1 comment

Fantasy Speculative


It's not a tattoo, exactly.

It's permanent, i think, but it's not made of ink, not pressed into skin by needles.

The dark swirls, thorns and branches, buds blossoming into flowers; somehow this feels too flimsy to be a tattoo.

Like its permanence and fixedness are not mutually inclusive.

As a sharp pain flashes behind my eyes, i watch the vine start to spread, darkness spidering all across my skin.


Baxter was missing. 

This was not unusual. He had taken to sneaking out the windows and running into the forest in search of squirrels. We were all fairly certain he never found any, but still he kept looking. 

Nevertheless, i had to find him. i rode my bike down the trail, headed downhill. About a mile into the forest, i saw Baxter, sitting stone still, staring at the tree the squirrel had disappeared into. Because what goes up… will no way jump to another tree and climb down somewhere else. 



The clearing was filled with spiderwebs. Baxter’s head was nearly obscured by one. It was unusual, because i couldn’t see any spiders, but perhaps they were hiding from the rain. The storm had happened almost instantly, with no warning for me or him. Drops of water ran along the silky threads, drip drip dripping into the ground. Where it touched the soaked grass, flowers sprung up in a swirl of smoke and shadow. 


The rain was pattering against the canopy of the trees. i ignored the sound, reaching my hand towards the dark flowers, dodging their thorns. i can’t explain why i was drawn so powerfully towards it, but i was. The bloom looked like a rose in shape, colors ranging from storm clouds to ink as black as night. As i touched the edge of a single petal, the smoky blossom engulfed my hand, fading into my skin, marking me with death.  


It's not a tattoo, exactly.

It's permanent, i think, but it's not made of ink, not pressed into skin by needles.

The dark swirls, thorns and branches, buds blossoming into flowers; somehow this feels too flimsy to be a tattoo.

Like its permanence and fixedness are not mutually inclusive.

As a sharp pain flashes behind my eyes, i watch the vine start to spread, darkness spidering all across my skin.


The stranger will emerge from the shadows of the trees, robes flowing from her as she steps into the grey blue light. Her name will be Eve, but she won’t tell me that until later. The flowers will be hers. She will walk with the grace and prowl of a large cat, her shoulders somehow commanding respect. i won’t know her, but i won’t be scared either.

She will take my hand, her long nails scraping over the mark she gave me, and speak for the first time. “Curiosity killed the cat,” she will say, her mouth turning up at the corners. It will startle me, because Kat is my name. She will be smiling, and it will feel like an inside joke we share. 


It will finally occur to me to ask about my mark. I will have decided to call it this, tattoo seeming wrong. Baxter will be following behind, as mesmerized by Eve as i am. Her response will clarify nothing.

“It is a gift,” she will say, eyes crinkling, “and declining a gift is the worst offence where I am from. Alice knows this.”

i will consider reminding her that my name is Kat, but somehow she won’t be talking about me. She will stay for five more minutes only, and then she will leave, and it is only then i will realize she answered none of my questions.


As far as i can tell, Eve won’t come back in the sun. The two times i have seen her, she dodges patches of sunlight, her robes fading into nothingness in the glow. The rain gives her power. But Eve isn’t the only one who lives in the forest and wears robes of smoke. 

There is another woman who hides in the trees, covered in dark vines, like mine. The ones on her face have stained her eyes blacker than night. 


The tree woman’s name is Alice. i mentioned Eve to her once, and a second later she was gone. Her hair is spun gold, and her fingertips are stained with ink. Nothing has ever surprised me about her, perhaps i knew her once, although i feel i would remember. 

Then again, my mind is lost of late, retreating ever further into the world of the trees and their shadows. 


Alice tells me of wonderland, the place she found following a rabbit into the forest. It was there she met Eve, and her sister Ava. Ava was more. 

More beautiful, louder and even more confusing and cruel. She carved out that rabbit’s heart with her perfectly red nails. 

They called her the Red Queen. 


The Queen believed, unlike her sister, that love was a game and hearts were made to conquer. The hunt, the play and the feast. The feast was one of victory. 

Eve believed that love was a delicate, wild flower with poison thorns. And Alice proved her right, when their love cut them both to the core. 


The very fact was that Ava left bloodstains on everything she touched. This was the reason that Eve hid Alice from her. 

Everything was Eve and Alice, Alice and Eve.

Ava was angry.

When Jane, a neighbor, brought her lover to the forest, neither left. 

That was the start of the questioning. 


The very nature of this decision meant that Eve would lose either way. The only question was, who would win alongside her? 

The problem was, that Alice and Ava were suspects. The police believed them to be responsible for the bodies, covered in blood, hearts ripped out of their chests. Only one could be guilty, and Eve had to choose who to save. 

Love is indeed poison. 


The officer’s name was Cheshire. She never stopped smiling, and her eyes held questions no one else could answer. She was the one who drove Eve to choose Alice. 

Simply for the reason, that Cheshire wanted her to choose Ava. 

“You fall in love many times, but your family is forever,” she said, “you can’t replace them.” 

Oh well. 


Hattie and Hara were drinking tea. 

That was what they did every weekend, such oddballs, those neighbors of the Queen. 

Once Alice was free, Eve took her to them, and Cheshire watched. She didn’t trust either, and with good reason. The party went well, considering Hattie had thrown it. Hara mostly slept through it. This was normal. The abnormal thing was Ava’s absence. Everyone felt it. Especially Eve. 


Halfway through the party, Eve toppled the table. It crashed to the ground, waking Hara, who cried, “she’s killing Time!” as she was separated from her dream. Eve ignored her, turning to Alice with hate in her eyes and declaring, “This is all your fault.”


“You’re mad,” cried Alice. Eve smirked, lolling her head to the side. All eyes were drawn to her as smoke curled around her shoulders. 

Her eyes sparkled with pain as she smiled, “We’re all mad here.” 


Flowers of smoke and shadow burst from the earth, forming a wall and caging everyone in. They closed inward, washing over Hattie and Hara first, turning them to statues of a Hare and a Hatter. Cheshire tried to climb away up a tree, but they zigzagged over her, forming stripes and she disappeared into thin air. And Alice-


“Long story short, you’ll be lucky if you die from this,” Alice will say, her voice trembling. She won’t be able to tell me the rest, it will be to painful.

She will tell me that there is only one way to survive. “What do i do?” I will say. She will look at me with a steady gaze. 


“Paint the roses red,” she says. She digs her nails into my wrist like talons, drawing scarlet blood.

 i smile as it falls in droplets to the ground. 

March 22, 2021 21:34

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Please tell me what you think. This story for me was an exploration of an abstract, darker writing style, instead of my usual defined, happy endings. Even so, I would still appreciate positive comments and constructive criticism only; and please don’t spellcheck the non-capitalized i’s, it was a style choice not bad grammar. It would mean a lot to me if you gave this a read, thank you so much. -Luna


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.