June 17, 2019

FAIRY TALE FLASH - The Mortality of a Fae by Amelia Brown

She was tired of living.
But immortality once bestowed
is not easily shaken...
There is a tale, so it goes, that tells of a great love learned by one of the Fae. This is her story:

Day rolled into day, year into year, and still Aine lived.  
She was tired of living, for there were no more tales to learn, no more thoughts to unfold. A millennium is too long to live in any world. But immortality once bestowed is not easily shaken. Thus it was that she was drawn to the world of mortals. For Aine was fascinated by humankind; their loves, their works, their deaths. Especially their deaths. Death seemed so poignant, filled with all intensities of meaning for these mortals who lived first, and then died. How they wept and mourned, keened, and wailed following a mortal's ceasing. And yet, the strength of mortal feeling—Aine could not imagine what it would be like to be filled with such grief; unbearable, unconquerable.
Aine walked the mortal lands, peering from between the leaves of trees at these temporal lives, and the day came where bearing witness was no longer enough. Seeing a human infant left alone in its basket, Aine stole her away in the night. She would raise the earthly child and discover all the secrets of a mortal life.
The child, a girl, blossomed under Aine’s care. Aine called her Airmid and watched her grow. Soon Airmid was a beautiful woman, who fell in love with a chance hunter who roamed the wood that had become their home. Though the hunter knew nothing of her love, Airmid would watch him through the leaves of the trees. Until one day the hunter mistook the rustling in the trees for the sound of a deer and Airmid was pierced through the heart with his arrow. When he realized his error, his wail brought Aine to the side of her stolen daughter.
The wrench that tore through Aine’s body was nothing akin to any feeling she had ever known.
But Aine was not as mortals were. And as she felt Armid grow lifeless in her arms, she recalled a deep magic, older than the sands of time. Opening herself to the earth and all the forces above it, she reached for that magic. Aine felt the arrow pierce her own breast, felt Armid’s hand grow stronger than her own.  Her breath became short, ragged gasps. But her eyes, they feasted on the color blooming in her daughter’s face.
And as Aine’s life withdrew, it was then that she understood mortal love.
Amelia Brown started writing officially as a humor columnist for her university's newspaper.  She received an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest for “A Womb at the Edge of Space."  Her 101 Words Short Story will be published in Spring of 2019, and her story "The Priorities of Joan" will be published in the 81Words anthology in the next two years.  She is the author behind Fairy Stories & Other Tales, recently featured in the Warren Stories section of Dead Rabbits Books literary press website and the Tales of Bedlam podcast.  Her twitter handle is @ameliabrowntale.

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

June 9, 2019

A DROP OF WATER, A FLOOD OF DREAMS - June 2019 - Table of Contents

Enchanted Conversation
presents the
June 2019 Issue

With a drop of water
came a flood of dreams
where past, present, and future
flowed together
into the reality of story

In this issue, eleven authors will enchant you with original tales that use the theme of water in some way. Also, EC is excited to present our first full digital comic with illustrated tales by five artist/writers!

How do mythical creatures adapt to modern times?
Can mermaids grow old?
Who can outsmart a centuries old sea witch?
What rises from the water can't live on land forever, and what does it leave behind?
Where does love find a way beneath the waves?
and more!

So, like moonlight reflected on water, we hope these stories reflect the fluidity of imagination. Enjoy!

She knew she would always love Ronan.
Ondine wondered why she could never
see him in his human form...
Jane Dougherty

The water beckoned me home.
But I was determined, and
the city air was humid...
Rebecca Katz

The Sea Witch emerged from the pool
with her fierce inhuman eyes and
knew the girl would agree to anything...
The Queen,
The Sea Witch,
and The Urn
December Lace

The bitter water had cast its spell,
and the sweet water was useless.
And so, I watched Psyche from afar...
Bitter Water
Carol J. Douglas

There are two types of stories about
fairyland. Ones where the traveller
returns, and then there are the other ones...
K. A. Wiggins

"If you aren't human, it will be harder for you.
I think you are an elemental?"
"Wind and cloud..."
Noelani's Tether
Janna Miller

To her, time flowed just as her spring did.
Some gave to her
and others only took...
Lillie E. Franks

