Seven Little Queens

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Chapter 7: Ariana

“Zelda?” Ariana hollered. She craned her neck to peer out of the room she was standing in and into the hallway, where Zelda was inspecting a dusty painting on the wall. Zelda’s attention flicked to where Ariana stood.

“Yes?”

“I think you might want to check this out,” Ariana told her. Her message given, she retreated farther into the darkness of the seemingly-ancient room. Standing many heads tall in the corner of the room was a massive steel cylinder. It had a crack running down the middle of it, and the steel was the smallest bit corroded, but besides that, Ariana assumed it to be in shape. Sitting next to the cylinder was a metal platform with red and faded yellow knobs and switches. Entranced with curiosity, Ariana walked over to the board. She extended a hand to graze the weathered mechanisms, and her hand pressed lightly on one of the buttons.

With a swish, the crack that ran down the cylinder separated to reveal an empty space large enough for two tall people to stand comfortably.

Zelda strode into the room, Evie close behind her. When she saw the metal obstruction, though, she stopped abruptly.

“Ariana?” she whispered. “What did you do?”

“I accidentally pressed this and it made the metal crack,” she responded, pointing to the large red button that had ripped the cylinder open. “I’m sorry-”

Sorry?” Zelda exclaimed. Ariana’s heart sunk. She wasn’t usually one for impressing fellow humans, but something made her want to not let Zelda down. “This is amazing!”

“I kno- wait, amazing?” Ariana asked. “Did I hear that right?”

Zelda’s attention had drifted from Ariana’s blunder. She fingered the crack gently, almost tenderly. “Yes, you did,” she murmured. “Amazing. One of Victor’s prized inventions, right here...” She stopped speaking to glance at Evie and Ariana. “Are either of you scared of the dark?” she asked.

Evie looked Ariana in the eye. Ariana stared back. Neither girl wanted to admit a fear - even if it was a crippling one.

“Okay,” Zelda shrugged. “I guess you can both stay here for a couple minutes while I go down the-”

“I am,” Evie cringed. Her head was downcast in shame.

“Wonderful!” Zelda beamed. “Evie, come with me. Ariana, stay here, I’ll return for you.”

“Wait, wha-” Ariana began to say, but she was cut off by Zelda.

“Evie, get in the elevator.”

“The what?” Evie asked, confused.

“That thing.” Zelda pointed to the cylinder, and understanding took hold of Evie’s face. She quickly obliged, not even batting an eye when the cylinder - ‘elevator’ - rumbled beneath her feet.

“Okay, Ariana,” Zelda began, once Evie was safely in the cyli - elevator. “I need you to do something very important for me.”

“Oh for Gods’ sakes,” Ariana complained. “Stop talking to me like I’m a child, Zelda. Or whatever your name is. We don’t even know!” Distrust flooded her system - and her instincts were almost always right.

Zelda hesitated before speaking. “You’re right. You don’t know. But right now, I’m asking you not to know. I’m asking you to trust me.”

Ariana shot a distrustful look at Zelda, who continued speaking.

“Once both Evie and I are in the elevator, can you press this button?” asked Zelda to Ariana. Ariana frowned.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yep, I think I can press a button.

“Perfect!” Zelda clapped her hands jovially. Something about the girl rubbed Ariana the wrong way. Maybe it was because she was always happy. Or that she was obviously not revealing many things about her life - and the chokers, and the inventions, the house, and Victor...

“But -” Ariana smirked. “You have to do something for me in return.

“Really?” Evie asked. “Ariana, please...”

“Mph!” Ariana trilled. “Not talking to you, sister!” She fixed Zelda with wide, innocent eyes. “I’m talking to her.”

“Oh my Gods, fine...” Zelda muttered. “What are your terms?” Finally, Ariana grinned. She had gotten Zelda mad. Success!

“Tell us everything.”

“Ariana,” Zelda complained tiredly, “you must have realized that I can’t tell you two anythin-”

“Well, then, I guess your strange metal cylinder isn’t going anywhere.” Ariana leaned against the dirty wall. She knew she had won.

Zelda looked from the elevator back to Ariana, and to the choker on her neck. She seemed to be weighing options. “Fine,” she finally voiced. “I’ll tell you guys about Victor and everything else. But first, I need you -” she pointed to Ariana - “to press that button.”

“Got it!” Ariana said, smiling with a devious happiness. She watched as Zelda joined Evie in the elevator, and with the press of a button, the crack sealed itself. Creaking sounds came from the hollow cylinder - and then they stopped. Ariana closed her eyes in triumph.

This bizarre ‘Zelda’ character would tell her everything she needed to know. Ariana would make sure of that.

Ariana looked around the dimly-lit room and grinned when her eyes laid upon a chair. She didn’t register that the chair looked much, much newer and cleaner than everything else in the house. And she definitely didn’t notice the faint beep that sounded when she sank into it.

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