The Princess on the Glass Hill Becoming—Joel Hans

The princess on the glass hill mourning.

The three golden apples dropping from inside the princess on the glass hill.

The apple tree doing nothing but completing the façade.

The princess on the glass hill exhibiting the golden apples to the crowd.

The people climbing after the king’s promise: Secure the three golden apples, secure the princess’ heart, secure your future.

The people hungering.

The people climbing.

The people falling.

The boy wearing copper shoes.

The girl whispering I won’t be all alone, I won’t be all alone, her copper ice axe landing lamely on each alone.

The solar salesperson adjusting their copper tie, asking if the princess has heard about the upcoming rate increase for her traditional energy usage.

The sky sunsetting.

The king’s men picking up the bodies.

The bodies feeding the glass hill for a little while longer.

The trick succeeding.

The glass hill murmuring.

The cycle continuing for a seventh year after the apples arrived and the glass mountain clarified its intentions with a cough that burned a third of the metropolis. 

The mockingbirds calling before dawn.

The tank-topped boys waving silvery cans of Coors from the open frame of their raised Jeep crawling on beadlocked Dick Cepeks at 12psi gripping the glass no better than feet or hooves or gloves or talons.

The knight collapsing beneath the weight of his chivalry, or was it only his silver armor?

The botanist craving just one scion from the apple tree so that she can finish her PhD, not knowing that to find the apples’ true source, she’d have to use her silver loppers to slide the princess on the glass hill from flank to flank.

The princess on the glass hill standing from her perch only to let the king and his men drop the day’s bodies into the mouth of the glass hill that feeds the belly of the whole earth.

The king fathering his hardest.

The king clearcutting soot and blood from beneath his eyes.

The king soiling the princess’ dress when he drops to his knees and presses his cheek to her thighs and clutches to her calves.

The girl on the glass mountain remembering how, long before the glass mountain was just a demanding mound, they used to ride his golden full-suspension mountain bike together, the extra seat with the stirrups, her hands on his handlebars and her helmet batting his chin, how his arms felt like a glass encasement that would protect her forever, how his laughter was a retreat, and how as she got older, she wanted that glass shattered, the freedom to explore freely, how she didn’t even think to notice how quickly that seat cultivated dust in the garage.

The king wishing it could be any other way.

The sunsetting.

The dawning.

The woman pleading, from the back seat of a golden Range Rover: Buy the dip, hold onto it for dear life, and you’ll be set for life.

The runner flashing a golden pendant that crowns them fastest in the world, which doesn’t help when they’re falling off to their death.

The documentarian waving a golden statue and an everspilling flute of champagne.

The sunsetting.

The princess on the glass hill looking out over the empty land beneath her.

The people hungering for her now gone.

The people fulfilling their role, never knowing if they had climbed to the top and claimed her, they would have turned the world inside-out.

The flow pyroclasting.

The ashcloud chilling.

The princess on the glass hill keeping a delicate balance in her sacrifice. 

The king’s men arriving with all the bodies.

The glass hill feeding until it becomes a mountain.

How else do you think it got so tall?

The princess on the glass mountain rolling the three golden apples between her hands.

The might-have-beens glowing in the starlight.

The year ending and another beginning.

The king cradling her, eclipsing her hurt and trying to swallow it with shadow. 

The king apologizing.

The king telling the princess on the glass mountain to run.

The king throwing himself into the glass mountain.

The princess on the glass mountain becoming the girl on the glass mountain.

The king becoming just like everyone else who had hungered for her, only that what he wanted for himself and what he wanted were never clear until just now, and never could have been the same.

The girl on the glass mountain realizing that her shoes were slipless all along.

The girl on the glass mountain becoming just a girl.

The girl feeling the glass around her shattered, but it is only grass.

The girl trying to decide which path to take now that she is free to wander this fated world, meet everyone who had not thrown themselves at the promise of her—are they maddened or mourning or merely human?

The golden apples lolling between her hands.

The loam sponging beneath her feet.

The land craving to be the instrument for something new, even now.

The girl departing.

The question remaining: Was her father sad to lose the time they once shared, or proud to have watched her lose it?

The glass mountain remaining.

The time remaining.

Joel Hans has published fiction in West BranchNo TokensPuerto del SolThe Masters ReviewRedivider, and others. He received his MFA from the University of Arizona and continues to live in Tucson, Arizona with his family. He can occasionally be found on Twitter @joelhans.

photo by Seda Nur Korkmaz and Dustin Hume (via pexels and unsplash respectively)