“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful kingdom ruled by a lonely Princess who could never wake. She was under a powerful spell that forbade her from ever again setting eyes on those she loved most. Even her precious child who lived with her in the castle. Alone, and tired, the Princess slept. For one hundred years Princess Lana layed silent, wistfully dreaming about the stars shining in the sky, and the flowers swaying in the meadow, and her happy child playing quietly in the castle halls. But the people of her kingdom were worried: ‘When our kingdom is attacked and we cry out for help, will Princess Lana hear us? Perhaps true love’s kiss can break the spell!’ It took 100 years for their letter to reach a worthy Prince in a far off land; they had waited long enough to seek help in breaking the spell.
“The Prince received the letter and made haste to the castle walls. For many days and nights he stood patiently waiting outside her window sill, gathering the courage to go inside. As he peered through the window, the Prince could see Lana was dreaming deeply. An empty cup laid overturned at the foot of her bed; a mysterious potion puddled around the floor. With the letter grasped tightly in his hand, the Prince finally gathered the courage to venture within. He quietly stood beside Princess Lana’s bed, admiring her beauty in the moonlight shining in through her open window. The breeze gently shifted the Prince’s dark brown hair to the side of his face as he knelt down to kiss the Princess. As their lips touched, the Prince could tell the spell was not broken. He could feel her thoughts as if they were being shouted from a mountain top, yet her eyes remained shut, and her body motionless. She wanted so badly to open her eyes and go down the castle hall and play again with the child. Instead, Lana slept away the hours until the hours turned into days, and the days into years. For ages the child cried out for her, but over time, it grew up without her. It forgot her. The spell was too strong. Nothing could wake her. Not the bursting of the tower gate, not the cries of the child, not even a kiss. Maybe, the Prince thought, it is best that the sleeping beauty never wakes up. She can live happily ever after in her dreams.”
The final page of the fairy tale rests between the man’s thumb and finger, being pressed firmly together with pristine balance. He turns the page, sealing the story behind it, and collapsing the cover of the book over its contents. The book’s exterior burns a brilliant red and stains the dimly lit room. Across the dust jacket, reflective, gold letters spell out Bedside Stories by Dave Anderson. The radiant text shines under the lamplight, illuminating only the book, Dave Anderson, and his young child, Drake.
“Wait,” Drake mumbles and brushes tufts of shaggy amber hair away from his eyes, “the sleeping beauty doesn’t wake up? I thought the Prince was supposed to save her.”
Dave looks to the boy and offers him a smile. “There’s no need to worry about her, my son. She will be fine. Not all stories end the same, that’s why it’s fun to read new ones.”
“But the Prince is the good guy. He was going to wake her up and then get married.”
“Sometimes, some stories have to end differently, and that’s okay. Now, the sleeping beauty can continue to rest and not have to be concerned with royal business.” Dave pauses for a moment and reopens his book to a page engulfed in a grand illustration. “Look,” he said, “can’t you see how happy she is?” He gestures to the sleeping beauty’s lips, which curled up ever so slightly near the sides of her face. “I think that, right now, she is at peace knowing she has nothing left to worry about. You and me, we can be happy for her.”
Drake considers this thought, then asks, “Is the Prince sad that she didn’t wake up?”
“No, no,” Dave reassures him, “the Prince couldn’t be more happy for her to be at peace. This is surely what she would have wanted. If it were meant to be, she would have woken up, but since she remained asleep, the Prince’s job could be done.”
“Wow,” Drake marvels, “the Prince is so selfless. I wanna be just like him when I grow up!” His eyes glisten in the light, just as the storybook letters do. The very sight brings a grin to Dave’s face. “Can I hear another?”
Dave rolls up his left sleeve and glances at his sapphire-coated watch. The arms stretch out from an obsidian center and read 7:08 pm. His eyes roll back and forth as he considers reading another tale. Drake’s attention continues to pierce through him—a unshakable, blazing gaze felt through the darkness.
