The Princess and the Progress

old spinning wheel

The Princess and the Progress

Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Bygone, a royal baby was born. The king and queen had tried for many years to have a child, but with no success. As their frustration and sorrow grew, the kingdom prayed. And then, after five long years, Queen Sophie discovered she was pregnant. For nine months, the kingdom held its collective breath and King Antioch hovered nervously.

Finally, one bright spring day, the baby was born. The king and queen were now parents to the most beautiful baby girl they had ever laid eyes on. They named her Aurora and the kingdom exhaled.

When Aurora was one month old, her parents held a celebration. Everyone in the kingdom was invited, and some lined up for hours to offer gifts and blessings to the new princess. The king and queen received each guest in turn. The pile of gifts grew and the blessings included things like health, happiness, good eyesight, and a strong stomach.

As mid-afternoon rolled around, a strange-looking woman stepped up to take her turn. She had frizzy hair, dainty features, and wings. It took King Antioch a moment to realize he was actually looking at a fairy. But not just any fairy. This one clearly belonged to the Radical Fairies from the far side of the realm. As he moved in his seat, Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.

“We did invite everyone in the kingdom,” she said quietly.

With a grumble, King Antioch waved the fairy forward.

The fairy stepped up to Aurora’s bassinet and smiled. “The princess is so lovely,” she said. Then she began to wave her wand. “The fates they move both hot and cold, but mortals must not question why. When the princess is 18 years old, she will prick her finger on a needle and die.” The fairy grinned and vanished in a puff of smoke.

Up until then, the day had been going really well. As the fairy’s words sank in, King Antioch jumped to his feet and bellowed across the room. “The celebration is over. Everyone must leave the castle immediately.” He grabbed the bassinet, took Sophie’s hand, and practically flew to their private chambers.

After a lot of pacing and cursing, King Antioch knew what he had to do.

The following day, a Royal Decree was issued. It banned all needles and needled things from the kingdom. That included spindles, brooches, hairpins, and needles used for sewing, knitting, embroidery, cross-stitching, crocheting, needlepoint, and lace-making.

The decree created some challenges for the kingdom. For example, all clothing now had to be imported from other realms, and women had to find creative ways to keep their hair up. But the greatest challenge was finding things for the girls of the realm to do. Until the decree, while the boys of the realm went to school, the girls were taught to spin thread or sew and knit, or they learned how to make lace, or do needlepoint. They were also taught how to put their hair up. Some were lucky enough to receive lessons in music or dance, but there’s only so much singing and dancing you can do. As it was, most of the girls were left twiddling their thumbs, which was slowly driving their parents crazy.

As King Antioch listened to yet another complaint from a parent—this one with three young daughters—he found himself at a loss about what to do. Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.

“I have an idea,” she said. The king leaned in and Sophie whispered in his ear. When she finished, he looked at her dubiously. She raised her eyebrows. “Well, do you have a better idea?”

So King Antioch issued another decree. This one proclaimed that all girls in the realm would now be expected to attend school, just like the boys.

When Aurora was old enough, she attended school as well. She was a bright girl who grew into a bright young woman. As King Antioch watched his daughter soak up her education like a sponge, he wondered why he hadn’t insisted that girls go to school sooner. Sure, the tapestries on the castle walls were looking a little ragged with no one to repair them, but his daughter’s mastery of trigonometry held a different kind of beauty.

Eventually, Aurora’s eighteenth birthday arrived. That autumn, she set off for college. As the royal procession made its way through the countryside, they came upon a quaint museum.

“Stop,” Aurora said to the coachman. She hopped out of her carriage and wandered over to peruse the items sitting on the museum’s front lawn. “What’s that?” She pointed to a strange wooden contraption.

“M’lady.” The curator stammered, clearly unaccustomed to having visitors. “That is a spinning wheel.”

The king’s carriage pulled up behind Aurora’s. King Antioch watched in horror as his daughter approached the spinning wheel. As he moved to try and intercept her, Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.

“Don’t worry,” she said.

