Friday, April 26, 2013

Rapunzel's Curse

Story by: Krystalyn

The witch dangled out the window, holding tightly to my hair. My prince drew his sword. She spit curses between jagged teeth as he chopped off over seventy feet of my golden tresses and sent her hurtling to the ground.

It took the prince and me about a half an hour to find her secret hatch, a moldy smelling grain chute, and we slid out of the tower. He took my hand, and with a smile as big as the countryside, we jumped on his horse and clip clopped across the barren fields. I leaned back against his strong chest as we rejoiced in our victory.

It wasn't until we were a half a league away that I noticed my itching scalp. A tingle started somewhere around my crown and crept its way to my hairline. I scratched, hoping it wasn't lice. The tower had been infested with them, and there were many days when the witch spent hours picking them out of my hair. I shouldn't have worried about the bugs.

I scratched, and the itching grew worse. Then it grew unbearable, rolling and swelling beneath my fingertips. I sucked in several deep breaths, trying to calm them away, but the oxygen only fed the itching. It was like I had a pox, a plague, and a million mosquito bites all rolled into one.

“Stop,” I said with a twinge of panic in my voice. “I need to stop.”

My prince yanked on the reins. His horse skidded to a halt.

I jumped off and ran into the middle of the field. “Ow. Ow. Ow! Ow! OW!” I bent over double and clawed at my scalp. My hair thickened into rope-like tendrils, then wrapped around my knuckles, trapping my hands and squeezing until I thought my bones would shatter. Through the pain, I whimpered, “No, please.”

The prince ran up to me. His scarred cheeks told of how many battles he'd fought. I was willing to bet, he'd never fought a battle like this. “What can I do?”

The sky rumbled in response. Lighting split the sky and thunder shook the earth. I understood everything that was happening.

Once, when I was twelve, I worked up the nerve to climb out of my window. I couldn't stand living in that tower with the damp, stone walls that seemed to close in tighter every day. And if I couldn't live there, my only choice was to die.

I clung to the window sill, wanting to drop, but not having the courage. As the minutes wore on, my bones began to ache. If felt like rats were gnawing on my insides – my skull, my ribs, my legs. Two fingers slipped, then three. I was afraid to let go, but I was in so much pain, I looked forward to the fall. There was thunder then too, the kind that rattled my eardrums and caused more fingers to slip.

The rumbles were a siren to the witch. Just as my last finger lost its grip, she used her magic to draw me back in through the window. I collapsed to the floor. She held me tight and stroked my back. Her body shook with sobs.

“Promise me you'll never do that again,” she said. “Promise me you'll never leave.”

“Why? Why do you keep me trapped here?” The pain had stopped, but my heart ached with longing for the outside world. I had failed in my escape.

“I've told you again and again, you're cursed. Bad things will happen if you try to leave. You'll hurt yourself and others if they get too close.” She cupped my cheeks in her hands. “But you're my daughter. I love you. I will always be here for you.” And she pressed a gentle kiss to my forehead.

She sounded so sincere that I believed her, and I settled in for a few more years. But I stopped believing the day the prince appeared below my window.

He said there was no curse. The witch had lied to me because she had been banished from the kingdom. She was nothing but a lonely old hag who wanted to keep me locked up forever. He said nobody deserved that fate. He promised me dances and flowers and splashing in the rain. He climbed the tower just to kiss my hand. He told me that he loved me. He vowed to protect me from all the bad things in the world.

Neither one of us knew that I was one of those bad things.

“My love!” My prince grabbed hold of my elbows and pulled me to my feet.

“No! Stay away,” I cried as my hair tangled around his waist. The tendrils weren't golden anymore. They were the cracked brown color of tree limbs. They snaked down around our ankles and rooted around us. I screamed as one of them burrowed into my foot, planting me into the ground right along with it.

My prince curled his arms around my body, even as the limbs threaded and wove their way around us, cocooning us inside the tree that was once my hair. This was my fault.

“The curse.” The witch had never lied to me. I had lied to myself. “Everything she said was true.” The roots bore through my calves and up my legs. The pain was nearly too much to bear. “You should never have come.”

