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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.


Fairy Tales

You won't see traditional fairy tales here, at least unaltered. But fairy tales do provide a great common language upon which to build a story or twist the old out of recognition.

by Amy Aderman
The bean nighe is never wrong. She sits by a stream, washing the clothes of those soon to die. The water runs red with blood but the stains never fade. If you are bold, she will answer three questions but she will ask three in return; only true words must fall from your lips. I went walking the night before my wedding and saw her green-clad figure crouched by the stream. "Will I have a happy wedding?" I called out, approaching.
Published on Apr 16, 2015
by Edoardo Albert
"A wish? I thought there were supposed to be three?"

The genie breathed on his fingernails--apparently inlaid with diamonds--and polished them on his tuxedo-clad chest. Then he turned to me, shrugged, and grimaced in a way that was meant to suggest sympathy at my situation but instead hinted at the sort of glee a real estate agent knows when he's suckered a first-time buyer into putting an offer in on a house that is beyond his means.
Published on Dec 28, 2022
by Matthew F. Amati
The Giant squats, like an unlovely boulder, in the barley-field by the village.

The villagers have tried everything to get rid of him. They have run at the Giant in a mob, stuck hay-forks and scythe-points into his calves. They have set his rude tunic on fire. They have rigged a trebuchet and hurled rocks at his midriff.
Published on Aug 23, 2022
by Kevin J. Anderson
The foul-smelling mist exhaled from the cave opening, a swirl of brimstone and smoke. A soft reptilian growl echoed, low and steady. The dragon was still sleeping, but when he awakened, he would be hungry. The young woman, the virgin sacrifice, struggled against the ropes that bound her to the stake. Her wrists were already raw, but she couldn't get away. She waited for the monster to emerge, to devour her.
Published on Jul 18, 2018
by Abigail Ashing
The wolf is smoking a cigarette and wearing leather. He's a joke, she thinks, an afterschool special. He carries groceries for old ladies. Seriously, he does. What a cliche. She shrugs off her red hoodie.
Published on Apr 6, 2017
by Abigail Ashing
He would've kissed me to waken me, a tradition of dubious morality, but there was no need. I have my own little bit of witchcraft and better things to do than sleeping. I make a point of turning a page. He stares at me. I'm sure he wasn't expecting me to be sitting up in bed, hair disheveled, decidedly awake.
Published on Jan 21, 2016
by Dani Atkinson
Once upon a time in a far off land, in a tiny room, in a tall tower, at the centre of a vast and impenetrable maze, the princess Adrienna cocked her head and frowned. "Who said that?" said the princess.
Published on Sep 14, 2012
by Dani Atkinson
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.
Published on Mar 10, 2014
by Peter M. Ball
When last I saw you, my sweet, my love, you were shrunk to the size of Grandma's thimble and plucked from the porch by the bees of the forest. We heard your cries, your wild shrieks of delight, as they carried you to the place beyond the southern brambles. Listened, after, to the silence that followed, to the empty fields and the dark shadows beneath the trees where no bee remained to hum its evening song. You've been gone now a five-month, and grandma does not remember you, nor does Jordy or Cousin Ferdinand or our dear, sweet Claudette. Whatever magic was used to shrink you, to make your final exit possible, has stolen your memories from those you once deemed close as family.
Published on Nov 6, 2015
by Devan Barlow
Portia's home didn't want her, unless she reshaped herself. As she preferred her sharp edges, she left, and sought a town she'd heard of. It was one of the few places where the stone magic lingered, powered by the fire lurking within the nearby mountains. As she'd expected, it wasn't long before someone in the town found fault with her. Her lack of a smile was turned against her, reserve twisted into snobbishness. Snobbishness warranted harsh action, after all.
Published on May 15, 2020
by Claire Eliza Bartlett
They wait for you, in the velvet castles of the night. It's not like they have anything better to do. Everyone knows the story stops for the hero, and who would the hero be but you? That is why every mirror in every inn in this town is enchanted, showing chiseled jaws, sculpted arms. Nine out of ten heroes have a verified need for encouragement along the way.
Published on May 29, 2018
by Annie Bellet
The gibbous moon hung over the crowns of the baobab trees as Afua slipped from her cot and headed up the cliff road to the house of the witch. Red clay wet with the night rains slapped beneath her heavy feet, her hurried strides belying the fear curling in her belly. It was a dangerous thing to steal from a witch. But after tonight, she would no longer be called Sahona, the frog. Afua had always brushed off the insults, thinking that she'd grow like her friend Talata had grown, tall and graceful. Afua stayed squat, however, with a pointed face like a chameleon's, blotchy skin, and bowed legs more suited to a lemur than a young woman.
Published on Mar 16, 2012
by M. Bennardo
As she crossed the caf for the thousandth time that shift, Juliet suddenly caught sight of the man at the corner table, and the plate of beignets in her hand almost dropped to the floor. Avalanches of precious war-rationed powdered sugar tumbled down the mounds of the fried dough as her heart beat heavily in her chest and a dizzy sick feeling passed through her temples. As she set the plate down on the table, Juliet was only faintly aware of the half dozen boisterous Supply Corps stevedores sitting there--their dungarees already powdered by the last order of beignets, sweat beading in the V-necks of their open shirts, white caps floating above close-cropped hair. Usually she'd joke and laugh as loud as any of them, but now she could only squeak "More coffee, boys?" through a mouth that felt like it was filling up with cottonballs.
Published on Mar 28, 2014
by Carl R Bettis
Artful flailing of limbs and cries of pain and panic disguised the control behind Jill's much-practiced tumble down the hillside. She saw no witnesses, but one can't be too careful. She fetched up next to the twitching boy. "Jack! Jack," she cried, "are you hurt bad?" The crack she'd heard was not, as she'd hoped, his neck snapping. Blood and hair clung to the jagged rock behind him. The crown of his head was misshapen. He would live, after a fashion. She'd seen such injuries before, among the sheep. He would never be a man again.
Published on Apr 7, 2016
by Marie Brennan
The harp is a gruesome thing. Long bones for the pillar; breastbone for the board; the curve of a spine for the instrument's neck and knee. At the head sits a skull, grinning eyelessly at all who flinch away. I saw it when they paraded it through the streets after the revolt, carried on high like a triumphant hero. Even without flesh, I knew that grin.
Published on Mar 10, 2020
by Marie Brennan
Beauty is a consumable thing. We eat it with our eyes, wear it down with our gazes. A sunset or a flower may take our breath away because we see it for so short a time; the next day the flower has wilted, and the next evening’s sunset is not the one we saw before. But everyone has had the experience of purchasing a thing--a sculpture, a vase, a piece of jewelry--which was utterly striking when it was new, only to find that its charm palls after it is looked at too often. This is not simply habituation. The beauty is consumed in the looking. I did not care about money when my daughter wed, not for its own sake. I wanted some untouched beauty. Money is why ambitious families lock their most beautiful daughters away, to be attended to only in darkness, or by blind slaves. They choose the girls at an early age, no older than six, and they seclude them behind walls and veils until it is time for them to marry. Wealthy men will pay an absurd bride price for a young woman who has not been seen in a decade or more. Her beauty will be pristine, unmarred by other people’s eyes. Of course their own greedy gazes often ruin their prizes before long, dulling the new wife’s shine--but until then, they have what few others can say they possess. That, not money, is what drove me. Through the long years in which my daughter grew unseen, I gave careful thought to my choice, considering and discarding the possibilities. By the time she married, I knew: an ink painting by the master Kilungte. His style is minimalist; each work is completed in a single sitting. Even the artist’s own gaze has little chance to diminish the perfection of the result. I looked at it once, when I received it. I stared at it without blinking, until my eyes burned so badly I could keep them open no longer. Then, with them shut, I covered the painting. And I have not looked at it since. No one but me knows where it is. I can’t risk someone else damaging it, eating away at the beauty I sacrificed so much to acquire. Perhaps I will look at it one more time before I die--I haven’t decided. It will be lesser then, reduced by that first viewing. Perhaps it is better to remember it only as it was. I will not say what the painting depicts. Words cannot suffice. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and no one will ever truly see it again.
Published on Mar 17, 2022
by Stephanie Burgis
Needless to say, I didn't want to try on the slipper in the first place. "Why should I?" I asked Mama when she came to drag me away from my books that morning. "We both know I'm not the girl they're looking for. I was standing by your side last night, remember, when she first arrived. We both commented on how taken the prince was by her. You made a rude comment about the size of her collarbone, if you recall."
Published on Nov 1, 2013
by Maya Chhabra
When they told her she was coming back to life, she believed them. She could already feel her shadowed senses sharpening, the grey path coming into focus. Only she did not recognize the man who led her. I am Eurydice, she thought, but who is he?
Published on Apr 21, 2020
by Michael W Cho
The girl sweeps in on a cloud of pumpkin-colored satin and brocade as fine as cobwebs. Her entrance stirs the room like a diamond dropped in a crystal decanter, and the ballroom, adorned with elegantly garbed schemers, turns to gaze upon her as one. Surely, this is the enchanted Cinderella, whom I must court to save my life. She is announced: "Princess--" and I cut through the crowd. This I do without looking directly at her. My goal requires presence of mind that would be destroyed by the faerie glamour, nor do I wish to tip my hand overmuch to the assassins.
Published on Jul 26, 2019
by Marlaina Cockcroft
I knew the apple was poisoned. Foolish girl, the people whisper as I walk through the market, head high, refusing to hide inside my castle. So innocent, so trusting, so silly to take that apple and bite down.
Published on Oct 7, 2020
by Alison Louise Colwell
Sometimes, no matter what you do, you end up with a Prince. Even when you aren't looking for one. Sometimes the shoe fits. Sometimes the poisoned apple is dislodged at just the wrong moment and sometimes that frog; the nasty one that keeps creeping into your bedroom at night, the one that rescued your golden ball, the one you hurled against the wall in a fit of disgust after it slimed your cell phone, turns out to be your Prince in disguise. Disguises make it extremely hard to avoid them. IMHO disguises are unfair. So, suddenly you have your own Prince, as if that’s what you were searching for all along, instead of a missing ball or a quiet night's sleep or spectacular soft leather shoes that fit you perfectly. And when you get a Prince, you have to marry him. It doesn't matter that you have different plans for the rest of your life. Plans involving graduate school and career. Marriage hasn't figured into those plans, at least not yet. It's as if, somehow, the unintentional getting of a Prince becomes an unbreakable marriage contract that no girl before you has yet figured out how to extricate herself from. You'd like to be the first. You'd like a helpful fairy godmother, though you harbor a deep suspicion she'd take the Prince's side. You'd prefer to return to your solitary walks in the forest looking for new types of liverworts, imagining a future as a renowned lichenologist. But no. Apparently not. So you agree to marry your Prince. He's a Prince after all. "He's a good catch," your mother says; though you see the way she looks at your father, and you think if she caught him now, she'd be trying to throw him back, too. You try to ignore your Prince's habit of catching flies. How his hand snaps out and he catches them in his fist. He’s fast, you tell yourself. Focus on the positive. You try to ignore that sometimes he eats the flies, with too much lip-smacking pleasure. You don't dwell on all those years he spent as a frog in the well on the edge of your parent's property. Instead, you admire the fact he hasn’t lost any of his princely physique. And then you also have to ignore Henry. Henry is the Prince's "manservant." He was so sad, so heartbroken, when the Prince turned into a frog, that he spent years searching every single pond in every single kingdom, never quite running out of hope, always looking for the Prince. Everyone else is so thrilled about Henry and what happened to him when the Prince stopped being a frog. How fortunate that Henry's heart swelled so much with happiness that the iron bands around the sad sap's heart broke. You aren't a harpy. You’re happy for Henry. Really, you are. But you see the way he looks at your husband. And the way that your husband looks at Henry. And you’ve got nothing against that. Except, why hold you to a marriage contract that you weren't looking for, when he's not particularly enamored of you either? Because he does hold you to the contract and you're married. Your father is excessive in his plans. You suspect he sympathizes with the Prince. Remembers his own courtship, spent searching for sleeping princesses to kiss. The wedding is immoderate. You wear a huge white dress (that looks frighteningly similar to the cake) and still you're upstaged by the Prince's ruffled cravat. Hundreds of guests are invited, with all thirteen fairies in attendance. And when it's over, before you have a chance to change out of your own perfectly fitting, spectacular shoes, you're off. The Prince takes you from the only home you’ve ever known, from your family and friends and drags you off to his own castle in his own kingdom, and you're supposed to be thrilled--look! new castle--smiley face emoji--but all you actually are is lonely and homesick. You never wanted a husband. Maybe you dreamed about the fairy tale when you were little, but never planned on the real-life version. Lichenologists are busy people. So you ignore Henry and you ignore the Prince's questionable eating habits, and you try to make do, make the best of what life has seen fit to give you; a Prince and a castle, after all. You know that some girls barely get to wash the pond scum off their Prince Charming before they are caught in a life not of their choosing. You're one of the lucky ones and you remind yourself of that. Often. After all, he’s handsome. Attentive. And quick in bed. And in the beginning you think this is a good thing. You might have been allowed to wander the forest alone looking for rare mosses, but in some respects you had a fairly sheltered upbringing. You hadn't known what to expect from marriage. It’s the lurid romance books you confiscate from the cook that make you wonder if you’ve gotten something else wrong. Bodice rippers she calls them, and once you've read a few you understand why. And start to wonder if there's something else you're missing. Something else your mother didn't tell you about, when she told you to settle for the Prince. And then you fall pregnant. And it quickly becomes apparent that's all he really wanted; a little prince to carry on the family name. Once you're pregnant, you rarely see your Prince. He spends his days out hunting with Henry. Visiting other kingdoms with Henry. Drinking brandy by the fire with Henry. You're the only one paying any attention to running his kingdom. But you can't manage everything. You can't pay all the servants. Eventually some of them give notice. They have better things to do. You watch them leave and wonder if you should go with them. He still comes home most nights. Comes to your bedchamber for those quick furtive gropes in the dark. He sweats too much and his skin feels slippery under your hands. Almost slimy. And you’re back to being glad he’s fast. You're too tired to miss what might have been. You wipe your palms on the sheets and focus on planning meals for the rest of the week. "Too fat. Too stupid," he says after an evening drinking. You let the words slide off you. Remember that you were pretty once. That there was a time when your belly wasn't marked by first one birth, then two and your breasts didn't sag. Back when you were a princess with dreams. If your fairy godmother showed up now, it'd be an extreme makeover edition. And really, you don't care. You have two kids, and it’s so much work keeping everyone clean and fed and who has the time to curl their hair and change out of the yoga pants you've been wearing for days. You certainly don’t. You’ve got a castle to manage. All on your own, thank you very much. Henry's no help with anything. When he forgets your birthday, or your anniversary, you no longer care. What else is there, after all? Your daughter is five when she finds it. You're sweeping out the downstairs pantry, cobwebs trailing from your hems. She's tossing a golden ball she’s unearthed somewhere. Your ball. The one that started it all. "Come play with me," she begs. "We can be princesses together." And you rock back on your heels, cold sweat washing over you. Really, are you going to do this to her life as well as to your own? You remember how wonderfully cool the air felt deep in the forest near your childhood home. You remember your passion for lichens and mosses and what it's like to have your own life. You remember what it's like to sleep unafraid of the Prince beside you. You remember a girl who is fearless. You remember a girl who is whole.
The Prince comes home, Henry trailing after him. He stops when he sees the packed bags lined up by the front door. You could have left already, but you've waited to speak to him. "You promised me," says the Prince. "You stood beside me in the cathedral and promised me forever. We didn't even bother with a prenup. I believed you." You load the bags and the children into the station wagon. You stop in the courtyard, and look back at him, standing alongside Henry in the doorway. You could tell him you're sorry. But it would be a lie. You're not sorry. Not for him. You're only sorry for yourself. Sorry you didn't remember the girl with the ball earlier. Sorry that you didn’t realize how light you would feel. Sorry that it's taken you years to realize that even if you end up with a Prince there's nothing that says you have to keep him.
Published on Nov 5, 2021
by Zack Conley
Any Rules: Reach the ever after (happiness not required), no wizard magic, no other rules. Note: Load times may vary by language of story
Rapunzel Select point of view as father and jump roll from window straight into garden. Grab two fistfuls of rampion while making noise to trigger witch scene. As soon as point of view is Rapunzel grab scissors and cut halfway through hair. Go to window in response to witch to trigger scene. After scene cut off remaining hair while singing out the window. When prince arrives, tie hair to tower hook to allow prince to climb. Push the prince out of the tower when he reaches the top. The short hair on Rapunzel and falling prince will trigger desert end sequence.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears Select point of view as Mama Bear. As soon as porridge is on the table run straight outdoor to trigger Goldilocks sequence. As Goldilocks run straight to bedroom, spilling porridge on the floor, and smashing chairs on way to stairs. Climb onto bed to trigger next scene. As Mama Bear go straight to bedroom to trigger end sequence.
The Three Little Pigs Select point of view as third pig brother and run straight from home towards edge of story. Punch out straw and stick sellers on the way, then purchase bricks from third seller. At edge of story wolf will appear. Say, "not by the hair of my chinny chin chin," twice to trigger wolf huff and puff attacks. Go back to house location, construct house and put pot of water on to boil. Without other houses, pig brothers will warp to your house. Wolf will automatically move to third house and attempt to huff and puff. When this fails, they will attempt chimney entry and fall into the water, triggering end sequence.
The Gingerbread Man Select point of view as old woman. Cut out gingerbread man shape in dough. Eat raw dough and throw rest into bucket of water. Wet and eaten gingerbread triggers end sequence.
Little Red Riding Hood Select point of view as red riding hood. Approach mother to acquire basket and hood. Restart story to skip dialogue scene. Hop jump along forest path until you reach flower bed. After triggering wolf encounter go to edge of story where woodsman is located. Pick up rocks and add the woodsman to your party. Go to grandma's house. Say the word "teeth" to trigger wolf attack. The presence of the huntsman and rocks triggers end sequence.
The Tortoise and the Hare Select point of view as Aesop. Pick up tortoise and throw at finish line.
Published on Nov 15, 2021
by Tina Connolly
All us fellas loved Miss Violet May, right from the start. She came from the land of Twelve Thousand Lakes, came click-clacking on the train from North to South till she met worthless Sorry Joe Weevily, and he sweet-talked her into getting off and marrying him. We'd never seen a girl from that far north before. Course, them northern girls ...sometimes you don't see them at all, ain't that what they say? Leastways that's what I always heard. That them Twelve Thousand Lakes was fulla nothing but ghosts, spirits drifting around from one fingerling lake to the next.
Published on Feb 25, 2014
by Tina Connolly
NotSoEvilQueen: Magic Mirror for sale, $200 OBO Pros: Identifies potential supermodels, could be useful to someone operating a business. Cons: Beauty is a construct, reinforces the problematic status quo (PATRIARCHY). I'll definitely say I've had enough therapy by now that I know this mirror needs to leave my house!!!
Published on Oct 27, 2020
by Holley Cornetto
Shadows flickered in the nursery's dim light. Fiona kissed her daughter on the forehead. "Once upon a time, my father lied."
Published on Sep 9, 2020
by Holley Cornetto
Before you try on the slipper, think about what's really going on here. Do you honestly want to marry a man who can't even recognize your face? A man so desperate for a bride that he'd haul a shoe around the entire kingdom? That isn't romantic, and it really takes you out of the equation, doesn't it? It isn’t you he loves, it's the size of your feet.