He paused, halfway out of the carriage.

“Ouch!” Aurora yelped. The king looked at his daughter. She had pricked her finger on the spinning wheel’s spindle. But, instead of collapsing to the ground, Aurora simply grinned and sucked the tip of her finger. Then she examined a few more items before turning and climbing back into her carriage.

King Antioch looked at his wife, who smiled serenely.

“Sometimes you need a little magic to make good things happen,” she said.

As understanding dawned, King Antioch got back in the carriage and the royal procession continued moving forward.

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This story was inspired by this week’s WordPress Weekly Challenge, which asked us to think about a lost art. For some reason, I thought of spinning wheels, which naturally made me think of Sleeping Beauty. I hope you enjoyed my take on the fairy tale!


I’m also linking up with the moonshine grid over at the yeah write community. It’s a great place for you and your blog to hang out on the weekends.

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Image credit: Svetlana Tikhonova @ PhotoXpress.com

Safe Distance

pele_hawaiian_volcano_goddess_by_arawyndesigns-d66mj1l

Safe Distance

Carefully, Pele Vengar applied lipstick, then stepped back to admire her handiwork. She knew it was vital to present the perfect image, especially now that she was entering the final stretch of the plan.

After a few little touch-ups, she was satisfied with the woman who returned her gaze from the mirror. Her eyes were dark and smoldering. Her mouth was soft and pouty. Her curvy shape was draped in something light and clingy that hinted at the treasure lying beneath. And long, fiery red hair cascaded over her shoulders in soft waves her namesake would have loved.

She remembered the first time she’d met him; the man she was going to see. He’d asked her why she was named Pele. She’d laughed and told him you could blame it on a combination of Hawaiian ancestry and hippie parents. He’d smiled and told her he’d known a Hawaiian guy a long time ago.

She walked over to the desk in her hotel room and checked the screen on her laptop one more time. Everything was in order. It was time to go. She closed the laptop, tossed it into her suitcase, and made her way to the front desk.

Her rental car was waiting out front. She smiled at the valet, who nearly swooned as he accepted her tip. Then she hopped in the car and made her way from Waikiki to the Queen Liliuokalani Freeway. From here, she would join up with the Veterans Memorial Freeway and head up to Oahu’s North Shore, where he was waiting for her.

She pulled up to the stunning beachfront villa he’d purchased with their spoils. It was like something out of a movie, with columns and fountains, surrounded by lush Hawaiian foliage. And there he was, standing out front, grinning like a fool. Kane Larkin, CEO of Goliath Enterprises. She parked the car, took a deep breath, and conjured a smile.

“Pele,” he said, sweeping her into an embrace, “I can’t believe we pulled it off!”

She smiled, “I told you no one would suspect you of stealing from your own company.”

“That you did.” He grinned. “Beautiful and smart. Just the way I like them.”

She doubted that, but kept right on smiling.

“Come on, let me give you the tour.” He placed his hand on the small of her back and escorted her inside.

After the tour, Kane led her to the lanai for dinner. They watched the sun set while they enjoyed excellent food and magnificent wine. He didn’t believe in moderation, which was exactly what she was counting on.

When they’d finished the second bottle, she proposed they head inside.

“Let’s play a game,” she suggested, her eyes filled with molten promises.

In that moment, he probably would have agreed to anything.

She took her time tying him to the bed, making sure her hands lingered in all the right places. The man at the hardware store back in California had assured her the rope could pull a truck, and he’d shown her how to tie a knot that wouldn’t slip. Once Kane was secure, she hopped off the bed.

“I’ll be right back,” she said, heading for the washroom.

He was patient at first, but after a few minutes, uncertainty crept into his voice.

“What’s taking so long?”

“I’ll be right out,” she called as she finished her task.

When she emerged from the washroom holding her shorn tresses, he knew things had gone off course. The hair on her head was now short and spiky, and her soft mouth was fixed in a hard line.

Kane looked at the hair. “What did you do that for?”