Still, he didn't try to escape. I doubted he'd ever walked away from a battle. “There is another truth that she didn't tell you,” he said as he looked into my eyes. “A kiss of true love can break any curse.”

My vision grew hazy. He was wrong before about the curse. Could he be right about this? I needed him to be right. “Kiss me.”

“I love you. I'm here for you.” He bent down and gently pressed a kiss to my lips. It was warm and tender, and filled with every promise he had ever given me.

The roots continued their assault of my body, but I held on to a tiny sliver of hope that they were slowing. I envisioned them reversing and releasing us. I fell deeper into his touch and imagined my life of dancing and flowers and splashing in the rain. The prince had to be right.

When the kiss ended, we wrapped our arms around each other and held tight. He murmured softly into my ear. I closed my eyes. I believed every word. And I waited for the curse to break.


Author's note: I always seem to be the one twisting fairy tales with Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid, and now, Rapunzel.


PHOTO BY: Gillian Woods

Friday, April 19, 2013



Roots were somethin’ he never wanted to have.

 I’ve always known it, ever since that first night we went walkin’ together like a proper couple and not just friends. I was all prettied up in my best sundress. Heck, I’d even raked out the garden soil from beneath my fingernails. My hair was still kind of damp and wild, but whatever. It was late spring and with the humidity as high as it was, it wouldn’t a mattered much if I had troubled myself to dry it up all smooth anyway. I was as cute as I was gonna get and I could tell by the way he kept eyeing me that it was more than cute enough.

The air smelled like honeysuckle, so sweet and perfume-y that I could almost taste it on my tongue. We were walking out on the trestle bridge. Once when our town was an actual town and not just the ghost of one, trains used to go across it. Back then kids’d test their bravery by crossin’ just before a train was due to come chargin’ through—flyin’ across the tracks like they were runnin’ away from those Spanish bulls. Most of the time they’d make it across alright, but there was always one or two a year that wouldn’t. We were following the path they always took, dodgin’ the creakiest spots and pickin’ our way to the path beyond, the one that switch-backs down to the riverbed below—when he opened his mouth.

“I ain’t dying here,” he said. His voice echoed a little—the words pinging off the river rocks below us so they could hit my ears a second and third time. He turned to me and looked me straight in my eyes. My whole body shivered from heat or nerves or maybe both. His eyes were the same gritty brown as the soil in my garden—unremarkable maybe, but rich because they were so dark, almost black in the moonlight. He put his hands on my arms, just above my elbows. I liked how warm his hands were. Even in that heat it was comforting.

“Come graduation I’m gettin’ as far from here as I can. I can’t plant myself in this town like everybody else has—stay so still that I practically grow moss. I’m meant to see more than this. I’m meant to be more than this.”

If I woulda been a good girl maybe I would’ve listened to what he was sayin’. If I’d been a smart girl maybe I’d have left him right then, just turned tail and walked away before he could—saved him the guilt and trouble of wanting to now.

But I’m neither of those things.

Never was.

 So instead I just stared at his mouth and brought a finger up to trace his bottom lip. I waited just a beat, until I knew he was primed, and then I kissed him, pulling that lip between my teeth the way I do a honeysuckle flower to get the nectar out of it. He started shivering then too. His hands went from holding me at arm’s length to crushin’ me against him so hard that I couldn’t figure out if either of us was even breathing anymore.

That was almost a year ago today. Back when I was twig-thin and not rounded out around the middle. Back when I could still walk the trestle and not worry about topplin’ off of it. Now I look up and watch as he crosses it alone. I stretch out on one of the river rocks and dip my toes in the water and try to look unconcerned. We’ve been coming here all week, ever since graduation. I know he’s remembering that other night—same as me. I run a hand across my middle, press the hard bump just under my rib cage and try to move it so I can get some air in my lungs. The baby kicks me hard enough to make my bladder tingle. For a second I’m half afraid I might pee.
I look up at him. He hasn’t looked at me once since we came out here. He never does. Not until I call and call and order him to come down because I can’t ever get off this stupid rock anymore without his help.
But every time I hope he will.
I dream about it.
I can’t seem to help myself.

