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9

Carefully, Phillip poured the golden powder into the jar, making sure that not even the smallest grain escaped the glass confinement.  His five and six year-old sons, Jacob and Wilhelm, watched curiously.

 

“Father, what is that powder you pour every day?”  Jacob, the eldest, stood up on his toes to view the high shelf of jars that he could not yet reach.

 

Phillip smiled.  “Perhaps in a few years, my son.”  Jacob, making a face, let out a huff.  But his attention was not one to be held for more than a few seconds, and before long, he had run out to the field to play.

 

And while Philip went to his room to retire for a nap, the young Wilhelm arched and craned his neck, trying in vain to catch a glance at the mystifying jars on the shelf.

 

He could not see what occurred up above, but as he moved, the contents of the jars swirled and twisted, as if coming alive, just for him.

********

 

She ran, as fast as her legs could carry her.  The wolf was behind her, close behind, and she knew that he was to catch up soon.  She should have given up, should have just never tried to deliver the letter in the first place, but for some foolish, foolish reason, she had not.

 

And she ought to warned Hunter, too.  If she had, he wouldn’t be lying in pieces, all over the cottage - an arm in the living room, a foot on the bed, everything else in the wolf’s stomach.

 

The crisp night air was supposed to help her breathe better, to help her to keep on running until she finally reached her safe haven, but the heavy crimson cloak on her back caught the wind and the branches, and slowed her down.

 

She longed to rip it off, to cast it into the foreboding woods, but she could not.  It had been sewn, stitch by painful stitch, onto both her shoulders.  She wondered now, as it tore agonizingly into her flesh, why it was her that had to have thick, twisted scars that served as the seam to her cloak and her shoulders.

 

There was a loud crash, and the sound of shattering glass exploded from behind her.  Although her mother had warned her to never look back when running, she did so nonetheless.

 

And that night, the very last night she would ever bear that crimson cloak, she turned, and she saw -

 

Shimmering dust, the deep red of scarlet, glittering, despite the infinite dark.

********

 

           Wilhelm could not sleep.  His father was gasping and thrashing around in the adjacent room, and the desperate cries that escaped him brought chills to Wilhelm’s spine.  He’d always been a light sleeper, and listening to the sounds of his father’s endless nightmares never ceased to wake him.

 

Seven years had already passed since his father begun to collect those sparkling, multi-colored powders.  And seven years had passed since his father filled the night with those haunting wails.  It was time, Wilhelm Wilhelm decided, to find out what exactly those strange jars were full of.

 

So he crept out of the bed, silently and cautiously, careful not to wake Jacob.  He took small, tentative steps, stepping only on the parts of the floor that did not creak.  The cottage that they lived in was a modest one, and it did not take long for him to reach his father’s bedroom.

 

He slowly pushed open the door, and entered the room.  As he expected, Philip was sweating heavily, and his sheets were tossed about him.  But then something caught his eye - there was a thin dusting of glitter upon his father’s nose and lips.  The powder was a dark shade of green, exactly matching the constituents of the the jar on Phillip’s nightstand.

 

Was this some strange concoction that his father hoped to improve his health?  If so, it was a rather useless one; it certainly did nothing to cure the dreams that plagued him.

Wilhelm, determined to finish his task through to the end, silently padded across the room to the nightstand.  He dipped a finger into the jar, and smeared it under his nostrils.  Anticipating some sort of agony, he held his breath, but nothing came.

 

Finally, when he could hold it no longer, he exhaled.  Perhaps the powders only had an effect on grown men.  He stepped back, ready to leave, when Philip suddenly moved.  Wilhelm inhaled sharply, afraid that his father would catch him.

 

Suddenly, he felt his limbs stiffen, and a wave of heat washed over his body.  He toppled over, and before he even hit the floor, he was fast asleep, and dreaming.

 

And when he dreamed, not even Phillip’s frantic shaking could stop wake him from his nightmares.

********

 

The rose was completely and utterly dead.  Adam paced, his claws curling into his palms.  He was a prince, not a beast, and it could not end like this.  How could the petals have fallen so quickly, so suddenly?  Unless the crone who cursed him had lied, the ensorcelled flower was supposed to stayed alive for years.

