a message to baa-chan’s garden
To the flourishing plants I remember fondly,
To the butterflies and cicadas that I spent hours catching,
To the koi fish and turtle in the little pond,
To my baa-chan and the plants under her care,
I still think of you. When I think of Okinawa, I remember you first; the pathway lined with green, large leaves swaying in the wind, flowers growing bright and vibrant after typhoons. In my mind’s eye, I walk slowly through you, reaching out to run curious fingers along the stems. I am smaller, much younger, in this garden. I have not yet learned of the impermanence of things.
My baa-chan used to tend to each plant so carefully, giving it her attention as she watered and pruned it, checking for harmful bugs and sickness. In that little corner of the world, I used to imagine little dragons and lion dogs living in the roots of trees and dancing on the petals of flowers.
My baa-chan grew magic there.
And there was a little pond, lined with large, gray stone like that found in the walls surrounding Shuri-jyo. I would wake up early just to feed the fish and watch the turtle swim around them. Life thrived under my baa-chan’s warm gaze. You were a monument to healing after she lived through so much loss.
They destroyed you, the garden and the pond, after my baa-chan first collapsed. They built a new house; the old one had been standing since before my mother was born, and it was too tired to continue holding us all. I have trouble recognizing that house now; without my baa-chan’s garden, is it really home?
These days, I say nothing of my memories, and speak as best I can to my baa-chan. Our sentences repeat, the wordss forgotten the moment they’re set free in the air, and I wonder if she remembers how she brought to life even the weakest of plants. Will you remember her when she is unable to care for you? Will she remember you at all? Or will my heart be the only one that lingers on a place long gone?
I wanted to tell you, that garden and all it held, that I keep you alive in my memories. I tend to you with my baa-chan, who is just as I remember in my mind. I will make sure you don’t wither. I will have the dragons and lion dogs and turtles and koi fish live in that beautiful corner of the world. There will be no graves for gardens, just opportunities for new ones.
As I grow older, I find myself carefully tending to plants as my baa-chan once did. I start my own little garden, carefully line the walkway with potted flowers, and watch over them each day.
Baa-chan, do you know that I inherited this from you? Will you remember your garden through me?
Enough years have passed that I don’t remember the specific plants you held. I don’t remember much beyond the soothing green that surrounded me. My mind fills in the blanks, carefully adding flowers here and there, letting the memory of my baa-chan watch over them carefully.
I spotted a hibiscus at a plant nursery and was overcome with nostalgia and homesickness. I bought it without a second thought just to try and keep the garden with me. It’s too hot and dry here, nothing like the humid air of Okinawa, and I do my best to keep it from wilting.
I tend to my little hibiscus, carefully watching it grow.
I wait, endlessly, for the blooming.
To my baa-chan’s garden:
I hope you can live on through me.
andromache after troy
Sing, o Andromache, the lament of Hector.
You held a dead man’s body while his heart was still beating
And only watched as he walked steadily to his fate.
Who else has been widowed to a man not yet buried?
Let the poets sing of his battles and his glory;
The women will sing for those left behind by cruel Destiny
Never a part of the story until it’s over.
Speak to the dead and throw away honor and morals,
The living hold nothing for you once the body is buried.
Call out to the shade of the life you once had;
Reach for the silhouette of someone you could never keep.
Weep, weep, only your voice will be heard in this song.
Look at yourself and know that you
Are only a shadow of your former self.
Now this shadow is only grief
distance, as lovers feel it.
when I was young, my mother told me the story of sunlight,
how the makers of this universe
reached out for each other
in the dark
and their love lit up a thousand suns.