“All right,” Dave concedes, “another story it is. I think you’ll like this one.”
Drake nestles himself back beneath the covers, claps his hands, and tells Dave to begin reading from the book. As the words rise from the pages, Drake leans in to catch every detail.
“Once upon a time, there was a towering beanstalk, and atop it lived a savage Giant. The beanstalk had grown far too tall for the small village below where it has been planted. It now stole all of the sun and rain from all that lived in its shadow. As the beanstalk grew, the Giant, once an ordinary human called Fred, grew with it. The sun and the wind and the rain made him into a grotesque monster. The villagers cried out to the beast, pleading for mercy. They heard rumblings above them like thunder as he stomped. Then, a letter, sealed in gold, floated down from the clouds above and landed in the village. It warned that the Giant would not show mercy unless he battled a worthy challenger to his throne. It would take 100 more years of torment until the village finally found a determined champion: the Prince.
“The Prince had lived his entire life in the shadow of Fred’s atrocities. He was ready to end this reign of terror. So one cold Spring day, the Prince grabbed his mighty sword and began climbing the stalk, hand over hand, ascending past the clouds and up to the Giant’s home. The Prince arrived at the summit and faced the creature. He exclaimed proudly: ‘I wish to challenge you for your throne. We have suffered long enough.’ Fred’s reply was viscous and gleeful: ‘Fee-fi-fo-fum,’ the colossal abomination howled from its gut, ‘to those who work, good fortune comes. If what I got is what you need, then for my throne my heart must bleed.’ The Prince unsheathed his sword and lurched forward with his right arm, taking Fred by surprise. He drove the blade deep into the monster’s stomach. The Giant cursed in anger, and swung his mighty arm, bashing the Prince’s face, and sending him flying down through the sky, blood dripping from his brow; the closest thing to rain the village had ever seen. The Prince landed below, and struggled to steel himself. When he opened his eyes, he looked above and saw Fred pounding his chest in delight. But the Prince could see the sword was still stuck deep within the gargantuan’s torso. As Fred receded in victory, the Prince made his way back to the stalk, and wiped blood from his brow as he went. Once again he found himself standing at the summit. He smiled to himself as he saw Fred slumped in the corner, gasping for air; a wisp of auburn hair clung to the top of his head. “Have mercy,” the Giant began to spatter as the Prince walked calmly to his side, “the stalks, they controlled me, they-.” The Prince had heard enough. He picked up his sword and swung a final blow into the Giant’s evil head. As proof to the people below, he brought down with him the Giant’s blue, gem-like eye. Now the Prince and his people knew for certain: the Giant would never hurt anyone again. The village was safe.”
Drake beams in amusement, “The Prince did it! He really did it! I can’t believe he saved the day! I thought he was going to die for sure when he was thrown down the beanstalk.”
Dave shuts the book once more and glows down at the boy. “Of course the Prince didn’t die in the story. He’s the main character. He’s the hero! The hero is always the one to come to the rescue and save the day.”
Drake’s rich, blue eyes dance around at the ceiling above him. His attention drifts to imaginative landscapes that Dave could not hope to envision himself. Instead, Dave gets to his feet, towering far above Drake’s bed, and returns the chair he was using to the nearby desk.
“I’m not tired yet, though,” Drake groans just before Dave reaches the doorway. The two lock eyes for a prolonged moment. The golden light of the lamp flickers and the air grows still. From just outside, a brisk brushing of wind rushes in from the shore and scapes against the wall. The shadows living in the very corners of the room draw nearer to Drake, engulfing him briefly with each additional failure of the lamp. “Please, I promise I’ll be good tomorrow,” he pleads.
Dave runs his fingers through his hickory-hued hair, glances once more at his watch, then once again takes a seat on the chair. “This will be the last one, then it’s bedtime.”
“Does the Prince get time to rest like the sleeping beauty after he defeated the giant?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Dave says with a slight hiss in the back of his throat. “There are countless giants waiting at the tops of an infinite number of beanstalks.”
“Why do the giants hurt people?”
