I’ve taken on Canadian author ’Nathan Burgoine’s monthly flash fiction challenge. The challenge for January was to write a story that was in the fairy tale genre, included the location of a prison and also included a tattoo machine as an object. All this and the story could only be 1,000 words. Here is my entry and I hope you enjoy it!
The story clocks in at 954 words and I had an absolute blast writing it. I can’t wait until next month!
Once upon a time, in the village of Inglewood Hamlet, there was a woman that was covered in ink.
Mr. Brocade, the owner of the Dog and Puddle Pub, said so. “It was as if someone had covered her skin in lines of ink. They make no rhyme or reason, but there they are. T’was the oddest thing.”
Other villagers had seen her, too. Once, on a hot day, Miss. Velvete had seen the back of the woman’s neck when she had lifted the veil that covered her head so that a breeze could cool her skin. “It was beautiful.” Miss Velvete said. “Looked as if she had been dipped in ink made of the finest jewels.”
The woman heard the whispers and felt them upon her skin. She smiled. If only they knew the power of their words. She itched to get the words on paper. There were so many stories to tell.
Letting herself into what they called home, Kathan called out. “Sophie, are you home?”
Her voice echoed through out the empty cells and clattered against the stone walls and the echoes were joined by the sound of small footsteps running on stone. The prison had stood empty for so long that it seemed silly to pay for housing; what did it matter that they shared their home with the occasional spirit?
Sophie appeared out of a nearby doorway, a smile on her face. Sophie ran to Kathan and threw her arms around Kathan in a big hug.
“Oh, well if I knew I’d receive such a greeting, I would have gone to market sooner.” Kathan said with a smile. She put down her basket of foodstuffs and hugged her daughter back.
“Mama, I wrote a story! Just like you do. Want to see?”
Sophie lifted up the sleeve of her sweater and Kathan saw several words written upon her arm in a childish script. Ruffling her daughter’s hair, Kathan asked “Did you do all those letters by yourself? That’s very good poppet.”
“Now I can make magic like you, Mum!” She gave Kathan a wide smile. “Can we make some magic now? You promised!”
Kathan let out a laugh and hugged her daughter again. “You’re still too young, poppet, but I can show you how its done. Come, lets go see Ms. Maven.”
Sophie let out a loud, happy squeal and ran towards the kitchens and Kathan followed closely behind. She found Sophie chatting animatedly with Ms. Maven who was a lovely pearlescent blue. She floated a few feet off the ground in front of Sophie.
“And Mama’s going to do magic and everything! And I get to see!” Sophie said.
“You don’t say, love. Now you be a good girl while I help out your mama, okay?”
Ms. Maven patted Sophie’s head and it looked as if the wind blew at her hair. Sophie let out a giggle. “Ms. Maven! It tickles when you do that!”
Ms. Maven stuck out her tongue at Sophie and then gave her a soft smile. Floating over to Kathan, she regarded Kathan with concern. “You’re full of words today, dear. People have been telling a lot of stories.
Kathan nodded. “It’s always like that on market days. The food is in the front hall.”
“Never you mind. You come sit at the table and I’ll get everything set up. I’ll put on some lavender tea for afterwards.”
Sitting at table in the kitchen, Kathan watched as Ms. Maven floated up to the highest shelf and took down a small wooden box and placed it in front of Kathan.
Nodding in thanks, Kathan reached into her dress for a fountain tip pen. She opened the box and clipped it inside so that it stood upright. The holder had hinges on either side of it, so that fountain pen could move back and forth.
Next, Kathan placed a pile of paper in a spot at the bottom of the box. There were hinges and pullies there that could pull in pages and push them out. Ms. Maven had designed the box herself and, without it, Kathan could not work her magic.
“Okay, Sophie, are you ready?”
Standing, Kathan removed her shawl. Sophie drew in a breath when she saw what waited underneath: everywhere on Kathan’s skin, there were words written in ink. They looped and curved and tilted along her skin, so many words that you couldn’t read them.
Sophie nodded and Kathan placed her hands on the fountain pen. It began to move at once and Sophie watched as words began to fill the pages. As the pages kept filling with more words, so did the words that were on Kathan’s skin disappear. It was as if they were being pulled from her body.
When it was done, and the last page was filled, Kathan looked at her daughter. “Do you understand, dear one?”
“You’re the ink, Mama!”
“Yes, poppet, that’s very good!” She and Ms. Maven looked on happily.
“But why Mama? Why do this? You have thousands of pages of people’s stories.” She looked confused. “Why?”
Kathan took Sophie’s hands in hers. “Because poppet, we must always remember. The land needs stories just as if needs water and sunshine. If we forget where we’ve come from, we cease to be. Only with stories do we remember. Through our stories, we live on inside of the hearts of others. I’m a storyteller. It’s what we do. You will do this, too, one day.”
“But who will read this story, Mama?” Sophie asked. “Who will read your story?”
“I have a feeling there is someone reading this story right now. And they will remember me.”
Or so the story goes…