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Not Like the Stories

Michelle Muenzler, also known at local conventions as "The Cookie Lady," writes fiction both dark and strange to counterbalance the sweetness of her baking. Her fiction and poetry have been published in magazines such as Star*Line, Daily Science Fiction, and Apex Magazine, and she takes immense joy in crinkling words like little foil puppets. Check out her squidgy-weird buddy adventure novella, The Hills of Meat, the Forest of Bone, on Amazon if you want to see why she probably shouldn't be allowed to write humor. She promises it won't bite. Much. Story Comments: Sleeping Beauty has always been a bit of a problematic fairy tale, even in its "softer" variants, and some of the elements in my version above pull from those prickly little problematical bits. But I hope this princess, in the end, is a bit better off than her predecessors.
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.
Her nearby fairy godmother looks on aghast, then sneaks a small pillow from the bed and tucks it beneath the princess' head as though that were precisely where she intended her to fall. After a few hours, when nobody appears to check in on the princess, the fairy godmother sighs as though indecently put upon, then flits off to rustle up a page or a chambermaid--anybody, really--to discover their kingdom's latest curse.
In the following weeks, the princess is not set inside an ornate coffin for foreign nobility to gawk, or perhaps a young prince or two to attempt her curse with true love's kiss. Nor is she lain in a glass bed atop a glass mountain by which only the strongest of knights might attain her hand.
No, instead the king and queen set their sleeping daughter in the village square, leaning awkwardly inside a sturdy wooden booth with but one guard to watch over. And beside her in the booth, a small locked box with a narrow slot for coinage and a sign that reads: "Royal kisses, one coin."
And every week or so, a page trundles down from the castle and replaces the locked box with an empty one, then asks the rather bored guard if the princess has caused him any trouble. The answer, of course, is always no.
And if months slip by and no passers-through have yet to awaken the fair princess, then at least nobody can blame her parents' efforts. They've tried, after all, and when it comes to curses, a bit of failure is to be expected.
After some uncounted number of years pass and the income derived from the princess' booth falls to a piddling of pennies a week, she is not released from her service and mourned at last with a grand state funeral, the sort of event likely to draw at least some third son of a third son, eager to change his fortune. Nor is she sent on royal tour about the neighboring countries, those countries having already spent what coinage they cared to some years ago when the cursed princess' situation was new and somewhat more exciting.
No, none of these are her fate.
The princess is instead stuffed into the dank corner of a warehouse where all the kingdom's cursed objects eventually end up--those talking turnips, those rings, and those grimy lamps better left unrubbed. Yes, she is stowed like a crate between two shelves, her head drooping against the back wall and a slight snore rattling between her lips.
And there she is left. To gather dust. To gather mice. To gather whatever it is such things gather once safely hidden away from the world.
And, slowly forgotten, she continues to sleep.
When she wakes, she wakes on her own.
She stretches like a cat, deliberate and slow, yawning all the while and crackling her stiff joints. She sneezes once, thanks to all the dust, and notes the slight bump on the back of her head with slight embarrassment. Other than that, she feels refreshed, and there is a well-rested sparkle to her eyes.
Once fully awake, though, she does not call out as expected for her parents in hopes of joyful reunion. Nor does she break into woeful song so that her fairy godmother will hear and make a fortuitous appearance.
No, she chooses instead to untuck herself from her nook between the shelves and begin the methodical search for a door out, for though she's not yet sure where she might wander once free to her own will, she knows quite well where she will not be going, considering those who put her here to be forgotten like some unwanted spare button.
And if by the time she finds the exit midst that dark maze of curio-filled shelves, there's an unnaturally large turnip muttering in her pocket, a glowing ring clasped possessively around her finger, and a somewhat ominous lamp lighting her way... well, what's a few more curses among friends?
Because curses are what you make of them, she figures. Just like everything else in life.
And she's done letting others' expectations determine what she can or cannot do.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 19th, 2019


Sleeping Beauty has always been a bit of a problematic fairy tale, even in its "softer" variants, and some of the elements in my version above pull from those prickly little problematical bits. But I hope this princess, in the end, is a bit better off than her predecessors.

- Michelle Muenzler
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