I haven’t posted in English for almost a year, what a horror! Here I am now bringing you my first ever English story that got published. I wrote it in 2013 for an exercise in our Writing for Children class where we were looking at controversial topics (sex, drugs, suicide) in works for younger readers. I chose to work with Cinderella which is a story that had intrigued me since I was a teen. (For one, I love pumpkins, any story with a pumpkin is a winner with me. Also, on a more serious note, I was always bothered by the fact that Cinderella had to “doll up” to attract the attention of the prince. I know, I know, that she couldn’t just saunter into the royal palace in her torn and ashy clothes, but the message for me as an insecure teenage girl was not very encouraging…
If you prefer to listen to the story, you can do it here, in the wonderful reading of Mariah Avix on 600 second saga.
My life has always tasted of ashes. It is in my name. I am crumbling, falling apart, from dust to dust. While cleaning the old fireplace, the tired silver of ash sticks to my hands. The lack of air makes me dizzy. There isn’t enough space for me to breathe. When I was a child, the shining dust used to tell me wonderful stories; fairy tales of enchanted pumpkins, princes, and castles. Tales of a better life. A life which dissolved into thin air with the last breath of my father. After a time my dreams were dying, too. My comforting visions drained down to the gutters. I was left alone. Out in the cold with reality.
One day while I was crying with dry eyes I met the woman who called herself the “Fairy Godmother”. Black leather boots, a pair of old jeans, a grey T-shirt, with no bra underneath it, tired eyes and strong black make-up. I thought she came to turn me into a princess. But she just laughed at me and I saw how many of her teeth were missing.
“Honey, we’re not in Fairy Land any more. I have no magic. But I do have something that does.”
She pulled out a sachet filled with a powder like very soft ash, it shone as wonderfully as a crystal shoe I once saw in a dream.
“Magic powder”, she screeched, “it is the finest on the market. Could turn a whiny grey mouse into a magnificent white horse. You don’t have to decide now, darling. I’ll leave this little sample with you, take it or leave it. Your choice. You can crawl in the dust for the rest of your life or you could experience the glamour of the Enchanted Lands.” Her skinny form melted back into the darkness of the night.
The powder was softly shining in the murky night, shining with abandoned possibilities and broken dreams. I hid it in my pocket. I won’t give into temptation, I thought. I tried to pray that night, but the words came out all jumbled. My dream was empty and cold, the dawn tore my eyes open. A new day but the same routine, cleaning, cooking, slaving away.
I was born with a different promise, a promise of hope and love. But my faith shattered, and redemption floated away with the soft speckles of dust. No peace-doves arrived to lift me up. I lay with lentils in the ash and nobody came to pick me out. The magic powder glowed warmly in my pocket.
I opened the sachet to smell it. I took a deep breath and the soft crystal dust floated into my nose, deeper and deeper. It smelled of cleanness and dreams, so I inhaled more and more, I couldn’t get enough.
I started to change. A gentle touch cleansed my skin of the dirt of the years. It became as spotless as a swan feather. Silver cinder covered my old rags and it slowly transformed into an elegant dress, the silk swirling around me fresh as the water of northern fjords and the invisible lips of frost breathed a fragile layer of lace on me. My hair lost its thinness and shone with the radiance of the Northern star. I was shedding my hateful servant skin and metamorphosing into the lady I had always been, somewhere deep in the wrinkles of my soul. My worn slippers turned into a blindingly white plastic wonder that I’d only seen in distant shop windows. My world started turning and I greedily inhaled more and more of the wonder.
The walls shook and the house of my captors began to crumble right before my eyes. The windows melted into heavy tears and there was a fire starting from the fire place I’d been cleaning for the entirety of my life.
I shook with a pleasure-filled laughter. I ran out in the vegetable patch, stumbling over rats escaping the sinking ship. Suddenly six of them became wonderful, night-black mares .One of them almost trampled me to death, but I only laughed at it. How my step-family had cherished the vegetable garden, but I was the one who watered the plants with my sweat and tears. I never got anything from the crop, only the thin leftovers sprinkled with their hate. I kicked the ripe pumpkins apart and where they fell, wonderful cars and carriages appeared carrying beautiful faceless people.
The sky was falling down on me, the stars soared closer and closer until they exploded into huge crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling of a deep blue dance hall. I was spinning and kept inhaling the magic. I coughed with laughter. I tore out all the carrots. They turned into busy footmen, wearing rusty-coloured uniforms, running up and down. I threw away all the shiny, fat tomatoes. When they touched the ground they swelled up to be large court ladies in glossy costumes their faces pink with the kiss of too much wine. I shook the trees and they became light dancers gyrating to the melody of a melancholic waltz.
Suddenly a man appeared and he walked straight towards me. The crowd of dancers parted and gave way to him. Everybody whispered in a voice filled with awe. “The Prince has come for her.”
My heart was span around madly. The man’s clothes were rich and dark, his white gloves appeared brighter than the Moon. His face was like a marble portrait: cold, white and featureless. Then a thought hit me: I’ve been waiting for him all my life to take me away from this bleak house of shadows.
I was just too much of a coward to go and seek him by myself. The magic powder finally brought him to me. He reached out a merciless hand, “I have come to deliver you from your suffering. Come with me, I shall take you to a place where you can be free.”
His voice was hollow, but it was also reassuring. I let out a deep sigh and took his hand. The sachet fell to the ground without a sound.
Deep silence enveloped the house and the garden again, everything was resting in peace.
Cinders to cinders first appeared in issue 3 of Tincture journal in 2013.