October 5, 2018

IF THE BODY FITS by Julia Stilchen

If the body fits, wear it well.
We're like two yolks in a raven's egg...
The crackling of an incoming portal jolted Cinderella to her feet. The sky opened and spat out a creature. She gazed in horror and ducked her head, dropping low against the ground. Hands spread against dirt, she crawled toward a covering.

A streak of black whirled past her, sending her back in the opposite direction. It moved in blurs before taking down half a tree. Golden, amber and mahogany colored leaves burst into Autumn confetti. The creature tumbled into a pile of hay, slicing the air with an ear-piercing shrill.

Bewildered by the sound of its cry, Cinderella contemplated whether or not it had been a harpy or a mad imp passing through. On this side of the kingdom, such sightings were rare but weren’t unheard of.

It groaned as it struggled to free itself. Legs and arms protruded out. Crooked and broken. Snapping back into place. The creature crawled out and stood upright. Its long, dark tresses lifted away from its face. It was then Cinderella realized it hadn’t been a creature after all. A young woman. Dressed in fabric dotted with glinting black jewels. It shimmered against moonlight as though it had been spun directly from a glimmering night sky.

“Are you okay?” Cinderella asked in disbelief.

The woman lurched forward. She stretched her bones as if she had woken from a century-length slumber. She plucked straws from her hair and dress. “Ugh. Don’t you just hate when that happens?” She patted her head. “My hat!” Like a mad dog searching for its bone, she frantically dug into the pile of hay, tossing handfuls to the side.

A black object—scrunched into a flat circle—twitched on the ground. Cinderella pointed, keeping her distance in case she should retreat. “W-what’s that?”

“Hmm?” The woman spun on her heal. “My hat!” She scooped it up and blew into the opening, restoring its shape. Its tip expanded into a curved point. When she opened her palms, it floated up and positioned itself over her head.

Cinderella stood, mouth hung agape, eyes wide and unblinking.

“Come.” The woman gestured with her hand.

Cinderella hesitated yet something about the woman drew her forward.

“Closer, closer. I promise I’m not a vampire, you see?” The woman pulled back her lips, revealing porcelain-white canines.

Cinderella took another step forward.

“Yes. Closer still. Let me have a good look at you.”

Cinderella leaned her head back as the woman leaned hers forward. They stood face to face, staring deep into each other’s eyes.

Gazing into the woman’s eyes was like staring into the void. Dark as a bottomless well. Thick lashes—the length of sewing needles—batted at Cinderella as she circled around, clicking her tongue and scanning her body, absorbing every detail. “Yes, yes. You’ll do quite well.”

“Pardon?” asked Cinderella.

The woman grunted. Her arm shot straight out, palm facing the pile of hay. “Ivis, come forward.”

The hay stirred. A gnarled broomstick zipped out and flew into the woman’s open hand.

“I’ll turn you into a frog if you ever drop me like that again. Understand?” The broom trembled while nodding the tip of its head. The woman caressed its smooth surface. Its finely polished gloss caught the woman’s reflection. “There, there. I know. You’ll do better next time.”

“Who are you?” Cinderella asked.

From the shadow of her hat, the woman shot a sharp glance at Cinderella. She released the broom and it hovered by her side like a loyal pet. The corners of her mouth twitched from one side to the other before curling into a wicked grin. “I’m Graechel.” Her feet lifted off the ground as she twirled into a perfect curtsey.

“Are you… my Fairy Godmother?”

Graechel cackled. “Fairy Godmother? Ha! She’s in a bind at the moment. A binding spell that is.”

Cinderella gasped. Before she could react, Graechel had already gathered a pinch of magic dust from a small pouch at her waist. Ready in hand, she blew it into Cinderella’s face. The opalescent particles trickled over her, working into the corners of her eyes, stinging upon entry. Her nostrils tingled. Dark magic seeped down her throat in a prickly trail. She breathed in a wicked flavor. Bitter.

“Why?” She managed to say as her body grew stiff. Statuesque. A live doll.

“Sorry, Deary. Nothing personal. I was hired to spy on Prince Charming. You’d make a perfect host. A living disguise. Same height. Weight. Pure-hearted. No one would suspect a thing.” Graechel cackled.

Tears rolled down Cinderella’s cheeks. Her chest heaved ruggedly.

“Breathe, Deary. Can’t have you passing out on me. I assure you this will be almost painless with minor spurts of dizzying side effects. The bright side? You’ll attend the ball just as you desire. I’ll dress you up. And while I’ll be in control you’ll still retain awareness. If you be a good puppet I’ll throw in the prince for you in the end.”

Cinderella’s breathing grew profuse.

Graechel gave a dismissal shrug. Her hand shoved elbow-deep into a sleeve and withdrew a dark, sparkling spoon-wand. She raised her hands, eyes closed.

Cinderella forced words through stiff lips. Please, let me go.”

Graechel’s hand fell to her side. “Quiet! I have to concentrate.” She tapped the end of the wand against her palm, waiting for Cinderella’s sobbing to end. Graechel shook her head and cleared her throat. Her incantations rose above Cinderella’s whimpers. The wand cast a sickly green light as it hummed in the air.

Magical orbs spewed outward in a swirling trail. Spectral baubles burst over an aged-old cauldron half buried in dirt. On the way across the yard, it grew in size, tumbling over in thuds, dumping dry soil and crumbling rocks. The iron croaked under the stress of being reshaped. It morphed between a wheeled cart, a wagon, and a carriage before settling as a king carrier.

Spiders skittered to the roof. They spun silk under Grachel’s spell, weaving intricate cobweb curtains before dispersing.

Orbs showered into the earth. Skeletal hands broke through the surface, clinging over dirt and grass. A body of bones climbed past their unmarked graves. Eight total gathered together, taking their position by the carrier.

A swarm of iridescent bubbles collided into Cinderella’s tattered dress. Gossamer silk weaved across her body. Snow-white feathers gathered below her shoulders in a plume. Matching gloves, lined with crystal gems, formed over her hands. Ghost-white moth wings grew out from her bare back. A moth-like headdress formed over her head as two feathery antennae sprouted and curved past her forehead. Parts of her hair bundled up into two buns with cascading curls as other parts twisted into braids.

Bubbles aimed at Cinderella’s bare feet. Dark metal-spiked slippers appeared. “I believe Prince Charming has a thing for spiked slippers. He’s going to love these.” Graechel nodded and giggled.

Cinderella stared from wide eyes.

“Now, for the finishing touch,” said Graechel. “Open wide.” She spun in circles, raising her hands to the sky beneath the Hunter’s Moon. Her body shattered into a dark plume of shimmering flies. Cinderella’s mouth was forced open and the swarm of Graechel entered.

Cinderella’s eyes closed. Tears still running down, eyes burning. The weight of Graechel’s magic filled her lungs. Invaded her mind. Shoved her to the side, into the background as a prisoner in her own body. Forced to observe as Graechel took complete control.

Inhaling deeply, Graechel opened her eyes. “Ah. If the body fits, wear it well. We’re like two yolks in a raven’s egg. That’s what my mother witch would say.” Gathering the hem of her moth-like gown she danced toward the carrier and seated herself. She tapped her wand against a skeleton’s skull, clicking her tongue twice. “Off we go!”

The skeletons hoisted the carrier poles over their shoulders and marched down the road, rattling their bones to Graechel’s humming.

Julia Stilchen grew up loving all things fantasy, paranormal and science fiction. She especially enjoys reimagining fairy tales, retelling them with an entirely new spin. Aside from writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, occasionally playing video games, and working on creative projects.

Check out Julia: www.juliastilchen.com

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JuliaStilchen

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff