The Princess on the Submarine


With a desire to do more personal work and outside projects in 2020, I took a creative writing course at The Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. The class meets three weekends in a row on a Saturday, 10 am to noon. I can walk there. For this exercise, we rolled four different dice and had to incorporate these items into our story: Princess with a weapon, an apple, a left turn signal, and a submarine. I started by tackling the submarine first though I know very little about life aboard.

She woke up in a full sweat as the sirens blared on the submarine. 

Squawk. Squawk. Squawk. 

She had been a sailor for a full year now and had thought she heard every siren and digested every emergency signal. 

Yet, this was new. 

What could it be?

She hopped off the top bunk and headed toward the door. A blinking left arrow in the hall indicated the way to the hatch. She melted into the stream of sailors heading out. Everyone calm but silently annoyed at the interruption. Navy life was constant interruption. 

At the end of the hall, the officer motioned for the team to stop. The sirens fell silent.

“Fire alarm, folks.” 

“Thanks for playing.” 

“You may now return to your bunks.”

Ugh.

It took her six months to learn how to sleep on this nasty vessel, and now that sleep was interrupted by a game. The hazing never stopped.

At least her bed awaits. She climbed back in and fell asleep instantly. This was a trick she learned in the first three months. Sleep time was precious and in short supply. Best to learn how to drift off in minutes and not waste time pondering your condition, which for a new recruit was poor indeed.

Ahhhh… sleep. 

She fell off into a deep REM sleep and woke in dreamland as the princess she wanted to be. 

Dreams were her escape hatch, and this one started off with promise.

No more short hair. No more scratchy Navy-issued jumpsuits and granny panties. She was surrounded by vintage black tulle and silk. Her long hair in ringlets that felt soft and smooth as they gently grazed her back. The embroidered bodice hugged the broad shoulders she first earned doing pull-ups in boot camp and exposed her strong back. 

Who said a Navy life had no upside? 

Rings adorned her fingers and and a beautiful amethyst pendant fell across her collarbone. Actual jewelry. More things to enjoy that the Navy made her leave behind. She slowly played with the mother of pearl ring on her index finger and surveyed the room approvingly. 

Handsome leather chairs were scattered around with inviting fluffy throws tossed over their backs. Pillows and warm area rugs filled out the space with comfort. Sun shone in the tall, narrow windows and made sunbeams across the hardwood floor. 

Sun. Actual sunbeams.

My god.

She felt like a queen. 

Next to her on a small marble top table lay a bowl of fresh fruit. Apples, oranges, pears. She hadn’t even thought about fresh fruit in ages, and the supplements provided to protect sailors against scurvy were a poor substitute for the real thing.

The fruit is going to taste marvelous, she thought. She eyed the bowl and wondered what to try first suddenly overwhelmed with the opportunity to choose her meal.

Beyond the bowl was a smooth, medieval sword in a shroud laying on black leather ottoman. A symbol of power and grace – two things she lacked as an underling. Now they were hers. She rose from her chair and strolled across the room with her tulle petticoats rustling beneath her dress. 

She picked up the heavy sword with ease and removed the rough leather cover protecting the shaft. It gleamed in the sunlight, and she was forced to squint to examine the engraving near the handle. Like her dress, it was old and exquisitely made long ago with attention paid to every detail. It was a work of art.

Just then, an officer entered the room and barked orders at her. 

Not today, she thought, and held up the sword like a talisman. 

The officer continued screaming louder now, and the sword seemed to have no effect.

No, this can’t be! “But, I’m not on that submarine anymore, right? This can’t be over. I didn’t even have an apple yet. But, I haven’t enjoyed this enough,” she lamented.

Just then, she awoke on the same bunk. The officer just below her to her right. Screaming as before. Another dream gone too soon.

How much time until we dock again?