They say mermaids never grow old,
but that's a myth...
Madison McSweeney

You have only destroyed
our temporary bodies.
You, then, shall embody our will...
Ellen Huang

"Fish ain't supposed to talk."
"Who told you that? People who don't listen..."
Fiona and the
Golden Salmon
Robert Allen Lupton

What rises from water
can't live on land forever...
The People
of the Soil
Judy Darley

And check out EC's
first full digital comic
Alan Bay
Amanda Bergloff
Martyna Kulak
M. Lopes da Silva
Aaron M. Williams

And finally,
I'd like to bring this issue to a close by thanking all the wonderful writers and artists featured in it. It's been my privilege to work with all of them. I also want to thank everyone from our worldwide audience who reads Enchanted Conversation. Our purpose in publishing EC is to inspire creativity through the magic of fairy tales, folktales, and myths...
so thank you, one and all, for your amazing support!
- Amanda Bergloff, Editor-in-Chief

to the written works in this issue belong to the individual authors.

Cover Painting: Mermaid by John William Waterhouse, 1901
Cover Layout: Amanda Bergloff

SEALSKIN by Jane Dougherty

She knew she would always love Ronan.
Ondine wondered why she could never
see him in his human form...
Every morning, Princess Ondine tied back the black waves of her hair, climbed out of her window, skipped across the silver sands, and dived into the sea. Beneath the waves, Ronan, a young man who looked like a grey seal with black spots, was waiting for her. Ondine wasn’t quite sure how she knew Ronan was a man as well as a seal, but she did. Something about his eyes, she thought.

Together they danced through sunbeams slanting through water, and Ondine knew she would never love anyone else. She wasn’t sure how she knew she would always love Ronan, but she did. Something about his eyes, she supposed. Every day, Ondine asked the Selkie why she could never see him in his human form.

“One day,” Ronan said, “you will.”

“I wish I could stay here with you,” Ondine sighed.

“One day,” Ronan said, “you will.”

But Ondine was only a princess, and the king had decided that his daughter was to marry Robert, the cruel but powerful emperor of all the lands at the other side of the ocean. On Ondine’s sixteenth birthday, Robert, demanded his bride, and the king rubbed his hands with satisfaction at the prospect of becoming the Emperor Robert’s closest ally.

The king watched over the preparation of his daughter’s dowry with an eagle eye, counting each gold piece and silver plate. He picked over the elaborate jewellery that was too heavy to wear and fingered the gowns of cloth-of-gold that were too stiff to move in. It almost broke his heart to part with such wealth. In fact, he clung to his gold coins and clunky jewellery so much he packed the great cedar wood dowry chest himself.
When all was ready, the king hung the keys to the chest around Ondine’s neck. “Remember, daughter, your bride wealth is the property of your husband,” he said. “No one but he must open the chest, on pain of death.”

With these grim words, he left her, probably unable to bear the separation from so much wealth, and servants escorted Ondine and her dowry chest onto Emperor Robert’s waiting ship. The captain and his crew said not a word to their royal passenger, but their faces were dark with distrust, and Ondine heard their discontented mutterings as they looked suspiciously at the sky.

Alone in her cabin, she cried and cried over Ronan and her plans to stay with him forever. She wept for her mother who had died when she was a baby and could not be there to comfort her. When she had shed a few tears for herself and her lost happiness, the princess began to wonder what else was in her chest besides a lot of silk and gold coins. But fear of her father’s pitiless expression stayed her hand when it drifted to the keys around her neck.

Instead, she peered out of the tiny window of the cabin that stank of fish oil where she was condemned to spend the entire voyage. Her gaze roved the waves, longing for a sight of the Selkie who had danced with her in the cove, with his laughing face and gentle eyes that looked straight into her heart. Not that she had a heart any more. She had given it to Ronan, and she imagined it in his hands, breaking into sorry fragments as surely as her dreams. At the thought of a future without Ronan, as the bride of a man she had never met, the tears burst out anew.
When Ondine dried her eyes, a face was smiling at her through the round window, a face with eyes full of all the tenderness and love in the world. “Ronan!” she cried and tugged open the window catch. “Take me with you. Even if I drown, as long as I am with you I will be happy.”
The Selkie laughed. “Open the chest,” he said, “and put on the garment you will find right at the bottom.”

