by Dorlana Vann
I walked through the front door a little after midnight. Jana sat on the couch in the darkness covered by the quilt from our bed, the images from the television flickered on her solemn face. “Oh, you’re up,” I said and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I want to talk to you, Trevor.”
When I caught a glimpse of deep concern in her eyes, I immediately thought something had happened to the baby. “Is Ethan okay?”
“He’s a handful to deal with by myself … but he’s fine.”
“Good, good.” That’s all I needed to know; I could go on to bed because anything else could wait until morning. “Well, goodnight.” I turned and walked down the hallway. But I didn’t get very far.
She yelled after me: “I’m going to hire a P.I!”
As I stormed back into the room, fear flushed my face. I stood over her. “Why would you do that?” When I realized my hands were clenched so tight my fingernails dug into my skin, I tried to relax but still couldn’t control my fidget.
“Because every time I try to talk to you, you walk away. I want the truth. I deserve the truth. Where do you go?”
“I’ve told you a thousand times. You know I’m out drinking with the guys.”
I watched her jaw tighten, and through her teeth she said, “Why are you lying to me?”
My heart raced. Had she already found something? “What makes you think I’m lying?”
Jana tossed the blanket off her lap and stood up. I tensed, prepared for a slap.
She eased to her tiptoes until we were face-to-face, breath-to-breath. “You don’t smell like a bar,” she whispered. “For a man who has been out drinking all night long, you certainly are sober. You don’t drink at home. Why the hell would someone pretend to be a drinker?”
I plopped down on the couch and rubbed my face hard with my hands. “Why are you doing this? Why can’t you just leave it alone?”
“Leave it alone? This is our marriage!”
I had nothing to say, nothing to offer.
“I give up,” she said. “I’m just going to ask, since you can’t be a man and admit it. Are you cheating on me? Is there someone else?”
An affair. It would be a simple enough explanation. “Would that be something you could forgive me for?”
“Wait a minute. That’s not it, is it? Shit, I can see it in your eyes. Trevor?”
“Just do yourself a favor. Do our family a favor. Let this go. Let me protect you. Don’t you see? If I tell you, I don’t know what will happen. I’m afraid you’ll never forgive yourself.”
“What? Forgive myself? What are you accusing me of?”
I looked at her, exhausted, tested, tears filling her eyes. It had gone too far. I knew she would probe until she found the answers. I also knew that it wouldn’t look good if a private investigator came back with pictures. Jana would just draw her own conclusions that would, no doubt, end our marriage. I had sacrificed too much to let that happen. I inhaled and then exhaled slowly. I didn’t have a choice but to confess. “You tried to sell Ethan.”
“I had to buy him back,” I said. “Now I can’t catch a break.”
“Just stop it. Stop it.”
“You wanted to hear this; so here it is.” I stood up and grabbed her hands. “Luck, like anything else, can be bought and traded. Before we met, you made a deal with Luck. Because you had such horrible luck, you agreed to trade your first-born for what you thought was really good luck.”
“Really?” She pulled away from me. “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“After we were married,” I said firmly, “after we were pregnant, you told me what you had done. You told me how you found out too late that good luck was just an illusion; that there were only three types of luck: extreme, medium, and weak. With extreme luck, really good things happen but so do really bad things.”
“Maybe you haven’t been drinking,” Jana said, “but something is wrong with you.”
“You said you tried to take it back, but it was too late. You had already given up all rights to our unborn child, before we met, to some couple with medium luck.”
“This is crazy, Trevor. Do you know how crazy this sounds?”
“I thought so too at the time. But still, I asked you where I could find this luck guy. Even though I didn’t believe you, never believed a word of it, I went there. Even after I found the guy, I still didn’t believe he was who you thought he was. But for your peace of mind, I made my own deal.” I had to think hard. As time passed, the details had faded. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would completely forget just like Jana had.
“What kind of deal?” she asked with impatient sarcasm.
“I remember asking if you could give back the money you had won in the lottery. But that had already happened. He couldn’t erase time. I had to make a new arrangement so that I could keep my son. He called it weak luck, but it’s worse than that, it’s no luck at all.” I shrugged my shoulders because I knew that even if I would have known the outcome, I still would have done whatever I had to do to protect Ethan.
When I looked at Jana’s face—her puckered lips and firm jaw—I knew she hadn’t believed a word I said. But I had to finish. “I gave myself a little test all the way home that night; I flipped a quarter. Even after it never landed in my favor, I didn’t believe it. As each day passed, I pushed the limits a little more. You know, I had to see if it was real. I kept testing my luck, until it became an obsession. Until …” At this point, I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I cleared my throat of my sudden panic and then whispered, “I’d lost everything.”
“What do you mean?” Her words trembled.
“All the money that was left from your lottery winnings, all of our savings … is gone.”
“No, no, no, this isn’t happening.”
“I’m sorry. I just keep thinking that I got to have some portion of medium luck. That’s where I go! To try and win it back.” Suddenly, it became so clear. This could be good. Together we certainly made medium luck! “You can win it all again. All you have to do is buy another lottery ticket, or we could go to the horse races.”
“No! Stop it!” She reminded me of a cat in defense mode: hunched back, hair on end, eyes wild, claws loaded. “I can’t believe you would make up such a ridiculous story so that you could blame me for you losing our son’s future? You don’t have bad, weak or whatever luck, Trevor, you have a gambling problem.”
“What? No!” I wondered how it had happened. How had I become the bad guy? “I know it’s hard to believe. I didn’t believe you when you told me, either. But I gave you a chance.” My body had begun to shake. “Just think about it for a minute. I know the memory of meeting him fades for a reason or everyone would be at his door. But there must be something there. Think Jana, think!”
“You need help, Trevor. Are you willing to get help?”
“What I need is for you to believe me. How many times have you said it yourself ‘Your luck sucks’? How many times has everyone said it? I traded it for you, for Ethan, and that’s why the car keeps breaking down, lights turn red at intersections … the reason I have lost so many jobs.”
“What? You’ve lost jobs? More than one? You don’t work for Laurence anymore?”
“It’s been six months.”
She stood with her mouth open as tears streamed down her face. I took a step to comfort her, but she held up her hand and said, “Tell me his name and where I can find this person, this luck guy.”
I closed my eyes trying to think again, trying to recall.
“What is it Trevor? Give me something. Is it John? Peter? Frank? Larry?”
But his name had left my memory months before. “I can’t. I don’t know,” I said without opening my eyes.
The soft breeze told me she had left the room.
I sat on the couch, waiting for her to go to sleep, thinking we could talk it through in the morning. Maybe as she slept some of the memories would return.
A few minutes later, she walked into the room. When I looked up, expecting another confrontation, she stood at the open front door, her back to me, Ethan asleep in her arms, and an overnight bag slung over her shoulder.
Before leaving, she said, “Good luck.”
If it Weren’t for Bad Luck was inspired by Brothers Grimm’s Rumpelstilzchen from Children’s and Household Tales. Germany: 1812 – It is one of the short stories from my collection Supernatural Fairy Tales available now on Amazon.
Once Upon a Time
Surrounded by winter woods, his grandmother’s house was down a hill, blanketed in the dreary afternoon. Aiden Young wondered if the stately, but definitely deteriorating, two-story would’ve looked less spooky if he and his mother, Lucy, were visiting under happier circumstances. He doubted it.
His mom parked the rental car beside a red BMW and cut the motor. “How do I look?” she asked as she examined herself in the rearview mirror.
“The same way you looked the first fifty times you asked.”
She sat back and sighed wearily. “I’m not sure I’ve ever dreaded anything as much as this.”
