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Girl of My Dreams: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Jet Fuel: Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Princess of the Silent Kingdom: Fiction by Fred Zackel
Relationship Status: Fiction by Greta T. Bates
A Dish Best Served Cold: Fiction by Shari Held
The Face in the Tree: Fiction by Joan Leotta
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Full, From the Grave: Flash Fiction by Craig Kirchner
Leave Me Alone: Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
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Some Things That I Learned in the Army: Poem by Richelle Slota
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His Gallery: Poem by John Grey
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Stick Horses: Poem by Damon Hubbs
she blew me a kiss: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
so much in common: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
After I Turned 40: Poem by Richard LeDue
The Alarm Clock: Poem by Richard LeDue
Sentimental Love Poems Shown to No One: Poem by Richard LeDue
The Children: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
The Deadly Shoes: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
The Sands of Inanna: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
Angelic: Poem by John Short
Robophobe: Poem by John Short
Worry Beads: Poem by John Short
not even Baudelaire: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Dream Doctor: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Neon Poem: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Another Chapter in Life:Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
The Same Old Story: Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
to bury a curious girl: Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Strange Gardens
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Fred Zackel: Princess of the Silent Kingdom

102_ym_princesssilent_dblanch.jpg
Art by Darren Blanch © 2024

Princess of the Silent Kingdom

 

By Fred Zackel

 

There were many sleeping beauties in the olden days. They had many different names, even their very own fairy tales, but, no, they were as common as fleas, which many of the beauties knew from those days all too well. Their stories shared much in common, too. And many shared the same fate. For them, there was no happily ever after. After all, a villain can’t resist a chance to be cruel.

 

        Sleeping Beauty is a work in progress, like Schrödinger's cat.

Is she alive or dead?

Well, let’s crack open the box.

Oops, only Prince Charming can.

 

       Well, others can pop the box, too, in theory, but only he can kiss her awake, right? As easy for him as is for another pulling a sword from a stone. All he has to do is kiss a little kiss. Pucker up. The easiest deed any hero ever had. But is it really noble? How much courage does a man need to kiss a woman in a coma?

 

       She cannot resist him. She dares not resist him.

       He will kiss her and she will awake!

       Oh, how humane is the curse!

But what witch could be humane?

       What good is a witch’s curse without real suffering?

       Who ever heard of a curse you could sleep through?

       Sleeping Beauty is truly imprisoned.

 

       A coffin is a wooden cage. What do you call a glass one?   How is it not a cage? How is it not a coffin? Who could cause that perfidy to such a beautiful girl?

       A witch’s hands look much like gnarly claws, much like the branches of an apple orchard in deep winter.

       The stepmother’s hands held a secret close between her breasts. Her life of wicked deeds had discovered the fate worse than death and so she layered it into and onto the curse against her stepdaughter for eternity. Remerged and reweaved, that evil trick was the one last secret she kept from the world.

 

       Sleeping Beauty is in her glass cage, screaming.

If we could see her heart— it has no mouth.

She screams in pantomime.

 

       At first the breeze in the trees is peaceful. Relaxing.  Exposed in the woods. Under the trees and in front of the wind.       

       Pine needles scattered all around.

       Someday my prince will come…

       Forgetting that hope is fate’s way of lying and posterity is worn worse than hope.

I can do this standing on my head, she jokes.

He will be here soon. Just you wait! And we will see…

        Until she is startled by a pine cone falling, bouncing off the glass canopy. She jumped. But being paralyzed, not even a twitch in her eyelash.

How long have I been here?  How long has this been?

 

Thunder rumbling in the cold grim sky.

Pine torches later that night.

They were up with the cock crows.

The funeral watch for the girl who couldn’t die.

 

       At first the white-bearded old men who sat watching were alone. Then there were torches after sundown and even night watchmen.

        She was left alone in the darkness every night. Unguarded and alone with her wild thoughts and the sounds of the forest when man is gone for the night.

