Snapshot: Charger

The phone charger is humming again. I’ve given up mentioning it to Brian, since he never seems to hear it. Just like the toaster and the DVD player and the light in the laundry. Doc Green said not everyone notices things like that, which is why she can’t hear the clock in her office whining even though it feels like a needle digging into your tympanic membrane. At least she believes me when I tell her about it, and sticks it in her drawer so I don’t have to hear it so much.

If I pull Brian’s phone off the charger now, he’ll be pissed, so I have no choice but to go back to my room. Everyone says I spend too much time in there (well, not literally everyone, but most of the people I know), but if they didn’t insist on having every goddamn thing plugged in and playing all the goddamn time, I might spend more time out here. I mean, honestly, probably not, because they still all talk too loud and all at the same time, which makes it impossible to understand what anyone is saying, and Brian thinks dubstep is good music to play before 9am even though I think it was actually created by Satan. (Not really Satan, it’s a metaphor.) And Brian’s not so good at keeping up with the cleaning schedule, even though Katrina does her best to keep on top of things, so sometimes the kitchen smells kind of gross. I mostly just hold my breath and try to grab my food and get out before I have to take another breath. I’m getting pretty good at holding my breath, actually. Not in a creepy way, like Mum was worried about, because I used to hold my breath when I was two until I went blue, but just so I don’t have to smell the lentils that ended up going down the drain and are still festering in the bend in the pipe.

I wonder how long lentils take to stop smelling in a pipe. I wonder if I put vinegar and bicarb down there it would stop smelling. Monday is my turn for kitchen duty, so maybe I’ll try it.

As predicted, Brian has to knock on my door to ask if I’m going to spend all day in my room. I told him I’ll be out later. His phone only takes about two hours to fully charge, usually, so I should be safe to come out around lunch time. Doc Green says not everyone plans their day out like that, but I don’t really believe her. How does anyone ever get anything done, if they don’t plan it? I’m never quite sure how much I should believe of what Doc Green says. I know she means well, but some of the things she says don’t make sense at all. I can believe that not everyone hears the same noises. There are people who can’t hear at all, so logically, there should also be people who hear a lot more than others. But if nobody planned their days, they’d just be bumbling about, hoping for the best, completely at the mercy of circumstance. That sounds like a special brand of hell, like trying to walk across a crowded room with your eyes closed when you’re used to being able see, except there are bear traps on the floor (more metaphor, and maybe some simile). Although, having lived with Brian for a year, perhaps I should be more open to the idea. He seems to actually like ‘taking things as they come’, even though that means he never hands up his essays on time, and sometimes forgets to turn up to things, like parties and dates.

To be fair, I’d probably forget to turn up to a date if I could. Dating is terrible.

I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about the idea of dating all morning. Of course, I haven’t succeeded, even though I’m supposed to be writing an essay myself. Sometimes I can’t compartmentalise the way I like to, and this is one of those times. It’s very frustrating, because writing about the Industrial Revolution is in no way related to the various terrors of dating, and I’m finding it very hard to concentrate.

Maybe I should have said ‘no’, but Marie caught me by surprise, and if I’m honest, I had been thinking about maybe imagining dreaming about going on a date with her at some indeterminate point in the non-existent future where I’m not an actual human disaster. So instead of saying what I should have said if I’d thought about it for more than two seconds, which was “no thank you, I don’t date”, I mumbled something indecipherable that apparently meant “yes”, because now I’m supposed to be meeting her in five hours for coffee.

Why does everyone say coffee instead of beverage? I hate coffee, I never drink coffee, but even I say “we’re meeting for coffee”. Verbal conventions are very strange sometimes.

Rationally speaking, it’s quite ridiculous for me to be nervous about this at all. I’ve known Marie for six months, and we’ve sat in the same cafe and drunk beverages together quite comfortably before. Apparently labelling something a date assigns a significance to the event that warrants three days worth of obsessive worrying. This kind of illogical reasoning is precisely what I would change about my brain if I could. People always assume it’s the social awkwardness or the lack of eye contact (who would want to actually look other people in the eyes?!) or the sensory sensitivity, but I would be perfectly happy with all of these if they were accompanied by a more logical and rational thought process. Sadly, Doc Green tells me this isn’t possible, because I am still human. I think she thought I was half joking, which is why she didn’t take it very seriously. However, if I could find a way to rewire my brain to increase its logic circuitry (metaphor), I would do it in a heartbeat.

