Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
Dried leaves crashed under Snow White’s bare feet. Her breathing was labored, her hair was messy and her legs were sore as she ran through the woods. The scent of wet soil hit her nose. A group of vultures hissed as they flew above, creating creepy bird-shaped shadows in front of the red moon. In the distance, the wolves started to howl. Snow White remembered from the books she read that wolves howl after a kill, making her imagine of a dead man’s body being feasted by a pack of wolves. Human skin and muscles being torn by beasts’ sharp teeth. Her skin shuddered at the thought that a few meters away from her location, a human being was satisfying the appetite of hungry predators—another victim of the non-ending food chain. Weak preys begging for the mercy of the strong predators. Strong predators becoming victims of another predator much stronger than them. So on. So forth. The cycle never ends.
She heard a mighty growl a few feet away from her, and she screamed in terror. She tripped; her face falling flat on the wet soil. The uneven slope caused her to roll on the ground. Stones and torn branches pierced at her skin as her body tumbled downward. Her rolling body slammed on a big cold tombstone, and she winced in pain. Her yellow skirt was so full of mud; it was almost brown. Her blue top was ripped and torn by the branches she passed along the way. Her skin was covered with dirt and wounds. She choked a sob and willed herself to go on. She imagined herself being a dinner for the hungry predators in the woods, and it pushed her to stand up.
The part of the woods where she was in looked like an abandoned cemetery. The trees have long branches without leaves, only bats that were hanging upside down. She expected to see red eyes glaring at her from those leafless branches, but even the bats’ eyes were lifeless black. In a motion so fast, she did not notice it, a bat frantically flew towards her. It hit the tree beside her with a sickening sound, its wings spread wide as it was plastered on the trunk. Then after a second, it fell slowly to the ground beside her feet, leaving a trail of red blood. She froze. The sick smell of blood and soil hitting her senses. The other bats followed suit and flew in her direction, all at once. She ran, screaming and afraid. Their wings attacked her skin with a painful swat. In the darkness, wild yellow eyes stared hungrily at her, and they seem to be moving closer. She stumbled, her legs giving away beneath her weight. She heard many footsteps behind her: fast, angry, hungry animal footsteps.
She ran until she couldn’t breathe. She ran until she could not feel her feet anymore. She ran until her body begged her to stop and rest.
She ran until she made it out of the woods and into a tiny cottage.
“Let’s just wake her up and ask her to leave so I can have my bed back.” Sleepy yawned as all seven dwarfs stared at the strange lady who laid across all tiny seven beds.
“Let her stay. We never had a visitor before.” Happy said, liking the idea of having a new friend in the cottage. It made him cheerful and giddy.
“No! She’s a trespasser who thinks invading someone’s private home is okay. I’m not going to put up with that kind of nasty attitude!” Grumpy said grumpily as he kicked one of the beds to wake the lady. The stranger kept snoring.
“Stop it, Grumpy.” Doc ordered.
“No!” Grumpy ignored his command and kicked the bed harder.
“That’s my sleeping bed you’re kicking, idiot!” Sleepy angrily shouted.
“Enough!” Doc shouted with authority in his voice. All the dwarfs stopped what they were doing. Grumpy rolled his eyes and reluctantly obeyed.
Doc gently shook the stranger’s shoulder, covered in torn blue fabric. The lady’s eyes slowly opened, and they roamed to all seven dwarfs. She bolted awake and started to scream, only to choke on air because her throat was too dry.
“Now young lady, get out of our house, or I’ll drag you by the hair!” Grumpy shouted while Happy handed the lady a cold glass of water. The cold water soothed Snow White’s dry throat, and she felt better.
“My name is Snow White. Please let me stay in this cottage. I’ll do anything. Wash the dishes. Clean the house. Anything! Please, my stepmother is trying to kill me, and I need your help...”
On and on, Snow White explained as Sleepy lost interest and decided to sleep on the couch. The dwarfs had a mighty row debating whether to help the stranger or not. In the end, their desire not to do their household chores won over their distress of accepting someone who they barely knew. Grumpy, hating the decision made, walked out of the cottage slamming the door behind him.
Snow White proved her worth by making sure the tiny cottage was pristine. The glasses were so clean they sparkled. The bedsheets were so white even the dust would be ashamed to settle on it. The floor was too smooth; you could skate inside the cottage.
Everything was going well for Snow White. The dwarfs were getting attached to her day by day. Even Grumpy seemed to be less grumpy, if that was possible. Dopey was always asking for her kisses when he got home from work. Sneezy gave her the privilege of tying his nose to prevent him from sneezing. Sometimes, Bashful would cuddle on her side and would not say a word. She was worming her way to their hearts, and she couldn’t be happier until that day.