And her seven little dwarves huddled closer, as their campfire was burning low. Smoke rose in thin ribbons. They talked about the good old days, having Beauty always around. Always waiting for them. Waiting on them hand and foot.

Being men—and miners, almost hermits in the dark mountains—the dwarves were oblivious to any woman’s needs or wants. Not their fault, really, that her feelings and desires and wishes and hopes were always alien to them. She was their housekeeper. She cleaned their house. She cleaned their toilet. Seven dwarves and one toilet. Yeah. Whistle while you work? How cruel was that song?

The dopey one or the sleepy one? Or the grumpy one?

As they died off, one by one…

Who was left the caretaker?

 

A solitary fly buzzing, scouting opportunities.

The priest watches like a crocodile.

She comes to know each creature by its stealth.

 

       Trolls entered the world after Cain killed Abel. We didn't give them any credence until the computer was invented. Then their iniquitousness became apparent. Since then, they have conspired to end the world as we know it.

These trolls lived under the bridge upriver. The old-fashioned ones.

They came out most nights and jumped on the canopy and tried breaking it with their gnarly feet. They tromped on the glass for hours and sang troll drinking songs.

(Not so much has changed, I suppose.)

       Did the dawning light calm her fears? Or was the day just a different set of terrors she endured?

Then someone killed all the trolls. Or they died off. Or they moved away, into the sewers or suburbs of large cities. And she found more moments of peace in the night.

 

       But the years pass and nothing happens.

The prince never came. But he will.

 

The Princess of a Silent Kingdom…

       She’s heard the talk said around her cage by folks who don’t know she is always listening. She has no choice; she has to listen.

Blind, she is. Not deaf.

The witch’s vilest curse…

Sleeping Beauty still thinks.

 

Sleeping Beauty had the face of an angel, but inside she was howling like a rabid dog wanting to die. She was awake and she couldn’t budge. Even lifting her eyelids was impossible.

Was she breathing?

How does she breathe?

Look at her chest. She is breathing.

I don’t see it. Oh wait. Yes, she is breathing. I think.

She is an odd reminder of our mortality.

We can live … as she can’t.

But when we die, she will still be in waiting.

 

       She is desirable to so many people for so many reasons. A beckoning target for the vain and vile, mostly, because she is paralyzed, her eyes closed. A fate worse than death awaits her awakening if they have their say.

She survived the buffoons who tried smashing rocks against the glass, quivering within, what if they can break it. What will they do to me?

Some louts were crude about what they could do to her—if only they could break the glass canopy. The braggadocio of pimply buffoons, of course. To a virgin with her eyes closed, listening, paralyzed…

Her stomach stayed clenched like a fist.

Poor kid never, ever deserved it!

 

       She knew, yet couldn’t stop hearing…

Every depravity of men denied real access to her flesh whispered through the glass. Whispered obscenities from drunken men whose fantasies…

       Well, she heard them all.

       She listened with quiet grace.

       They whispered their favorite fetish, maybe more than one.

Some barbs festered like the poisonous hooks of fishermen.

She lay silent and still a very long time. Silenced, she couldn’t even cry.

 

One lonesome man after another came and crooned and caressed the glass canopy. She called each of them Harry Knuckles. A joke that she would have laughed at if only she could. But then, as time went by, each of them gave up caressing and crooning, too, and left her alone.

She dreamed an animal clasped her ankle and ripped it off!

 

       She is a prize, a trophy. Loot. She is plunder.

Every soldier’s fantasy. Every woman’s nightmare.

He will take me, she thinks. Inside, she cringes.

That part of the prophecy is still part of the curse.

She has no say in this matter.

Strike when the canopy is opened!

 

 “Lift it up and shake it,” some wit always says.

“If we lift this one end, she’ll be down on her knees.”

“If we lift this end, she’ll be on her head.”

 

One night a heavy creature with a coat of shaggy hair and long curving fangs jumped atop the glass and tried breaking in. She couldn’t see what kind of creature it was, but her allergies clicked in and the shaggy hair would have made her sneeze, if only she could.