Why couldn’t we just keep having beverages in cafes without calling it a date? Ugh, human beings are infuriating. And I have an essay to write. I hope I can concentrate long enough to finish it.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.

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The Hairy Peasant

Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Rapunzel. Don’t ask me why – she was an amiable girl, and almost certainly didn’t deserve it, but so it was, and she was stuck with it. Rapunzel lived with her parents in a small hovel near the village of Hornswagger-Upon-Lyme (it didn’t deserve it, either), where they tended a farm. Their land, and the village, and a lot of other things that I would mention if they weren’t so very dull, were owned by Lord Aussohl McLaudeponce, who certainly did deserve it.

Rapunzel and her family were, as is usual for peasants (and if the word hovel had not made it clear enough) very poor. They were humble people, however, and were no more given to complaining than the average farming peasant (a tendency that I shall charitably leave to the reader’s imagination) until the approach of Rapunzel’s 16th birthday. Rapunzel’s coming of age ought to have been an event of celebration, but alas, for girls on Lord Aussohl McLaudeponce’s land, this was a time of great fear and despair.

On some estates, perhaps, some girls would have been protected by a lack of certain personal charms, but McLaudeponce could not be accused of fussiness – merely of being a gigantic, unutterably foul, disgustingly base, odiferously malodorous scumbag. He preyed on young women according to an ancient, and thus repugnant law, which stated that a Lord could claim the unmarried daughters of his tenants provided they were of age. The scarcity of the population meant that this rarely happened, and most families ensured their daughters were safely married to the closest available Nice Young Lad before they came of age, but a dearth of Nice Young Lads meant that Rapunzel, despite being rather plain, was now facing the very worst of fates. And McLaudeponce was as happy as a… as a… Well, as happy as a thoroughly debauched man when faced with legally justified debauchery, the bastard.

Fortunately for Rapunzel, her parents had a Plan. Rapunzel’s mother had a sister, whose name was Winnifred Weeshcroft (poor dear). In a turn of events that should have surprised nobody, Winnifred had, as a young woman, Got Ideas, and had thus been run out of the village for being a witch. Concluding that, if one were to suffer the indignities of being an accused witch, one might as well go the whole hog and deserve them, Winnie had promptly settled down to a life of arcane study, devil worship, and the under-the-table healing of everyone in the village. For while one must publicly condemn all witchcraft, it is quite another thing to trust a mere doctor to treat a fever.

Winnie built herself a small tower in the woods, with a single, large room at the top, where she lived. The tower had no doors or windows other than those at the top, and its smooth walls were utterly unclimbable. The only way in was to fly (Winnie, as a witch, naturally had a broomstick for this purpose), which meant that not only was Winnifred safe from tedious witch-burning parties, but she never got woken up by Jehovah’s Witnesses on Saturday mornings.. It was to Winnie that Rapunzel’s parents turned, begging her to hide their daughter from McLaudeponce until they could find the requisite Nice Young Lad for her to marry.

Winnifred, who had kept herself out of village business for so long that she’d been quite unaware of Lord Aussohl’s ‘tradition’ (which his father, by the by, had not followed), was absolutely incensed. She agreed at once to take Rapunzel into her home, and declared that she herself should do something about the puffed up little tadpole who called himself a lord. Rapunzel was immensely relieved to be free from the immediate danger (although she hoped to yet convince her aunt to take her on as an apprentice, and thus avoid the necessity for finding a Nice Young Lad), and she and Winnifred slipped away from the village under cover of darkness the very night before Rapunzel’s birthday. (Perhaps, dear reader, you think they ought to have arranged Rapunzel’s escape a little further ahead of the dreaded date, to avoid any unnecessary danger, and I am quite of your mind. But pray remember, her parents were peasants, and one can only expect so much of people who spend 10 hours out of every 12 thinking of turnips.)

As soon as she had made Rapunzel comfortable in her new home, Winnifred immediately began to prepare for her first foray into political activism. Her first concern was to make it possible for her niece to exit and enter the tower unaided, since it would be rather unpleasant to be stuck in the top of an unassailable tower without the means to get down, no matter how safe you were from the local lordship. Winnifred therefore laid a charm on Rapunzel’s hair that made it grow unnaturally fast and long, until there was a great rope of it coiled about Rapunzel’s feet, enough to allow her to abseil down the side of the tower if she chose. It was, of course, magic hair, which would obey only the commands of the wearer, so perhaps Winnifred thought it would be safer than a garden-variety rope ladder, but the general opinion when the story was told later, was that this solution was utterly ridiculous. Witches often are ridiculous; it was believed at the time that there was something in magic itself that rendered practitioners a little doo-lally, but the truth is (as I’m sure you, enlightened reader, are well aware) that all humans are completely ridiculous, and magic merely provides the opportunity to be more obvious about it.