The thing is I want him to have roots in this place, ones that twine with mine and dig deep into the soil so that even the worst summer storm can’t pull them out. I thought maybe with the baby that it just might be possible. But then we started comin’ out here again. And he started crossing that bridge again—goin’ faster every time like he’s hopin’ that a train’s still possible or something. I want to know--if there ever really was a train--whether he’d try to outrun it or just let it catch him. I need to ask him, but I can never quite decide how to. So instead I just keep sittin' here, strugglin' to breathe—waiting for him to figure it out.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker
PHOTO BY: Gillian Woods

Friday, April 12, 2013


I think I might have finally cracked. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

I shove my ear buds into my ears and crank my iPod up as loud as it will go. I know it‘s bad for my hearing, but I don’t really give a damn. Ari used to always give me a look—the one with the raised eyebrow—when she caught me listening to music this loud. I would just roll my eyes to piss her off. But instead of getting mad, she would just smile at me like she knew I would turn the music down. I always did, of course.

I absentmindedly scroll my finger around the touch-dial, attempting to make the music louder, even though I know it’s already at its max. I stick the iPod into my hoodie pocket and take a deep breath. I hate coming to the cemetery, but I come here every day. It’s where she is, after all. The wind carries the scent of freshly cut grass and rotting funeral flowers, and the sun is too warm on my skin, and it’s all I can do not to scream. I want to scream. I want to scream. I need to scream.

Geez, Adam. Get a damn hold on yourself.

I bite my lip and try to turn my music up louder. Why won’t this stupid thing go louder?

I sit right down in the middle of her grave, not caring if anyone thinks it’s disrespectful. Ari wouldn’t care, I know it. I trace my fingers over the inscription on her headstone, even though I have it memorized.

Ariana Elizabeth Brown
09/13/1995- 09/03/2012
Dearly missed and dearly loved forever.

I hate the lame epitaph her parents chose, no matter how true it is.

I pull out a book and start to read, but a gnat flies right into my left eye. I throw my book down and rub the sting out of my eye, welcoming the darkness that comes when you press against your retinas too hard.

It takes a second for the world to come back into focus, and when it does, a shadow is covering me. I’m nowhere near any trees, so I squint up towards the sky to find out where it’s coming from. There is a person standing over me—a girl. I can’t see her face because of the glare from the sun, so I stand up.

“Can I help yo—“ I say, but my words stick in my throat like glue coated pine straw when I see her face. She looks exactly like Ari. A rush of blood fills my head and I think I might either throw up, or pass out, or both.

She smiles at me. It’s her. It has to be her. No one else has a smile like that. No one else can make my stomach turn like that. 

“Ari?” I whisper. It can’t be her. I must be seeing things. Maybe my little brother is right, and you can rub your eyes hard enough to cause brain damage. My brain darts back and forth between certainty and disbelief, and I can’t decide which emotion to stick with.

She eyes my ear buds, raises an eyebrow, and puts her hands on her hips. I immediately rip them out of my ears, not bothering to put them in my pocket. They dangle down the side of my leg like day-old deflated balloons.

“What—“ I start to say, but what can I say? I take a deep breath and try again. “What are you doing here?”
She doesn’t say anything. She throws her arms around my waist and presses her body against mine. We fit perfectly together, just like we used to. Her curves melt into mine like we are two puzzle pieces, and I want to kiss her. I want to kiss her. I need to kiss her.

No, what I need to do is back the hell away and run full-speed to my psychiatrist’s office. I’ve obviously lost my damn mind.

Ari’s lips brush my collarbone and I almost groan out loud. In that moment, I really don’t care if I’ve lost my mind. This is pretty good way to go.

“Come with me,” she mutters against my neck. Her words, dripping with desperation, leech my soul through my skin.

She intertwines her fingers in mine and pulls me back down to the ground. We sit cross-legged, our knees close, but not touching.  

“Where are we going?” I ask.

She doesn’t answer. She lets go of my hand and slides her fingers through the grass, catching blades between her fingertips. The absence of her skin on mine makes me feel hollow. I need to feel it again. This girl is a disease, running through my blood like wildfire.

