For my first #fridayflash story of 2014, I’m taking part in Chuck Wendig’s Fairytales Remixed challenge (subgenre: “grimdark fantasy”). I actually already had this story in mind when his post popped up, so apparently it was fate. Or at least good motivation to actually get the words out of my brain and into the world. Please enjoy, and be sure to check out the other entries in the challenge as well as stories from the #fridayflash community!
SLEEPING BEAUTY’S SECRET
Aurora stole away just as dawn was breaking. The king would not rise for another hour, and the nurses would tend to their little ones until breakfast. This was her time—precious and rare—and she had to use it wisely.
Dressed in peasants’ attire from a lifetime ago, she kept her dark scarf draped over her golden hair and kept her eyes downcast as she made her way through the village and toward the woods. Though she knew it had given her many advantages, sometimes she cursed the gift of beauty bestowed on her by the fairies.
She thought of the other gifts she’d received as an infant and tried to remember the last time she’d sung anything. Her children were too old for lullabies now, and the nurses had taken care of that most of the time anyway.
Stepping into the thick, damp air of the forest was a relief, but she didn’t slow her pace. Not until the din from the village had been silenced by the swaying of the trees and the chirping of the birds did she relax. Finally, she heard a sharp cawing, and she stopped. She was here.
Before her was a small clearing where the green had faded away, as if shrinking back from something different, something fearsome.
Aurora approached the center of it where the smallest black vine pierced through the ground. She saw that it had sprouted thorns in the week since she’d last visited, and the sight sent a thrill through her body. Perhaps there was still hope.
She had been so young when everything happened. Only sixteen. What had she known of true love? Even now, she knew that it had been true, and maybe even that it still was. But she also knew that love was not the same as happiness.
Despite everything, she could not explain why she was here. She knew it was dangerous. Perhaps it was some remnant of former magic, drawing her once again into the grasp of evil. But there were no fairies now to hide her from her fate, and she had found no weapons or spells to fight the darkness in her own soul. So she tended to the little black vine, in hopes of some day facing the being that had put it there.
She pulled out a small knife from a pocket hidden in her skirt. She grimaced. This was the part she hated the most. Another sharp caw from the sky beckoned her onward. She glanced up and met the crow’s red eyes as she removed her glove. And then she grit her teeth and slashed the blade across her palm, breaking through the barely-closed gash that was already there. She held her hand over the soil surrounding the little vine, and let her blood soak its roots.