Because they wanted to marry the princess to the prince of a swamp, she first prayed to the gods for a drought to evaporate the swamp, leave it a crater of debris and dried lily pads, but she knew the prayer was a courtesy and meant little before visiting the swamp in secret, trying to catch glimpses of the prince while pretending to be intrigued by the neighboring trees, like anyone cared about trees, but the prince never emerged and as the days grew closer to marriage, the preparations more time consuming, her excursions limited to before the sun climbed the sky, after even the most diligent of servants fell asleep, she began to cut up her old dresses and tied the strips to each other, creating a rope that reached the ground from her window, and slid down, legs burning red from friction, hands growing calluses, before landing on the ground and disappearing into the mountains where it is said tree people take root, coaxing travelers into their great, unwavering forests before absorbing them into their trunks and growing their reach further outward, which was nearly the fate of the princess and the sickly evergreen rooted at the base of mountain, except the tree was too weak to eat her so she ate the tree instead and together they grew large enough to submerge their roots into the walls of the castle and shake it to the ground.
Lucy Zhang writes, codes and watches anime. Her work has appeared in Quarterly West, The Fourth River, New Orleans Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Chestnut Review, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere, and was selected for Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions. She is losing sleep over a novel. Find her at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.
Artwork: Brooke Shaden