“An offering for Pele,” she replied, savouring his confusion.

“But, you’re—”

“I’m afraid not,” she interrupted. “My real name is Amy Kealoha.”

She watched his confusion turn into comprehension.

“I knew your father,” he said.

“You killed him.”

“No, he killed himself.”

Amy leaned over Kane. “Only after you ruined him.” She tossed the hair onto the bed. “But you can take that up with the gods that meet you on the other side.”

She pulled the detonation device from her purse. Her brother had rigged the place after Kane bought it. She would meet up with him when it was done.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “Your money will go to good use.” And with that, she turned on her heel and walked away.

“Pele! Amy! Please!” Kane yelled after her.

She never looked back, she just kept walking.

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This is my response to this week’s speakeasy,
over at yeah write, where we had to make some
reference to a video prompt and use the sentence
“She never looked back, she just kept walking.” as
the last line in our piece.

Click the badge to learn more about this awesome creative writing challenge.

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Image credit: arawyndesigns @ deviantART

 

The Accident

Ghost_by_Apri1

The Accident

“Tell me if you’re game, and I’ll let the guys know we’re on.” Enid exhaled impatiently. “Ruby! Did you hear me?”

I blinked and shifted my gaze to Enid. “Sorry. I was lost in thought.”

Sympathy washed over Enid’s face. She smiled and put her hand over mine. “It’s okay, Ruby. It’s my fault for rushing you. I’m just so excited you’re being released today.”

Enid and I had been best friends since the day we’d met in first grade. We’d been through so much together and she had really stepped it up after the accident. She was the kind of friend they make movies about. I squeezed her hand.

“So what were you saying?” I asked.

“That I’ll let Jeremy and Sam know if you feel like meeting up tonight.”

It’s not like I really wanted to go home. I nodded. “Sure. Sounds good.”

“Great!” Enid bounced to her feet. “I’ll go call them.”

As she left my room, the strange veil returned. Darkness blurred the edges of my vision and vague shapes layered across the world. I closed my eyes and shook my head, but the veil remained. So did the voices. Too quiet to make out more than a word or two, but loud enough to feel they were real. I leaned back against the pillow and closed my eyes, willing the veil to pass.

These bizarre visions had been happening since the accident. At first, they’d only happened once or twice a day, but they’d been increasing. This was the fifth one today, and it wasn’t even noon.

I hadn’t told anyone about them—not even Enid. I didn’t want to be labeled as crazy, which was entirely possible given everything that had happened. It’s not every day you survive an accident that wipes out half your town, including everyone you know, except your best friend. My heart twisted. For a moment, I was sure I could hear voices I knew, but when I opened my eyes all I saw was the cold white hospital room. At least the veil had receded.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. There were forms to sign, and somber chats to be had with doctors, nurses, and social workers. Finally, I was free to go. Enid met me out front. I stuffed my meager belongings into the back of her car and hopped in beside her. The visions were now coming two or three times an hour. I watched the ghostly figures move and listened to the obscured hum of their voices while I tried to ignore the lump growing in the pit of my stomach.

Enid drove straight to our rendezvous with the guys. We pulled up in front of a latched gate on the outskirts of town. Enid hopped out and gestured for me to do the same.

“Where exactly are we?” I asked as I stepped out of the car.

“I don’t know,” Enid said, “but Jeremy swears it’ll be a blast. Come on.” She squeezed through a gap in the gate and started down the dirt road.

Something niggled in the back of my mind, but I followed Enid anyway.

After a short walk, we reached what looked like an abandoned construction site. There was a giant hole in the ground. Light flickered in the hole and I could hear Jeremy and Sam laughing. Ruby walked toward the hole.

As I followed, my vision grew dark and the veil began to swell before my eyes. I stopped in my tracks.

“Ruby, come on!” Enid called.

As the faces swam before me, I remembered the night of the accident. Jeremy, Sam, Enid, and I had broken into the high school chemistry lab. I wasn’t exactly an A-student, but I’d taken chemistry and I knew whatever the guys were mixing was unstable. I remember grabbing Enid’s hand and telling her to run. After that, everything went black.

