This story was originally posted on September 12, 2018. I think the details of happily ever after are different for everybody. The trick is figuring out what it looks like for you. Don’t give up if it seems impossible for now. Help might be waiting just around the corner.
Greta Goldenlocks was a fearsome and mighty pirate. No pirate or soldier alive could defeat her in battle. She could defeat ten men as large as grizzly bears with one hand tied behind her back and the wind blowing her hair into her face. She could surround and defeat an armada of ships with three rowboats and a crossbow.
And as for treasure, Greta had a nose for it. No one could hide their valuables from Greta’s sticky fingers. If it was golden false teeth, they’d be gone and in her loot bag while you were in the middle of eating dinner with them. You wouldn’t notice they were gone until you tried to eat the mashed potatoes.
One day, after getting up early to explore the surrounding seas, Greta sailed up to a castle. She rowed to shore and jumped from the rowboat, eager to explore. She approached warily, but no guards or lookouts stood outside the gates.
The front door was unlocked. It was a little unnerving. Greta thought of all the ghost stories she heard on quiet nights. Yet, she never once saw a ghost, after all.
She couldn’t walk away from this. A castle? With the front door unlocked? She wouldn’t be a pirate if she didn’t walk right inside. So, she did.
The front hall was empty. Following her nose for treasure, she turned into the first room. It was a banquet hall with a lavish feast served but untouched. Greta sampled the dishes.
After sampling the last serving, she finished the meal. Why leave good food to go to waste? She considered finding the kitchens later and bringing some extra provisions to her crew.
But first, she needed to look for treasure. She went into the next room. It was a throne room, and the chairs looked like solid gold.
However, Greta was an expert treasure hunter, unwilling to be fooled by imitations. She checked first one chair, then another. She hacked the last chair apart with her sword. It wasn’t gold, just painted wood.
Disgusted, she moved along. She found a bed chamber. The expensive linens would fetch a pretty penny if sold to the right buyers. Yet, linens would be a poor treasure to take back to her crew from the castle. Even if she added the provisions.
Surely there must be something better. Letting her mind go blank, Greta tuned in to possible treasure. But all her senses told her that the treasure in this castle was the beds.
She looked under the beds. She scratched the paint of the headboards to see if they were made of gold. She checked under the mattresses. She checked the seams of the bedding.
Maybe they were enchanted beds? Greta didn’t really believe in magic, but she was willing to keep an open mind. She crawled into each of the beds, with her boots on, to see if anything felt different.
Nothing did. Maybe she needed to fall asleep first. And so, in the last bed, she fell fast asleep. The bed was marvelously comfortable, and she slept well. Unfortunately, she didn’t sleep long.
Greta started awake with the feeling of someone watching her. Opening her eyes, she was shocked to see three large bears. Actual bears. Yet they wore clothes and stood on their hind legs like people.
Was that what the enchanted beds did? Did they turn people into bears? Or was it the food that changed them?
In alarm, Greta looked down at her hands. They were still normal hands. She cautiously put her hands up to check her face. No fur.
She remembered her treasure-seeking instincts telling her the beds were important. It must be the beds. Luckily, she hadn’t slept there long. She needed to get out of here before anything happened.
The bears were still staring at her in shock. Greta jumped from the bed, and in two steps she was out the window. She landed gracefully on the lawn and waved at the bears watching her from the window.
Her crew sailed away from the enchanted castle as quickly as possible. The ship’s doctor said her voice sounded a bit hoarse, but it was probably just a cold. He told her it just wasn’t possible for people to turn into bears. But Greta and the crew knew better. She’d had a narrow escape.
Greta is still just as good in battle. She can still find any treasure no matter where it’s hidden. But she might wait a moment or two before taking it now. She checks to see if the owner looks cursed. Greta Goldenlocks is a wise and mighty pirate.
This story was originally posted on April 17, 2019. I think we all do great and terrible things now and then. And sometimes, the bad choices we make can cause us big problems down the road. In fairy tales, the effects are magnified, of course. I think that’s what makes them so much fun to read.
This story was originally posted August 1, 2017. While it could probably benefit from some editing, I still like this story. The doctor is in a world that seems a bit crazy, and yet he continues to do what he can to help. I like that.
