Category Archives: fairy tale

The Little Matchgirl: Zombie dreaming

I decided to attempt The Little Match Girl with a zombie apocalypse twist, after Chuck Wendig’s challenge last week. Fairytales, so delightful. So here it is.

Chloe was down to the last three boxes of matches. It was only three boxes, but Chloe knew that three boxes was not the same as no boxes to her father. Those boxes were the difference between a pat on the head and yet another beating. She didn’t have much flesh left on her now to cushion those blows, not since Father had lost his job and there had been so little to eat. He always smelt like brew now. And he was always angry.

Chloe was the eldest and the one fairest of face. He never hit that, said it was her best hope. But the fog rumbled in off the river, and in the dark and the cold, no one looked at her or stopped for a moment to buy. She’d tailed after several gentlemen who had the tang of pipe smoke about their persons. A woman who was clearly the head of a household had brusquely brushed her aside.

Pulling her rags tightly about her, Chloe snuck into the dark corner of a crumbling step and sat, her big owl-like eyes watching the square, the little pools of streetlights reflected in them. The stone’s chill stole into her bones, shaking them pitifully. Chloe toyed with one of the matchboxes. If she said she lost some of the money, would her father be as angry? She’d be better just not to go home.

With her shaking fingers, she lit a match, enjoying the dancing of the light on the end of the stick. It warmed the tips, and the light made her remember her grandmother, who had held her on her knee and knitted her clothes. She missed her. Chloe felt sleepy and surprisingly warm.

The light flickered and suddenly she could see her grandmother sitting by the fire. And that willowy figure, her hand on Grandmother’s shoulder. They turned to her, and she could see their faces that she’d imagined so many times since they’d left her life. The kindnesses, the softness Her mother held out her hand, inviting her in.

With a soft sigh, the flame extinguished. Chloe’s hands shook badly and it took her many tries to light another. She tucked herself further into the corner, behind the archway of the building, watching the match light.

“Mama,” she breathed through her blue lips.

The match dropped and went out on the cold stone, the bright light gone from Chloe’s little corner.

Under the cover of the fog, no one noticed the small body wavering through the streets. Many of the good people of Copenhaegen were warm in their beds. Her step was unsteady, halting and shuffling. She wended her way through slick cobbled streets, slipping and falling along the way. The small injuries did not seem to bother her, and she would just get slowly up again.

Eventually, she returned to the slums, where the houses were falling down, untended, their minimal comfort and protection reviled. What use was it to rebuild that which was already decaying.

Down a small back alley, the air heady with the stench of human and animal piss, she came to a battered and incomplete wooden door. It creaked as it opened and the little figure crossed the threshold. Heavy steps charged to the door and an equally heavy hand slammed against her, buckling her to the floor.

“Wherrre have you been?” His words were slurred, his eyes glazed. He towered over her but dragged her by the arm to the main room, slamming the door so that the whole structure shuddered.

He pulled her in and shook her. “You didn’t sell all them matches, did you?” The remaining boxes dropped on the floor, the open box spilling across the stone floor.

“Three?” The strain of his anger made his voice high-pitched. “And you opened one. What good is that?”

He backhanded her, and she crumpled against the wall. Her hand scrabbled unseeing against the floor,  her hands clasping the thin sticks.  With a barely coordinated movement, she lit a match. The growl from the corner as her father saw the flame was not fast enough for her toss of the match. As she repeated the movement, he was dragging her up by her hair and the next match dropped to the floor.

It was then he looked at his little girl, at the blue lips and the deadened eyes. At the hand that could be made of ice holding on to his wrist.

Her voice was like the whistle of the wind through a chink in the bricks. “Hello Father. I’m home.”

She swung across to his arm, and the sound of her hair ripping from her scalp was like a ripping wet towel. Her teeth sunk in, and he dropped her. She slithered away out of his vision.

Smoke was rising from the wall paper, too long dry and peeling. The edges were blackening, cinders were floating past his eyes. He heard the children coming bleary-eyed down the stairs.

“Outside!” He ordered, ignoring that their nightgowns were so thin and their feet uncovered. The two little girls held hands and did as commanded. They knew better than not to.

The man stumbled around in the smoking house, shoving furniture out of the way, and muttering angrily. His arm throbbed and he could feel a trickle of blood down his arm. The smoke was getting thicker, and he felt unsteady. He crashed into a wall and started coughing. He went towards the door. Damn the girl. She’d bit him. She was no good to him anymore, not selling all the matches.