 

It had to be the witchcraft of that girl, the newest addition to his staff.  She was beautiful, hypnotically so, nicknamed Beauty by all his other servants. Yet there was something odd, something strange, about the way her eyes would flash when she saw him, and the abnormal sharpness of her incisors.  But what scared him most was the rapidly disappearing servants.  Chip, a young cook, had been the first to disappear.  He’d left, without even a word to his mother.  Adam had assumed Chip was simply hoping to set up a better life for him and his lover, Margarita.

 

But when Cogsworth, an older, kindly gentleman, went out into the courtyard for an evening stroll, and never returned, Adam began to worry.  There were certainly wolves who lived in the woods, but even then, how could they have possibly scaled the towering iron gates?

 

His suspicion for Beauty began when he had seen her one night, reading over the strange, antiquated books that she locked away in a small metal box.  He did not mean to intrude upon her privacy, but Ms. Hyes, one of his older workers, had encouraged him to pay Beauty a visit.  After all, the entire household had whispered that perhaps Beauty would be the one to break the curse.

 

When he arrived at her door, he had lain his eyes on her - and could not look away.  She’d been so mesmerising - so utterly mesmerising.  The moon had cast a an ethereal glow over the ivory of her skin, and her hair was a velvet curtain draped over her shoulder.

 

Then she’d sensed his presence, and looked up.  But her eyes were not the soft brown he’d expected.  They were a yellow, an unnatural kind of yellow, and the whites of her eyes were a dark onyx.

 

A knock on the wall penetrated the spell of his thoughts.

 

“Master Adam?”  The voice was male, breathless and hoarse.  Only one person in this castle could become so winded on a short walk up the stairs - Lumiere.

 

Adam turned his head to look over his shoulder, but immediately proceeded to spin his entire body around when he was greeted with the bloody mess that was Lumiere.  Grisly wounds tore across his chest, and fresh blood lined the gashes along his jaw.

 

“My Prince,” Lumiere panted, his split lip hanging at a bizarre angle, “I have come to save you.”  He stumbled, falling onto his knees, and Adam rushed to his side.

 

“Lumiere!”  Adam slung an arm around his butler’s waist, attempting to keep him upright, but Lumiere pushed him away.

 

“Before I die, Your Majesty, you must grant me one last wish.”  Lumiere fumbled around his pocket, and retrieved a small glass vial.  Inside was what looked to be sparkling green dust, catching even the dim lamplight.

 

“Do you wish for me to pour this with your ashes?”  When the butler lurched forward once more, Adam reached out to help, but Lumiere pushed him away again.

 

“Move back, your Majesty.”  Taken by surprise, Adam took staggered three steps back towards the table where the dead rose lay.  The moment he retreated from the soft glow of the candles, Lumiere lifted the vial high into the air.

 

“You were a wonderful Prince, Your Majesty.”

 

And then he shattered the vial at Adam’s feet.

********

 

Phillip kneeled before the the dead Rapunzel.  Her long, golden hair was now greasy and dull, and a thick, purple bruise adorned her neck.  It was obvious that she had been suffocated.  Her eyes, a blue the color of robins’ eggs, were devoid of life.

 

He found it a pity, the fact that the daughter of a king had been reduced to this.  Alone, lost, and yearning for a prince that would never come.  She had died young, never to see the world beyond the stone tower she occupied.

 

That was what the powder was for.  It took her story - her nightmare of a story - and embodied itself in the fine, enchanted particles.

 

Philip could have, like his father, buried the jars along with their horrific stories, yet he found himself unable to do so.  Unwilling to simply erase a life that had once been.  

 

So he took the nightmares for himself.  He breathed them in and lived them again, engraving every grisly detail into his very soul.  It was pure torture, every single moment of it, but at the very end, there was a light.  It would overtake him, invading every inch of his body, and it would whisper, “The story belongs to you, Philip Grimm.  You control the endings.”

 

And he did exactly that.  One by one, he transformed each and every gruesome second of their memories into wondrous fairy tales.

********

 

The clock struck midnight, and it began.

 

Figures dressed in all black dropped from the ceiling, slipping in between every crack of the palace. They carried swords - large, heavy ones, ones that were foreign and strange to the guests inside the Glass Palace.  

 

“Guard the slippers!”  The Prince, slightly drunk, but still handsome and commandeering, began to run towards the balcony, the royal guards close behind.  The glass slippers, a family heirloom, had to be guarded at all costs.  They were a gift from an enchantress, and they brought wealth and power to the Glass Palace.

