Once upon a time, in a small cottage deep in the woods, the wife of a woodcutter gave birth to fraternal twin girls. She named them Myrtle and Agatha, and tried to raise them like respectable English ladies, as she herself had been raised. But only Agatha listened. Agatha stayed indoors, wore delicate dresses, tended to the house, and drank tea in the afternoon with her mother every day. The boys in the village all fell in love with her pale skin, sweet smile, and amiable temperament. Tom Willingden, with his blond hair and dashing smile, called her “the Daisy,” because she reminded him of his favorite flower and because he was Tom Willingden, the name stuck. George Hampden lurked outside her bedroom window in the evening, when his parents thought he was out doing normal things with his friends, and watched with great interest as she put on the least sensual pajamas known to man.
George did many things of which his parents were unaware. His neighbors didn’t realize that he was the reason they were unlucky with pets. Slicing through the hide of a squirrel was no longer providing that feeling of release and warmth in his groin and stomach, though. He needed… Daisy.
George thought the largest obstacle to his obsession was Tom; actually, it was Myrtle. Tom had given Myrtle a nickname, too… “Dandelion,” since she was “always where she wasn’t wanted, could be pretty if she tried, and seemed indestructible.” Because four syllables is a lot for a nickname, the kids shortened it to “Lion.” Lion was almost never indoors, insisted on wearing pants, and liked to pick fights with the boys so she could get some of her aggression out through her fists. Lion was always angry; her mother claimed she had even screamed more loudly than her sister when directly out of the womb.
Daisy pleased everyone; Lion pleased no one. Daisy brushed her long raven locks so that they gleamed; Lion impulsively grabbed a pair of scissors and cropped her hair as close to her scalp as she could get at the beginning of summer. Her peers joked that she had cut herself a mane, since her blonde locks reacted to the humidity, framing her head with a crown of frizz. Lion prowled through the woods, moving soundlessly through tall grasses and twig-strewn woodland floor, and she saw George looking at her sister. Lion knew a fellow predator when she saw one, and Lion refused to allow Daisy to become his prey.
She went foraging in the forest when the first few rays of sunlight peeked over the Eastern horizon, and brought her sister gossamer webs from Lady Spider. “I thought you could sew these into curtains for your windows,” she told Daisy, who agreed that they were absolutely lovely and had completed the task of sewing and hanging the gauzy confections before supper.
As Daisy was preparing for bed that evening, a howl rent through the air that frightened her and sent her father outside to discern its source. The woodcutter found George struggling to balance on one foot, grasping his left foot in his hands, expletives falling from his mouth as freely as water gushes over the edge of a waterfall. Proffering his right arm and shoulder, the woodcutter helped George hobble into his house, where Daisy, Lion, and their mother waited. He was helped into a sturdy and comfortable chair, and it was discovered that his foot had been pierced clean through with a sharp wooden stick.
“Bummer,” Lion pretended to commiserate.
“Lion…” her father said in a tone that made it clear he thought she had something to do with the current situation.
“Yes, father?” she asked, mock innocence personified.
“Why is there a plethora of sharpened sticks outside of your sister’s window?”
“I don’t know, father,” Lion answered. “What was George doing outside of mine sister’s window?”
The woodcutter blinked rapidly as he reluctantly realized that his wild and often aggravating daughter had a point.
“Yes, George, what were you doing outside of Daisy’s window?” their mother asked, bringing in clean water and rags for the wound.
After many moments of awkward silence, George said: “Whaaaaaat?! Was that Daisy’s window I was outside of…? I… had no idea! Oh, geez, look at the time.” And he stood up and limped out of the room as quickly as he was able, which was not very quickly at all.
Daisy innocently told Tom about the event the following day, as they drank tea, mostly to prevent him from telling her yet again how beautiful he found her. “Of course, he had no idea he was right outside my window!” she finished. “But where he thought he was, and what he was doing outside there is a perplexing puzzle all its’ own!”
Tom feigned amusement at Daisy’s story, inwardly seething since he was aware that all of the boys in the village knew which window was Daisy’s. Shortly after the episode had occurred, George mysteriously lost a few digits, with rumors whispered that not all of them were on his hands… People were awed that Tom had gone so far to defend his lady love, though Tom was as mystified as anyone else about how it had occurred, since he and his pals had only roughed up George and given him some bruises. And George never told anyone how it had occurred, either, though he flinched every time he was around a cat… or a fascimile of one.
Written in response to ~M’s June Writing Prompts (yes, I’m late, but I moved across the country, so I feel okay about this…).
The shrinking started slowly. She had heard of people’s hearts closing after a bad breakup, but for Mary, the entirety of her being began to grow smaller after Dave crushed her with his “I thought I loved you… But I don’t,” before he moved towards her with feigned niceness that was a feeble attempt to have goodbye sex and Mary grabbed her purse and left, even though they were in her apartment.
She went to the grocery store, but didn’t buy anything – there wasn’t enough ice cream in the world to make her feel better, and for the first time in her life, Mary wasn’t hungry. She returned to an empty apartment, Dave’s key glinting on the dining room table. She went to bed with puffy eyes and an empty stomach.
When she awoke the following morning, she felt shorter… and older, and withered, and fragile, and like an idiot. She felt cold, all the way down to her bones, even after she put on her thickest socks and wrapped herself in a warm fuzzy sweater. She took a mental health day, pulled on her coat, and walked for hours. Fittingly, it began to rain, and she returned home colder and wetter than she had left it. Her stomach growled at her, but nothing in her kitchen seemed appetizing. She settled on a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee, then settled on the couch with a thriller, but she couldn’t keep her eyes open long enough to finish more than a sentence.