“But what about the curse? My father forbade me to look inside on pain of death.”

“Your king father has captured the Four Winds and imprisoned them in this chest,” Ronan said. “They have the power to bring cold and famine, floods and storms—a terrible weapon in the hands of an evil man, and that is exactly where they are going. The King has promised the Four Winds to Emperor Robert. Let them free, the Winds will blow away his curse, and half the world will thank you.”

So Ondine took the keys from around her neck and opened the locks. When the third key turned, the lid sprang open, and the silks and brocades twisted and swirled as the Four Winds leapt from their prison.

“Ask,” they muttered, “and we will obey.”

“I don’t want to be obeyed,” Ondine said. “I just don’t want to marry Emperor Robert.”

“Ask,” the Winds hissed, “and this ship will never reach port.”

“So it won’t take me to Robert?”

For answer, the Winds danced and swirled about the tiny cabin twisting the bed sheets into a pink silk tornado. The door rattled open and a wisp of a wind stretched and reached its fingers up the gangway. The ship lurched as the wisp of wind stretched its hand higher and punched the sails. Angry voices from the deck grew louder, and boots clattered down the gangway.

“Why are you messing with the winds, witch?” the first mate shouted, bursting into the princess’s cabin. “Do you want to sink the ship?”

“We said it was bad luck to have a woman aboard,” cried the helmsman.

“Throw her overboard,” roared the captain.

“All right,” Ondine shouted over the din. “Winds, do what you promised. Then you will be free.”

With a howl of delight, the Four Winds twisted into a single rope that flowed like a spring flood out of the chest, out of the cabin, up the gangway and over the deck. The flood of wind spilled over the gunwales into the sea and whipped up the waves into glassy green mountains. It flew up the masts and bellied the sails. It swung the rudder back and forth until it snapped, and the ship sped out of control.
The crew raced about beneath the waves that crashed on the deck, tying stays, trying to furl the sails, but the tempest was too fierce. The voice of the gale was a scream of fury, so loud the princess almost didn’t hear the seal at the window.

“Look in the bottom of the chest,” he shouted.

In the bottom of the chest, beneath the silks and the taffetas and the silver plate and the gold coins, was a sleek grey sealskin with spots the colour of moonlight. With a cry of delight, the princess slipped it on. The Selkie princess slid through the porthole into Ronan’s arms, for now she saw the man, black-haired, white-skinned, within the sealskin. How she saw him, she wasn’t sure. It must be because she had a seal’s eyes too, she reckoned.

Now you can come with me,” he said, “and this time, I will show you the marvels of the deep.”

“And I won’t ever have to go back?” Ondine asked.

“Never in a thousand years,” Ronan said.
Together they dived into the emerald depths, and neither Ondine nor Emperor Robert’s ship were ever seen again.

Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France, writing novels, short stories, very short stories and poetry. She has been published in various places, including ‘Enchanted Conversation’.
Her Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/JaneDoughertyWriter she blogs at https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/ and tweets @MJDougherty33

Background Cover Painting: Undine by Arthur Rackham, 1909
Cover Layout: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

AGAINST NATURE by Rebecca Katz

The water beckoned me home.
But, I was determined, and
the city air was humid...
I am a siren, which means it’s hard not to drown men. It’s nothing personal. It’s just instinct, like a cat stalking a mouse or chattering at sparrows through a window. The water created us to live for centuries in her womb, but she was often a grave to humans, like the earth they preferred.

