Part 1 of a story I published over at Ricochet.com, Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel (Part 1) — The Serpent’s Kiss:
‘Won’t hurt a bit,’ she says, ‘just a little prick.’ Sure. Because that’s always been true. Except this time it’s a magical spinning-wheel, and no lollipops for good boys and girls. Evil fairies running amok, and I was just about ready to pass out after cutting my finger on that confounded spindle. My name’s— well that’s not important right now — welcome to my life — this kind of thing happens to me all the time. Except everyone was trying to kill me — long story, they thought I was responsible for— Anyway, no time now, guards are coming. Why hadn’t they fallen asleep, and the kingdom with them, you ask? Well, funny thing, when I get hit by an evil enchantment I tend to grab the nearest heavy object and smash the evil magic spinning-wheel to pieces. But that’s just me. So the enchantment was short-circuited — and short-circuiting — and I wasn’t feeling at all well. No matter, no matter, think … think. Got to be something else I can do, something else I need to do. Well, aside from hiding behind this tapestry … with a secret passage behind it. Interesting … Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, and in case it’s not clear, I’m not a princess (maybe that’s why the spinning-wheel hadn’t sent me to sleep for a hundred years that instant), I’m a guy — and the girl I’m in love with is probably going to marry someone else whether or not I can break this enchant— There was an echoing clang, as of a mop bucket which some idiot has kicked, rolling down the stairs.
So, the secret passage turns out to be a janitor’s closet, or something, and that clang was going to attract some attention — or would do if everyone wasn’t making too much noise looking for me as it was. Small mercies. But do janitors’ closets usually have a spiral stone staircase leading down from them? I would say not, but I haven’t been in all that many. Look, I went to knight school, all right? Graduated knight school, anyway — but that’s not important right now. Look, it’s not as if I even started life in this fairy tale, okay? I know it sounds unlikely, but I just sort of … woke up here. I don’t know what happened. One minute everyone was normal, next minute it’s this weird sugar-spun world where nothing makes any sense anymore. I thought things made sense again, a little, for a while … Hey, do you mind looking the other way a moment — intruding on private grief here! Thank you! Anyway, where were we again? It sure was dark down this staircase. I hope I didn’t fall and kick the bucket — again.
Well, I made it to the bottom, in case you’re interested. Alive and unhurt. Jeez, I don’t know why they say this generation is so self-involved. I hadn’t checked my magic mirror in months … and what’s with all the chains and barred doors and stuff? Crap. My luck. I’d escaped into the castle’s dungeon. Stupid warped fairy tales! Okay, back up the staircase before the secret door closes on me and leaves me stuck here. Don’t laugh, it happens. Random background magic or something, I don’t know.
I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all. I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t even the one the enchantment was aimed at, surely? … But I couldn’t just let them get away with it, whoever was behind all this. I couldn’t just leave people I cared about to rot or feel the fall-out. I just couldn’t. I know I’m stupid. I know I’m a screw-up. But … I’m still me. What would be the point else? And besides, I want to get home someday …
Did anyone mention that spiral staircases are a real pain to climb back up? I needed to get in shape. I was practically wheezing by the time I made it back to the top. Aaaaand the guards were here.
‘That’s him!’ said a girl I’d never seen before in my life, standing behind them. There were two of them, swords drawn (smart move, fellas, running around like that) and with unpleasant expressions on their faces. They were just the kind of jerks I used to go to knight school with. Come to think of it, the girl looked kind of familiar in that way too …
‘Got him,’ said one of them with satisfaction, drawing his sword back. I froze. Look, sometimes you just do, it all gets too much. Fortunately, the guy had forgotten to switch his magic mirror to silent and it started buzzing and warbling.
The girl turned incredulous to her goon, ‘You idiot, he’s getting away!’
He was, too — I mean, I was. What? Open window, guards distracted — give me some credit. Unfortunately, I slipped, and was now hanging from a stone ledge by my fingernails. It was a long way down. ‘Ulp! The girl loomed over me with satisfaction, the guards somewhere behind her. The lead goon was still talking into his magic mirror, apparently to his girlfriend — ‘It’s all a lie! I never seen her before in my life! Honest!’ (maybe she believed him, but I would have voted to convict). The girl had a dagger. I was wondering where I’d seen her before. It didn’t seem right that someone I’d never met would be this keen to do me in — and this viciously. The smirk on her face was just uncalled for.
‘Well, well, well,’ she said, leaning close, and whispering so that only she and I could hear, ‘I see you broke my spinning-wheel … Too bad you’ll never get to tell anyone about it.’ Her non-dagger hand started shimmering round with a glow of soft green light. She dropped the dagger and heaved me up by the neck. God, she was strong. Those eyes. Something about those eyes. Not the eyes, idiot. Look at her mouth. A forked, serpent-like tongue flickered between her lips as she smiled down at me. ‘Ah, I ssee you’ve noticed my little ssecret … Goodbye, would-be hero. Have a nice journey down.’
She brought the hand flickering with what was obviously some kind of evil curse or something to my chest, which promptly burst into the most excruciating agony. It felt like someone was channelling a lightning bolt straight to my heart. Horrible nightmares, things no man should have to see, flickered past my eyes and into my brain, it seemed like death was closing in. And all the while there she was, smiling at me. The guards grinning stupidly behind her couldn’t see what she was doing. My grip on the stone went limp. I think my heart had stopped. I was going to die, I thought light-headedly. Her hand had stopped glowing. She brought it up from my chest and to her lips and blew me a kiss as she let go and sent me plummeting from the top of the tower. Wait, what — what’s happening — I didn’t want to die …