She listened to the attack on the glass and waited to sneeze.

If she sneezed, the creature would redouble its efforts.

After what seemed forever the creature jumped off and vanished.

 

       Nobody thought she would last this long. The dead never do.

So, at first she was a miracle for our times. Like the blood of a saint that has reversed congealing. Like the tears from a marble Mary statue, or Mary weeping blood.

Like the relic from a martyr dead and quartered for his or her faith.

Brought out on display for religiosity and sanctity and pious worship.

But Sleeping Beauty was not like them at all.

She is profane and they are sacred.

Just a roadside attraction is all she is.

The bishop and his acolytes came to bless her. They sermonized her plight and prayed for her restoration. Then they stopped saying she was good at heart, an innocent child, and soon they cursed her as something hellish and obscene. Something left behind by the Devil when he ruled over all of us sinners.

She is the work of the Devil!--No, the Spawn of the Devil!--placed here to disrupt our lives and our salvation!

No, don’t take her away. Don’t put her in the basement or the attic or some storage space in a cave. Let all souls look upon her and remember their own mortality.

 

Still some old people came and prayed for her.

She would have wept. They were a blessing. Still part of the curse.

 

The years go by and the stories have changed.

Can we turn the tables? The Beauty was wicked, let’s say, and her stepmother squelched the villain before the villain could squelch her.

Who is left to remember which side evil was on?

So we said she was innocent. How could it hurt? And who really remembers? Being as how she has been caged all of these years.

And who remembers even if she must have deserved it, for no one left alive remembers why she was buried alive in plain sight?

Boy, was she hated! Is that right? Is that true?

Is she a guardian? Against what? Oh, how could we know?

Did she die like this to protect us forever...?

Did she ask for this? Was this what she wanted?

Who knows? Who cares? Never matters whether a story is true or false.  Rather, only … why it is needed?

 

Questions floated around, set adrift and afloat by other scenarios. Was she the mother? Was she the daughter? What the Madonna did to her child was so evil! The witch was the stepmother. And her the stepdaughter. Or was it the other way around? Whatever happened to the husband? To the father? What was he like? Where is he now? Why hasn’t he been here? Oh, he must be dead. But how did he die? Was he poisoned, too?

Did he fall or was he pushed?

 

The jokes, too, build up like fallen leaves.

“How does she pee?”

“She’s got a very good bladder.”

 

Once alive, she had a shrewd eye and a serene smile. She was both the smartest and the fairest in the land. Although she never saw the evil coming.

She was known for her mind and not just her beauty.

Oh, she would have been a great queen, if only she lied.

Lied? Why did you saying lying?

Lie about what?

Or: if only she lived?

Is she still alive, or is she still dying?

 

So young, so ripe, so near and yet so safe from pawing hands.

 

Once she got past the cage fright…

Which she never did. Her eyes were always closed, remember?

She plotted escape.

The duty of every prisoner is to try escaping.

Good luck when you can’t see and can’t move.

She found no egress from a glass tomb.

Being paralyzed by an apple…

 

She’s an object from antiquity.

Without her body in the glass box, we’d have forgotten her.

Relic’ed her into the past. An anomaly from some long ago…

With a lack of reverence only the undead can still feel.

Is she outmoded? Was she the future?

 

We were waiting for her to die, if she never woke, never kissed by a strange man she never knew or wanted.

Oh, we knew her death was coming.

As soon as finally … she never awoke.

 

Some of us grew suspicious. What was the real story, the one we were never told? What was the real reason she was a prisoner?

 

In her sleep she heard our thoughts, yes, they were that loud.

She resented us for it.

But she had a plan. Hatched in her sleep. With a brilliant mind that could never sleep. A mind tossing and turning.

Who would ever kiss a woman asleep for so long?

 

She was always on display. The voyeur’s dream, the voyeur’s fantasy.

