Karolina paid a full fifty złoty for that coat and, at 25 złoty per kilogram, it was a steal! But, this time, it wasn’t just the coat she got. Tucked deep into one of the pockets was a vintage time piece.
Karolina tugged the time piece free off the coat pocket. It was in great condition. She rubbed the gold – it looked real. She twisted the knobs and watched as the dials moved within. The watch began to emit a strange whirring noise. Instead of numbers or numerals from one to twelve, the face of the clock showed the inscription and color-drawn etching of a popular fairy tale. There was Cinderella at number one. Snow White at two. Beauty and the Beast at number three. Sleeping Beauty was at four. The Three Little Pigs at five. Goldilocks at six. Aladdin was waiting at number seven. Jack and the Beanstalk, at number eight. Hansel and Gretel stood in place of the nine. The Shoe Maker and the Elves took ten. And the Pied Piper was at eleven. Only twelve showed something that wasn’t part of the fairy tale world. Twelve showed home.
Karolina snorted; such was her shock. She was from a small city in Poland. This kind of thing didn’t happen. At first, she thought she had found some kind of cinematic heirloom. Eager to test it, she twisted the hand (there was only one) to sit on one. The watch began to beep. Without realizing what was going on, Karolina found herself transported to just outside a nicely built but unkempt house that was beginning to show wear and tear. She could see sitting in the kitchen a young girl, covered in dirt. She was scrubbing the floor clean – without a fire. “Is this Cinderella?”
Karolina twisted the hand to the half way point between one and two. The scene transformed to the Prince’s ball. Cinderella was running down the steps, as the town clock struck twelve. As she ran, she dropped one of her glass slippers. “What a keepsake!” Karolina thought. She ran behind Cinderella and snatched up the shoe, while no one was looking. Knowing that she was doing something wrong, Karolina turned the dial, clutching the shoe close to her breast. When it came down to it, Karolina just didn’t care – she wanted this shoe. What harm could it do?
She turned the dial to two, quick to leave before the Prince would come running out. Snow White was next, so Snow White it would be. She saw the wicked Queen, disguised as a hag, hobbling to the house of the Seven Dwarves. Clutched in her hand was the poisoned apple. The hag stumbled and tripped on a branch on the ground. As she fell, the apple rolled out from her clasped hand and Karolina, seeing her chance, replaced it with an ordinary one. This time, she did not take the apple for a keepsake, afraid that she would eat it herself by mistake. Noticing, however, that she had some time until the Queen would return to her castle and also knowing the plot of the story, Karolina stole to the Queens quarters and took that Queen’s most prized possession: the mirror from her wall.
Karolina hid the coveted mirror in a bag she found lying nearby, asking, as she did, that most fabled of lines: “Mirror, Mirror, who is the fairest of as all?” The mirror laughingly replied, “You are not Queen Grimhilde, but I will answer your question. Snow White lives still and she is fairest.” Karolina smiled at her good deed, and stuffing the mirror out of sight, she turned the dial. “Onwards to Beauty and her Beast!” she sing-sang.
Karolina arrived to see Belle returning home with a magic mirror, which she had been given as something to remember the Beast by. She wanted to use it to prove to the villagers that the Beast existed, validating the claims of her father. Unsuspectingly, she reaches into her pocket, but the mirror is gone. Karolina has been too quick for her, and snatched the mirror just minutes earlier, before she departed again.
The hand shifted to the time where Sleeping Beauty would pierce her finger and fall into a deep slumber. Whilst the evil witch wasn’t looking, Karolina snuck forward and stole the needle from its place, careful not to cut herself with it. As she stole it, she stumbled just before she would run away, piercing the witch by accident whilst she was whirled away to another tale. The needle dropped to the ground. Karolina didn’t know what happened to both the witch and the princess. It couldn’t be worse than eternal slumber?
Karolina jumped to the fairy tale at number five. It was The Three Little Pigs. She didn’t particularly like this tale, but in all her haste this was where the dial now pointed. She saw the three pigs building each of their houses – the straw, the wood and the brick. She stole a piece of straw, a bit of wood and a brick. The pigs had only what they needed, so when the wolf couldn’t blow the brick house down, he clawed his way through the hole where the brick was supposed to be. Karolina left unaware that her actions were causing problems. She went to Goldilocks at six.
She got to the three bears house before Goldilocks. Hungry, she ate from their bowls, sat in their chairs and napped in their beds. When Goldilocks came, she didn’t stay on seeing that there was no food. Karolina also left soon after her little nap. The three bears came home to find that their porridge was all gone. With it, the spoons were also missing. There was nobody home but the chairs had been sat in and the beds had been slept in. Who did it?
Meanwhile, Karolina had moved on to number seven, where, according to the watch, it would be Aladdin. Karolina sees Aladdin using his oil lamp to conjure the palace and a whole host of riches with which to present the King, by grace of the genie of the lamp. So enamored was he, that he did not notice misplacing the ring, which also held a genie within. Karolina is quick to snatch the enchanted ring, and leaves, not waiting to see what happens next. She moves on to number eight, and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Here, Karolina sees Jack returning home with his magic beans. She follows him home, and when his mother throws out the beans from a window, Karolina rushes to collect them and stuffs them into her bag. She leaves before Jack could notice what she has done, and beginning to get tired, she rushed on to number nine where she would find Hansel and Gretel.