I think of it often,
how strong love must be to create light where there was none before.
the lonely days I endured were only softened
by the thought that somewhere, anywhere,
there is someone who loves me into daylight.
like dawn, the realisation came in slowly,
in shifting colors that changed without warning;
you smiled and I thought,
“oh, there you are.
there you are.”
there is love in the light, yes,
but my heart looked to the waters and the shade.
though my eyes could only see your silhouette, i followed
the soothing cadence of your voice
in the bells, the robins, the waterfall.
wind like ribbons wrapped around your wrists,
always just out of reach
no matter how hard I tried to hold your hand
my touch would always fade from your skin,
like a ghost a moment before disappearing.
yes, the oldest gods reached for each other,
but reaching is all they could do; where
else did the light come from but the gaps
between their bare fingers?
light, a product of love,
light, a sign of emptiness.
where there is light there is no one;
shadows are proof of existence and we had none.
like any other lonely creature,
I am best loved from a distance.
and so I chase after you endlessly, helplessly;
dragonflies dance in my wake as you drift away from the day.
you look back, you do,
but our hearts beat differently and the divide between us grows.
all distance and longing, that’s what we are.
just another light that couldn’t find its shadow.
i thought i dreamt you.
You wake up, and you don’t know where you are.
The last thing you remember is the world fading away as your focus narrowed down on a single spindle, hidden deep in the darkness of the castle. And then nothing.
The haze of sleep fades away slowly as the darkness lightens. You open your eyes, wondering if this, too, is a dream, when you catch sight of her.
She looks different; black scales trail along her cheekbones, two small horns sprout from her forehead, her black hair is wild and messy, but her green eyes, bright with tears, are still the same. No matter what happens to the two of you, wherever in the world you end up, you know you’d recognize her anywhere.
Your sunshine, your magic, your beauty of the forest.
“Aurora,” she whispers, quickly wiping away a tear. “Oh, Aurora, you’re okay.”
She begins to lean away, moving out of your space. Something in your heart clenches and you reach up, cupping her jaw before she can pull away too far. Immediately, she comes back, a hand over yours, and you can’t help but say, “Angel.”
Just as with the other names you’ve given her, she flushes, cheeks filling with pretty pink as her lips curl ever so slightly into a happy smile. Still so beautiful, even when she’s suffered through so much for you. You know, of course, about the curse. You were warned and locked away when you went to the castle in the hopes of meeting the only family you have left. But the curse was too strong; its hold on you pulled you into eternal sleep. A sleep that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.
Who else could have saved you?
You love her, and you know she loves you too.
Since you messed up your first kiss by being in a cursed sleep, you decide to try again, and pull her in close to learn what her smile tastes like.
Prince Philip is a kind boy, chattering a mile a minute to a dragon, of all creatures, as you leave with your love to make your way back home. He’s gifted you his horse to help you through the forest, and the two of you promise to keep in touch and ally your kingdoms together when you both take the throne.
“I should let my father know I’m okay,” you say, remembering how overjoyed he was to see you, and how frightened he was that the curse still waited to prey on you. You know you should go back and let him know the curse has broken, but you want to be selfish for just a little longer.
You feel her arms tighten around your waist for a moment. “How far is the castle?” she asks. Already, her voice is quiet, defeated. Already, she has accepted the fact that you are to leave her behind.
“Far enough away that we won’t make it today,” you say. No matter what the future holds, you know you would fight tooth and nail to keep her close. “Let’s go home.”
She takes a moment to process your words, wait for the other shoe to drop, and then presses a gentle kiss on the back of your neck that sends pleasant shivers down your spine. “Let’s go,” she whispers into your ear, a spark of something mischievous lighting in your chest.
You take a moment to swear that you’re going to love her past death. You’re going to love her so much she drowns in it.
In the morning, when you’re both lying in bed, blinking in the brightness of the light, you run a finger down the scales that follow the curve of her spine. She sighs a pleasant sound, no longer afraid of what you think of her new inhuman appearance.
“Angel,” you say again, because she is. She’s your angel, waking you with true loves kiss from her mother’s curse, showing you love and kindness when she has never been given the same.
“Hmm?” she turns her head and opens one green eye, lazily peering at you with the light of something soft in eyes.
Your heart softens, melts. “I love you.”