Published on Aug 4, 2022
by Jonathan Cosgrove
Once upon a time I was the elder sister of a girl enchanted by a ring. And I, the elder of a girl wed to a wolf or a hunter, one and the same.
Published on Nov 12, 2020
by Matthew Cote
As far back as anyone in the sleepy mountain town could remember, Old Hagatha One-Eye had lived alone on a dusty track in the woods. If you followed the paved road into what passed for Main Street in this valley, kept the dam on your left when you crossed the river, and continued on through the woods, you would find her. How not, with all the signs guarding her property? No Trespassing; No Soliciting; Private Property; Keep Out!
Published on Sep 30, 2013
by Sheila Crosby
It was pretty scary watching the witch sing "Happy Birthday". Instead of being pursed in disapproval as usual, her mouth stretched into a smile so wide that it made me think of strychnine. Meanwhile her eyes stayed as cold and unblinking as a hawk, with a nose to match. She wore the inevitable silky blouse, twenty years out of date and buttoned right up to her wrinkled neck, but today it was little-girl pink. Even her trousers were pink. The outfit clashed hideously with her strident plum hair, and I couldn't help thinking they were going to get stained when she shinnied down the tower.
Published on Nov 22, 2010
by Maggie Damken
Sometime around midnight, the collies started barking like war-dogs in the pasture. Daddy'd left me alone for the night and the rule was always the same: if I so much as thought I needed the gun, I'd get the gun. Pulling on my red coat and readying the shotgun, I barged into the moon-bright yard and saw the wolf with its bloody teeth around the throat of one of our dogs. I set my sight and shot.
Published on Aug 13, 2020
by Mark Darby
"One Fish," came the whisper "Two Fish," I replied
Published on Oct 11, 2017
by S. Cameron David
I wager you've heard a lot about storks. Because of course you have. Everyone loves a stork. If you're hoping for a baby but can't get pregnant, just keep the windows open wide. Wait for the night a stork flies in, carrying some moonlit surprise, swaddled in a blanket and held in its beak. Oh, it all sounds nice enough, doesn't it? A story fit for a fairy tale. But no one bothers to ask the really important question.

Published on Jul 5, 2022
by Amanda C. Davis
There is nothing here, in the bright bronze center of the desert--nothing but the great walled city with gates shut tight, and at the base of them, clutching them for comfort, me. I have come so far that I forget where I started. The city begs for stories, in words I can only hear through my fingertips. My head is full of them, but I do not know whether they are mine.
Published on Dec 2, 2014
by Amanda C. Davis
Once there was a princess born on the coldest day of the year, so that as she drew her first breath, the midwife exclaimed, "Truly, this girl will never feel the cold." And as she grew they saw this was true. The winter princess was known to go riding in weather that made the huntsmen shiver (though she always took care for the horses), to make bouquets of dried weeds poking from the snow, and to leave open the window of her tower no matter how icy the wind.
Published on Apr 25, 2016
by Adam Dean
He had hunted her, she saw that now. Like a hind sighted briefly before startling, she was a prize to be claimed, a promise held out and then snatched away. And he was not the sort of man to return from the hunt empty-handed. So he had scoured the kingdom and found her, whisked her away to a fairytale wedding. At the time, she had been caught up in the romance of it all, glad at last to be free from a life of drudgery. She had even been happy, for a while. Until his eye began to wander once more, and she saw the truth of the life that she must now live: her room in the high castle turret no less a prison than the cellar from which she had so recently escaped.
Published on Oct 6, 2017
by Ellen Denham
***Editor's Note: An adult story with mature, adult themes*** When I see you for the first time, a shark-sized shadow slinking around the mad-hued corals below, I gasp through my snorkel. But curiosity gets the better of me, and I linger, floating above. Your arm emerges first. A man swimming so deep without a tank? The instinct of rescue thrusts me into a dive. Then I see your segmented tail, mottled gray. And only then, your beautiful face, upturned, startled--almost human except for the flexible antennae extending from your jaw. I push back to the surface, a creature of land and air--unlike you--needing a breath to make sense of what you are. You rotate to face me, your torso well-muscled and pale as marble, like a Greek statue. Watching me, you coil and uncoil the jointed carapace that forms your body from the waist down, allowing me glimpses of the tender flesh beneath. A gesture of trust, or of submission? Your gaze is calm, eyes wide with wonder as mine must be beneath my mask.
Published on Nov 22, 2012
by Douglas Paul DiCicco
Now that she'd won the dragon, Clara had no idea what to do with it. She hadn't wanted to win, really. She'd just wanted to make sure the duchess lost. The duchess had made a disparaging remark about Clara's shoes at the midwinter ball, and Clara had never forgotten the slight. When auction day came and the duchess began bidding on the hatchling, Clara saw an opportunity for revenge and jumped on it. The look of disappointment from the duchess had been satisfying, but buyer's remorse set in as the auction house clerk guided her to the treasure vault. Perhaps sensing Clara's regret, the clerk made certain to remind her of the steep fees incurred for cancelling a bid. She knew her mother, the queen, was going to be livid about the expense, and would be especially livid if she returned home with nothing to show for it.
Published on Aug 13, 2021
by Caroline Diorio
They called her the cinder girl, or perhaps it was something else. It's been a few centuries since then, and anyway, human names are so bland, so short, so quick to dissolve in an immortal memory. Where was I? Ah yes, the girl in the fireplace. Well, you know the story. There was a pitiful orphan girl with two spoiled stepsisters and a wicked stepmother. There was a prince, comely as the dawn with all the wit and brains of a turnip. There was a ball, a dress, and a very impractical pair of shoes.
Published on Apr 29, 2020
by Sarina Dorie
I was on my third rep of overhead presses when Mitch shouted over the nineties punk rock blaring from the gym's speakers, "Bro, check out the guns on the big guy in the red suit." Mitch dropped his dumbbell with a thunk and commenced to gawk. I glanced over my shoulder and did a double take at the man across from us in the gym. A jolly old man in a red muscle shirt was bench-pressing three hundred and ninety pounds in the corner. His hair was long and white and matched his wiry beard. For the briefest of moments I felt a spark of elation. My head filled with visions of sugarplums and twenty-pound jars of protein powder. I blinked the merry sensation away.
Published on Dec 24, 2015
by Sarina Dorie
***Adult Fairytale below*** 1.) I will fulfill my end of the fairy godmother contract. I will play matchmaker for the handsomest prince in all the land and find him the most beautiful princess in all the land so they can populate the world with rich, pretty children from the Charming family lineage.
Published on Feb 11, 2016
by Sarina Dorie
The princess stared at me in horror. "You've been thirty for how long?" I tapped my magic wand against the layers of my fluffy gown, sending puffs of magic into the air. "I'm not sure. I lost count after a while. Probably about five hundred years."
Published on Apr 25, 2022
by James Dorr
Happy was happy, Grumpy was grumpy, and so on and on. These weren't their actual names, of course, but nicknames they gave to themselves depending on mood. More and more often now, for instance, the one once named Happy was known as Sadsack. And Grumpy, more and more often, Enraged. It was a mystery how the seven had gotten here in the first place. The hut in the forest. Their work in the mines. Sometimes it was jewels they would dig for there, at other times coal, but the coal had become rare. It seemed to follow the needs of the world, but perhaps not. A bit shorter than average, at least they were fitted for stooping in tunnels. By now, more and more often, they were mining salt. The one once called Doc--he claimed to have a PhD--said he'd come up with a theory. "Why would people need so much salt?" he would ask. But theory or not, he never seemed to come up with an answer. By now, what he was known as was Dropout--it turned out he'd never finished his dissertation either. But more and more often their main occupation came after work hours, answering questions from anthropology students and folklore collectors concerning their previous adventures. "Adventures" indeed! They would try to explain--they worked in the mines. All they did was dig stuff, their biggest "adventure" being, perhaps, figuring out exactly what they were mining on any particular day. And that, as said, was mostly salt these days. That is, sure they might sometimes be buried alive--mines did collapse sometimes--but they always managed to burrow their way out. After all, if they hadn't, they'd hardly be able to answer people's questions. The same with occasional methane poisoning, or black lung disease. It wasn't nice work. But their questioners' interest was not in their work, but in afterhours happenings. Like--in fact, almost always these days--the one with "Snow White." Well, the first thing was the girl's real name was Mary. A Girl Scout or something, she'd managed to get herself lost in the woods. She'd most likely been high on something, to boot. She'd babbled some story about evil queens, and that she was a stepdaughter they'd tried to murder. The evil queens, that is, the ones trying to kill her, or at least their huntsmen--or maybe an older woman Sadsack later claimed he'd seen lurking around in the forest at about that time. Details by now had become a bit fuzzy. In any event the miners, in charity, took her in--it was starting to rain too. They let her do some work in the kitchen, and make the beds, other things like that, light housework type things, but for some reason they'd never been able to figure out, a week later she died. And that was pretty much that, they left her outside and after a few days the corpse disappeared. Sure, for the questioners they embellished some of the details a little, like that she was so pretty they couldn't bring themselves to hide her away in a grave, so they placed her in a transparent glass coffin. The fact, of course, was that as miners they'd been excavating all day and the last thing they needed to do, in their few leisure hours, was to dig another hole. And so, while her remains were most likely then eaten by wolves or bears, they invented a prince. But then princes were common back in those days--as, indeed, were evil stepmothers. A real adventure of sorts that they had had, or at least a sort of connection to one, was with Cinderella--which in her case was her actual name. At least to the extent that names like theirs were real as well, it was what people called her. But the thing was, with her, the fairy godmother had sewn her a ball gown made of actual gold thread--and guess who'd been called on to mine the gold. That was the thing. Somewhere, somehow, another magical being nowadays must need lots of salt, considering what they'd been mining this past month and more--Dropout had wondered if maybe the mermaids were up to some caper. But back to the point, after the gold they'd gone through a phase of mining copper, and with that, too, eventually they had found out why. That Cindy had actually married a prince, and on the way to becoming an evil queen in her own right, she'd decided to redecorate the palace. This included a redesign of the uniforms worn by the Royal Guard--with lots of brass buttons. She liked brass buttons. And while she was at it, she had more Guardsmen hired. Lots more Guardsmen. Somewhere, the seven miners figured, there must be another crew mining zinc. But salt was the worst. Salt, salt, salt, by day's end you tasted it. Like it or not. It stung on your skin when you'd suffered even the tiniest abrasion. It dehydrated you. Got in your eyes. It was like a disease--it destroyed your sense of smell. "It's a cruel world," one of their company said, the self-effacing one once called Bashful, but, having since taken lessons on how to express his feelings, was now named Sadistic. "It's getting crueler." But mostly, even with the anthropologists, by the time they'd gone off shift they were usually too tired to talk. One can always answer questions in writing, of course, though that's tiring as well. Or by signs, like shrugs. Winks, things like that. They shrugged a lot, these days. They likened themselves to flies caught in a web. Engulfing and vast. A huge, all-powerful spider there somewhere, to choose for instance what they would mine this time. Their part in this being to ask no questions. The one who kept falling asleep on the job when the bosses weren't looking woke up for a moment. "I had a dream," he said, he having more recently gained the name Prophet. Then he added: "I dreamed this time that we were in Hell." Sadistic smiled.
Published on Feb 11, 2022
by Andrea Eberly
******************Editor's Note: Adult Language********************
Published on Jul 12, 2021
by Megan R. Engelhardt
I knew the girl would never give up her child. I knew before I asked. That is the sort of deal you only make if you're young and naive and facing execution and the idea of a child is so very far away that it is an easy thing to give up.
Published on Jan 31, 2012
by Shannon Fay
The Queen had been in control all her life. She had conquered any enemy nation that had posed a threat, had crushed dissent within her kingdom with the thoroughness of a wildfire. The only thing she feared was death itself; surely her land would fall into ruin without her. So when a Witch appeared and offered her a way to outsmart death, the Queen had accepted, swallowing the small seed that would guarantee her eternal life. But instead of invulnerability the seed brought pain. A thorny, scratchy pain that grew within her. The Queen had the Witch brought to the throne room.
Published on Sep 24, 2019
by Shannon Fay
There was a myth about mermaids: if you ate their flesh you would live forever. Whenever the men of the village caught a mermaid, they would cut out chunks of her tail and eat it raw as she flopped and screamed upon the deck. They’d carve enough for themselves and their family back home before dumping her back in the water. And the myth was true: the fishermen never grew old, nor did their wives. When their children came of age they’d fed them the mermaid flesh, and repeated the ritual when their children’s children grew old enough.
Published on Aug 23, 2021
by Shannon Fay
Amalda dodged heavy snowflakes as she flew towards the cafe. The cafe door was slowly closing behind a centaur and she managed to zip through before it shut. More places should have a fairy door, she thought as she shook the snow off her wings.