The days, weeks, flew by in a daze, until one morning, Mary woke up and realized she needed a step stool to reach the bathroom faucet handle. Of course, she didn’t have a step stool, so she dragged her desk chair into the bathroom instead. Her chair had wheels and slid around beneath her as she applied and removed soap – her brain flashed through news stories of people who died or became seriously injured from slipping in the bathroom. Her teeth were a shade more yellow than Mary preferred, but she liked having all of them in her head, and she had used all of her sick days at work and couldn’t afford to recover from concussion. She went to her car, but no matter how straight she stretched her leg, or how much she pointed her toe, was unable to reach the pedal, and she was finally forced to give up and take the bus.
A girl with exactly half of her head, including her right eyebrow, shaved was gossiping with her reflection in the bus window. An older woman with a snake tattoo on her left arm was biting into a raw onion like it was an apple, the syn-Propanethial-S-oxide making Mary’s eyes water. A man with a pronounced limp kept getting out of his seat, slowly making his way up and down the aisle, knocking aside the unlucky few who were standing and holding onto a strap. Maybe she wasn’t really shrinking, Mary thought to herself. Maybe she was just losing grip on reality.
She had just logged on to her computer at work when Shannon stopped by, said the boss wanted to see her. Mary entered his office, excuses on the tip of her tongue about why she had been late, but Mr. Harrigan didn’t really care, since he had already been set to fire her.
“I’m fired?!” Mary asked, in shock.
“Honestly, the company can’t afford the liability having a shrinking person creates,” Mr. Harrigan responded. “It would be one thing if you were simply small, and had always been small. Even an inch or two, we could have overlooked. But you have lost several feet at this point, Mary, and we aren’t sure when it’s going to stop. We can’t accommodate your special needs, because they are unpredictable, and without accommodating your needs, the workplace is too dangerous.”
“I’ll be very careful, and if I get hurt, I promise, I won’t sue you!” Mary protested.
But Mr. Harrigan shook his head. The matter, he said, had been decided by individuals far above him in the company. Her exit interview was scheduled with HR at 2 that afternoon, at which point she needed to hand in her work laptop and would receive her final paycheck.
Mary walked back to her desk, then realized there was no point in putting forth effort working. She had been fired; she didn’t owe anything to this Company. She began submitting her resume to temp agencies, and scouring Craigslist for odd jobs that didn’t appear to have been posted by serial killers luring in the next victim.
She didn’t have much luck.
At two-fifteen in the afternoon, Mary was walking out into the sunshine, her last paycheck snugly tucked between her wallet and her cell. She wandered the entire parking lot twice before remembering that she had not driven, and reluctantly boarded the bus once more. Most seats were empty, and she plopped into one near the middle and behind the driver.
She was too numb inside to be bothered to go to the bank, or run the errands she needed to run. Mary tugged her shoes off of her weary feet, and burrowed into the warmth of her comforter. She couldn’t be sure how long she slept – it could have been an instant, it could have been a year – but when she awoke, her bed had become gargantuan. She tried to sit up, but the cotton filling of her bedspread had become ineffably heavy.
She took a deep breath, pulled her core in as tightly as she could, focused on shifting her body up from its’ prone position into a plank, using the muscles in her arms and shoulders to push her up.
She then thrust her hips up and back into the world’s most uncomfortable down dog.
Her arms and legs quickly began quivering, her body covered in a sheen of sweat, but Mary pulled her abs in tighter and began walking her hands back to her feet.
She then started slowly rolling up through her spine, the weight of the comforter continually pushing her back down, so that she was bouncing slightly up, back down, back up, slightly down, for what felt like (and maybe was) hours, until finally, she was standing as tall as her miniature frame would allow.
She began moving forwards, pushing against the cotton comforter with all of her might, until the bed gave way beneath her, and she was falling.
She grabbed at the comforter, able to slow down her descent and make it slightly more controlled so that her teeth only clattered against each other a bit, and then she lay down on her back and fell asleep once more.
She woke, and all she could experience was pain. It hurt to open her eyelids. Tiny muscles she hadn’t realized existed in her arms and abs were making themselves known. She didn’t want to move, but existing hurt too much, so she forced herself up into a sitting position.
She had no idea where she was.
She seemed to be outside. Currently, she was sitting on various large, sharp blades of grass. She moved to the right and sliced her left arm on one of them. Blood trickled from the wound, but she wasn’t capable of feeling more pain, and just watched the red escape down her arm.
She eventually grew bored enough to force herself to stand, take a few tentative steps.
She smelled something sweet, and realized she was hungry, for the first time since her break-up. In trying to locate the source of this deliciousness, she stumbled into a banner. Her brain made sense of the words on it – “Little by Little” right before she fell into it, and brought down the two wooden totem poles holding it up upon her person. She lost consciousness for the second time that day.
She awoke strapped to a bed, still in pain, and began to scream. She may not have been entirely sure what had happened to her, but being restricted from movement was never a good sign. A man rushed into the room, looked around, and said, “You’re awake! Would you like some hot chocolate?”
“Why should I trust you to give me a beverage? I’m assuming you’re the jerk who strapped me to this bed.”
His mouth quirked down. “Ah… yes. Sorry about that. It’s just – you seem to be having trouble moving, and I couldn’t bear the thought that you would ruin my art.” He gestured to the top of a nearby dresser, where small (even by her current standards) wooden figurines were covering every visible surface.
“You made all of those?” Mary asked.
“I did,” he responded, his chest puffing up like a bird warming itself or trying to find a mate.
“Ew,” Mary said involuntarily.
He didn’t seem to notice. “These,” he continued, “are my Littles.”
After a few seconds of silence, Mary asked him what he meant by that.
“My Littles! I am Little – that’s my name, I mean – these are mine, these are little – that is, tiny – and I am trying to sell the sons-of-bitches, but you pulled my banner down and ruined two of my larger art pieces, so I don’t know how anyone will know I am a purveyor of littles.”
“Sorry about that,” Mary said.
Little shrugged. “It’s fine. You can help me make a new banner when you’re feeling better.”
“How long have you been making littles?”
