Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"O, Great Genie..."

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by Indie Ink. New writers are always welcome to sign up for next week's challenge by following the link above.

Week 22
My Challenger: Courtney
My Challenge: Gandhi said "Be the change you wish to see in the world." What change would that be?
Who I am Challenging: The Drama Mama
What I Challenged Them With: Romantically Jabberwocky-ish (She totally nailed it, FYI--go take a read!)

"O Great Genie..."

Be forewarned. If you have found this journal, then I myself must have perished. I can only hope that you heed this warning, and leave this place immediately. This is a place of evil. Please forward this journal to the following address as soon as you possibly can:"
"And then it lists an address to someplace in Indiana." Troy flipped briefly through the pages. "Looks like a normal enough journal to me." He tossed the book over to his hiking companion.

Jill caught it in the air and also glanced at the holographic note on the cover. "How odd," she mumbled. "What year do you think this is from?"

"I dunno. Are the entries dated? When is the last one from?"

She flipped through until she found the beginning of the last entry. "This journal is over a thousand years old! Troy! Do you realize how valuable this must be?"

"I doubt that the person at the other end of that mailing address is still holding out hope."

"No, seriously! This could be from some missing persons case! We should really contact the police or something."

Troy laughed, and then mimed a communicator to his ear. "Hello, officer? We're hiking in Tibet and we found a journal! Could you please come right away? The guy went missing a thousand years ago and we're hot on his trail!" He laughed again. "Get serious. Look, we can make camp here tonight, and when we get back into town early next week, we'll look into getting that journal to someone, okay?"

She grimaced. "I don't know. It says this place is evil." She glanced around nervously.

"Seriously? You want to know evil? Climbing back down that mountain after the sun goes down. I'm not about to do that based on a thousand-plus-year-old note on the cover of a journal. Come on, we can camp right here in this old temple, under the benevolent gaze of the Adi-buddha. This place will protect us from any sudden storms that come up in the mountains this time of year."

"I suppose." Jill climbed up the old stone stairs and began to set up camp for the night.


She rolled over in her sleeping bag and stared at the small campfire they had started. She couldn't shake that nagging feeling of worry ever since Troy had tossed her his little discovery about an hour ago. Glancing over her shoulder at his slumbering form, she slowly eased herself out of the bag and removed the discovered journal from her backpack. Finding the beginning of the last entry once again, she began to read...

Tibet, May, 2346 BCE I'm not sure how much longer I have. Everything in my mind seems quite muddled, and I find myself phasing in and out of physical being. I will now attempt to recount the events of today, and hope that, at some point, someone may discover what has happened to me, to let the world know of this terrible danger, so that others may avoid this same fate.

It started when I came across this ancient monastery while on vacation in Tibet...

"I'm assuming the basic rules apply? No wishing for more wishes, no wishing the dead back to life, that kind of thing?"

The genie turned his head slightly to look me in the eye. A shiver ran down my spine as those stone, lifeless eyes met mine. And although he said no words, I took it as an agreement to my statement.

This one is different, I thought to myself.

You see, this was the seventh genie I had come across in my life. You may think me fortunate, but let me warn you, "wishing" isn't always all it's cracked up to be. The first genie I had freed from his "place of confinement" had been while hiking in Mexico, and quite by accident! Once I finally had the courage to take him up on his offer of three wishes (still thinking I was dreaming, or that it was an elaborate hoax of some kind), I made my first wish and was devastated by the results...

You, like myself, have probably imagined this scenario a hundred times over! "If I found a genie, I'd wish for..." Or the "If I had just one wish, I know I'd wish for..." Just keep in mind that old Chinese proverb, "Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true."

Being the altruistic, ever-optimistic human that I was, I had made the fatal mistake of wishing for world peace. Lofty? Yes. But I was young, a dreamer, and very naive in the ways of the djinn.

Because quite suddenly I was standing on a desolate, lifeless world, just me and my genie. (You can be forgiven at this point if Me and My Shadow has suddenly popped into your brain; it's happened to me countless times over the millenia...) Astounded at how "world peace" could result in such all-consuming death and destruction, the mischievous little gnome replied, "There is no peace in life. Life is a struggle, from beginning to end. For there to be world peace, there must be no life." Needless to say, my second wish was for negating my first, and my third and final wish was for the ability to find others like him, who had such power as to grant wishes.

