Friday, July 15, 2016

Free Fiction Friday: Sleeping Beauty (now, with zombies)

Happy Free Fiction Friday! I hope you like zombies! Years ago, I submitted this short story to an anthology of zombie fairy tales. It made the cut, but the anthology got killed before it went to publication. Now, it has clawed its undead way out of my archives and is ready to make its gruesome debut. I hope you enjoy!

“Sleeping Beauty”
Copyright 2013 Carey Burns
            Long ago in a land far away there lived a king and a queen who had everything they had ever desired, except for a child.  The king loved the queen very much but knew that if she could not produce him an heir, his entire kingdom would go to his brother.  Despite his love for her, he would have to take a new bride to produce an heir.
            The queen knew this and it made her very sad.  One day she was sitting in her bedchamber when a small red squirrel skittered through her window and plopped down on the bed beside her and said in the squeakiest voice, “My lady, your wish for a child has come true.  By the end of the year, you shall give birth to a beautiful daughter.”
            The queen rejoiced and called for the king to share the good tidings and that very night they conceived a child.  When the child was born all agreed that she was the most beautiful babe they ever did see and the king, proud man that he was, ordered a great feast in her honor.
            While the queen planned the glorious celebration, she decided it would be sensible to invite the thirteen wise women of the kingdom so they would bless her child and protect her with their charms.  Soon after, however, she discovered that she had only one hundred golden plates to serve her guests on and she had one hundred and one guests.  Foolishly, she took the thirteenth wise woman’s name off the list.
            The feast was splendid and all the guests were merry.  “To the babe’s health, the Queen’s health, and the King’s health!”  They all toasted and soon, they were toasting everyone’s health until they became quite drunk.
            After the guests had eaten and drank their full, the twelve wise women rose and approached the child to bestow their gifts upon her.  One wished her beauty, the next virtue, then riches, then courage, followed by wisdom, valor, happiness, love, grace, humor, and long life.
            Just as the last wise woman was to bestow her gift, the thirteenth wise woman burst into the hall bristling with anger.  “I declare that in her fifteenth year, the king’s daughter shall prick herself with a spindle and fall down dead.”
            The king’s guards rose against the woman but she disappeared from sight leaving the hall in a state of confusion.  The twelfth wise woman was vexed that the queen has slighted her sister but knew she had to remedy the situation or she would lose the king’s favor and smiled a devious smile.  “The child will not die.  She will sleep like the dead but will rise again one day.”
            The king ordered every spindle in the kingdom destroyed at once and they vowed that the girl shall never leave the castle lest the curse come true.  The queen ordered that at least two of her maids were never to leave the child’s side.
            Years passed and the girl blossomed into a beauty with all the attributes the wise women had granted her.  On her fifteenth birthday, the queen and her maids were busy planning a surprise for her and left her unattended.
            The girl wandered through the castle and heard a strange clattering sound.  She followed the sound until she came to an old stone stairwell that she had never seen before.  She climbed the spiral stairs and stopped at the top in front of a heavy wooden door.  The click-clacking sound was louder and she opened the door to find an old woman sitting at strange wooden contraption. 
            “I beg your pardon, Old Mother, but whatever are you doing?”  She asked, perplexed by the machine.
            “Dear Child, why, I’m spinning this golden thread to make a beautiful gown.  Would you care to try your hand?”  She offered.
            “Indeed I would.”  She reached out her hand to grasp the spindle and pricked her finger, just as the wise woman had declared so many years ago.
            The girl gasped and fell down on the spot in a deep sleep.  But she was not the only one bewitched in this manner, the thirteenth and twelfth wise women conspired that all inside the castle would suffer the same fate as the girl.
            In the great hall, the king slept in his throne and his guards collapsed at his side into a heavy sleep while the dogs dozed in the courtyard and even the horses slept in their stalls.  Not even a breeze tickled the leaves on the trees.
            Over time, a huge wall of thorns encircled the castle that was so high it hid the tower where the princess slept.  The large, sharp thorns impaled anyone that tried to slip through them to get inside and they died an agonizing death.
            Soon, the castle became a source of legend and the bravest of the young men saw it as a great challenge to get inside and see the beautiful sleeping girl in the tower.  All that tried never returned alive.
            Generations passed and a prince from a distant kingdom heard the tale of the enchanted princess and sought out the mystical castle for himself.  He traveled for days and arrived on the day the spell would be broken.  He approached the castle and was surprised to find not a tangle of thorns but a dense vine covered in beautiful flowers.
            He drew his sword to cut them back, but they magically parted and he walked through the gate.  His footfalls echoed loudly in the courtyard and the sound of his own breath frightened him. 
            The prince quickened his pace and skirted the sleeping dogs in the courtyard and entered the great hall where he found the king slouched over the arm of his throne in a deep sleep.  He crept past the guards and walked on.
            He made his way to the old tower and climbed the spiral stairs, creeping as quietly as he could.  As he opened the door, he saw her sleeping on the cot, an innocent smile on her red lips and he fell madly in love with her.
            He crept close to her and knelt beside the cot, staring at her peaceful face.  Unable to control his love, he kissed her soft, red lips.
            At that moment the spell was broken and the girl’s eyes fluttered open.  She clutched his hand and a horrific moan escaped her lovely lips.  Her breath reeked of rotten meat and her eyes were a dull, milky white.
            Frightened, the prince jerked his hand free and backed away toward the door.  She rose from the cot with slow, labored steps, her arms outstretched and her fingers grasping at the air as if she wanted to snatch him up.
            He hurried down the steps and ran like mad to the great hall, only to find the king and his guards awake and slowly plodding toward him with the same milky gaze as the princess. Their loud moans echoed through the castle and more of the freshly woken people rambled into the great hall.  The prince backed against a wall and put his hand to his sword, but it was too late. 
            The horde was upon him, pulling at his arms and legs and gnashing their teeth as a vile froth dripped from their mouths and he screamed in terror.  They tore the prince to pieces and glutted themselves on his flesh until nothing remained.  The princess stood among them, his blood slick on her soft lips as she delicately nibbled on his heart.

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