Tuesday, April 10, 2012
FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 74: ONCE UPON A TIME
The prompt this time was Once Upon A Time. We were to write a fairy tale and start it with ‘Once upon a time’, and use the words widow, woodcutter, witch, willow, and wander.
Let’s see what happens when careless words are spoken and wishes aren’t taken as seriously as they should have been. Is there really the possibility of a happily ever after?
“Once upon a time, there was a girl named Goldilocks. Do I really have to read this to you again? Why can’t you learn to read it yourself? You’re sick, so I miss the best pool party of the year. I hate you!”
Annie knew she shouldn’t say mean things to her sister, but she was such a pain. If Mom and Dad wanted to go out and Cassie wasn’t well, Annie always got stuck babysitting her. She was never happy about it, but Suzanna was having a boy-girl pool party this evening and Annie was going to miss it. All because of the baby. Now, Cassie was crying and mumbling how she wished she could go live in fairyland. Annie was getting ready to say ‘see ya’, when, to her horror, her younger sister seemed to be pulled into the book and disappeared.
Annie called out to her, but Cassie was gone. She’d wished herself into the book of stories their father had picked up at that odd curio shop on County Line Road. The shop owner had told him a witch had cursed it, and Dad had relayed that message with a smile. As if there were curses…, or witches… Annie knew now there were both, but what to do? How was she going to get her sister back before Mom and Dad got home? She could explain how Mom’s favorite vase slipped off the mantle, but this? She knew she needed to go in after her, so she touched the page as Cassie had done, closed her eyes and wished herself in.
When she opened her eyes, she was standing in a bedroom of a house she didn’t recognize, and there was wolf standing in front of her on its two hind legs, shaking its head.
“Oh no, not again,” the wolf said. “All these distractions. I’ll never get ready in time. So, who are you, and what is it you want?”
Annie couldn’t believe what was happening.
“My name is Annie, and I’ve come after my little sister, Cassie. I was babysitting her because she was sick and that made me miss a party, so I told my her I hated her and she started to cry, and then she wished herself into this book, and I’m so sorry because I never should have said that to her because I don‘t really hate her and now I‘m scared I‘ll never see her again.”
The wolf pulled a shawl over its shoulders and sat down on the bed.
“Yeah, I know, hindsight is 20/20. Listen, I know they call me the big bad wolf and all, but I feel for you, kid. You seem like you’re trying to make it right, so I’ll take a chance and clue you in on how to fix it. Thing is, Annie, there’s a way to get the small one out, but it’ll cost you--big. Hey, turn off the tear knobs right now honey, those don’t work on me. Besides, you will owe me nothing. Some witch way back when put a spell on a batch of books so if a kid wished themselves into a story, it would come true. What she gets out of it is anybody’s guess. All I know is what a pain in the ass it is to us here in fairytale land. There’s kids wandering around in between a lot of the tales in here, messing things up,
“I understand how they got in here, but how do they mess things up?” Annie asked.
“You have no idea what a headache they can be. For instance, my buds, the three bears. Oh what they’ve had to put up with. Some of those little monsters beat Goldi to the beds, jump on them, and then she’s got to put on fresh linen. Other times, they use the spoons that are set out to sample the porridge, and Goldi has to disinfect the entire…God knows where those nasty little mouths have been… You get the idea.
Anyhow, to the point, there have been some who found their way in to get the kids back, but when find out how it works, they hightail it back out. Nobody wants to pay the price, you see.”
“But a little magic is all it takes, right, Mr. Wolf? What’s the witch’s price--a favorite toy? You give up something you love and she gives you your sister or brother back?” Annie wondered if the witch would take her tea set with the chipped saucer.
The wolf couldn’t believe this one. He wondered why they always had to come in on his watch.
“Kid, you can’t just take her chubby little hand, close your eyes, click your heels together and say ‘there’s no place like home’. That crap doesn’t work in here. To get her out and back to the real world, you’ve got to wish her out and wish yourself in--forever after.”
“You mean she’d get to go back and I’d have to stay?” Annie couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying.
“That’s the deal, kid. If you want to find her, check out the woodcutter’s house. Cassie might be hanging with Hansel and Gretel. They all usually start there. Stay away from that willow tree gig though. It’s cold most of the time, and there’s a dead guy at the end. Those Grimm boys, I’ll tell you, they’re sick motherf…fellas. One of the many widows in here may have taken her in to pick up their place or fatten up to eat later. Hard to pin their motives down.
You’ll have to keep moving though so you don’t get snatched up by one of the ogres This isn’t Park Avenue, you know. By the way, if you decide the risk vs. reward ratio isn’t in your favor, just close your eyes, picture where you came from and wish yourself there. Little sister will never darken your doorway again.
Either way, you’ve got to split. I’ve got to finish dressing--Little Red will be here soon. Good luck, kid, and remember. Good things happen to those who remain pure of heart.”
Annie wondered what good could possibly come out of all this as she stepped out of the little house and started down the path into the woods to find Cassie. She would really have a lot to think about on this journey through the various stories that were full of killers, cannibals, witches, and who knows what else. The wolf had been right. Park Avenue, this was not.
Annie moved quickly and quietly through the pages, through dark and light, dangerous and delightful, and soon Cassie appeared sitting in a clearing, alone and crying. Still. She looked so pitifully small and fearful, Annie knew in her heart what she had to do. She walked over to Cassie, knelt down beside her and took her hand.
“Oh Annie, I’m so glad to see you. I should never have wished to be in here. I want to be with you. I’m sorry I’m such a pain.”
“No, Cass, you’re not. I shouldn’t call you names. I’ve missed you and I’ve come to fix everything. You’ll be home soon. Just remember, I’ll always love you, sis.”
Annie closed her eyes and made the wishes. When she opened her eyes, she and Cassie were back in their bedroom--in the real world. She was confused because she had wished for Cassie to return to reality and for herself to remain. She picked up the book and found the page with a picture of the wolf. When she saw him wink at her, she knew. That ‘pure of heart’ thing had saved them both.
Annie tucked Cassie in and began reading to her from a book about collecting butterflies. They’d had more than enough fairy tales for one afternoon…