Thus, I find myself here, before the seventh one I had found in my travels about the globe. Granted, not all of the genie were as devious and dangerous as the first--in fact, I counted myself lucky to have had such congenial wish makers, resulting not only in my multi-billion dollar estate, an overall lack of poverty and hunger in the world, twelve space colonies throughout our solar system, but four of my six beautiful children as well!

But this one, this genie... He was one to wish carefully upon. Maybe it was due to the fact that he was made of granite, sitting just inside a Tibetan monastery in one of the remotest places on earth, that gave me pause. Isolation typically gives me goosebumps, and having found this djinn had taken me by surprise--after all, I was only here on a personal vacation, for once not out on a lark looking for more wish fulfillment.

I realized then that the genie was still looking at me, his cold eyes boring through me, down into my soul.
Jill shivered and glanced up at the statue of the Adi-buddha. Had it's head... turned?

Quit being a silly scaredy-cat, Jill! she chided herself. She glanced away and grabbed a blanket, pulling it tight around her shoulder. Throwing a few more pieces of wood on the fire, and then inching closer to take in its warmth, she refound her place in the journal.

Walk away, I thought. Just walk away and leave this one well enough alone. But I couldn't. It had been over a year since my last wish had been fulfilled, and I needed my fix. It was like a drug, the all-powerful feeling that came with having your every (carefully thought-out) wish granted.

So I placed my backpack on the ground, rooted around for my journals (the very journal you find yourself reading at this moment, dear reader...) and began to peruse my list of unfulfilled wishes.

No... I thought, looking through the list. No... no... Ah-hah! I glanced up at the genie, who still had yet to utter a word. He simply stared at me.

"My first wish, O great genie," I began, "is for human doctor's to be able to find a life-giving cure, within the next five years, to every deadly disease, known and unknown, to all human beings in the universe so that all people may live long and prosperous lives to the end of their natural days and die only of old age."

You may think it silly, reader, to have to spell out such exact limits and guidelines, but I still was thinking upon that first genie I had met, and knew that if I were to leave any of the details open to interpretation, I could well find myself standing alone, once again, on a lifeless earth. After all, I reasoned, what better cure to disease would a djinn think of then to have no humans at all? No humans, no disease. Therefore, I was trying to tread very, very carefully.

And then I saw the nod. The nod of wish fulfillment.

However, being that I had given a five-year grace period, I had no idea at this point whether or not this wish would even be granted in the way I envisioned. Add to the fact that I find myself in the most isolated parts of the globe, I had no way to even turn on my cell to watch the news, to see if discoveries were even now being touted within these first few minutes of disease eradication.

I had done my best, however, with wish number one. I also then had five years to find another genie to reverse this wish if, indeed, disastrous results were to unfold. If I was going to make the world a better place, if I was going to effect change that was to help everyone on earth, I had to make sure I had back up plans.

I continued to stare at the genie. He continued to stare back. I could only trust that, as I was still standing here and he was still standing there, I had not made a wish that could be twisted or manipulated.

Still, I continued to wait.
"Jill? What are you doing?"

"Jesus, Troy! You scared the shit out of me!"

"Sorry. You all right?"

"Just can't sleep. I'm reading through this old journal. Good stuff, if you're into fantasy stories."

"So it's not even a real journal then, eh? Glad we didn't call the police." He smiled tiredly, then rolled back over in his bag. Jill waited until she heard the soft snoring before turning back around to the fire.

"Your wish has been granted, human."

"You... You can talk?"

It gave a slight nod. It suddenly seemed more real to me, more alive, now that it had spoken. Still, I was quite shaken by the deep, rich, booming voice, especially within the confines of this temple. Something still didn't feel quite on the up-and-up. Nevertheless, I had two more wishes to make before I could be on my way.

"No shenanigans, right? You are making sure my wish is fulfilled as I intended it to be, correct?"

It locked eyes with me once more, then after a second gave a slight nod in the affirmative. "You have two more wishes to make, human, before I am free. Make your requests."

Before I am free? What does that mean? But I knew better than to ask. There was still a great deal I didn't know about these fantastic creatures, and until I found one a little more--friendly? congenial?--I knew I'd get no answers from this brute.

"Fine," I said. "On with the business at hand. My second wish, O great genie, is that all six of my children would be great leaders in the profession of their choosing, rivaled by none and experts in all that they endeavored to do, leaving them content and fulfilled throughout their lives."

Again, I waited. And again, I was rewarded with a slight nod. "Your wish has been granted, human."