Her lips curl into that slow smile you adore. She reaches out and places a hand against the back of your neck to pull you into a sweet kiss. “I love you too.”
The ride to the castle is spent telling her about what little you know about the king. You don’t know anything about being a princess, of ruling a kingdom, of having a family. But with her by your side, you feel like you can take on the whole world.
“Do I have to meet him?” she asks, timid.
“I think you have to. You did break the curse, after all.”
“I shouldn’t. He only knows me as my mother’s daughter.”
You frown, and turn back to face her. “And you saved my life. You protected me from those horrible men that tried to hurt me in my sleep, and woke me up. He’ll see how wonderful you are.”
“…I don’t even have a name to introduce myself with.”
“You can choose one for yourself.”
She doesn’t say anything more, already lost in her thoughts. You urge to horse to go a little faster, and the silhouette of the castle grows bigger against the horizon.
The castle is overrun with a flurry of movement. People rush around, spreading the news that the princess has returned, the curse has been broken. The guards at the gate tried to separate you and your angel, drawing their swords and the sight of her horns and scales, believing her to somehow be hurting you as she hid behind you. A few quick threats, and a stolen sword later, you were able to leave the horse outside and take your angel’s hand as you lead the way to the throne room.
No one else tries to separate the two of you; the sight of an angry princess with a sword seems to have deterred even the most determined of the guards.
“Your Majesty!” one of the guards calls, having run into the throne room before you. “Her Highness Princess Aurora has returned with a guest!”
When you enter the throne room, your father is already coming down the steps to meet you, hurried even in his old age.
“Aurora!” he cries, “You’ve come back! The curse has been broken!” He grabs your shoulders and looks you over for any injuries, then pulls you into a tight hug. You carefully hold one arm out to avoid accidentally stabbing your father, but you melt into his embrace and wonder what life would have been like if you got to grow up with him.
You would have a family, know the love of a father, know how to be a princess.
But you wouldn’t have met the love of your life.
“Dad,” you say, pushing at his arms to break the hug and introduce her to him.
He moves back, reluctantly, then catches sight of her. He gapes at her horns, her scales, the vivid, almost glowing, green of her eyes.
“Aurora get behind me! Maleficent, how dare you show your face to me!” He motions to the guards lining the walls of the throne room, who draw their swords.
She looks terrified. Her hands are shaking. You break away from your father and pull her close with a hand around her waist. You raise your stolen sword between you and your father.
“You killed Maleficent, but you saved her daughter. Her daughter who protected me while I was asleep, and broke the curse.” You narrow your eyes in a glare. “Don’t you dare treat her like a monster.”
“Nonsense! Only true love’s kiss could have broken the curse.”
“It did break the curse. She loves me and I love her. If she has no place in this kingdom, then neither do I.”
You know not how to be a princess. But you do know how to protect what you love. You tighten your grip on your sword, and wait, with your heartbeat thundering in your chest, for your father to pass judgement.
It had taken a few hours of explanations, but your father stands down. Though still wary, he remembers the helpless baby he spared when he killed Maleficent, and can’t bring himself to strike her now that she’s grown.
“And what is your name?” he asks.
She glances at you, fiddles with her hands, then says, “Angel. My name is Angel.”
For three days, you and Angel stay at the castle. She explores, coaxes crop out of stubborn soil when the cooks complain about how the vegetables are going bad too quickly, makes illusions for the maids’ children, and slowly proves that she is not her mother’s daughter.
For three days, you argue with your father. He wants you to stay, wants to hire tutors for etiquette, wants to marry you off to a prince you don’t know to convince the king that their kingdoms should be allies. You say you will be a princess, an heir to the throne, only if Angel can stay by your side. A dragon witch as powerful as her would make for a stronger kingdom. Who would dare mess with two queens who can shape the earth to their will?
You argue, and in the end, you leave.
Perhaps one day your father will understand.
Angel worries that she pushed you and your father apart.
You assure her that he’s only a father in blood; the bond was never there.