Yet Mother Water has been ailing. Every day there are fewer sirens and fewer virgin oceans, free of plastics that turn our homes into chemical traps. Only the furthest deeps are safe from roaring engines now. It’s a poor compromise to hide there singing to dumb animals.
So I left the ocean. I turned up naked near a port, where the sounds and smells of a human city startled me. There was traffic, metal, gasoline, a hundred unknown and pungent foods. I lay beneath a bridge for several minutes, adjusting. The water beckoned me home. But I was determined, and the city air was humid. That was promising: I would not have stayed in a desert.
I wandered into a boutique of overpriced clothing. At the time, I neither knew nor cared that it was overpriced. Humans wore clothes. I needed to pass as human. Therefore, I needed to cover myself. The cashier was a pimply young man whose eyes widened when he saw me. He didn’t mind or call the cops. I didn’t even open my mouth. The old trick—a siren’s beauty—bewitched him. I wanted to learn new skills among the humans, but not just yet. That morning, I was glad to leave the store minutes later wearing clean shorts and a too-large Canada t-shirt, on the house.
Human life had its trials. I learned that one needed to pay rent, which meant working. A large pharmacy hired me. At first I was useless. I made ugly displays of toilet paper or tissues, which crashed down and made uglier messes in the aisles. I did not understand how some packages contained the same kind of item—shortbread cookies or blood-red lipsticks—yet were not the same. Who cared about the names or pictures on the boxes? We had no brands and no trademarks in the water. The cash register terrorized me. There were too many buttons to push, too many codes to remember. I dreaded the days when they put me on cash. So did the customers, who made their contempt clear. Sometimes, when I left work, I was ready either to weep or to drown the lot of them. I could have managed it, too, even in the cramped, smelly pharmacy bathroom.
But there were joys on land as well. Florence, a cheerful, round-faced student who worked at the pharmacy, was my first human friend. She helped me clean up spills and opened extra cashes when I struggled. Sometimes, I found a mindless sort of pride in doing something right—in rolling glitter onto a young girl’s eyelids, and watching her face light up when I turned the mirror toward her. (She made her mother buy two of those little bottles, which we called eye shimmer.) In learning the buttons and keystrokes on the cash, eventually soaring through transactions I had never heard of before that summer. Within a month, I started to enjoy my work. It gave me time to observe humans and to talk with Florence.
“I need to get back in shape,” she said, during one of our breaks. “You’re lucky, Ondine. You’re built like a model. Me, I need to exercise. There’s a pool in my mom’s condo. Come with me sometimes? My mom’s too old, and it’s boring alone...”
That’s how I found my swimming pool. I had avoided them in those early weeks; they made me homesick. Besides, I wanted to succeed in a new element. Now that I was succeeding, I felt a dip in the water could do no harm.
Florence’s mother lived in a lovely building. The pool smelled of salt water, like the sea; no one had polluted it with chlorine. We spent many Saturdays there. Poor Florence would lament that I put her to shame in my bathing suit. I always changed the subject. I helped her improve her swimming strokes while she taught me the names people gave them, which I had never learned. My family did not speak of the front crawl, butterfly, or dog paddle. We simply moved through the water.
Florence helped me in other ways, too. The pool grew busier as the weather warmed, cresting to a dreadful July heatwave. Sometimes the noise of other swimmers made my head hurt. Deep sea creatures are not as loud or boorish as humans, I’ll say that for them. When I felt as if all the chatter had entered my brain, squeezing and choking the blood vessels, Florence would get out of the water, find her purse, and offer me aspirin. Then she would drive me home or take me to her mother’s for iced tea.
One family was especially nasty. An old grandfather winked at female swimmers, who wanted nothing to do with him; complained to his son about his gout or constipation; or whooped at the radio if they were giving the soccer score. If they weren’t—if building management had put on a different station—he would bang on the bench and complain about the music. His son, a father himself, was little better, hooting with the grandfather over sports. At least this specimen tried to pry Grandad away from women. There was a small grandson, too, a blond boy of about four. I worried for that child, even as I wished I could drown his family. What were those men teaching him?