Rapunzel waved her aunt farewell with good cheer, having that innocent faith in the power of witchcraft that is common to commoners in general. She settled into her new home to wait and be Bored – something not frequently experienced by farmers, and something which Rapunzel planned to enjoy to its fullest extent. She had only just begun to feel restless, however, when she heard a voice hailing her from outside. She frowned, and crossed her arms, and attempted to ignore the hullooing from outside, but it was no use. She was Interested, and once one was Interested in something, all hope of true Boredom was instantly banished. She sighed and went to the window, determined to send whoever it was on their way as quickly as possible, and fervently hoping they said nothing original with which she would be obliged to be fascinated. Sadly for Rapunzel and her determination, the figure who waited below was quite the opposite of Boring, and quite failed to realise how really inconvenient this was.

“What do you want?” demanded Rapunzel, rather sharply. The figure below, who had just this moment alighted from her horse, looked up. She was clearly a knight, although not the daft kind, who ride around on hot days in metal pots attempting to broil themselves and bash each others’ brains in with lances. She was dressed instead in sensible chain mail, wore sensible boots, carried a sensible sword, and overall looked rather too sensible to be a knight in the first place, but I suppose everyone has their little whims.

“I say,” said the figure, “what are you doing up there?”

“I live here with my aunt,” replied Rapunzel, and added, “She’s a witch, you know,” in the hope that the knight would take the hint and go away. Sadly for Rapunzel, this did not have the desired effect.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” said the knight. “Would you like me to rescue you?”

Rapunzel frowned, rather puzzled that anyone would think she’d need rescuing from her own aunt.

“No, thank you,” she said (for her mother had taught her to be polite, even to people who made no sense). “I’d really rather stay where I am, since if you take me home, Lord Aussohl McLaudeponce will have his wicked way with me, which is why Aunt Winnie brought me to stay with her in the first place.”

Now it was the knight’s turn to look puzzled.

“Are you sure?” she asked, after a moment’s thought. “Only, it’s usually witches who are wicked, and noblemen who do the rescuing, you see.”

“Have you met any noblemen?” said Rapunzel, quite astonished at this hitherto unheard-of phenomena of noble noblemen. The knight thought for another moment.

“Good point,” she said. “Well then, if your aunt the witch is keeping you here to keep you safe from Lord Wotshisface, where is she? Surely she shouldn’t leave you alone up there?”

“Oh, she’s gone to give Lord Aussohl a right thrashing,” said Rapunzel. “I’m perfectly safe up here. Nobody can climb up, you see, and I can get down if I need to, by using my hair.”

“Fair enough,” replied the knight, who by this point, was willing to accept almost anything. “Are you sure you don’t need rescuing?” she added, rather hopefully.

“No, I’m quite all right.”

“Well, suit yourself,” grumbled the knight (whose name, I should perhaps have mentioned earlier, was Sir Beatrice Rideswhelle, for some incomprehensible reason). “Would you object if I went and offered my services to your aunt?”

“Not at all,” said Rapunzel. “I’m sure she’d be happy to have you.”

“I’ll bid you good day then!”

“Good day, and good luck!”

And with that, Sir Beatrice rode off, leaving Rapunzel to her quest for Boredom, which you will be happy to hear, she achieved a mere two hours and thirty six minutes after Sir Beatrice had left, which shows some natural talent, I think.

It was, as it turned out, rather fortunate for Winnifred that Sir Beatrice had been in such desperate need of a rescue mission. Winnifred had begun her quest to give McLaudeponce a right thrashing with quiet aplomb, but it had quickly gone Aussohl up. Upon approaching the keep, she had easily disabled or terrified the guards (three of whom ran away and became quite excellent sailors as a result of her sudden appearance in the gatehouse), had made at least two noble ladies faint at the state of her shoes, and had managed to blast open the doors of the main hall with surprising ease.

Sadly for her, she was here set upon by not only Lord Aussohl’s personal guard, but also his personal wizard, Sir Vankstein. She could have beaten either of them on their own, but together, they were too much for her. She promptly found herself chained, thrown in the dungeon, and facing death by burning the next day at noon (dawn is more traditional, but Lord Aussohl wasn’t a morning person, and he hated to miss a good witch burning). She was feeling quite cross with herself, and wondering just how she was going to get out of her fix, when Sir Beatrice showed up. Faced with the prospect of not only giving an evil lord a good thrashing, but also of rescuing an innocent political prisoner (innocent can mean almost anything to the right kind of mind), Sir Beatrice was happier than a unicorn eating cake on a rainbow.

The rescue itself was, to Sir Beatrice’s mind, rather dull. Her horse pulled the bars out of the window with pathetic ease, Winnifred squeezed through without any of the usual unnecessary comic relief of getting stuck halfway, and the blacksmith was having a half-day holiday, so it was no trouble at all to borrow his tools to remove the witch-proof manacles from Winnie’s wrists.

“I say,” said Sir Beatrice, as they made their way stealthily back toward the main hall. “I hope this Laudeponce’s guard is going to be a bit more challenging than this rescue lark.”
Winnifred, who never hoped for unnecessary hardship if she could possibly help it, looked askance at her companion.

“I should think they’ll be challenge enough for one knight. There are twelve of them, after all.”

“Excellent,” said Sir Beatrice. “I’ll leave wizard to you then.”

One might have expected them to have come up with a rather more complex plan than this, but Sir Beatrice wasn’t really the tactical type, and after being locked in a dungeon all night, Winnifred was feeling rather too testy for strategy. Fortunately for them, they didn’t require it. Winnifred was quite capable of disabling Sir Vankstein (I shall not describe the process, in deference to my more delicate readers), and Sir Beatrice had a lovely time giving Lord Aussohl’s personal guard a right thwacking. (It would pay to add that if the personal guard had paid attention in guarding lessons, they would have had a far better chance against the knight; but they still had the vague notion that it was unsporting to take on a fellow swordsperson more than one or two at a time, and therefore allowed themselves to be roundly beaten.)

Lord Aussohl and the few lesser nobles of the keep were initially too surprised to react at all, and by the time they realised they should have been running away, Winnifred had already bound them to their seats with magic rope (the ordinary kind just isn’t reliable – after a few good spells, it frays quite alarmingly). As you can imagine, Lord Aussohl McLaudeponce did receive his thrashing, and more besides, since when the villagers found out he and his soldiers were at their mercy, I’m afraid they rather let themselves get carried away. The result was that, by the end of the day, McLaudeponce, his nobles, and his wizard, had all been beheaded, their heads displayed from the keep walls, and their bodies burned on the pyre intended for Winnifred.

Rapunzel’s parents were quite surprised when their daughter announced she had no intention of coming back to be a farmer, but when they considered how useful it was to have a witch in the family, they weren’t too disappointed. Winnifred was glad of the company in her tower, particularly once she found that her niece’s hair made the finest magical rope in existence. They became quite wealthy selling it to wizards (who are generally hopeless at those sort of handcrafts, the lazy buggers), and were eventually able to buy from the Crown the land on which the villagers – and Rapunzel’s parents – lived and worked, and return it to those who needed it most.

And no young maiden was ever forced to marry a Nice Young Lad before her sixteenth birthday ever again, which not everyone was happy about, but as I am rather on the side of the young women in this case, I shall say no more about it.

This adaptation is the property of Cambrey Payne 2017. Please acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.

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The Sleeping Princess

Greetings, lovely readers! It’s been far too long, but I’m back at it again. Check in every Monday to get the latest update – there will be short stories, comics, and I will also be posting weekly rants over on my feminist blog (found here: https://msmcrantypants.wordpress.com/ ). Please give me a like and a follow, and check out my Facebook page (found here: https://www.facebook.com/cambrey.payne3 ) for more content, including YouTube chats and songs, and general fictionating. 🙂

– Love Cam

Once upon a time, there was a small kingdom, over which much of the old magic still held its sway. Despite many blessings, the king and queen were saddened, for they had no heir, and the queen had passed the age at which she could hope to bear a child. In a last, desperate attempt to save his family line, the king approached a fairy for help, though he had little faith in the old powers. The fairy agreed to help the king, but in return, she asked that the king return the Great Eastern Forest to the fairy folk, to whom the Forest had belonged before the king’s great great grandfather had conquered them many years ago. The king, hardly believing the fairy could grant him his wish, agreed.

