By Taryn Kincaid
Once upon a time…
Decadent Publishing put out a submission call for the retelling of fairy tales. One of the neat things was that you didn’t get to pick and choose which one you’d do…you emailed the editor (hi, Dawn!) that you were interested and she delved into her grab bag and produced a title from The Brothers’ Grimm for you to base your story on. Many of these were obscure. I originally received one of those. I had a million ideas for it —okay, so VAMPIRES — and I’m still planning on getting back to it one day…but in the meantime…other stuff pulled at me.
The more familiar stories, okay, the ones that have Disney movies with chirping animals that do your laundry and clean your toilets, witches that look like Angelina Jolie, and sopranos who insist that One Day Your Prince Will Come, were held back.
And then…once upon another time, around October of 2014, another call went out (only to Decadent authors, if I remember correctly), for the so-called “coveted tales,” the bippity-boppity-boos of fairy tales: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty.
Sleeping Beauty, she of the flaxen hair, Prince Philip, Maleficent, and the fairy godmothers Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Um, wait. That would be Disney’s version, which opened in 1959, when many of you reading this (okay, most of you, in all likelihood), were not yet born, nor even twinkles in your dad’s eyes.
The Grimms’ version, though, was Little Briar-Rose, based on a French tale by Charles Perrault, La Belle au bois dormant, published in 1697, and itself based on Giambattista Basile’s Sun, Moon and Talia, which in turn was based on…well, really, who knows what. That’s the thing about fairy tales, they were handed down in oral tradition over the centuries in all different forms, morphing and changing until, finally, their Disneyfication solidifies them in little girls’ hearts and minds.
But back to me. Negotiations with Iran were in the news, I think. And I’d grown up with the Paris peace talks over Vietnam, the Israeli-Palestinian mess and…King Arthur and his Round Table. And the idea that stuck in my mind was about all the bickering and one upmanship, and the way diplomats sometimes cannot even agree on the size or shape of the conference table. Not unlike a fairy being miffed because a passel over other fairies got invited to the princess’ birthday party while her invitation was…lost in the mail.
My original proposal submission, a world at war due to diplomat dissing, a young war-weary woman stepping on a landmine and lapsing into a coma…morphed in the writing because…well, that’s just how writing is. One day you’re bumbling along, whistling while you work, and the next day something flies out of the mouth of your character that’s akin to: “So which one of you bitches is my mother?” (If any of you remember the ‘80’s mini-series, Lace. But I digress. As usual.)
Originally, my Aurora’s (or Brier-Rose’s) name was Serena. But on page one she announces that her name is “Rosina,” but the soldiers she’s with call her “Sandrina”…and we were off and running. Into a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland of a world, where the lethal rain can wound the heroine. And the hero, Clay Worthington, is way more studly than Philip.
Sleeping Beauty in a post-apocalyptic land…
In a world gone mad, where little remains but a vast wasteland of sand, the leader of a troop of roving warriors welcomes a brave young woman into his midst.
Much as he burns for her, Major Clay Worthington swears to keep his distance from the mysterious woman, so sensitive even the stinging rain can wound her.
Rosina Brierly is besotted with the formidable soldier and will gladly trade her life for one torrid night of blissful passion in his arms.
But when sleep overcomes them, will true love prevail?
Does the major ever feel lust? Does he covet a woman’s touch? He never gave any sign he did. Too aloof and austere, too remote from the simple emotions of mere mortal men.
He shook her again. “Wake up, princess. The rain will come soon.”
The men looked forward to the rain. They hated the relentless sun blasting down upon them, as if they thought it would incinerate what was left of the earth beneath their boots, baking the soft sand into badlands as hard as concrete. They’d strip off their T-shirts and boots, their combat fatigues, and sometimes even their camouflage boxer shorts, and dance and play, naked or nearly so, in the slanting gray soup, laughing, tossing round balls or throwing saucer-shaped plastic discs to each other.
For her, the showers had the opposite effect. The stinging rain sliced into her sensitive skin like acid, raising blisters and sores, sometimes bloodying her.
She did not know why the major called her princess. Perhaps he didn’t know either. Whatever royalty once walked the earth had long gone, fled underground or died in battle or simply disappeared. The war engulfed every human on the planet, every inch of land, and had waged so long she doubted anyone remembered anymore. Well, maybe Nicodemus. At least he sometimes hinted he did in the stories he told. And she had seen him whisper into the major’s ear, unknown things that made the major pale beneath his weathered tan.
Major Worthington did not treat her like a princess, though, except when she slumbered, when he knelt before her in her fantasy world, his head bowed, his fist over his heart, laying his sword at her feet and claiming the role of knight. Her hero. Her champion. When she awoke, he remained one of the elite warrior breed roaming the planet, bristling with weapons like the soldiers he led. He treated her as the translator she was to him, sometimes barking orders to her as if she were one of his men, only occasionally seeking her counsel.
She came fully awake as he jerked her up from the ground and yanked her toward him. The glare of the setting sun broadsided her, hurting her eyes. Why was he so insistent about the impending rain? No clouds yet darkened the sky, although the hour sped toward evening dusk now. But no hint of shadow yet blotted the horizon.
“I can smell it,” he muttered.