Just her luck that, on the day she was having her first coffee date with someone in a hundred years, the storm gods decided to bring down a mix of rain and snow. The cafe was bustling but she saw no sign of her date, a handsome satyr. They had matched on FairyTaleRomance.com ("Find your Happily Ever After!") and he had suggested this place for their first meeting. With nothing else to do she stood in line, hovering in the air so the large beings around her didn't accidently step on her. When she ordered a hot chocolate, the barista told Amalda he'd bring the drink to her table.
Published on May 5, 2022
by Eugie Foster
The dim shadows were kinder to the theater's dilapidation. A single candle to aid the dirty sheen of the moon through the rent beams of the ancient roof, easier to overlook the worn and warped floorboards, the tattered curtains, the mildew-ridden walls. Easier as well to overlook the dingy skirt with its hem all ragged, once purest white and fine, and her shoes, almost fallen to pieces, the toes cracked and painstakingly re-wrapped with hoarded strips of linen. Once, not long ago, Aisa wouldn't have given this place a first glance, would never have deigned to be seen here in this most ruinous of venues. But times changed. Everything changed. Aisa pirouetted on one long leg, arms circling her body like gently folded wings. Her muscles gathered and uncoiled in a graceful leap, suspending her in the air with limbs outflung, until gravity summoned her back down. The stained, wooden boards creaked beneath her, but she didn't hear them. She heard only the music in her head, the familiar stanzas from countless rehearsals and performances of Snowbird's Lament. She could hum the complex orchestral score by rote, just as she knew every step by heart.
Published on Sep 26, 2014
by Katina L. French
AszI brushes the endless knots out of my daughter's hair. She giggles and says, "It's like Rapunzel's, right?" I snort and kiss the top of her head. I do not say what first springs to mind, which is that Rapunzel's real name was Persinette, and calling a girl "Rapunzel" is basically like calling a modern girl "spinach salad."
Published on Oct 29, 2015
by Jeff Gard
So, it's quarter to closing at Royals Shoe Emporium, and this orange Mustang sweeps into the parking lot, scattering dead leaves and field mice. The car's subwoofers toss a bass line carelessly at our window, and our mannequins tremble with every slap and thump. I can't hear all the words, just enough to know someone wants to smack his ho. Parked across two empty spots, the doors pop open and out steps Prince Charming. I won't tell you his real name. Frankly, I'm more than a little embarrassed that I still say it aloud in my sleep. Ana and Zella smoke joints in the stockroom. Verna wilts across the front counter, propped up by a cash register and the last remains of a latte. We play rock-paper-scissors with our eyes. I lose. "Your customer." Verna yawns. Prince Charming strolls down the runway between his Mustang and our doors, his best friend, Stewart, floating two paces behind on the fumes of his greatness. Even I must admit Prince Charming looks good in chinos and a linen shirt. I wish I could be that cable-knit sweater clinging to his collarbone. His reappearance in my life reminds me of that boy from seven years ago, the one in the tuxedo who kept glancing at his shoes so he wouldn't step on my feet. I can still feel his warm, eager hands on my hips, his fingers testing the Chiffon fabric. My dress was made from daydreams and speculation, beads of steam gathered on a bathroom mirror. A lot has changed since then. I no longer dye my hair blond or wear blue contacts. I've given up on the compulsion to shave, bleach, pluck, and starve myself into perfection. My breath catches as he flings open the door. Will he recognize me? Will he ask me how I've been? Will he ask me when my shift ends? Instead, he doesn't make eye contact. He thumbs his phone. "Suede Bluchers," he says. "What size?" "Whatever fits." I lead him into the labyrinth of boxes and knee-high mirrors. He sits on a padded bench, as I stoop to remove his Espadrilles. There is no sign of wear or tear on the soles, not a single pebble caught in the tread. My fingers tremble as I slide his perfect foot onto a metal scale and adjust a few knobs. I memorize his numbers. Most of his qualities can be converted to numbers: waist circumference, inseam, weight, height, IQ, GPA, financial worth, hotness. I cast this knowledge into the furnace of regret that fuels my fantasies, but songbirds pluck the digits from the ashes. Does he still think of that night, of how we were thrown improbably together as King and Queen for three glorious hours? Does he remember how I fled the dance floor, equally afraid of my parent's curfew and his attention? Does he keep his plastic crown in a shoebox on the top shelf of his closet? That's where I hid my tiara, but even buried in scrapbooks and old sweaters, it shines brilliantly behind a closed door. Like its counterpart--the dress stuffed under my bed--its memory emerges every homecoming. Stewart nudges Prince Charming and shows his master a video on his phone. The two chuckle, and Stewart's eyes meet mine. Surely, he must recognize me. He hit on me as Prince Charming got us drinks. His creepy stare penetrated layers of lace and taffeta. I hugged myself to provide an extra barrier between myself and his lecherous intentions. Will he say something to Prince Charming tonight? No. Stewart throws an arm around his highness and poses for a selfie. He takes his time selecting the best filter and caption. "Is this going to take long?" Prince Charming asks me. "I'll have you out the door before you can say, 'bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.'" I pull a few boxes from the shelf and show him our meager offerings. He shrugs off most of my suggestions before picking our most expensive brand. I shuck the tissue paper and entomb one foot. He takes a few steps, then frowns. "Too tight." "It's the largest size we carry. The suede will loosen up once you break them in." "No good. I need them tonight. What else do you have?" If he were a woman, he'd endure blisters, sore calves, and throbbing arches. If this shoe meant the difference between potential happiness and certain neglect, we'd cut off our own heels, chop off our longest toes. We'd walk in a puddle of our own blood for the rest of our lives and smile through the pain. "That's all I have." He waits for me to remove the offending shoe, then says, "Your loss. I guess I'll just take my business somewhere else." "I'm sorry." Prince Charming pockets his phone. He looks at my name tag, then my face. My heart chimes like a distance clocktower announcing midnight. Every beat hammers pitted bronze, sending tendrils of sound floating on electric currents that run into my fingers and toes. "You look familiar," he says. "Have we met before?" The clocktower bell's last toll echoes in my blood. Heat gathers in my feet, which point unconsciously toward the door. My shift is finally over. "No," I say. But Prince Charming has already left. Stewart's jackal laugh tickles his ear as they share another video. I try not to stare longingly as the orange Mustang swerves out of the parking lot. Tonight, when I get home, I will retrieve the Chiffon gown from under my bed. I will toss it in the fireplace, soak it in lighter fluid, and scratch out a match. I will hold the flame until it licks at my fingertips. Then I will drop it onto the dress. If any songbirds try to rescue the dream, I will swat them out of the air with an old broom. I'm keeping the tiara, though. I fought hard for that glittery piece of plastic.
Published on Oct 27, 2021
by David Gianatasio
The genie appeared in a plume of ethereal smoke, as genies often do. I wished for riches--and piles of money materialized, along with precious gems.
Published on Jul 22, 2021
by Laura Anne Gilman
�There was a prince who lived in a broken-down castle n a broken-down land. He had no great treasures, no great armies, no great love to save him, and neither did his land, and he cursed the skies and the streams each day, that had cast him to be born to this life, to be born to the poverty.� �How could he be a prince, if he was poor?� �Running a country is very expensive.� �Didn�t he have a fairy godmother or a dragon to bring him money?� �He did not.� �He needs a dragon.� �Does he, now?� �He needs a dragon, and a love. Because you can�t just have money. You gotta have love, too.� �You are very wise for one so very young.� The youngling made a face, nose scrunched up. �Tell me more about the poor prince.� �Yes?� �Please.� �The prince did not wish to be a prince. It may be that he wished to be a dragon himself, to spread great wings and fly off, to bring back treasures, and perhaps a fair maiden who might come to love him.� �Or eat.� �Or eat. Although that would only stave off his hunger for a little while.� �But he wasn�t a dragon? Not even a little bit?� �Not even a little bit.� �So what happened? To the prince.� �Nothing happened. He stayed where he was, and cursed the skies and streams, and did the best he could. He fought off famine and foes, spread himself as thin as he could. But it wasn�t enough. And slowly, his people starved, and died.� �That�s not a story!� �It�s not?� �It�s not a GOOD story.� �No, perhaps it is not. How would you make it better?� �He could ride off and have adventure! And find a fortune!� �And then who would take care of his people, while he was gone?� �Oh.� The youngling made another face, knuckles cracking. �Adventure could come to him? With� with a fairy godmother, who had missed his birth and wanted to make it up to him. With a big party and presents. So he�d not be poor ever again.� �That would be a good story.� �But it doesn�t have a dragon.� �No, it doesn�t.� ��I would be his dragon.� �Would you, now? And what would you do, if you were his dragon.� �Bring him my hoard. If had one, that is.� Knuckles dragged across a worn, scraped floor. �And if you did not?� �I�d find one. And bring it to him. So he wouldn�t have to curse any more, but could be happy, and not worry about his people any more. And they could go have adventures, then. That would be a proper story.� They were silent a moment, contemplating adventure. �And I�d find a love for him, too. A princess. Or another prince. Or a coal-girl. Princes fall in love with coal-girls, don�t they?� �Perhaps they do.� �Do they ever fall in love with dragons?� �Sometimes, in the very best stories, they do.�
Published on Jun 20, 2017
by Jenna Glover
"Why did you do it? Were you really so angry?" "I wasn't angry." "Then why curse the girl?" "Because she asked me to."
Published on Mar 14, 2022
by Sarah Goslee
I never really loved her. I never loved her, but from the first moment I saw her I coveted her, desired her in the way the ivy desires the castle wall, or the oyster the pearl.
Published on Dec 12, 2012
by Theodora Goss
She waited until autumn. She wanted to wait until the children were home and back in school. Bobby had been at soccer camp--Robert, he wanted to be called now, which was confusing because his father was Robert too, so when she called either of them, they both answered. He started tenth grade and slipped right back into his usual routine of school, soccer, and hanging out with friends, like a fish sliding through a pond without making a ripple. It was Eleanor she was worried about. At the end of seventh grade she'd quarreled with her best friend, or her best friend had quarreled with her, and Eleanor had said they were never speaking again, then had run up to her room and cried with the sort of passionate intensity best left to itself. That summer she had gone to riding camp, and then visited her grandparents, Robert's parents, who lived in a large house surrounded by pastures and forest, where her grandmother had made all her favorite foods. Somehow, over Facebook or Snapchat or whatever teenagers were using at the moment, a reconciliation had been effected, and Eleanor and Emily were once again inseparable. But Eleanor was the sensitive one, the one who secretly wrote poetry, so it was Eleanor she was worried about.
Published on Nov 13, 2015
by Theodora Goss
She looks at herself in the full-length mirror of the bridal salon. She resembles a winter landscape, hills and hollows covered with snow, white and sparkling. She is the essence of purity, as though all that has ever blown through her is a chill wind. The veil falls and falls to her feet. She shivers. "Are you cold, Rosie?" her mother asks.
Published on Nov 17, 2017
by Lydia S. Gray
***Editor's Note: Here be mature and potentially disturbing themes. Read on upon your own recognizance*** The old watchmaker went to the builder of dreams. "Make me a wife," he said.
Published on Aug 15, 2012
by Sarah Grey
She is no longer a girl, dreaming while sweeping the ashes away. She is a queen, and a queen, says her beloved king, is ever the paragon of perfection and grace. Her feet have grown wide with age. Still, she stuffs them into glass slippers, narrow as reeds, that rub her ankles raw. Every step is agony--the stabbing clink of a towering crystal heel against marble, the shattering pain through the bones in her legs.
Published on Jul 8, 2013
by Rosanna Griffin
Find yourself a sword. Or, if you are a farmer, you are probably a farmer, find a stick. Whack things. Like trees, not your siblings. You can whack your siblings if you want, just make sure they have sticks too--you want to be a hero. Start this young, like ten or eleven. The hero has a short shelf life. If your adventure hasn't started by time you are sixteen, you are probably not the hero, but you can still be his companion. Yes, him, the hero is always a guy. Oh, you want to bend genre stereotypes and be a female hero? Awesome, you'll be his love interest, the one that is smarter and more competent, and probably rescues him all the time. Why are you with him? He's the hero of course. Be overly friendly with strangers. You never know which mysterious stranger in the dark cloak will start your adventure. You also don't know which ones might kill you. Some tips: look for old men or women, one of these will be your mentor. They are probably mages, or witches, or the greatest swordsperson in the land. You will surpass them in the skill they have practiced their entire lives in the matter of a couple of months, or just one long training montage. Don't approach: orcs, goblins, or other "bad" creatures. They always work for the bad guy. Always. Sometimes there will be a "good" half-orc or goblin, but they are always the sidekick and will probably die. Also, stay away from other young adventurers who already have mentors. You run the risk of falling into their quest and becoming a beloved sidekick, or perhaps the comic relief.
Published on Sep 25, 2020
by Alexandra Grunberg
"I think you dropped this." Connor held out the pencil that had rolled under his desk. The girl sitting behind him took it, staring at him with wide brown eyes. For a moment their hands brushed each other, then the moment was over. Connor turned around to finish his math test, but the girl was unable to finish hers.
Published on Oct 3, 2013
by Dino Hajiyorgi
Senior Giuseppe's pain is grand. His neighbors see him exiting his little house every day, draped inside his dark coat, they watch him as he takes tombstone hill on heavy tread. His little boy crossed the road chasing the ball. Didn't look left or right. Didn't hear the stampeding horse. A heavy carriage and a cruel wheel crushed the child in two.
Published on Jun 28, 2018
by Steven Hause and Brittany Hause
There, I've put the final touches on you, my boy. Round ears, smiling mouth, perfect button nose. Let's hope that this time, appearances are not deceiving, and the twisted log I carved you from hasn't given me another wicked, ungrateful son.
Published on Dec 17, 2020
by Eliza Hirsch
***Editor's Note: Adult story, and some adult language*** The sky is clear because I'm calm. Or maybe I'm calm because it's clear. Hard to tell, sometimes.
Published on Apr 22, 2014
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The man I learned to call Papa came home from a five-year journey the winter I turned three years old. He was large, and his pale face was hidden behind a thick, dark beard. All of the rest of him was wrapped in snowy clothes and furs, and he carried a pack on his back. When he saw me, red flickered in his eyes.
Published on Jan 26, 2018
by Liam Hogan
All the doors in the castle were tired of being opened and closed, without so much as a by-your-leave, without even a thank you. From the grand portcullis to the lowliest privy door, they were tired of being taken for granted. They were tired, they were fed up, and they were bored. The doors in the castle went on strike. They refused to do their allotted task, unless those bustling through told them a story, to enliven the tedium of their day and reward them for their long centuries of duty. A story about other castles, and other doors. The doors in the castle weren't much interested in kings and queens, princes and princesses, not unless they were passing through a door at the time and even then only fleetingly. The doors in the castle were steadfast in their demands, though there were a few who worried that the people who lived in the castle--their castle--might not understand them. The inhabitants, from nobility to scullery maid, certainly understood the doors' protest, attacking them with knives and even swords to get them to open. But the doors were built for such punishment and not so easily swayed; planks of heavy wood, both seasoned and green, allowed them to flex and absorb all but the worst damage. Perhaps, if the people had axes? But who has an axe to hand, on the off-chance that the doors in the castle refuse to open? The doors in the castle were glad when the attacks on them grew weaker and weaker, hoping that maybe now their entirely reasonable request might be met. But alas, no; the rooms and the corridors they guarded grew silent, grew still. The doors in the castle were patient. The doors in the castle waited, and waited, and waited. The doors in the castle were lonely.
Published on Nov 10, 2021
by Liam Hogan
"No," the princess scowls.

