Author's note: This is probably Studio Ghibli's fault, or whoever it was that made Utena, when you come right down to it. But I really, honestly, do not believe that it's possible to become a starship captain from behind a white picket fence.

Disclaimer: Jim isn't mine, even if his scary Sioux alter-ego lives in my back pocket. If he belongs to anyone but himself, it's Spock. -I mean, Admiral Nogura. No, ick. I mean, Gene Roddenberry. Or his estate. Or Paramount. Someone who isn't me.

Myths Like That By Nightfall

Never run from anything immortal, it attracts their attention, the unicorn had said in the book. It isn't just immortals. The human eye is attracted by motion as surely as is the lion's, and I personally have never met a monster who bled ichor instead of blood. No, never run. Your lungs will catch, your legs ache, your side will stab, your air will burn your throat, and they will catch you in the end. They have longer legs. And when they catch you...

If you have to run, make sure you're faster.

Clutching my horse's neck closely, I press my forehead into her neck and ride out the up-and-down of her smooth stride. A horse gives you power; gives you speed and height and nobility. If I sit tall, anyone far away would mistake me for a general, or a prince.

Anyone closer would send me back to the general's quartermaster or the prince's kitchens for another beating.

If I were a kitchen wench... If I were a stepdaughter...

If I were a stepdaughter my horse would talk to me. Birds would perch on my outstretched finger-little birds, little sisters, not hawks. If I were a stepdaughter squirrels and rodents would steal me food and make me things with their clever hands, and clean up their own messes, and learn to use a litterbox.

If I were a stepdaughter, my face would shine like the sun, and my hair would shimmer like moonlight on the water. My cutoffs would sparkle like a ball-gown in the light of my reflected purity, and I would twist my lotus feet in iron slippers with high rubber spike heels. If I were a stepdaughter I would wear a steel belt, and all would shrink before my innocence. I would polish that belt every day with a sweet song on my perfect lips, and turn blind eyes from the bruises on my wrists, my back.

If I were a maiden, a prince would sit me on my broom and lead me to his white horse and take me far, far away.

But I can't be a maiden. Because I'm a boy.

And who wants to be a princess, anyway? If I were a princess, if someone saved me from a kitchen, they would take away my small birds and give me a light-boned falcon with a hood on its head, take away my trained rodents and give me a monkey in a cage, take away my steel belt and give me a silk scarf, and leave me the iron slippers for my lotus feet.

If I were a princess, if I had a prince who saved me, I would adore him with a gratitude that made love pale. I would ensure that the world saw his perfection. I would force him to his full potential so that he could save others as he had saved me. And all the kitchen maids and chamber maids and daughters of minor nobility that he saved-as he saved me-I would hate with bile behind a charming smile. I would tell myself, you can afford to be gracious; you wear the crown. And I would powder my luminous face and brush my gleaming hair every morning with a sweet song on my perfect lips, and turn blind eyes from the bruises on my wrists, my thighs, and from the broken broom in the closet.

If I were a prince, my heart would be empty.

If I were a father, my eyes would be blind.

If I were a mother, I would be dead, and watching my daughter polish her steel belt, helpless from above.

Better to be the witch. Better to make the heavens wail. I will be the witch. I will take those stupid girls by the arm, and thrust them in front of the mirror, strip them bare and show them what they will not see, shatter their crystal complacency and drive the shards beneath their white skin until they scream and run.

Run, little girls. Run home. Back to the kitchen, the warmth, the stepmother.

Maybe it's best after all to be the stepmother. If there's no escaping, maybe it's best after all to be the one to build up strength in the fragile girls until they can bear the blows of the world. Maybe it's best to batter them to insensitivity and lock them safe in a tower, so when their prince comes, they can bear him, and not break.

I will be the stepmother. I will beat them and wear them down with work and harsh words until they understand the cruelty of the world. I will give them pain until they can sing with it. I will make them strong, and swallow my guilt, my tears. I will hit them and ravage them until they can tell me with a clean voice that they are perfectly happy. I will be strong. I will be. I will be...

I will be-

I will be-

o god

-just like them.

[End one of one of two)