“Since I was a wee boy. Although, I used to be taller than this, when I was a wee boy. But you know how that is.”
“I mean, I guess. I also used to taller; I only began shrinking quite recently.”
“It’s nice, being small,” Little told her. “It’s easy to find enough food to fill you up, no one bothers you about stupid shit that doesn’t matter, you can kind of just do your own thing.”
“How many of us are there?” Mary asked.
Little shrugged. “Fuck if I know. I run across someone every now and again, but I mostly keep to myself.”
“I see – sorry to have barged in on you like this,” Mary said, wondering why she was apologizing to this man who had restrained her to the bed.
“Thanks. Sorry I had to tie you up,” Little returned, making Mary feel marginally better.
“Do you think you can un-tie me now?”
Little looked skeptical. “We can try. But try not to mess up my shit, please.” Mary chose not to verbally respond to this, smiling sweetly so this crazy man would let her go.
She was still starving, and decided to chance it that Little’s food and beverages were not poisoned. The hot chocolate was sweet and creamy, the warmth soothing as it went down her throat. Little also gave her bread and cheese, and a red grape he had cut into cubes of a more manageable size. Everything tasted amazing, and it had been so long since Mary had eaten and enjoyed it that she ate too much and too fast, her stomach protesting as she sank back into her chair and finished her hot chocolate.
“Feeling better?” Little asked, and Mary nodded, her mouth turned up at the corners, her limbs growing heavy with satiation. “Good, let’s fix that banner,” Little said, holding out a hand to haul Mary to her feet. He pulled so hard, her head snapped a bit, and Mary saw small brown and black squares dancing before her eyes for a few moments. “C’mon!” Little urged, striding away toward the front of his shoppe. Mary followed, and was soon surveying the damage with him.
One of the totem poles holding up the banner did not sustain any noticeable damage; the other had broken into 6 pieces. Little grew a little red in the face, but his voice was calm as he said he would need to make another one. The banner, made of sturdy paper, had been torn, and needed to be re-done. Little thrust some paper and a chunk of purple crayon broken off of a full-size crayon and whittled into a usable writing implement at her, and she set to work. Mary’s writing was not intricate, but it was neat and legible, and she made the letters large, and was done within an hour. She showed her work to Little, who nodded his head briefly, then said: “Thanks. You can go now.”
“Go… where?” Mary asked.
“Anywhere! The joy of being little is that you can pretty much do whatever you want. And I want to live on my own. So, you know, scram.” He turned back to his totem, where an owl was slowly taking shape.
“Can I have some food for the road?” she asked.
“Then yes, you may have figurative food. Here you go!” He held out his empty hands, cupped around nothing.
Mary carefully removed the non-existent food from Little’s hands, turned around, and walked away. She walked aimlessly until she was done feeling sorry for herself, looked up, and recognized exactly where she was. Approximately two feet away was the red door of Dave’s apartment. To the right of the door were Dave’s black-and-white checkered Vans, caked in a layer of mud, next to a pair of tall pink heels with pointed toes.
Mary trekked to the door, sneaking through the mail slot, and smelling the citrus-scented candles Dave lit when he was making love. Her eyes involuntarily trekked to the right, even though a very large part of her really didn’t want to see who her replacement was. Due to her size, however, all she could see was wall. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Dave walked right in front of her, and her heart began beating very fast and her cheeks reddened, but again, due to her size, Dave didn’t even notice her. He loped into the kitchen, where she heard the fridge open, running water, the clatter of counters and dishes, and he loped back before her and into the bedroom holding a tray with a bowl of strawberries and a canister of whipped cream.
Part of Mary burned with anger that Dave was already sharing a sweet aphrodisiac with someone else; part of Mary was somehow hungry again and craved strawberries herself. So she did what any woman in her position would do, and followed him. The woman luxuriating on Dave’s silk sheets was thin and tan, and when she sat up, her long blonde locks cascaded over her back and splayed on the pillows. Her visage was flushed, round red cheeks and lips plump from kissing. Her eyes glinted out from her face like two dark sapphires. She was perfection, to the extent that Mary’s mind couldn’t even draw a comparison between herself and this other woman – it was almost like Dave was dating a different species.
Mary heard a low giggle, and heard the blonde one ask: “You can’t possibly be ready to go again?”
Dave set the tray down on the bedside table, nuzzled his face into the nape of the blonde’s neck, and said: “Are you kidding? With you in my bed, I may never be flaccid again.”
The giggle again. “What an odd way of saying you find me attractive.”
Kissing sounds ensued, and Mary looked longingly at the ripe, red strawberries just lying, untouched, on the bedside table. It was far too high for Mary to easily reach it. She looked around, to see if there was anything to help her, and as luck would have it, there was a blanket that lay half on, half off of the bed, it’s length spilling down to the floor in an awkward tangle that looked difficult but possible for Mary to climb. She embarked on the climb/hike, slowly making her way up to the bed where her ex-boyfriend was engaged in sexual congress. She was exhilarated to reach the top, tumbling off of the blanket and into the blonde one’s foot.
A bloodcurdling scream resounded through the apartment.
Dave: “Lauren, what’s wrong.”
“Something just touched my foot.”
Mary had already retreated out of sight into the blanket.
Dave: “I don’t see anything.”
“Are you saying I’m crazy?! Something definitely touched my foot, I’m not making this up.”
“What did it feel like?”
“I only felt it for like a second, but it was big.”
Dave went to the end of the bed, smushed the blanket with Mary inside of it a little closer to the edge of the bed. “There’s nothing here.”
“Well, you’ve got mice or something. I’m too hot to deal with a guy who has barely any money and probably has mice in his place.”
“Lauren! I’ll – I’ll call the exterminator on Monday. But really – I keep my place clean, and I’ve never seen or heard a mouse in here.”
“Well, call me after your apartment’s been taken care of, if you want. I probably won’t see you again, though.” Mary heard the sharp rustling of clothes being pulled on with hurried, jerky movements.