Several times, I nearly dragged Florence from the pool the moment I saw them. Their voices grated, made my skull feel as if you’d loosed all the city traffic inside it. Worse, the instinct to bewitch, then drown them was almost overpowering. It was like a physical ache in every muscle. It rose deep in my diaphragm, where I would begin my song—the low, haunting, music of a siren. Then the urge would move to my tongue. It would be so easy to snare both men by licking my lips, looking them full in the face, doe-eyed, and as harmless as a cool glass on a hot day. At last the itch would creep along my arms, down to my fingertips. I would caress them as I held them struggling beneath the waves. It would take seconds…
I resisted. But it was hard not to see them as my enemies, until the day the boy drowned.
I was alone. Florence had a summer cold, but she had loaned me her key. The child was a strong swimmer, for one so young. He must have had lessons, but any human can find themselves in danger: water does not welcome their kind. It took only a moment. The father had turned away, seeking his ringing cell phone. Grandad wasn’t there. His gout had returned last week, and he’d complained loudly enough for the whole city to hear. Private apartments had no lifeguards, and the other swimmers were busy with their own workouts or their own children. I looked over at the boy by chance. He did not appear to be struggling, but I knew the signs. Wide, frightened eyes. Little arms bobbing on the surface, as if he were playing at some stroke he had not yet mastered. With each upward bob he had less time to exhale, then inhale, and none to call for his father. Then he sank deeper.
I wish I could say I moved instinctively, but that’s not quite true. I shot toward him through the water, kicking some teenagers, who yelped. I didn’t care. Within seconds I had pushed through the crowd and grasped the child around his small chest. He’d had no time to cry before, poor thing, but he cried now. A wail broke from his lips, to be cut short by gasps and coughs.
His father heard us at last. His face contorted and he threw down his phone before hurtling into the water. He was tall enough to stride toward us. The crowd had thinned, naturally. I presented the boy to his trembling father, who took him.
“Buddy—Noah, are you OK? Can you breathe, little buddy?”
“He’s breathing,” I said, “but call the authorities.”
Someone—a plump teenage girl, I think—found another cell phone and called 911. Father and son embraced and I noticed that, for once, the father was silent. Tears shone in his eyes. An ambulance arrived, and they left. I resumed my swim, shrugging away stares.
A week later the father found me and invited me to lunch with his family. He was restrained, still quiet, maybe a little awed. The child, Noah, bounced over and hugged me, before offering me a plastic car. His father ruffled his hair.
“We, uh, don't know how to thank you,” the man said. Once again, his eyes were bright and damp.
“You already have.” I held up Noah’s token. The father smiled, but insisted that I join his family the next day. I accepted.
As soon as I arrived for Sunday lunch, I found myself wishing I had brought Florence along. Noah was sweet. His grandfather, however, made me uncomfortable by gushing about my heroism and saying he would call the mayor or the papers—that the whole world should recognize me.
“Did the paramedics thank you?” he asked from his armchair. His fat frame was sinking into the green velvet. I imagined him sinking beneath my touch in the bathtub instead.
“They did.” I gritted my teeth. The mother, at least, inched into view and gave me a sympathetic look. Yet the sight of her long, glossy hair and pearl necklace felt like a punch to my ribs. She reminded me too much of my own family.
“Did the hospital call you to thank you?” asked the grandfather.
“I don’t think it works that way,” said Noah’s mother, “but we’re very grateful. I can’t even—”
She choked up. Tears filled her eyes, totally unnecessary, because her son was alive. I did not know what to do. I was proud of saving Noah, yet it was harder than ever to break bread with these humans in their chilly penthouse. The drowning itch burned even worse in my arms and my lungs. I had betrayed my nature. Did Mother Water want a sacrifice? A bloated corpse floating in the deep, to replace the one she had lost? Grandad would do nicely.
I accepted the humans’ praise, and told myself that I could make my own nature, write my own story, at least to some extent.
But it was a strain. Perhaps I would return to the water and my sisters while I still could. Perhaps I was due back home, for a visit if nothing else. And perhaps I would come back to Florence and this human city next summer, when the wind blows warm and the air is humid.