Who will be the first to wake her? Oh, lucky man, or…

A blind date from hell and a fate worse than death?

We knew that part of the story.

Prince Charming is coming and he sets her free.

 

She heard burglars some nights wanting to break the glass for any goodies inside. None mentioned her by name. No one saw her as a person.

Oh, but she is alive and making lists of who she will kill quickly and slowly. And plotting mayhem like Agatha Christie.

 

How long have I waited?

The rain pelting down. The sun baking her head.

Sleeping Beauty was furious that the wicked witch had lived to an old age and died of natural causes, that she died with a smile on her face, comfortable in the knowledge that her curse against Beauty outlived her.

Sleeping Beauty was furious that she had outlived her own mother.

 

“We can make some money off her. We won’t be greedy. Or abuse her. Just enough to pay for her maintenance. Just enough to pay for window cleaner. Windshield wiper fluid. Rain-Ex for the years ahead. And maybe a de-fogger or two in abeyance.”

 

Sleeping Beauty has her own Festival. All the goodies, of course. Makeshift tents and oil lamps. A man shaking a tambourine with a dancing bear. And she is the main attraction. And the peasants flock from miles around. Word of mouth feeds those desperate for distraction.

They guess her weight. They guess her height.

They guess what she did to deserve this plight.

What people say isn’t pretty.

Sleeping Beauty was a little past her shelf life.

“She wasn’t such a Beauty.”

“Oh, her morning breath will be a killer.”

“Let’s roll her off a cliff and crack her like an egg!”

“Throw her in the river and see if she floats!”

“I can see up her dress.”

But main attractions lost their charm. The magic wears off and dissipates. (Well, some of it does.) Charm wrinkles like an old woman’s heart.

 

And Sleeping Beauty knows all this from listening to everything said. Horrified by everyday people being everyday people. And everyday people get careless and casually cruel. But that’s our right. Not paying attention, we get to be idjits.

 

Good that her eyes are closed and she is so pretty, well, so beautiful. The fairest in the land. What she went through, her stepmother planned so fiendishly.

There are poisons still swirling in her closed eyes.

The curse had folds within folds. The wrinkles are still unfolding, revealing what lies within. The origami bird splayed out is just a piece of paper.

 

She was a roadside attraction for years. Helping sell apples from a fruit stand by the side of the road. Children staring at her chest, staring to see it rise, rise or fall, or fall.

 

The fruit stand became a larger market.

She heard peasants and their children visiting.

What if there’s a fire? Can she get out?

Many talked about her. About her plight. Many got it right. Well, a few did.

The life she was trapped in was such a burden to her that she could only toss it into a grave to ease it.

 

The sound of little children laughing and giggling, of oohing and ahhing, was a sword slicing upward from below her heart. If she could have moved, she would have doubled over in pain and sorrow. She could have no children while she was in her glass coffin.

Her stepmother had thought of everything.

 

She listened to the rain and the soggy mud beneath her visitors’ boots.

She would have thanked them, if she could.

As long as you come, I still have hope.

 

A porridge seller loudly said she was just someone who’s pretending to be asleep. Trade places with me, she begged.

Maybe God listened. No one else did.

Somewhere in the distance, a braying donkey…

Maybe God was laughing.

 

And then it became an annual fair.

Knife-jugglers joined with the sandal-maker.

Mules laden with saddlebags.

The story tellers came with the animals bleating.

Strongmen and tightrope walkers. The travelling knife sharpener was here.

How good did we do this season?

Did we make enough for this winter?

And all the thoughts that she has had through all these generations bode ill for the rest of the world. She festered.

 

Is she …? Was she still decomposing?

Well, of course not. Look!

Why wasn’t she rotted? Why hasn’t she gone the color of gangrene? Why not the hue of the dead? Why isn’t she inflated, bloated by death’s gases?

No one believed any more that she was still alive.

No, she is just preserved like Lenin.

Something for the kids to see and marvel at.