Once upon a time, a group of knights received a distress call. “It’s another princess in trouble,” the leader of the knights said. “Who wants to deal with this one?”
“I helped with the last one,” Sir Cadmium said. “The one who turned herself into a goldfish somehow. It took me forever to find the right fish in that fountain. It had fourteen basins, and every single one was filled with goldfish. I had to hold them up one at a time for the prince to kiss, and it made him really grumpy.”
“I helped with the princess stuck in a tree. Why on earth she wished for wings, I don’t know,” Sir Ultramarine said. “The wings were all tangled in the branches and they didn’t want me to snap a single twig of the tree because it was some rare ancient important tree. I was there for twenty hours, and she complained every minute.”
“Don’t look at me,” Sir Ochre said. “I just got back from rescuing those twin princesses last week. The ones lost in the cave looking for some sort of fairyland ball, you remember? They didn’t want to be rescued, not matter what their parents said. They kept ordering me to leave, and the king would order me right back in. In the end, they gave up, but by then my feet hurt from running back and forth and fetching them things so they wouldn’t starve to death out of stubbornness. I still have blisters on my blisters.”
The leader looked around the circle. “Sir Umber is still tracking down the princess who ran away with the unicorns, and Sir Viridian is rescuing the princess who wished to be a mermaid. That leaves you, Sir Sap.”
“Why do I have to be Sir Sap. Can’t I be Sir Thalo or Sir Payne?”
The leader shrugged. “It’s the King who knights us. He picks the names.”
“You’ll take the assignment? Great. Here’s the folder.”
Sir Sap jumped out of his seat. “That’s not what I meant. I helped the princess who got turned into a baby and crawled into a cupboard and fell asleep and no one could find her and…”
It was too late. Everyone had already left. Sir Sap sighed and picked up the folder. As always, the king had written the details in an awful scrawl that was nearly impossible to read. The hand painted map was lovely, but impractical. Sir Sap sighed. Was it too late to go back to dental school?
Hours later, he was following the map, hoping to rescue a princess who was maybe stuck in a well or writing a will. It was a little confusing. The woods he was passing through were dark and scary, and there wasn’t really much of a path.
But, Sir Sap was a brave knight who wasn’t scared of the dark at all. And if he was, he wouldn’t tell anyone. He pulled out his lunch and decided to eat while he walked. He always felt braver when he was eating. It was a good thing being a knight had so many opportunities for exercise, or he’d probably weigh a thousand pounds.
Just then, he heard growling off to his left. He looked down. Perhaps eating a roast beef sandwich in a forest filled with who-knows-what was a bad idea. Something started crashing though the bushes, and it sounded like it was getting closer.
A bear crashed onto the path. Sir Sap threw his sandwich as hard as he could to the right. After the bear ran past, chasing the sandwich, Sir Sap ran to the left. He stopped to catch his breath under a tree. “Is the bear gone?” a voice asked from above.
Sir Sap looked up. A lady dressed in black was sitting up in the branches of the tree. A witch? “It’s gone,” he said. “Couldn’t you have magicked it away?”
“I’m an herbalist,” she said. She began to climb down. “I make potions. It’s a different kind of magic. It doesn’t work right away. You have to be patient. But it works better because I tailor the potions to the individual, so it’s just what you need and works just right for you.” She jumped from the lowest branches.
“It is good to meet you, Madam Herbalist. I have great respecct for your craft. Could you tell me the way out of the forest? My map isn’t very clear.”
She pointed the way, and soon Sir Sap was able to rescue the princess stuck inside a rosebush on a hill. It was a massive, enchanted rosebush, and he ended up needing to find a prince to cut the whole thing down with tiny enchanted silver scissors. Organizing the witches and wizards and silversmiths and the very confused prince to find the solution took days.
Luckily, the princess and prince fell in love over the whole ordeal, and looked like they’d probably live happily ever after. This was always the best possible scenario, because it meant one less princess getting into trouble. Sir Sap went home, happy with the knowledge that all went well, and he wouldn’t have to rescue the next princess in trouble. It was probably Sir Ultramarine’s turn.
When he reached the forest, the herbalist was out picking leaves off of some harmless looking weeds. Suddenly, Sir Sap was struck by how normal it was. Here was someone who climbed a tree when she was chased by a bear, and didn’t ask her fairy godmother to change her into a bird or a dragon or a snowman in the middle of the summer.
