March 30, 2012

February Honorable Mention: Skeleton Woman, By Lissa Sloan

Why do I follow you?

It is more than the tug of your hook in my breastbone

More than the pull of your line

That draws me clackety clacking along behind

As you stumble over the snow

Running for your life

Even my empty sockets can see that there is more to you

More than muscle and sinew that cast your line

More than breath from your bursting lungs

More than blood rushing to your cheek

As you look behind

To see if you have outrun me at last

I may be nothing but bone,

But I feel your callused fingers, gentle now

Untangling the jumble that is me--one bone here, another there

I have no ears to hear

And yet your tender song hums through me

As you free me from this knotted line

I rattle near you as you dream

I have no breath to hold

But frozen beside you I wait

Knowing there is still more to you

I can smell the salt of it

Hot at the corner of your eye

Is that teardrop for me?

Do you grieve for this pile of bones in her ocean grave

And wish she could have life again?

Just as I grieve for your heart that beats alone

And wish that I could warm it

Have courage, my love

Our loneliness is at an end

One taste of that sweet salt tear

And the drumming of your heart

Is all I need

To sing myself into life

No longer only bones

I am flesh and blood and breath like you

And when our two hearts beat as one

You and I will know

Together we are so much more

Author’s note: "Skeleton Woman" is an Inuit tale of a lonely fisherman who accidentally catches a skeleton instead of a fish. 

Lissa’s work has appeared in the "Little Red Riding Hood" issue of Enchanted Conversation.  She is half English, half American, and is an avid reader and tea drinker.

Altered image originally by Felicien Rops.

March 28, 2012

February Contest Winner: Beast's Beauty, By Diana Parparita

Hunter had thought himself prepared. He'd expected the tall, hulky beast, the evil glint reflected in its fangs, its long black claws, its mane of tangled fur, he'd even expected the knife pointed at his throat. What he hadn't expected was the short chubby woman holding the knife. One moment of surprise was enough for her to strike. The knife lunged at his throat. Hunter closed his eyes instinctively. He heard the sound of blood drops hitting the wooden floor, but felt no pain. He opened his eyes. The knife was shining half an inch from his throat, its blade gripped tightly in the beast's firm hand, ruby-red blood trickling through the clenched fingers. The woman let go of the hilt and burst into tears.

"There, there, love," the Beast said soothingly, patting her on her shoulder. "It's only a scratch."

"But, Honey-bear, he was going to kill you!" the woman answered, rubbing her eyes. "I know these so-called princes. Always snooping around, trying to slay the Beast. Think you're all mighty strong, don't you, breaking into our home like vandals, all dressed up in your shining armor, swinging those big flashy swords around, hunting innocent people who're minding their own business."

"Actually, I knocked first," Hunter pointed out.

"But you were going to kill him," the woman insisted relentlessly.

Hunter looked away sheepishly. He had certainly planned on killing the Beast. He looked around at the peacefully domestic interior of the small hut, the sparkly clean floorboards, the orderly rows of pottery on the shelves, the gurgling cauldron simmering in the fireplace, the pot of roses on the windowsill. There was no excuse in sight, no trace of the Beast's evildoings that he'd heard of in the village.

"It's because of the Beauty," he said, suddenly remembering why he'd come here in the first place. His eyes glittered with hope, thinking she'd understand and approve.

"The beauty?" the woman said, rolling her eyes. "So you want to kill my Honey-bear because you're jealous of his beauty?!"

"Huh? No!" Hunter protested, trying hard to keep his jaw from dropping at this ridiculous accusation. How could she misinterpret his noble intentions so?

"Of course you're jealous!" the woman insisted. "You're just a little yellow chick that thinks it can call itself a man because it walks on two feet! Think you'll look any better if you kill him? Beauty doesn't rub off, you know? Can't steal it either. He'd still be the most handsome man in the world even if you could kill him, and you'd still be nothing but a little straw man."

Hunter had always thought himself quite handsome, with his blond hair and childlike face that made girls swoon. He wasn't sure he could defend his life against the Beast and that tiny enraged woman, but he would not go down without defending his looks.

"He's not even a man!" he protested, pointing at the Beast with his chin. "He's a monster! All covered in fur like an animal."

"The boy's raving mad!" the woman said in consternation. "A man's supposed to have hair on his chest. And arms, and legs and other parts."

"I think he'd find me more human if I shaved," the Beast answered, scratching the tangled fur on his chin.

"But, Honey-bear, I like your beard just the way it is, all grown and rugged," the woman cooed.

Hunter looked away as the little woman reached on the tip of her toes to give the Beast a kiss.

"Not in front of the guests, love," the Beast remonstrated, turning its head away with a distinctively human blush under the fur on its cheeks.

"He was just leaving," the woman answered, throwing Hunter a menacing look.

"But... but the girl trapped here!" Hunter protested, even though his legs were already sliding towards the door. "The Beauty that the Beast holds prisoner."

"Prisoner?" the Beast asked in genuine surprise. "No one's keeping her prisoner. Why, I wouldn't even let her stay if she weren't such a good cook."