When school was out and gas was dear.

She is alive all right in that box, that glass cage, that glass coffin, alive and screaming, horrified, behind those closed eyes. She was buried alive and everybody gawks.

Someday her prince will come and set her free with a stolen kiss, an unwanted kiss from some male stranger with a can opener who thinks he deserves more from giving her a kiss.

And then he will be hoisting her skirts, hoisting them like she is some galleon he is sailing forever on, because he is her Captain and she is his Vessel.

She is just a Vessel awaiting her Captain.

And any Captain will do.

That’s what the Curse says…

Any port in a storm, aye, Captain?

She hates her madness when she finds it begging.

Please, any man, anyone please, release me!

 

Sleeping Beauty buried alive above ground in a glass cage. A glass coffin built so all of us could see her. Watch her paralyzed hands so chaste on her belly. Are they stapled? Nailed? Do you see the iron cuffs? The sleeves are long.

She is not a lump of lard.

She is awake and listening. That’s the point of the cruelty.

She would bust out of prison if she could.

She would plug her ears if she could.

If she had a pistol… Or a blade. Or more and better poison.

Of course, she begs for death.  Her despair was deeper than the deepest cave. It threaded downward and touched the bowels of hell and the core of the earth. She couldn’t even cry, couldn’t even sob.

Hope withers like an apple over time.

 

Alone in the falling snows.

Alone with all of the silence of winter.

Winters after winters alone and she cannot see for the mounds of snow she lies beneath. Is she cold? Can she feel the snow in her heart?

Why does her flesh not turn blue?

Wildflowers amid the rocks and patches of snow.

The snow melts… Why is she not free yet?

Where is he? When is he coming, Lord? How much longer?

 

Forest animals check her out. Climbing onto the cage and snuffling around.

Glittering claws scrambling atop the unbreakable glass.

Predators trying harder to smash the glass for the ever-fresh flesh inside.

Can she hear them in her sleep?

Beauty is never Sleeping. No witch was ever merciful.

Inside she is tossing about, turning, screaming, hearing but not seeing, suffering… Not moving a muscle.

Will they break through to the inside? Will they eat her flesh while she still keeps her eyes closed, her hands chaste on her belly?

Or will Prince Opportunity rescue her in time?

Will he carry out his own agendas?

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Sleeping Beauty knows. Man is in the forest … remember?

Sometimes she thinks, better the beasts of the woods gulping down her paralyzed flesh. Oh, yes, the pain will be excruciating, and she cannot turn away, or even flinch from the suffering, cannot even tense up, as they masticate her belly.

She still cries for: Mother!

Don’t fuck with me, said the witch. I have the Power!

Love the eagle for her claws!

 

A tent was erected above her coffin. Then other tents arounds that. Tents made of animal skins stretched atop and over wooden poles.

Something is happening, she thinks. Waits. Until… But nothing.

 

She was moved to the crossroads where more could see her. An entire pavilion was erected around her. And other events like the seasons came and went.

For a while, the crossroads gallows was built beside her.

Gives folks more of what they want to see.

Hey, let’s charge admission! We don’t have to share the cash with anyone.

A gallows that creaked loudly in the wind swinging the corpse.

She felt his pain. She felt his death.

She screamed and begged… For what?

Tomorrow his head would then be severed and hung from a tree, to be stoned by passersby and pecked at by birds.

The hanged man was as motionless as the air.

So was Sleeping Beauty, except for not being out in the elements.

Inside her mind is screeching like a victim in the night.

All day tomorrow the gallows creaks like a ship in a storm.

The corpse is left out to dry, to bake, to swell, to peel off…

The birds come and feed and scree.

His flesh dries and blows off like dried grass.

She felt his pain and then she lost him.

 

Then she was the centerpiece of a farmer’s market.

One recurring sound terrorized her. The sound of feet approaching, but one foot is dragging the ground, scraping with one side of the shoe.