The trip to Indiana for Aiden had been perfect timing. He was out of school for the winter holiday and, more importantly, he didn’t have to face Summer, his newly ex-girlfriend. But now he was beginning to regret his decision to come with his mom. She was so stressed, they were out in the middle of what his dad would call the boondocks, and his phone service was spotty.
He was, however, looking forward to seeing his grandmother. They hadn’t visited any of his mom’s side of the family in ten years, so he couldn’t recall much about them. The house, however, triggered a memory: he remembered his cousin, Augustus, chasing him around the porch with a dead squirrel.
“Okay,” he said. “Here’s the plan. Let’s just get this over with. In and out in an hour. Boom.” Not that he was ready to go home, but maybe they could drive to town and have dinner and then check into a hotel with WiFi.
“You make it sound so simple.” She opened the car door. “Well, come on, then. Maybe things have changed around here.”
Aiden climbed out of the car and was greeted by the cold and wet December day. The frequent gusts of wind caused the sprinkles to feel more like tiny ice pellets. He covered his head with the hood of his jacket, tucked his hands inside the pockets, and followed his mom to the covered porch.
Lucy knocked, and the door creaked open a moment later.
Aiden recognized his cousin immediately when he greeted them with a, “What?” His dark hair was slicked back, and the way his swollen eyes, one green and one blue, didn’t hide his annoyance, told Aiden he was still a jerk.
“Hi. Remember us? Aunt Lucy and this is Aiden.”
Augustus scoffed. “It’s about damn time.” He walked away, leaving the door wide open. His hair wasn’t short like it had first appeared but was pulled back in a pony-tail.
Lucy glanced at Aiden as if to say, “Here we go,” and then stepped inside.
As Aiden’s eyes adjusted to the dim foyer, he surveyed his surroundings to see if he recognized anything. The floors were scuffed, worn hardwood. Faded, floral sheets covered huge, framed pictures or mirrors on the wall, and a cobweb-covered chandelier hung from the tall ceiling.
On the right-hand side, and through an open double-doorway, was the dining room. To the left, was a dark hallway, and a wide, wooden staircase.
He thought it strange that none of the grand entryway had stuck in his mind, but perhaps seven-year-old Aiden had blocked it out because even now, at seventeen, the musky smell and the gloominess made him wish he was back home in his bright modern house.
They entered a warm living room. Aiden figured the large windows and glass-paned backdoors leading to the spacious back yard brightened the room during the summer. Today, however, the murkiness of the afternoon drifted inside.
A sofa, a recliner, a console television that looked so ancient that he doubted it received cable, and a small end table with a lamp furnished the room. A dozen or so pale pillar candles lined the mantle of a red-bricked fireplace.
“Whoop,” Aiden said as he tripped on a rug he hadn’t noticed.
Augustus turned and pointed at Aiden. “Dude, watch your step.”
Aiden smoothed the rug with his foot in case it was expensive or something. “Sorry, man.”
“The last thing we need around here is more bad luck.” Augustus shook his head and walked to the chair that faced the blazing fireplace. He sat down, leaving Aiden and Lucy standing awkwardly behind the sectional.
“Sit, if you want,” he finally said.
After they made it to the front of the couch, Lucy only sat on the edge. “Augustus,” she said. “I don’t know how to express how sorry we are.”
Slowly, Augustus swiveled around to face them. “Diesel.”
“My name is Diesel.”
“Oh! Your middle name. When did you start going by your middle name?”
“Five years ago.”
“Oh.” She nodded and smoothed her hair. “How are you? Are you doing all right?”
“The funeral was yesterday,” he said without making eye contact.
“Yeah. I know, and I’m so sorry. I hoped we could drive out to the gravesite.”
Diesel leaned forward and glared at her before saying, “You missed your own sister’s funeral.”
“I know. I know. We really tried to get here on time but the airport, you know, with Christmas. It’s insane. Trying to rent a car was murder.”
Diesel shifted, sitting back in his seat.
Lucy cleared her throat. “How’s Mother?”
“She’s sleeping. Do you want to see her?”
“Nah, not if she’s resting.”
“I’ll be right back.”
When Diesel jumped up and walked out of the room, Aiden tried to exhale the tension with a silent whistle.
The fire crackled as they sat waiting.
Aiden turned when he heard a loud knock coming from above. A railing supported by carved wooden balusters edged the open landing.
“Gran,” Diesel said loudly. “Aunt Lucy and Aiden are here. Finally.”
After he heard the door open and shut, Aiden leaned over to his mom and whispered, “Man, he sure did get weird.”
“Well, he’s been through a lot. He just lost his mom.”
“Sorry.” Aiden felt bad for a second, but his curiosity won. “What was with the rug and bad luck stuff?
She glanced behind her before leaning in closer to Aiden. “Looks like your aunt passed her silly beliefs on to him. Augustus must think you stumbling or touching a certain part of the rug is a bad omen.”
“Diesel,” Aiden corrected with a smirk.
She nodded. “Right, Diesel. Anyway, I knew all the folklore Mother told me and Rose was make-believe, fairy tales. Rose soaked it all in as a child but didn’t go all,” she waved her hands, “you know, until you know.”
Aiden shook his head because he didn’t know. His mom rarely brought up her sister in conversation.
“Well,” she whispered, “when Rose was pregnant, her boyfriend, Harley, left her. I think something completely snapped. Even though I had already moved out by then, I heard Rose took it hard. At least that S.O.B. left money for Diesel when he died.”
They both jumped when Diesel cleared his throat from directly behind them.
“She’s not feeling well,” he said. “She wants to know if you guys can go up there.”
“Sure, sure,” Lucy said, her face bright red.
They stood up and followed Diesel into the foyer and up the stairs. After a few steps up, the stairs turned to the right. Aiden could see over the banister, down into the living room. A chair lift, most likely for Granny, was at the very top of the stairs.
The bedroom door was open, and Granny sat in a recliner covered by a patchwork quilt. Her grey, bushy eyebrows went all the way across and met in the middle of her brow. Her cheekbones sank in, and her long, silver hair draped over her shoulders.
“Lucille, you’re here,” Granny said, her voice ungrateful.
“I’m so sorry about Rose.” Lucy gave Granny a quick, distant hug. “I can’t believe she had a heart attack.”
“I don’t believe it, either. I suspect it was something else. Doctors. All of them, money hungry. Hmph, it doesn’t matter anymore. She’s gone. Rose is gone.”
Aiden heard the door close behind him. Diesel had left the room.
“She was a good daughter,” Granny said. “I could count on her. Always here for me.” She shook her head and then her face softened when she noticed Aiden. “My, my, look at you. You sure do remind me of your granddaddy; those eyes as blue as the sky, and when he was younger he had that dark hair.” Her eyes glassed over for a second as she seemed to reminisce, and then she said, “Come give Granny a hug.”
Aiden accepted Granny’s outstretched arms and hugged her, smelling the scent of grassy earth. When he pulled away, she smiled warmly.
“It’s so good to see you in person,” she said. “I’ve been sent pictures, but it’s not the same.” She looked around Aiden. “Where’s my new grandson? How old is he now, two?”
Lucy cleared her throat. “He’s three, and he has a cough, and I thought it would be best if Mike stayed home with him.”
Granny eased her attention over to Lucy. “I see. Seems a shame, a grandmother never meeting her own grandson. So when you running off again? Soon, I suppose, since you have an excuse.”
Lucy straightened and smiled curtly. “There’s something I need to talk—”
“Granny interrupted: “You can stay in your old room if you want. It’s the same. We haven’t changed a thing in case you ever decided to come home. There’s some clean linens in the hall closet. Aiden, honey, you can take the guest room downstairs. I’m feeling quite weak. Please ask Diesel if there’s some leftovers from Rose’s friends that I can have for my supper tonight. Rose always made supper.”