“How did they survive?” I didn’t realize I’d spoken out loud until I felt Enid’s hand on my arm.

“Ruby, you have to come with me now.” She began to pull me toward the pit, but I stumbled and fell.

The veil grew stronger. I could see all these people I knew sitting beside me, reaching their hands out. Without another thought, I grabbed them.

“Ruby!” Enid cried out, scared and desperate. “Ruby! Please don’t leave me!”

Her screams faded as my consciousness returned, but they still haunt my dreams.

I loved Enid like a sister, but it just wasn’t my time to die.

 

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This is my submission for this week’s speakeasy challenge. This week, we had to use the following sentence as the first line in our post: Tell me if you’re game.

We also had to make some sort of reference to the following photograph:

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 Image credit: April Elizabeth @ deviantART

 

Rendezvous with Destiny

flamy symbol

Rendezvous with Destiny

David shivered and looked over at his friend, Cooper. Cooper grinned and slapped David on the shoulder.

“I’m not so sure about this,” David said, trying to keep his teeth from chattering. He pulled the blanket tighter, but he was still freezing.

“Dude, don’t you want to be the Chosen One?” Cooper’s grin relaxed into a concerned smile.

David shifted his feet and averted his gaze.

“Everyone’s depending on you,” Cooper said. “And you’ve already come so far. It would be silly to quit now.”

“Yeah, but it’s so cold.” David looked at Cooper. “And Gillian is out there.”

Cooper grinned again. “All the more reason not to back out now. Besides, you really are the Chosen One. It’s in the prophecy.” Cooper waved the antique book he was holding at David.

David sighed and wished they’d never found the damn book in the first place. He remembered the day Mayor Armstrong had hired them to clean out the old schoolhouse on the abandoned Miller property. Some fancy city folks wanted to convert it into an eco-friendly home, but no one had touched the place in about fifty years. The mayor told David and Cooper they could keep anything of value they came across.

Everything in the old schoolhouse had been covered in layers of grimy dust and insect corpses. It was gross, but they did find a few treasures, like an antique pocket watch and an old silver hairbrush with a matching hand mirror. The book had been tucked away on a shelf above one of the windows. David had knocked it down while he was cleaning cobwebs from the ceiling. It landed face-up and open. Cooper picked it up and started reading from the open page.

“Under the Blood Moon, a child will be born unto a modest family. He will be fair of hair and grow to be a giant. This child will be revealed as the Chosen One when the north wind blows and two sides battle to survive. Through this battlefield, the Chosen One will walk, naked and glorious as the day he was born, and lead his people to victory.” Cooper had looked up at David, eyes wide. “Dude, they’re talking about you.”

David had laughed. “Very funny, Cooper.”

“Seriously. Think about it. Your mom said you were born during a Blood Moon. Your last name is Modeste, you have blonde hair, and you’re six foot a zillion.” Cooper looked at the book’s cover. “The History and Future of Franklin. See, it’s even talking about our town.”

David had shaken his head and resumed cleaning up the cobwebs. But the seed was planted. Cooper was convinced the passage from the book referred to David, and he’d worked tirelessly to convince David of it too.

When the town’s football team made it to the state championships, which were slated to take place in Franklin at the beginning of December, they knew they’d found the battlefield. It wasn’t until that point that the boys fully registered the next part of the prophecy. David had not been thrilled at the realization that he would have to walk across the football field, completely naked, in December.

But, here he was, standing behind Cooper’s van, wrapped in nothing but a blanket.

David wasn’t really bothered about so many people seeing him naked. He worked out and took care of himself. And he loved the idea of leading his town to victory, especially since the Franklin Fighters hadn’t made state championships in over two decades. But the frigid temperature was having a detrimental effect on his glorious endowments, which was not exactly the sort of impression he wanted to make on his new girlfriend, Gillian.