“Because they’re giants, son. That is what they do. They rip people apart without mercy or reason. They’re always waiting in the dark to decide who to hurt next.”
Drake’s eyes widen and dart about the room, scanning the corners and crevices in search of monsters. Another breeze whistles past and sends a creak through the house. The young child clings to his blanket, drawing it up beyond his face so that only the red mop upon his head could be seen. “Will you protect me, just like the Prince does?”
“Of course, that’s why I’m here.” Dave reaches out his hand and places it on Drake’s concealed shoulder. “No one is ever going to take you away from me.”
“Promise?” Drake asks, clasping Dave’s hand in his own.
“Promise.” The two squeeze their hands together. “Now,” Dave states, “one last story before you sleep.”
“Once upon a time there was an opulent dragon’s den, and within it, a warm nest holding a single baby dragon. The dragon was alone, crying out, trying to find its parents, but there was no reply. Some older dragons were worried: evil dragons from all across the land would hear the scream and go searching for him. He needed to be protected. Shortly after, in a neighboring village, the Prince received a letter from them.
“It said that the baby dragon’s parents were gone. They had abandoned their baby and left it in the nest, unprotected and all alone. So it screamed and screamed and screamed so loud that the Prince could hear it nearby. It was almost lyrical, as if calling out to him and him alone. He was worried if the other dragons got to the baby first, they might take it far away and never give it back. He had to hurry. The Prince ventured deep into the dragon’s den, until he found the source of the screaming: a beautiful drake laying on a patch of hay. A vibrant patch of red scales topped its head, and its eyes, once opened, shined a deep, ocean blue. When it saw the Prince, it’s eyes widened. The crying stopped. And for a moment in this wretched night, time stopped, and there was peace. The Prince quickly picked up the dragon in his arms and ran out of the cave into the night. He could hear the other dragons getting closer: the heat of their breath warmed the air, the light of their fire lit up the night sky, and the sounds of their shrieks frightened the baby.”
“The dragons can’t catch the Prince! He’s the hero! He’s the one that comes to the rescue and saves the day!” Drake cries out, derailing Dave’s narration.
A broad smile stretches across Dave’s face and the dimples on his cheeks force a crease in the middle of his scarred complexion. The ravaged tissue of flesh, reconstructed haphazardly, etches from just above his brow and descends the side of his face. He gingerly strokes the mark with his fingers, tracing the rough skin.
“You are right,” Dave says to him, “the dragons could never, and will never, manage to catch the Prince. He outwits and out-maneuvers them at every turn. The young dragon will forever be safest in his care—he never needs to leave.”
“Will the Prince teach the dragon how to fly and breathe fire?”
“The Prince could do that, but the young dragon won’t ever need those powers now that the Prince has him under his wing. Everything can now be just as it should be.”
A significantly harsher wind knocks against the exterior of the house and rattles the window. The lamp flickered thrice more before shutting off completely, enshrouding the two in absolute darkness. Only the howling air could provide them company.
“I’m scared,” Drake whimpers.
Dave leans in closer to him, “There’s nothing in this town to fear, trust me. I’ve done everything in my power to keep us in a small place where no one will ever hurt us.”
“Are you sure Maine is safe? Are you sure that no one is going to come and get me?”
“Grimm’s Harbor is the safest town in the whole state, with hardly any neighbors to speak of, and certainly no dragons,” Dave reassures him. “There’s no one and nothing here to get you. There never will be.”
“Is that how the story ends with the little dragon?”
Dave peers through the darkness and pets the side of Drake’s face. “Remember, every story ends differently, but I know that the Prince and the young dragon live happily ever after.”
Oh, My Word! This story behind this short story is worthy enough of a blog post, to say the least. In simple terms, it was generated by multiple individuals, cut up, and Frankenstein’d together to create what you have just read. A thrilling experiment, truly.
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This was a great piece. Vivid descriptions and I liked the changes to the original fairy tales. I also felt that there was an underlying story yet to be revealed. Good job!