“I’d be happy to cook,” Lucy said.
Aiden cut her a look. What did she just do? In and out! he wanted to scream.
“I suppose that will do,” Granny said. “Turn the light out when you leave.”
Lucy wrung her hands and then leaned over to the bedside table and snapped off the lamp. The room went dim. She turned abruptly and left the room.
Aiden smiled uneasily at Granny. “See ya,” he said before following his mom’s exit. He shut the door behind him and caught up with his mom on the stairs, mid-ramble.
“She chose to live with Rose, and now she’s saying I abandoned her or something.”
“I didn’t hear her say that, but I did hear you volunteer to cook. We’re never going to get out here?”
“Why don’t we go to the car,” she whispered as they reached the foyer, “and we can talk.”
Once in the car, Lucy placed her hand on her cheek as she stared out the front windshield. “I knew it would be hard, but I can’t believe she’s implying I ran off. I didn’t run off. I got married. I couldn’t bring myself to come back very often because every time I did, Rose acted and looked so strange.”
“Like a witch or gypsy or something. The last time we came here, I swear she was in the kitchen making a potion.”
“No wonder you ran off. Your family is bonkers.”
“Funny,” she said, but didn’t laugh. “I tried to tell Mother that I wasn’t sure Rose should be taking care of anyone and invited Mother to come live with us then. Of course, she wouldn’t hear anything bad about her Rose. Mother chose her over me, so it’s not my fault.” She began to cry softly. “But I really didn’t mean for ten years to go by.”
Aiden searched for a tissue but gave up and pulled a t-shirt out of his duffle bag from the backseat and handed it to her.
Lucy dried her tears. “I know it’s too late to make it up to Rose, but maybe I can help Mother and be there for my nephew. We’ll sit down and have a nice dinner and try to convince them that the best thing to do is for Mother to move in with us. Diesel too, if he wants. I’m sure they’ll see that it’s the best solution. Right?”
He shrugged. After meeting Diesel again, he was pretty sure he’d laugh, or grunt, in their faces. He had money and was old enough to be on his own. Aiden knew what he would choose if given the choice.
“I’m sorry.” She patted Aiden on the leg. “I really didn’t mean to get all into that. Let’s get the luggage and get settled in.”
“Wait a minute. You’re not suggesting we sleep here, are you? I thought we were going to a hotel?”
“It will be late after dinner. There’s no place to stay in town, and I don’t want us to drive real far at night.”
They had driven straight through historic downtown Kingwood, Indiana. And nope, Aiden hadn’t noticed anything that even resembled a Holiday Inn. “Ah, man.”
“It’s only for the one night.” She sighed and stared at the house. “How bad could it be?”
Aiden imagined Diesel looming over his bed with a butcher knife chanting “You are bad luck. I must get rid of all bad luck.” Aiden shuddered. “Right,” he said. “How bad?”
Keep Reading …
The Vampire’s New Suit
by Dorlana Vann
His apartment was on the top floor of a tall building. Everyone knew he was a vampire, so no one would have bothered him even if he had been on the first floor. That was why he found it strange when he heard the knock. After opening the door, he asked, “May I help you?” but thought: Magnificent! Take-out delivered to my door.
“Excuse us, Mr. Smith,” said the first young man of two, “for dropping by unannounced, but you’re not listed.”
“There is a reason for this,” the vampire said.
The second young man said, “I’m Mark, and this is my partner, Trey.” He held out his hand graciously and, without a mere tremble, he shook the resident’s hand.
Intrigued, Smith sought to connect with the gentleman’s eyes. When Mark avoided this with skill, the vampire couldn’t help but grin, something he hadn’t done for centuries. “Perhaps you have happened upon the wrong doorstep,” he said, only because he liked them.
Trey cleared his throat and also avoided Smith’s stare, except with less sincerity. “We’re new to town; however, we do know … who you are.”
Mark said, “We believe we offer a service that may very well interest you and benefit your particular situation.”
“Hmm,” Mr. Smith said. “Is that right? Well, in that case, do come in.” It had been a long time since the vampire had guests—who were alive at any rate—and he found that he was quite enjoying the change of pace. Suddenly, the mundane lifestyle that he had become accustomed to became clear: sleep, eat, and watch TV. He had been doing the latter before the interruption and used the remote to click off the early evening news.
“Please, have a seat. I’m afraid I do not have any refreshments that you would enjoy.” He couldn’t ignore the sudden sound of Trey’s heart as it pumped a refreshment of its own. He licked his lips, knowing the evening could only get better.
Mark cleared his throat. “Perhaps we should come back another time?”
“Don’t be silly. There is no better time. Perhaps you should state your business.”
“Of course.” Mark pulled Trey down beside him as he sat on the couch. “Our company, of which Trey here is a new recruit, provides a unique service to, shall I say, our nocturnal clients. We understand and sympathize with the fact that you’re a prisoner in your home from sun-up to sundown. We have developed a fabric that is solar and flame resistant but extremely lightweight. We design and produce clothing made of these exclusive materials.”
Mark reached inside his bag and pulled out a black swatch. Handing it to the vampire he said, “This is the most popular with our clients, but we do offer many different colors. All we need to get started are your measurements. As you can imagine, this discreet service is not cheap. It’s company policy to receive half—” he stopped when he lost his audience.
The vampire had walked into his modest kitchen and turned on the stove. After all, he wasn’t born yesterday. He put the little piece of fabric over the flame. Nothing happened. He was impressed, already imagining the possibilities. The thought of walking outside during the day after so many, many years was very enticing.
The young men took out their tailor tools, a small catalog, and more fabric samples. In no time, Mr. Smith had chosen a dark gray, pinstriped suit with a high collar, black gloves, and a hat complete with ear and neck coverings.
As the weeks passed, the vampire actually became fidgety. He thought about all the wonderful things he would be able to do during the day. He could even do lunch—if he were to be so bold.
He began to amuse himself as he pondered curious things that didn’t have to do with feeding. He wouldn’t have to hide in shadows. Maybe he would see a matinee. He could walk among the mortals, saying, “Good afternoon.” He picked up the catalog the young men left behind. He thought that next time, he might even buy khaki. He would almost be … human.
Finally, the knock came at the door.
Mark held up a black garment bag. “I have your new suit,” he said with a smile.
The vampire moved out of the way and let him enter the apartment. “Where is your friend?”
“Trey told me he had a previous engagement,” he said and then winked. “Between us, I think he’s a little afraid that you no longer need us.” After giving the vampire ample time to answer, Mark said, “You know, I am your personal tailor, and the only way to get more of these, is through me.” He put the bag on the couch and unzipped it. He pulled out a handsome, well-tailored suit.
It was just like the one in the catalog. Mr. Smith couldn’t hold back his excitement and snatched it out of Mark’s hands.
Mark winced from the sudden pain the vampire’s nails had caused. The amicable mood immediately transformed into intense as they both stared at the red blood slowly escaping its safe haven.
For the first time, the vampire caught and held Mark’s stare. It was so surprising and so challenging that it seduced the vampire into wanting to win. It had been a long time since he had such a tough challenger. But of course, the mortal was no match in the end.
The vampire dropped the suit, catching Mark before he hit the carpet and carefully placed him on the couch. He grinned, his fangs hungering for the taste of such a satisfying victory. Nevertheless, he looked down at his new clothes. The young man would be out for a while, plenty of time for him to try out his new suit.
