The golden child

Submitted into Contest #161 in response to: Write about a character who lives a seemingly charmed life.... view prompt


Fantasy Fiction Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

Sometimes I punch holes in the walls. Or rather, in the wall - singular. One wall curves around in a perfect circle, with no beginning or end. The eternal nature of it is reminiscent of my own life. It's cathartic to rip into the wall with my fist, causing damage to both. The surface is plaster and paint, but if you force your hand through all the sponge and insulation, your fist grates against the hard brick beyond. 

Mother says I am delicate, but she would say that because she never sees me punching walls. She looks at my apron smeared with cake batter and my paint-stained fingertips and concludes I am content. 

You are charmed, my darling. Nothing and no one will hurt you.

I am Mother's golden child. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

It doesn't hurt much. Punching the wall, that is. It is oddly reassuring to see my knuckles scarlet and swollen, even if the bruise lasts only minutes before it fades. I leave the hole for a while longer- admire the caving dent in the flawless fabric of my surroundings.

Eventually, I raise my palm so it hovers above the gap, and close my eyes. I sing a song which helps me enter the right headspace. I find myself suspended over an abyss, engulfed by the chilling embrace of darkness. Clearing my mind of distraction, I conjure memories- the memories that elicit the strongest feelings. A few months ago, I would have thought of Him. My affection for his calloused hands and bristly hair. How he smelt of moss and rain - of a life brimming with adventure and excitement. How he would let me sit on his shoulders so I could paint the section of the wall I had always been too short to reach. And how he would reach out to me and twirl me round under the beams of the indigo moon.


Now I think of Mother. I feel immense shame for how I have let her down. This feeling trickles through my veins and infects every limb and organ. When it grows so strong that my heart is fluttering like beating wings, and every muscle in my body feels tense and sore, gold starts to blot the black of my mind. It pours into the emptiness- grainy and hot. I can feel myself suffocating in the warmth, and the brightness burns my retinas. I reach the end of my song and slowly prise open my eyelids. The hole has vanished as though it were never there at all. Afterwards, I feel no anger - only emptiness and exhaustion.


These days my dresses are tight and my hair is heavy. Sometimes the room spins, the wall appears to taunt me with how endless it is, and I need to lie down again.

I would hate for Mother to see me like this, splayed dejected on the floor.

I go to great lengths to bring you berries and paints. I hope you are making good use of them.

Little does she know that the thought of baking blueberry muffins makes me nauseous, and my paintings feel purposeless when no one can admire them.


At night, I lie beneath the window - my head against the arc of the wall - to trace pictures through the stars. The cacophony of the forest isn’t frightening anymore. I know which sound comes from which species and can picture each animal. He would tell me of Crested Onts, with their pronged heads and scaly toes. Jadebacks, with their soft padded paws and emerald bellies. I imagine myself dashing through black-barked trees, all the creatures of the forest at my heel.


Only when I sleep am I truly afraid. In my most reoccurring nightmare, I can feel the rhythmic jolting of movement and a strong gale cutting my cheeks. A female voice cries out my name, and a crinkled, veiny hand draws a cloth over my face to muffle my screams. The woven fabric feels rough and scratchy against my skin, and I struggle for air. When I wake, my breaths are fast and gulpy. The voice seems to echo, reverberating off every edge of my circular room. Often, it is still dark, and I am unsure if I have slept for mere hours or if I have been out for days. The days often blur - a week can feel like a month, and a month can feel like a year.

It has been many months since I last saw Him. I thought he had become a permanent presence in my life, as constant as a constellation. But when I told him I was sick and my belly was swelling, he stayed silent for a long time. He put a hand to his head, a stricken expression plastered on his face. Eventually, he told me I had been blessed with a baby. Then he asked to leave and vanished into the tangled shadows of the forest without glancing back. 

I didn't feel particularly blessed.


I still have Mother, but I don’t know how to break the news to her or how she will react.

It will always be just me and you together. I won’t let anyone harm you.

I wonder if 'anyone' includes her.

Though it is irrational, I occasionally imagine her with a knife, slicing through my flesh and ripping out my baby as effortlessly as I tear holes in the wall. I don’t even know if I would fight her.

I hate to admit it, but when I was a few months pregnant and He was long gone, I let my hair fall loosely over my chest, put my hands on my stomach and closed my eyes. And when I sang, my voice was breaking and my hands were quaking and when gold began to spread, I opened my eyes. In the end, I couldn’t bring myself to use my magic on myself in that way. It might not have even worked.


Or what if Mother prefers my child over me? What if the child has power too, but her magic is stronger? 

There is only space here for one.

Maybe Mother would suffocate me like in my nightmare- hold a cloth over my mouth and wait for my lungs to empty. It would be an ironic way to die. It seems I have been suffocating all my life.


I feel like I am living now in such a daze, that dreams blend with reality. My life is a juxtaposition of gold and darkness, magic and misery. Every so often - after what feels like forever - the trance is broken, and I hear someone calling my name. I quickly press down my dress and splash water into my eyes. I take out some cookies from the cupboard though I cannot recall ever baking them, and drag myself over to the window. I gather my golden hair so that it lies in a messy pile by my feet.

The voice is not soft like the one I hear in my nightmares, but cold and demanding. And it grows louder still.

Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!

September 01, 2022 10:58

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


Graham Kinross
04:16 Sep 07, 2022

Ah! Now it makes sense. I didn’t get that it was Rapunzel at all. Interesting. Great retelling of the story. What made you come up with this? What was the inspiration, watched the Disney one recently?


Martha Brown
06:51 Sep 07, 2022

Thank you! I think the word ‘charmed’ and the toxic mother reference on the contest page made me think of Rapunzel. I tried to include some elements of the original Grimm’s fairytale, but it was difficult to not take some inspiration from the Disney remake too.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.