I was dizzy with excitement. Oh, the power! I was practically giddy that I had just secured a bright and promising future for my offspring, lives that would be rewarding and fulfilling! I clasped my hands to keep them from trembling. "Thank you, genie."

It gave me that stony nod in return.

Now I sat. I contemplated. I made myself dinner over a small cooking fire, staring at the djinn as he continued to stare back at me. Hours must have passed as I gave thought to my final wish of this magical creature. He seemed quite unperturbed, happy to wait, happy to not wait. I thought about the eons that must have passed right here under his gaze, the millions of lives that have been born and died at his feet here in this temple.

And then it hit me. And to this day I wasn't sure why this wish, this desire had not come to me sooner. After all, hadn't every wish I'd ever made only been to improve my life and the lives of others? Hadn't each one since that first been only to bring about positive change in a universe that dementedly suffered? Why should I need to find a genie to make these things happen? Why couldn't I be the one to simply make them happen? Why couldn't I be the change the world so desperately needed? What was that ancient proverb? "Be the change you wish to see in the world"?

I stood up, shook the dust from my pants, and approached the ancient fairy creature. His gaze followed my every move.

"O great genie," I intoned quite dramatically, drunk on the idea of the power I was about to receive, "my third wish, my final wish of you, is for me, myself, to have the power to change the world, for there to be no need for myself to find a genie for wishes to come true." I was practically jumping up and down in my excitement, knowing that now, I had no need to choose my words so carefully--I would know exactly how I wanted my wish fulfilled, I would know exactly what change I wanted to take place! No more back-up plans, no more worrying about some evil creature twisting my words and meanings! I would be the one to determine what I meant!

And then--

Oh, dear reader, too late I recognized my fatal mistake. And suddenly I was looking at myself standing there and I realized...

Sweet Jehoshaphat, did I realized...

I watched as my former body approached my new body. "You now have the power to grant wishes, human. You can now be the change you wish to see in the world. As soon as another human finds you, and demands of you for wishes to be granted."

And with that, he walked away in my body... And I looked down to see that I, now, inhabited his former body.

Even now, as I write these final words, the granite of my new flesh grows hard. I'm thinking that I need a human presence to move, to give life to these limbs. As this pencil threatens to break in my now monstrous hands, as I try to delicately put down these words so that you, dear reader, may know...
Jill shivered. She looked up and saw those eyes staring at her.

Quit being silly, Jill! Dear god, what would your father say if he--

"And how do you find the reading of my journals, child?"

She gasped. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod...

"There is no need to be frightened. Only the need to wish it, and I shall grant your request."

"You-- You-- You're..." She trailed off, already knowing how stupid this sounded, already knowing this couldn't be real.

"I am Beaufort Whitney Charleston the Third. That is my journal. I see you have decided to ignore my warning. But then again, the genie I had hoped to warn anyone against is long gone. And now there is only me. It has been many years since I had had company here in my prison."

Jill glanced over at Troy, who snored so peacefully amidst the booming noise of the Adi-buddha statue.

She turned quickly to face the statue once again. "I must be dreaming, right? Tell me I'm dreaming."

"Is that a wish?"

She gasped. "Nononononononononono!"

The statue chuckled. "Child, you must calm yourself. I'm sorry my attempt at humor has failed. I don't often get to use it, you see."

She gulped, found herself nodding. "I... uh..."

"Come now, my dear. Calm yourself. You should be delighted that you find yourself with the power to make three wishes, three glorious wishes, and to have a genie such as myself to make them happen. I assure you, I have no wish to see anyone else suffer my same fate."

"I can't really... I'm sorry... This just seems..."

A loud, booming laugh emitted from the statue. "Yes, yes, I realize. But there is no rush on the wishes. You see, I can stop time, keep Troy asleep, and let you take all the time you need to decide on the three most wondrous things you wish to make happen! I myself am going nowhere, of course. Ha, ha, ha!"

Jill cringed at the noise, cupping her hands over her ears.

And then it hit her--she had three wishes. She got to wish for anything at all.

She could make all her dreams come true.

Her eyes widened. Her heart raced. Excitement and hope filled her eyes, and she lifted her head to gaze into those cold, stone, lifeless eyes of the genie.

"My first wish, O great genie," she began...

Previous Challenges I have answered:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Me, Mouse-self and I...

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by Indie Ink.

Welcome to Week 21.

