In a World of Games Within Games

AS SHE KNELT AT THE ALTAR FOR HER CORONATION in the year 1762 as Catherine II, Czarina of all the Russias, the former Princess Friederike von Anhalt felt like starting a new war. She'd already endured two hours of a five hour ceremony while wearing twenty pounds of silk coronation dress and nine pounds of Great Imperial Crown, and the excessive pomp and boredom drained her of goodness. To distract herself from the seemingly endless drone of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch as he recited Old Testament scripture, as well as the oven of suffocating heat created by a hoop dress big enough to hide twenty dwarves, she lifted the curtain on theater by replaying to herself the World Maker War--better known to her old violin-playing mentor, Lord Paganini of Saravastra, as "The War for Utopia."
    First of all, it struck her as curious and odd that despite her great powers she could not stop dying.   Her death at the hands of ErĂ©ndira Marquez, the Wizard Goddess allied with her enemy Da Vinci, was the most painful because of the many serf families, even children, whose souls were sacrificed to restore her life. Such an act of sorcerous barbarity forced a guilt she carried all her days and sleepless nights; and what did "the white knights" of war have to show for the battle? Yet another crater on Mars.
    And of course, all the needless deaths.
    For all she knew, she could be dead even now. The French philosopher Descartes, to prove his own existence in 1644, said to himself, "I think, therefore I am," and Freddie could do the same, but could she trust her "I" to be the real one?
    As she would later note in her memoirs begun many years before:
    Perhaps my own body and mind were grown from a pot by Da Vinci and I existed at the royal coronation as a living copy of my original self. Though such thoughts might result in a diagnosis of insanity, I live in a world of games within games. I am never completely sure of what I am, or the reality of where I am. I only know I must proceed as if all is real, and as if morality is within my grasp.

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