Once there lived a girl who could spin. Not spin flax from a spinning wheel into golden thread, nor spin wool on a wooden spindle from the fleece of a sheep or goat. No this girl could spin from within herself; from within her own body like a spider spins a web or a caterpillar spins a cocoon. From the dry gritty grains of sadness, fear, anxiety, hate, and despair she would spin within herself threads of gossamer, and out they would whirl and dance this fairy floss concoction, light as air, endless as time, black as a starless night. For this girl’s fairy floss wasn’t pink or sweet or sugary. It was inky black and bitter as an arsenic flavoured lozenge, and as ugly as a lie dressed up as truth. It would twist and rotate out of the girl and accumulate in the shadowy corners of the ceiling and the dark places behind the cupboards, and entangle the forgotten toys under the bed. It would hang and drift around the house like black, sad, spider webs.
Once upon a time there lived a girl and her sister, as different as different can be. The girl had hair as red as flame, eyes as green as emeralds and lips as pale as wood smoke. As innocent as a wood sprite, her hands would reach out grabbing what she could, tiny fragments of discarded words, forgotten promises, drawing them inside her like a bowerbird collecting treasures. Her elder sister was a girl- woman, hovering one bare foot in the world of dolls and fairy stories, the other jewelled slipper in the world of lipsticks and cigarettes. She had hair as white as snow, eyes as black as sin, and lips as red as blood. So different were they, these two sisters, passing each other in the hallway like trains on divergent tracks, only occasionally intersecting at the same station before bolting off headlong into their fates.
Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess, she lived with her mother and father in a fabulous castle. One day she fell in love with a handsome prince - well he wasn’t really a prince, more a thief than one of royal blood, a car thief, handsome and carefree. He wooed the princess with words and kisses and reckless driving, and before you could say exhaust fumes he was off, leaving the princess with a little something to remember him always. The Queen decided that it would be best if she pretended that she was the mother and so there became two sister princesses instead of one. The elder princess retreated for a time into her tower and fell for something far worse than a car thief. She fell for the golden smoke of the dragon, the smoke that brings about forgetting, and she dreamt new dreams and forgot that she had ever had a child as she lost herself inside the smoke. All would have been well but the queen died and the daughter was unceremoniously hauled back to public duties, the running of the palace and the caring of her younger sister, as the king was often away at the royal mines. The elder sister, who had been changed by her time lying with the dragon and had absorbed some of his attributes of cold cruelty and callous indifference, became her sister’s guardian. A capricious and heartless childhood followed for the younger sister.
Once upon a time there lived two motherless sisters in a white house with a bone fence and ivory roses that grew like a necklace around the doors and windows. Two pretty sisters, everyone commented and their dear father who worked ceaselessly far away in the black coal mine only returning once a month for a few days. The elder sister looked after the younger one and all the neighbours agreed that she was doing a wonderful job under trying circumstances. The house was always clean and relatively tidy, except for those hard to reach places where black cobwebs swung gracefully in the breezes like airy, dark fairy floss.
One day, the elder sister who was smart and canny and who could smell the changes on the breeze made a decision. Perhaps it was a decision based on desperation. Who knows why she chose the option she did? Still, once she had, she planned it meticulously. Their father was home, recovering from his work, and she filled the shopping trolley with his favourite foods, and his favourite drink, triple distilled scotch dry as desert sand and fiery as hell. She prepared her younger sister, put her in a new dress, tight and clinging, her small breasts revealed by a plunging neckline of black lace. Her green eyes heavily lined with smoky kohl and smouldering grey eye shadow, her lips dipped in scarlet, her cheeks blushed with bronze. She encased her feet in twinkling shoes with heels so high there was no chance she would be able to run away and then she sent her, an innocent lamb into the bedroom of her father. She turned up the stereo loud so she would not be able to hear the screams. Screams so piercing, so heartbreakingly terrible that even the demons wept. As the girl screamed she spun black fairy floss blacker and darker than any she had spun before. They spun so fast and furious that they became a vortex, a maelstrom of ebony, a miniature black hole that absorbed all light: sunlight, starlight, moonlight, lamplight all fell into the whirling darkness.