Week 21
My Challenger: Gehan
My Challenge: Write a tragic romance short story that somehow incorporates breakfast into it as a central (or semi-central) theme.
Who I am Challenging: Greg Perry
What I Challenged Them With: The type of silence only complete and utter destruction can bring... But in a happy sort of way...

Me, Mouse-self and I...

We can't keep going on like this, you know...

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he replied, crumbs spewing forth from his lips. He barely paused to breathe as he nibbled eagerly, softly, as if big mouthfuls were a taboo in his culture.

Look at us... Please?

He glanced up and looked at his reflection in the glass. "Uh-huh. What am I looking at exactly?" A few more crumbs tumbled from his mouth, and the twitch in his nose betrayed the fact that he knew exactly what it was he was to be looking at. He went back to his cheese and raspberry danish even more vigorously, taking crumb after crumb from it's edge, enjoying the juicy tang of raspberry against the dry, crumbly texture of the flaky dough mixed with the velvety, sweet cheese drizzle as they mingled on his tongue. "Mmmmm..." Nibble nibble nibble...

You're kidding me, right?

He ignored the words, closing his eyes as if they were his ears, and quickly yet softly chewed.

Open your eyes, fat ass.

That got his attention. He moved back from the danish, managing a quizzically hurt look while his tongue darted in and out to catch stray crumbs. "That was a bit uncalled for, you know."

If it's the only way to get your attention, then I have to vehemently disagree.

"You may disagree, but you sincerely hurt my feelings. I may not even save half of this delicious treat for you, if that's the way you're going to be." But he had lost his appetite, albeit briefly. They both knew that. "It's just that... Well, ever since..."

I know, I know. It's been hard. Losing her like that... Sigh. I, too, barely know how to manage waking in the morning. But it wasn't us that died. We are still here, aren't we? We're still alive...

"Ha! If you call this living." He went back toward the danish, gripped it eagerly, and began to nibble once more, and a subconscious smile again graced his lips as crumbs fell between them.


"No." Nibble nibble nibble...


"I..." Nibble nibble nibble... "... refuse..."

A shadow passed overhead, and he paused and glanced up fearfully, pastry, at once, forgotten.

You know what that was.

"Let him come. I have no reason, beyond this danish, to live anymore. She was my life. Our future children were my life. This... This?" He gestured toward the food, toward the glass at his reflection, toward the world. "This is nothing. This is passing the time." He stared at his sticky, gooey, raspberry jelly-covered paws. "This isn't life. This is merely purgatory." He licked halfheartedly at his fingers. "No... Not even." He began to nibble once more.

If you stay here much longer, we're both doomed.

He could hear the fear in the voice, hear the cry of the soul that wanted to find new joys, new reasons for living, new hopes and dreams to achieve. But he ignored them, shoving more and more pastry on top, drowning those feelings once more in a sugar-filled haze, hoping for that sleepy, food-induced coma that so easily drowned out the voice of life...

I want to live. Doesn't that count for anything?

"Not anymore."


"You know, I could have saved her." He stopped nibbling once more. "I... could have..."

No, you couldn't have. Neither of us could. It's a sad fact, but nonetheless true. And as much as you try to drown out the guilt, that guilt isn't even truly yours. It was beyond your power.

"Beyond your power maybe. What the hell are you, anyway? A reflection? A reflection in glass! Why the hell do I even listen to you? Why do I come here, day after day, night after night, just to see you?! No. More."

He tried pulling the danish with him, but his tiny little claws merely made some tears in the dough.

You know you aren't strong enough to carry that back to our hole.

But he had stopped. He was gazing once more at his front paws, at the red, red raspberry. So like the blood when he found her, his precious love, just outside their hole, mangled and tangled in with that--that thing! That man-made machine! That... That... mouse trap!

His tears fell freely now. He raised one of his sticky paws up against the glass of the display window, and his reflection reciprocated.

The humans will know you've been here again. They'll know to set another one of those... death traps... They may even get... You know...

"A feline."

His reflection nodded solemnly.

"I miss her."

As do I.

"It isn't the same now."

No, it isn't. But tempting fate by getting fatter and fatter and eating the human's food right under their noses like this? What would she think of us like this?

"She'd probably have called me a fat ass, too."

Yes, yes, she would have.

Sigh. "I miss her so."

His reflection nodded.

"But... What happens now? Where do we go? What... It's so hard to think about..."