 

A moan escaped from below the Prince’s feet, and he glanced downwards to see a young girl that had gotten caught under the stampede.  A red gash marked her nose, and her eyes had rolled up into her head.  He contemplated saving her, but then noticed that her nose was far too large for her face.  

 

“Perhaps if you were prettier.”  He shook his foot, freeing it of her tangled skirts, then continued up the stairs.  His guards, stalled by the large crowd, had fallen behind, but he cared not.  If he lost the slippers, he would lose his kingdom.

 

He was fast, spectacularly fast, but a girl in black had already reached the slippers.  Her filthy fingers slid over every inch of the glass casing, hoping to find a way to reach the treasure inside.  The Prince smirked at her idiocracy.  The fool did not know that one good blow could have destroyed the thin glass.

 

The girl’s back was turned to him, so he took the opportunity to walk up behind her.  She did not even notice him, and for a moment, he considered playing around.  Her profile was certainly very unpleasant, and ugly girls were always the easiest ones to tease.

 

But the slippers were at stake, regardless how simple this girl seemed, so he took no time in dragging out the affair.

 

He placed both hands on either side of her head, and twisted.  There was a sharp snap, and her lifeless eyes faced him.  He recognised the face, and it took him a moment to realize who it was - it was Cinder, the hideous servant girl who relentlessly followed him around the palace.

 

“Quite a relief, to be rid of that monstrosity.”  He wrinkled his nose in disgust.  The only reason he’d ever kept Cinder around was because her step-sisters had been so pretty.

 

With a careless shove, he pushed her lifeless body off the balcony.  He was about to leave, when he realized that he could have pushed her body into his mother’s treasured gardens.  He would surely be punished if he had.

 

He leaned over the railing of the balcony, and cringed when he realized that Cinder had, indeed, landed among his mother’s apprized petunias.  The only consolation was that there was a strangely dressed man, leaning over her body.  His eyes widened as the man smashed a jar full of dark purple powder over her body.  

 

Had been anyone else’s body being disgraced, he would have rushed down to save them.  But it was Cinder, ugly, little Cinder, and she deserved the fate that she was dealt.  Besides, he thought to himself, as justification for his actions, if someone looked that hideous, surely they had committed a heinous crime in their previous life.  

********

 

The scene that lay before him was far more horrific than any monster that had ever beleaguered his imagination.

 

There was blood, everywhere, caked over and flowing from the bodies of the hundreds of thousands of people.  No, no, they were not people - they were far too short.  He bent down, to get a closer look at one of the slightly less gory bodies, and found that it had rough, coarse skin that had been darkened by the sun.

 

Wilhelm did not want to walk around, to go further into the massacred village, but some sort of mysterious force lifted his feet, moving him deeper and deeper into the midst of the bodies.

 

He tried to close his eyes, to block out the horrific image, but he could not.  He was completely and utterly paralyzed, and there was naught that he could do to regain command of his body.

 

Soft muck shot through with crimson squelched under his feet, and he wanted to cry.  He needed to scream, to yell “stop” - anything to release the frantic hammering that threatened to burst inside his chest.  The more he saw, the faster his heartbeat seemed to pulse, until he saw him, and his pulse screeched to a stop.

 

It was his father.

 

Philip kneeled over a girl - a pale, sickly looking girl, with hair as dark as the sky that hung over them.  Wilhelm watched as his father pulled out a small glass vial from his pocket, one filled with the powders that he stored on the uppermost shelves.  He lifted the bottle into the air, ready to break it on the ground beside the girl, when he stopped.  And he turned.

 

He looked at Wilhelm, an almost regretful expression on his face, and whispered, “This shall be the last time I do so.”

 

And as he smashed the glass, the world around him seemed to explode.  An earth-shattering boom reverberated through the sea of bodies, and the waves of sound were almost visible.  A blinding white light crashed across Wilhelm’s vision, and with it, the beating of his heart resumed.

 

Then the light left, leaving Wilhelm in utter darkness.

 

A faint voice, belonging to Jacob, spoke, muffled by the thick miasma that hung over his mind.  “Wilhelm?  Are you alright?”  

 

Finally.  The vision was finally, finally over.  The world began to come into focus once again, Jacob and his father appearing through his peripheral sight.

 

But just before the final patch of darkness slipped away, a soft murmur caressed his ear.

 

“Their stories now belong to you, Wilhelm Grimm.  You control the endings.”

 

And then he awoke.