lj idol season nine | week 15 | 918 words
It is not easy to live under a curse. The threat of tragedy looms overhead, never forgotten. The sweetest moments of childhood are muted when one knows the future that awaits, and every happy thought or feeling must be stored in memory against the terrible day when it all becomes for naught.
I was that cursed child, a king's daughter in a lovely, lesser-known realm near the outermost edge of the Dark Forest. My days were spent in the palace gardens amid the grass and flowers, or down at the stables where the horses soon learned the sound of my voice. My mother was kind and beautiful, my father wise, and they watched me with melancholy smiles and embraced me as often with hesitation as with almost-suffocating adoration.
They had no other children, and they had yearned many years for me with a mixture of fervor and obsession.
My earliest memories were of warnings. I was shown drawings and admonished never to touch anything resembling the objects therein. For quite some time, I thought it was a game. Spindles were such odd-looking things, and I had never actually seen one—surely, it was all make-believe? Later, I learned that my father had decreed that all spindles and spinning wheels be burned, and that none were permitted in our kingdom. I doubt our subjects welcomed the prospect of so much commerce directed at exchanging our kingdom's fruits and wines for something as simple as cloth.
Although I am older now, the warnings continue, as does the unending scrutiny. One of the things I long for—foolishly, I suppose, although I do so badly wish it!—is to simply be left alone. I am allowed solitude within my own chambers (despite the guard stationed at the foot of the stairs, always ready should I leave). But I cannot wander the castle grounds without an escort, and a brief visit to the village itself entails an entourage of nurses and knights, and the heavy knowledge of needing to be ever-alert to the possibility of danger.
It wears on me, without question. I believe it taxes my parents still more. They seem to age much faster than I, and their manner grows increasingly grim as my eventual womanhood approaches.
My sixteenth birthday is at hand, and I do not know what will become of me. A doomed princess has no suitors, and I cannot pretend to be anything else. I am rarely alone, but always lonely, and I often wonder if I shall be so forever.
"How will I ever marry, Papa?" I ask.
"Do not trouble yourself about that," my father says. "It will happen in good time." Yet I notice the faraway look in his eyes, and that his smile is uncertain.
The morning of my birthday arrives, and the castle is bursting with activity. Maids clean the lower floors from top to bottom, and ready the guest chambers. Footmen carry additional chairs and tables to the dining hall, and the kitchen is such a whirlwind that the head cook hastens me away. Yet, with all these busy preparations all around me, I cannot muster any excitement. Each passing year has only increased my parents' sadness and worry, and resulted in my being kept closer to home and watched so attentively that I feel I can scarcely breathe.
I move restlessly about the castle. Soon it will be so crowded that I shall wish for the dull days of winter, yet I cannot bring myself to hide away in my chambers just yet. Instead, I walk the long passages, finding a growing stillness as I move away from the common areas.
In the far corner of the castle, I come upon a tower I have not visited in years. The guard usually stationed here is absent, and it has been so long since I climbed these stairs that I no longer remember what the rooms above me look like, or even what purpose they serve. My curiosity is stronger than the sense of weariness that plagues me, and I slip up the stairs while the chance remains.
The room on the next level is empty, but for a damp tapestry covering the window. I continue upward, where I find another room on the top level. A faint light shows around the edges of its closed door, and I hear a peculiar whirring sound. Slowly, I open the door.
An old woman sits near the window, her foot working the treadle of some wooden construct. I recognize the rest of it from years of ink drawings and harsh warnings. It is a spinning wheel.
The woman beckons me nearer. "My dear," she says, "would you be so kind as to change the spindle over for me? Your eyes are surely better than mine."
I know all too well, I ought not touch the thing. My very existence seems to have been defined only in terms of this one, terrible thing I must not do.
The old woman smiles hopefully at me. I do not know whether she is merely a servant going about her usual work, or whether her smile is false and she has arranged all of this to trap me.
I no longer care.
"Forgive me," I whisper—to her, to my parents, and to all others who will grieve.
Then I reach out and thrust my fingers down on the spindle's pointed end—Oh, how sharply it pricks!—and let the gathering darkness carry me toward my fate.
-- / --
If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.