There are other holes, other crumbs, other pastry shops... Other mice...

"I don't want another mouse-wife."

Not now, you don't. It's only been a few weeks. But you'll see. There's a lot of mice in the world, others like you who have lost those near and dear...

He took one more look at the raspberry danish. "I don't want to eat red food anymore."

We don't have to eat anything red if we don't want to.

"Do you really think there are others out there?"

We'll never know unless we leave the bakery...

He took one last look at his reflection, his rounded belly, his long, gray whiskers protruding from his pudgy cheeks, his long naked tail as it curled around his feet. "Do you think she'll understand?"

His reflection said nothing. It just looked at him as he looked at himself, an eternity in the glass. And then his eyes focused beyond the glass.

Into giant, human eyes staring right back at him.

He let out a squeak, and went to race back toward the rear of the pastry display case, down through the hole and under the floor. His feet slipped on the spilled raspberry jelly, he tripped on the edge of the plate. He regained his footing, and he could see the slight crack between the sliding glass doors where he always slipped through and aimed for it, feet racing but his body seemed to be going in slow motion. As his face squeezed between the glass doors, as his hind hips got caught on the edge of the glass, and as his eyes spotted the hole in the floor just five feet down, he felt the giant shadow looming over him, saw the giant hand reaching down, weapon in hand...

Previous Challenges I have answered:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Witch of Picassoid

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by Indie Ink. Join in on the fun!

Welcome to Week 20.

Week 20
My Challenger: Amy LaBonte
My Challenge: Picassoid
Who I am Challenging: Lance
What I Challenged Them With: The enemy of your passion in life...

I've gotta be flippin' honest here. I have no idea what a "picassoid" is.... I think Amy made it up. Unless it does have something to do with Picasso, and Google simply didn't know the answer...

Which, I think, made me sad...

The Witch of Picassoid

His fingers trailed in slimy mud,
His limbs were twisted, caked in blood,
Exhausted, he fell down with a thud
Along the murky Picassoid.

Along it's foggy banks he heard
Strange sounds no creature would prefer,
Even injured and broken, as he stirred
The waters of Picassoid.

And as he watched, the fog rolled in,
The moon behind the clouds grew dim,
As swirling mist caressed his skin
In this, the empty void...

Along the Picassoid...

A cackle came, at first quite low
And as the sound began to grow
The horrid monster he used to know
Took shape within the mist.

And from the water's depths did rise
A gruesome tentacle of great size
And gripped him tightly 'round the thighs
And dared him to resist.

Drawing forth his sword Slash! Slash!
The moment over in a flash,
It disappeared with a giant splash
No longer in his midst.

An evil laugh again did come,
And softly, gaily, she did hum
A merry tune of death and scum
And when her eyes met his...

He knew the Picassoid Witch.

"I've come for you," he barely said,
As upon the beach his wounds still bled
Hanging to life by a single thread,
At the edges of the moor.

"Have you now, Oh noble knight?
You may have given my pet a fright,
To me you seem a sad, sad sight,
Dying on this shore."

She cackled then, both strong and loud,
"The Picassoid witch will not be cowed
By a broken, beaten, withered clown.
Your kind I do abhor...

Mortals, weak and poor."

"By the Thunder Gods, I swear,
My warnings now you should beware,
Your time on earth and in this lair
Will end on this night."

And by some miracle the knight did rise
From out of the mud, now eye to eye
With the ancient evil to apprise
Of how to win this fight.

She disappeared into the fog
And laughed and cackled within the bog.
"You think to fight me? You mortal dog!
In this I will delight!

Do you like fire, Sir Knight?"

And from her fingertips came screaming
A ball of fire, bright and gleaming,
Straight and true to his chest careening
To burn him where he stayed.

And where the strength he found, who knows?
He rolled and dodged the fiery foe
While drawing forth to strike a blow
With the sword of Idennay.

With a primal scream he thrust it out
To claim her heart, her blood to sprout
From her chest onto the ground
Much to her dismay...

And on the ground she lay.

"The Picassoid Witch is defeated, I see,"
She mused as she stared up at the trees
Whose twisted branches had held the keys
To her demonic power.

He stood and watched not ten feet away
Not believing himself that her life he'd slain.
Yet one last scream she uttered that day,
"This is not the hour!"

"For in this swamp my bones will rot,
And when the land my life forgot,
I will rise again to claim my plot
And then you all will cower...

And in evil you will shower!"