She heard Lauren walk out of the apartment, then Dave quickly follow. The door slammed behind him, and Mary slowly exited the blanket. She made her way to the bedside table with quick, confident strides, pulled out the smallest strawberry slice she could find, and took the largest bite she was able. Red juice from the strawberry ran down her chin, her heart felt light, and Mary felt the vastness of opportunities proffered by her life as she ate and listened for the sound of Dave’s return.
I was too late to make the deadline, but this post was written in response to The Wordsmith’s Weekly Writing Contest (15-21). Thanks for the prompt, Ms. Rachel Smith!
The ticking was cacophonous in the small room wallpapered with clocks of all shapes and sizes, each with its’ own slightly different measurement that resulted in there not being a single moment without sound. The lack of carpeting only increased sound, with every step George took in her high-heeled boots echoing loudly. She had to get out of here before the hour struck, not merely to save her brother, but also to save her sanity.
Robert had always had a knack for getting into dangerous situations, and George marveled to herself that it was slightly amazing that she was not yet tired of saving him. It probably helped that this time she was not saving him from himself. Robert may have been an alcoholic gambler and compulsive liar with impulse control problems, but he had not kidnapped himself nor absconded to this odd time dungeon voluntarily.
Glancing at the wall, George noted she had approximately 12 minutes to grab her brother and get out. Luckily, she did not also have to find him. There was nowhere to hide, and he lay 12 steps before her, his wrists bound in a thick, oil-smudged rope behind his back, his mouth gagged with a dirty rag, his chest rising in jagged breaths that belied the impression that he was no longer save-able.
She hurried to his side, curling over her toes and making her arches scream as she knelt. She pulled the rag roughly from his mouth, causing a scream and the plink of at least one tooth against the hard, cold floor.
“Jesus!” Robert screamed, red flushing across his face.
“Not Jesus,” she corrected. “George.”
“Fuck, George, what the hell are you doing?”
“Well, dammit, be more careful! I can’t afford veneers.”
“I think the words you’re looking for are, ‘Thank you for coming to rescue me, dear sister in shining armor. Losing a tooth sucks, but is probably better than losing my life. I also 100% realize that this loss is likely partially my fault, because I have terrible oral hygiene.’”
“It’s not my fault; I’m an alcoholic.”
“I don’t think that removes responsibility, but… Shit. 9 minutes. Why don’t you shut the fuck up so we can get out of here?”
“Why don’t you both shut the fuck up? You’re giving me a migraine.” The voice was cold, female elegance overlaid on the polar ice caps.
Cold and familiar.
“Of course,” George muttered. “I should have known.” She turned and greeted the woman: “Hello, mother.”
She woke up, the raucous chimes letting her know it was several hours later. Her arms were tied tightly behind her back, a thick and salty rag was in her mouth, and she had a splitting headache.
“Do Not Pull!” the sign read. Marissa sighed, puffed her cheeks out, and crossed her arms over her chest. As a rule, Marissa was a rule-abiding citizen, primarily because she was one of those people who could never seem to get away with anything. At 8 years old, she ate a piece of Halloween candy before her parents checked it, pricked the inside of her mouth with the needle someone had inserted inside the chocolate bar, and spent the entire night at the hospital. At 14, she tried to sneak out the window after her parents thought she was in bed, and promptly made them aware of her failed attempt with a howling scream when she slipped, fell too abruptly to the ground, and broke her leg. At 17, she took her eyes off the road for a second, wanting to see if the ping she heard notified a response from the boy she liked, and consequently was a second too late in reaction to the car that veered into her lane going the wrong way, and had a head-on collision.
Marissa’s parents were tired of the hospital bills. Marissa was tired of being puffy eyed and bored in the hospital. She no longer tempted fate by purposefully ignoring clearly stated rules.
And yet… This lever was
Bright yellow in hue, it dangled temptingly in front of her. Why draw so much attention to it when you didn’t want anyone to use it? Would anyone blame a dog for ignoring a “No urination” sign on a bright red fire hydrant? Perhaps it was just a joke. Or a test to see who the rebels were.
Marissa wet her lips, and tentatively reached out with her right hand, but only got a foot or so into the air before it started shivering too much to be any use, and she quickly enveloped it back against her bosom. Rebel she was not.
“This is ridiculous!” she told herself. But her mind insisted on reminding her of the time she was at a frat party, had so much to drink she could not find her designated driver, and spent 4 hours walking home in the cold. Of course, it was mid-winter. At one point, she had stumbled and fallen to the ground, and when sober, she had realized with a chill that she could have easily died, even though she was only 19 years old.
“What could possibly happen?” she tried. “It’s flimsy plastic!” Only now her brain was admonishing that she had been hurt by plastic before. When she was 3, she had kissed her crush on the cheek in the sandbox, and his response had been to hit her over the head with his shovel. It is amazing, the amount of damage that can be inflicted by plastic when wielded with enough brute force. The trip to the hospital from this incident resulted in 6 stitches; her hand instinctively went up to the small, pale scar that remained on her forehead.
By this point, she was starting to feel that she needed to pull the lever, lest she lose all self-respect. The fact that the fingers of her dominant right hand were tingling in anticipation of pulling a childishly colored lever was approaching a level of phobia. This reaction, this panic, was not normal. The chance that this action could have dire consequences was extremely unlikely. It was just a piece of plastic, that moved – like an over sized McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. Not the best comparison, since Marissa had suffered another hospital stint from an unfortunate incident with a Happy Meal toy. But she had also had the opportunity to play with numerous Happy Meal toys without any negative consequences. At least 95% of her time with Happy Meal toys had been a positive, or at least, mediocre, experience.
She shifted the fingers of her right hand off of her left arm. She could do this.
Deep breath in. Hold. Deep breath out. Hold.