In time, the queen seemed to become ill, and the king cursed the fairy who had promised him a future that now looked impossible. Yet the cause of the illness soon became clear, and the king’s despair was turned to joy, for the queen was with child. She was not young, however, and her pregnancy was difficult. It ended, as such things often do, with the queen’s death, even as the king’s wish was granted. As he held his only child, however, he felt no happiness. His cherished wife was dead, and instead of the heir he desired, he had been given a daughter. The king’s grief knew no bounds, and in his rage he refused to honour his promise to the fairy. In return for this treachery, the fairy promised him that he would not see his daughter reach adulthood. The little princess was cursed to die before her eighteenth birthday, a revenge all the sweeter to the fairy folk who knew how much greater the king’s pain would be once he had grown to know and love his daughter.
The king called out his army against the fairy folk who had thus cursed his family, and hunted down every last one he could find. But the fairy who had done the mischief, and all her court, retreated far into the Great Eastern Forest, where the king – despite all his efforts – could not find them.

It so happened that during this purge, three young fairy folk were captured who, rather than surrender themselves to inevitable death, offered their services to the king in exchange for their freedom. They told the king that, while they could not undo the curse that had been placed upon the little princess, they might yet be able to mitigate the worst of its effects. Rather than dying, they said, the princess would fall into a deep sleep, a sleep that would be ended when a worthy suitor bestowed upon her highness the kiss of true love.

The king, though now despising all things magical, agreed to spare the fairies in order to save his daughter’s life. For though he had not yet learned to value her as he would a son, she was yet his child, and he loved her. So the fairies cast their magic and were released, whence they fled to the North and away from their native lands, for fear their own kind would seek to punish them for their betrayal.

Time passed, as time does. By the time the little princess was three years old, there were no longer any fairy folk to be found in the kingdom, for those few who escaped the purge had gone deep into hiding. Life in the kingdom settled back into its usual routine, and the seasons continued to turn. The princess grew, and in the absence of her mother, became the centre of her father’s life. She was a handsome girl, and though rather indulged, was not mean-spirited and was only a little selfish, in the way of most privileged children. She was never told of the war that had begun because of her birth, and her father protected her most assiduously from any rumours, for fear she would blame him for his actions. As she approached her eighteenth birthday, however, she noticed her father’s increasing disturbance, and was worried for him. After many nights of entreaty and many professions of concern, her father relented and told her of the curse, and of the slim hope that had been granted him, for even now, he doubted the word of the three fairies who had promised to save his daughter.

The princess was naturally shocked by this tale, but found such fantastic ideas impossible to believe. She comforted her father as best she could, and tried to hide her fear that he might be losing his faculties, for surely such tales could come only from the most fevered of minds. Yet her doubts were proved false, for on the eve of her birthday, she was taken suddenly ill, and fell into a dead faint. She was carried to her bed, and the best physicians in the city were called to her service, but to no avail. The princess had sunk into a deep slumber, from which no medicine could revive her. The king was struck anew with grief, and his daughter’s continuing life was but scant comfort. For although she still breathed, she was gone from him, and he knew not how to awaken her.

His advisors, however, knowing of his agreement with the fairies, called upon all the young noblemen within their reach. At first, there were many volunteers willing to attempt to save the handsome young princess. But after the first young man kissed the princess, the other volunteers found themselves suddenly unwilling to take such a risk. For the fairies had neglected to warn the king of the danger of their spellwork: if a suitor who was not worthy of the princess were to kiss her, he would be instantly undone. And as fairies take their business quite literally, the undoing of the young nobleman was quite unpleasant and quite irreversible, as the very dust that made up his body was torn asunder and spread upon the four winds.

Despite this horrific danger, over the years, there were yet young men willing to attempt to awaken the princess. They met, every one, with the same end, and the princess remained deep in sleep.

In time, the king died, and his kingdom passed to his cousins, who, through continual squabbles over who had best right to the throne, eventually tore the kingdom apart, and it was divided up between the neighbouring countries. The palace, having little tactical, or any other kind of significance, was allowed to fall into disrepair. The inhabitants at first thought to move the princess, who, despite the passing of the years, was still as fresh and lovely as the day on which she had fallen into sleep. But there was no one brave enough to touch her, and she remained hidden in the palace, watched over at first by nearby villagers, but eventually forgotten. The villagers had only vague memories of what had happened to the castle, and stayed away for fear it was cursed. All that remained of the princess was her legend.