"How about this one?" I flash her the picture that accompanies the story: a classic damsel, pale-faced and floaty-dressed, chained to rocks, twisting away from a dragon's flames as a Prince in shining armour--

"Definitely no." Her little arms crossed and defiant.
Published on Apr 5, 2022
by Jessica Jo Horowitz
The night had fallen quiet, the guests having long since danced and feasted and celebrated their way out of the party and into their beds. The rest of the hall was dark and still, the moonlight streaming through the windows the only source of illumination. A trio of shadowy figures made their way down one of the corridors, their footsteps echoing in the otherwise empty space.
Published on Dec 1, 2020
by Joanna Michal Hoyt
My sister Amy came back smiling from the village well, saying she'd drawn water for a beggar-woman. She gasped when the first rose fell from her mouth, followed by a rain of diamonds. She'd thought it reward enough to see her kind lovely face mirrored in the woman's eyes. But it didn't take her long to decide that she deserved the gift, and that her sharp-tongued older sister deserved less. I was fool enough to resent that, so when I went to fill a kettle and a lady asked for a drink and asked after my sweet pretty sister, without asking how I was, I bade her draw water for her sweet pretty self. I faltered when the snake fell from my lips.
Published on Jul 25, 2011
by M.K. Hutchins
Why the fairy wanted my patchwork slippers, or how she could even tell I'd been sewing them by the light of the ashes at night, I might never know. When she offered to trade me a magnificent gown in a nutshell, a fairy gown that would only last four hours, I told her no. My stepmother had sold me as an indentured servant to the royal cobbler for ten years. These shoes, made from scraps of brocade and thrown away scraps of thread and ribbon were the only thing I owned. They were likely to be the only thing I owned for a long time. "I'm offering you more than a gown," she said. "It's a chance to be your own self again for a night."
Published on Oct 25, 2018
by Kristin Janz
The workshop's bright interior felt like a sauna after the numbing midwinter cold outdoors. The old man immediately took off his fur-lined hat and gloves and started unfastening the buttons of his greatcoat. His workers glanced up from benches and forge upon his entrance, but they took too much pride in their work to set it aside and rush to greet him. Their work was remarkable in its craftsmanship. Hand-turned wooden pull toys, sanded to a silky sheen and polished with real beeswax; stuffed animals with button and thread faces so real that he caught himself looking twice; wooden and iron puzzle games that he knew would have him scratching his own white head for hours if he attempted them. Genuine steel swords scaled down to fit an adolescent hand, some with jeweled hilts.
Published on Dec 22, 2015
by K.G. Jewell
Gry didn't mean to eat the knight. Things like that just happen, though, when someone wakes you up with a pokey stick. She reflexively thrashed her tail, sweeping the irritant into her yawning maw. By the time she was fully awake, the human was already halfway down her gullet, plate mail scratching her throat, a shield stuck awkwardly in her back teeth. She burped, a fiery gas ball that smelled vaguely of leather and beard. A decade of dust swirled into the long-still air, tickling her nose.
Published on Dec 7, 2015
by Toshiya Kamei
"My dog ate my homework!" Hiroshi blurts out, and his nose grows. Long enough for several birds to perch on it. Dr. Sakai examines his latest invention. Even up close, Hiroshi's synthetic skin looks real.

Published on Jun 2, 2022
by Andrew Kao
She is his cousin, as far as kinship is concerned. But for all other social purposes (and there are many of these), she is something, and he is nothing. It is striking, then, that the invitation to the Grande Ball gets delivered to him. No big deal, he knows she is thinking, it was just sent to the wrong house. They are neighbors, they share the same family name, the post can come in the wrong door when a trailing digit is written in an ungainly manner.
Published on Sep 2, 2021
by Cris Kenney
Gretel is eleven now, and her brother is the only one who still calls her by that nickname. To her haunted, hollow father she is Margaret, always kept at arm's length. This is fine by her. She knows he still can't look at her without remembering what he did, which seems fair, since she still can't look at him without remembering what he did, either. She still can't look at herself, in a mirror or a window or the village pond, without remembering what she did, too. She still has nightmares about slamming the oven door shut. She tells herself they are nightmares. When she smiles at the screams, and the heat of the oven laps at her face like a great dragon that loves and obeys her and her alone, she tells herself those are the worst nightmares of all.
Published on Oct 18, 2016
by Anastasia Kharlamova
"Where are you going, little girl?" the strange-looking creature asked, almost gently, but with some threatening undertone in his voice Reddy couldn't quite place. "I am going to visit my grandmother," squeaked Reddy. "I... I... she is sick, and I'm bringing her a bite to eat."
Published on Jul 23, 2020
by Anastasia Kharlamova
"They won't survive for long," the midwife said quietly after closing the door. Helmuth grew chalk-white: "Are... are you sure, good mother? I was certain they were such fine children...
Published on Aug 11, 2021
by Michelle Ann King
The coachman knows his place, so he stays outside, even though the music swirls in his head and tries to draw him into the ballroom, with all its vibrant colors and beautiful dancers--glamorous, graceful people whirling around the floor in complicated patterns, not needing to look where they're going because they fit so perfectly into the shape of this grand, wonderful design; people who belong, who follow their steps and play their roles and smile so gloriously because they know, they all know, that they are precisely where they are meant to be. And he knows it too, the coachman, even as he presses his face against the window and tries not to breathe so that it won't cloud his view; he knows his place is outside, with the horses, stroking necks and smoothing manes and whispering soft nonsense to soothe the restless shivers of these strong, magnificent beasts that gleam like snow in starlight and draw the coach along the winding, uneven path to the palace with unerring, sure-footed speed. They know their place, their role and function, just as he does. Just as they all do. Carriage, driver, horses, footmen: a perfect, integrated team. All this he knows to be true.
Published on Oct 26, 2015
by Kyle Kirrin
***Editor's Warning: These Fairyless Tales are not for children*** "Far as I can tell," the Inspector said, "this little girl was complimenting the wolf's teeth right before it ripped her throat out.
Published on Feb 20, 2018
by Jamie Lackey
At dawn, the ministers drag the Ice Queen out into the courtyard where I stand in line with all of the other accused criminals. They are rough, and her manacles dig into her scarred wrists, but her face is as blank as a snowdrift in the early morning shade. The new sunlight can't yet reach us within the high walls, but I imagine glints from the ice that clings to her dark hair and pale cheeks, that spreads along the creases of her elbows and pools in the hollows of her collarbones. I begin to worry that my plan is sheer folly, that everyone who assured me of its failure had the right of it. I stand about midway down the line of the accused, and I'm not sure if I would rather be closer to the beginning or the end.
Published on Jun 17, 2019
by Rich Larson
"You did this, you know," the ogress said. She hefted the boy's head so Petrosinella could see the ragged scarlet hole in his throat. The boy, who had climbed so quickly and so cleverly, light as a cat, whose beautiful brown hands had caressed every part of her. He'd said he was a prince; she'd never believed it.
Published on Jun 2, 2020
by Mai L Lee
The clock tower rises above the city, its bricks stained black. The hour hand rests against the curve of the eight, and the minute hand points due east, toward the wall where the forest creeps along the perimeter. The hands do not change. The cogs have long since melded with rust and rot, and the tower bells are silent.
Published on Nov 19, 2010
by Mary Soon Lee
Knight I was barely fourteen, the eighth of the eleven princes my father had amassed between his five wives. When Sir L invited me to view his butterfly collection, I naively believed I'd spend the evening admiring swallowtails and fritillaries. Instead I was taken aback (and in several other notable orientations). Suffice it to say, he used his lance a lot.
Published on Apr 3, 2018
by Mary Soon Lee
********Editor's Note: Mature Themes, Disturbing Story********** The cruelest thing Cinderella's stepmother ever did was offer to take her to the ball.
Published on Nov 8, 2019
by Mary Soon Lee
Don't believe the songs you've heard. Don't think I'm languishing in this stone tower, combing my golden tresses, waiting for a prince to come. They came. Three princes in all. The first prince rode up when I was twelve years old, young enough that I still yearned for the world beyond these round walls: for forests and gardens and snow on mountains. For my mother most of all, for the sound of her voice and the long gentle tug of the brush as she did my hair, and the smell and feel of her as she kissed me goodnight. Though that was a barren wish, my mother buried in my seventh year, well before the witch brought me to the tower.
Published on Jun 8, 2021
by Mary Soon Lee
The simplistic answer is because I was, rightly, irritated that they didn't invite me to the wedding. Hence I threw the golden apple to cause trouble. And kindly note my superlative success. The resulting squabble between those three stuck-up bitches, Athena, Aphrodite, and Queen bloody Hera, escalated delightfully into a decade-long war. Ah, Troy--those sweet, sweet years, and Paris, that sweet, sweet youth, a morsel as pretty as Helen. Anyway, yes, I threw the apple to cause trouble, but why an apple? Why not a fig? Or a pomegranate? Or an emerald greener than spring grass etched with the words, τῇ καλλίστῃ, for the fairest, fateful and precious? My reasons were threefold. First, I had one to hand, having earlier purloined it from Hera's tree. Second, being from Hera's tree, I judged it would doubly provoke her. Third, the Moirai will have their way. The Moirai? Fate's three ancient handmaidens, they who spin destiny with every twitch of their gnarled fingers. Mount Olympus is not what it once was, the gods demoted to fairy tale. But, acknowledged or not, the Moirai still rule us. And they have never cared for apples. You doubt me? Consider the tale of Eve and the unspecified forbidden fruit with which she tempted Adam. With a thread shifted here, a snip there, the three Moirai wove the ambiguous Hebraic fruit into its popular depiction as an apple. Or Isaac Newton, watching the apple fall, what he made of that. Some say he ushered in the Enlightenment. Enlightenment! As if its fruits were all benign. Or, more recently, take Snow White. Now there's a tale one could unpick: racism, the symbolism of dwarves, the issue of consent. And what does the villainous queen use to poison Snow White? An apple. So, like many another before me, I plead that the deterministic tyranny of the Moirai was ultimately to blame. Had they shifted the threads just a little, had sweet Paris sought me out, had he spared me even one admiring, long-lashed, golden look, then matters might have taken quite a different turn.
Published on Oct 25, 2021
by Mary Soon Lee
Don't get up, little sister. Please. Please don't stop rocking.