At the tortoise-like pace that she had been told will win the race, Marissa’s arm extended. She began shaking about halfway to the lever, and she focused on her breath, kept slowly moving.
The tips of her fingers just brushed the tip of the vivid handle. Relief was already blooming in her chest, as she realized that she was going to face this irrational fear. Relief that quickly turned to pain, everywhere, as a little boy zipped around her and pulled, in a single sure movement, without hesitation, thereby dooming them both.
“I think I see what you’re going for, but you’re a bit too shabby to be chic, darlin’.” Her mouth was covered in icy pink glimmer, her Southern drawl just noticeable enough to be adorable. If you didn’t know how much evil lurked beneath. Sarah Jane and her gaggle of sorority sisters turned on their heels and sashayed towards the union. Sure, a lot of them would be date raped and enter into soulless marriages, but at the end of the day, most of them were going to graduate with a diamond on the left hand guaranteeing financial security. Their certainty that this was the case lifted their chins with the posture of a superior being.
Meanwhile, Melody was stuck with her thrift store finds, pretending she preferred a more quirky look when the reality was that she couldn’t afford nice, new clothes. Her fists involuntarily clenched at her sides, nails digging small crescents into the palms of her hands until she felt wetness in addition to pain – the unfairness of it all, “it all” being her “life,” had drawn blood.
She wandered to the library – unlike Sarah Jane and her minions, she was likely going to have to forge her own way in the cold, unfair world, which meant that she should probably keep up her grades. Scholarships tended to care whether or not a student was passing her classes.
Melody stared at the same paragraph in the Malleus Maleficarum for about 20 minutes before she gave up. Why had she wanted to take a class on the Middle Ages, anyway? The people were ridiculous, the primary sources were dry when not poorly written, and what did a primarily uneducated populace who decided to make women their scapegoats for everything that went wrong in their shitty, short lives have to do with her future career? Was she going to bring it up in a job interview to show she was well-rounded? Was she going to draw parallels to the world around her that were pointless, anyway, because Americans will steadfastly ignore all proof that history is repeating itself?
She decided that she was too tired for studying to do much good, anyway, and began walking home. As she trudged in her thin sneakers, soaked through from the wet piles of dead leaves littering all sidewalks, she heard a false laugh, and the clomp of thick, designer leather boots coming towards her. She closed her eyes tight, hoping that would make her invisible – but, of course, it didn’t.
“Why hello, Mel-oh-dee,” Sarah Jane’s voice crooned. “Didn’t your momma ever tell you not to squinch your eyes like that? It’s gonna give you wrinkles. And we all know you can’t afford the Botox.”
With a sigh, she opened her eyes, and resumed walking.
If there was such a thing as karma, the wind would have picked up, blowing Sarah Jane’s skirt up towards her shoulders and revealing a pair of laughably large granny panties. Or she would have slipped on the wet leaves, falling on her face like an actress in an old comedy movie. But Melody was very aware that karma does not exist. So of course it was her own feet that betrayed her, slipping on a cracked sidewalk hidden by the plethora of fall foliage. Her hands and chin were scraped by the unforgiving asphalt, and she would find that the unfortuitous action had cracked her laptop screen.
Sarah Jane and her cronies cackled, and Melody understood how a group of people could be mad enough at certain women to use any excuse possible, according to the widely accepted belief system of the day, to burn the bitches to death. But even if Sarah and gang were witches, it would be as pale imitations of the devious women thought to have naked orgies with the devil beneath the moonlight. Just some candle-burning, and “blessed be” Wiccan bullshit. Nothing criminal enough that their daddies, real, sugar, or otherwise, couldn’t get them out of.
Still. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if she and her bitches were taken down a peg. Or twelve.
The annual Hallowe’en bash was full of drama, as usual. Sarah Jane caught her boyfriend Ethan in flagrante delicto with sorority sister Mary Sue, which should have been almost boring at this point, but still resulted in tears and racoon-eyes, because Sarah Jane had unwisely foregone her waterproof mascara. Tiffany was discovered passed out in the bathroom, and unceremoniously dumped off at the hospital because no one wanted a ticket for drunk driving. One of Ethan’s frat brothers tried to show-off for a comely partygoer, and accidentally set the living room curtains on fire; the comely partygoer made the situation worse by pouring alcohol on the curtains to try to put the fire out. And one of the attendees snuck into the coat closet and relieved everyone of the cash in their coat pockets, wallets, and purses, as well as several sorority sisters of their credit cards.
The next time that Melody encountered Sarah Jane, her toes were warm and snug in the pair of Sorel boots she had recently acquired. Her neck was covered with a warm Burberry scarf, which peeped out of her dark blue pea coat. Sarah Jane, complaining to her “friends” about yet another instance of cheating by her boyfriend which one of them would likely soon partake in as well, did not see her through her bitterness and watery, irritated eyes. She walked right past, not even purposefully “accidentally” bumping into Melody, who was pleased to not be seen. Melody continued to the library, where she purchased a large flavored latte that probably contained all the calories she would need that day, before heading up to her spot on the fifth floor. The fifth floor contained the Regency period books, both those published during that time as well as more recent historical analyses. Even the most steadfast Jane Austen fan had a difficult time caring about these books, and save for the occasional odd student bravely trying to perform research that he or she would soon give up on, Melody generally had the floor to herself.
Melody walked to the fourth study carrel off the entrance and to the left, pulling the door closed, and laying her books on the shelves thoughtfully provided just above the desk. She removed her laptop, and logged in on the unblemished screen of the MacBook pro Sarah Jane’s father had unwittingly purchased.