That day where everything fell apart.
It was a sunny day; the dwarfs already went to work in the jewel mines. Snow White hummed as she scrubbed the floor to perfection. The back of her neck prickled, a shiver ran down her spine and a sense of trepidation washed over her. Suddenly, the clouds covered the sun, and the cottage was surrounded by darkness. The warmth and glow Snow White felt before the dwarfs went to work vanished.
“Who’s there?” Snow White demanded as she left her position on the floor to stand up and approach the door. The wooden door with its harsh carvings and rough surface that Snow White once regarded as cute looked intimidating now.
“I sell apples.” Came the squeaky voice behind the door. “I’m harmless, dear. I just want to sell apples and make a living.”
“I-I’m not hungry.” Snow White said, afraid of what could happen once she open that door.
“I understand if you won’t help me sell my apples. I guess it’s hard for people to trust strangers nowadays.” The squeaky voice said, filling her with so much guilt.
Days ago, she was in the position of that stranger. She was the untrustworthy stranger who begged for a little trust, a little help. How could she deny the old lady behind the door the second chance that she begged the dwarfs to give her?
Without thinking, she opened the door, and a strong breeze swept her hair, disarranging her red headband. An old lady full of warts and wrinkles greeted her at the door. Behind the lady was the dark forest filled with shadows of unknown creatures. She once again felt the trepidation she felt earlier.
“I don’t have money, but we have foods in our storage, and we can swap.” Snow White offered graciously, taking in the small bony body of the old lady. It reminded her of the witches and ugly villains in her mother’s bedtime stories. She chastised herself; appearance is not the be-all and end-all of human beings.
“That’s good enough for me. Thank you, dear.” The old lady smiled, revealing huge yellow teeth with big gaps between each tooth. As Snow White accepted the apple from the old lady’s wrinkled but thankfully clean hand, she decided she would give the apple to the dwarfs as a sign of her gratitude.
“Where’s my kiss?” Dopey asked Snow White as soon as he entered the door. She laughed and gave him a peck on the cheek. The sun was still hiding beneath the clouds, consuming the cottage in darkness. It started to rain, so Snow White closed the windows and lit a candle, illuminating the cabin in a gloomy orange glow. Overhead, a thunderstorm roar.
The seven dwarfs gathered in their bedroom to rest after a full day’s work. They slumped on their beds with their working clothes.
“I bought you something. This is not much, but I want to show my appreciation to you.” Snow White gave them the seven slices of apple. The seven dwarfs hurriedly accepted the gift and munched the apple. The juice of the sweet fruit attacked their tongues, and they all moaned in ecstasy.
“This is so sweet. Where did you get this?” Doc asked as rain heavily poured on their roof, almost muting their conversation.
“An old lady sold it to me.”
All the seven dwarfs paused midbite. Thunder cracked on the sky as lightning flashed, engulfing the bedroom with brightness for a second. They were looking at her with faces so pale they were almost white.
Dopey started choking. His face went red as the veins in his neck protruded. Sleepy opened a window to vomit. The smell and sound of his puking made the other dwarfs winced. Grumpy’s body convulsed so hard he fell on the floor with a thud, black bubbles forming out of his mouth. Sneezy couldn’t breathe. He was suffocating even though the air was whipping at him from the open window. Happy was laughing as he repeatedly hit his head on the wall. Blood sputtered on the wall like a beautiful rose painting. He laughed maniacally as he hit his head harder and faster. Bashful grabbed the plate Snow White used to put the apple, and he dropped it on the floor. The plate shattered into tiny sharp pieces. Bashful wordlessly knelt in front of the shards, and with a hard motion, he pushed his upper body towards the broken pieces until his face fell flat on the fragments. Tiny broken pieces penetrated his skin, lips, and eyes and blood pooled on the floor.
Meanwhile, Snow White…
Snow White was laughing at them as if their possible death gave her immense pleasure. The thunder and her laughter conquered the room together as if they were two lovers dancing in the same rhythm.
“What have you done?” Doc asked grimly as lumps and red tumors appeared on his skin. The tumors were too itchy that he had no choice but to scratch them. The more he scratched the lumps, the more they got itchy.
“No one helps my enemies and gets away with it.” Snow White answered in a squeaky voice as her appearance gradually changed. Her red headband turned into a golden crown. The blue and yellow dress slowly transformed into a violet and black gown. The innocent face of Snow White gradually took a different shape until it fit the profile of the evil queen.
At the corner of the room where a closet was located, the dead body of Snow White was hidden inside. Her body started to turn cold as blood poured from her eyes like tears. Small worms danced across her pale, almost grey skin. In her hand was the apple that the old lady insisted she ate. And like a fool, she did.
Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the most foolish of them all?