Although the vampire had acquired quite a wardrobe over the centuries, he had never felt the likes of the material that was against his body. It was soft, like silk, yet form fitting. He wished he could see himself in a mirror. He settled with knowing he would be able to analyze the expressions on people’s faces. Even though the glare of terror so pleased him, he was anxious to see a new expression in their eyes; one of awe and admiration. Complete with gloves and hat, he walked out his door.
“Wake up sleepy head.”
It took Mark a moment to stop his dream and to realize he was asleep. He opened his eyes, took in a panicked breath, and sat straight up. When he clearly remembered his predicament, he hastily felt his neck.
Trey stood over him with his arms crossed. “You’re clear. Even if I am a rookie, I know the rules. If he had bitten you, you would’ve stayed asleep forever.”
Mark nodded, feeling truly foolish. In all his years of being a slayer, he had never allowed himself to be hypnotized by one of them. “Mission complete?”
“Poof,” Trey said, his eyes wide with excitement. “You should have seen him. Oh, that’s right; you decided to take a nap. Anyway, it only took him a second to trust the suit before strolling down the sidewalk like a man about town. When I realized you weren’t right behind him, I knew what I had to do. But don’t worry; I waited, like you taught me, until he hit the mark. I was shaking so bad, but I managed to grab the pull-tag before he even noticed me. But when he did see me, he knew something was rotten and went for my throat. I ducked and ran like hell. What a rush! When I was far enough away and got the nerve to turn around, I saw him still standing in the same spot with nothing on but a frown. But then a second later…” Trey put his fist up by his face. He popped his hands open wide and whispered, “pooffff.”
“Did you gather the catalog and the rest of the money?”
“Yeah, all right here.” Trey held up a white envelope. “You know, I still don’t understand why we just don’t clean them out.”
“I’m not in this for the money. I only charge what is needed to fund our operation. Otherwise, we could turn into the bloodsuckers.” Mark stood up, still feeling a little woozy. “Speaking of bloodsuckers, who’s next on our list?”
“Female,” Trey said. “What I hear is that she’s really young-looking, smart, and smokin’ hot. Hmm. I don’t know. We may have a problem, seeing as you let this repulsive ancient dude get to you.”
“Funny.” Mark grabbed the envelope from Trey. “Just give me the details.”
The Vampire’s New Suit is one of the short stories in my collection Supernatural Fairy Tales. The short story was inspired by The Emperor’s New Clothes from Fairy Tales Told for Children (The third booklet). Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark:1837
by Dorlana Vann
I knew what lurked beyond the trees even before I opened the car door: the forbidden, barricaded beach. Even though I lived only a few miles away, I had never stood so close. Leaning against the car, the wind ruffled my hair as nerves tangled my insides.
“Aren’t you coming, Junior?” Pearl, my date, stood in the moonlight, hands on her hips, legs apart, making a perfect triangle with her skirt.
I shrugged my shoulders. “We’re not supposed to be here.”
“There’s no law against it.”
“Let’s go, you two love birds,” Clay said, shining his flashlight on us for a second before moving on.
“Don’t be scared,” Pearl said. “Just don’t step in the water, and you’ll be fine.”
I shoved my shaky hands into my pants pockets. “I’m not scared!” It wasn’t that I needed to impress Pearl. I had only agreed to go out with her because no one else had said yes, but I didn’t want a mammoth, cowardly act stamped on my already unimpressive rep. “I just don’t believe it, that’s all. Have you ever seen it happen?”
“No, but my cousin, Fern, said he did. After a dare, one of his friends ran into the water and changed right before Fern’s eyes, and then the sea took him. No one ever saw him again.”
This reminded me of all the times my mother had warned me to stay away from the beach, to stay away from the wild Merfolk. “They took your father. Shameful, cannibalistic creatures, behaving like animals in that dirty ocean. Immoral and naked. Catching fish with their mouths. It’s shameful. They took your father you know…”
“Let’s go.” Pearl grabbed my hand, and I allowed her to lead me through the trees. The same salty air I had breathed my entire life now burst with intensity.
After we had caught up with Clay and Iona, we helped each other over the concrete barrier and down into the sand. I heard the soft roar of the dark waves; its movement was the only factor separating it from the color of the sky.
I vaguely heard the others talking behind me before Clay shouted, “No hard feelings, Junior. We just want to see if it’s true.”
The kids laughed, and then suddenly I felt their hands on my back, pushing me the short distance toward the sea.
“Don’t! Don’t!” I pleaded, my feet sinking into the wet, gushy sand. I tried to get away, but I already felt the droplets of ocean spraying my face.
And then they gave one hard, final shove.
A wave pulled me with it, soaking my pants up to my waist. Fear pushed my voice to a scream. I screamed for help, screamed for the ocean to let go!
“Oh crap,” Pearl said. “Maybe we should get out of here.”
The waves were relentless, pushing and pulling. Before long, I was under the water. I fought and cried, taking in mouthfuls of salt and sea, until finally, I made it back to dry sand.
Sunken tracks, where the kids had run away instead of helping me, came into focus.
Tears and saltwater stung my eyes as I remembered the pictures of the hideous beasts that I had been shown since grade school.
Standing up, I examined my legs and put my hands out in front of me, waiting for it to happen. The change. When I touched my mouth, my teeth felt normal, not long and pointed like a monster’s.
Relieved and unchanged, except for my belief that I would never be accepted by kids my age, I started to walk toward the road.
A new sound in the darkness stopped me. I thought maybe the kids didn’t leave me after all but were hiding, waiting to watch me turn into a sea creature.
“I know you guys are there,” I said meekly, becoming increasingly concerned with the alien surroundings. I fought the urge to run. I would not let them win. And then a different, even stronger thought intruded; since I proved the myth untrue, I’ll be like a hero. No one would have to be afraid of the beach again.
I heard the noise again, and I followed the Nnnn to a pile of drifted sand and tangled weeds. The closer I stepped, the more it sounded like a whimper instead of a snicker.
My mouth fell open and my breathing picked up pace as I questioned what I saw camouflaged in the debris. A woman? Long hair, wildly strewn out behind her, was mixed with the sand and seaweed.
“Hey, are you all right?” When I noticed her bare arms and her bare chest, I swiftly averted my eyes. “Immoral and naked.” My heart quickened because I knew I had to see if she was what I thought she was. Hastily, I scanned her beautiful human-looking face; her eyes were closed. My gaze drifted down to her neck, to her breast, and past her stomach.
Expecting legs, not expecting legs, I stumbled back towards the sea. A fishtail! She had a real fishtail! She was not human.
“Oh! Ohhhh …” I put my hands up to my head. What do I do? She was a Merfolk. The reason everyone was warned to stay away from the beach. Just like the ones we were taught about in school, at home, everywhere.
I thought about how Mother would kill me if she knew I was here. It might not have been against man’s laws to walk the beach, but it sure the hell was against her rules.
But something was wrong with the mermaid. I couldn’t just leave, could I?
As I stood, wondering what to do, I noticed a three-inch gash in-between her two bottom fins that seemed clogged with sand. She was hurt. No, I couldn’t leave.
I ran to the water, cupped it in my hands, and ran back. I did this several times, cleaning the wound as much as possible. I pulled my tie over my head and then wrapped it around her fins, bringing the edges of the cut as close together as possible.
I walked back to the ocean for another handful of water, which I put up to her lips. She gave a quick inhalation, sucking up some of the water.
I was startled back and shot to my feet. Running to the water, I shouted, “Hello? She’s alive, and she needs help!” But only the spirited, nocturnal seagulls soared overhead, their replies loud but unclear.
After walking back and forth a couple of times, I dipped into the water once again and took it to her. The mermaid’s blue eyes fluttered open, but I didn’t flinch that time. I let her drink.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
I nodded, a little surprised to hear her speak my language. “Are you all right?”