She was embarrassed with herself. I need a kiss. A limping foot shouldn’t dissuade the kiss. Have pity on me, she pleaded.

She felt bad for having wronged a man she couldn’t even see.

But then, after a few visits, he stopped coming altogether and that pain settled into her soul and hurt worse. So she cursed him for giving her hope.

 

Then she was the anchor for a local fair.

She was an advertisement.

A dance pavilion was added! Skeletal beggars were pushed aside. The goldsmith, the silver smith, the blacksmith, the butchers and the wooliers all made money. While soldiers were fighting over a female, there was a cockfight in the shadows of an alley. Donkey carts and a scraggy dog that whined.

She became a destination.

Bar wench, more ale!

 

When the royals heard, they came, too, and marveled. Then she was brought to the palace by mule and cart and by barge along the river.

At the palace they tried ripping her free. Whipping a horse chained on either end couldn’t pull her casket apart. Wrestlers and strongmen failed.

She was a centerpiece of the throne room.

A king’s trophy! Just like the Queen! Only worse.

They debated her royal blood. Some said yes, she is one of ours, and others said, no, just a village girl confused and made important by circumstance.

She was a princess. Then her line died out. The usurpers came and fought. She was forgotten because she had no children who would fight for their throne.

Do be fecund, lady, and don’t be coy. When your line dies out, your blood is no longer royal or blue.

Over time the royals yawned and ran out of words. Because everyone runs out of words for a virgin who never rots. The royals resented anything that diminished their glory. An heir and a spare is de rigueur.

In her tomb she was a threat, the queen and the king both decided.

She is a threat to our primogeniture.

No one should see her, it was decreed.

Even if some Prince jump-starts her batteries, she is no longer a princess.

 

For a while she was stored in the dark stables. Getting dusty, her glass coffin kicked by horses, the glass scratched by squirrels. The stable boys drooled and leered at her and made filthy comments, and yet she remained vivid, beautiful and eminently desirable.

The one no one could have.

If no one can have you, then no one cares.

 

“She’ll never have a child.”

“Not unless he does more than kiss her.”

“If he ever comes.”

“What’s keeping him?”

Men were not alone in their sexual cruelty.

“Let her be a lesson to you, my darling daughter. Hold back longer than you think you can. But know when to give your love. You don’t want to become barren like this woman. Barren, unfulfilled. Her casket here is an empty, hollowed-out hope chest.”

 

She heard the jealousy of village women, the envy of women, who believed in hope, although she had given up. What did all that beauty ever get her?

“She has a beautiful nose. How much magic did it cost her?”

She could feel the bowels of hell in their envy. Their jealousy.

Some want her gone. Or would use her story for their own devices.

The village women who should have empathized, but didn’t / couldn’t / wouldn’t over time were replaced by citified women who didn’t / couldn’t / wouldn’t empathize.

 

Some younger women could still confide in her:

I was tied to him, but I was tired of him.

Our marriage had gone on too long.

Some days brought one lovesick puppy after another…

The world, she thought, is adrift from these sick puppies.

You take me for granted, she thinks grimly, and you’ve never even met me.

 

She heard the world slowly change its petitions.

She needed a place. He was moving out.

What shall I do? Must I?

The Princess of a Silent Kingdom stayed silent.

 

Dawn had its own unbearable anxiety and its innocence.

The morning quickened with liberty and flowed, intoxicated, inward.

She could tell time by the warmth inside her eyelids.

The sun raised itself and swam ashore. The sun grilled the sky. The noon threatened to crack the world.

The sun was beating against her like waves for hours and hours, roaring at her, scorching her. Open your eyes and you are blinded. Keep your eyes forever closed and you’re not.

Think Schrödinger's cat.

 

Autumn and a hint of frost. Unmoving under snow…

Men confided, too.

Those thick sensual lips…

Blah, blah, blah…

 

Sleeping Beauty could only listen when one ordinary girl after another came and compared herself to her sisters and bemoaned her fate.

