Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: Fairy Tale Upgrade

It's that time again.  Chuck Wendig, penmonkey extraordinaire, has posted a flash fiction challenge on his blog.  This time, we have to modernize a fairy tale.  In Mr. Wendig's words:

Take a fairy tale — any fairy tale at all you want, or a fable, or a Mother Goose story — and rewrite it in a modern context.
As always: 1000 words.
I, of course, had to try my hand at this, so I went onto Wikipedia to get a list of fairy tales.  I let the titles wash over me until I saw something that struck my fancy.  I wound up reading about the tale of Bluebeard.  Familiarize yourself with the tale here first, if you're not familiar with it.  Below, you'll find my entry.  It is, oddly enough, exactly 1000 words long.

Just a warning, this is based on a pretty gruesome tale, and my tale is pretty gruesome as well.  So...y'know...keep that in mind.  Also...possibly NSFW? 

Photo by: Dale Hichens

 Bluebeard

Maddie felt like her throat was going to burst into flames as she swallowed the liquid fire.  It was her first night out drinking, and she wanted to make a good impression.  She’d always been the DD while her friends partied.  Her sister, Sandra, poured herself another shot and tossed it back.  

“I need to unwind after that ridiculous car ride.  I was pretty sure we’d driven into the Twilight Zone at some point.”

Maddie blushed.  It had taken them all day to drive up to St. Louis.  She’d heard on the radio that literary giant Liam Ferguson was going to be in his hometown signing books, and she absolutely had to see him.  Her friends thought he was weird, but she thought he was a total badass.  He wrote fantasy, but he wrote it in a way that made it twisted and gritty and dark and beautiful.  She had to see him up close, even if she had a total fangirl moment and couldn’t speak.

Maddie had looked up videos of Ferguson’s talks on YouTube, and he was her favorite person ever.  He was charming, cool, mysterious.  He always wore a leather jacket, and he had long, messy hair and a thick beard that he always died crazy colors.  For the last six months it had been crimson, but he’d recently switched to a deep, royal blue.  It looked awesome.

“This better be worth it, Mads.  Six hours to see old Bluebeard is not how I planned to spend my weekend.”

Maddie rolled her eyes and stood.  “I’m gonna go get another drink.”

At the bar, she poured over the drinks menu but couldn’t make up her mind.  She was startled by a drawling voice at her elbow saying, “Do you mind if I make a suggestion?”  She looked up and felt her throat close off.  Liam Ferguson stood next to her, a crooked smile peeking through his bushy, blue beard.

“I--uh--I--”

“Personally, I always go with a rum runner,” he said signalling for the bartender.  “Your taste buds are about to be taken on a tropical orgy.”

When it arrived, she took a sip, then giggled.  “Holy shit, that’s good.”

He pulled up a chair next to her, and she glanced over his shoulder to exchange shocked looks with her sister.  She and Ferguson spent the next several hours talking.  She could hardly believe how well they got along.  They had similar tastes in movies, books, music, although she felt he lacked the proper amount of respect for Fall Out Boy.

“Would you like to come back to my place?  We could...continue this conversation there.”

She was thunderstruck.  She could barely form coherent thoughts, and so she simply nodded and took his hand.  On the way out, her sister stared, open mouthed, and made gestures of disbelief.  Sandra looked sort of worried, but Maddie ignored her.

Liam’s house was just outside of the city.  He pressed a series of numbers into a keypad and the wrought iron gate that surrounded his property slid open.  The house was tall, steepled, gothic--exactly the sort of place she’d imagined he lived.  He took her on a tour of the house, ending with the bedroom.

“Now...where were we?” he asked as he ran a light finger down her arm, which erupted into goosebumps.

He leaned in, his lips pursed, eyes closed, and Maddie became flushed.  She felt hot and cold at the same time, and she was insanely horny.  Just before their lips touched, they were interrupted with a loud ringing.  Liam scowled and reached for his pocket.

“Sorry, I have to take this,” he said and stepped out of the room.

Maddie waited on the bed for about twenty minutes.  When he didn’t come back, she got up, slipped out the door, and headed down the hall.  If he asked, she’d just say she had to use the bathroom, but she had other plans.  She found his office door easily--a bronze plaque with a quote from Walt Whitman adorned it.  She pushed the door open and basked in the awe of it.

Papers were stacked all over his desk, manuscripts in various stages of completion.  The walls were lined with books, and she went over to examine some of them.  She reached for a particularly old looking book.  Instead of coming out of the shelf, it clicked forward and a section of the wall moved aside.  

Rank odor overwhelmed her.  She followed bare stone steps down further into the house, but she had to grip the rail when she reached the bottom.  The floor was slippery.  She turned on the flash on her cellphone and nearly screamed.  The floor was covered in blood.  Her hand flew to the wall and flipped on the light switch, and she wished she hadn’t.  At least a dozen naked girls were hanging, impaled on rusty hooks.  She turned away, fighting the urge to vomit, and bumped into Liam’s chest.

“My phone said you were down here.  You shouldn’t have gone snooping around.”  From behind his back he produced a long knife.

Maddie bolted across the room.  He was right behind her, but neither of them could get good traction with all of the blood soaking the floor.  She slid into an old wooden workbench and grabbed for anything to use as a weapon.  As his hand clamped around her arm, she swung a massive hammer at his head, where it connected with a wet smack.  He grunted and crumpled to the floor.

She pulled out her cell phone and called her sister, sobbing hysterically, her ability to use words gone.  She screamed until her throat was raw.  The police and her sister arrived at the same time.  She was sitting on the porch, shivering.  Two officers got out of the car to question her.  The flickering lights of the police car turned one officer’s beard blue.  She looked up, saw him, and began to scream.