He was trying to remember where the door was, when a small hand clamped around his ankle.

“Don’t leave me Father.”

He looked down. At her smile, filled with blood, gap-toothed where he’d knocked out some of her teeth, her hair and some scalp hanging askew. Her cold, dark eyes looked up at him. He tried to kick her off, but he was getting sluggish and tired. He stumbled and fell. He scrabbled on the floor, but he was too drunk and the fumes were too thick.

As he coughed and the fire took hold in the old timbers of the house, his head turned. He could just make out her silhouette, a dark shape through the smoke ringed by the flickering of flames. It was just then he heard her voice, as his eyelids grew heavy and fluttered closed.

“Oh Father. For the first time in so long, I’m warm…”

The Firebird and Princess Vasilisa: Dystopian worlds

This week Chuck Wendig called us out on fairytales and subgenres. I chose a little Russian fairytale called The Firebird and Princess Vasilisa, written with a little dystopian flair. It came in with a bit over 1300 words, but I don’t think I can cut it without losing the thread of the storyline. I also think I might write another one; this is a fun challenge!

“All that glitters is not gold.” Konflikt snorted, pawing at the ground.

Both he and the Royal Huntsman Nikolai stared at the feather that shimmered like the dying light of coal.

Konflikt turned his great grey head, looking at Nikolai with one dark brown eye. His ear twitched irritably. “You cannot take that back to the Tzar. You know what the tyrant would do.”

Nikolai shushed the horse. “You know that he has ears everywhere. There is no shadow without a raven.”

Dismounting, the huntsman bent to pick up the quarry.  As it shimmered in his hand, he whispered, “Firebird.”


Konflikt trotted beside the Huntsman as he scattered corn on the Tsar’s fields. “What did I tell you?” he huffed. “Don’t tell the Tsar.”

“Hush!” Nikolai started stroking the nose of his friend, surreptitiously glancing around. “If anyone were to hear you, you’d become just another rarity.”

Konflikt’s nose flared haughtily as he snorted. He tossed his head, swinging his mane up and over the smooth curve of his neck, before falling into a slow plod beside the man.

Together they sat against an empty water fountain and waited. As the light began to fail, the fluttering movements at the edge of the field caught the eye. It was liquid, flowing and fluttering over the scattered kernels, darting and bobbing. The bird was truly beautiful to behold. It hovered at the darkest edges, flitting back and forth. It entered into the open field with cautious footsteps.

With more courage, it unknowingly followed the trail to the centre of the garden, to the fountain. The trail led into a small space, laden with foliage, and the safety of darkness. It was too late when it realised the safety was a disguised golden cage. The door shut tight with a clang.

The Huntsman looked in on it, and the bright blue eye looking mournfully our at him. The gold bars reflected the shifting spectrum of the bird. It opened its golden beak and let out a piteous wail.

Nikolai’s mouth twisted with remorse. “I’m sorry.” He dropped a cover on the cage and picked it up to deliver to the Tsar.


“What more can he ask of me?” Nikolai waited at the door to a golden tent, laid with fresh delicacies and tempting wines.

Konflikt lowered his head to Nikolai’s shoulder. “I know that you are doing all this to protect me, and others like me, but there has to be a limit. We have to have a plan.”

A voice behind them, fresh and sweet as a tinkling stream interjected. “That, gentlemen, I think I can help you with.”

Princess Vasilisa stood, resplendent in her gown of silver moonlight, her pure gold tresses twisted into intricate plaits. With a smirk in her golden eyes, she stood holding the point of a sword on them. “You were waiting for me, weren’t you?”


Nikolai had to admit, she had played her part beautifully. Damsel-in-distress, she’d let loose a flood of tears. Her first stroke of genius was to call for the firebird to keep her company in her apartments. It allowed them to meet secretly, so he could care for the bird. She’d demanded the wedding dress from the bottom of the sea. No guesses who had been tasked with delivering that. Luckily for him, the crab kingdom owed her a favour. But this latest task, to bathe in boiling water was ingenious. Until she pointed at him and said that the Huntsman would do it if the Tsar was afraid.

This was not part of the plan. When he slammed the door to her apartments, the Princess looked up from the chaise and her book, her eyebrow raised. “My, my. You are in a temper.”

“You are going to boil me alive,” Nikolai hissed. “This was not part of our plan.”