There were, at times, young men who came to explore the Great Eastern Forest, and who often travelled afterward past the castle on their way to more adventures. Hearing the legends, they would venture to explore the castle in search of the mysterious cursed princess. They never returned.

One day, over a century later, two young knights approached the village, fresh from seeking adventure in the Forest. One, Darion, was a nobleman from a neighbouring country, the other his cousin, Elina. They cared little enough for one another, for he resented her superior skill with a sword, and she his legal right to her father’s property (for her father had no sons). Their fathers had sent them on a Great Tour together in the hope that the sharing of trials and adventures would do what two decades companionship had not. Their plan was unsuccessful, however, and the pair arrived in the village as unsatisfied with one another as they had been at the beginning of their journey.

As with most noble adventurers, the pair broke their journey at the Grey Pony Inn, where they were treated by the innkeeper to the old tale of the castle. Darion was greatly struck with the idea of a sleeping princess and a cursed castle – not least because, should the princess exist, this was a campaign in which his cousin could surely not best him – and, though Elina doubted the veracity of such legends, she was yet interested in exploring the abandoned castle for its own sake. Both had seen enough of fairy folk in the Great Eastern Forest to know that such places could, indeed, be hubs of magic and adventure, and they had not yet had enough of either to content the voracious appetites of the young. To the castle, therefore, they went.

Darion, claiming the right of the eldest (by a mere seventeen days), was the first to ascend the stairs, which were blanketed with dirt and the banister wound around with thorned vines that crept underfoot and sought to trip the unwary. They made their ascent safely, however, and set about making their separate explorations of the upper floors of the castle. After some time, and finding nothing of great interest beyond a beautiful prospect of the distant mountains, and some interesting historical architecture, Elina decided to seek out her cousin so they might return to their inn and prepare for their departure the next day. After searching for some time, she found him in an upper room that she had not yet explored, standing over a large, canopied bed. When she asked him what he did, he would not reply, and coming into the room, she saw why. Upon the bed lay the figure of a young woman, perhaps a little younger than themselves. She was clearly sleeping, and, though covered in a layer of dust, appeared otherwise quite healthy. There was still colour in her cheeks, and her breathing was deep and even.

Darion could not draw his eyes from the young woman’s face. His expression was rapturous, although Elina knew him well enough to understand that it was not the young woman who captured his fancy, but rather the prospect of further adventure, further risk, and – if he should succeed in waking the legendary princess – further glory. Elina, however, felt no such emotions, and warned her cousin to be wary of the curse of which the innkeeper had warned them. While she voiced her concern for her cousin, however, she could not help feeling sorry for the sleeping princess, who had been the unknowing subject of so many Darions over the decades, and who would probably, were she to ever know of it, be quite horrified at the attention her poor sleeping form had received. Were she to ever be so cursed, Elina thought, she would want such a protection as had been offered this maiden, for she was sure it was only the fear of being dissolved that kept unscrupulous men at bay.

Darion, however, comprehended none of his cousin’s sympathy, nor any of her fears. Taking off his gloves, he knelt beside the sleeping princess and laid a kiss on her flushed lips. The princess moved not a muscle, and Darion, after regarding her hopefully for a moment, stood. He turned to his cousin, intending to deride her for baseless fears, but found he could not speak. His disappointment turned to horror, but only briefly, for the fairy curse took hold quickly, and he had not even time to scream before he was transformed into dust and blown away upon the late breeze.

Elina, watching Darion’s undoing with more shock than despair, was frozen to the spot. It was one thing to hear of such magic, and quite another to witness it. It was many long minutes before she could force herself to move, and when she came to her senses again, she was overcome with disgust and pity when she realised that much of the dust overlaying the princess’s form must have come from countless undone suitors.

Although it made her sick to her stomach, she approached the bed and, keeping her gloves on, began to brush the dust from the princess’s sleeping form. After a moment, however, she found there was no respectful way to do so properly, and decided that the only course of action was to return to the inn for some blankets, which might be used to brush the dust off, and then to cover the princess against further injury. As she stood to leave, she laid one gloved hand on the bare hand of the princess.

“I shall return soon,” she assured the sleeping girl. “Have no fear. I will not harm you.” And, all unthinking, she kissed her gloved fingers and laid them on the hand of the sleeping princess, as if to reassure her, for she felt keenly sorry for the girl. Then she turned to go.

Elina had almost reached the door when she heard a rustling of fabric, a creaking of ancient bed-ropes (it was surely only magic that could have kept them intact so long) and a drawn out sigh. Turning, all astonished, she saw the princess sit up, blinking in the late afternoon light and utterly bemused to find her bedchamber ruined and inhabited only by a strange knight.

I will leave it to the reader to decide for themselves what happened next, but I think if they were to imagine that Elina’s comforting presence went some way to easing the pain of a century’s sleep, and led eventually to more adventuring, in which the princess (whose name was Penelope) happily joined as Elina’s closest companion, they would not be too far from the truth.

And it remains only to be observed that fairy folk rarely observe the limiting customs of such small minded humans as often occupy the ruling classes, and that perhaps they know better than such humans what they require. (And perhaps, most important of all, the fairy folk should never be treated as tradespeople to have demands made of them, but that is a lesson no human has yet learned, and I suspect no human ever will.)

This work is based on the traditional fairytale ‘Sleeping Beauty’. This adaptation is the property of Cambrey Payne 2017. Do not repost without original link, and acknowledging sources when sharing.

Dawn

I wrote this about a year ago while listening to “Samson” by Regina Spektor and found it while re-reading my old work. I thought it would be a good place to start the new blog and the new year. Enjoy!

Dawn was her favourite time of day, even though she rarely saw it. There was a freshness to it, a hush that came at no other time. She managed to see it that morning. He’d teased her into bed early last night, although it had been late before they slept, his breath warm on her hair.

She treasured the stillness, there in that half hour before true daylight came. For the other twenty three hours she could hardly sit still for a minute. If she was reading, she played with her bookmark. If she was watching television, she finished a crossword. When she wrote, she chewed on her pens. Even in sleep she moved restlessly, but it didn’t bother him. He could hear the music in the twitching and darting of her mind.

She could see him from where she was curled on the couch, the first golden edges of morning striking the side of his face and sparking lights in his dark hair. He had a gift for stillness. His eyes were closed as his chest rose and fell slowly, his face relaxed as he counted breaths. She felt her heart expand, pushing against the confines of her rib cage as it always did when she caught him in moments like this, without his usual veneer of self-consciousness. It felt as though the world paused in wonder at her sheer joy in loving him.

The room where he sat twined around him like a second skin of warm timber and white plaster and glass. The flatscreens and cables and control boards were softened by the three guitars, the cello, the upright piano, the sheafs of paper and heaps of notebooks; just by his presence. The space was their souls given three dimensions and drawn together. It was where they could give voice to their hearts, even though they could pass days in that room together with barely a word.

The rug was reds and blues and oranges, the first thing they had chosen when they moved here. They’d lain on those colours in the empty room and looked up at the bare bulb hanging from the cathedral ceiling and laughed at nothing. The bulb was no longer bare and the room was crammed with desks and instruments and the trappings of their lives but the rug was still clear. Sometimes, on the late nights when the composing or writing or studying had come to a halt, they’d lie there and talk or laugh or just breathe in each other’s presence.

He began to stir, slowly emerging from his stillness. As if it were a sign, a blackbird trilled outside the window. She untangled herself and padded over the slate of the kitchen floor, always cold against her bare feet. She lit the stove under the silver coffee maker and inhaled appreciatively. Even though she only ever drank tea, the smell of the freshly ground beans was delicious. On the road below, barely visible through the leaves of oak and liquid amber and eucalyptus, the first early car pulled out of its driveway. The blackbird outside was joined by three compatriots, all four industriously displacing the even layer of mulch that had been laid only the evening before.

She leaned against the sink and watched them for a few minutes while the coffee brewed. A kookaburra gurgled a few houses down and a child shouted in the distance. The hills steamed golden in the sunrise, although the valley below was still in deep shadow. There had been a heavy dew last night. She could still smell it, mingling with the scent of coffee and the nectarines in the bowl on the windowsill. It was still early enough in the season that the dew would be burned off completely within the hour.

And then dawn was over and it was daylight.

She heard the pad of his feet behind her and his arms slid around her waist.

“Good morning.”

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2015. Please acknowledge your sources when sharing.