Flash Fairy Tales
Edited by Megan Larson
This column combines two literary traditions, the fairy tale and flash fiction. Flash fiction is an unusually short story form, usually at least under 1,000 words, and often under 500. Flash fiction can be a demanding format to work in, but its size makes it wonderfully useful for publishing. These flash stories will all be fairy tale or children story retellings, and would probably be best appreciated if readers are familiar with the original tales behind the retelling. Of course, with so many cultural traditions among the members of Elfwood, this is not always possible, and so is not a requirement.
We'd love to see your stories -- be sure to take a look at the submissions guidelines below before sending anything in.
Given and Taken
by Christina Thornton
“Christopher! Lunch is ready!” Gretchen cried while wandering through the forest in search of her husband.
This was not an unusual occurrence, as her husband loved to spend time walking the forest. What was unusual, though, was the sinking sensation Gretchen felt consuming her stomach. Gretchen’s gate quickened, her gaze flitting back in forth seeking her husband’s profile, ears reaching to hear his call. The forest seemed asleep today with its silence.
“No,” Gretchen thought, “not asleep, but dead.”
As the last word resounded in her mind she came across her husband. Her breath stopped as she gazed at his still form laying flat on the ground. She hurried closer and let out a scream. His ax penetrated by his chest, blood seeping into the forest floor around him.
“Hello Gretchen.” Gretchen blinked as a woman appeared in front of Christopher’s corpse.
“What have you done to him?” She gasped. There was something about this woman’s appearance that tugged in her memory.
The woman’s eyes went wide in mock innocence. “Me? Why I’ve done nothing to harm him whatsoever.” She paused and narrowed her eyes at Gretchen. “The one I’ve come to harm is you.”
“Please, I’ll do anything. Make him wake up.” Gretchen begged as tears slid down her face.
“Anything?” Asked the murderer with spiteful enunciation.
“Anything! Please, I’d die for him! Take my life instead of his!” In desperation Gretchen flung the trade out and fell to the ground weeping.
“Sounds perfect.” The woman purred approaching the fallen wife. With a quick yank, the woman pulled out a piece of Gretchen’s hair. Murmuring incantations in an evil tongue she tied the strand of hair to one of her own.
As Gretchen watched, Christopher’s body disappeared. Footsteps sounded through the forest and soon through its dark haze appeared Christopher. He seemed not to see her as she leapt up and started to run for him.
“Not so fast.” Said the witch, holding up her hand.
Gretchen’s body jerked to a stop against her will. She began to walk back to the woman and came to a halt in front of her.
“You have my life now, why don’t you kill me and get it over with, you evil trickster?”
“Who said I wanted to kill you?” She asked sweetly. “That would be much too easy for you.” Her voice transformed from the pealing of bells to the screeching of metal on porcelain.
Again the witch held up her hand and Gretchen could feel energy draining from her. Right when she felt her soul would be sucked up as well, the witch stopped. Gretchen’s hair fell in front of her face; it was gray and brittle. Her hands were likewise lined with age.
“Daddy!” Came the joyous shouts of two children as they came running into the clearing for their father.
“Children!” The sorceress shrieked. “You have children!” And then slowly a smile spread. “I know what to do with them. I know how to punish you now for stealing my man.” At those words Gretchen felt a curtain lift in her head. Now she knew why the witch seemed familiar. She was Ritha from the village where she met her husband. Ritha who had been following Christopher around for years like a lovesick puppy before Gretchen had came and taken him back into the forest with her.
The jealous woman saw the knowledge appear in Gretchen’s eyes. “That’s right. I abandoned my humanity in exchange for these powers; all to get him back and to send you to where you belong.” She paced and made a steeple of her fingers. “And you belong in misery. I’ll have you eat your own children as my revenge.” The witch snapped and Gretchen found herself in front of a house made with candy. She cursed herself for being so stupid. The witch could only take what was offered, and she had been ignorant enough to offer up her life.
Her body was no longer hers to control and when her children appeared months later she couldn’t keep herself from locking away her precious son, and trying to kill her daughter. She gazed in horror at her beloved daughter as, unbidden from her lips, the order to light the stove came. In the back of her mind she could hear the shrieking laughter from her puppeteer. A small smile spread across her face at her clever daughter’s act of ignorance in the ways of lighting stoves. Of course she knew her daughter could do it, she had asked her many times to help her bake bread, but in the witch’s ecstasy at her suffering she never thought to refuse the girl’s excuse. Gretchen leaned in the stove to light it herself and found that her lips were hers to control once again with the witch’s distractive glee.
“I offer my life to be taken.” She whispered to the oven as she lit it. In a great burst the stove flamed and consumed her. Her last thoughts were to smile as she remembered the irony. Nothing can be taken unless given.
The children found many treasures in the house and skipped all the way home happily, never knowing the old woman they feared was actually their mother. On entrance to their house, their father hugged them desperately.
“You’re stepmother has died.” He said, strangely void of sadness at her death. “She burst into flames mysteriously.”
Flash Fairy Tales are retellings of classic fairy tales or beloved children's stories.
There are a few guidelines to remember for submissions:
* 1000 words or less
* Fairy Tale Retellings or Reimaginings
*In the email that you submit, please include the name of the original fairy tale on which your story is based.
* Stories should be proofread and edited before they are submited. Stories with lots of errors simply will be rejected.
* Woodworks retains first publication rights. This means your story should not appear on your shelf, on your website, or anywhere else until we've either accepted and published it or rejected it, or four months have gone by from your original submission without a reply.
* If your story is accepted and published, we'd like to ask that you wait until next month's publication before having the story appear somewhere else.
* Stories can be sent in at any time. However, only stories received before the first of the month will be considered for publication in that month's issue.
Send submissions to
. Questions can be directed to our contact form.
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