Red As Blood - A Short Story

Eleanor had always had a terrible memory. Faces, names, places, dates, they all mixed together to create the thick paste that was her past life. However, there were a few moments she would never be able to forget: her first pair of heels, her sixteenth birthday party, and the day of her husband's death. She had been married to him for less than a year, and, despite her tears of despair on her wedding day, she had come to accept that this was her life now. Her father had been ecstatic when the king himself had proposed to his only daughter, and she had felt compelled to accept this older, unfamiliar man as her husband. That morning he was standing at the window, looking out over the city from where the castle stood on a hill, stretching its towers towards the infinite sky like claws.

            There was a sound at the door, and Eleanor turned towards it to see the king's daughter, from his first marriage, slip into their bedroom. The girl was seven at the time, and the most gorgeous child Eleanor had ever seen. Her black hair curled around her pale face, which had given her her name, Snow. The little girl's eyes were red rimmed, as they had been every day since Eleanor's wedding. She could do nothing right in those eyes. She was the evil woman, who had stolen Daddy from Mummy, and taken him for herself. Today, there was something different in the girl's look. In her eyes, that ignored her father and settled on her, she saw determination and something else, something she could not define.

            Snow did not speak, just walked up to her and grabbed her hand. 'What is it, Snow?' Eleanor asked, hoping that the child might finally be willing to accept her as part of the family.

Snow pulled, and she bent over, her face an inch away from Snow's. The girl tilted her head and said 'You need to be gone.'

            At that moment, everything happened all at once. Snow peeled back her lips to reveal two rows of shiny, razor sharp teeth, and Eleanor made a sound that was unlike anything she had ever heard before. Later, she identified it as animal-like, instinctual fear. A heavy body slammed into hers, tackling her to the ground, and Snow sunk her teeth in the flesh before her. Eleanor scrambled away, too shocked to cry, too shocked to do anything but watch. The girl had plunged her teeth deep into her father's neck and was sucking, his blood dribbling down her face. When she was satisfied, Snow pulled away and stood, wiping her face clean. Her eyes were glazed over, but slowly cleared as she surveyed the scene before her. Her father, breathing ever so slightly, lying on a crimson carpet made of his own blood, and her stepmother, bent over the king, trying desperately to stop him from bleeding to death. Snow released a guttural scream and ran away.

Eleanor could hear her cry for the guards. She wanted to stop the girl, but her husband grasped her arm with more strength than she had expected from a dying man. 'Eleanor,' he whispered, his voice rasping. 'You need to take care of her. She doesn't… She can't….' His lack of strength prevented him from finishing the sentence. 'Please,' was all he could manage. Eleanor nodded, understanding, as he let out his final breath. He died with hope in his eyes, a hope that she would take care of his child, who despised Eleanor with every inch of her little body.

When the guards arrived, they found Eleanor, her hands dripping with her husband's blood, the front of her dress bright red. She knew she had only one tool to make them obey her: complete and utter terror. She stood up. 'The king is dead,' she proclaimed, using every bit of willpower she had to keep her voice from wavering.

'Long live the queen.'

           The first ten years of Eleanor's rule were just as drenched in blood as the first five minutes of it had been. Every time a body was found in the castle, Eleanor convinced her counsellors that this person had been plotting against her, and that she had taken their life as a punishment. Slowly but surely, Eleanor felt a thick cloud of fear settle above the castle, no, above the entire country. It was suffocating, and the fact that she was the person others were afraid of made the queen lonelier than ever.

            Even though Snow was not feared like her stepmother, she, too, spent her years alone. She refused to play with others, refused to make friends, and refused to talk to Eleanor. Sometimes, Eleanor would see the girl in the garden, chatting with a bird or a squirrel, and she wondered if the creature lurking inside her had finally made Snow go completely insane. With every year that passed, the princess grew more beautiful. She was tall and elegant, and seemed to float instead of walk. Her voice was soft and sweet, and sometimes, Eleanor would hear her sing to the animals she had picked to be her friends.

When Snow was seventeen, the murders increased in frequency. The castle became deserted: no one dared to work in a place that killed all of its inhabitants sooner or later. Rooms were closed down, kitchens became obsolete, and when one of the towers collapsed after a heavy storm, there was no one to repair it. When she found the second-to-last servant, the old gardener, drained of blood on the dirt path next to the roses, Eleanor realized she had to do something.

            The last servant appeared in the throne room, trembling, thinking his time had now come. He was a hunter, a young man, who spend most of his time in the woods that surrounded the castle. Eleanor suspected that was the reason Snow had not gotten around to killing him yet.

'I need you to do something for me,' she declared. The hunter nodded, but made no sound. 'I need you to take the princess into the woods, and kill her.'

(To be continued next week..)