“It was, but I needed to know you trusted me before I told you.” The Princess sighed, closing her book. “You will not be boiled alive.”

She lead him across to the cage. “Did you know of the firebird’s magic?” Her fingers curled against the cheek of the bird, stroking it as its eyes shut in contentment. “It can provide protection from the fires.”

Princess Vasilisa turned back to Nikolai. “If you give it a few drops of your blood, the bird will turn into you, and it will go into the boiling water, and no harm will come to either of you.”

“My blood?” Nikolai cleared his throat.

“Yes,” Vasilisa smiled. “It needs a piece of you to reproduce you. I thought a few drops of blood might be a part you were the least attached to.”

“How do you know this?”

“A witch,” Vasilisa replied calmly. “I have met many in my travels.”

Boots tramped up to the door. “Huntsman!”

“Quickly,” Vasilisa hissed, darting to her embroidery. “Use this!”

The shining point glittered dangerously in her hand. Nikolai considered, looking back at the door. She was right, this would be their only chance.

With a quick jab at his finger, the needle did the job. Blood welled and he offered it to the bird. Cocking its head at him, the bird stared at him with its dancing blue eyes. When he didn’t move, it bent its head neatly and the drop of blood was gone.

The door shuddered as a huge fist pounded against it. “Huntsman. The Tsar wants to see you now.”

Nikolai exchanged a long look with the Princess and left to accompany His Highness to inspect the tub for the boiling water.


Nikolai looked on as the body double dipped into the water. He hid where Vasilisa had directed him, snuck in behind an ornate armchair, wrapped in the lightest of wraps. He could see through a gap, saw a young man descending into the steaming copper kettle. The man emerged untouched, and left the room. Beyond, he could hear Vasilisa encouraging the blustering Tsar to be as much of a man as his manservant. Nikolai bristled, a prickling along his back.

He seemed to be getting closer to the floor as the Tsar hovered at the edge. He seemed to teeter, before he turned away. But as he went to step down, he slipped, on what Nikolai could not tell. He tried to call out, but all that came out was a squeak. Nikolai panicked, and tried to get up, but was surrounded by a buffeting as he slipped about.

Vasilisa scooped him up, scrambling with his new body. She held him tightly but gently. “Hush now.” She walked him through the castle, tears cascading down her cheeks, not disturbing the perfect picture of the wedding dress and intricate hair dressings.  She took him through to the garden, out to the fountains, as if to cry over the disaster.

She sat on the fountain’s edge and released Nikolai. He strutted away, his feathers fluffed and ruffled. As she released her hair from its bounds, she watched him. “You’re clearly not familiar blood magic.”

The beady gaze was piercing. She shrugged. “Never give up your blood. Ever.” She ran her fingers through her hair with a joyous sigh. “Especially not when blood magic has been used to trap my twin brother.”

“But I’m not heartless,” she iterated, collecting Nikolai, and walking towards the stables. “You will have your freedom, which is more than the kingdom was willing to give me. Abduct me…”

Vasilisa strode to Konflikt’s stable, and opened the gate. The horse lifted his head, eyed the bird, dropping the head to shake it mournfully.

Vasilisa smiled and turned to leave. “But don’t test my patience. I don’t want to see you two casting your shadow on my ascendence to the throne.”

Konflikt snorted. He looked at Nikolai, and nickered. “What did I tell you? All that glitters…”

With an indignant squawk, Nikolai hefted his wings and lifted unsteadily into the air, and the horse came trotting happily after.

The Wendy Lady

Charlie, better known as Spokes for his ability to turn anything into a ride, was pretty new to Neverland and was sure that if there was a better place, one lonely little orphan wasn’t likely to see it.

When Peter had taken his hand and led him from the dingy orphanage that had been his home, Spokes knew it was the happiest moment of his life. No more rules, no more school or chores or cruel Mrs Hudson who ran the orphanage with a Puritanism that would give the most docile child an urge to escape.

His happy thought had been the first bike he built from scraps and spare parts. She was a beauty and rode like the wind, with the noise of a group of boys running sticks along fences. Spokes was pretty sure his second happy thought was flying.

Peter had been here, showing him all the secret places, how to swing on ropes and that he should definitely stay away from the mermaids, who blew him pretty kisses from faces hiding malice and mischief. He showed him how to fight with slingshot, sword and bow and arrow. Spokes vowed one day to do it all from the back of a bicycle.

