Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chapter Thirty-Three

A dream, a phantom forest where his son cries in the dark and three little pigs flee, squealing, through a flurried storm of hay and hammers. The moon is a mask, a demon in a mirror, watching down on them all.

The Big Bad Wolf runs, howling, away from the clink-clank-clink of metallic footsteps. He cannot see who is coming for him, not here in the dark, but he knows that one is quite beautiful, the other quite plain, and they are coming to kill him.

A dream.

In his fevered, weakened state, atop a messy pile of furs and silks, sleeps the Wolf. His paws twitch feebly as he helplessly runs, runs, runs from his destiny, not knowing that it has already arrived.

And there is a knock at the door.

He ignores it, preferring the painlessness of sleep, and can barely muster the strength to open one bleary eye.

“Little wolf, little wolf, let me in,” comes a creaking, simpering voice.

Without thinking, the Wolf responds, “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.” The door is locked, he tells himself. He is alone. The drawbridge was raised. He must still be asleep.

“Then I’ll huff,” sings the voice, “and I’ll puff, and I’ll...”

A clatter of broken wood, and the door crashes open, impaled on the horn of a large purple rhinoceros.

"Blow your house in!" the rhino finishes. It cackles wildly.

The Wolf jumps in shock at the sight of the giant laughing animal. His ribcage flares in pain at the sudden movement.

Another person glides into the room, undisturbed by the rhino’s presence. Her nose wrinkles in disgust at the smell of the dying Wolf, marring her otherwise beautiful features. She is clad in black traveling attire, the only decoration being the elegant crown upon her brow.

"The Queen..." gasps the Wolf, and she looks at him - through him, it seems - with heavily lidded eyes.

"Quiet," she says imperiously, and the rhinoceros stops laughing.

She gazes around the room at the many abandoned treasures. “Here it is,” she says shortly, and walks to the Magic Mirror.

There is a horrible burst of magic - for a moment, the Wolf cannot breathe - and the rhinoceros disappears. In its place is a squat, warty woman with an unhealthy pallor to her skin and hair faded to the color of thunderclouds at sunset.

“I’ll get it, your majesty,” she says in the same creaky voice as the rhinoceros. She jumbles forward to pick up the Mirror, which is nearly as big as her.

The Queen turns to the Wolf. "The man who brought this, what happened to him?"

The Wolf opens and closes his mouth several times before realizing he doesn't know. He answers as such.

"Ungrateful, lying swine," she mutters, though her anger is not directed at the Wolf, but at the one who stole from her. "Probably fled through the Door with the rest of them."

Without another word, the Queen turns to leave. The small crone grunts and hefts the Mirror.

"Wait..." says the Wolf with a ragged, labored breath. "What about me?"

The Queen looks back and raises a thin eyebrow.

"The Mirror,” he whines. “It said you would come. Both of you. It said you would ease my pain."

"Did it?" says the Queen, and she looks into the Mirror. Dark and wicked thoughts cloud her face.

"Yeah. So, so... please... do it. Please."

She looks to the Wolf, back to the Mirror again. And she strides away.

The crone asks, eagerly, "Shall I do it, dearie? Just a quick change to a snake, it'll only take a moment."

"No, Madame," says the Queen. "Come along. We have much to do."

The old woman sighs, looks hungrily at the Wolf, and then stumps along after her.

The Wolf listens weakly as their footsteps echo down the hallway. He doesn’t have the strength to hold up his head, and already he is fading into his dream forest.

Before long, he is asleep once more, a shattered door the only sign that he had ever received any visitors at all.