Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Pale Prince and his Wan Wife

I don't usually write prose stories, but I couldn't get to sleep and this just popped into my head. It's kind of a weird, dark little fairy tale. I'm not so sure about the ending - I think I was very tired and started to nod off while typing.

The Pale Prince and his Wan Wife

There was a kingdom ruled over by a prince whose skin was as white as a sheet. He
ruled things justly and fair, but was always nervous around women due to his
particular skin condition. Then, one day, he had a visitor, a woman from a far
away land whose skin was as pale as his was. Looking into her eyes, he found true
love and soon they were wed.

Their story doesn't end there, however. The Pale Prince's wife was suddenly
stricken by an ailment, causing blood to stain her precious white skin as it
poured from her nose and mouth and eyes. The prince brought forth doctors and
alchemists and wizards and witch doctors, but none could help her.

Finally, the prince called upon the very Devil himself. "Please save my wife," he
pleaded, "and I will do whatsoever you ask."

The Devil nodded his head, for he always wanted the prince as his puppet, and
said, "Very well. Do what I saw exactly and your wife will get better." The
prince listened to the instructions and then rushed to his wife's room.

The first thing he did was place a cauldron of water over the fireplace. When it
was boiling hot, he took it and placed it near his wife. He took one of her
delicate hands in his and, with only a small amount of doubt, plunged it into the
water. She moaned once, but didn't seem to feel the pain. The water, however,
boiled and swirled and some spilled over the edges, catching the prince's leg and
scalding him (though he was careful not to let go of his wife's hand).

Finally, after six minutes had passed, he took her hand out of the cauldron and
laid her back down to rest. Then he took the cauldron and spilled the water down
the privy.

The very next day, the prince's wife was feeling better. She no longer bled from
the mouth or nose or eyes. But once the prince held her hand, he noticed she felt
very cold. When he asked if she wanted another blanket, she said she had no need
- she didn't feel the cold at all.

The day after that she was well enough to walk around her room and the day after
that, she was talking walks through the castle and the courtyard. The prince was
so joyful, he almost forgot his bargain with the Devil.

The prince did notice something different about his wife, besides the cold.
Sometimes, when passing an animal, she would pet them with unease, as if the
warmth of their bodies disturbed her. She had not yet come back to bed with the
prince and he wondered what she would do when she did.

Finally, one night, he requested that they both sleep in the same bed. She agreed
without argument, but in the bed, she stayed as far away from him as she could.

When he tried to touch her hand, she flinched away and said to him, "Please, I
don't like the heat." He did not know what to make of it.

Then, about a week later, he awoke in the middle of the night to find his wife
gone from the bed. Searching the castle, he found her in the courtyard next to
one of the hunting dogs. She was kneeling next to it and he thought at first she
was petting it, but then he noticed it was not moving and there was a stain of
red on the ground. He called out to his wife and when she turned, he could see
that she had killed the dog and cut out its innards, heart and everything. "It
was too hot," she said, "I had to remove its heat, its heart, too much blood
makes too much heat."

The prince just turned and ran from his wife, ran from the castle and into the
woods. There he met the Devil again under an ash tree and asked, "Why?"

"You ask me why?" the Devil said. "You wanted your wife to live and so she will.
You never asked that she be warm or sane. You must remember that the cost of
asking for something is getting that which you asked for."

The prince cried out, "Then tell me what I must do for you. What else must I give
up in service to the Devil?"

The Devil looked at him then. "I'm not the Devil," he said. "I'm a story, just
like you. And we all play our parts in this story. Yours was just as the tragic
hero, while mine was as the tempter. It's but a morality play, you see, just look

The prince looked around and suddenly it was day and the woods seem foreign to
him. "Where are we?" he asked.

"Somewhere else," the not-really-the-Devil said. "In between. The woods here exist everywhere and nowhere. A liminal forest, you might say."

"And what are you then, if not the Devil?" the prince asked.

"I told you, I'm a story. An old story or a new story, maybe," the not-Devil
said, "or perhaps I'm a story you yourself are writing. Perhaps I'm real and
perhaps you're not." The not-Devil turned to the prince then and where his face
used to be, there was nothing. The prince jumped backward and then realized he
was looking into a pond, a mirror of his own face. He stood up then and stretched
out his arms and remembered who he was.

After I finished typing up the story, I found the notebook I kept beside my bed had another string of symbols on it. Maybe I'm a cryptographer in my dreams? Sleepciphering? Anyway, let's see if anyone can make heads or tails of it:

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