Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chapter Forty-Seven

Once upon a time, the Big Bad Wolf abandoned his son to the hungry dead. He was starving and exhausted, but at least he could still run, whereas Junior could do no more than curl into a ball and weep.

The Wolf awakens to the screams of his son, still fresh from his fevered dream. It takes him a moment to realize that the cries are real, and they’re coming from within the castle.

That’s right, he remembers. He’s inside a castle. The Castle of the Door, in fact. The gateway to the Lands Beyond.

Once upon a time, a wooden boy and a little pig invited him - however reluctantly - to journey with them to this very castle. And he turned them down, attacked the pig, and was driven away. At the time, he didn’t know what hurt worse, the rocks thrown by the puppet or the fact that he was beaten by a child.

Slowly, gingerly, the Wolf creeps toward the cries. It’s difficult to move - his chest is oddly tight. He looks down and is surprised by the black thread stitched across his body. Yet the pain isn’t nearly as bad as he’d expect - he’s certainly felt worse these past few days. And the wounds no longer burn.

He enters the Chamber of the Door, and another memory, another flash from his dream, gives the Wolf pause.

Once upon a time, in this very room, the little pig stayed behind to build a final wall of brick, a practical way to protect the Door. But it trapped him with the Wolf, and the Wolf had his revenge. Even armed with a hammer and trowel, the little pig was soon killed and eaten.

Now two bodies lie upon the bloodstained floor – a sleeping beauty and an unconscious witch.

How similar they are to the prophecy spoken by the Demon in the Mirror: that two would come to end the Wolf’s pain. Witch and Queen, Dwarf and Maiden, he’d never been sure who the Demon was referring to. And that might have been the point of the prophecy, after all.

But, of course, only one of them would have made stitches so tidy, and once upon a time - just last night, though it’s hard to believe - Cinderella sewed them all and saved his life.

Beyond the bodies, the Dwarf stands before the wall of brick. His spear-axe is pointed at the Wolf.

They regard each other silently, cautiously, as the Wolf drags himself over to the witch’s body. He holds his breath at the stink of her magic, and lifts a leg to leave his scent. Let it be known that once upon a time, the Wolf was here.

The Dwarf’s spear relaxes the tiniest bit.

“You leaving?” says the Wolf.

Warily, the Dwarf nods.

“Can I go, too?”

The Dwarf’s eyes flicker to the sleeping maiden at his feet, but then, reluctantly, he nods.