“You promise you’ll come with me?” she says, barely speaking above a whisper.

I will follow her anywhere. She knows that. But not until I find out what the hell is going on here.

“You have to tell me how you’re here. How can I see you? How can I feel you? Why are you just now coming back? Why not sooner? I—I…” I have so many questions for her, but she shakes her head with a smile creeping up one side of her lips. I always kind of hated that little half-smile. I always kind of loved it, too. 

“I can’t tell you that. I just need you to promise that you’ll come with me. I can’t stay here long.” She continues to play with the grass, refusing to look me in the eyes. I want to reach out and lift her face to mine, want to dive into those green eyes that I’ve missed for so long.

But I don’t. I’m afraid to.

“Of course I will,” I say.

“It’s not here, though… I can’t stay in this place anymore. I can’t breathe here.” She stares down at her hands and frowns.

I look at the grass she’s touching and see that it’s all turned brown. It’s withered and crumpled like all the water has been sucked from the ground. She finally lifts her eyes to meet mine, and they’re greener than I’ve ever seen them. They’re the chartreuse green of leaves in the spring.

They’re the color the grass had been just a few moments earlier.

I realize that she is definitely not a ghost. She isn’t human either. I’m not sure what she is now, but it can’t be good. I’m also not sure that I care.

I nod at her, and scoot closer so that our knees are pressed together. A smile teases the corner of her lips as she grabs my hand again and brings it to her mouth for a kiss.

“You’re sure you’ll go with me? You’re sure you want to leave everything behind?”

If wherever she takes me means that we get to be together, then I don’t care where it is or what I have to leave behind. She’s the only thing I ever wanted, anyway.

“Let’s go,” I say. I run a finger across her lips, smiling when she squeezes her eyes shut like she always used to do.

The earth suddenly shakes beneath us, jarring us closer together. Dirt, grass, and moss cover our feet and knees, and I try to brush it off, but it sticks to my skin like it’s been glued there.

“What’s going on, Ari?” I ask. My voice shakes, but not because of the uneasiness that’s thickening the blood in my veins—the ground is still rumbling and pitching beneath us.

The bramble continues to cover our knees, climbing up our legs like it’s alive, wrapping around my thighs like it’s trying to pull me into the earth to take root there.

“We’re going home, Adam. Isn’t that what you said you wanted?”

The ground shudders one last time and Ari and I are pressed together so tightly that I can no longer breathe. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when she said she was going to take me with her. I guess I pictured heaven, or hell, or a cloud, or something, but I didn’t think the earth would swallow me whole.

I didn’t think her grave would swallow me whole.

I try to scramble away from her, but her fingers are wrapped around my arms so tightly that I might as well be pinned down by tree roots.

“I’m so glad to have you back, Adam,” Ari whispers in my ear as we sink six feet down into the cold mud of her grave. “You’ll be as dearly missed and dearly loved as me, I’m sure. But at least I have you now.”

I think I might have finally cracked. Maybe tomorrow will be better. 


STORY BY: Stefanie Marks

PHOTO BY: Gillian Woods

Friday, April 5, 2013

Give and Take

Give and Take

A promise was made to the land and I mean to keep it.

The blades of grass should be soft but they cut at my bare heel. They mark me for my last walk and I take every sting in my skin, glad it’s thicker at the bottom of my foot.

The sun is rising slowly but that won’t stop the day. And it won’t stop me from doing what I was born to do.

When I came to be I was promised to the earth. Others were sworn to the air, fire, and water. One by one we keep our promises. Our fifteenth birthday marks our sacrifice to keep the land happy, to keep our people safe.

Our parents keep us Chosen sheltered. They don’t let us form bonds with others, even from each other. We read a lot. Do chores. Eat in silence at every meal and then do it all again.

We’re told stories of how those before us gave themselves for a larger cause. How they promised their bodies and souls and minds to the elements and didn’t regret it ‘cause it was the way of things.

But my brother, he’s a simple child. Always wondering and asking. We weren’t supposed to be close he and I. They didn’t want the tether to be breached, the pain to last. My parents never hugged me nor my brother. They kept their distance knowing love would be the worst thing they could give. But my brother didn’t take to that. He’s younger than me but a head taller. Always smiling, his front tooth crossing over the other.