I can only talk by the creaks. That's part of the curse.
Published on Aug 11, 2022
by Nathaniel Lee
They said they'd driven her out of the village and into the woods, and that wasn't a lie. But she found that she preferred the woods. Things were easier out there. A curse means less when you're alone. And her toads could roam where they liked. Not that they often did. Toads don't ask for much, and they know how to appreciate a good place to sit. At first, she still spoke several toads a day, in shock or boredom or just to hear the sound of her voice. But speaking turned out to be a kind of habit, and as time wore on and she had no one but other toads to talk to, she spoke them less and less. Which was just as well, since the forest was hardly limitless and could not have tolerated an unending deluge of invasive toad-words.
Published on Oct 31, 2014
by Yoon Ha Lee
The princess was born beneath owl-stars and sickle-moon, to the cries of the palace ravens. When she was five, she collected the feathers of birds to weave into her hair. When she was ten, she practiced identifying birds so that she could paint them from memory. The queen would come from time to time to view the paintings, and lay her hand upon her daughter's head, and smile. When the princess was fifteen, her mother died. The death was not entirely unexpected: it had been a long winter, and the queen had never been in the best of health. If the princess cried, she did so beneath her mourning veil, where no one could see the tears.
Published on Jan 30, 2015
by Christopher D. Leonard
I awoke that morning in bed, hungry for soup, with a dull ache spread across my back. So close, within grasp, the dirtied straw ceiling spread in all directions for but a brief span. Grayed walls rose to meet that flaxen firmament, mosaics of court life laid therein: knights in silver mail, princesses gowned by white virginal silks; encrusted with crystal, goblets held high; a round table. I rose, stretched. My hands caressed soft and brittle straw. The twenty mattresses beneath me creaked. A gasp. I looked over my beddings, down. The farmer boy gaped back. He wore the same loose scarlet shirt, baggy sage trousers as last night. A beechwood tray sat in his blue and bruised hands; blackened iron kettle of tea on top, steam at its cracked spout.
Published on Jul 2, 2019
by Stacey Danielle Lepper
They played the same old song and there were the same old last minute brawls. Of drunken slurring and fists and beer. And I went home with her and she was the best damn thing that ever happened to me. I didn't want to kill her.
Published on Apr 10, 2018
by Em Liu
After her father died, Beauty raged against the Beast. His fortress, which she had loved so much for its chests of magic and its cabinets of knowledge, had suddenly morphed, become a prison of the mind from which there was no egress to be found, as she had tried to find, on more than one occasion--had walked out and followed her feet, only to find herself back where she started.
Published on Apr 22, 2019
by Christine Lucas
And did you find God, stranger? Aisa asks, scrubbing the shirt shes washing harder. Theres a persistent tint of guilt around the collar that the river waters wont clean. No, I didnt. His voice is weary, hoarse, the dust of countless roads lining his throat and lungs. He settles down on a fallen trunk close to her, rubbing his leg. I havent seen anyone wash clothes this way in ages, and I have wandered far, and for a long time. Why?
Published on Dec 2, 2010
by Jason Erik Lundberg
I tell you this tale as it was told to me so very long ago. She appeared one day in the town. Nobody knew where she had come from, or who her family might be, or what she was called, or why her skin glowed ever-so-slightly with a sparkling luminescence. Nobody saw her enter the town from the main road, or alight from a carriage, or dismount from the back of a horse. One moment she was not there, and the next she was. Although she had a laugh that filled the air with musicality, she did not speak; after some time, most came to the conclusion that she simply did not wish to. She kept her thoughts to herself, and so the townspeople collectively named her the Stargirl.
Published on Jul 21, 2017
by Mark Patrick Lynch
In the white of the snow, dusk-stained and bordering invisible, the footprints were increasingly harder to follow. The curled moon was little use to see by. It turned the land grey. Clouds would soon make everything dark. We'd have to use our electric torches then, and that could ruin it all. "We're too slow. We're not going to make it." Prentice halted, bringing me to a stop also. He paused to reclaim his breath. "Once we're in the woods it'll be like midnight. We'll never find her."
Published on Dec 19, 2012
by Brynn MacNab
You arrive already tugging at the collar of your polo shirt. You've grown comfortable in plate armor, in doublet and hose, and your old belted trousers now feel awkward and ugly. Your mother welcomes you at the door, offers drinks. She takes in Cordelia's gold and pink gown in a single glance and keeps her face polite.
Published on Feb 21, 2018
by Eileen Maksym
Fairy tales hardly ever come true for quiet girls! That's the slogan of Happily Ever After Inc., a PR firm for all of your fairy tale needs! Bring us your straw and we will spin it into gold! Want testimonials? Consider some of our most famous clients and their success stories. There's the young woman who lured a prince into marrying her by blackmailing him about his foot fetish. Another client was caught in a very polyamorous relationship with seven brothers with dwarfism. And then there's the girl who conspired with her brother to kill their elderly neighbor because the woman refused to give them candy. All of these young ladies were headed straight for, at best, infamy, or at worst, obscurity. But with the services here at HEA Inc, two of them are now queens, and the third was acquitted of murder and is going about her life outside of a juvenile detention center.
Published on Jan 6, 2021
by C.J. Maloney
After locking her in, her stepmother blocked the attic door with an old armchair. The mice and sparrows had been useless, so she heaved and sobbed for over an hour. In desperation she sent the sparrows and mice to slow his exit, but they had driven him out instead. When she finally broke free, scampering down the stairs clutching her single crystal shoe, only her stepmother waited for her in silence. The old woman saw the shoe, took it by force, and raced away. Ten doors down the prince hadn't come yet. So the mothers broke a girl's foot, kneading it so that when he came it slipped into the tiny shoes with ease. Producing the other shoe was all the confirmation the prince needed. What did he really know of some beautiful girl he'd seen for a few nights?
Published on Jul 13, 2017
by Meagan K McKinley
"Stiletto heels are named after stiletto daggers for a reason," she says, though she knows she'll get no response as she flushes the last of the bloody toilet paper. Even the private bathrooms have fancy hand towels, so she uses one to dry her shoe before she tosses it in the laundry basket. She'd laugh at her reflection if she weren't so well trained; glass slippers don't go so well with spandex shorts and a lace-topped corset. She'd had to let the prince take off her dress. After he'd seen the skinsuit though, well, she'd done what was needed. The stained suit is burning in his fireplace now, along with the bloody gloves. The blue ball gown is a lonesome girl's best friend. She steps into the poufy skirts, slides her arms into the cap sleeves, and reaches behind herself to do up the clasps on the bodice. A quick check in the mirror assures her each one is aligned; it's no harder than doing up a bra day after day. Elbow length white gloves cover the scrubbed raw skin of her hands and wrists. This pair was tucked in pockets she'd sewn inside the skirts. They won't find fingerprints. Her father taught her better than that before he was betrayed and executed by the very prince she'd charmed tonight with shy praise and coy eyes.
Published on Aug 14, 2018
by Melissa Mead
The hardest part was spreading that silly rumor in the first place. I didn't use magic. A dairymaid's pay doesn't cover hiring sorcerers. No, I spent months discretely complimenting the ladies who came to the dairy on the delicacy of their complexions, working my way up to the nonsense about, "A true princess can feel a dried pea through a dozen mattresses." Soon the dressmakers doubled their orders for fine silk and satin, because any lady with pretensions to quality claimed that ordinary calico chafed her delicate skin. People are foolish and vain, and our former Royal Family doubly so. Word spread to the Palace. The Prince broke off his engagement, claiming that his planned bride was "too coarse," and commandeered enough geese to make a dozen feather mattresses.
Published on Jun 21, 2012
by Melissa Mead
"It's time to take the children into the forest," said Stepmother. Father winced. "Must we?" he said. I winced too. All the feasting in the world couldn't erase my memory of Stepmother angry, back when she was teaching me and Gretel to call her "Stepmother," and the man "Father."
Published on Aug 13, 2014
by Melissa Mead
"On her sixteenth birthday, the princess shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die." The other fairies stopped their one-upmanship to gape at their rival.
Published on May 6, 2016
by Melissa Mead
It was a nightmare come to life. Seriously. One I'd had ever since a misguided kindergarten teacher insisted on reading "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow" to a roomful of impressionable tots. An illustrated version. Our young minds just weren't ready for The Headless Horseman.
Published on Jan 16, 2017
by Melissa Mead
Sister knew about wicked stepmothers. No one warned her about wicked stepfathers. Stepfather only noticed Sister at night, in the dark. When she saw Brother's bruises, Sister declared "Mother's too scared to help us. Let's go into the forest. We'll be safer there."
Published on Jun 6, 2011
by Melissa Mead
The young woman left the tiny cottage on foot, her eyes on the hills ahead, her face set. Behind her, the old couple who had raised her cried and begged her not to go. She didn't look back.
Published on Jun 19, 2017
by Melissa Mead
The ocean is a dark place, and cold enough to chill the soul. But mermaids have no souls. We forget that, with our tales of mermaids singing beneath the sea. It's dark there, and the pressure builds until only the strongest souls can bear it.
Published on Sep 11, 2017
by Melissa Mead
"No sign of the Duke's men," said the young man. "I think we lost them back at the stream. And this valley is so secluded I don't think they'll find it. Even if they come back with dogs, I can turn them away. I got to know the pack pretty well while working in the stables." "And it looks like the farmhouse is abandoned." His fair young companion surveyed the valley. "We could settle down here. The first year or two would be rough, but I'm not the swooning maiden my father the Duke would believe."
Published on Jun 8, 2018
by Melissa Mead
The frog basked in the sun. Settled in the soft muck of his pond, he didn't notice the princess until she scooped him up and pressed her hot mouth to his skin. He kicked out with his strong back legs, and tumbled into the water again. Safe!
Published on Mar 23, 2012
by Melissa Mead
"My loyal huntsman," the Queen purred. The Huntsman began to sweat beneath his uniform. He stood straight, then bowed low. "Your Majesty."
Published on Apr 8, 2021
by Lynette Mejia
When Crow Girl was released from the spell, she was quite surprised. She'd fully expected to die when the men had caught her in their nets, and it wasn't until they'd placed her in a cage inside the witch's hut that she realized she wasn't to be roasted or baked into a pie. She'd never been a stupid girl, however, and therefore almost immediately understood that they'd somehow recognized her, and were attempting to reverse the spell which had turned her into a crow in the first place. It seemed much more complicated this time around. Apparently, undoing a spell took significantly more effort than casting one, for the men stood around for hours while the witch cooked up potions and mumbled incoherently over her tattered grimoire. Sometime into the ritual, she opened the cage and took Crow Girl out, and the little bird would have flown away had she not been wracked with excruciating pain. The old woman set her down gently on an ancient, battered table, but she fell over, unable even to stand properly. She looked down, and saw that her thin, corvid feet were slowly beginning to twist and morph into long, ungainly human ones.
Published on Mar 14, 2017
by Matt Mikalatos
Warning Signs. One in every 250 children experiences inter-dimensional travel before the age of eighteen. Siblings and cousins are 40% more likely to enter another dimension than single children. If you discover your child hiding medieval items (crowns, trumpets, tapestries, chastity belts, swords, etc.), take action immediately. Likewise, if potential magical artifacts are found (uncommon rings, buttons, feathers, etc.), confiscate the item(s) and talk to your child. Watch for imaginary friends, talking animals, or strange behaviors (avoiding sidewalk cracks, fear of open closets, obsessively locking bedroom windows, etc.).
Published on Jul 4, 2013
by Jeremy Minton
A skull stares from the floor beside the bed. Grasses sprout from the hollows of its eyes. Ralph hardly notices. He scans the grass for hidden thorns, for anything that slashes, stings or bites. Finding nothing dangerous, he puts it out of mind. It's just another skull. He's seen so many bones by now, they've ceased to signify. They're like the flies, the flowers, the green-tinged light. They're like the cracked and peeling walls, the rot, the dust, the creepers on the floor, the sleepers dozing in their cloaks of mold. Tom had said--
Published on Dec 5, 2013
by Sarah Monette
Was she a wicked stepmother?