“What the hell kind of prophecy requires nudity anyway?” David muttered.

Cooper clapped a hand on David’s shoulder. “It shows the world how fearless you are.”

David shot a sideways glance at his friend. Cooper’s eyes were shining like those of a true believer. David knew he couldn’t let Cooper down. With a sigh, he raised his gaze heavenwards and prayed that whatever god was watching would work a miracle with the temperature. At that moment, David felt a warm breeze ruffle his hair, and then some other parts. He smiled and handed the blanket to Cooper.

Fifty years later, the town would still be talking about the day David Modeste charged onto the football field, stark naked and yelling, “Franklin Fighters for the win!”

The town hasn’t lost a game since.

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prompted-button

This is my response to this week’s Prompted challenge, in which we were tasked with writing a response that included an embarrassing prophecy.

I’m also linking up with the moonshine grid over at yeah write. Just cuz.

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Image credit: Konstantin Yuganov / Photoxpress.com

Flora and Fauna

Dracula vampira

Flora and Fauna

When Waylon Temple was born, the doctors were certain he wouldn’t live to see his first birthday. His head was far too large for a newborn, they asserted. There must be something wrong with him.

They ran a battery of tests and Waylon passed them all with flying colours. It turned out that his abnormally large head contained an abnormally large brain. By the age of two, Waylon spoke in complex sentences and ate with a knife and fork. At four, he was solving mathematical equations and could tell a salad fork from a dessert fork. Waylon obtained an undergraduate science degree when he was nine, and received his PhD in Theoretical Biophysics at the age of twelve.

Waylon was the smartest guy you’d ever meet, but his trajectory through life placed him at a distinct disadvantage when it came to interpersonal relationships. He could tell you why synaptic vesicles played a key role in the mating rituals of humans, but he had no idea why Deirdre Jones wouldn’t go out with him. He could program biological nanites to build tiny, perfect replicas of any ecosystem on Earth, but he couldn’t tell Sandy Stephens how he felt.

So, despite the staggering depths of his intellect, Waylon Temple grew up to be a very lonely man. And it was at the height of this loneliness that Waylon devised the perfect experiment.

He knew that Sandy’s favourite flower was a rare type of Dracula orchid that grew in the highest reaches of the northern Andes Mountains. He also knew that his nanites could reproduce that ecosystem, including Sandy’s orchid, perfectly.

Waylon planned everything meticulously. He put the nanites to work in his new, state-of-the-art solarium laboratory. He programmed Sandy’s favourite classical music, consisting mostly of Wagner and Puccini, to play through the speakers. He paid a graphic designer to do up a beautiful invitation, which he tucked into the purse on her desk early one morning.

Sandy was thrilled. She accepted Waylon’s invitation, planting a soft kiss on his cheek. If it hadn’t been for his meticulous nature, Waylon might not have washed that cheek for days. As it was, he smiled awkwardly and mumbled something about how beautiful the ecosystem was starting to look.

That weekend, Sandy arrived at the lab at precisely 7:30 p.m., just as the invitation had suggested. Her punctuality warmed Waylon’s heart, and her hand on his arm spread that warmth throughout his tall frame. Buoyed by Sandy’s smile, Waylon escorted her into the Andean Mountain ecosystem.

The evening was perfect. They listened to Wagner, admired the perfect orchids, and watched a rainbow of hummingbirds buzz above their heads. And, at precisely 9:30 p.m., Waylon Temple worked up the nerve to kiss Sandy Stephens.

Neither of them expected the Utricularia asplundii to grab Sandy and gobble her up, even though they both knew that particular genus of flowers was carnivorous. Of course, neither of them knew how the nanites felt about Waylon. The appearance of a strange human woman in the ecosystem they had created for him was more than they could take. But it also gave them an idea.

Waylon stared in disbelief as the pretty plant that had eaten Sandy began to morph into something else. Moments later, a beautiful woman stood before him. She looked a bit like Sandy and a bit like Deirdre Jones. She had big green eyes and long dark hair that tumbled over her shoulders and curled around her waist. She smiled and held out her hand.

