Launch Challenge: Start with “She died. Once upon a time…”
Once upon a time, there were, wait, this seems…
She was blonde, I think, and there were three bears, three bears? Why bears? Why three? Why not, some other animal? Are they cute bears? Teddy bears? No, they predate teddy bears, predate Mr Roosevelt…
But, three bears, and you know, I thought she was meant to survive… Is that not right?
Does she change in every retelling?
Or is she malleable? Ephemeral? Variable? A mathematical inconstant that is based around the formula that encompasses her? Is she doomed to live out, and perhaps extinguish, according to the wants, needs and, dare I say, desires of the teller? Is she perpetually trapped in a set of brackets?
It started out the same.
Perhaps she’s not so young, and perhaps her skirt is a little bit higher. Perhaps it kicks up a little as she walks, hinting, tantalising, titillating. Her blonde hair cascading underneath her hood of carmine. Waves, not curls as such. A stray bit hangs down over her face, dances in front of her eyes as she walks, and every so often, she tucks it back behind her ear.
The basket’s the same – the woven cane, covered, covered in that red and white material, like old tablecloths, but it’s clean, and bright, and its white should glare in the sun, but it doesn’t. Gingham. Its four edges tucked in, the wicker handle over the top, held in the crook of her arm, swinging as she skips.
Why is she skipping?
It’s hardly an effective method of motion. Is she happy? Why would she be happy? Why should she be happy?
Perhaps it is forced gaiety – she travels alone, a picnic she has prepared by herself, for herself, she’ll settle down on some nice grassy knoll, looking out over the pristine forest, rising from a bed of pine needles, squirrels and chipmunks and other anthropomorphised creatures ripped straight from a Disney film, and she sits there, perhaps choking back tears, pretending that she has company, that she has someone, anyone.
Today though, she mixes up her journey – she takes a different path, perhaps hoping to meet her Prince Charming on the way. It’s not unreasonable – in the fairytales, they tend to pop up out of the bushes like a skin suit wearing stalker, but no, deliverance, such as it is, appears in a humble home.
The sigil of domestic bliss. Smoke rises from the chimney, grey and white, and move skyward to mingle with the clouds, the clouds with the undoubted silver lining. She imagines a white picket fence, a feast on the table, a reclining chair that you sink into, a bear skin rug beside an open hearth.
Something is caught in her eye, and it seems that her mascara is running.
She brushes past the hedge and up the loose gravel path, stands, hesitant, upon the threshold, hand raised to knock. Eventually she does.
The door swings open at her touch. You might wonder at the lack of security – but you shouldn’t, bears aren’t really equipped to deal with things like keys.
Perhaps that is why they are bears? To explain the easy access? Or where they simply more innocent times? For if you give our red friend lock picking skills, you are implying criminal intent.
And this part, we all know – the porridge, the chairs, the bed. The destruction of property (accidental)…
She played at home life – she imagined a husband, and a child, a smile from each as they dined together on porridge that skirts the laws of thermodynamics, as they sat together around the table. Afterwards, she moved into the lounge room, enjoying the company, the morning, sun streaming in through the window. She hadn’t expected the chair to break.
There there, child, daddy will fix that, you’ve grown into such a big boy.
The mother’s things were just right, she thought as she crawled into the bed. A separate bed – I guess bears hold some sort of moral high ground. She wanted to dream of strong arms holding her, although perhaps not so hairy, and keeping her safe. Gently rocking her to sleep. She wanted to wake to the dream, to sleep to reality.
A shadow loomed over her. The bears had returned. What do bears do in the woods?
Oh. Seems kind of odd to us, but who are we to judge?
The father stood over her, the mother held the basket, peaking into it, the baby stood in the doorway.
She panicked. Startled,the bear swung. Long claws raked her body. She made it downstairs, freedom moments away. She fell outside the door, her breath coming in rasps and gurgles. Gravel dug into her knees. A hand went under her little half cape thing, and came away red. The white picket fence swirled, and she collapsed to the ground.
She awoke, briefly, in the mother’s bed. A pillow of tears and blood and makeup. A sheet, poorly bound around her body, seeping blood.
Bears are not equipped for surgical procedures.
We see the lines in her face, the crow’s feet dancing around blood shot eyes.
Hand in paw, they sat with her. The family.
But not alone?
Once upon a time, there were three bears…