“I think I just need something to eat.”
“Well, I can run home and make or bring …”
“If you could just help me to the water, I can take care of that myself. Fishing is my specialty.”
“Oh,” I said, recalling what Mother had said about them catching live fish in their mouths.
“Please come be my guest so I can thank you for your kindness.”
“In there?” I looked behind me at the ocean, allowing myself to realize how much I admired it. “I can’t, my mother … besides, I’m not like you. It wasn’t true, after all. I was in the water, and I didn’t change.”
“The sea takes no one who doesn’t wish to be there. You must desire the change. See?” She waved her hand over her tail. “I didn’t change into Landfolk just because I sit on dry land. I love the sea, and I want to return.” She held my stare as she said, “You must love the land.”
Or am I just scared?
A soft breeze lifted me out of my thoughts, as she lifted her arms to me. I struggled but managed to carry her until the waves splashed up to my shoulders.
“I’ll be here in the morning if you change your mind.” She kissed my cheek before sinking into the ocean and disappearing into the darkness.
“Did you have a good time?” Mother stood in the foyer like she had been waiting there since I left. “I’m glad you finally made an effort.” But as she was talking, her smile slowly distorted into a wide-mouth scream. When she pointed at my feet, my face grew hot. I didn’t have to look down to imagine the golden sand that clung to my pant legs and shoes.
She sat down on the stairs, blocking my escape to my room. In between gasps she said, “How many times have I told you never to go to that beach? It’s dangerous. Shameful, dirty beasts! Filthy-cannibalistic-naked-immoral-ugly creatures—”
“They’re not ugly,” I whispered.
Her face froze with a mix of horror and shock. “What did you say?”
I avoided her eyes. “I met one. I umm, I helped one. Her.”
“Swear to me right now,” she hissed, “you’ll never set foot on that wicked, wicked beach, again.”
At that moment, I realized how disgusted I was by her snobbish attitude. I also knew I would never be able to stay away from the ocean, away from the beauty of the Merfolk. “Why do you hate them? Because they’re different? You know, they’re not so unlike us. They can talk and are free to do what they want.” At that moment, what really happened to my father became so obvious. “He chose the ocean, didn’t he? Father wasn’t taken!”
Tears of which I didn’t know Mother was capable began to seep from her eyes. “I should have moved us to the compound years ago just like the Worleys.” And then softly she sobbed. “But I had to wait.”
“Wait? For what? Father’s not coming back. Why would he? He’s free.”
“Don’t you dare disrespect me, Junior. You’re too young to understand the world. Merfolk are manipulative and horrific.” With wild eyes she looked around. “I have to protect you. Go pack! Now!” She stood up abruptly and pointed up the stairs. “Pack up your stuff. We’re moving in the morning and never coming back.” She screamed, “They can’t have you!”
I made my way up the stairs to pack for the compound. A compound so far inland I heard the air smelled of pine. A compound I could not leave until I was of age.
Early the next morning, I climbed out of my bedroom window and found my way back to the beach. It had lost all darkness and now glistened and pumped silver-blue waves as far as I could see.
“You changed your mind.”
I almost missed the mermaid; her hair blended and moved with the water.
“No, I just wanted to say goodbye. My mother is scared of what she doesn’t understand.”
“But you’re not,” her voice rose over the rumble. “I can see it on your face. My little fish has fallen for the sea.”
“I don’t know.”
She held out her arms to me. “There is only one way to find out. Give yourself fully to the waves.”
I stepped into the water, thinking I would come back later and tell Mother goodbye, but the feeling of belonging already overwhelmed me. I swam above the water, against the waves, towards my new home.
The further I swam the further away the mermaid seemed. I watched the tip of her tail go under. Taking a deep breath, I plunged in after her.
Immediately, I felt different. I was changing! My legs felt as one unified object. But when I gave in to the need to inhale, I choked violently. I coughed and gagged until finally I felt accepted.
My eyes had burned feverishly from the saltwater during the ocean’s initiation; now they could focus on the new surroundings. Brilliant and vivid fish that I never imagined existed swam playfully around me as if they were celebrating my arrival.
To my surprise, a group of Mermen suddenly appeared. My heart thumped wildly. I started scanning their faces, searching for my father. I smiled, and they grinned.
They opened their mouths, exposing daggered teeth. They came closer, surrounding me, licking me with their shameful, filthy, cannibalistic tongues.
Fishing was her specialty.
Forbidden Beach is one of the short stories from my collection Supernatural Fairy Tales. It was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina from Fairy Tales Told for Children (The second booklet) Denmark: 1835.
Poppi by Dorlana Vann
The hillside mansion was huge, old, and cold and spotless. As soon as Riley stepped inside his childhood home, he felt uneasy. Even though he’d visited many times since he had lived there, it seemed different now, even more eerie than when Mother Gothel was alive.
Lola, his ex-wife, walked in behind him, chomping on a piece of gum. “Why didn’t Poppi come to the funeral?” she asked, looking around as if she felt the same strange vibe he did.
“She’s probably just really upset.”
“Or too busy celebrating.”
Riley frowned, but unable to keep his fake grieving demeanor, he chuckled.
“What are you two doing here?”
Riley and Lola looked up to the landing to where Poppi stood. She then made her descent down the grand staircase. Her long golden hair cascaded over her shoulders to her waist, covering most of the front of her pink robe. “Didn’t take you long, did it?” she said after reaching the bottom step.
“Excuse me?” Riley said lowly, trying to decipher the sarcastic tone of her voice.
“The vultures. Mother told me the family would be here to pick her bones clean before she was even in the ground.”
“We’re here to see you,” Lola said. “We have something we need to tell you.”
“Not now,” Riley whispered. He appreciated Lola’s anxiousness, but he didn’t want to frighten Poppi. Even though his mother was not the best human being, she was all Poppi had known. The situation had to be handled delicately.
“It’s okay, Uncle Riley. Or should I say … Dad.” Poppi raised her eyebrows and gave a satisfactory shrug before walking through a doorway and into the dining room.
“But, how?” Lola’s eyes were wide and wild. “Does she know I’m her mother, too? Or did that old bitter leave me out of the picture again? Because obviously, she told Poppi about you.” Her hands shook as she placed an imaginary piece of loose hair over her shoulder and looked to where Poppi had gone.
The way Lola fidgeted reminded Riley of how they ended up here. How they had lost their only daughter. At the time, he’d explained to Lola that the reason Poppi should go live with Mother Gothel was because they just couldn’t manage financially. It was true enough, he was working two jobs and they didn’t even have a baby bed for Poppi.
But they both knew the real reason: Lola was an addict. She had accepted his decision with quiet yet tearful submission; so thankfully, he never had to express his severe anxiety over the thought of leaving his baby alone with Lola when he had to go to work.
As well as raising Poppi, Mother Gothel offered to help with hospital bills and Lola’s rehab – but there had also been an unknown fine print: their silence as to who Poppi’s real parents were.
But now that the situation had changed, Lola had changed, and Riley hoped that someday they could all be a strange new family.
Lola was now saying, “I bet she didn’t. She hated me. Do you think she did?”
Riley put his hands through his hair. “I know as much as you do.”
“Come on,” she said. “It’s time to tell her everything.”
Riley followed, covering his mouth, as he did, to hide the sudden involuntary smile. Poppi knew. After all the years of pretending, after all the years of wanting to hug his daughter and take her home with him, she finally knew the truth.
The dining room didn’t hold fond memories of his childhood. You will not leave this table until every crumb is removed from that plate. Nevertheless, it had been the only place he had been able to visit his daughter over the years. He had been invited to formal dinners with many guests once a month. Guilt swept over him because Lola hadn’t even been given that. Lola had been invited only during holiday parties; given glimpses of their daughter and the occasional “How are you” conversation.
