Autumn is the season for faerie tales, the perfect tales for the young woman whose abode is an attic, dark and dreary under the overturned soup bowl of the sky. Every night, the young woman casts nets into a sea where stories bob and swim and lurk close to the ocean floor; she searches for the consummate story, the consummate way to tell the story.
Faerie tales are threaded with a magic of blood and bone.
In these tales, winter is anon: while summer slips east of the sun and west of the moon, almost-midnight falls nearly everywhere. Ogresses dance in red-hot iron shoes and a snow queen steals my brother for company. Bleak morning kisses the cheeks of the frozen tinderbox girls, they who have failed to peddle enough matches the previous night.
The fisherman next door won't return to his house tonight, Mama, for he's fallen in love with a mermaid. He sleeps, cradled in her wet clammy arms.[...]
Too cold and too scared to take a bite, the children raps their frost-bitten knuckles on the gingerbread door.
A seemingly harmless old woman bids them, Enter. Eat as much as you want, she implores, while grasping their fingers to measure the meat that clings to their bones.
Little boy and little girl, can you smell the smoldering embers waiting to burst into flame?
Despite their desperate faith, the children can smell the fat of their flesh crackling and sizzling for the Witch's dinner tonight.[...]
Will these idle, slow mornings ever end? Despite the new crush, my heart lies sometimes dormant. I'm busy brooding, wondering where my sense of humor went as I stare at my feet, hesitant and inert.
Newspapers are spread on the stained carpet. I crouch over the world news section while Beast sprawls atop the sports section. We sip black coffee, with sugar, and read aloud the newspaper, rife with its own sort of faery tales, tales that never have any good endings, tales of nationalist zealotry, bloody border wars, expelled refugees, multinational corporate marriages, state-sanctioned murder, environmental disasterómust I list them all?
Bored, Beast yawns.
He'd rather be a pornographic cat; his tongue finds his neutered nether regions far more interesting than newsprint.[...]
Reading: Nightfather, a novel by Carl Friedman, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
"Camp is not so much a place as a condition. 'I've had camp,' he says. That makes him different from us. We've had chicken pox and German measles. And after Simon fell out of a tree, he got a concussion and had to stay in bed for weeks.[...]
But we've never had camp.
Most of the time he drops the past participle for convenience. Then he says 'I have camp,' as if the situation hadn't changed. And it's true, it hasn't. He still has camp, especially in his face. Not so much in his nose or his ears, although they're big enough, but in his eyes."
Fear followed them, even after they had shoved the Witch into the oven and fled that too-sweet house, into winter, endless night.
Relentless, fear dogged their footsteps. It slipped past the gates and the guards they bought with the Witch's gold and crept into their beds at night, refusing to let them forget that they had seen the face of evil.
It is the face of an old woman. It is the face of your father, who, hungry and tearless, took you by the hand and into the woods. It is the face of your mother, who, hungry and crying, looked away. It is in the face of everyone you have ever known and everyone you have yet to know.
Fear made them wary of strangers who smiled with their teeth.
Fear bade them, Look over your shoulder. She's still out there, waiting. [...]
Beast's breath stinks.
He's killing again, leaving mice and moths for us to find on doorsteps or under a newspaper; they seem asleep, their bodies unmarked by struggle.
That's the difference between a good killer and a bad killer, Atossa reminds me. A good killer leaves no marks.