"You big tease!" the woman said, pretending to give the Beast a punch in the ribs.

"But... if I could just see her," Hunter insisted, feeling behind him for the doorknob, "make sure she's happy here."

"She's right here!" the Beast protested, putting his arm around the woman's shoulders. "The most beautiful girl in the world, and every bit as pretty as when I married her twenty years ago."

Hunter's eyes widened. He stumbled backwards out the door, and ran down the hill from the Beast's hut. Behind him, he could hear the woman laughing. When he reached the foot of the hill he thought he heard her say, "You can turn back into your human form now, Honey-bear. Now, where were we when he barged in?"

Diana Părpăriţă lives in Bucharest, Romania.

March 26, 2012

February Contest Winner: Remember, When They Come, By Rachel Ayers

Oh my pretty little darlings--
how I wish to warn you of the wicked
ways of the world:

The evil means and minds
of monsters who will make a meal
from your sweet soft flesh.

Let me tell you about the girl
in red who fought the wolves
and lived--
I know you can be just as clever,
my tiny ones.

But will you believe me
if I come to you, all stuff and nonsense
about the dark hearts of the fair folk?

I shall spin you a tale
instead; and leave it to ruminate
within your soul, in hope --

The brother and sister, lost
in the woods, following pebbles
and breadcrumbs, wandering
in circles until they find
their sticky-sweet salvation.

-- when the time comes,
you will know what to do.  You will
act without hesitation

move with conviction
Though you know not why or where
the instinct comes from.

Remember the princess who fled
her wicked father and danced
for a handsome young prince.  His mother
took her children, said she was a demon
and had her buried to her neck in burning sand.

Did you think that love
would solve all your problems?
That would be too easy.

Grow strong for yourself and for each other,
be good to your sisters and brothers.
Trust yourself; trust your granny.

In this big dark sea there's always someone
willing to take your voice--
don't trade it away; fight for it
because you may love the prince but
you'll waste away to seafoam before he sees you.

I'll wrap it up as a metaphor,
give you the coded key.
Remember that curses can be broken,
stories can be rewritten:
When the monsters come,
you will be ready.

Rachel tells us: "I have a Creative Writing major from Pittsburg State University. My novelette "Sister and Serpent" won Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, and my story "Job Hunting" won First Prize in the 2010 HarperCollins Radiant Prose contest. My work has appeared in: Isabelle Rose's Twisted Fairy Tale Anthology volumes 1 and 2 (Wicked East Press), ChiZine, Living With the Dead: Year One, and Enchanted Conversation."

Illustration from "Hansel and Gretel" by Jennie Harbour.

March 13, 2012

Guest Post By Lissa Sloan: Adventure Princess Comes to the Rescue

The fairy tale heroine has it all, doesn’t she?  Sure, she may have a jealous stepmother plotting her demise and giving her way too many chores, but she’s beautiful, loyal, hardworking, and often very clever.  Still, I want more out of a heroine.  I want a princess who does more than housework while she waits around to be kissed, rescued, or rescued by a kiss.  Fortunately, I know just the girl, and she does her own rescuing.  I like to call her Adventure Princess.  And if she sounds a bit like a superhero, that’s because she is.  She’s a girl on a quest that will require some superhuman qualities.  But don’t worry-- Adventure Princess has it covered.

We often meet Adventure Princess on a search for a lost loved one.  The odds are against her, but she has the power of persistence.  In stories like East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Fenist the Bright Falcon, and The Enchanted Pig, Adventure Princess wanders the world and beyond in her search.  She visits nine continents, nine seas, the houses of the Sun, Moon, and various winds.  She even goes as far as the Milky Way.  At times the difficulty of her task almost kills her, but she endures.  She wears out three pairs of iron shoes, three iron caps, and blunts her steel staff.  Sometimes she even gives birth to a baby along the way. 

Adventure Princess also possesses super toughness.  In The Seven Ravens, the morning star gives her a chicken bone to use as a key to her brothers’ prison.  But by the time she reaches the door, she has lost the bone, so she cuts off her little finger as a substitute.  In The Enchanted Pig, she takes similar measures to make the final rung of a ladder to get into her beloved’s house.  Pretty super, right?

Not only can Adventure Princess endure dismemberment for those she loves, she can even accomplish re-memberment.  In some versions of The Girl Without Hands, handless Adventure Princess is stopping to have a drink at a stream, and her baby, who is strapped to her back, slips into the water.  Our heroine reaches out, and new hands come shooting out of her stumps to catch her child. 

It’s all in a day’s work for Adventure Princess.  She’s got some pretty great powers, but I haven’t even mentioned her best one—the power of love.  Adventure Princess risks it all, endures it all, and dares it all for the ones she loves, be they brother, child or true love.  That’s my kind of princess.

Lissa’s work has appeared in the Little Red Riding Hood issue of Enchanted Conversation.  She is half English, half American, and hopes to be an Adventure Princess when she grows up.

Image from "The Girl Without Hands," is by HJ Ford.

March 12, 2012

Snow Queen By Adrienne Segur

I have been playing with posting by Iphone. Only this lovely image by Adrienne Segur came through. But it is a beauty!