Poppi sat at the end of the grand table—in Mother Gothel’s chair. She had paperwork out in front of her and a pen in her hand. “Sit,” she said without looking up at them.
“Poppi,” Riley began as he took his seat beside Lola. “Are you all right? You’ve just suffered a loss, and I’m sure finding out about me was a shock.”
“I’m fine,” she said and continued to write.
“Tell her,” Lola whispered to Riley. “Tell her about me.”
Riley cleared his throat, thinking it was the least he could do. “I don’t mean to be blunt, but since you already know about me, I thought perhaps you would like to know about your mother.” Gently he said, “Lola is your real mother.”
Poppi raised her head and squinted as if she were staring into a bright light. “Biologically, I guess, but Mother Gothel was my real mother!”
Lola blurted a sob and made a loud exit from the dining room.
Poppi pointed at the doors with her pen. “What’s with her?”
Riley stared at his daughter, unsure of his next move. “You don’t understand what she’s been through. This has really been hard on her. She loves you very much.”
“I find that doubtful,” the young girl said. “She loves drugs and that’s all.”
“I see. I have no way of knowing what Mother told you about any of this. But Lola has come a really long way over the years. For you.”
“And what about you? You sold me.”
Riley sat back in his chair. Tears of horror gathered in his eyes. “I didn’t sell you. I did what I thought was best. I did what I did because … I love you. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life.”
“Okay, okay,” Poppi said, waving her hands with impatience. “Whatever. I forgive you. Live and let live.”
“Just forget it. I have. Now, we need to go over a few things.”
Riley wondered how he had missed so much. Maybe his mother had treated Poppi differently than she had him. Poppi was not the result of a strict, mind-controlled, cold childhood. She acted … spoiled. He wasn’t sure, yet somewhere in his mind, he was relieved.
“There is the matter of Mother Gothel’s will. I get the house and ninety percent of the money and you get ten. Okay?”
“I’ll have the lawyers send you a check.”
He blinked several times, trying to clear the confusion from his mind. “The lawyers?”
“You can leave,” she said.
“You’re only fourteen.”
“You can’t live here by yourself. There’s the matter of a legal guardian. The courts will never allow it. If you refuse to live with me, they’ll send you somewhere.”
Poppi huffed. “Too young. I’ve never been very patient.”
“You can come home with me, right now.”
Poppi laughed. “Where you can play daddy—No, I don’t think so.”
“What about your … what about Lola?”
“I’d rather hang myself with my beautiful hair,” she said with sweet sarcasm.
“Well.” Riley took a deep breath. He was about to say something that he never imagined he would ever have to say. “I guess I could move in here with you.”
Poppi stood up and adjusted her robe. She seemed to be thinking it all over. Finally, she said, “All right. You can move in, for now. But don’t try and get paternal with me. This is only to keep the hounds away. Understand?”
He nodded, however he didn’t understand. He hadn’t known what to expect when he arrived to tell her he was her father, but this … it was strange and upsetting. He was sure Poppi would be in shock, maybe even a little frightened, because Mother Gothel had died. But his little girl was so cynical.
“You can stay in your old room,” Poppi continued. “It is the same as when you left. Bring only what you’ll need for a week because that should do.”
A few hours later, Riley climbed out of his car, suitcase in hand, and cringed at the ominous familiarity of the water induced toad assembly. He had forgotten about their overwhelmingly loud rain songs. The frogs used to keep him up all night—his head under his covers—just waiting for them to jump through his window. Mindful of each footstep, he made his way to the front door.
Instead of letting himself in, like he had before, he knocked. He didn’t want Poppi getting agitated for any reason before he had a chance to show her that he wasn’t a threat. Finally, someone answered the door, but it wasn’t Poppi.
“May I help you?” a woman in a maid’s uniform asked.
“Riley Gothel. I’m expected.”
The maid led Riley upstairs to his former bedroom. Poppi was right. It looked exactly the way it had when he left years back. He’d tried to get his belongings several times, but his mother told him anything she paid for, stayed with her. He wondered now if that was meant to keep him there; he had split days after his eighteenth birthday.
“Can I see Poppi?” he asked.
“She has retired for the evening. She says she will speak to you at breakfast. 8:00 a.m., sharp.”
Riley sat down on the red quilted bed. He relaxed for a moment, finally acknowledging how harsh the day had been on him. Falling backwards, staring at the familiar ceiling, a shiver ran through him, and he felt like a little boy again. He reached over and snapped off the lamp, immediately wishing he hadn’t. The frogs seemed louder in the dark. But his eyes were heavy and soon he slept.
Riley sat straight up in the darkness. “Who’s there?” Remembering where he was, he reached his hand out to snap on the light but stopped short and inhaled a quick breath. There, beside his bed, stood a silhouette highlighted by the moonlight that seeped in through the tiny holes of the worn drapes.
“The tower,” the female voice said.
Before he had a chance to change his mind, he proceeded with his previous action and turned on the light. No one was there. He looked around the room, noting his door was now open.
As far as he knew, there were only two people in the house with him – his daughter and the maid. He went to the doorway and looked in both directions down the hall. Nothing.
The tower. The east end of the house was a full story taller than the rest, a third floor. The only window pointed toward the forest in the back. From the front of the house, the roof just looked a bit taller.
As a child, he had never been allowed to go near “the tower.” He had been so terrified of his mother, he never did. But his mother was no longer alive.
He kept telling himself he was a man, no longer a child, but it didn’t help much as he walked down the dark corridor. The closer he came to the staircase that led up to the third floor, the more his hands trembled. He shivered and thought about going back to get a jacket, and after thinking he saw someone behind him in the shadows, he considered going back to find a flashlight.
He made it, without incident, to the bottom of the staircase. He gazed up the wooden steps. “Not as monstrous as I remember,” he whispered and proceeded to climb. He arrived at the doorway before he was mentally ready, but he turned the knob anyway. Surprisingly, it was unlocked. The door screeched open. He searched the wall to his right and easily found the light switch.
He really didn’t know what he would see in that room, so there was no real prerequisite for decor or content. But the room was rather odd and out of place. Instead of finding a dusty old attic room with cobwebs and forgotten items, it was sterile and bright. The walls were hospital-white and the floors were clean, smooth concrete. Not a dust bunny in sight.
Noting the kitchen-like atmosphere, he frowned as he walked into the room. There was a stove, a refrigerator, and a large table. Obviously, the table was not for dining. It was neatly cluttered with jars, cylinders, measuring devices, and other strange paraphernalia. He picked up an hourglass shaped tube, its contents blue and thick. And then something caught his eye. He almost dropped the container when he realized Poppi stood by the window watching him.
“Oh, Poppi,” he said, like a nervous child who had been caught with his hand in the forbidden cookie jar. “I didn’t see you. Did you just come in, or have you been here the whole time?”
She wore a blue dress, and her hair was pulled back, revealing a soft face that so resembled Lola. The Lola he had fallen in love with; the young woman that time and circumstances hadn’t had a chance to harm.
She didn’t answer. She turned and looked out the window.
He thought he heard her whimper and instinctively went to her. “Are you all right?” he asked. He wanted to comfort his daughter but knew better than to touch her. “What is it? What’s the matter? Was that you earlier in my room?”
Poppi pointed out the window.
Riley stepped up beside her. The window was broken, the glass below glinting in the moonlight. “Oh my. This is where she fell out the window,” he said. “Wait, that’s not right. I thought they found her in front.”
“She moved the body,” Poppi whispered.
“Who moved her? Did that woman, the maid, did she have something to do with this?”