Hansel and Gretel meant food! Karolina watched as Hansel and Gretel dropped bread crumbs to mark their path. Feeling hungry, she eats them. Knowing that they will end up at a ginger bread house, rife with sweet things, Karolina follows the children as they get lost. Karolina goes on ahead as the children take a wrong turn. The witch who lives in the ginger bread house is sleeping. Karolina sneaked sweets from the walls and hides them away in her bag for later. She leaves before the children come, but not before hearing the witch awake to find a hole in her precious wall. The witch runs out after her, but trips on her bedsheet and falls to her death inside her own oven which she always had heated and ready. She burns with no one to save her.
Now the dial spins to ten; taking Karolina to The Shoemaker and the Elves. Here, she saw the shoe maker leave the leather soles for his shoes unsewn on his work table. She saw the elves come and leave behind them some well-made shoes. Happily, she stole these beautifully sewn shoes for herself and spun the dial lest her theft be discovered by the shoemaker or his wife before she is gone.
Karolina’s last dial with the last fairy tale had finally come. At number eleven was the Pied Piper. Watching the piper attend the city, as it was marauded by rats, Karolina heard the piper promise to rid the city of the vermin. She knows that he needs his pipe to do this, and she also knows that he will later use that same pipe to take away all the towns children when the mayor renegades on his promise of payment. Karolina steals the pipe before the piper can use it, and, as she leaves, she blows a few toots into the mouth piece just for fun, turning the dial to twelve and home. As she is transported, rats lunge themselves towards the sound of the pipe, colliding into nothing.
At long last, Karolina had made her way round the clock and back home. She tumbled all her keepsakes in a pile on the bed. Here were Cinderella’s glass slipper, the mirror from Snow White’s evil Stepmother, the mirror given to Beauty, a piece of straw, a piece of wood and a single brick, three spoons, an enchanted ring, magic beans, gingerbread and candy, some well-made shoes and the magic pipe. She bundled everything in the back of her closet, curious if fairy tale magic worked in the real world.
As she continued to ponder this over the next few days, she saw a children’s book store and went inside. Here, she browsed through the fairy tale section, picking the tomes she had been to. As she read through Cinderella, she saw that written in the story was the missing shoe which meant that the Prince could not discover who Cinderella was and both went on to live alone and unhappy.
Snow White never met her prince, but the evil Step mother left her be when she was no longer able to know if Snow White lived or not, and her vanity wasn’t subjugated anymore by her magnificent mirror that told her truths she simply didn’t want to hear.
Karolina read within the fable of Beauty and the Beast that, without the mirror, Belle could not prove her father’s sanity, and she also cannot see what state the Beast was in. As she tried to tell the villagers that her father wasn’t crazy, they cast her off as well, sending both father and daughter to an asylum. Meanwhile the Beast died of a broken heart when the last rose petal fell and his staff were doomed to spend eternity in their inanimate forms.
Next, Karolina grabbed Sleeping Beauty. She too did not meet her Prince Charming since the evil witch had been pierced by the needle instead of her. It was the witch who succumbed to an eternal sleep and no Prince passed by to save the kingdom.
Karolina begins to worry as she reads on. The stories have changed! In The Three Little Pigs, all the pigs perished at the hand of the wolf, who, when he found the brick house too difficult to blow away, did claw his way inside via the hole from the missing brick.
When Karolina reached Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Karolina finds that Goldilocks left after seeing that there was no food, and the three bears never knew what happened to their porridge. Aladdin on the other hand was unable to save his bride from the evil merchant without his enchanted ring. Thus, when the merchant deceived the princess into giving him the magic old lamp in exchange for a new one, and he took both the girl and the castle to his own home, Aladdin could not find them again. The princess was kept captive and both Aladdin and his wife died of broken hearts.
Next Karolina leafed through Jack and the Beanstalk. She discovered that without the magic beans, Jack and his mother continued to live in poverty. They often went hungry, and Jack never found the rich giant who lived somewhere above in the sky nor benefited by stealing the giant’s gold. Jack’s mother blamed him for swapping the cow for the beans till the end of her days.
Karolina tugged Hansel and Gretel free from the book shelf. As it happened, the children could not know their way home because of the missing bread crumbs. They did come across the gingerbread house. By this time, the evil witch had burnt to ashes and there was no sign that the place had ever been inhabited at all excepting the warm fire and bed sheets tangled on the floor. In a stroke of genius, the children decided to set up home in this house of candy. They would eat from the walls for breakfast, lunch and dinner until there wasn’t a house left. Their bellies full they wandered home to find that both parents had starved to death.
Karolina hurried on to read The Shoemaker and the Elves. Both the shoemaker and the elves were disgruntled and suspicious about the missing shoes. Each blamed the other – the elves were never freed and the shoemaker never left leather soles out again. The shoemaker and his wife continued to live in poverty, diligently making their sub-par shoes.
At long last, Karolina takes a peek inside The Pied Piper. With the missing pipe, the Piper could do nothing about the rats, but he also couldn’t take the towns children. Unfortunately for the piper, the townsmen thought that he had meant to deceive them with false promises. They ran him out of the town, throwing stones at his back until he slipped and fell to his death.
“What have I done?” Karolina whispered to herself. Every fairy tale she had visited had been affected by those wonderful keepsakes she had taken. Karolina had never intended to hurt anyone. Knowing that she could not live with these keepsakes now, but also knowing that it would be impossible to return them and change everything back to its original script, Karolina took everything and donated them to a second hand store, where they went on to change the lives of the people who bought them, in keeping with their purpose in their original script. At last, she hid the time piece in the dark recess of a drawer in her nightstand, never to be used again.
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