Saturday, June 30, 2012

"A Lovely Corpse" by Adam C. Boenig

 It had been 20 years since the death of Snow White. Twenty long, cold years. Since then, the Queen had ruled, for the most part, well: but, like all dictators, had come, especially in recent years as her beauty began to fade with age, to become a victim of her own pride. One by one, soldiers came to the stone building and straw huts of her subjects, capturing young women of beauty and grace whom, as the years passed, the mirror had declared "fairest in the land".

The Huntsman, Geoffrey, had visited the body of Snow White every day for those years. She sat, propped on her altar, her body decaying in its glass coffin; a testimony to time and the transience of life. He had seen it; day by day, hour by hour, as the body slowly wore down to nothing but the bleached skeleton; and every day, he had wished that, somehow, he had been there to save her from taking a bite from that apple. He had been searching for a way to turn back time; a way to bring back what had, at one time, been a lovely woman, a woman he had loved at first sight; but had found no magic capable, no artifact able to restore what had been lost on that fateful day.

He fell to his knees, weeping at the foot of the stone altar the dwarves had built. So lost was he in his misery, he did not come to see the person walk up behind up, and looked up with a start when he felt a hand upon his shoulder.

The woman, if you could call her that, was smiling. She had long, blond hair hanging to her waist, and wore a formal, dark black dress full of ruffles, leaving her shoulders bare. Her eyes were a deep grey with slotted pupils that contracted and dilated vertically in the varying light, her long, sharp ears framed her hair, and her fingers ended in sharp, pointed claws.

"Fret not, frail human." she started. "What has been done can be undone."

"Who are you?" he demanded, standing upright and drawing his dagger.

She laughed; it was, at odds with he appearance, a light, tinkling thing. "There is no need for that. I am merely a merchant; but, unlike the humans with whom you are use to dealing, I am capable of far greater things; for a price, of course."

"You could bring her back?" he asked, his dagger still drawn.

"Indeed." The smile never left her face. "All I require is something of equal worth."

"What? What is it?" He asked, cautiously. His blade was hanging by his side now; ready for use, but not expected.

The demoness shrugged. "A new life requires another. You will have to sacrifice someone; be it yourself, or others. Is this acceptable?"

The hunter thought, sheathing his knife. An idea dawned upon him; he smiled back.

"I accept." he replied.

Her smile lit the forest, seeming to make it all the more lovely. She drew close to him, the smile never leaving her face as her suddenly revealed, sharp teeth dug into her tongue, causing it to bleed, and she forced it into his moutth, her hands pulling his face to hers with unusual strength as those same teeth bit into his lip, their blood intermingling as he was forced to drink.

"We have a contract." she smiled. "Fulfill your end, and your princess will be returned to you."

Then she was gone, as though she was never there.

A month passed. It had taken that long for him to get each of them alone; there was no way he could take them all at once for, as diminutive as they were, they were dwarves and possessed a magic well beyond his own. He had had to take them by surprise, and singly; which was far more complicated than one would expect, as the seven were rarely the one, the two, or even the three.

Now, they were lain in a row at the base of the altar, each mutilated in a different manner; one had  multiple punctures from a spike-lined pit; another was beheaded; still another, full of arrows as he chased him, the branches of trees bending to protect the small creature. It had been strangely satisfying, killing them all; in truth, he blamed them for the death of his princess, and now the thought could trouble him no more.

"Well, demon?" he shoutted at the sky. "I have done as you asked. Where is she?"

"Look." came the directionless voice, echoing off the trees and stones. "Watch as I fulfill our bargain."

As he stared, the skeleton slowly grew flesh; the eyes slowly opened; the arm reached up, pushed open the lid, and sat up. She looked at him, smiling.

"My Hunter." she said. "I have missed you in my time in Paradise. Come, kiss me!"

He rushed forward, a surge of joy in his heart, kissing her cold lips. The made him pause, looking into her eyes; black as night, seemingly lacking pupils.

"What's wrong, my love?" she asked, her face expressionless. "Does it not please you to see me alive and well?"

He backed up, suddenly convinced that there was something wrong, tripping over one of the small corpses in his haste. Looking down, he saw the hand that clutched his ankle; the small, red, glowing eyes as they glared at him.

"And you brought my friends to visit me!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands to her chest. "How delightful!"

She laughed gaily, watching as her companions began chewing the flesh off his bones, watching him scream and try to escape as muscle and tendon are ripped away from bone. Thus began a reign far more horrible than anything the kingdom had previously faced: this time, not the reign of an evil Queen and her vanity, but the reign of an undead Princess and her dwarven guards, slowly consuming the kingdom, their victims rising to consume still more, while a demoness watched and laughed.