Life was not fair, and karma isn’t real, although the ridiculous fire incident on Halloween night came close to making her think otherwise. She had witnessed the false and drunken bravado from the fringes, dressed as a slutty beetle (the only costume at the 11th hour with a full-face mask) as she snuck into the coat room and obtained her own justice. Her rich peers were almost asking to be robbed, having a ridiculous amount of cash in an unsupervised room, so she didn’t feel very guilty about removing their readily-available, liquid resources. Nor did she feel very guilty about sneaking through the quilted beige handbag with Sarah Jane’s name stitched across the front. In fact, she was not even sure if Sarah Jane had realized her Visa had been removed; Melody was still using the card to purchase food and drink because it had yet to be canceled.
As Melody took a sip of her creamy, sweet drink, she thought to herself that the witches on campus may still be alive, but she had burnt them, whether they realized it or not, where it hurt the most.
“So – what would you like for dinner? I’m about to run to the grocery store; I can make you anything you want.”
She thought for a moment, eyes shifting up and to the left, before returning his gaze and responding:
“Again? I really want to cook for you today, so – anything. Brussel sprouts and baked chicken? Avocado salad? Lasagna and crusty garlic bread? Grilled salmon with white wine? Panang curry?”
She smiled. “I’m a simple gal, and artichoke hearts are tasty and good for you!”
“Better than breakfast for dinner?” he pressed. “I make a mean waffle with berry compote and hand whipped cream…”
She thought again. “Artichokes.”
“Or healthy! I could do a sprout bowl, with a mix of quinoa and brown rice, edamame, bean sprouts, radish rosettes, and carrot shavings with a light green goddess dressing.”
“What about – “
Deep sigh. “Fine. I will get you your fucking artichoke hearts.”
“I hate you.”
She giggled; not realizing that he was not making a joke but merely being honest. That dating a chef without expanding her palette would prove not merely unwise, but deadly. That it is relatively easy to slip poison into a dish, and that an emasculated significant other whose livelihood depends on other people partaking in and enjoying his dishes who has spent the last 365 days cooking a rather pedestrian vegetable as a meal might be adequately tempted to add an extra, lethal ingredient.
He continued watching her with large eyes after setting her plate before her, and she was trying to figure out the likelihood that a diamond ring had been delicately folded into her meal as she ate with small, delicate bites. Each piece of artichoke heart was chewed 32 times, ensuring adequate digestion, and that this digestion was only occurring for food.
She was halfway through her dish, chewing thoroughly, concentrating intensely, when enough poison had been released into her system, and she sank into the remainder of her dinner.
He poured a glass of wine, which he then lifted in a gleeful, macabre toast. “Live like a toddler, eat like a toddler, die like a toddler.” The wine glided down his throat in one long, rich, smooth gulp, after which he gave a deep sigh, and then stood up from the table. Although he had been rather naughty and already had his dessert, it was time to make dinner.
How could he have missed her, when her skin was luminescent, as though she were shining from the inside out? He knew, in actuality, it was a mutation caused by his grandmother’s excessive use of hairspray, his mother’s generation’s prioritization of convenience over climate. Still, his heart fluttered.
She had dark violet eyes, a shade his mother claimed people used to purchase plastic-silicone cups they put directly on their eyes to obtain. He had never understood the appeal of this optical vanity until he got close enough to see into her eyes for the few seconds before she maced him. It was the right move; the ever present fog comprised of pollution had further empowered and encouraged rapists, and glowing in the dark made her more noticeable prey.
He told his mother about her when he got home, though as usual, his mother didn’t really listen. His eyes may have been the ones stinging from capsaicin and not having been the unknown girl’s love at first sight, but his mother’s eyes were the ones overflowing as she wailed once more about how she was such an awful person to have brought him into this world that was so dark and bereft of something called Oxycontin, about how she had trusted the politicians who lied regarding the veracity of global warming when she should have listened to the hippies. And wasn’t it so ironic, now everyone lived like hippies because the water was the wrong temperature and too polluted for bathing, and the supply of dry shampoo had run out when he was only 2. Or maybe it wasn’t ironic because her understanding of that word came from a song from the ’90s, which she had later heard used the term incorrectly.
Eventually, his mother tired herself out. Her lids closed, and she drooped onto the tabletop, and he went to bed, because it was dark and no one else in his home was awake, and there really wasn’t anything to do.
He couldn’t sleep. Violet eyes, fringed with long lashes, stared into his own every time his lids closed. He should probably have been tired, but was oddly energized, as though he had come across some contraband Twinkies, and had sugar and preservatives coursing through his veins. Finally, after hours of pretending he would be able to get some rest, he went outside for a walk.
And saw her again.
He was wading round the corner of a crumbling brick building, amidst the foot of water that was now a permanent fixture of a decaying former downtown, when he was forced to halt his next step mid-air to avoid running into her. He saw her right hand begin to move in front of her, and cried out: “PLEASEDON’TMACEMEAGAINIWONTHURTYOUIPROMISEINFACTIWOULDLIKETODOTHEOPPOSITEOFHURTYOUBECAUSEYOUINTRIGUEMEBUTPLEASEPLEASEDONTSPRAYMEAGAINBECAUSETHENYOUWILLHURTMEANDDOESNTTHATMAKEYOUAHYPOCRITEANDOHMYGLOBALWARMINGNOWIMBABBLINGLIKEMYMOTHER. SORRYBOUTTHAT.”
Her hand halted. She looked at him, eyes narrowed, and then burst out into laughter. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
He ran his hand through his greasy hair. “Um… yes?”
“Well, it’s a good thing you said something, since I’m carrying a stun gun and not mace.”
He was relieved at having not been attacked again, and curious as to how she had obtained a stun gun, given that they were illegal. Mostly, though, alarmed: “Yes, good I said something. I don’t like being electrocuted.”
She shook her head at him, lips pursed in derision. “You can’t play cool now. You just admitted to the ultimate girly insecurity: fear of turning into your mother.”
He opened his mouth, sure there was an objection to this, and them closed his mouth, having been unable to find it.
“It’s okay. I don’t particularly want you to turn into your mother, either.” She winked, revealing sparkly lids, before pushing past him. He turned to watch her walk away, only to see her look over her shoulder, and prompt him to follow her.
