Flash Fiction

This story is true, as all fairy tales are true.

Once upon a time there was a girl with a broken heart. It had come that way – broken. From her earliest of memories she’d always known pain. And it grew worse with time instead of better. No matter how many friends she had, there was a hole that no one could seem to fill, and she was tired of the tears.

So one day, she made a wish beneath the moonlit sky. “Take it and lock it up somewhere safe.” She laid her heart upon a silver dish and left it in the starlight. The next morning her heart was gone.

It was a curious thing, being a human without a heart. She could feel her heart beating distantly sometimes, still aching, but muted like burning coals buried under a pile of sand. She was pleased at first, because here she could finally know the world without the pain. So many things were easier! But she was also as cold as ice. She couldn’t feel joy. She couldn’t laugh. The world was a numb grey place where once it was bright colors balanced with shadows.

A year passed. And another. And then someone that she could have loved, had she had a heart, came into her life. Somewhere in the distance, her heart ached, reminding her it was still there, but she didn’t have a key to its box and she didn’t know who kept it locked away.

So she asked her one true love, that she could not love, for help. And whispers told them of a collector upon a hidden island. Someone who might have bought and paid for that heart laid out free for the taking. And her lover opened up his chest and pulled his own from his chest. It glowed red like a ruby, so bright and full. “Take it until we find yours,” he said.

But the girl knew what it was like to be without a heart, and she refused. “It is a gift freely given,” said he. “And I have no need of it until then.” So she allowed him to place it into the hollow cage of her chest. For the first time in what felt like forever, she felt warmth. For the first time in what felt like forever, she cried, and even the tears were warm.

But her love turned back, cold and still. Heartless as she once had been. “I will find your heart. Wait for me.” he said and he left for that island. She waited.

He did not return. She waited. Time passed.

She turned to her younger sister for help, because her borrowed heart told her something was wrong. Her sister, the golden one, let her lean upon her. “We’ll get them both back.” And she brought fire and wrath as they came to the island, to match the girl’s ice.

It was a dead place, full of statues. And one statue that she recognized: her love, frozen into pale marble, eyes frozen forever downcast. “Not yet,” her sister said, and pulled her away. “We need to find your heart first.”

So they threw open boxes, and rummaged through the art. Precious paintings, ancient vases. Creatures of all shapes and sizes, one of a kind, were frozen in marble around them. Their eyes followed where they went, begging for help, but the girl followed the pain. It grew worse as she neared her heart, because not even wood and iron could keep it at bay. And in the middle of a vaulted room, sat  a box on a pedestal.

The girl opened the box, expecting to see a dark and shriveled thing. Instead her heart was a flame, brighter than anything she had seen. It pulsed, so full, waiting for her. When she took it, there was a scream, and she shoved the precious thing in her pocket.

“Run!” her sister said, laying fire behind them, and melting away the stone. The girl ran back to the courtyard, and to her love. She cracked at the marble with her fists, until the shell of stone fell away, and he slumped into her arms. She threw him over her shoulder and they did not look back until they were back in the warded safety of home.

The girl pulled her love’s heart out of her chest, and laid it beside her own, surprised to see the two beat in tune. She returned her borrowed one, and took her own in hand. She knew it would hurt, but she pried apart her chest and set it carefully back where it belonged.

When her love awoke, she could return the look in his eyes.

Some things are worth the pain.

 

(If you missed it, part 1 is here. The last story continues here.)

3 Comments

Flash Fiction

This story is true, as all fairy tales are true.

Once upon a time, there were two sisters. The younger was as bright as the sun, with both cheerfulness and temper to match. When she was happy, smiles were a catching disease. When she was angry, everything around her burned. The older was as dark as night, cold where her sister was hot. She dealt in reason instead of whimsy. She walked alone while her sister held court with a crowd. Instead of fire, her anger was ice. But they loved each other for their differences.

They stumbled into faerie, not knowing what it was. To them it was just a pretty bit of land, perfect for building a house upon. They did magic, not knowing what it was. They started with a couch, then walls and a roof. It was a refuge against the real world, a place they could be free from cruel mothers that would shape them into things they were not, and were never happy with what they were.

And the magic did not go unnoticed (this was Faerie after all). Soon there were knocks on the door, and eyes watching in the woods. First came a horned god who had lost his magic. A dragon that loved its reflection. A dead brother who rarely spoke. A live brother who never stopped. A goddess who loved them all so much she might eat them (and declared herself third sister instead). The house grew into a village.

But Faerie takes as much as it gives. The house filled with laughter, noise, love. People, and beauty. But danger always curled at its edges. The house was a house of mirrors that reflected everything inside it, and made it more intense. It pulled secrets, better kept, into the light, where they were as sharp as knives, cutting where they went, until both sisters were bloody.

The secrets cut all the meat from the elder sister’s bones, and made a fuel of them for her the younger who grew hotter and brighter. Laughter turned into anger. Fondness turned to jealousy. This close, they both burned, until it was unbearable to stay. Even to look at each other became pain.

One day, the older sister knew that if she stayed there would be nothing left of her, because the truth is, you cannot survive in another person’s dream. And if she stayed, love might turn to hate.

So she left, even though her sister was angry at her for leaving, and magic done by one is never the same as magic done by two. She tried to go back to faerie on her own, but it was never quite the same. Never as bright. Never as true. (But it was still there)

But by and by, flesh grew back onto the older sister’s bones, and she could start to think about what she might become instead of what she lost. And the silence between the sisters began to ebb, tentatively; eroding like sand on a beach to the gentle pull of love.

Sometimes the older sister wondered if the scars on her bones were worth the price, but when she looked at what she had become, and looked at the gifts she had been given, she would always say yes.

Faerie had taken so much, but it always gave as much as it took. And those gifts were something she held dear, and close, and would never speak of aloud.

Some dreams are only meant for you.

 

(First of 3. Part 2 continues here.)

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Book Thoughts

The Bone Witch Book Cover The Bone Witch
Rin Chupeco
Young Adult Fiction
Sourcebooks, Inc.
March 7, 2017
432

 

This YA fantasy reads like a dark fairy tale. There are two alternating viewpoints / timelines. In one, a nameless bard records the story the Bone Witch (Tea) tells him, and starts to comprehend her terrible future plans for the world. In the other, we get Tea's story, and how she comes into power is whisked away from her old life and trains so that she can control it. All the while, I was never quite sure if Tea was the hero or the villain.

Some writers have obvious strengths and Chupeco's is worldbuilding. If you enjoy richly wrought worlds, and luscious descriptions of magic woven into clothing, or complicated social customs, this book is for you. There are pages and pages on dancing and jewelry and food. Tea stumbles as she tries to make sense of this foreign world she is navigating, how she should behave, dress, and speak. The cultures depicted are distinctly non-Western, but neither does she draw from only one cultural reference. The world she paints is big and diverse, which I appreciate.

But you're a fan of deep character interactions, most of the friendship / love story lines happen off the page. I really wanted a bit more on this side of things, but that's my personal preference.

This is not a fast paced book, because it takes it's time as it goes through months and years of Tea's life. The best comparison that came to mind was its "Memoirs of a Geisha" only were a girl learns to control dark magic, monsters, and plans revenge on the world.

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