Another needy man after another came, too, each one pleading his case, even begging, promising and promising the sun and the moon, until each one became furious and ferocious. Fisting the glass in their rage against women.

 

She misses her friends. She misses her family. Laughing. Talking. Joking. Teasing. Giggling. Back and forthing, she didn’t know what else to call it.

When someone dies, an empty space is left behind. A hollow where they once stood.

You look up, they should be walking in right now.

But anticipation is an evil monster. And silence fills that hollow. Silence that swirls like a shadow in the darkness. Sorrow that always lingers.

 

Dogs came and lifted their legs…

Pray for rain!

As some nights hardened…

More than she could bear!

 

The sun traveled from distant countries, crossed Sleeping Beauty's path, overtook her, skimmed ahead of her at top speed, hurled itself onward, linking in a single day all the aspirations and sins of the world, devouring all, obstinate, and fixed.

The sun spread out. Thinned out. Then waded out beyond the mountains and plunged headfirst into darkness. The day crumbling into dust motes lit by the coursing sun.

A sunset, so calm and sweet, this would help her die. The sun's red rays flooded over her, lifted her soul, and could help her die without hatred.

But the day turned exhausted before it could fade into the distance, and the night came, sudden and decisive.

When day was accomplished, then comes the charming evening.

The evening when it quivered and cooled.

The great shadows again loomed up.

And she stilled lingered, gnawing her thoughts.

 

Lifetimes and lifetimes of calumny came. Rancid whisperings and bold declamations. Oh, what I would do to you if only I could pry open this canopy!

 

The night laughed and gibbered and cried. Night brought dreams of bloodshed and orgies. (Those people needed her, too.) And hallucinations.

She was most often alone at midnight with the stars.

Alone inside the barbarous coffin.

 

Sleeping Beauty was becalmed by night.

The birds had disappeared. The night washed her, satiated her.

All sounds were hushed.

A strange silence. More peaceful still.

If I die here surrounded and ignored at the end of my rope, all strength gone… She has become part of the great harbor of night and beyond.

Her heart was still illuminated by a single thought.

She will rip the heart from your chest. Your heart red as an apple.

 

But night has a beyond.

She felt the drum-like rhythm of the fists.

She felt the axe blows on her coffin, each one ringing through her cage, vibrating her living bones, throbbing inside her skull. Each one she couldn’t see.

She could never cry out…

Her mind winces. Her body never trembles.

 

The days when no one came had their own cruelty, too.

Interminable days. Not even songbirds. Not even insects.

 

Who will ever know the truth about Sleeping Beauty? The Sleeping Beauty back story?

The Wicked Witch, her wicked stepmother, died generations ago of unnatural, but natural causes, serene with her final secrets in her deathbed smiles. A last wicked chortle.

That the Witch died first is her finest, truest victory.

"One may smile, and smile, and be a villain."

William Shakespeare said that.

The Witch died celebrating, chortling, as pleased as any villain can be.

When you wish upon a star…

My wish came true, she says.

She survives me!

 

As the years pass by Sleeping Beauty still sleeps, still wide awake.

At times her dreams were like swimming to the surface of a very deep pond. At times eyes were watching her. Bright yellow and luminous eyes.

Sleeping Beauty bides her time, awaiting Prince Charming, ready to burst forth in an insane frenzy. As all that is around her fades and blooms and fades…

 

The girl made of silk came…

She whispered and she understood…

Don’t go! Please come back!

But the girl made of silk sailed on. Caught on a breeze…

And left her behind.

According to the myths of the mountains, the night hags visit when one sleeps on one’s back, with the hands on one’s chest, a position in the Old Country called "sleeping with the dead.”

The night hag was the shadow that visited Sleeping Beauty.

Not the witch. Not even a cousin. Just a beast from another thread and so she looked like a shadow.

What a vengeful spirit, the night hag was heard thinking. A woman buried alive inside? Above ground? She was meant to be found. She was meant to be seen. She is a message. Sleeping Beauty? Ah, she was the fairest in the land!