“Where are we going?” he asked, walking quickly so that he was at her side.
She shrugged. “I dunno. To find something to steal.”
“… steal?” He was a well-behaved boy, having heard numerous horror stories about what happened if people were caught stealing. It involved cruel and unusual punishment, occasionally culminating in death.
“Do you have something to live for?” she asked him, flashing teeth in a reckless smile. Her words were flippant, and he could not tell whether or not she was serious.
They arrived at a large group of brick buildings, whose front glass doorways were dark with dirt and dust, whose parking lots were spotted with vehicles that rose out of the constant smog, which they avoided out of decency, since the owners were likely living out of them. They tip-toed through the mist, moving without sound over the concrete, before she picked up a heavy green pole still occasionally used to contain the remnants of an illicit cigarette, and broke open one of the large glass windows.
Dust kicked up in small tufts with each step across the small black and white tiles lining the floor right before the window as they weaved between tables. Shortly, they came to an opening in the waist-high wall, and stepped onto dark green, low-pile carpet. Large wooden shelves loomed, filled with paper. She walked to the nearest shelf, running her fingers along the items it contained. “What is this place?” he asked.
“It’s a bookstore,” she responded. She removed a slim volume from a shelf, the front of which showed sad, feminine eyes morphing into a night sky atop a glimmering city. “This one is one of my favorites,” she said.
“You can read?” he asked. He had heard of it from his mother, although it was a concept he had never understood. What was the point in straining your eyes to view small symbols denoting meaning in a world where no one could see anything clearly, given the constant fog comprised of pollution? Yet here, she of the violet eyes held the item so close – maybe there was something to the act he was missing. He stared more closely at the front of her book, seeing white and orange symbols that were obviously supposed to mean something — yet, after staring for a few more seconds, he was completely oblivious to what that meaning was, and agreed with his original assessment of this “reading.”
She, meanwhile, ignored him, seeking out a brighter area, and finally settling in an area of the floor where a small shaft of sunlight shown through the window, lay on her stomach, and began slowly flipping through the pages.
He walked around a bit, finally finding a book filled with pictures, which he took near her and began reviewing. Some of the pictures were very beautiful or interesting, and he found himself getting lost, to the point where he looked up, and realized she was no longer beside him. Tucking up the book he had been looking at under his arm, and feeling a thrill that it was his now that he had decided to claim it, he began searching for her.
He found her, sitting on the dead, formerly grass, slope behind the building, knees up, arms crossed atop them. He sat beside her.
After a few seconds of silence, she sighed heavily, her mouth opening wide like a Greek tragic mask. “Do we have something to live for?”
“I don’t understand what you mean,” he admitted.
She gestured around herself. “Look at this world. Our parents fucked it up. There’s nothing to see, not much to do, and when you find shit to do anyway, such as ‘stealing’ from defunct stores that couldn’t take money if you offered it to them, you’re tortured. What kind of life is that?”
“…our life?” I ventured. “I mean, we’ve never known any different.”
“No, but we’ve heard the stories. Of how it used to be. Our parents lived in a world of light. Now we know nothing but haze and darkness. Violence and isolation.”
“I don’t feel isolated right now,” I said, looking over at her.
She dropped her chin onto her arms. “For now. But this feeling, like the one we just felt, won’t last.”
He thought for awhile. She made a kind of sense, yet he knew, in his heart, that she was not entirely correct. After awhile, he said: “Our life is… not great. But I’ve spent enough time listening to my mother – because when you’re around her, all you do is listen, there’s no point in talking – “
” – And I don’t think that they had it better. Should they have taken better care of the earth? Yes. Was it selfish of them to have us, knowing that the world would be nearly unlivable in the very near future? Maybe. But we are here, and we can still find some enjoyment in our lives. Even without dry shampoo.”
She looked over at him. “Dry what?”
“I don’t know. It’s something my mother talks about. A lot.”
She laughed. “You’re a weird guy. Or at least, have a very weird mother.”
“Agreed. Pretty sure I have to give mom all the credit, though.” After a pause, he said: “I’m Jeffrey, by the way.”
She looked over. “Nice to meet you, Jeffrey.” After a pause: “Amy.”
They sat behind the store awhile, making small talk that dipped its’ toes into large talk, and increasing their amiable feelings for each other until the initial liking of each others’ company began turning into something more.
“Look,” Geoffrey said, pointing towards a copse of trees about 600 meters away. The green of their leaves shone brighter in the sun that shone, seeming to single out these trees amongst the cool shade of the woods surrounding them.
“No, Geoffrey,” Hannah protested, stamping her right foot, her hands curled in fists at her sides. “You will not drop trou and piss in the woods. I will not have it.”
“Aren’t I supposed to be the bossy one? I’m the boy, and I’m older.”
But it had always been this way. It was difficult to resist someone who was so opinionated and certain when you were an aimless waffler.
Speaking of waffles…
“What is that delicious smell?” Hannah asked, her nostrils widening as she breathed deep.
“What do you care? You don’t eat – anything, really, as far as I can tell.”
Hannah shrugged. “True. But baked goods means that there is probably someone nearby. Perhaps in a lovely little cottage.”
“Lovely little cottage? Have you been watching those Jane Austen movies again or something? We live in the 21st century, not the 19th. Also, have you seen those hairstyles? You could never pull that off.”
“No one could. That’s why they wore bonnets. Or hats? I don’t know – something that covered their head.”
“That’s about the level of eloquence I expect from you.”
“I would kick you, but it might cause you to piss yourself.”
“Thank god for Oprah; I might not be alive anymore if you weren’t a germophobe.”
“…Hello children.” The voice broke through their fighting, despite having a fragile, bitter quality that should have been easy to ignore. Its’ owner looked equally frail, and was waving a hand with gnarled, knobby fingers at them, smiling at them with a mouth filled with crooked, yellow teeth.