As Waylon debated whether or not to take her hand, he wondered how he had missed such a vital variable in his experiment. He had been so meticulous. The nanite woman’s soft touch on his arm interrupted his thoughts. Waylon met her lovely green eyes and grinned. In that moment, through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned.

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This is my submission for the speakeasy #154. We had to write a piece of fiction or poetry under 750 words that ended with the line “Through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned” and made some sort of reference to this video:

Come and check out the other submissions, then come back and vote for your favourites on Thursday!

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Image credit: Google Images

Worlds Apart

Reptile_by_Maysiiu

Worlds Apart

My people came to this planet when I was just a little boy, fleeing persecution on our home world. I was too young to understand what was happening, but I remember the long, dark voyage to our new home. I remember stepping off the ship into golden sunshine and being awestruck by how different this new world was. And I remember the first time I saw them, the inhabitants of our new world. I watched them greet my people from my hiding place behind my mother’s legs.

They looked like us in some ways, but their skin was a different texture and their ears were long and pointed. They had tails, sort of like the monkeys I’d seen in the zoo back home. And some of them had very sharp teeth. As a child, I was terrified of them. I heard the adults whisper about the inhabitants’ strange and ungodly rituals. I heard the older children talk about the terrible things the inhabitants did to children who strayed from the village.

Even still, they let us stay. We built our settlement close to the river. And, except for ceremonies that the entire settlement took part in, I stayed inside the village walls like the good, frightened child that I was. But childhood doesn’t last forever.

As a teenager, I let my rebelliousness lead me outside the settlement. I explored the woods until I knew each tree by touch. I tasted the forbidden plants that the older teenagers whispered about, enjoying the fuzziness that would creep over me and soften the edges of my vision. My favourite place was the riverbank, where I would go in the afternoons. I loved to sit and dream as the indigo water lapped at the shoreline, or skip ruby red rocks across the surface when the water was still.

One day, as I approached the riverbank, I saw an inhabitant sitting at the shoreline. My first response was that visceral fear from my childhood and I almost turned to flee. But at that moment, the inhabitant turned and looked at me, then smiled a sheepish smile. He was young like me and he was holding one of the forbidden plants in his hand. I found myself smiling back, surprised to find this common ground between us. My adolescent curiosity carried me forward and urged me to take the forbidden plant in his outstretched hand.

That is how I met my first inhabitant friend, Mica.

In the years that followed, I learned a lot about the inhabitants from Mica, and discovered that our people weren’t so different after all. His father taught me how to identify plants and how to extract their healing properties. His mother showed me all the best fishing spots along the river. And his siblings asked me endless questions about my people and our home planet. Over time, my curiosity grew into understanding and my understanding grew into affection.

Then I met Naia.

Naia was Mica’s cousin and her family lived in a village further inland, at the foot of the mountains. The summer I turned twenty, Naia came to visit. Despite my friendship with Mica and my affection for his people, I never expected to fall in love with an inhabitant. But meeting Naia was like finding a long-lost piece of my soul. I looked into her eyes and I knew we were meant to be together.

However, as my fondness for the inhabitants had grown, my people had become more rigid about the line between us and them. So when I told my parents I had asked Naia to become my wife, it didn’t go over well. They tried to keep me inside the village walls, first with guilt and then with force. But I was a young man in love. I think I could have scaled a hundred village walls to be with Naia. Scaling just one was easy.

That was a long time ago.

Sometimes I miss my people, but now that I am a parent, my focus has shifted to my children. I love watching them grow into amazing little people, gifted with the best of both their parents. I see how loved and accepted they are here, in Naia’s village, and I wish my parents could see what I see. Some days, I think about taking my family to visit the settlement of my childhood, but I am terrified of what my people might do when they see my ungodly children, hiding behind my legs.

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This is in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge, in which we were tasked with demonstrating changes in perspective as we age.

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Image credit:  Maysiiu / deviantART