Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Bedtime Stories
“Once upon a time,” began Jess, “there was a beautiful princess who lived in a magnificent castle.”
“Why do princesses have to live in castles?” Lilly asked as she snuggled beneath the covers. “And why are they always beautiful? Why can’t she be ugly, so ugly that when people see her, they turn into dust.”
“Um, Ok but then how is she going to marry her prince?” Jess asked. “I mean it’s not your traditional fairy tale is it? Princesses are beautiful and live happily ever after.”
“It’s boring. Make her do something else.” Lilly yawned, hugging her teddy.
Jess smiled, getting comfortable on the bed next to Lilly. She loved having Lilly when her brother and his wife wanted some time together but this was the first time she had stayed all night. “Ok, Lilly. Once upon a time, there was a princess who, although beautiful, was evil. Her heart was as black as coal and as hard as ice. With each passing day, her beauty began to fade as the evil deep inside her heart grew.”
“That’s much better,” Lilly said eagerly, sitting up, now wide awake. “I like these stories. Mummy tells them to me when she has time.”
“Wow, then your mummy is a very clever lady because I don’t know how to make a princess evil. Wanna help me?”
“Well when she walks through the forest, animals hide, flowers die and everything feels sad.”
A sudden chill swept over Jess and she shuddered. “I think I need to snuggle under there with you,” she joked. The light started to flicker as a wind whipped around the house.
“You have to finish the story now,” Lilly said, looking around the room. “They’re here and listening.”
“Who?” Jess asked nervously.
“Friends of mummy’s. They like her stories,” Lilly replied calmly. “They won’t go until you’ve finished.”
Jess got up from the bed and walked over to the window, pulling the curtain back. “I can’t see anyone,” she said, playing along with Lilly. “Not a soul,” she murmured peering out. The street lights flickered before going off completely, plunging the entire street into darkness.
“They don’t have souls.”
“Excuse me?” Jess felt the hairs on the back of her neck bristle and tried to keep her voice from cracking. It was silly to be scared in her own home because of the words of a ten year old; a creative, imaginative ten year old that.
“Mummy’s friends. They’re soulless as they wander the earth, feeding on stories. You have to finish it otherwise they’ll be here all night and you won’t want that. You won’t sleep a wink.”
“Oh this is silly, now, Lilly, I’m going to read you a fun story. All this talk of evil and bad princesses is not what young children should be going to bed with. How about a nice, fun, simple Mr Men tale,” It wasn’t a question as Jess picked up Mr Funny, the first one she laid her suddenly icy hands on. It also happened to be one of her favourites.
Jess began to read, focusing on the words as the wind outside howled causing the windows to rattle. She ignored Lilly’s constant warnings. A door banged shut and Jess jumped out of her skin. She walked out onto the landing and heard the comfort of the TV. She went from room to room, turning on the lights in the study, her own bedroom and the bathroom. As she left, Jess halted at the sound of running water and turned to see the taps in the bath and sink running. Steam quickly filled the room. She tried to turn them off but they were too hot to touch. A squeaking sound caused Jess to whimper and she stared at the mirror as letters appeared.
Finish the story.
Running screaming from the bathroom, Jess slammed the door shut, her breathing heavy.
“Just finish the story Aunty Jess, that’s all you have to do. You can’t leave a story once you’ve started.”
“I need my phone. I need to ring your daddy.”
“He can’t help. He doesn’t know about the soulless people, about mummy. About me.”
“What?” Jess paled, her body trembling. The windows flew open and the rain poured in, whipped up by the wind. As Jess tried to close the window, the rain hit her, stinging her face. It felt like a thousand sharp needles were constantly jabbing at her skin. Soaked, her face stinging red, Jess eventually closed the windows. She had to catch her breath before she spoke again. “What do you mean?”
“Mummy is a witch. Not a good witch or a white witch but a real, bad witch. I’m half witch because mummy married a human. I have to have the stories to make up for my human side and the others come to listen. You have to finish it. Mummy will be cross if you don’t and you don’t want that.”
“This is insane! There’s no such thing as witches! Now stop telling lies and go to sleep! I’m telling your parents!” Jess turned out the lights, closed the door and stomped down stairs. Without warning, Jess was plunged into darkness as the light bulb exploded. She screamed and tripped, tumbling down the stairs on her backside, swearing as she went.
The light came back on despite no light bulb and Jess screamed as Lilly stood before her, hair billowing behind her, eyes sparkling, almost glowing. An energy flowed from her, like a heat that Jess could feel.
“I don’t want you to get hurt, just finish the story. I need it, my friends need it.” As she spoke, glowing lights appeared, figure shaped, hovering in the hallway.
“I - I - I don’t know where to start,” Jess stammered, frozen to the bottom stair.
“The flowers dying, the animals hiding, the humans living in fear. You must know what that feels like.” Lilly smiled but it never met her eyes. A thin, smile, almost a sneer evaporated as she waited for Jess to begin.
“Once upon a time . . . there was a princess, a beautiful . . . princess who had a . . . dark secret.” As she begun, Jess noticed the white flowers, from her boyfriend, wilting in the vase. They were only delivered fresh that morning. “Wherever she walked, flowers . . . bowed in her presence . . . before succuming to the evil that . . . radiated from her like a perfume.”
“Perfect,” Lilly commented, “You’re learning already.”
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I dream of sharing my work with the big wide world one day as a published author. Right now, I share flash fiction with a wonderful community of writers and friends. If you liked this story, then why not visit my blog at http://40somethingundomesticateddevil.blogspot.co.uk/ for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x