“Hello,” Geoffrey said politely.
“You must be tired, if you have walked all the way out here to my cottage. Please help yourself to my house.” The gnarled fingers skimmed along the windowledge, and the siblings realized it was gingerbread. The entire house, in fact, was gingerbread, decorated with thick white icing, windows spun from sugar.
“Please. Eat,” The elderly woman prompted again, but both of them declined.
“That’s sweet, but I’m on a diet,” Hannah said.
“Diabetic,” Geoffrey said ruefully, shrugging his shoulders.
“Although, if you don’t mind, we would love to use your bathroom,” Hannah continued. She had begun feeling the pressure from her own bladder for the last few minutes, and was relieved to think that she would not have to walk all the way back to the car without relief.
“Bathroom? How would I get plumbing to work in a dessert house?” The witch replied, furrowing her brow in disbelief.
“I don’t know. How do you prevent the bugs and birds from eating it?” Hannah retorted, her bladder pressing ever more urgently.
“I don’t. It’s just fresh baked. Look, here they come now.” A line of ants was creeping up towards the windowpane from which the witch had greeted them.
“Well, what are we supposed to do?” Hannah asked, certain the woman was holding out on them. “Our car has got to be at least 2 miles away!”
The elderly woman shrugged. “Use the trees like everyone else?”
As the two hangry females had been arguing, Geoffrey had crept behind a nearby tree and done just that. Hannah refused.
So it was that two hours later, two lost little children came upon a restroom in the woods. They ran inside, only to find themselves caught in a trap once they had relieved themselves. And Hannah and Geoffrey came upon their car, having been lost only once, which was a full four miles from their encounter. Hannah would discover she had a urinary tract infection the next day, and Geoffrey would secretly revel in the fact that he had not solely been her lemming, and he did not.
Mr. Fox walked into the bar, smoothing down his fastidiously-trimmed moustache with one hand, while the other clamped down on the wooden cane that he stamped upon the ground with every other step, making a loud thump in conjunction with the light taps of his patent leather clad feet. He ordered a scotch, neat, from the waitress who appeared at his table, and surveyed the establishment with an appraising eye. He was on the hunt for new prey; it had been too long since he had been with a woman, and he was growing weary of returning to an empty home each evening.
The problem with living in a small village, he thought to himself, was that the women were all too quickly known. It was hard to be excited that little Molly was now grown up, having seen that curly brown hair in unruly pigtails, and those fair cheeks smudged with some unidentified sticky substance. And while it was impossible to deny the beauty of Katrina, it was also impossible to forget about her sister’s disappearance, which darkened those lovely green eyes with tragic shadows.
It was the same with all of the women his eyes skimmed over. They were all known. Boring. Predictable.
And then, he espied a new crop of burnished golden curls. Large blue eyes. Creamy skin. A female he had never seen, small and delicate as a porcelain doll. It had been awhile since he had hunted someone young and virtuous; his long, slender fingers stroked the trimmed beard on his face, grey streaks breaking up what had once been a full, red chin of hair. He would rather enjoy being around someone malleable.
He sent a drink to her table, a pink cocktail with too much sugar that hid the taste of alcohol. Her pale cheeks flushed with surprise and delight, her pink lips opening in an “O” of surprise, morphing into a smile and a mouthed “thank you” directed to him once the waitress disclosed him as benefactor. He waited until she was nearly finished before ordering another cocktail that he delivered himself. “You looked like you enjoyed the last one, so I got you another. I hope that’s all right.”
“I am very thirsty,” she responded.
“Care if I join you?”
“Of course not! Thank you, again, for the drinks. Is everyone so nice here in Forest Green?”
He laughed. She thought he was nice. He responded: “Who could resist being nice to a pretty little thing like you?”
Two months later, she was walking towards him in a white, silk dress, her hair fetchingly arranged in an updo festooned with flowers, a coy, pearl-encrusted veil shielding her face. He gazed in wonder at his demure young bride, who was everything he had hoped she would be, as she joined him at the altar. They said their vows, and the food and revelry that followed passed in a blur as both bride and groom anticipated their wedding night.
He was not expecting the collar she slapped around his neck, soon as he had taken off his shirt. Strong black leather, studded with metal, to which she affixed a linked metal leash to keep him in bed. Not only was the new Mrs. Fox not the innocent virgin he had anticipated; she was also well aware of the dungeon that still contained Mr. Fox’s previous wives, including that of the beautiful Katrina’s sister. She deftly plucked the large, ancient brass key from his bureau, and led the townsmen to the cool underground room with its’ blood-spattered walls and stink of decay.
Was she really so clever, so good an actress? Or was he just getting old? Possibly allowing his imagination to make someone what she most certainly was not? He did not have long to ponder on the conundrum, but it filled his mind in the time he had left.
A mere week later, Mrs. Fox walked into the bar, protected from the chill air by a luxurious fur wrap. “Thank you; it’s fox, of course,” she responded to the exclamations of admiration from her female compatriots. She joined a group of them at a table, and ordered a round of drinks, obtaining for herself a scotch, neat. She sighed with contentment at the first sip, then began surveying the establishment for a suitable male companion. The hunt had been long and arduous, and it had been too long since she had enjoyed the company of a man.
Hello, literary aviators! Welcome to the last stop of The Waking Forestbook tour; I hope that your flight has been free of tempestuous clouds and that you are ready to enjoy this last lovely blog post before your return flight. For those who haven’t heard of this new release by Alyssa Wees , here is a brief synopsis of the book:
The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.
To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.
The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?
For this creative post, I will be providing a list of writing prompts related to the novel. If any of these prompts tempt your inner writer, please post on your blog and link to and/or comment on this post so that we can all read your work!
Re-write a fairy tale from the villain’s perspective.
Write a story that occurs within another story.
A character is lost in the forest, and the trees begin speaking to him/her. What do they (i.e., the trees) say?