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art by Ron Sanders

All Upon A Time

Dani Atkinson is terrible at coming up with author bios and really hopes that she comes up with something better before publication time....

This is her third publication in Daily Science Fiction.
Once upon a time there was a Giant Killer who was in town when a ball was announced inviting all eligible maidens to the palace, but she did not go, because she was only passing through on her way to another story.
Which is just as well. She almost certainly could have won the prince had she a mind to, as she was VERY good at getting what she wanted. But her way usually involved trickery and many, many unfortunate innocent bystanders.
So she moved on to her story full of dead giants and stolen treasures and a third prince who might not remain third if his wife ever realized that older brothers were not any harder to get rid of than giants, really. And everyone in the NICE story, with the fairy godmothers and the poor girls who could afford to be virtuous because they HAD fairy godmothers, breathed a sigh of relief without knowing why.
Once upon a time there was a Godmother, who stood with her best friend at a christening and promised to be the baby's guardian should anything happen to the child's parents. And the Godmother was so proud to be so.
Then she forgot.
Not her promise; the godmother's people take such things very seriously indeed. No, she forgot to check. She forgot that mortals' lives can be snuffed quick as candles, and that before you know it a baby can grow to a woman far, far too big to steal away for a changeling child.
The godmother was so embarrassed.
And so she said "I could not come until you truly needed me." She transformed cloth and flesh and vegetation every which way until her magic was bled dry. She hoped true love and a kingdom would make up for being late--and that a dead friend could, somehow, forgive.
Once upon a time there was a pumpkin, which a scullery maid dragged home at an ungodly early hour of the morning and baked into a pie to serve her stepfamily with breakfast.
"What did you use for seasoning?" one stepsister asked. "It tastes like road grit!" the other proclaimed.
"I seasoned it with wishes and a wildly beating heart," the scullery maid whispered. "I sweetened it with fantasies of revenge and triumphs both true and petty. It tastes like escape and speed and curfews tested and broken. Also cinnamon. Just a hint."
"What was that?" said the stepsisters.
"Eat your getaway coach. I mean evidence. I mean pie." said the scullery maid. "Before it gets cold."
Once upon a time there was a mouse who swore up and down that she had been a horse for one night.
"You should have seen it!" she squeaked. "Pulling a coach that used to be a pumpkin! The cobblestones ringing under my mighty hooves! Cats and terriers fled lest they be trampled!"
The other mice rolled their beady eyes and said, "Harriet, are you going to help us decide whether to bell the cat or not?"
Once upon a time there was a King and Queen who were deeply uncertain about their son's life choices.
"How could he not know her name?" the Queen wondered. "I asked every person I met at our first ball who you were, who your parents were, where you came from. I wanted every detail."
"How could he not know what she looked like?" demanded the King. "I know I spent our first dance memorizing every inch of you; eyes, hair, nose, lips...."
They looked at each other, and smiled.
"Perhaps she is a marvelous conversationalist. And perhaps our son was so shy that he spent the whole dance staring at her shoes?" the Queen suggested.
"I hope that's it, my love," sighed the King.
Once upon a time there was a shoe, which became all the rage among the ladies of a certain kingdom.
Their fathers tried to reason with them. "Those slippers are completely impractical! Glass? REALLY? One step wrong, they'll shatter and slice your foot to pieces! And those are two sizes too small for you! Just because the queen wore something like it once is no excuse; if the Queen jumped off a cliff, would you?"
Their mothers only sighed together and said "Such is fashion; wait it out. Last season it was tattercoats sewn from a thousand tiny scraps of fur, next year they'll want donkey skins or goose girl costumes or heaven only knows. You'll see...."
Once upon a time there was a scullery maid. Not that scullery maid.
Every other scullery maid.
In that kingdom after the ball, every other scullery maid thought, "The queen used to be like me."
And it made some of them hopeful, and others jealous. Some sneaked out, past curfew, after dark, to seek love or adventure. Some wasted away wishing on stars and watching for fairies. Some worked harder, scrubbing their pots and floors gleaming, hoping to be rewarded. Some stopped working altogether. Some ran away.
And all of them thought, as they sat in the cinders by the fire, "THIS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE FOREVER."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, March 10th, 2014


This story happened because my best friend couldn't have chocolate. See, I was going over for a visit shortly after Valentine's Day, and I'd bought her a box of her favorite assorted chocolates. Unfortunately, the day I was visiting happened to be a Jewish fast day. Bringing her just candy on a day when she can't have any seemed evil, so I made up another gift she could enjoy right away: a box of assorted stories. I hand-wrote them on scraps of colored paper and put them in another heart-shaped box. She seems to like them, and I hope everyone else will too!

- Dani Atkinson

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