A/N: This is one of my less complex ideas. There were all these little inspirations for stories and I thought: hey, why not put them together and just make a little collection? So here's the first story. Please read and enjoy . . . then click that little button down there and leave a review!
I have lived a cursed life.
My first true lover was killed before my eyes, his head popped like an overripe watermelon. Killed by a witch's jealousy. My unborn daughters were twisted, the beauty they inherited from my love stolen and replaced with ugliness. I was spared, carrying them in my womb, and condemned to live my terrible, terrible life alone.
I loved my daughters. They grew up to be ugly creatures, but I comforted them, assured them that they were, without a doubt, beautiful as they deserved to be. Men, for want of me, did nothing to contradict my lies.
He was the second to love me. I knew that he fell in love with my body first, and me second, but in my foolishness I forgave him. For me, he loved my daughters, and the three of us found a place to call home. But with this happiness, I know, I would once more be hunted by the witch who had killed my first love. Still, I was in love, and pushed my concerns aside in my naivete.
He had a daughter, a young girl of my daughters' age blossoming into maturity. She was the sweetest girl you ever did see, humble and polite, always the model of purity.
But she was always cold. The few times I touched her I was puzzled at the icy paleness of her skin. And though her figure filled out and grew desirable over time, I never saw her eat anything more than a nibble or two of fish and tiny sips of water. Still, everyone loved her and overlooked her queer little habits. And no one questioned her periodic disappearances, or the black puddles of water that mysteriously appeared around our house with the morning.
But I knew better. I saw her that night. I watched from my window as she walked into the sparse forests around our extravagant home, followed her on bare feet as she climbed the tree, slithering like a reptile, and by some wicked magic stole those birds from their nest without the poor creatures ever waking from their sleep.
I watched her. Watched her from a distance as she cracked their skulls, tapping their beaks against a rock until the hardened points drove backwards into their little brains. She pulled her golden hair back over her ear with bloody fingers and bent over the stiff little bodies, her slim, white fingers probing around inside them with hot squishing sounds until she found what she wanted.
I watched her eat. Plucking out each delicate little piece of bone and sucking it clean, popping wet little organs into her dainty mouth and smiling as though they were sweet candies she'd been deprived of for too long. Water would trickle from her eyes, her ears, and under her nightdress in thin dribbles down her pale legs. Not clean water, like the water in our well, but blackened, sluggish water like the soiled stream a little ways into the forest.
But she would always save the eyes. When she left the corpses behind, that night and every night after, deflated skins containing nothing but hollow caverns and dribbles of blood, she would always take the eyes with her.
I would follow her every night, then walk behind her back to the house. Then we would go separate ways, and I would crouch down by the window to watch her through the glass as she snuck into my husband's room.
I would watch her pop the tiny eyes into her mouth, chewing carefully and almost tenderly, before straddling my sleeping love's strong hips and bending over him, taking his still lips into her own, tracing the lines of his closed eyes as she gently coaxed his mouth open and bid him swallow the chewed-up eyes she forced into his throat. And the whole time, my husband would lie still in sleep, just as the little animals do. And every night he lost a little more of his warmth and virility.
And so it was that I grew to fear for my love, and hate his little daughter. Every night after my futile mission of following her into the woods and back, I would tiptoe quietly back to my room (once she left) and stare at the man I had loved. Then I would lay down beside his cold body and turn away from him, even when the blanket would slip from my shoulders, so afraid was I of touching him. I did not sleep well for the next year.
Throughout this time of despair I could not use my own witchcraft, for fear of capturing the attention of the one who killed my first lover two years ago. Eventually though I managed to impress upon the young daughter an endless stream of meaningless and mundane chores to fill her days and keep her safely restrained, to a certain extent. My husband could not help me, weak as he was from her nightly torments, but he did not work against me either, to her great frustration.
Though I loved him, I loved my two daughters most. Their safety was most important to me. Eventually my caution was swept aside, and I cast a spell over the ashes in our unused hearth. Every morning I woke before the dawn (and before the young daughter) and sprinkled a handful of the ash over our doorstep. Inside the house I kept a constant sentinel, sweeping away stray puddles quickly and removing all sources of water from her reach. She could not leave the house, and paced in rage day and night, growling under her breath like a wild animal trapped in a cage.
The unfortunate side of this was to direct her attention further to my husband. Far from the eyes of everyone else in the kingdom, she slowly led him to death. It wasn't long before the nightly doses of poison and the stress on his mind killed him and left me and my two daughters trapped with her.
