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SWC15 - Rapunzel

Arisia'15 Student Writing Contest - 1st Place Winner


By Nicole Blackwood

There is a tower. There is hair. There are lonely birds and clouds and the storms that erupt from them. There is a world and then there's me, and I watch from above and I think about nothing and I've stopped praying for another life, because surely this is all there is. A tower, hair, and a sky just big enough for us. Birds and their flight plans, taking off to nowhere, nowhere,

This will be your home from now on, child. This door won't open. You won't want to jump.

I like playing with the matches by the fireplace. Sometimes the flames bite my hand and I think I understand love. Love is what the witch tells me only exists in books, and then she lets me read them so I'll know what I'm missing. I have read the poetry of a hundred men, and I've been told about the hole in my heart in a hundred languages. There is always a prince, and there is always a princess, and I'm a princess so I must want a prince. The hole is vast and it is broken, and I am broken, and I don't want a prince. Don't, don't. I used to think I'd like it, being swept off my feet, but not anymore. Now I'd just like to fly.

I have a single mirror, and through it I can see myself, and the witch says I'm ugly so I must be beautiful. I am gold; my skin is gold and my hair is gold, and gold is beautiful, but blood is stunning. I bleed red, stunning red, the kind of red that makes you think of more-than-this. What color would the witch bleed? I wonder. I wonder. The mirror is on the eastern wall, the one with the rocks. On the western wall, the one with the wood, I make scratches with my fingernails. There's one for each day I spend alone. Sometimes the sound gives me goosebumps and I think I understand fear. Fear is what the witch tells me she is built of, and then she lets me feel it so I'll know what she thinks of me.

You won't want to jump.

There was a time where I thought it would be good one day, and I'd be good, because I'm royalty and that means glittery dresses and never-alone and smiling, lots of smiling. That means people tell you you're beautiful and you are, and gold is prettier than red and you never need matches and your hair is longer than forever. But I'm the queen of the empty. I speak to the birds that fly by as though they can hear me, scream in my own language until my throat is hoarse.

And above all, the refrain: "fly, fly, fly". I'll learn how. I will. I will.

On Day 4283, the witch sees the cut on my arm and makes it bigger. The color of the blood is redder this time, monstrous red, the kind of red that makes you think of anything-but- this. Red and gold, red and gold, all I am is red and gold. I tell her I wish she were dead. She tells me I don't mean it, I only want to make her happy. I think she hates me. I think I love her. I think I wish I were dead, too.

You won't want to jump.

On Day 4673, I dream about my parents. I dream that they are very ugly and therefore very beautiful, and that they have voices like thunder and the sky is big enough for us, only ever us. We hold hands, locked like doors, because that's how you stay upright and never fall. And we are very happy, and it is good, and I am good. When I wake up there is no one, and I can't remember their faces. I think they looked like me. I think I don't want to know.

You won't want to jump.

On Day 5671, I kill the witch. She brings me bread and a knife for butter but I don't want butter, only her heart. I scream words in my language and I'm too quick, too quick for her and when her eyes glass over, I think of mirrors. When her body drops to the ground, I think of flames. But her blood is red, red like mine, and that wasn't supposed to happen. I'm disappointed. I'm terrified. There is a nagging feeling clawing at my chest - I've missed something. Blood was supposed to be for me. Red was the only thing that was mine.

You won't want to jump.

On Day 5674, I can no longer quench my thirst, fight the inexplicable hunger that hisses promises. The death of day is the time for the death of monsters, and when the sun goes down, I bite the witch's fingers. When the moon asks me to dance, I taste her heart. This is a dull kind of ball, but the music is beautiful. I exist when I inhale. I rebel when my stomach twists, fails, lies.

You won't want to jump.

On Day 5683, there is a prince at the bottom of the tower. He speaks to me through my window and I scream back as my bare feet brush the witch's corpse. Our conversation is short and he is short and I don't want a prince - don't, don't - but he thinks I'm beautiful, so he tells me he'll return and take me away. I don't know where away is. Birds never fly to away.

You won't want to jump.

On Day 5684, the prince asks me my name, because it slipped his mind before. I tell him a wonderful lie, that my name is Elizabeth and I am very happy, very happy, very happy. He still thinks I'm beautiful, so he'll return and take me away. There are so many cages in the world. Birds never fly to away; birds fly to nowhere.

You won't want to jump.

On Day 5685, the prince tells me to let down my hair. He tells me this is how he'll take me away. I don't want him to touch my hair. There is blood at the ends, the witch's blood and my blood and it's all the same, and blood is for me alone. Blood is mine, and “away” is not what I asked for.

5685. Five-six-eight-five.

Five birds pass my window, and they are marvelous.

Six minutes stretch on, and they are endless.

The prince calls my name eight times, and that name is not mine.

Those five birds whisper: "We can teach you how to fly." And I will. I will.

I am very beautiful and therefore very ugly, and this is love, and this is fear. Matches cannot compare to the wind and the clouds, and there is a tower and there is hair and they have poisoned my veins. I climb out onto the ledge like it is nothing, because it is, it is nothing; all of this is nothing and it is not good and I will never be good. He is screaming now, but not in the language I know. I am flapping my arms, because that is what birds do before they leave for And when I fall I smile, because when you're a princess you're supposed to smile, lots of smiling, and I wonder if my blood will stain the ground gold, or if red is all there is. I wonder. I wonder.

You won't want to jump.

I don't. I fly