A bell tolls far away. Once. Twice. Thrice. Is it nigh the time to awaken? I do not remember falling into slumber. My eyes open with some difficulty only to find that a thick, white haze has obscured my vision. The strength of my arms and legs has vanished, for they will not obey my command to remove the obstacle. I find that if I lower my chin upon my breast, I can see beneath what can only be a shroud covering me from head to toe. I am dressed in the pearled satin dress that was to be saved for my wedding day. What is this? Has the world gone mad?
I must arise and find the meaning of all this. Yet, I am strangely numb all over. Pin pricks begin at the tip of my finger signaling that feeling is returning and I direct my gaze toward my hand that lays upon my right breast. I concentrate on moving my fingers apart. At that moment a tiny white spider appears from the side I cannot see and moves up to a proprietary position on top. One finger obeys me and moves upward in an attempt to tip the spider off, but stops in mid movement for it has become trapped in a silver cat’s cradle of spider silk. A shiver of revulsion begins at my shoulders and moves in a wave down my body, strong enough to send the spider sprawling on the coverlet which I see is layered with a thick coating of dust. How long have I slumbered?
The web breaks with a muted crackle as my hand fully awakens and thrusts upward, then over, removing the tulle shroud with one fell swoop. The gossamer material floats down in a heap on the bed beside me, but I don’t follow its course for I am shocked at the sight of my surroundings. Afternoon light barely filters in through the hazy window. My bed chamber is precisely as I had left it, heavy furniture anchored in place, dresses hung according to the season, even the book hastily laid upon the bedside table, remained untouched, as supine as a penitent monk. Alas, the spider had done its work upon it, along with every surface, crevice and corner. The cobwebs hung thick and heavy beneath layer upon layer of accumulated dust. The mirror has become thus fogged with grime and no longer appears as glass. I fear I have slumbered for years, nay decades. How can this be?
Having found my feet, I stumbled to the door and slid the bolt from the locked position without thinking. I pushed upon it, but the door would not budge. Lacking strength from my lengthy confinement, I was forced to heave against the door many times before it gave in to my labors. To my surprise, as I crossed the threshold I saw that my door had been sealed and stamped with the royal coat of arms. Sealed in. Fear itched at the base of my spine, yet I moved on, determined to discover the truth behind all of these curious findings.
I moved slowly through the castle searching for mother, father, servants, anyone. No answer came to my calls, no footsteps hurried to assist me. In the royal chamber the king and queen lay side by side, just as they had ruled their kingdom and my life; with love and justice. All that was left of my beloved mother and father were two empty garments filled with bones and dust. I turned away, about to press my fists against my eyes to stop the tears from flowing and glimpsed the yellowed cap, gown and apron belonging my beloved nurse, Merri, cast upon an oaken side chair, her bones scattered across the floor. It was only a matter of course that she had been loyal to the end. What evil affliction had led to their demise and left me to witness this horrifying end?
I wiped away the tears trailing down my cheeks as I wandered out of the royal chamber and down, down the crumbling steps to the only sanctuary I knew. The echoes of my uncertain footsteps sent mice and beetles scuttling and I began to fear what I would find. The chapel was dank and musty, unlit by candles, absent of song or prayer, and empty, except for ghosts of the dead. I knelt at the altar and wept again and again as my heart broke anew for each beloved face that rose to my memory and would now be gone from my sight forever. With brimming eyes I looked heavenward and spied a book that lay upon the raised altar. Gold lettering gleamed through the dust and I caught a glimpse of something familiar. My name. Princess Aurora.
I stood and opened the cover to discover creamy, unmarred pages with a multitude of blessings listed in the hand of royalty from kingdoms near and far. I turned the page only to discover words written upon it so vile and evil, I felt as if each one flayed open my tender flesh. It was a curse signed in rust-colored blood that could only have spilled from the unholy hand of Maleficent; the evil fairy I was forced to hide from my entire life. I inspected the tips of all my fingers and found that the one that had first stirred to life as I awakened had a whitened bud of scar tissue on the tip. My heart sank. The curse had been realized just as Maleficent ordained in the pages before me, yet, I have no memory of it.
Those I loved had thought me dead and sealed my room. Then, the years had stolen them from me. For what reason did I survive? I read further searching for the answer. And there it appeared at the bottom of the page, written with a different hand in what appeared to be jeweled ink. There was one way to break the spell. A kiss bestowed must be royal, blue and true. If such a kiss had awakened me, where is the Prince? Alas, fate had never delivered true love’s kiss royal and true. Confounded, I wonder; why did I awake this day and not another? And if it has indeed been years, perhaps centuries, have I aged?