Rebecca Katz was born one winter night in the midst of a discussion of Victorian literature. She is currently a PhD candidate at McGill University. Her work has appeared in Enchanted Conversation, Every Day Fiction, and several academic journals. She lives in Montreal with her husband, too many plants, and a beautiful condo pool—an aspect of Mother Water.
Instagram: rebecca.katz3

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff


The Sea Witch emerged from the pool
with her fierce inhuman eyes and knew
the girl would agree to anything...
Once upon a time there was a young princess who lived in a sprawling castle by the sea with her father, the king. Her father was a wise man and seemingly in good health, which made it even more shocking and heartbreaking for her when he died suddenly, leaving her no immediate family or advisors to help her with her sudden new duties of reigning over an expanding kingdom as the queen.

Feeling grief-stricken and knowing she was too young to reign on her own, she tried to get him back by praying so that he could visit her and teach her his ways. Many nights passed and though the new queen managed to sleep some nights, her father did not visit, and her heart started to wither out of grief, confusion, and loss. The archbishop seemed of no use, neither did the soothsayer, the herbalist, the medicine man, or the court astrologer.

The young queen fell into a spiral of depression and desperation. Soon, she did the only thing she knew that would produce results. She disguised herself and walked alone from the palace toward the ocean then to the obscure cave on the right, where the Sea Witch lived. Everyone in the kingdom knew about the witch who lived in the sea, but only the truly desperate went to visit her, because she was very powerful and very mysterious.

The queen stepped foot in the chilly foam of the encroaching tide, made her way to the dark cave, and called to the Sea Witch. The Sea Witch emerged from the shallow, cold waters of the pool with her blue-hued skin, silver hair, eel tail, and fierce inhuman eyes, knowing from the sound of the girl’s desperate call that she would agree to whatever was asked of her. Even in the girl’s drab dress and unwashed face, the witch knew who the queen was.

She was trembling as she stood before the Sea Witch, wrists shaking, teeth chattering as she told the Sea Witch of her father, his sudden demise, the overpowering grief she felt, and the added weight of responsibilities as the new queen. He was young when he passed, she explained, and had no signs of illnesses. She had therefore not been trained in matters of the Court. She needed to lead her people but without his advice, she and her people would be doomed.

The queen seemed to age as she waited for a response. The Sea Witch had forgotten how much death impacted mortals, but still her eyes were stone. For she had long been waiting for an opportunity such as this and was very careful of her instructions, because she too wanted something.

The Sea Witch, for all her power, could not raise the dead, she explained to the distraught queen, but she could temporarily awaken them. She told her she would create a vessel that could bring her father back if she agreed to give the Sea Witch her eyes. The queen was startled at this form of payment, but this was the only transaction the Sea Witch would accept.

Eyes were very important to the Sea Witch and her disguises. No matter what the Sea Witch did, her eyes were completely dried out by the harsh saltwater of the ocean. Years of brine and spray had devastated them and as a result they looked and felt like chunks of onyx had been embedded in her sockets. They were the only feature her many potions and spells could not mask when it came to disguises. She could split tails and combine legs, but never transform eyes to deflect the damaging nature of saltwater. There was no masking it, and she couldn’t possibly charm everyone in her surroundings to only see human or mer-eyes when she needed a disguise to walk among the humans. As powerful as she was, even that was implausible. She would need a pair of human eyes to make the transition complete.

The queen was terrified, but she had no choice but to accept the Sea Witch’s terms. As soon as the queen gave her consent and her voice struck the walls of the Sea Witch’s cave, the Sea Witch dove down into the pool and swam out into the ocean.

The queen watched the ripples reflect off the walls, shimmering a ghostly blue off the low water in the cave. The eerie color and pattern were unsettling, but still she stood her ground, waiting for the Sea Witch to return. Her heart still ached for her dead father, and she could feel herself slipping into the deep ocean of internal grief when suddenly, the Sea Witch rose hours later, bearing with her a gray, mysterious urn and gave the magical instructions:

Sprinkle some of his ashes into the base of the urn, the Sea Witch said. Then fill the urn to the brim with water that flows from the fountain into your bedchamber. Place the urn on a bare table in a room lit only by candlelight and through the vapors, your father shall appear.

The queen asked how she could possibly see him when she would have no eyes and the Sea Witch replied that she wouldn’t see her father, but she would hear him and his advice. That, after all, was what she’d come for.

The Sea Witch set the urn off to the side of the cave and guided the queen over to a shallow area of the pool. Using a magical, jeweled knife, she cut out the queen’s eyes and placed them in a small box so that the salt from the water would not dry them out. The queen screamed in the new darkness, flailing her hands from the stinging pain and the crater of grief she still felt from her loss until the Sea Witch guided her back to the sands of the beach, placing the urn in her hands, the queen’s blood running down to the shore.

When the queen was gone, the Sea Witch returned to her cave, and, using the same magical knife, carved out her own eyes and replaced them with those of the queen. She blinked, savoring the moment and letting her eyes slowly adjust to the dark cave before slowly bringing herself out into the sunny surface of the ocean.