And then her breath was gone and silent.
He shuddered at her curse, so violent,
But hoping all the same that meant
She'd crossed over to the void.

And that this earth, this life, would savor
A life free from her evil favors,
And no one else would have to quaver
Because she'd been destroyed.

He trudged out from the swamp still broken,
This latest battle but a token
Of his many battles, most unspoken,
And none he could avoid.

Next he faced a foe most deadly,
A dragon, they said, most dastardly.
But at least this once he left elatedly,
The world no longer annoyed...

By the Witch of Picassoid.

Previous Challenges I have answered:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Queen's Confession...

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by Indie Ink. New contestants: Virgins; New feedback and comments: Vivacious; Not meeting deadlines: Vile. For everything else, there's me.

Welcome to Week 19.

Week 19.
My Challenger: Aimee
My Challenge: "Dear ______, I haven't been completely honest with you..."
Who I am Challenging: The Drama Mama
What I Challenged Them With: Writing outside the box: Tell me about a day in the life of a sloth named Fernando without once using one of two letters in your entire story (your choice which letter not to use): either "m" or "i".

The Queen's Confession...

Dearest Wicked Step Mother,

I haven't been completely honest with you...

But then again, one would hardly blame me for that--they say you learn from the best, and indeed, if an award were to be given for dishonesty on such a grand scale...? Well, let's just say Mirror wouldn't even deny you this.

Brr... It's cold today. I keep telling the servants to stoke the fire hotter, and to hang heavier draperies in front of the windows, but you know how drafty these old castles are. I am still prone to sore throats where that damnable apple lodged itself in my throat that fateful morning.

You remember, don't you, dearest step mother? They say the third time is the charm, and when both the colorful bodice and the poisoned comb didn't work, I should have been prepared. But when you appeared before the cottage, looking so homely and plain, offering the apple, it didn't even cross my mind that you would allow yourself to be so common just to get to me. The flat, thin hair, that pudgy stomach, the mottled skin. Oh, that was so clever of you! I still wonder how long it took you to cast that spell, how long you and Mirror stared at one another, sacrificing your physical beauty but for a moment, to ensure that you would never be ugly compared to anyone ever again...

Of course, if you hadn't been so hell-bent on my destruction, I never would have met Charming, his kiss would have never dislodged the apple, and the rest--well, the rest is history, isn't it?

Here I am, queen of the realm.

You, I assume, are in hell--if Beelzebub himself would have you.

It may make you feel better to know, Father hasn't spoken to me since Charming and I were wed. He couldn't see the blackness of your soul as I could. To this day, he believes it was simply jealousy that made Charming and I order the magic iron dancing shoes; he believes envy was why we had them heated over the blacksmith's fires; he believes unresolved anger over you taking the place of my dead mother was why we the shoes placed on your feet, red-hot from the fires, and dance until you died right there before the wedding banquet table.

I admit to some glee as I watched your agony, happiness as you begged for the shoes to stop, ecstatic joy as your legs caught fire, and yet you danced. Danced and danced and danced until your broken, burned, and battered body collapsed in a heap. I swear, some days, as I sit on the throne listening to all the court gossip, I still catch the faint smell of your charred flesh--and I smile.

The dwarves, as well, have stopped calling on our court. They say I changed that day, that I stopped being the innocent princess they had lived with all those years in the Black Forest once Charming and I were wed. Little do they know, I never was as innocent or naive as they thought. They were simply the best hiding place I could find at the time. After all, young girls alone in the black forest have to do what they can to survive. And once I convinced the Huntsman to let me go, using the crocodile tear method I had learned from watching you and father? Well, let's just say I finally saw the light, as it were.

They were simply pawns, and when they were no longer needed? That's what Charming was for. Not that I hadn't grown fond of them, the dwarves, that is. But no one is that innocent, especially when their step mother is looking to kill them. They were a sweet bunch, but not too bright, truth be told. Dopey wasn't the only one who was short-changed, but I'll just let that go. I worked with what I had to.

But honestly? It was almost as if a higher power had been guiding me to safety from you, I'll admit that. Stumbling upon the cottage, setting up house in that tiny, ramshackle cabin was no picnic compared to this drafty castle, granted--especially when one is forced to live with so much riffraff! Bird feathers and rabbit droppings alone were enough to make me want to scream.

But you, step mother, yes, YOU were the reason I continued to live. Through the long nights in the dead of winter, when trapped with the dwarves in that cottage, I nursed my hatred. Every time my fingers cracked and bled from doing dishes for eight; when my back was sore and tired from washing all our clothing in the pond; whenever my stomach rumbled for want of food and I counted my ribs through my snow white flesh, I nursed my hatred for you, biding my time.

Of course, even now as I realize how much I had underestimated you, once that apple was dislodged and I saw that handsome prince staring at me from the other side of that glass coffin? I knew my time was coming. I knew I would have my revenge.

I knew I would finally have the power to be rid of you once and for all.

Mirror told me he told you about my wedding. He told me how he purposely withheld who's wedding it was, just to be sure you would show up to see the bride that dared to be more beautiful than you. He told me how angry you were, how you spit and threw a tantrum, almost smashing him in the process. Mirror and I talk a lot, you know, and I know why it was he in whom you confided your darkest feelings, your deepest desires. He's a very smooth talker, that one.

But I'm not writing this to you to relive my victory over you, although I dare say it has done me a world of good, cheering me up during this gloomy, drab bit of weather we're having.

No, I'm writing to you now, beloved step mother, to let you know how I haven't been completely honest with you. Not about my hatred for you, or even of my joy at your death during my wedding. But for some strange reason, I feel compelled to let you in on a little secret, the one little piece of knowledge that even I, myself, had a hard time admitting to for years...

You see, in a strange and twisted way, I admired you.

Not for your beauty--after all, what were you compared to me? A frog's wart?

No, I admired your strength, your tenacity, your will to go out and get whatever it was you wanted, whenever you wanted it, heaven and hell be damned! I still remember that time, when you had me scrubbing your bed chamber--do you remember, step mother? You were talking with your ladies' in waiting, and you had noticed one of them, the newest one, had the most ethereal green eyes, brilliant as emeralds, greener than the trees in mid-spring, brighter than the scales of the dragon! I remember how you caught your breath, staring deeply into those eyes.

And, as I hid under your bed that night, knowing it was the one place I could hide where you never thought to look for me--so close, yet so far!--I remember watching you cast that spell. How you and Mirror conspired, how the sparks flew, the castle shook, the words of which I couldn't understand, thunderously echoing in that small stone room...

I remember how, the next morning, your ladies' in waiting came in to say how sad they were to tell you about green-eyed girls' death, how her body had been found with her eyes plucked out and her skin all shriveled... and how they gasped when they noticed, for the first time it seems, just how similar your own brilliant green eyes were to hers, how magnificently they set off your flame-red hair and complimented your precious-stone-studded crown.

And then there was that other night, when Father had gone off to war with the neighboring kingdom because you had noticed the tapestries in their hall and wanted them for your own. I was there, hiding under the bed skirt as the demons you summoned came forth from the fire place, how you sent them into the bodies of the soldiers who had fallen in battle around your husband. I watched as you watched the battle in Mirror's reflection, the stench of sulfur filling your room as they continued to file out of the fire and through Mirror to turn the tide of war in your favor, in your
tapestries favor.

I suppose you can understand why sometimes I preferred the beatings and the chores around the castle to hiding where you never thought to look for me. I still have nightmares.

Yes, evil step mother, I feared yet admired you. You let nothing stand in your way, excepting your own pride and vanity.

But even now, though, I find myself empathizing with you more and more, much as I hate myself for it. I watch now, as I get older, how my once pearl-white skin grows blotchy. As my once raven-black hair has begun to turn a mousy gray. My ruby-red lips, once so full and red and the envy of everyone, including yourself, have begun to wrinkle, crinkle, and crack. I fear these changes in me, but I also realize, perhaps in ways that you didn't, how this is a part of life. I feel grateful and fortunate to have outlived you, but also to have born three healthy children and to have learned to deeply love Charming, heart and soul.

And while Mirror tries to get me to use some of your old tricks--"Just a small spell, my Queen, to lift and brighten the eyes!"--I remember how ugly you were in your beauty, how vile you were in your physical perfection.

I can't help but fear that one day--just one day, Mirror may talk me into doing something yet.

The only thing stopping me at the moment is the thought of your dead soul coming out of the fire place like those demons so many years ago.

And still, I can't help but have admired you.

I'm sure the feeling will pass. All it will take is me going to court today, sitting on that throne, and catching that faint breeze which carries the scent of your dead soul...

And I will smile.


Snow White

Previous Challenges I have answered: