Contest #88 winner 🏆

No More Happy Endings

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write about an author famous for their fairy tale retellings.... view prompt

160 comments

Sad Fiction

Once upon a time…

…there was only war. She leapt up in triumph, blood dripped from her sword as she swung it down on the beast’s neck, hacking in a frenzy. She laughed. The taste of blood and sweet revenge urged her on in her manic slaying of the creature that had…

No, no that wasn’t right.

Once there was a girl who…

…who had a monster in her, clawing at the surface every waking moment she…

No! Not that either.

There was once a little girl who…

Who what?

Tearing the page away and crumpling it into a ball, he threw it over his shoulder to join its growing mass of brethren on the floor. It was dark in the office, the curtains shut to block out the intrusion of the light. He worked by a single lamp, its artificial brightness casting shadows about the room. Shadows were better than ghosts, he supposed.

He licked his dry lips, ignoring his thirst and the beginnings of a headache. When last had he drunk anything? No, that wasn’t important. This was.

On the book shelf behind him, the row of his best sellers stared down mockingly at him. They were not stories like the one he was trying so desperately to write. These were horror retellings of traditional fairy tales. Stories where the wolf ate the girl, the evil queen became the fairest in the land and giants ruled the world below. There were no good endings there.

‘Why can’t you write a happy story?’ a childish voice whined in his ears.

He turned, almost expecting her to be standing behind him, but there were only the shadows and his books. Those books that had taken so many hours. So much time. Why had he wasted so much time?

“I’m trying,” he whispered, pushing the thoughts of wrath and pain away.

A long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a girl who…

He got up, reaching for the first book on the shelf, his first novel. The snarling face of an undead Cinderella stared up at him. What had he missed writing this? Her first birthday? Her first word? He couldn’t remember just now.

Opening it, he peered down at the dedication, the only indication he had remembered her at all. Who dedicates a horror book to a baby? He was such an idiot.

He tore the page out and then the next…and the next….and the next. One by one, they fell to the floor like snow until his movements became erratic, gripping handfuls at a time and ripping them out. He grabbed another book, a cannibalistic Gretel greeted him, her brother’s severed head grinning at the reader. This one too joined the flurry of paper on the ground.

“Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” he chanted to himself, almost screaming the words out.

Book, after book, was torn apart, helping him vent his rage in that dark room. He finally collapsed on the floor, exhausted to his bones. The blank pages of his notebook waited for him. He put his head back and closed his eyes.

~.~

The world was bright. Sunlight dabbled down through the leaves of the trees in the forest as he road out on his white horse. It had been a long and treacherous journey. He had faced dragons and monsters. He had climbed mountains and ventured deep underground. His adventures had taken him far and wide; he had seen places he couldn’t have dreamed of, but it was worth it. All to get to this point.

He had finally found her.

The princess had been stolen away from them suddenly by a wicked fairy who cast a terrible curse on her. The cure to this curse was almost impossible to find and many times the brave king had come close to giving up hope.

The path led him deep into the forest, past whispering trees and sweet song birds that heralded his coming.

A gilded, glass coffin lay in the centre of a clearing. As he approached, he could see her sweet face through the opaque glass, gently dreaming. He got off his horse and approached, the cure, a magical flower in hand. He stepped forward, his boots sinking into soft moss as the perfumed scent of the forest hit him.

Lifting the lid, he laid the flower, its golden petals gleaming, onto her little chest and waited.

And waited.

“Darling,” he whispered, “it’s time to wake up.”

Her angelic face, framed in the golden halo of her hair, remained impassive. He bent down, pressing his lips to her cool forehead and feeling his eyes sting.

“Please princess,” he begged, “Please wake up.”

The gilded coffin faded to crisp white sheets, the forest to the stark walls of the hospital room. The sweet smell was the acrid scent of chemicals used to clean the floors and the gentle bird song became the slow beep of the heart monitor.

He sat crouched over her bedside, holding her cold hand in a death grip, eyes red from crying all night. His little girl lay still on the bed, her usually plump cheek sallow and the glow lost from her skin. Her beautiful, golden hair was all gone now and she wore a cap to keep her head warm. She was connected to more wires and tubes than he thought possible for such a tiny human being.

Her eyes remained closed, trapped in her dream world forever.

“Please,” he cried, “Please wake up!”

‘Why can’t you write a happy story, Daddy?’

~.~

 “Paul? Paul!” the voice was coming to him from far away, slowly dragging him out of the dream, “Honey, wake up!”

His eyes opened blearily. Someone had opened the curtains and window, letting the sunshine leak in. A mess of paper covered the floor and his wife was peering down at him, her gaze worried.

“You need some water,” she said softly, coaxingly, “And some food. Come on, love.”

She tried to pull him up, but he gripped her by the arm, gaze searching. She looked so much like their little princess, with the same golden hair and sweet face. There were bags under her eyes, betraying how tired and sad she was, a mirror of his own face. His heart clenched painfully.

“I said I’d write it,” he mumbled out, it seemed important she know, “I was trying to write a happy story. I promise.”

She leaned forward, wrapping her arms around him and bringing them close together. He shuddered in her arms, letting himself get pulled in by her warmth. Hot tears found their way down his face as he clutched close to her.

“I know,” she soothed, “She’ll really like that.”

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a little girl…

…who was loved, very, very much. 

April 03, 2021 16:47

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160 comments

Maya Botti
00:29 Apr 17, 2021

I love your story! It's beautifully crafted and very detailed! A well deserved win!

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Brian Mangum
23:51 Apr 16, 2021

Whew! That one got me. What an impact that final blow has. Your story knocked the wind out of me.

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Fay Winter
23:22 Apr 16, 2021

This is a really gripping story! I loved this so much, you really know how to pull your reader in! I can't wait to read more of your stories ... Congrats on winning! You deserved it

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Shea West
22:47 Apr 16, 2021

You managed to capture something so huge and profound in such a short story, bravo. Grief and determination to make our loved ones proud even when they aren't here anymore, you really captured that!

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Alice Claude
22:35 Apr 16, 2021

This story is beautiful- congratulations on your win

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Arwen Dove
22:00 Apr 16, 2021

This is such a beautiful story! Well Done on the win!

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Riya 🌺
20:57 Apr 16, 2021

Wow, this has so much emotion in it and I could feel his sadness radiating aff the screen.

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Gautam Prakash
20:56 Apr 16, 2021

Beautiful! You deserved the win! I wish i could write like this! Any tips? 😅

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Saibabu Jammu
20:33 Apr 16, 2021

Brilliant.

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Kyler Mattoon
18:53 Apr 16, 2021

Oh my GOODNESS. That hit hard. Excellent story, congrats on the win!!!

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Zelda C. Thorne
18:48 Apr 16, 2021

So heartbreaking and beautifully written. A well deserved win. Congratulations!

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18:16 Apr 16, 2021

Just wow! Great job making your characters so real. You made me cry.

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Pamela Brown
18:14 Apr 16, 2021

Everything about the structure of this story is knitted or plaited from the beginning to the conclusion, so cleverly and beautifully. I love the idea of the fairy stories being grotesque, an early thought which describes the turmoil in Paul's mind as his own family fairy story becomes a horror story. No happy ending indeed, for him, like our fairy stories this real one will live with him forever. I'm so glad that this story won the prize. Congratulations!

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Ionel Rusanu
17:52 Apr 16, 2021

Indeed, a poetic transition between the fairy tales world and our cruel and unfair one. Congratulations!

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Terry Patterson
17:44 Apr 16, 2021

A well constructed story which I enjoyed immensely. Well done on your win.

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T.H. Sherlock
16:34 Apr 16, 2021

Stunning. Much-deserved win!

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Amy Gupta
16:26 Apr 16, 2021

This was wonderfully written. I was taken in right away. Good job!!

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Monica June
16:26 Apr 16, 2021

This is so good. Hauntingly beautiful, and sad, too. You did an amazing job of introducing little bits of information at a time, letting it all come together in the end. Congratulations!

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Gordon Petry
16:16 Apr 16, 2021

Wonderful story. The details capture your readers and the pile of crumpled beginnings strike a familiar memory. One easily changed detail He rode not He road. That would make it perfect. I think we are all hoping for one more happy ending.

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Nadya Garza
15:53 Apr 16, 2021

I was almost on the verge of tears while reading this. This is such a beautiful, wonderfully told story. Congratulations on the win!!

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