FlipFlopFiction #1: Cinderhood
It all started out so badly. Already, I was running late. After making sure my “loving” sisters were hooked into their gowns, and their hair was perfect, I had made the Godmother wait- an offense she didn’t take lightly. By the time I arrived, Godmother had left in a huff, and to my surprise, I found this strange little man dressed in mismatched colors, holding a top hat in his hand standing in her place.
He smiled at me and it creeped me out. Thanks, Godmother. I sighed long and loud, letting my disappointment be known. He smiled wider and shrugged his shoulders.
“I am Hatta. Godmother had to run. I will be assisting you today after a spot of tea, of course,” he said, pulling a small teacup from his hat.
Hatta? That sounded an awful lot like “Hatter.” When the cat appeared hovering in the air, I knew I was in trouble.
“Hatta? Aren’t you in the wrong place? And do you really think I’m dressed like this for tea?” I asked, displeasure dripping from my lips. I had heard all about the Hatter-a desperate little man always in need of tea. He’d recently begun traveling from place to place, trying to reset Time, and someone almost always got lost. What was he doing in my fairy tale?
“Why, I’m here to help your dreams come true,” he said, as if he could read my mind. He sipped from the teacup, smacked his lips, and raised the cup to me. I shook my head. “Shall we?”
His arms made a grand sweeping gesture towards the carriage. It was about time! I scrambled up behind him, just in time, falling in as the carriage lurched forward roughly. I stood, smoothing my gowns before I sat. Hatta’s innocent smile, as he sat there cross-legged, sipping from that freakin’ cup, infuriated me further. I stuck my nose in the air and humphed for good measure.
The carriage stunk. I realize there were limited options, and the Hatter was no magician, but for real, a pumpkin? Here I was, all decked out in pearls and lace, and by the time I’d get to the ball, I’d reek.
And the ride was anything but smooth. I called to the rat faced coachman, “Hey, watch out for the potholes! ‘Kay?”
He squeaked back, “Sssorryy Sssyndeeee!” He was really squeaky, like turning back into a rat squeaky. Great, I thought, now the spell is going all wonky. I could just imagine having to walk the rest of the way to the palace in those glass torture devices Godmother called shoes.
Uh oh. The Hatter had disappeared in the chaos. “Hey! Hey, why’re we stopped!”
As I waited for an answer, something plopped onto my shoulder. I shrieked, “Ewww! What th..?” Pumpkin guts. Freakin’ awesome.
That was it, I was outta there. I kicked the door open and jumped out before any more slop fell on me. I leaped right out into the darkest, dankest excuse for a forest I’d ever imagined. The heels of my shiny slippers stabbed their way deep into layers of rotting leaves. I tottered. I teetered. Arms flailing wildly, I tried to maintain my balance.
My fall was broken by the remnants of the carriage. I sat in a pile of over ripe pumpkin mush. The coachman and the team that had pulled the grand carriage were gone, skittered off into the soggy undergrowth.
Between the tears of despair at missing my chance with a handsome prince and curses aimed at incompetent Fairy Godmothers and mad hatters, I pulled myself out of the muck.
As I picked the bits of decayed leaves and pumpkin guts off my gown, I took in my surroundings. It had been late afternoon when I’d started my trip. The sun should still be a ways from setting, but the tight packed trees allowed only the tiniest of light through. Humidity weighed the air down. Water dripped incessantly from the boughs. There wasn’t a bird song or insect hum to be heard.
It wasn’t completely quiet, however. Nearby I could hear the shuffling of leaf rot on the forest floor. Not the feet of mice or rats, but something larger. I looked wildly around, hoping there was a house, a hut, a large boulder to hide under.
In the distance I saw a flash of red. Hope sprang up, and I began to run in that direction. Rather, I intended to run. Those glass slippers were not made to walk in, much less run. I yanked them off my feet, then looked for the red flash I’d seen only moments before.