I hobbled up the winding staircase and wiped the mirror clean with a rag. My face and figure reflected the youth of sixteen, yet, the eyes that returned my gaze were ancient, weary. I cannot accept a future filled with loneliness and longing. At that moment, I vow that the curse that has caused such great suffering would cause no more. My father’s courage surged through my veins and my mother’s stalwart heart refused to let mine fall asunder. I am a princess, nay, in the absence of my mother, I am queen, seemingly of an empty kingdom. Nevertheless, though I lack the energy I once had I stand as an army of one, calling forth every ounce of my will, determination, and royal blood to resurrect what was once a realm of harmony and justice from the ashes of Maleficent’s vengeful spite.
From the corner of my eye, I spied the lump of twisted shroud that I had cast aside upon my awakening. The first task I shall undertake is to burn that which symbolized my living death. Indeed, I shall scorch the wretched thing to cinders as proof there is a living queen upon the throne this very day. I thrust my hand into the thickest knot of cloth and lifted it to the sky in defiance. There I froze, as if the numbing winds of the northern most reaches had turned me to ice.
A figure lay upon the bed, still as death. From the look of his condition, he had lain down beside me not long after I had fallen under Maleficent’s spell. T’was Phillip, Merri’s son. This dear boy had become the playmate and companion of my infancy. Merri felt it was in my best interest to have a companion in my childish games. From that time forward, Philip and I shared in all things, from joyous romps of chase to learning our letters, from suffering Merri’s scolding to praying for our sins like angels. Phillip held all my secrets in trust and I his, even after my mother forbade our friendship and sent him from the nursery. I spied him now and then as he worked in the stables. He never failed to greet me with a smile or a bright cluster of orange poppies plucked from the golden hillside outside the castle.
I looked down at his smooth unlined face. He appeared as young as I. Upon inspection, I discovered a scar on the very same fingertip as mine. Had he embraced my fate as his own? My heart sank as I took in the worn boots, the patched clothing, and what looked like the remains of a bouquet of poppies clutched in his hand. How he must have suffered when he found he could not awaken me, for the curse had specified that only true love’s kiss from royal blood would break the spell. He had chosen a living death to remain by my side.
Fresh tears sprang to my eyes as the weight of his sacrifice pulled me down upon the bed beside him. If I had been granted my choice among all the suitors for my hand in marriage, it would have been Phillip. Alas, our love was never meant to be. My mother would have been aghast and his mother as well, for it is an unspoken decree that royalty must remain separate from common folk in the matter of marriage. It’s a wicked thought, I wager, but neither are present to protest.
I studied every detail of him. He was as muscular and tall as I remember. His auburn hair brushed over the top of his ears, the length just touching his shoulders as always. Are his eyes the same smoky gray? My dearest wish is to feel the warmth of his smile, as hot as the summer sun upon me once.
I placed my ear to his chest and listened. His pulse was muted, as if it came from a distance farther than the outer reaches of the kindgdom. When I raised my head, I was very close to his chin and was surprised to see the beginning stubble of a youth’s beard. In this close proximity, I realized that his lips are perfectly formed, as full on the top as on the bottom. I wondered what it would be like to kiss lips as full as his.
On impulse, I leaned closer and pressed my mouth against those lips. They felt warm to the touch, not cold as I had expected. Blood rushed to my head, bringing on a feeling of weightlessness and I thought I should faint. The beat of his heart increased beneath my breast — louder and louder, as if a horse galloped within. Phillip stirred and returned my kiss with the eagerness of a drowning man upon rescue, sending a shock throughout my entire being which sparked full restoration of my spirit and strength to my youthful vigor.
When at last our lips parted, he held me without a word and nuzzled my hair as if attempting to bury himself there. He asks nothing, only revels in the magic of this moment. I basked in the warmth of his ashen eyes and watched the pulse throb in his neck, awed that life could be so fragile, so quickly snuffed out for others, yet an immortal flame that burns forever inside the two of us. There is magic in this world beyond that of fairies and wizards. Life itself is the ultimate magician and love the catalyst.
One could forever ponder the miracle of a curse that could be interpreted as a blessing in disguise, for though I am devastated by the loss of my beloved parents and loyal subjects, I am consoled by the freedom to fully embrace my love for Phillip without shame. And as for Maleficent, my ire has been sated. For what better revenge can fate bestow upon my enemy than the retched realization that the royal kiss bestowed to break her diabolical spell was mine.
Hope you enjoyed this little twist on a favorite fairytale. Leave comments. I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading! Jeanine