In a horrible screechy voice, she clawed the glass canopy.

She shook it like a baby. Or a cocktail.

She humped the glass lasciviously.

A violent cat fight with a coffin.

She smelled of moss and grave dirt.

She wanted the living dead inside the coffin.

The coffin rocked and forth.

The hag was as vulgar as blood.

 

Sleeping Beauty was moved once again and was placed inside a local provincial historical museum on a back road off the bypass to the super highway on the margins of the old county line. There she stayed languishing and bitter for what seemed eons. Still there were visitors.

She was still the victim of great cruelties, of course, almost all of which were not just slanderous, but illogical.

“Sleeping Beauty, the biggest whore in the kingdom!”

“She slept with more men than the seven dwarves did!”

These new trolls lived on the internet and in apartments and their mothers’ basements. They stayed long enough to befoul her.

“Nice knockers!”

Women of all eras from all over the globe thought of them only as jerks. The worst of the trolls were called creeps.

 

Prince Charming is Schrödinger's cat.

Will he come? And if he doesn’t?

If he were the only surgeon in the world who could save her…

What is he obliged to do?

 

Sleeping Beauty went insane years ago decades ago generations ago.

A mind festers and rots and atrophies from a poisoned apple.

Vile thoughts bring forth new poisons.

There are poisons waiting in her kiss. On the edge of her lips, at the tip of her tongue, like the kiss of a snake…

Don’t be the first!

 

Sleeping Beauty growls …

Listen to me; I’m the one in the cage.

Get me out and stand aside.

Don’t read anything into that kiss.

Charming, stay out of my way.

I owe you nothing for that kiss I have coming.

Don’t add to the curse, or you’ll get a knife in the bowels.

This curse is between me and my mother.

Yes, I said, mother. Just unlock the cage.

 

Undoing the curse is the only right thing to do.

Thinking you deserve something in addition just makes you evil.

 

If you are an obstacle before me, I will go around you and then you will be behind me, half-forgotten already. If you block me, if you stand in my way, if you think you deserve anything, I will go through you with all of the ferocity of those long-caged.

No, I won’t forget you. But how do you want to be remembered? As somebody who stood in my path, or someone who aided my escape?

 

Free me if you are the one who can. If you can and you don’t, then you are the witch’s accomplice and you deserve whatever the fate that you get.

 

I am not a wild bird in a cage. I am a person.

Respect me. I have dignity.

I am a wild woman seething with rage.

 

Her eyes are closed and she's waiting for the worms. And when they come, not if they come anymore, she will not be able to stop any of that, because the curse kept her paralyzed.

Now she thinks, when I am dead, I will have no pain.

She is thinking about the agony in her heart.

She has lived too long without living.

This canopy cannot last forever!

Let me die!

Let me die!

Let me die!

Time passes. As it does. As it must.

Her heart is illuminated by a single thought: Revenge.

She will rip the heart from his chest. His heart is as red as her apple.

 

We can talk later. First comes revenge.

 

Forever young, but growing old inside, now gone ancient and wizened, she has a witch’s heart. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

She waits to strike like a snake. To strike like a curse.

 

What? You want her awake?

Fred Zackel published more than a hundred stories, poems & essays and a dozen or so novels. Most all of his writings are on Kindle or the web.

Fred passed away on December 24, 2023.

Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of visions which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your peepers. With early influence from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as life, Blanch has branched out mere art form to impact multi-dimensions of color and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking their greater glory. Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.

Digital arts mastery provides what Darren wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own minds are moved. His evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically to the expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to render.

View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch) works at: www.facebook.com/ivsma3Dart, YELLOW MAMA, Sympatico Studio - www.facebook.com/SympaticoStudio, DeviantArt - www.deviantart.com/ivsma and launching in 2019, as Art Director for suspense author / intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and publishing promotion - SeaHaven Intrigue Publishing-Promotion.

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