Sir Sap realized he was tired of being a knight. He was tired of trying to help people who kept misusing powerful magic and never learning their lesson. He was tired of princesses. “Is it hard to learn to be an herbalist?” he asked.
“Well, it takes patience. You don’t learn everything all at once. But, if you like helping people and are good at figuring things out, it might be just right for you.” She smiled and picked up her basket. “I wouldn’t mind having an apprentice to help out at the shop. I have more business than I can deal with right now.”
“I’ll return within the week. I just need to hand paint a letter of resignation,” Sir Sap said. He was already mentally composing the letter. He was thinking of using one-point perspective to draw attention to the words “I quit” in the center of the page. He would sign it John, and be Sir Sap no more. And maybe, if things worked out just right, he’d find his own happily ever after.
Stewart was determined to stay safe. He designed an underground fortress guarded by layers of traps and a fiendishly difficult maze. Of course there were problems with the plans, right from the start.
“How will you breathe down there?” the architect asked when Stewart showed him a modified version of part of the plans. He had a separate piece to show to an unrelated architect in another country once he perfected his newest disguise and fake ID.
Stewart snatched away the plan and looked at it. Right. Breathing was important. Not breathing wasn’t safe at all. Perhaps he could invest in a self-contained underground breathing apparatus? But air tanks could be tampered with.
Air shafts might work, but that was how all the robbers and spies got in. Well, he could set traps for them. He was good at designing traps. “I’ll be back,” he told the architect. “Maybe.”
Instead, a week later, he visited a different architect, far, far away, while dressed as a popular celebrity. Reluctantly, he handed over a modified version of part of the revised plans. The new architect looked them over.
“I don’t know, Santa,” the architect said. “Won’t these traps be dangerous for all your elves? And where will you keep the reindeer?”
“Ho ho hum,” Stewart-in-disguise said. “The elves don’t live in my house, of course.”
“This is a house?”
“Yes,” Stewart admitted reluctantly.
Why was the architect asking all of these personal questions? It was very suspicious. He considered snatching the plans and searching for recording devices.
“But how will you get in and out? It seems very inconvenient.”
“Why would I want to leave? Look how safe I would be.” And these plans didn’t even show half of the traps.
The architect laughed. “Besides delivering all those presents, of course, you may want to get food and check your mail. Pay taxes. Take out the trash.”
It all sounded terrible and completely unsafe. Stewart snatched his plans and left. On the trip home, dressed as the grim reaper so that people would keep their distance, Stewart reviewed his plans and thought about what the latest architect said. Did he need to leave the house for food?
He didn’t eat much. That shouldn’t be a problem.
Taxes? If he hid well enough, he could avoid that, but the government wouldn’t be pleased. That wasn’t safe. Besides, hiding his house meant it would be discovered the moment someone dug deep enough not knowing he was there.
Hiding might seem safer, because if they didn’t know you were there, they wouldn’t come looking. However, the traps and maze would keep everyone out. Including the mail carrier. Did he need mail? It would be nice to order in, but if he had to leave the house to get the mail, he might as well go to the store.
But were stores safe? All those people and germs and potential hazards? Maybe he needed a mail chute and a good list of places to order from. He could order in groceries. There were probably traps he could add to the mail chute that wouldn’t harm the mail, right? And he could reverse that for a garbage chute of some sort.
Stewart revised his plans, modified them to hide most of the traps, and recopied part of the revised, modified plans. He found a new architect that did video conferencing. With a little bit of programming, he presented himself as a cartoon character. He emailed the plans in an email that would delete itself five minutes after being viewed.
“Hello,” the architect said. “I don’t meet many roadrunners in my line of work. Looking at these plans, I can tell that you are concerned for your safety. Is there any particular threat you are concerned about? It may be easier to defend against something specific. It seems like you think the world is out to get you.”
Stewart thought about the last time he’d left the house. The little old woman, the little old man, the dog, the cat, the fox… everyone he met had tried to eat him. He’d had to run, run as fast as he could to get to safety. “The world is out to get me,” he said.
“Well, you would be safe from the world in a house like this,” the architect replied.
“Good,” Stewart said. It was time to start building.