I've asked myself that question a thousand times, and the truth is that I just don't know. My memories of her are a child's memories, and to a child she seemed cruel and all-powerful. But she was neither. She was a young woman who grew up poor, married to a wealthy widower with a child, and she was discovering, as I would discover myself, that my father was not actually a warm-hearted man. He could be charming when he wanted to be, but it was like paint giving the illusion of depth to a flat canvas.
Published on Sep 6, 2022
by Lauren K. Moody
Long ago, an indifferent father and a sweet mother bore a child. Her father called her "son" when he called her anything at all, but her mother recognized the girl truly as she was. Whatever name they gave her at birth fell away from disuse. Her mother died when she was still young. In her tenth year her father remarried a cold woman who had two daughters of her own. When her husband's child refused to dress in breeches, cut short his hair, or answer to the proper masculine pronoun, she declared he could be a gentleman among them, or a scullery-maid and serve them.
Published on May 30, 2012
by Lisa Nohealani Morton
The first thing she's aware of is weight. After too long asleep, her limbs are tingling and twitching, aching for movement, and something is impeding them. She only has a moment to register the feeling, to translate it into a word, pinned. Then the pain comes, and transfixes her in place. She hears breathing, fast and harsh, and she squeezes her eyes shut tighter and thinks of her spinning, until the needle melts and she can escape this false awakening.
Published on Dec 31, 2013
by Michelle Muenzler
"The bread is good," our latest guest says, nearly choking on the words as she tries to force the lump down her throat. I don't know her name--names are considered impolite at the giant's table. Our host gestures at an iron bowl. "And the soup? What do you think of the soup?"
Published on Jun 9, 2016
by Michelle Muenzler
She should not have jested about the tenderness of the Captain's ribs last week. Even guards have breaking points, peanut brittle thin.
Published on Sep 14, 2010
by Michelle Muenzler
In the forest, there sits a tower, and in the bottom of that tower, a prince full of beasts. They are not small beasts, by any means, but a prince's heart is the kingdom, and as such there is always room for more. The prince spends much of his day singing over the beasts' cacophony and whittling bits of wood into tiny birds. The shelves are full of birds. Sparrows, larks, and wrens aplenty. Also a pair of rarer catch-me-nots and a single cracked withering-want. On the shelves, there is also a crown.
Published on Jun 6, 2018
by Michelle Muenzler
When the princess falls asleep, it's not like in the stories. She doesn't yawn ever so slightly, then stretch into her slumber with the slow deliberateness of a cat. Nor, as the curse slips through the prick of her thumb, does magic spark the air around, or the world spring into song. No, when she falls asleep, it is with the solid thunk of her skull cracking against the cold stone floor, followed by silence.
Published on Aug 19, 2019
by Mari Ness
He still believes I will turn into my mother.
Published on May 10, 2013
by Mari Ness
Published on Sep 24, 2013
by Mari Ness
Published on Sep 25, 2013
by Mari Ness
"Stop speaking," he tells his wife. "I'm sorry," she says, flinching. Another glittering diamond and a gleaming pearl drop from her mouth; she grabs a fine napkin, pressing it against her bleeding mouth.
Published on Feb 20, 2014
by Mari Ness
The village is not in any guidebook or on any map. Even satellite photos somehow miss it, always by some unexplained chance looking at the area only when it is covered with clouds or fog, or during some blip in the satellite's programming. You will also not find it named on any website, or on any news site, despite the excellence of its single restaurant and the comfort of the small hotel next door. When asked, the residents only shrug, and point out that it is not a very interesting village, after all, however lovely the surrounding mountains, and the world has many excellent restaurants, does it not? And with that, the conservation always shifts to food, or music, or wine, or sports, or tales of long ago. Nothing about the village, which is, after all, not very interesting. Despite this, one or two strangers make their way to the village every year. Some have come, they say, for the restaurant, or for the hiking trail, or to truly and literally get off the map at a relatively reasonable price. They talk to the villagers, sample the food, wander in the mountains.
Published on May 15, 2014
by Mari Ness
Later she changes the tale, calling her husband a giant who liked to crunch on human bones, the intruder a fool willing to trade a cow for beans. She builds up everything: their manor becomes a castle, the hill a cloud, the earthen walls thick bulwarks of marble and granite, the copper coins bags of gold, the battered instrument with its broken strings an enchanted harp that can sing. The beanstalks in their garden reach the sky. She adds in jokes, references to proverbs, nursery rhymes, other legends. Her hands creep out from their pinched position at her side, gesturing, flaring, as she laughs. She does not mention just how heavy the earth had been beneath her shovel.
Published on Jul 17, 2014
by Mari Ness
He carried the squirming animal to his--no, their, he had to remember that now, their--bedroom, struggling to avoid her sharp teeth. The oversized ring he had given her glimmered on her left front leg; she had spent most of the evening biting and licking at it, when she had not been growling. He had ordered the musicians to play louder, to cover up the noise, but the growls still lingered in his ears. When he reached the room, he secured her chain to one end of the bed, and sat gingerly at the other end. The waxing moonlight flooded the bed, giving a silver sheen to her red and snowy fur.
Published on Mar 20, 2015
by Mari Ness
The dollmaker needs a year at least for each doll. Sometimes two. They are all handcrafted, of course, and the time needed to make the skin feel exactly like human flesh and settle on the bones, you understand-- The stranger is not interested in understanding. "Two months."
Published on Jun 5, 2015
by Mari Ness
Other people, it must be said, did not see a child, but rather rose petals delicately stitched together with what looked and felt like spider silk, soft and fragile to the touch. Yellow petals, for the most part, though where the child's face should have been the petals were white and pale pink, and where hands and feet might have been, the petals were dark red. But no one said a word. They knew her tale: twelve children, all born dead, year after year, until her husband, broken with her sorrow, had also left, leaving the woman alone in a silent house limned with bright flowers.
Published on Jul 16, 2015
by Mari Ness
The blacksmith has several objections. For one, he does not make shoes. Oh, horseshoes, definitely, but that is an entirely different matter, and something that he does with a local farrier, quite an expert, if the prince is in any need. Human shoes, however, are an entirely different matter. He is not even certain where to begin; surely a cobbler would be of more assistance? Those shoes, too, could be heated, if really necessary. For two, as surely the prince knows, it is one thing to get a shoe on the foot of a calm horse while others hold the horse; the horse, after all, has hooves. And as a purely practical matter, his forge is nowhere near the prince's hall. He will not be able to keep the shoes red hot, as requested. He does not think the fires in that hall--he bows, with the utmost respect--will hold the same heat as his forge. He swallows as the cold iron brushes against his throat.
Published on Sep 24, 2015
by Mari Ness
The human poet says that we of the sea have no souls. That all we are is air and salt, water and wind, cold and dark. That souls belong only to those who sing and dance on land. That when we die we turn into sea foam, to drift upon the waves, and perhaps one day land on human shores, to dry up beneath the sun. He says that only human love can give us immortal souls.
Published on Oct 24, 2016
by Mari Ness
The ghosts of dead princes hover around her bed. Sometimes they argue about this. Some of them suggest that they might be disturbing her rest. Others think, under the circumstances, that disturbing her rest is just fine, thanks; indeed, her rest could use a little more disturbance. Others, less concerned about her, merely think that they should head elsewhere, do other things, see a bit of the world and what's happening to it. After all, they might be ghosts, but they aren't quite dead. It is an old, old argument, but one that never seems quite silenced.
Published on Dec 19, 2016
by Mari Ness
The lion never speaks about his past. This has led, naturally, to considerable gossip. The lion, many insist, is not really a lion--after all, real lions can't talk. No, he must be a transformed prince, in love with a princess. Or--given the way the lion watches the prince, a transformed princess, in love with the prince. No, a transformed prince in love with the prince. Or a transformed prince who once fell in love with a lion. Or a princess seeking revenge on the prince, or a prince seeking revenge on the king. These things are said to happen, after all, if only in implausible fairy tales told to children. Then again, they have all seen the implausible: a talking lion.
Published on Mar 6, 2017
by Mari Ness
The robber girl tries to make a game of it. How many girls will struggle through the snow this year, searching for loved ones taken by bears or snow? How many will turn back? How many will swear, on their lifeblood, that they had not married bears, but men? That the boys they had played with in the snow were innocent, good, even after their words had turned into weapons of ice? That the bones they have broken--the scars on their skin--came from their journeys, or their families, and not the men they hunt for? That they have spoken to flowers, to crows, to the sun? That they will die before they shelter with robbers? That they are grateful for kindness, wherever found, even in a cold den of thieves.
Published on Nov 23, 2017
by Mari Ness
I could have stayed. Instead, I left with the knight.
Published on May 7, 2018
by Mari Ness
Five years later, and the remaining six were almost--almost--accustomed to it. To the point where the third girl had almost--almost--convinced herself that it was not all that bad. Yes, the ceaseless parades for ambassadors, or great feasts, or simply when the king felt the queen needed to smile, never got any less humiliating. No, she could not stop flinching whenever the goose called out, which was often. Yes, the parson's ongoing reminders that this was entirely her fault--well, the fault of her and her sisters--never got any less aggravating. And yes, she could not stop dreaming of having a day--an hour--a minute--entirely to herself, away from everyone, and especially away from the other five, who never left. But she had a roof. Fine food. And no need to work, as long as this goose remained alive. The parson and sexton had taught her to read and write with her one free hand, and one of the queen's ladies was teaching her fine needlework.
Published on Mar 25, 2019
by Mari Ness
"So," the prince said. "To break your enchantment, you need a kiss from your true love." "Yes," said the princess, unable to keep the note of irritation from her voice. "And naturally, I get you."
Published on Jul 11, 2019
by Mari Ness
She would not smile, of course, for an ordinary wolf. But this is a wolf who leans upright against a tree, examining his paws, a wolf who runs a long tongue against his teeth as he glances up at her. For this wolf, she smiles.
Published on Aug 5, 2019
by Mari Ness
Afterwards, matters are—awkward. Partly because they'd both had so little choice. Azman—claiming to be a prince—in her room, mostly naked? While she had nothing on but her nightdress—a nightdress half torn off her shoulder? And he had not had a weapon. Her door had been locked, from the inside. Some people did claim that she had screamed. Others—including the guards just outside her door—denied that. And so, within three days, they were at the altar, exchanging vows. Just long enough to summon enough of the local nobles to add some semblance of respectability to the ceremony; just long enough to stitch up a new gown for her, rich velvet clothes—without a touch of green or brown—for him. Just long enough for her father to start telling stories, to insist that this haste was not to conceal the scandal of finding the princess alone in her bedroom with a mostly naked man, but to save the prince—he would be a prince of sorts after the wedding, at least—from a witch. Not long enough for her to know him at all. For all her training, her hands shook during the ceremony. His own skin, when he slid the heavy sapphire ring over her finger, was cold and clammy. He looked, she thought, pale and green, although perhaps the green was only her imagination, the way her own dread was coloring everything. That night, she'd squeezed herself as close to the edge of her—no, their—great bed as possible, as far away from him as she could be. He did not reach out to her, or say a word. She looked at him from under her lashes in the soft candlelight, her fists clenched. Bad enough to share her bed with a frog. This, even worse. It is no better now, weeks after the wedding. He does not, has not ever reached out to her. She is relieved—grateful even, but puzzled. She remembers, clearly, the way he had said he had wanted a bedfellow, a companion, to share her plate, her bed, her cup. Or at least, the frog had said this. The man says nothing at all. That which thou hast promised must thou perform. She gives him uncertain glances, pushes her plate towards him. He flinches. She pulls it back. She can't blame him. She had thrown him, hard, against the wall, hard enough that he was still bleeding when they arrived. Had, afterwards, been so terrified that she'd started throwing things—lamps, books, boxes, her table, anything that she could move. It was why, after all, the guards had broken in, hearing the noise and the commotion. And she had touched him, touched his cold clammy skin. She knows the stories, grew up on them, even: the stories of girls married to beasts to save their fathers, stories told, she is convinced, to comfort those who must wed for money or peace or power. She knows how the girls in those stories transformed the beasts with a simple kiss. Stories where the girls were terrified, but obeyed their father’s commands. Stories where the girls escaped for a time, but returned to their beasts. For a kiss. Only she had not kissed her beast. She takes a deep breath, thinking of the way her nurses had indulged her, her father had indulged her, the way her aunts had showered her with presents, and begged her father to delay her marriage for just a bit longer. The worried looks of her father’s counselors, whenever her marriage was mentioned; she was her father’s only child, after all, and although he had nephews, well respected, well liked, a son-in-law could be another matter entirely. The marriages she has witnessed, even from her protected position at the court. The tales of a cousin, found bloodied in her room, her title of little protection. Of the way, at their wedding, his lips had only hovered over hers, never touching. She takes a deep breath. A playfellow. A companion. "What games did you play, when you were a child?" It might be her imagination, but perhaps—just perhaps—his skin is a little less green.
Published on Nov 28, 2019
by Mari Ness
"Choose," she says, her beauty breathtaking in the starlight. "Say that I shall be beautiful in the day, and all shall envy you for the loveliness of your wife, and a monster in the night. A monster--" her voice trembles--"that you may not even be able to touch. Or hear yourself mocked for wedding a monster in the daylight, and know your good fortune when the sun vanishes, and you see me in your bed, lit by candles and fire." He has known many women. He gives her his deepest, most courteous bow. "I would let the lady choose."
Published on Sep 14, 2020
by Mari Ness
She finds a husband for me within the month. Not a prince, of course. One such misalliance is bad enough; two would be unthinkable. But a baron--more than I might have been expected to wed on my own. A moneyed baron, I am assured, even if at this court the word moneyed is so common it has almost lost all meaning. And nothing to the wealth of the many dukes and grand dukes and marquises and princes. But I will have a title; it will allow me into her presence without difficulty. And I will have a future.
Published on Apr 22, 2021
by Mari Ness
This is the tale, as it has been every year. The flowers, red and dark as blood and stinking of earth, swell up from the ground, trembling against the wind. I caress them, or seize them, or bend down to sniff the earth as the petals reach up for my face. At that touch, he appears: a black wolf with a tongue of fire, a dragon, a snake, a raging inferno, taking me and seizing my lips, my neck, my breasts, and pulling me deep into the ground. Months pass in darkness and cold and warmth and sweetness, until I make my slow crawl to the surface, and spring through the earth in a spray of flowers. "I am sick past death of this tale," I tell him. His mouth lingers upon my neck. "I cannot help the telling." He tries to change things. Minor things. The shape of the flowers--not all of his gifts and magic can change the color, though he claims to have tried. The day of their arrival, the height of their growth. The shape he uses. In the dark months, he teases my ears with his tongue until I admit to seeing an animal or thing or person that has pleased me, or made me laugh. Once he comes to me in the shape of a clown, and even I, tired of this, cannot suppress the sound between laughter and a groan, before he takes me down to the depths, where we play out the tale again, and again, and again. "It would help," I tell him, "if this place could be filled with something other than shadows and ice. If it could--for once--be filled with lights." I have seen him look with longing at the sun, before he seizes me each year; have seen his eager eyes scan the places where I walk each year. Have shifted my own location in response, so he may see more of the world, see the places he has spoken of in the darkness. Great trees. The rocky shorelines in the sea. He bites my neck, but gives no other answer, and his place--our place--remains cold and dark. "This must end," I tell him. Another deep kiss. "You know what will happen, if the tale ends." I do. "I do not care," I tell him. "I want to alter the tale. The ending." His mouth is upon mine again, preventing speech. For my part, I do what I can to resist. I step upon ships, only to find myself on dry land again, surrounded by flowers. I watch mortals leave the earth, and promise myself that one day I will try that, although I do not know if I will be able to board those ships. When the flowers appear, I step back, or try to, even as the longing fills me. (For I do miss him, in those summer months, thinking desperately of his voice, his touch, his skin, though the tales that the thunder and summer rains are my rages and tears are not entirely true.) I have bit through my fingers, tasting their blood, as I try to resist, but always, always, a petal lands on me, or a vine reaches out, to draw me in, choking me, and he is there again. When it comes time to return, I cling to him, with hands and lips and legs, begging him to let me stay, at least a little longer. I use every trick of love I have learned, and he responds. Oh, how he responds. And yet I am climbing, climbing, pushing out of the earth, collapsing against the ground, surrounded by flowers and weeping. I journey the earth, to bring tales to him. He journeys the underneath, to bring tales to me. The end of spring, the end of winter, if I succeed in altering the tale. Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Spring and winter happened before us, and will happen after us. No, it is the words, retold over and over, that drive this tale, nothing more, nothing less. I whisper to the poets, the dreamers, the storytellers. I poison those who insist on retelling the story, word for word, copying it in dull ink or on the printing press or other methods as they arrive, though oddly, my poisons, so skilled at other times, prove useless enough here. I suspect his interference, though I say nothing in the months of shadow. I tell my own version of the tale where I can, when I can. In this I meet no interference. I fall against the fields of flowers, and breathe in their scent, and feel their petals fall against my throat. I will change my tale, even if the changing of it is hell.
Published on Nov 8, 2021
by Mari Ness
He knows he did the right thing. Knows it. The queen has told him. The king has told him. One look at the child--sobbing at first, but later playing with his toys--tells him that. The little man--hardly a man, really, some sort of demon--deserved it, after all he had done, and besides, had ripped himself in two. No one had touched him, not even the king. Not even the queen. The messenger had only delivered a rhyme. A name. No more than that. And yet, the messenger has his first nightmare that night--of his own hands reaching down to his feet, to tear himself apart. No. He did the right thing. It was the queen, after all, who had toyed with the little man on that third day, knowing full well what his name was, and yet listing other names first. And the queen, after all, who had stayed in the castle, instead of going out herself to find the names. The queen who had made such a bargain in the first place. The queen. He had only followed her orders. Orders intended to save a child. And before that, the king who had demanded such an impossible task--straw spun into gold. The queen's father, who had brought her to the attention of the king and bragged of her talents. The men--all men--who had locked the girl up in a room with straw, following orders. The nobles, the soldiers, the servants, who had not asked questions, but simply accepted the gold. The messenger had done the right thing. He had. Obvious, that something had been wrong from the beginning. No one could spin straw into gold. No one. And yet, they had crowned her queen. He was only the messenger. A messenger who had brought the name to the queen, and saved the child. He tells himself that as he falls asleep. And again in the morning, when he wakes to find his fingernails caked in blood, and a long wound along his stomach, quite as if something inside him, too, was trying to split in half.
Published on Feb 17, 2022
by Mari Ness
It takes the servants several days to make their way to the storerooms. They blame it on the tragedy (not that the servants regard it as entirely a tragedy, but they know better than to say that out loud) and the resulting chaos: after all, they cannot enter the storerooms without authorization, and who can authorize that entrance, now that the queen is dead, and her successor unknown?

The truth is, they are terrified of the contents of those storerooms.
Published on Apr 4, 2022
by Mari Ness
He knows he did the right thing. Knows it. The queen has told him. The king has told him. The child--sobbing at first, but later playing with his toys--tells him that. The little man--hardly a man, really, some sort of demon--deserved it, after all he had done, and besides, had ripped himself in two. No one had touched him, not even the king. Not even the queen.