Once upon a time there were two sisters who had lost their mother, they lived together, really only the two of them as their father worked in the coalmines far from home. He worked for a month at a time and then came home for a few days of rest and relaxation. He was a man who worked the earth, mined her, sunk his shaft in her, and took her treasures out to sell. He lived his days in her womb of perpetual darkness, perhaps he had been so long underground he didn’t know light from dark, beauty from ugliness. Perhaps the warm cloying stale air had numbed his mind so badly that he was unable to see his daughters for what they truly were.
One day, or perhaps it was one night, because inside the earth there is no clear division, mother earth became angry and she rolled and roared and let loose her knotted shoulders, shaking them free of all that built up tension. When the quake subsided and the rocks had quietened down again, the spot where the father had been was no longer open but had sealed him into his very own tomb. Poor orphaned girls.
They cried copious tears, but what sort of tears did they weep? Tears of grief, tears of sadness. Or tears of release, tears of gladness? The mining company recompensed them quite nicely and for the first time ever they found themselves with a small fortune. The elder indulged herself with shoes that glittered like diamonds and gowns that shimmered like pearl. The younger sister bought herself books and an iMac and taught herself new skills of survival, as the ones she had learnt previously hadn’t really helped her.
Once upon a time there lived two orphaned sisters, both were very beautiful on the outside, but were they beautiful on the inside? There were so many layers to peel away, so many coatings of social polish to scrape, so many shells that needed to be cracked before what lay inside could really be revealed. One sister became a party girl, dancing in the bars till dawn, tantalising the men with her beguiling eyes and her sinuous limbs. The other filled her mind with information, with schemes, with plots, with revenge. She also became a great cook; meals of gourmet tastiness awaited her elder sister most evenings, along with a glass of sparkling vintage. Life was good.
One night a wondrous dish was presented, mushrooms fried in garlic and tossed in pasta, at least five varieties, each uniquely flavoured, each picked in the wild by the clever younger sister. Creamy oysters, golden porcini, bright yellow flower pots, the luminous white destroying angel, the fragile charcoal of dead man’s fingers. At least two were highly toxic. The younger sister claimed she had already eaten, a dirty plate sat on her side of the table. The elder ate the dish heartily, commenting on the various tasty flavours before she collapsed. Vomiting, liver failure, death came quickly. Poor sister. All alone now.
Once upon a time there lived a young woman, she had lost her mother, her father, her sister. Death seemed to follow her. But she wasn’t quite alone, for within her womb some creature was spinning herself into existence. A baby was forming from cells and blood, spinning herself a gossamer body. Who was the father? A prince slumming it in the suburbs, or perhaps some young thief who had crawled into her bed one dark night? More likely it was the young associate professor of mycology that she had visited one afternoon in his dusty laboratory. As she grappled with the complexities of fungi he had grappled with the complexities of her blouse. Tumbling together on his laboratory floor with the spoors of a hundred varieties dissipating around them, for a brief few minutes they had both experienced a moment of physical ecstasy.
As the baby spun its life in her womb, the youngest sister spun her fairy floss of darkness that was slowly changing. The black becoming darkest indigo, then a royal purple, a plum purple, a mulberry purple, an orchid violet, a pansy pink until finally the cobwebs were the colour of carnival fairy floss, light and airy and sugarplum pink. Dark to light, beauty to ugly, ugly to beauty, light to dark. The world spins and things change, the past dissolves into memories we keep or discard. Truth and lies shift and undulate like sea serpents so intertwined that it becomes difficult to know which is which. We all have certain versions of fairy stories that we prefer.
When the child was born her hair was the colour of the autumn leaves, her eyes were the blue of a summer sky and her lips were the pink of spring roses. The mother held her baby and gazed at her as though she were a miracle, which of course she was, as all babies are.
And they lived happily ever after.
published in dotdotdash 02 Summer 2009 literary magazine