He introduced Spokes to the Darlings, saving special mention for the Wendy lady. Spokes thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen, with a smile like sunshine.

Today Peter went away and all the colour drained from the hideout. The Lost Boys disappeared quick smart, and Spokes found himself stumbling through the forest, looking for his playmates.

From beside his ear came an agitated tinkling. He turned to find Tinkerbell, burning brightly beside him. He still had trouble understanding her.

“‘Lo Tink!” he winked. “Wha’s this game?”

She blinked and tinkled at him frantically before zooming off into the foliage.

“Tink! Wait!” With clumsy bounds, he ran after her, branches slapping him in the face, roots tripping him.

Spokes stumbled into a clearing , and found the Wendy lady, crouched over something. A soft glow lit up her face from beneath, bringing a chilling element to her smile.

“Ah, Spokes,” her voice was low and dangerous and she didn’t even turn to look at him, “I knew I could count on you.”

Slowly she stood, and Spokes could see Tinkerbell hanging limp, one wing pinched between the Wendy lady’s outstretched fingers. Spokes didn’t know much about faeries, but he was pretty sure that would hurt later.

“All the boys are hiding,” Wendy said in a voice that made Spokes wish he was hiding too. “And my brothers…”

Spokes wasn’t sure what to do. He wouldn’t outrun Wendy if Tink couldn’t. He was afraid. Wendy snatched his hand and held it with none of her gentleness from before. She dragged him back further into the tangled vines and thick stands of trees.

“Where are we going, Wendy lady?”

“To do what needs to be done, of course.”

They came to a cave, its entrance barred closed with rough hewn logs. A curtain of vines had been pinned back, obviously used to hide it previously. From the outside, there was a complicated mechanism of unlocking, and Spokes watched as each of the parts moved. The door swung in and Wendy threw both of her captives in.

“Stay here while I fetch the others. Then, we’ll get to work.”

Spokes didn’t like it. He was feeling like he was back at the orphanage. He sat with his head on his knees for a bit, pushing the dirt around with his toes.

Ever so slightly, the light brightened. Spokes turned as Tink sat up, clutching her head and emitting a high-pitched moan. She tried flapping her wings and faltered, face-planting in the dirt with a pained squeal. Spokes picked her up and put her on his shoulder.

Now that she was awake, he could see the inside of the cave. “What is this place?”

Dangling from the roof he could see a small, clear cage. Perfect size for someone small. And luminescent. There were benches with needles and thimbles.


Tink shook her head, eyes downcast. She pointed at a draping cloth and Spokes whipped it off. Piles of cloth, embroidered delicately with shining silk thread, the russet tone so familiar.

“Hook’s clothes?” Spokes squeaked as he rubbed his head vigorously. “Us?”

Tink nodded slowly. She snuggled into Spokes’ neck. Thoughts like cogs ticked in his brain, one part spurring on another. He took a long stick from the corner and was sad when the little faerie recoiled. Feeding it out a small gap in the door, he expertly maneuvered it out, followed by a skinny arm up to the elbow. Gently, he twisted it, pushing on one small lever. There was an audible click and the door swung open. Tink zipped out and Spokes followed, the whirr of his thoughts almost audible as he rubbed his scraggly hair. Her small light hovering erratically, she waited. He whispered his devious plan to her.

Wendy returned, baby John in hand and two of the smaller boys under her arm. She threw them in and slammed the door, briskly turning away again.

“Wait, Wendy lady!” Spokes called. “Tink is hurt real bad.”

Stopping still, the Wendy lady turned, stiff with worry. Tink was Pan’s favourite; she could not be replaced or explained away. She stalked back, her dress trailing behind her.

Inside the cave, the light flickered and spluttered, Tink looked sure to be done for. Wendy ran to her side, “No, no, no…Tink…”

As she knelt, Spokes looped their makeshift lasso over her and pulled tight, trapping her arms beneath the twisted bonds. Spokes and the other boys hoisted her to the ceiling where she shrieked and struggled and then cajoled. The boys kept her tied until Pan returned.

“It was all for you, to keep things the way you wanted. We have to work to make a life for ourselves. Hook buys, so we make.” Her head hung with shame as she whispered, “I never meant to hurt anybody.”

“But you did Wendy. Maybe you were just too old for Neverland, already caught in the grip of adulthood, of the dreams of having shiny things…”

All the Darlings were returned home, to return never more.

And Spokes…Let’s just say that Neverland never lost its magic for him.