When we were young, my brother said that dangerous word: “Why?”

I won’t lie. I was also thinking it, just didn’t have the brass to ask it out loud.

Our father’s face twisted into something uglier than it already was. He pushed his chair back so hard it fell and splintered against the floor. He barked, “History should not be questioned! Only understood!”

It didn’t answer the question but as he dragged my brother away I heard the whistle of air before hand met skin followed by his screams knowing the beating was answer enough.

I didn’t expect to go to my brother’s room that night. Or to look in and see him curled up beside his bed crying silently. I didn’t expect to walk across the room and bring him into my arms and kiss the hair on his head. I promised him it’d be okay as I picked his hair out my mouth. He hugged me back. Warm hands pressing against my back and his face in my stomach when he was smaller than me, just a babe eight years ago. We stayed quiet when we embraced, knowing more beatings could follow. We enjoyed the scent of soap and starch and the feel of someone giving a damn. He whispered my name when we hugged, he’s the only one to use it. Mom and Pop always referring to either or both of us as “You.” I said his too, Sam.

It became a nightly ritual.

The day before though, I didn’t go to my brother’s room. I stayed in mine, stared at the sky through the window and waited for the moon to fade and the sun to appear. I heard a scratching at my door but don’t open it. There’s some mewing on the other side but I ignore it and the tears streaming down my face and landing in my ears making a salty pool. I can’t hug him again, not knowing it’ll be the last time.

He whispered my name but after I don’t talk he said “good night.” I heard his feet scrape against the floor.

“Goodnight,” I said to him. Goodbye, I said to myself.

No more waiting. A promise was made and I intend to keep it. I walk the path alone. I walk on acorns and grass and feel my body weaken, feel it seal with the ground. I press on as the sun rises signaling the time of my birth exactly, when I will be of the earth not just someone on it.

But something stops me. My name.



“Isabella! Wait up!”

I twist so fast the land cuts further into my heel. I’m too angry at him to be touched. He’s a damn fool.

“Go away!” I shout, which startles but doesn’t stop him. He moves slower now, like I’m the crazy one.

“I don’t understand why you have to go!” He quiets down and looks to be shaking. I can’t go back though. The damage is done. My feet are covered in moss and green and there’s nothing can change it.

“Just go. Now, Sam.”

“It doesn’t have to--”

“You stupid?” I ask ‘cause I’m genuinely concerned now. “You stupid as they say? Go away!”

But he shows his stupidity by coming towards me. The sun is getting higher in the sky. And I feel the pull, harder, tugging around my waist and taking me back, taking me in, taking me away.

“It’s time,” I say. He seems to understand now. Seems to get it. The bark starts up my leg, around my thighs, pass my bellybutton. I close my eyes. Sad and angry that this’ll be the last way he sees me.

Breath is getting harder but my chest doesn’t sting from the lack of it. I wait for the rest to come, for me to be engulfed. But then something soft takes my arm and closes around me and I know...

I open my eyes and his eyes stare so hard at me I think I’d faint were the earth not holding me up and bringing me under.

“I don’t want to be alone no more,” he says softly as I see the light in his eyes go out. I clutch him not wanting to let go and feeling the urge to push away but it’s too late. The earth is getting two for one.
Photo by Gillian Woods (GillyFace Photos)
Story by Jenn Baker

Monday, April 1, 2013

April's Picture!

Happy (official) Spring! At least I hope it is in your neck of the woods. With a new month and season Fiction Femme Fatale brings you a new picture prompt. This one is from the lovely and talented photographer Gillian Woods.

I stumbled upon Gillian's photography on Facebook and fell in love. I also really enjoyed that she shared the process by showing before and after photos to see how a compilation of images became something so much edgier.

Thanks so much to Gillian for allowing us to use one of her pictures as inspiration.

Check out Gillian's (aka GillyFace Photos) Facebook page (and Like it!) as well as her Flickr page. You'll be ohing and ahing all over the place.

Happy Writing!