the Seven Dwarves to Aloysious Kaiser."
Rip immediately began to type. Her screen flickered as she hacked into the Kaiser network. "Well, it's not one of the original seven dwarves, but there's an employment record here for another dwarf: Disgruntled."
"Thanks," Vincenzo said.
"No problem," Rip replied. "Glad to help."
* * *
Vincenzo walked into the empty aluminum plant, stepping quietly past the huge, cold smelter pots. His footfalls echoed in the cavernous building. "Beauty!" he bellowed. "Disgruntled Dwarf! I know you're here! Show yourself, coward!" The only sound he received in reply was the slow, steady dripping of water falling from a rusted cooling pipe.
He moved toward the open door at the back of the building. The edge of a slag pile covered in heavy, black plastic - like an ominous mountain caught up in shadows - caught his attention. The horror of the dripping water suddenly dawned on him.
An evil cackle floated on the air to him. "Here's your Beauty!" Snow White yelled. "Drop the ring in the bucket and back away slowly."
The slag pile stretched upward before him and a long conveyor belt ran over the top. Vincenzo glanced higher and saw Beauty, dangling by her feet, snoring loudly, swaying slightly from the chain that suspended her from the ceiling and over the slag pile. Setting on the precipice of a wooden platform was a bucket with a string tied to the handle that led to Snow White's hand. Directly below the bucket, the covering for the magnesium slag had been pulled away, exposing it to the air. A faint burning odor tainted Vincenzo's nostrils as the moisture in the air caused the magnesium to smolder.
"Hand over the ring, or the water's coming down!" Snow White bellowed. She and Distruntled Dwarf stood on another platform not far away from the bucket.
"Boom!" cackled Disgruntled.
Vincenzo dropped the velvet box into the bucket. Disgruntled hauled up the rope, hoisting the bucket to the platform.
"Give it to me," Snow White barked.
"No! I want to see it!" Disgruntled screeched.
While the pair of them fought over the velvet box, Vincenzo vaulted up the conveyor belt and jumped off the end, grabbing the chain holding Beauty in mid-air. The chain swung upward toward Snow White and Disgruntled. Vin swung up onto the platform, hooking the chain to the railing. He grabbed Snow White, and tucked her under his arm and against his side, using her bony legs to knock Disgruntled to the planked floor of the platform. The bucket of water spilled over the edge, hitting the magnesium and igniting it in a chemical reaction.
The magnesium first smoked and then began to catch fire. Vincenzo flung Snow White to the side, and she rolled off the edge of the balcony just as the slag flared up in intense heat. Vin grabbed Beauty, releasing her from her bonds, and then used the dangling chain to swing from the balcony, over the smoking slag, and out of the huge double doors at the end of the building. With Beauty slung over his shoulder, he ran for his car, Beauty's cacophonous snores mixing with the concussive explosions inside the building. Vin looked back and saw the building slowly melting into a puddle of concrete and metal.
Vincenzo started the GTO and drove away from the ruined aluminum plant, slowing only once to avoid running the dwarf over as he fled the scene. A few moments later, Beauty awakened and glanced around dazedly. "What happened?" she asked.
"It's a long story, my love," Vin replied.
"I thought I had asked thee not to take me out when I am sleeping. 'Tis quite confusing."
Vin chuckled and said, "I just wanted to get you your ring, Sweetheart." He handed her the gold filigree encrusted ruby ring and smiled.
* * *
Two months later, while Beauty slept amid the pile of bridal catalogues, Vincenzo watched the only thing on television while working out his triceps: Oprah. Vincenzo laughed out loud as the host announced,
"Up next on Oprah, the tragic tale of an entertainer overlooked by Hollywood. His new book, Three Feet of Snow, released this past October, has been on the bestseller's list ever since. Coming up, Disgruntled Dwarf talks about the amazing circumstances at an aluminum plant that turned his life around."