Poppi turned to face him; her eyes were round, unblinking, and impassive. “Mother Gothel,” she said.
“I know,” he said tenderly. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry about everything.” He began to feel rather uncomfortable—off-nerved. “Maybe we should just talk about this in the morning.”
“At first,” she said, “I didn’t know what happened. She drank this stuff, something from over there.” She nodded toward the table. “And then she jumped out the window.”
“Are you saying Mother Gothel killed herself?”
“No,” Poppi whispered. “She killed me.”
“What the hell are you doing in here?”
Riley jerked his head toward the room’s entrance, where the voice had come from.
Poppi stood at the door, her hands on her hips, her hair flowing down the front of her cozy robe.
He looked next to him, where she had stood before. She wasn’t there. “What? You were just here.”
Poppi shouted, “What the hell are you doing in here?”
Riley wasn’t sure where to begin. Perhaps he had dreamed the entire conversation with his daughter, manifesting a child who needed him. That would have been a nice rational explanation; one he could have gone back to sleep with.
But then the second Poppi appeared out of thin air, wearing the blue dress. She stood beside the Poppi in the robe. “It was so strange,” she said, staring at the Poppi at the door. “I was looking out the window at her broken body, and then I felt as if I was being choked.”
Riley’s chin quivered.
“You are not allowed in this room,” the Poppi wearing the robe said.
The first Poppi looked at Riley. “The next thing I knew, I was here, and she in there.”
“You have no business up here. I’ve told you that a thousand times.”
“Don’t you see her?” Riley whispered.
“Who?” she asked, suddenly anxiously peering around the room. “I think this was a bad idea. I’ll take my chance with the state. I think you should leave. Now!”
Riley began to understand. He didn’t want to, it was too chilling, but it was there. “What is all this stuff?” He walked over to the table.
“How should I know? Mother never allowed me in here.”
The day replayed in his mind. Poppi had acted so strange. She had been behaving just like … his mother. “How could you do this?” Riley asked, his nose tingled as his eyes maddened with tears. “She was your granddaughter.”
“You’re insane,” she said. “Get out before I call the police.”
“Oh, I’m insane, Mother. She told me everything. She’s here … my real daughter. You killed her.” Riley put his hand over his mouth, the pure vulgarity of the moment being realized. “How could you do this?” he finally said.
Mother Gothel lips sneered in self-satisfaction. “You gave her to me to do as I wished. This is your fault.”
“She was your granddaughter.”
“That would mean that you are really my son. You’re not. Someone sold you to me, just like you sold Poppi to me. Unfortunately, you left me before my work was complete. So I needed another body.”
“This is not happening. There has to be a way to reverse it.” He began picking up containers from the table, trying to read the labels through his tear-blurred eyes. “I will not sleep until you are stopped.”
Mother Gothel walked over to the other side of the table. “I will be very mournful over my father’s sudden death. He was so grief stricken over Mother Gothel’s death.”
“Father watch out,” Poppi yelled.
But it was too late, Mother Gothel flung liquid into his eyes that instantly blinded him with pain. He covered his face with his hands as he cried out in agony. The fluid ran down his face, and entered his mouth, and he scratched at his tongue and spit, trying to rid himself of the burning, blistering heat. Then he felt himself being pushed and pushed, and then, ultimately, the feeling of flight hit the pit of his stomach as he fell from the tower.
He opened his eyes. Had it all been a dream? He was standing alone in the tower. But then Mother Gothel, the way she had always been, old and hunched back, appeared, and she was screaming and holding her neck. “Nooo! Look what you did! Look what you did! You stole my body!”
“What?” Riley was lightheaded and heavy at the same time. Being pulled down into the floor but his head felt as if it were being stretch toward the sky.
Mother Gothel came at him, and he put his hands up to stop her. He inhaled a “what the hell” as he beheld small delicate fingers, the nails chipped pink.
He pulled his hands back, staring down at them in disbelief. He looked back up to question Mother Gothel, but she had disappeared.
Poppi appeared in front of him. “That was the same potion Mother Gothel drank before. You must have ingested it.
“No!” Mother Gothel voice came from behind Riley.
“Come now Mother Gothel. All has been set right. I can go now. We can go now.”
“All is not set right! That’s my young beautiful body I’ve been working on for fifty years. That’s mine. Mine.” She appeared in front of him again.
Poppi said, “Thank you, father, for helping me.”
“But I didn’t help. This can’t be happening.” But as he said the words, they sounded like sweet and light as air. Poppi’s voice. He covered his mouth with his hand.
“Don’t worry,” the ghost of his daughter said. “Soon your mind and soul will merge with the body and you can have the childhood you always deserved. The life you deserve.”
And with that, Poppi and Mother Gothel vanished, leaving him all alone.
What had Poppi said? His mind would merge with his body? Then he remembered falling from the tower. He ran and looked out and down the tower’s window. His body was all grotesquely contorted on the ground. It was true; he was dead. But he wasn’t. He was here and thinking and breathing.
He ran over to a mirror, a mirror Mother Gothel had probably used for the same reason. He stared at Poppi’s face, now his face, licking his ruby lips and pulling his long beautiful blonde hair and wiping the tears from his pretty blue eyes. “It’s not me … but it is me in my daughter’s body. What am I going to do?”
No one was going to believe him. No one would believe this story! They would lock him up. He could never tell anyone what really happened.
He walked down the tower stairs and to his boyhood room in a daze. He picked up his phone and easily found the number. It rang on the other end and was answered with a groggy, “Hello.”
“Mom, it’s me Poppi,” he said softly. “Dad is dead, and I need you.”
They could now be a strange new family.
Poppi was inspired by Brothers Grimm’s Rapunzel from Children’s and Household Tales. Germany: 1812. It is one of the short stories in my collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales – And is free with Kindle Unlimited
The Kingdom of Pillars
A fairy tale
by Dorlana Vann
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Do you want father’s wings to be taken off? Is that what you want? You march yourself right back there.”
I stared at my sister, all blue and getting bluer by the minute. If we would’ve had this conversation a couple of months earlier, I might have turned my back to her and aired her out. Instead, I smiled.
“What are you up to, Rose?” she growled.
“I understand everything now. I’m happy and miserable at the same time.” I sighed and sat down on a buttercup. “I even understand love and how it can fill your heart and break it at the same time.”
“You did go to the Kingdom of Pillars, right?” Indigo glared at me.
“I didn’t have a choice. Remember? Guards with sticks and mean words.”
“Are you telling me you fell in love in there? With what? Your reflection?”
“It is a lovely sight, isn’t it? But no, you see, I was once like you, only able to see outer beauty.”
“Is that so?” she mumbled. “Let me get this straight. You think the Kingdom of Pillars is beautiful … or is the King?” I could see her thinking herself into a small gag and look of distaste.
“When I first arrived there, I perceived them the same way everyone in fairyland does. It’s like an invisible line between the lands. On one side, the fairy side, it is bright, green, and lush. But then, suddenly, after one tiny step, the world became scary and dark and murky. And I was scared.”
Indigo looked a wee bit uncomfortable, almost guilty, so I kept going.
“I understand why father picked me to go instead of you. You were already betrothed to Emerald before you were born. He had no choice but to send me. It wasn’t your fault I was born second. Always second. I understand that a princess had to be sent in order to bring peace. Besides, if I hadn’t gone, the curse might not have been broken.”
“Wait a minute.” She smoothed her long, sparkly blue hair behind her ears. “You’re telling me that you broke the five-thousand-year-old curse?”
“It was the most wonderful sight in the whole entire world. First, let me tell you what happened in the beginning, when I arrived in the Kingdom of Pillars.”
