Today, Friday, the last day of the work week, one of the best days of the week, is also coincidentally the day that I post this, the ninth chapter of "Once Upon a Time." These progressive stories are bravely run by Scooter, whose ingenuity and creativity knows no bounds.

If you have not read each of the preceding chapters, here's a quick synopsis:

A King and a Queen have a daughter (who's a princess, if you can believe that!). Their daughter is, to use modern terminology, a total bitch. They have to do something about her.

Needless to say, this story is phenomenal, and you should most definitely read all the preceding chapters to the story. For your convenience, I have placed the links to each of the chapters below. So without further adieu, I present to you Chapter 9 of Once Upon a Time. Enjoy.

Chapter 1 - In Which We Are Introduced to Our Little Darling
by Scooter

Chapter 2 - A Royal Proclamation
by Marcia

Chapter 3 - A Possible Solution is Undertaken
by Steve

Chapter 4 - Men In Black
by Trinny

Chapter 5 - Cat Fight
by Lia

Chapter 6 - A Worrisome Stranger
by Pickled Pink

Chapter 7 - Slapped Down
by Diane

Chapter 8 - The Trial
by Santulan

Chapter 9 - Lost or Found

Horror enveloped her as for the first time in her life, Princess Darling had absolutely no idea what was in store for her. She felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness, beginning in the pit of her stomach and then rising torturously slowly into the rest of her being.

Before she knew what was happening, a man grabbed her roughly from behind and began taking her away. Her feeble attempts at protest were useless, as she could not even muster enough air in her lungs to speak. All that exited her lips was a slight sigh. Her head sank. Tears welled in her eyes, and she tried to blink them away. Her efforts were futile, however, and the tears streamed mercilessly down her cheeks.

A loud plop echoed suddenly. Surprised, Princess Darling shook her head. Gradually, her eyes came into focus, and she realized that the ground was covered in water. "Strange," thought Princess Darling, whose latest preference was to be called Darly. "What's with all this water?"

It was then that the man escorting her spoke. Darly jumped. "Okay, this is where you leave, Barley--"

"Darly."

"Whatever."

"Look, knave--"

"That's Captain Knave to you."

"Yeah, yeah, Captain Kna--"

"Captain Crunch, lass, and don't you forget it. Now shuddup. You're on your own from here." Captain Crunch suddenly pulled out his sword and pointed it at Darly. "Now, walk the plank, m'dear!" he bellowed.

Darly stared at the man, bewildered. Only then did she realize that she was on board a colossal ship. Darly's breath caught in her throat as she backed up on the plank. The ship's name, painted in dazzling red letters, became visible: The Crunch Berry. Taking a deep breath, Darly managed to swallow her pride and choke back her fear. "All right, Captain Crunch. But rest assured that as soon as I see you again, you will pay dearly for your cruel treatment of me."

"Hah! That's a laugh if I ever heard one. Gimme a break, Miz Barley. And do yourself a favor, don't talk. Where you're going, you'll be needing all the breath you can get."

Darly fumed. She had had all she could take from people ordering her around. That was her job, dammit, and she was determined to get out of this situation. Her mind raced, trying to put together a devious plan as quickly as it could. Before she could pin any thoughts down, however, her thoughts were interrupted by Captain Crunch's raspy voice.

"So Barley, tell me true. If you were to find yourself suddenly stuck in the middle of a desert, what would you do?"

Darly snorted, feeling her confidence return upon hearing such a bizarre question. "What do you care? And what makes you think that I'll end up in a desert, huh? You know what? I think this is all some made-up hippie bullshit, and I'm going to get to the bottom of this!"

Captain Crunch guffawed. "You know, Darly, I like you. I had no idea you had such a great sense of humor. And take my word for it, you will get to the bottom of this." With that, Captain Crunch stomped a foot on the plank, causing Darly to lose her balance and teeter backwards.

The last words Darly heard was Captain Crunch's "Cheers, mate!" from deck. She felt herself falling, and for a split second time seemed to stop. The feeling passed, and a moment later, she was plummeting at great speed toward the water below. Expecting to hit the water with a smack, Darly was surprised that she did not, in fact, hear anything.

She realized great pressure surrounded her, and the air around her felt surreal. Suddenly, a blinding light flashed, and Darly slammed her eyelids shut. As quickly as it had come, the brilliant light faded, and Darly opened her eyes.

Her jaw dropped as she stared around her. Sure enough, she was smack dab in the middle of a desert. Up ahead, she could make out a strange creature stooped over a box that read "ACME," and farther ahead in the distance she saw a speeding something-or-other with a large cloud of dust trailing behind it.

Darly rolled her eyes. Surely she did not deserve this! But there was nothing she could do about it now except move onward. As she began her trek to a place she knew not, Darly had the slightest hint of a grin on her face, hidden beneath the scowl. This bizarre experience seemed somehow to be affecting the young lady. Shading her face with her hand, Darly started walking.