Monday, March 26, 2012

1,000 words

     She has been there a long time.
     Not forever, because she remembers her life before – the palace with its domes, the gardens where she used to hide from her brothers, the marble halls, and the doves in the square, coo, coo, cooing. 
     What she can’t remember is how long she’s been there, on this island, in this castle.
     There are no clocks, no calendars, no way to tell time except by the sun. She doesn’t know where the island is nor does she recognize the land she can sometimes see through the mist that never seems to dissipate.
      The castle is magical. That is, it provides her with everything she needs. Each morning when she wakes breakfast is waiting, at noon a tray invariably appears wherever she is, and supper is always late.
     There is a library and a wild garden that sprawls along the western shore. There are cats that prowl the halls, three dogs of varying sizes, and birds in the trees all year round. There are fountains. There is music. There is art. All she has to do is think of it and it appears, conjured out of thin air.
     But by whom? She wonders.
     She tries to catch a glimpse, thinking there must be someone managing the place, managing her. But she never sees anyone. Ever. And however hard she thinks about it she can never bring a single person here. She can have anything else she wants, but not that.
     She is alone.
     This is her punishment.
     She keeps asking herself how. How is it possible to manage this sort of magic? Shape-shifting, spells and charms, yes, but even so only by a trained mage, someone well-versed in the arts, someone who has studied for years upon years. This island, this castle was something else. This sort of conjuring is god-like.
     She shivers thinking of it. It worries her, makes her think how little she knows and there are days when she cannot bear to step foot out of bed, and days when she doesn’t. She has slept more here in this castle than she ever did her whole life before. Days go by when she does nothing but dream. And after a while the days and nights bleed into one another and she’s sure it’s been years but she can't guess how many.
     Has she changed?
     She can’t tell. There are no mirrors here. No way to know if she looks the same. She thinks she does. The body she sees is the one she knows. Her hair still hangs down to her waist, the color of summer wheat and when she sees her reflection in the water her eyes are the same brown she remembers and her lips the color of an evening primrose – or so someone once said.
     Sometimes she cries, but still nothing changes  - until today.
     Today is different.
     When she comes out onto the balcony for the morning sun there is a pigeon. It is grey and iridescent green. It hops toward her. She wants to back away, unnerved, but then she sees the little metal tube attached to the bird’s feet. Her breath catches.  
     It is a message.
     The pigeon is still while she removes the metal tube with fingers that tremble. She unscrews the little cap, pulls out the rolled paper. She opens it very carefully.
     I’m coming, it says.
     Her heart tries to leap out of her chest and for a second she can’t breathe at all, just gasp like a drowning fish. 
      Should she hope? Does she dare?
     She shudders, thrusting the thought away, reminding herself that she does not deserve hope. She has betrayed everyone, everything. This exile is her punishment and hope has no place here. But it comes just the same, pushing through like the first crocuses of spring.
     She walks fast, her bare feet making little noise on the path, her eyes not seeing the spring foliage blooming, the bluebells and peony blossoming pink. The birds in the trees are background noise, squawks and trills blending. She picks up her skirts and walks faster, marches really, until she’s brought up short at the sandy beach.
     There across the water is a small boat, a row boat.
     She stares at it for a long time before racing back to the castle, cutting through the narrow stretch of poplars to the gardens and in through a side door. She runs up the narrow stairs, her feet slapping the cold stone, all the way up to the very top of the tower, which opens out onto small balcony that offers a view across the lake.
     And there about halfway across is the rowboat, still coming.
     She can’t see who it is that’s rowing, can’t imagine they’ll be able to land, although it looks as though they just might… 
     She spins on her heels and races back down the stone stairs, out the same door and across the garden, arriving breathless on the beach a few minutes later. Just in time to watch with eyes wide as the boat glides in.
     Her mouth drops open and the whole world spins, round and round, faster and faster. She closes her eyes tight, afraid she’ll faint, thinking, she must be dreaming or crazy or…
     She opens her eyes.
     It’s him.
     He’s here.
     On her island.   
     Words come to her lips but she doesn’t dare say a single one until he crosses the distance between them and wraps her in his arms tight, kissing her over and over then stopping and looking at her and kissing her again.
     Is he real?
     His breath is warm on her face and he smells like leather and horses and metal. She breathes him in, her heart aching at the sight of him and his tangle of blond hair. She can't stop her fingers from reaching up to brush his hair back, away from his eyes. Her skin tingles, burns for him.
     “How…how did you find me?”
     “A thousand years and a thousand words. Don’t you remember?”
     And she does remember, all of it: the secret, the kiss, the betrayal, and finally, the curse. A thousand years and a thousand words. She has been silent a very long time.She has been saving her words, her heart.
     She kisses him back and thinks she’ll be quiet a little longer.




  1. Oh, exceedingly cool!! This gave me shivers. I've STILL got goosebumps!

  2. Gosh the loneliness really got to me here, as well as the relief. Great job!

  3. That was amazing. You had me the whole time! Loved.

  4. Wow! Kudos for working in the blogfest theme. All of this was absolutely beautiful I could feel the loneliness and I loved how she couldn't believe he was real until he actually touched her. Nice.

  5. I like a happy ending!
    You really conveyed a sense of timelessness in her existence in the castle.

  6. This is so, so beautiful! You captured her solitude and despair, and I was just as happy as she was when her lover came to rescue her. I wonder how she ended up in the castle? Who cursed her and why? Argh! I want more!! :)

  7. It's a very well written take on the fairytale approach, and you manage to cram a lot into the thousand words.

  8. Best entry so far in my opinion (even beating mine). You combined story and scenery seamlessly. The characters and story kept me engaged from begining to end. And the mystery of the curse and why Nadia was in the castle was an excellent addition. Perfection.

  9. Very nice! You paint a good picture of Nadia's solitude, building up to her rescue. Great job! :)

  10. Great twist...if you could call a happy ending a twist! Sense of foreboding kept building and then BAM! Happy! Awesome! Really enjoyed this.

  11. It sure is interesting to see what people come up with when using the same image. Very light and the loneliness is well captured.
    Nice work. ^_^

  12. thank you everyone! I'm not really a very good SHORT story writer and tend to fall back on what's easy which is the fairy tale for me.

    Now to go check on the rest of the entries :)

  13. Your character's loneliness is so palatable that it pulled at my heartstrings as I read line after line. So alone, so utterly and completely alone amid all the magic and beauty of nature. Not one other human to talk with or to as time passes uncounted.

    Oh, sorry. Had to wipe away a tear. Wonderful job. And touched by the happy ending.

  14. Beautiful! I loved this story!

  15. I really enjoyed this! Great sense of tension and visually, the way the lines/paragraphs/sentence lengths were broken up, very effective.

    sorry, something I always notice with my dyslexic brain ;p

  16. Loved the fairy tale quality of this. Gorgeous imagery.


  17. I love the voice! Somehow telling it from a different perspective other than first person made her seem all the more lonelier.


  18. I totally loved this story! A very nice read and love how you tied in the 1000 words. :-)


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