The messenger had only delivered a rhyme. A name. No more than that.
Published on Jul 7, 2022
by Wendy Nikel
The queen hoarded the barrels of seed, keeping them locked within her coffers among the diamonds and gold and strings of perfect pearls, remnants of the former days of prosperity and excess. The seeds would receive neither sun nor water nor nutrients from the soil until unlocked by the shining key strung around her neck. Day after day, she sat upon her throne, and the villagers lined up before her, pleading. It was only her loyal guards, with their sharp swords glimmering in her peripheral, who kept the villagers from severing her neck to get at that key. "Have mercy!" They cried as though their tears might change her mind.
Published on Sep 4, 2015
by Julia Nolan
It's no one's fault. It's mere biology. Men can sire children at a hundred, while women's fertility wanes with each passing year. So I do what I can to preserve any semblance of youth. I avoid the sun. I bathe in ass's milk. I would inject poison into the delicate creases of my face should it bring another month in which I might mean something--anything--to anyone. Then near the end of my valuable life--I wed. It should be the triumph of ages. An accomplished woman given a last chance at progeny! Yet our wedding is understated, subdued. His first wife gained the glory and the pageantry of a royal wedding. I glean the remains. Should I admit that I love him, this king of mine? Perhaps. For I do. Even beyond his obvious charms, he provides the hope that I am not just one more unwanted woman. He's my prayer for relevancy. If I'm the one to provide him with an heir, all my sins are forgiven. And then his daughter appears, as youthful as the dawn. I wish to love her. She may be the only daughter I will ever know. And yet, all she dreams of is a long-gone mother who blessed her with fair skin, ruby lips, and charcoal-black hair. A mother I can never be, no matter how hard I try to win her affections. Biology, again, strikes her fatal blow. To gain the love of my husband, my withered womb must produce his heir. If it were otherwise, I might accept my limited relevancy. I would delight in raising his daughter as my own. She is everything a mother would want--except that she rejects me. And she is not enough. For, like all men, my husband longs for a son. A son he is willing to risk anything to gain--even my own death. It's well-known older women often die in childbirth. I would do anything for him. That is why he wed me. And it's said that virgin hearts bring strength to old bodies. I summon the huntsmen and pray for his majesty's heir.
Published on Dec 22, 2021
by K.S. O'Neill
The story has, I fear, been much mangled in translation. But I will try. First, Gepetto was a physicist, not a carpenter. I have noticed that your culture often attributes the job of "carpenter" to visionaries it does not understand.
Published on Mar 10, 2021
by K.S. O'Neill
"Don't do it," he said, squinting at me across the tiny, smoky fire, enjoying lecturing his new squire. "Rule number one. Don't wake 'em up. Bloody nutters they are, every sleeping princess in the world. Poisoning wells, torturing kittens, calling up demons, they're all mad. Family has 'em asleep for a reason, don't they? Make a show for the crowd, but don't do it."
Published on Jul 24, 2017
by Ciaran Parkes
They're saying now it was aggravated rape and--news just in--they're throwing in first-degree murder as well. It seems one of the palace guards, still groggy from his hundred-year sleep, tripped over the battlements on his way to rescue the screaming princess.
Published on Aug 10, 2016
by Frances Pauli
"This is a box full of feelings." Her desiccated fingers stroke the scrolling corner plates, outline the hinges as she speaks. "It's meant to keep them in." "Tell me about them." I lean back and watch her dull eyes sputter. Once, they must have sparked at the idea of the box. They must have flared with mischief.
Published on May 10, 2017
by Laura Pearlman
Wednesday, September 14 I saw a unicorn in a bakery window, just for an instant. It was beautiful and luminous and just like the one in my dreams. I blinked, and it was a cake with a picture of a unicorn in frosting. It was super-realistic, though.
Published on Oct 30, 2015
by Torrey Podmajersky
He looked at my year's work, listed out on paper. He drew breath through his long nose. He stretched his neck. It looked like his collar was trying to bite his head off. "Let's talk about your gifting, shall we?" He didn't wait for me to answer. He stabbed the middle of one page with a pudgy finger. "Seventeen candy canes. Let's start there."
Published on Sep 3, 2012
by Steven Popkes
The sails are not black but they should have been. The three of us don't know it. I stand aft. Sometimes talking with the Rafe, the tillerman. Sometimes not. Mostly we watch her wait in the bony bow, drawing the light out of the air to shine around her. Looking towards France. Looking towards Tristan, of course. I was, too, for I could not have loved him any more than if he were my own son.
Published on Dec 24, 2010
by Jonathan Vos Post
Once upon a time there was a princess, beautiful as moonlight, but sighing as she meandered along the forest path one warm early summer in an intentionally unspecified year. "Oh me, oh my, how lonely and sad and pitiful it is to be a princess who does not want to marry the vapid prince that would benefit my father, the King's, geopolitical agenda. How I wish that there were some quick fix to this unsolvable problem." A voice rose from a small pond, rimmed by bulrushes.
Published on Oct 7, 2013
by Rebekah Postupak
I knew, because she used to talk to me sometimes, how hard her life was. She wasn't making it up: I saw how thin she got after her dad remarried then died, and there was no hiding the bruises. It's totally true, like in the stories people told later, how she spent long winter nights curled up at the gaping mouth of a crumbling hearth. It's the kind of thing we all did to survive, even if our soot-covered bruises didn't make the headlines like hers did. When the first crowd of reporters showed up, they pressed us for details. Did we know she was special right off? Did we guess anything of her coming rise to greatness?
Published on Nov 4, 2019
by Stephen S. Power
The mirror's seen a lot of bullshit in its time, but this beats all. The princess Mewlin and some nameless bard stumble into her room, kick the door closed and fall on her bed. In minutes they're naked. He starts to roll on top of her, but she stops him with her hand.
Published on Oct 9, 2014
by Cat Rambo
The mouse sang to the moon. He sang, "Great Wheel of Cheese in the sky, eaten by the Mysterious and restored each month to hover again, grant me a favor. Grant me a bride."
Published on Sep 22, 2014
by Jenny Rae Rappaport
You know the story. Everybody knows the story. The spinning wheel, the hundred years of sleep, and the eventual awakening by true love's kiss. Except he definitely wasn't my true love, and it wasn't actually a kiss--I still wake screaming at night when I dream about his body on mine. Most people don't remember the children. Aurore has my golden curls, while Jour shares his father's raven-colored hair. Their skin is the palest green, like the undersides of new spring leaves; it is only to be expected, given the fact that their father is half-ogre himself. Their teeth, thank God, are normal.
Published on Nov 19, 2019
by Jenny Rae Rappaport
You first notice the spots when you take off your glasses and stare at your nose closely in the mirror. They're not very big or very dark, but there they are--indisputable proof of the fact that you're aging, and that perhaps you've spent too much time in the sun. If you were an ordinary woman, or belonged to this time, you might acknowledge that aging is supposed to happen. But you’re vain and in this strange world, vanity is often the only thing that has kept you alive. So, you mutter curses under your breath, and book another appointment with your aesthetician. You keep dyeing your hair black as a raven's wing, and if your lips have faded a bit with age, no one else has to know that they're no longer naturally red as a rose. It's only the skin that's the problem, and if it's not quite white as snow, there are creams and lotions that promise to help. And surely, no one can hate you for that.
Published on Jun 11, 2021
by Melanie Rees
Hunched on the waiting-room floor, a gargoyle clasped a chair leg with razor sharp talons. Its ridged spine protruded through its leathery skin. I glanced at Ms. Shipley at the reception desk.
Published on Jul 11, 2012
by Jeff Reynolds
I sit with my back to a rusted car, trying to contain my shakes. Rabbit pulls a cigar from his faded overcoat and lights it. It stinks like burning socks, but stinks are Rabbit's pleasure. He likes things that smell of mold, or long forgotten sex, or dirty feet, or diapers. "They are bountiful in fragrance," Rabbit says when Eddy complains. "They are a remembrance of things that are gone." He blows smoke and laughs, his buck teeth showing below his wrinkled black nose. He watches the smoke drift, his pink eyes catching the light of the fire.
Published on Nov 1, 2019
by Sean R Robinson
Robert did not expect the sea-witch to live in a house, not one with a blue door and small hedges that lined the walkway. He thought that the seagulls overhead probably worked for her, watched for her. He knocked on the door, though the arthritis made his hands hurt every day. Three knocks and the door opened.
Published on Jul 21, 2014
by Rachel Rodman
It was a chaste courtship. Her lust was constrained by her conservative upbringing; his, by his lack of a central nervous system. Often, they simply talked. She chatted extensively about her life in the old world, before the tornado. She had loved, she said, her school and her church, and the little farm, with the painted weathervane, and the baby chicks, haloed in adorable fluff.
Published on May 30, 2016
by Lynda E Rucker
The man is tapping out a tune with one foot, a tune that is a mystery to everyone but him. The tune goes something like this: tap tap tap pause tap tap tap pause tap tap tap tap pause tap tap tap tap pause. It's worse than having a pop song stuck on repeat inside your head because instead of trying to shed it you keep trying to capture it, and the only man who knows the secret is still tap-tap-tapping but he isn't going to reveal a thing. He's not; and you know it by looking at him. You know it first by looking at his shoes, which are brown leather, scuffed and laced up wrong with floppy worn tongues. Above the shoes, a flash of thin ankles: he's lost his socks. You feel sure "lost" is the right word, not "forgotten" or "not worn." He had socks at one time and now, for whatever reason, they are gone. Above the thin ankles, frayed denim hems. The jeans (Granny still calls them dungarees; you do not know why this piece of information rises unbidden in your thoughts) don't fit the bare ankles and the battered shoes. You think: normal. That's it; the jeans are the attire of a normal person. The shoes are things a crazy person would wear, shuffling through the city on their broken-down backs, talking to people who aren't there.
Published on Oct 31, 2012
by J. C. Runolfson
The wolf meets a woman in the wood. The woman is red, from her hair to her lips to her dress to her long, sharp nails. Only her skin is pale and her eyes are dark, dark, dark. She lounges on the edge of a blanket, and spread out before her is a feast of the sort one doesn't bring to Grandmother: hunks of raw, bloody meat, long bones hacked up so that the marrow glistens inside, sweet, steaming organs and viscera. Slavering, the wolf somehow manages to say, "Hello, Red."
Published on Feb 25, 2016
by A. Merc Rustad
Life/Death #7 The woman I'm given to is finished with her boyfriend, so she throws me and the other roses into the garbage disposal.
Published on May 27, 2016
by Melody Marie Sage
I remember we celebrated with the dark chocolate torte at Loiseau Dor. Its glossy black ganache was splashed with a comet trail of 24 carat gold stars. The gilt leaf dissolved tasteless on my tongue. The idea of it was titillation enough. Ian talked about the project, and I pretended to listen to him, enjoying the sound of his voice, the exuberant parabolas he made with his hands. I was an artist. Chemistry, nanotechnology, bionics, and their various intersects, did not interest me. Colors did: the yellow candle flame flickering on his irises, the flush at the base of his throat, the creamy ivory tablecloth beneath my fingers. I smiled into my champagne. No, that is not entirely true. I loved learning about science in school, but Ian was on another level. He virtually spoke his own language. Only a select few of his colleagues could parse the intricacies of his logic. Now, I wish I had listened more closely.
Published on Jul 17, 2015
by Jayson Sanders
You arrive at dusk as you always do, during that fragile moment when a thin, orange ribbon struggles to restrain the onrushing blackness. For one sweet, pregnant moment you pause, and we are like a child, in a world all his own, watched by a loving mother he does not see.
Published on Jul 10, 2013
by Memory Scarlett
Estelle refused to let Richard linger in her presence as his father lay dying. "You should be with him," she said. "He needs his family close by." Richard scraped a hand across day-old stubble. "Let us pray he disowns me with his last breath."
Published on Jul 10, 2014
by Ziggy Schutz
Alina was always told she would really be something when she grew up. A looker, say the adults, tugging at her hair like they can help it grow. Alina sits and stares at the mirror in the hallway, the full length one that reaches up into the sky, stares and stares because if she is going to be a looker she better have the eyes to match. Every day she stares, until her eyes start to bulge from their sockets, and she notices she can see things in the dark corners of rooms no one else can.
Published on Mar 12, 2018
by Rene Sears
You watch the mermaids swim. Sometimes you think of joining them. They're like parrotfish, bright and pretty. If you joined them, they would scatter like a school of fish when a predator comes along. So you do nothing but watch from the shadows. From there sometimes you see ships, and shipwrecks, and sailors. They, you are less tempted to join. They only come to you when they want something. Mermaids looking for feet, sailors looking for a knotted rope to capture wind, it's all the same. They fear what you are as much as long for what you can do. If they see you outside of your lair, when they haven't come to you, they flee, or stuff their ears with wax. You are not meant to approach, only be approached.
Published on Jun 17, 2014
by Luke Sekiguchi
1. You will need to lie to the police. "She was camping with relatives," you'll mumble. "They thought she had permission. I'm so sorry for wasting your time." They'll never know how she's changed, how the sun has browned her and the baby fat has melted away. They won't need to know how your heart plummeted when you saw the scar streaking from her eyebrow to her lip. "That's been there a while," you'll quaver. "Skiing accident."
2. She won't need you to cut off her bread crusts anymore. She'll snatch the sandwich from beneath your knife, packing her mouth with both hands as she darts out to play. You'll find snacks in her pockets that you've never seen before. The wrappers will teem with foreign phrases, or even foreign alphabets. How do you even know what's in them? you will worry. This can't be safe.
3. As you gaze at the scar that desecrates her sleeping face, you will wonder, Why didn't you take me with you? Don't you know you need me?
4. You will fight every night about closing her window. "It's too hot," she'll complain no matter how you shiver. When you nail the window shut, she won't even wait for you to leave--she'll pry it right open before your eyes. The only thing you'll find to say is, "Since when do you own a pocketknife?"
5. "Look out!" you will cry. Your daughter will spring into the air and alight for a moment as the car whizzes harmlessly beneath her. You'll slump against the porch railing as your knees surrender. Your daughter will roll her eyes as she settles back to earth.
6. You will never feel safe again. You'll fantasize about writing to your homeowner's association, asking them to build the gate taller, taller, until it splits the stars. But you'll know it can never reach high enough to keep her in.
7. Your daughter will never return to Neverland. Peter forgot her by the time the sun rose. But your daughter will never forget. She will flee towards any promise that magic still exists. Hollywood. New York. Las Vegas. She will take the hand of any boy who offers to make her soar.
8. There is only one way to prevent this.
9. Show her your scar. The one you said was a dog bite. She has only seen it once, by accident. You keep it covered. You change in the dark. If you glimpse its wicked seams in the moonlight, your ears fill with ticking. You were a very different child from your daughter. You have always been afraid of heights. Upon your return, you locked your window and never looked out of it again.
10. Someday your daughter will reach out to you one last time. If you take her hand only to pull it, she will break free of your grasp, and you will watch her silhouette dwindle against the twilight until you are uncertain whether she was ever there at all. Alone with the stars and biting wind, shivering in her pajamas, she will wonder, Don't you know I need you? Why didn't you come with me?
Published on Feb 7, 2022
by Will Shadbolt
Demons slaughtered the first chosen one. The monsters appeared one autumn day, when the leaves turned red. Soon forests, fields, hamlets, nations fell under the might of their horde.
Published on Jul 1, 2020
by Leife Shallcross
Hair? Imbeciles. It is not hair. No more than there was ever a girl child taken in exchange for some life-giving herb that revived the gravid mother from the point of death. That tale is the hook. It reaches the ear of some youth who fancies himself a hero, and he is caught.
Published on Mar 9, 2017
by Chelsea Shewan
"Apple?" the old woman asked. She stood alone in the market, near a darkened alley. No stall. Just her and a basket of apples. She held out the basket as Lisa walked by.
Published on Jun 10, 2020
by Alex Shvartsman
Concerns are growing among the community over dozens of recent arrivals in Munchkin Country. A local resident, who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity, described the newcomers as "overwhelmingly overconfident, overweight, and overbearing." We have since confirmed them to be North Americans.
Published on Apr 27, 2022
by Amy Smift
The Beast doesn't ask for one of his daughters, merely tells him he will never leave. The merchant is numb as he is shown his bedchamber, the dining room, the library. Finally the Beast stops at a carved wooden chest, dark near to black, and withdraws two mirrors. He hands one to the merchant. It is silver, finely made, but not extraordinary. The merchant is surprised to see that he does not already look older, more haggard.
Published on Apr 14, 2016
by Addison Smith
As soon as Bane walked through the door, he knew he was home. The shop was dim, lit only by a chink of light through the dusty shopfront window. Tiny motes disturbed the air, filling his sinuses and falling from the ceiling under the skitter of mice. The atmosphere was one of age and regret, cheerful pastels worn with time and abandonment. Bane smiled, and limped his way to the counter. On his way he passed wonders of another age. Golden staffs and glittering wands, thin wheels of regal carriages, and blown-glass bottles of potions in every color. They brought him back to a simpler time. The woman behind the counter, however, was less than magical.
Published on Jun 5, 2017
by Kim Ball Smith
The rumors spread through the German trenches: the British had deployed a new weapon after the losses in Arras. Survivors of each attack were counted in the single digits, boys who had been drafted despite not being of legal age. Most were incoherent. They spoke of a battalion of criminals bearing patches over eyes and hooks for hands. Others reported a squadron of natives from the Americas, a troop of child soldiers, or half-nude women with sharp teeth who smelled of the sea. The higher-ups suspected a new neurological agent. One young soldier, the youngest of them all, spoke fervently of a woman dressed in a flowing nightgown spattered with blood. She called a demon, he said, a boy with flame-red hair who cast no shadow. He bore an old-fashioned cutlass, and he flew as he cut through the ranks, crowing and laughing and calling, "Look! Do you see? Look at me!" as if it were all make-believe, as if it were all a game.
Published on Nov 5, 2020
by Jessica Snell
No one knew about them, the counterfeit princes. In this day and age, no one would suspect. Who could have hoped to get away with it when every tabloid had them on the cover at least once a month? Their fans had memorized their faces, their gaits, the way they held their shoulders, the way the younger prince's mouth quirked up to the left side whenever he flirted with a commoner's cute baby. But there they were. Raised alongside the true heirs, raised with every benefit of education, every nuance of culture, every privilege of class.
Published on Jan 25, 2016
by Carlie St. George
I met you at the edge of the yellow woods, while you were speaking sweetly to the robins and squirrels. You weren’t handsome, but your smile was kind, and kindness was a novelty so rarely encountered. My whole life I’d been seen as contagious, a bad luck seer who brought only misery and death, but you thought I was beautiful, a chance for a dream to finally come true. We saw the future in each other; of course, we fell madly in love. Let me spoil the ending: you’re going to try and kill me tonight.
Published on Mar 24, 2021
by Robert E. Stutts
***Editor's Note: Adult fairytale. Adult themes.*** Even in high summer, paths through these woods are difficult to find, let alone follow, overrun as they are with brambles and briars and bracken. But in summer there is the sun above you to warm your head, and the green of trees to cheer your heart.
Published on Feb 4, 2013
by Henry Szabranski
Published on Jan 22, 2013
by Henry Szabranski
Published on Jan 24, 2013
by Henry Szabranski
Published on Jan 23, 2013
by Charity Tahmaseb
Everyone warned her, of course. Never go near the wolves. They would trick you, seduce you--this last always spoken in a hush. As if seduction were a bad thing. Red knew otherwise.
Published on Mar 30, 2020
by Elizabeth Twist
Helene takes two vows on her wedding day, equally rotten. The first is private. Midnight crossroads. Chanted words. The scent of brimstone. Cherry red skin and horns in a gentleman's suit. Negotiation. A cold kiss to seal agreement.
Published on Mar 23, 2017
by James Valvis
I never wanted a new heart. I could get along fine without one. But then Scarecrow wanted brains so much, and everyone felt so sad I didn't have a cardiac muscle, I went along with the song. When Lion wanted courage that sealed the whole thing in a bow. Everyone in this group had to want something that had been lost, brains, courage, home. How could I tell them I felt fine, never better, now that all my limbs were oiled again? That had been the real problem: rust caused not by tears but unlucky rain. I can't tell you how relieved I felt when Oz's fake Wizard handed me that fake heart, complete with stopwatch. Even still, I thought, what a big phony! I was all set to lay down that tinker toy and smash it to pieces with my ax, when I saw Dorothy and the others, how thrilled they were for me and how excited for themselves: Dorothy, so young and nave, Scarecrow as stupid as ever, and Lion too afraid to speak up. I could have told them it was a scam and ruined everyone's party, but I just didn't have the heart.
Published on Oct 6, 2016
by Eliza Victoria
***Be Advised. Mature Language in the story that follows*** There was a girl in a white dress crying inside the MRT station. She was sitting all by herself on a bench on the platform, farthest from the entrance but closest to the doors of the first car of the train. She was all alone because the train had just left, taking the rest of the commuters with it. Dante, on his way to work, had missed the train. He would have missed seeing the girl's wings, too, if he weren't standing at the right angle.
Published on Jun 8, 2012
by River West
He needles their stepmother, echoes her words and mimics her walk, unravels her yarn and says the cat did it, even crumbles his thin shaving of the last bread into a mess on the table though his stomach gripes and yawns with hunger like everyone else's. Gretel sees her stepmother's face when he looks up from the crumbs, smiling, and her heart sinks. They're going into the forest again.

