“Once Upon a Bed Time Dreary,” by Jennifer Pullen

Aug 20th, 2016 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Once upon a time there was a child who had the misfortune to be born in a kingdom with some extremely socially sensitive fairies. Shush, you asked for Sleeping Beauty, and so that’s what I’m giving you. I know I’m not reading it, I’m telling it, that’s what people used to do all the time, you know. When? Once upon a time, that’s when. Anyway. So once upon a time.

Once there was a king and queen who wanted a child so much, that when one was finally born they issued the invitations to the christening in a rush and forgot to invite all of the local fairies, which was a very bad thing to forget. They invited three good fairies and forgot the more morally gray one. They would have been much better off not inviting any fairies so that none of them could have felt picked on. Trust me on this, sweetie, don’t have parties and invite everyone who works at your office except one persons. It will go poorly, and invitations to fairies work exactly the same.

So the day came for the party, and many people dressed in fine silks and velvets (in other words, generally overburdened with socially constructed symbols of wealth such as jewels and really big hair) attended to give the baby gifts. The king and queen watched the beautiful gifts pile up, and thought they should have a baby every year, because nobles never gave up so many valuables so willingly during taxation time. After all of the humans piled their costly presents on long tables, the fairies headed towards the royal cradle, floating on clouds of pixie dust with brilliant sorbet colored hair floating behind them. One blessed the baby with extreme beauty, another with a heavenly voice, and then, before the third could give her blessing, the fourth fairy (the morally gray one) burst into the throne room, trailing guards in her wake whom she’d hexed to think she was an expected guest. She floated just like the other faeries, and had hair that looked like bubble filled water, but her expression was stormy. She felt self-conscious about her watery hair, about how, if she shook it, everyone got wet, and she knew that people left her out because they didn’t like her. They blamed all bad weather on her, she was certain of it. Why did she think everyone hated her? You don’t think fairies can be self-conscious? Just let me tell the story. Fairies are people, or almost people, and people have all kinds of irrational fears. Just like your father thinks Mark at work has the hots for me, even though Mark is gay.

The self-conscious water-fairy scattered water droplets all over the marble floors, and the guards, coming out of her spell, hurried to get orange cones so that no one slipped. But dangerous water puddles weren’t enough for her. She was determined that someone would pay for her humiliation. So she looked down at the cradle and cursed the baby to prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and die. She had a rather loose concept of what death meant, being immortal herself, but she felt she had to say something severe, so she said death, assuming it was like a tree losing its leaves and then sleeping for a time before bursting into renewed life. What is immortality? Well, it’s like one of those stupid video games that your brother plays, where people fall off cliffs and then reappear at the top an infinite number of times. Yes, I know it doesn’t work like that in real life, and I’m glad you know too. So the fairy, being confused about death, floated off, scattering water, feeling a bit better about herself, at least until the next time she felt slighted, which would be soon.

The third sorbet-fairy changed the curse, which she said was the best that she could do, so that the girl would fall asleep for a hundred years, or until she was woken up by a suitably passionate kiss. True love’s kiss? That wouldn’t make sense, sixteen years isn’t enough time to make anyone fall truly in love with her, and sixteen year olds don’t have cemented personalities anyway. Remember that. I changed the story a bit. Shush. Of course, the third fairy could have undone the curse, but that would have made the water-fairy mad at her, and she wasn’t going to bring that upon herself. So instead she changed the curse, figuring that a hundred years was more than enough time for her petulant fellow fairy to lose interest in a mortal princess.

The king and queen were quite rationally upset about the curse, so they had all of the spinning wheels and all of the spinners moved to a neighboring kingdom, which conveniently had very inexpensive wage rates. Interestingly, while trying to save their daughter, the king and queen invented out-sourcing. Which is why you can have cheap shoes put together by starving children in Bangladesh. Hurray. No, not hurray, I was being sarcastic. Of course they didn’t burn the spinning wheels, that’s an asinine thing to do. Why? Because they couldn’t possibly destroy the only technology available to them for making thread. After all they wouldn’t have had time to invent a new way, and without thread to put on looms, they’d all have to go naked. A naked and very cold kingdom. That would be worse than the curse. Yes, yes, I’ll finish the story.

Inevitably they didn’t manage to get all of the spinning wheels because people buried them in their back yards and hid them under floor boards, and so the poor little girl pricked her finger and fell asleep, along with the whole rest of the castle. The third sorbet-fairy had long since forgotten about the minor event of mortal christening party, and so didn’t notice that she’d put a little too much oomph into her curse changing, which resulted in far too many people going to sleep. So after a little bit of time went by, but not a lot, looters showed up and started trashing the castle, and one of them, a teenage boy, found the beautiful passed-out princess and groped her a bit and then kissed her thoroughly on the lips. She woke up and socked him in the jaw. The end. Goodnight sweetie, sleep well, don’t worry, no one is going to grope you in your sleep, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have put that in. Don’t worry. Just sleep. No, I don’t want to read you that book. It’s so dull. Please don’t cry. Damn it. I mean, darn it. Shit. Okay, I’ll read it.


Defenestration-Jennifer PullenJennifer Pullen is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing from Ohio University. Her fiction has appeared or is upcoming in journals including: Going Down Swinging (AU), Cleaver, Prick of the Spindle, Clockhouse, Phantom Drift Limited, and Blink-Ink. She spends half her days as a cat with rainbow colored wings, cursed because of owning too many Lisa Frank coloring books as a child. Her weaknesses in cat form are many, including string and unattended bags of Skittles. As a human she spends her days digging out from under a pile of books and tea cups. She occasional sends out stories from beneath the pile. If her lap top battery dies, this may be her last communication until she finishes excavating herself from the pile of books, probably sometime next year.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.