With no one left between us, I feared for my life. I began to wipe the ash on her body when she slept, and rub the gray stuff into her clothes. I continued to force the chores upon her, hoping to maintain my tenuous control upon the monster that was my stepdaughter. Her clothes faded to rags and her beauty began to fade, her eyes hardening to show glimpses of what she truly was. Still I suffered more, hardly sleeping a wink. The color in my cheeks faded and I fell into a permanent state of severity and suspicion.
Then one day I felt another disturbance in our fractured lives. Locking my daughters away in their room, knowing that their instinctive hatred of my stepdaughter would lead them to danger should I allow it, I slipped outside past the ash on the doorstep and snuck into the woods.
I saw her dart past over the cover of the trees, a thin cloud of glittering darkness floating behind her. That witch that killed my first love and cursed my daughters . . . she had found me again. Where the black little stars fell to the ground, flowers withered and died before regenerating as ugly weeds.
I went back in silence, contemplating. There was no choice-I had to remove my daughters from this place at once.
The prince of this kingdom was a well-disliked young man. He neglected his duties and lived in his father's glory, and the population knew little of him. But he was popular among the nobles, for periodically he would hold parties at which he invited young women, and which his father allowed in the hope of satisfying the spoiled prince . . . and finding himself a daughter-in-law to whom he could trust the kingdom. At these parties, however, more often than not the prince chose women to live in his harem, occasionally giving one as a gift to a close noble. Thus did he maintain his silent, dirtied power.
It was to one such party that I sent my daughters, hating myself for it but knowing that it was better than leaving them with my stepdaughter. Unable to control my fear I pulled on a gown at the last moment and followed them, sprinkling another handful of ash over the doorway as we left. The thought of being alone with the young girl terrified me.
I do not know what happened while we were gone. Perhaps the witch I'd seen in the forest had enchanted those mice, sending them to scamper to the ash on the doorway and die, one by one, until the ash retained no magic in them, freeing my stepdaughter to finish me. Or perhaps the young girl somehow attracted the witch with a bargain-perhaps some nice part of me for her freedom. I do not know how those mice ended up dead on my doorstep, their tongues protruding and their eyeballs swollen with blood. I can only guess. But the why does not matter; the point is, my stepdaughter somehow broke free, and with the help of another power was given everything she needed to follow us to the palace.
While she was coming, I was trying to get close to the prince. He could never be attracted to my daughters, but I could bewitch him. For my daughters, even if the witch was at our doorstep, I could risk that much magic.
My chance came soon, when the prince made his way to me. He was much younger than I, but I bore my years with no physical effects and I could smell his desire. I smiled a little as he came close-and cast my glamour on him before quickly tying the other end of my gossamer web around my daughters. His lust-darkened eyes swiveled over to them, and I watched wistfully as he pulled my beautiful, poor, stupid, dear daughters away towards the gilded stairs that led to his chambers.
That was when my tall, proud white mare-bought by my dead husband from a trader from distant lands as a wedding gift-appeared at the doors. Her eyes rolled wildly in her head and foam trailed from her lolling tongue. Her fine coat was rumpled, her harness strapped crudely to my cart. I only saw this because I was watching the prince lead my daughters away. Aside from the prince, my daughters, and I, no one in the party saw the hideous appearance my stepdaughter made at the prince's ball. My mare collapsed at the doorway, her glorious form shriveling into a tiny gray bundle I recognized as a dead rat. My cart burst apart. The pieces rotted in the air, and when they hit the ground twisted vines grew and rotten pumpkins took root.
My stepdaughter, dressed in a shimmering blue gown, stepped calmly from the remains of the cart. Her beauty had been fully restored by a power other than her own, and I was reminded of the way flowers had withered into weeds when the witch flew by over my head. My stepdaughter smiled tauntingly at me before turning the full power of her glamour on the prince.
The fool could not resist, of course. My puny magic was nothing compared to hers, even without the witch's added power. The prince forgot my daughters in an instant, and stepped towards the monster that was my stepdaughter.
The ringing of the giant clock in the ballroom interrupted the horrified trance cast upon me. My stepdaughter flinched back, hissing. Midnight! I gasped in relief; dawn was coming, and she would have to sleep soon. I knew this well, for dawn was when I felt safe to sprinkle our doorways with the protective ash every day.
The prince followed her, confused, as she fled. As she ran, I saw that her feet were bare, and burned. So the witch had not managed to clear away all the ash, after all. Before I could gather my skittering thoughts, I ran after her, determined to somehow destroy the curse on my life. In my haste I forgot my daughters. My last memory was of their terrified faces as the prince led them away.
Panting, we arrived at our empty house. I caught a glimpse of those dead mice on the doorway, their little bodies bloated and their eyes bulging in their heads. The girl darted into the woods. I cried softly as I saw the blackish water littering the ground all around me, jumping around the puddles as best I could in the dark.
I followed her into the forest, branches slapping my face, roots catching at my feet. Behind me I heard the prince's carriage clattering down the rough roads in hot pursuit, and my daughters' screams. They must have followed. But I caught a glimpse of golden hair turning a corner before me, and I threw myself into the chase once more.
I burst out into a clearing. Churning black waters ran in a river before me, and I stumbled to a stop. My stepdaughter grinned at me from a few feet away, flashing reptilian fangs . . . and slithered fluidly into the water.
Crying in frustration, for I dared not follow, I remembered my daughters and began to run back to where I could see the light of torches throwing shadows across the tops of the trees. Soon I heard the prince's voice, confused and angry.
"Is she here? Is one of these girls her?" He was yelling at his men. "I can't . . . I can't tell!"
My glamour, it seemed, was muddling his mind. Hoping it would be enough, I cast another spell through the trees blindly, hoping to catch the prince by the sound of his voice. If I could make even one of my daughters look like her . . .
It was too late. My spell missed, and the glamour dissipated at last. The prince screamed in rage.
"What are these ugly bitches doing here?" He yelled. "Kill them at once!"
I screamed and ran forward, but an insidious root caught my ankle and I fell, my nose breaking on the hard forest floor. Through the haze of blood I looked up and saw my daughters forced to their knees, though I could not make out their faces. I watched in despair as the guards raised their swords and beheaded my children, watched as their bodies slumped on the ground. The air wavered for a moment as the witch's spell faded, and my daughters finally became beautiful.
I scrabbled at the leaves on the ground, crawling towards them, my mind numb. A low whine, halfway between a sob and groan, kept coming from my throat. I froze as I heard a rustle of leaves behind me and looked over my shoulder to stare into my stepdaughter's innocent, beautiful, ugly smile.
I never screamed as she took me apart. This I know for certain, because she removed my head first. To keep me alive, she raised one sharp nail and cut my head from ear to ear, squeezing one slim finger inside to poke around my brain, letting me feel everything as she pulled out the contents of my body and inspected each with innocent curiosity before setting them aside.
A shadow fell over us; it was the prince. He smiled at her, and could not see me, so entrenched was he in her glamour. My stepdaughter smiled at him sweetly and cooed at him to stand still. He fell silent, his eyes blank.
My stepdaughter sighed and wiped her hands off. Perhaps now I would be able to die? But that finger was still in my head.
I knew she was here, even before I saw the dark glimmers settle to the ground around me. The witch appeared, as enchanting as ever with her dark beauty. She reached under my ribcage and pulled out my heart, tucking it away into her cloak. Then she bent and whispered to me.
"You stole his heart. Is this not only fair?"
Of course, I could not answer.
She smiled and straightened, turning to the girl. "Daughter."
"Mother," my stepdaughter said sweetly.
"I knew I had not made a mistake when I chose that mortal fool for my mate." She laughed, clear crystal chimes ringing. "But what were the odds of this wretch marrying him? No matter." She sighed contentedly. "You will rule the kingdom, yes?"
"Yes," the young girl said in her silken voice as the witch ran her fingers through her golden hair. The same hair that my dead husband had had.
"Good girl," the witch murmured, and disappeared in a glittering mist.
The girl turned back to me and withdrew her finger. Immediately I felt tired, so tired. But my eyes wouldn't close. I watched dimly as she rubbed her feet into my torn body, mocking me. I watched as she stepped into a puddle, the burns on her bare feet healing. The water hardened into the form of two clear slippers, smooth as glass.
"Now I have nothing more to fear from your damn magics." She said coldly, and walked away. The prince came back to himself, slipping one hand around her slim waist as though nothing had happened.
I stared up at the stars. Clear stars. Maybe . . . there weren't so many after all. Maybe. I began to count. One . . . two . . . sleepiness set in. I started over. One . . . two . . . three . . . something caught my eye.
My body, or what was left of it, had crumbled into dust. Vaguely I remembered the girl-no, the princess-stepping in my blood before she moved into the puddle. The water that made her slippers had my blood in it. Blood that was now ash. Somehow, my lips turned into a small smile. She would always have water . . . but she would always have my ashes, too.
I pondered this quietly, feeling my brain shut down. The ash girl, I thought amusedly.
There were no stars left in the sky. That's funny. Where did they go?
The ash girl . . .
Note: I do not own Cinderella.
How was it? I know, that was a really weird idea. But it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and I just jolted it down before I forgot. What did you guys think? Leave a review and let me know!