There was nothing, except the sinister shuffling that seemed closer suddenly. Now I was sure I heard snuffling too. I edged away from the sound, looking right and left, anywhere but behind. Far ahead, there was the red again. I needed no further invitation. I took off at a full run, my skirts and a shoe in either hand. I ran headlong through the forest, dodging trunks, and ducking low hanging limbs. Though I held my skirts up, my legs still managed to become entangled in them. I dropped the shoes without a second thought so I could grip the skirts better.
I was quickly aware that the shuffling, snuffling thing was after me. My heart raced in time with its footfalls. I drove myself through underbrush and leapt fallen logs. Just as I thought I was doomed, I burst through one last leafy curtain of brush and found myself in the middle of a well used path. To my surprise, the thing didn’t follow. I stopped for a deep breath of relief, and caught a brief sight of my pursuer. It was a big, black wolf! He released a heart stopping howl of rage at my escape, and I bolted down the path.
The track twisted and turned, but I soon noticed it was lighter here. I heard birds chirping in the trees, and butterflies flitted along the edges of the path, where sweet scented, star-shaped flowers bloomed. After running myself out of breath, I took an easier pace. I didn’t feel hunted any longer.
While on the path, I could see that sunset was just beginning. I hoped that I could get out of the woods before nightfall. Even though I felt safe at the moment, I had no desire to spend the night out of doors.
With my skirt dragging the ground, I walked through one more cluster of trees and almost smashed my nose on the corner of a tiny cottage. It was built of stone, and the thatched roof was in good repair. A small garden was just beneath a window to one side of the door and I could see a faint light coming from inside.
Far from being timid, I banged on the door, “Anybody home? Hello?” I yelled in between pounding. “Let me in, there’s a wolf after me!”
“Goodness gracious! A wolf? Of course, let yourself in, I don’t get about too well anymore.” A voice called from within the cottage, cracking mid-sentence.
Giving little thought as to who may live in a tiny cottage in the middle of a wolf-infested forest, I let myself in. Once in, I slammed and latched the door behind me. In a flurry of skirts, I turned and pressed my back against the door.
As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I could see a red cloak hung on a hook just inside the door. “Were you just out in the woods?” I asked. “I think I saw you.”
The feeble sounding voice answered, “Oh no, dearie. That belongs to my granddaughter.”
A quick 180 of the one-room cottage revealed no granddaughter, so I stepped farther into the room, trying to get a look at the owner of the voice.
“Where are you? I can’t see you.” I asked. The feeling of safety I’d had was quickly evaporating.
“I’m lying on the bed, dearie. I haven’t been feeling too well.” The speaker coughed a bit to drive home the point. “Come over here, closer to the bed.”
The bed in question was on the far side of the room. The light I saw from outside came from a small fireplace. An old plank table sat in the middle of the room. Wonderful smells flowed from a cloth-covered basket someone had set on the tabletop. Beyond that was the bed.
“Is this your supper, uh, ma’am?”
“It’s just a bit of soup my granddaughter brought me. Now, come along, dearie, let me see you. And you may call me ‘Grandma’.”
Still no sight of this granddaughter, but I complied anyway.
As I approached the bed, I could see the figure lying on it. Grandma was covered foot to eyeballs with a heavy quilt. And she had some big eyeballs. I couldn’t help myself, “Wow, Granny, those are some big eyes you have.”
“I really don’t have the patience to play this little game again!” she said, throwing the covers off, revealing fur covered legs. With surprising speed, she reached out and grabbed me. She pressed me close. “Let’s just get down to the big teeth part!”
My mind was racing! No way did I intend to be someone’s dinner. I was supposed to become someone’s bride! And Hatta! That rascal, where was he when I needed him most?
I growled back into Granny’s face, using all of my strength to push her back before punching her in the nose. She bared her teeth from the floor, rising up on all fours to attack. She cornered me easier than I thought and I cursed, loudly. The wolf, startled by my vehemence, stopped.
“Why are you running? I’m a vegetarian!”
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