"Don't torment her," she says to Hansel. "She's hungry."
Published on Oct 12, 2022
by S W Whitehouse
The dragon had arrived unexpectedly. None had suspected until two rather dilapidated abandoned cottages went up in flames. Even then no one would have immediately thought "Dragon" if the neatly written note had not arrived at the small brick built town hall later that afternoon. The Aldermen were called and much was made of the script and the delicateness of the writing. How fine it was; and certainly well written. Much was also made of the contents. The dragon asked for one young virgin and a leather bag filled to overflowing with gold coin. He--the Aldermen naturally assumed the dragon was male--asked for the girl and the gold to be left outside the large village in four nights time. In regretful tones it announced that it would reign fire down upon the cottages of the fine folk if its request was not met. The Aldermen debated and considered. They talked and wondered. They discussed and pondered; and in the end decided to do nothing. In the days that followed the Aldermen kept to themselves not even seeing Pietro who had come to complain about the loss of his prize pig.
Published on Jun 24, 2020
by A.C. Wise
There is a boy outside her daughter's window. She wakes with this certainty, and hurries through the darkened house to her daughter's room. In the doorway, her pulse skips--recognition and panic in one missed beat.
Published on Jun 9, 2017
by A.C. Wise
Find yourself desperate for a child. Find yourself willing to do whatever it takes, including and especially, lie to your spouse. Know, in your heart, in the place where your heart will be once you hold your child in your arms for the first time, that achieving this desire will fill the aching hole inside you. Find yourself in a place where all conventional methods have failed. Traditional medicine. Homeopathy. Wishing on falling stars. Extramarital affairs. You even contemplated kidnapping your sister’s firstborn, but family members are always prime suspects and you’d only end up arrested, empty-handed, estranged. Find your way into the woods. Find yourself a bird. For best results it should be a turtle or mourning dove. Stick to the path. This part is important: do not stray. Be bold. Be bold as you can. Pluck every feather until the bird's skin is pale and smooth as a newborn child's. Break the bird's wings--every single fragile bone one by one. Children come into this world helpless, after all. You may choose to blunt the beak, or remove it entirely. That part is up to you. Remember--this is a fairy tale, choices have consequences. Find yourself a shovel or a small spade. Silver is best, but iron will do. Find yourself on a clear night digging a hole at the foot of an ancient oak tree with a crown spread to hold up the sky and a trunk wider around than you can stretch your arms. Place your broken-winged, featherless bird into the hole, and bury it standing, up to its neck. Water it with your blood. Water it with your tears. Wait three days. Brush the dirt gently from its cold skin. Swaddle it in the softest blanket you can find. Pink for a boy, blue for a girl. Realize that color has no effect on sex, and gender is a construct anyway. Swaddle your child however you choose. Find yourself the perfect spot to hide the precious treasure you smuggle home. Remember, your spouse must not know. May we suggest behind the third brick up on the left side of your chimney? Or the very back of your sock drawer? Feed your child only sweet things. Honey by the thimbleful. Drops of morning dew. Petals candied in sugar and slices of new apple. The sound of your voice singing lullabies and all your favorite pop songs. Find clothes suitable for a fairy tale child. Stitch them from frost and leaves. Procure the skin of a donkey, or a barrel driven with rusty nails. If your child would be clothed in silver and gold, they will need to wish beneath a tree grown from your murdered bones. Plan accordingly. Find the strength to wait. Be patient while your child grows. Find the courage to bear up under repeated questions--where in the world did you find a child, how could you do this without talking to me, why won't it speak, what's wrong with its eyes, why is its skin so cold? Am I not enough for you? The child or me? Choose. Find yourself a good source of daycare. It's difficult raising a child alone, especially when you have to work two jobs, three, to keep food on the table. Your growing child hungry all the time. Find a suitable spot to bury the bodies. One babysitter might be a tragic accident, but two? And the kindergarten teacher? And the nice elderly couple next door who you begged to take your child for just one hour, please, so you could get a few minutes rest? A small respite from the blackness of your child’s eyes, full with the memory of stolen feathers and shattered wings. Remember, a fall down the stairs is easy enough to explain, but bitemarks less so. Particularly when the marks aren’t bites at all, but left by something sharp and triangular, stabbed into the flesh over and over in neat, terrible rows. Perhaps you should have blunted the beak after all. Find yourself at the end of your rope. It was bound to happen. We warned you not to stray from the path, but never said why. It’s so much better to watch the story play out to the end, and so disappointing when parents turn back while they still can. Find yourself re-reading the stories that led you here. Tales of magic, wishes granted, impossible children built from flower petals and drops of blood on the snow. Ask yourself where you went wrong. Was your heart not pure enough? Did you offend an old woman by refusing her a drink, or help carrying a burden? Realize that you don’t fucking care; you just want it to be done. Find yourself contemplating ways to kill such an uncanny child. An apple spiked with poison? A locked tower where they will drown under the weight of their own hair? Will you string barbed traps for every mouse and bluebird just in case they are the helpful kind good at sorting lentils and peas? Will you murder the hunters and woodcutters and banish them from your realm? Cut the tongue from every horse lest it reveal your treason, even dead? Is your child destined for the stewpot? Will you grind their bones to make your bread? Or will it be something quicker, more expedient? Perhaps a gun? Find yourself contemplating the hollow, aching space inside your chest. Probe its edges. Are they delicate as feather-edged frost, or hard and jagged like teeth cracked beneath a fist? Instead of filling it, has your child caused that space to grow? Find out what you are you willing to do. Will you dance in shoes of iron? Allow your eyes to be plucked out by birds? Find yourself doing whatever it takes. It is easy enough to find yourself in a fairy tale, but remember--you will not always find yourself its hero.
Published on Sep 9, 2021
by Daniel Wright
We were perfect, once. Do you know what happens to gold when it tarnishes? You polish it.
Published on Jan 9, 2020
by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Gunthar sat in stoic silence, a woolen blanket folded over his lap, facing the fireplace. Ada set her basket of fabric and lace onto the frayed rug and eased herself into the chair next to his, pulling it closer to the fire. He kept his eyes on the flickering flames. "So, it's over?"
Published on Nov 7, 2012
by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
My name is not Elisabeth. My eyes are not full of tears. My life has not just changed forever. My best friend is not dead.
Published on Sep 2, 2013
by Lynden Xu
It is quiet. It is a sort of quiet that chokes your ears, the quiet that drowns out the whispering of the wind as it makes the leaves dance along the streets.
Published on Feb 22, 2019
by JY Yang
Anja returns with the groceries to find her dead husband sitting by the white fence he'd built, pale hands uprooting grass blades and dispersing the shards into the wind through bony fingers. She doesn't know what he was wearing when he died, but the long thin figure by the gate is clad in the matching grey windbreaker and track pants she'd given away weeks ago. When he embraces her, winding spindly arms around her like a vise, his hands are cold and his hair smells of salt. "The boat came in early," he says. "Are you surprised?"
Published on Jan 23, 2015
by Christie Yant
He is telling the wrong story. He wants to explain it in terms of magic and wishes and fairy tales, but the right language for this situation is the language of gravity and magnetism, of galaxies and gas giants. It is a mechanical, technical problem--a problem of mathematics and science. The problem is that I want him to go back where he came from, and he won't.
Published on Apr 3, 2012
by Karlo Yeager Rodriguez
I couldn't help glancing at the hourglass when Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin shuffled into my office. A few moments more and I would have closed up and been at the tavern down the street. The wisp that had led them in flared and winked out with the sound of tinkling bells. I took a deep breath. Best to get right down to it, then. The girls might mock me for being late to our after-work get-togethers, but as a fairy godmother at Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather Adoption Services, my work was serious business.
Published on Oct 4, 2016
by Anna Yeatts
I didn't miss the little house in the woods until it was gone--its stools carved to fit my stunted legs and its eaves lowered for my unnatural arms to fetch the dried apples down on a winter's night. Our king has lost his queen. He has ordered his forests cleared. His grief has become my own.
Published on Apr 8, 2015
by Kathryn Yelinek
Three teenage girls crowded round the terrarium on the desk in Annabel's room. It sat amid an avalanche of fingernail polish bottles and schoolbooks. In one back corner of the terrarium, a frog cowered. "Kiss it!" Lacey said to Annabel, fanning her freshly pink nails.
Published on Dec 15, 2011
by Caroline M. Yoachim
The pond where I grew up was swampy and buzzing with insects. I slept in a bed of stargrass, and Mother whispered lullabies in the gentle current. Mother grew up in the ocean, and she hated our pond. Too many memories of Father lingered beneath the surface, long after drought had stolen him away. "Why don't we go back to the ocean?" I asked.
Published on May 25, 2015