Indigo arched her eyebrow as she sat down in the morning dew.
“Okay, I was a bit grossed out when I first met the King. You know how Pillars look, right? Kind of round and prickly. Those black and yellow spots and rings aren’t very flattering either. Oh, dandy me, he crawled so slowly … on the ground. He had tiny little legs and those black little dot eyes. He was nowhere near as hideously handsome as Emerald.”
Indigo had been staring at me with curiosity and a growing grin, but at this, she looked down.
“I suppose I wasn’t the best guest,” I continued, “but I was in shock, you know, out of my element. Could you blame me? I was surrounded by these dirty grubs. Not to mention, I felt like my own family had deserted and sacrificed me.”
She shot me a look. “Now you’re just being dramatic.”
“Really? I married a man with sixteen legs.”
“You just told me you thought he was beautiful,” she said smugly.
“Well, maybe at first, I didn’t. I hated him, the place, … you.”
Indigo crossed her arms.
“The first night I did nothing but sulk and refuse anything offered to me. Really now, how could I eat that foul food? Everything was brown and mushy. It seemed strange to eat and live in such sadness. That was how I felt; alone and sad as I sat there and watched them eat and eat in the madness of the day. King looked at me and ask if I was okay. I’m ashamed to say that I turned my back to him and fluttered my wings.
“He kept asking, again and again, so I let him have it. I told him exactly what I thought about him and his ugly kingdom. I hurt his feelings, and I was glad … until he said, ‘I’m sorry, my Queen. I will not bother you again. Even though your presence makes this gloomy world bright, you are free to leave.”
“So you did?” Indigo jumped up and put her hands on her hips. “You came back home! How could you, Rose?”
“But I didn’t!” I smiled. “At that moment, I felt special. More special than I had ever felt in your shadow. Indigo this, and Indigo that. I was Queen, no longer a little princess.” I wrapped my arms around myself and flew into the air, twirling around as I did.
“Get down here, Rose,” she shouted.
“Come with me,” I said. “You have to see.”
She sluggishly stood, but a second later she was beside me, and we flew through our forest.
“Oh, how he lavished me,” I gushed. “He was kind and made me feel like I was the most important creature in the world. He brought me flowers and dewdrops and honey. The food didn’t taste as dull as it looked, it was fine.”
“If it is such a paradise, why are you here?”
“One day he told me not to worry, that he would be sleeping for a couple of days. He said the kingdom did this every couple of months. Still, when it happened, I grew scared and cried and cried over him.”
“You cried because he went to sleep?”
“No, not just asleep; it was bizarre. They were all wrapped in these web-like cases.” I tried to explain it with my hands. “I didn’t think he could breathe in there. It had been days and he hadn’t made a peep or moved an inch. Something was wrong. I thought he was dying, so I sprinkled my life-dust on him.”
Indigo’s mouth grew into a giant circle and she stopped mid-air. “You used your personal dust on him? Rose, you know you can’t use it on yourself any longer! If something happens to you—”
I held up my hand. I understood the consequences. “It doesn’t matter. The most amazing thing happened. His prison started coming apart, and the most beautiful, amazing winged creature emerged. It was my King! He had huge double-like wings, oh so much bigger than any fairies. So many colors! Not just one, like ours. He was bright yellow and white and orange.” I put my hands to my face. “And then, and then … they all emerged. The entire kingdom, all so colorful and beautiful, floated into the air. They reminded me of buttercups, daisies, and roses, being blown by the wind. Even the dark, gloomy clouds drifted away, and the sun began to shine.”
Indigo’s face froze with an expression of bewilderment. Then she said, “I didn’t think it was true. I had heard that they used to be beautiful creatures before one of us cast a spell.”
I closed my eyes as my thoughts turned bittersweet. “We played and flew and chased for days on end. Even when the sun set, the splendor of the colors was almost more than one could bear. But then …” I grabbed her hand and flew faster to my destination.
“What?” She asked, letting me drag her through the air. “What happened? Why do you look so sad?”
I choked back a sob with a smile as I looked at my sister who seemed genuinely concerned. “Like snowflakes they all slowly began to return to the earth. I went to the king, who balanced on a leaf barely able to move. I asked what was happening.” I held my hands to my heart as I remembered his words. “He told me not to worry, that I had broken the curse. That he and his kingdom owed everything to me and my sacrifice. My little fairy dust did all of that. They had been trapped and unable to evolve for thousands of years He said he had finally been able to live out his cycle and now it was time for them to move on—to die.”
Indigo gently pulled free to wipe her eyes. “That is so sad,” she said.
“The fluttering of their wings quietly died away. The last words my king said to me were, ‘Long live Queen Rose.’” I pointed down to the valley below. “Look! Can you see them?”
Indigo sucked in a quick breath. “I thought you said they all died.”
“They,” I said looking at my adopted children, “are the next generation. A generation that will live, fly, and die like they are supposed to. This is why I came back to see you one last time; I needed to tell you, to tell father, that the feud between the two lands is truly over. And from now on, my home is no longer to be called the Kingdom of Pillars, but the protected Land of the Butterflies.”
The Kingdom of Pillars was inspired by Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bete) by Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. France: 1756.” It is one of the short stories in my collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales.
For #fairytaleTuesday I’m posting my Hansel and Gretel inspired sestina I wrote when I was experimenting with combining poems and fairy tales. A sestina has six stanzas of six lines and a final triplet. Each stanzas has the same six words at the end of each line that follow a fixed pattern. My words are: life, covered, candy, unpleasantness, bitter, and tasted. This was one of my favorite types of poems to write because it is such a creative challenge. It’s been awhile so I don’t remember how disciplined I was with all the rules, but it’s all in fun. 🙂
I’ve tasted the bitter unpleasantness of this candy-covered life.
At the break of dawn, we were taken when the grass was covered
with the dew from the morning and the smell of candy.
We thought we were leaving everything that we knew as unpleasantness.
Sometimes the reality of what is out there is the more bitter
but how would we know the flavor unless we tasted.
We would have never dropped breadcrumbs if we had tasted
anything that would have been meat or potato or even life.
All we knew was of mother and father, and that was bitter.
We probably would have eaten anything that was covered.
We were expected to give ourselves because their lives were full of unpleasantness.
So anything that was put before us would have seemed like candy.
We couldn’t believe when we saw the cottage made of candy.
If we had not been so hungry, we probably wouldn’t have tasted.
But how were we to know that who lived there was unpleasantness.
And that she took joy from draining girls and boys of life.
Our situation was bad no matter how you would have covered
it in sugary lies and twisted tales of parents who are so bitter.
When she came out of her house, the little old bitter
offered us the world with a side of candy.
We didn’t know that her words were severely covered
with poison and toxins but nothing we would have tasted.
We would have given gladly to her what she wanted, even our life
just to rid us of the feelings of sorrow and unpleasantness.
What we discovered was far worse than unpleasantness.
The hag was insane with detestation, ugliness, and chilling words of bitter
resentment against all creatures on this earth that were full of life.
No longer did she offer us lovable things like cake, honey, and candy.
Instead, she took pleasure in cages, terror, and effects that tasted
of hate. Nothing to protect us, and we so wished to be covered.
Test the fire, I was ordered to keep that covered.
But it wasn’t to see if it was prepared, but for much more unpleasantness.
She really wanted to cook me and see how I tasted.
But instead I did trick her but didn’t eat her in fear she’d be bitter.
I grabbed my brother and everything else I could, except for the candy.
For nothing tasted better or sweeter than life.
Instead of being covered in all that is bitter
I’ve learned the unpleasantness can soon change sweet as candy.
I know to take my time for I have tasted and love being every part of life.
Love, Laughter, and Fairy Tales,