She glided, carefully keeping her head above water. As she drew nearer to the shoreline, she changed her bottom half into a pair of sturdy legs and changed her skin into a lovely shade of mahogany. Then she changed her hair to a soft pearl color, took away the deep wrinkles in her face and body, and gave herself a simple white dress to wear. For her last act before she left the water, she summoned the bag of treasure she’d gathered from all her hiding places in the ocean, then she stood on land, completely transformed.

Then she took the small, hard black stones that used to be her eyes in the palms of her hand and using all her strength, flung them into the middle of the ocean where they disappeared under the blue water. She then turned and walked barefoot on the sand, heading to the market of the small village, her sack of accumulated jewels swaying peacefully next to her newly constructed legs.

Meanwhile, a royal fisherman found the queen stumbling about on the warm, bright beach, carrying an unusual urn and blood pouring from empty eyes. He took her back to the palace and after her wounds were dressed by the court physician, the queen would not say a word about how or why her eyes had gone missing, nor would she let go of the urn she clutched in her hands.

She ignored the pain and set about to contact her father right away. She followed the Sea Witch’s instructions, although navigating the rooms newly blinded took her longer than she thought. She also used steady hands and utmost patience to fill the urn to the brim and not go one drop over. The queen didn’t spill anything and carefully made her way into the clumsily prepared room so she could hear her deceased father.

The queen stood still and awaited the misty composition of her father’s face to speak. It felt like hours, but finally the air about her changed and water formed into a vaporous configuration of her father’s face that she could feel with her hands. Tears of joy sprung to her sockets mixing with her blood- it was him. His voice was unchanged by death and his words contained messages that he would have spoken in life.

He told her of upcoming meetings and how to speak- who to address, who should stay in charge of what and who should be promoted or switched. The king also spoke of an impending war that the country needed to prepare for. Such a portent scared the queen, but she remembered to show bravery for the sake of her people- for without her father’s otherworldly knowledge, they would have no chance at fighting at all.

Toward the end, when all the water in the urn was nearly evaporated, she told him how much she loved him and how she would do her best to carry on in their family’s honor. With his last sentence, he said he loved her and was already proud of his loving, clever, strong girl who was sure to lead their people to new heights for the rest of her days.

The queen sat in silence for hours, letting his words wash over her, missing him, and thinking about what she must do for her people. The next day, she approached her council with solid plans on how to carry on with every aspect of the court- who to appoint, who should stay in position, and how to prepare for the upcoming war. The plans were well-received, and the new queen was praised for her grace under the pressure of becoming a new royal so quickly and under the heavy cloud of grief.

But the new queen still had one more thing she wanted to accomplish, and she didn’t care how long the duration. Her sockets had not stopped bleeding from the transition with the Sea Witch and she knew they wouldn’t until she found the Sea Witch’s eyes.

She had her royal fisherman plunge into the deep waters and scour the ocean floor for two black stones as hard as hate and as shiny as onyx. It took a very long time, but they found them, and the queen dropped them into the urn, filled the urn with her blood from the eye wounds that never healed, lifted the urn above her head and with all her might, brought it crashing down on the palace floor, smashing it into shards.

With the destruction of the urn, the queen’s eyes that were now housed in the Sea Witch’s face evaporated into salt, stinging the Sea Witch painfully before the rest of her ancient body turned to dust on the spot, and the queen’s sockets stopped bleeding.

The blood that was smeared on the palace floor from the urn changed into clean water, and the black stones that lay among the shards turned to beautiful opals with the power of foresight. The queen gently picked up the smooth gems and put them into her hollows. With her new abilities to predict the future and the guidance of her father’s words, the queen would now be able to lead her people with strength, grace, and protection in all her days.

December Lace is a former professional wrestler and pinup model from Chicago. She has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Molotov Cocktail, Pussy Magic Lit, The Cabinet of Heed, Dark Marrow and Rhythm & Bones YANYR Anthology, among others as well as the forthcomingRiggwelter Press and Coffin Bell. She loves Batman, burlesque, cats, and horror movies.
She can be found on Twitter @TheMissDecember and http://decemberlace.blogspot.com.

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff