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Elsa steeled herself for what was to come. She took that one little pause like an actor or musician just before their cue. Today she would convince Bo, that she was right; that he should take her advice.
She saw him when she turned the corner and had the same thought she always did, he was sinister.
There was only one building on his side of the street, stretching the whole block. Given what she knew of the area it had probably been some sort of wholesaler, when it was new. It was far from new. Layers of graffiti seemed to be all that held the bricks together. There was only window, long boarded up, Bo slouched against the graffiti, about five feet to the left of the window. Thousands of bits of trash stirred languidly in the empty lot to his left.
He wore a battered black hoodie. Or rather, it engulfed him like a smoky mist. His eyes were hidden. Only his disfigured mouth scowled out from the hood, chin sunk into his chest. He appeared to have no neck. The hoodie was ripped and stained, she thought it had once said Fuck You. The “F” and the “u” were still readable. At least a dozen chains looped from one part of his metal-studded belt to another. Even from half a block away they rattled like Bob Marley’s ghost. Jeans, ripped and stained, with a bulge in the right pocket. Calf-high hobnailed boots, black and badly scuffed, completed the picture. Yes, she thought, he was the picture of sinister.
Elsa hated this part, the approach. On the approach he was his most sinister.
She looked both ways and crossed the street, nimbly stepping around the puddles that seemed to always be in this street. Her flats slipped on the gravel and asphalt bits that had been ejected from the potholes that now doubled as puddles. She had the impression he followed her every step even though his eyes were invisible and not a muscle moved.
Then she was across and standing in front of him, so close on the narrow sidewalk that she could finally see his black eyes deep inside the hood, his broken nose, disfigured and unrepaired, and the jagged scar that stretched from his left eye to the point of his chin. The maximum sinister.
Ideally, I would sit
Fav pen magically at hand, and
From my brain, through fingers,
Pen to paper, the words
Would cascade out
Until 10,000 of them neatly
Stared back at me,
Laid out and so well set
As to defy the editorial step.
While sitting there creating
If I should chance to want
To slake a sudden thirst
My favorite beverage
Appear at my very elbow.
Of course, if I should want
My favorite snack or tunes
These too would appear
As if by bloomin’ magic.
My focus would be steady,
My hand would never cramp
And the story would
Present itself, fulsome,
Deep and broad,
Emotions perfuming each page,
Characters to match.
Alas, dear friends, ‘tis but a dream,
A wisp of bloody smoke.
In reality I sit to write
But my pen is inkless
My pencil is pointless
And the laptop powerless.
So I dig for a pen,
Sharpen the pencil
Find the laptop cord
Finally sit down…
A truck endlessly backs up;
The pad I’ve taken out
Is only old grocery lists;
My WIP is hiding.
Then my phone buzzes -
A new Twitter follower,
A GIF, ten people…
Refocus! My stomach
Grumbles and I remember
The coffee, cold, by the sink
Until the day is over
Is still trapped
Inside my head.
Rapunzel sat on the padded bench in the lowest room of her tower. She took her meals here so there was a small round table with a plain wooden chair in the center. The bench was against the inner curve of the round tower, set so she could see the three narrow slits of light that were the murder holes in the outer wall. Two sturdy doors, to either side as she sat, provided entry from the parapet of the curtain wall. They were firmly latched on the outside.
She had always felt this was the saddest room of her prison. It was unusual for her to spend much time here outside of meals. This was a special day. She wanted to imprint every room in her memory.
It wasn’t a bad prison, as prisons go, she mused. It was clean, the food was reasonable, and varied, and it certainly was not crowded. But it was a prison. And it was time to leave.
She rose and walked to the stair that ascended steeply between the door to her left and the bench. It was hidden in the inner wall of the tower and rose steeply, bricks on the left and stone on the right. The steps themselves were barely the depth of the ball of her foot.
One level up was a windowless, low-ceilinged room. Her bed was here, straw mattress on the floor, winter comforter neatly folded at the foot, made up now with a light summer blanket and linen sheet. A small, squat table held a fat candle and a book. An iron brazier lay as far from the bed as the room would allow. It had been her only source of heat for sixteen winters, regardless of the frigidity of the storms.
In the thin light from the staircase she more remembered than saw the items. She had mixed thoughts about the room. It was claustrophobic and the gloom was impenetrable without the candle on stormy nights. On the other hand, she had fond memories of being transported far away, to a freedom of sorts, reading to the light of the candles, the brazier glowing warmly, as snowy winds lashed the tower.
She continued up the stair to the top room. Five murder holes in the outer wall allowed ample light when the sun was out. A sixth in the center of the inner wall allowed her to peer onto the castle courtyard. It was the only internally facing “window” in the tower.
There was a day bed opposite the stair on the inner wall and a chair facing out one of the outer slits. A desk was plopped somewhat haphazardly in the middle of the room. Writing materials – paper, ink, quills, were arranged neatly on it and three books lay near one edge.
This had been her school room and her sanctuary on warm, rainy days. There had been good tutors and poor, rapped knuckles, and interesting lessons. But her favorite had been late in the day, when the teachers left, and the rain pattered on the roof and walls, and the wind sighed gently through the slits in the walls. She could close her eyes and imagine flying, free.
The stairs continued up to a small square trapdoor. She lifted it and stepped onto the roof of the tower. Merlons towered above her, the crenels pierced at shoulder height. Four bare oaken chests were bunched at the center of the outer wall. The sun cast its last orange rays on the horizon, the forest lay beyond, tantalizingly close. Birds hurried by, looking for their roosts before the light failed.
This was her favorite space, because it gave the illusion of escape. She had spent many a long hour staring at the forest, watching the birds, the squirrels, the deer, and the occasional fox as they went about their business, free to go where they wanted, when they wanted. Unwalled.
She opened the chests, one at a time and removed their contents. Each held a long rope, braided from her own hair, collected carefully since she had been old enough to form her plan. In the last light she made three more braids, connecting each strand with the next, making a single whole, long enough to reach the ground.
Rapunzel sat on a chest, watching the lights come on in the castle – the guard house, the keep, the kitchen. It was a tranquil scene, one she’d memorized on many a summer night, but a scene that filled her with anger. She was the only one who had never walked on the courtyard, never opened a door, never raised a tankard with her friends. Never walked through the castle gate whose portcullis rattled down every evening and up with the rising sun.
Gradually the lights went out, the sounds of humans faded away. She caught the whisper of an owl hunting. Watched the nighthawks and bats sweep into the courtyard, hunting insects. It was time. She secured one end of her rope to a merlon, fed the rest carefully over the outer wall, climbed on the chest and swung her legs into the void. She said a silent goodbye to her prison and rappelled to freedom.
Unpublished, by Greg Schroeder
Prompt: Rewrite a classic fairy tale but make the location the central character.