The fairies are waiting for you when you enter the cottage. It’s comforting to know that while your entire world has been rocked on its axis, this familiar place will remain the same.
They listen to your story, braid Angel’s wild hair out of her face, and leave to have some words with the king. Being all too familiar with what they consider ‘polite conversation’, you can only hope that he escapes the confrontation with minimal hexes.
“Aurora,” Angel says, settling into your lap to watch the stars with you.
“Angel,” you say, relishing in how the affectionate moniker is what she’s chosen to name herself with.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay with your father? You’re a princess, you could have the kingdom. You could have anything in the world.”
You rest your chin on her shoulder and wrap your arms around her waist. “I know. But I also have you. Why would I need anything else?”
That night, you dream of a spindle, of a prick on your finger, of drowning in a drop of blood.
You wake up, and wonder if you’re still dreaming.
The curse is broken. You know this. But still, there are times when the world seems to shift under your feet, turn into something that isn’t real, something from a dream. There’s a constant panic curled around your heart as you wonder if you’re really awake.
The curse is broken, but you still feel like you haven’t woken up.
When you confess as much to Angel, she kisses you hard and promises to wake you up with true love’s kiss as many times as you need. She starts staying up late, writing messy notes, half crossed out by the time the page is full, and muttering under her breath with a look of concentration on her face.
Watching her use magic is thrilling; the way her eyes glow, strands of stray magic escaping her grasp to curl in the air, something beautiful and impossible all at once. It becomes less enchanting when she uses so much magic her nose begins to bleed and she stumbles under dizzy spells. After that, you keep a close eye on her, watching to see when she’s at her limit to gently pull her away from her magic, a wild, powerful thing, to let her rest.
You sometimes worry that Angel won’t wake up, but you remind yourself the curse was only on you. Angel will wake up.
Angel will wake up, even if you don’t.
The fairies come back and tell you that the king has agreed to leave you as the heir to the throne. You will only have to go back and live in the castle when he passes on the throne to you, and you can rule with Angel by your side.
You’re a little worried about what they did to him to get him to agree to such terms, but decide you’re better off not knowing.
You can rule the kingdom with Angel as your queen. It’s seems too good to be true.
It seems like something from a dream.
Your heart stops for a moment, freezing in a burst of sudden panic.
I’m awake, I’m awake, I’m awake. The curse is broken. The mantra does little to reassure you.
Angel takes hold of your hand, giving it a gentle squeeze, then kisses you. “You’re awake,” she whispers.
The fairies fly into a twitter, crowding around your head and sending spell after spell washing over you to check for any side effects the curse may have had. You’re not surprised when they find nothing.
You are surprised when Angel holds out a simple chain necklace, and asks the fairies to help her. “It’s to let Aurora know when she’s dreaming or ot. I added some protection spells, but I don’t know if it works.”
“Oh my!” the fairies chorus. The blue fairy ignores the necklace in favor of speaking to Angel. “Where did you learn how to use your magic?”
Angel glances at you, then looks back to the fairy with a blush on her cheeks. “In the tower, to protect Aurora. I remember she told me that maybe I hadn’t found my magic yet, and if she believed I had magic, I must be able to use it. So I just will things to happen and kind of throw my magic at it, and it works.”
“Inelegant, but impressive for someone who has never been taught to wield magic. But you did well. The magic will work.”
Sure enough, when you go to sleep, it comes easily and without worry, and when you wake up, it’s clear the curse has lost its hold on you.
Some nightmares still haunt you, but the magic lets you know you're safe. Come morning, Angel helps you through the worst of it and you think about how lucky you are to have her in your life.
And even when the world keeps changing, you will always have her as she will always have you: with matching gold bands on your fingers, crowns on your head, and a kingdom spread out before you.
(And you do, eventually, meet Prince Philip again when he’s King Philip and you are Queen Aurora. You ally your kingdoms; the kingdom of the dragon witch queen and the kingdom of the dragon friends. And everything ends happily ever after.)
dream me a world where we can love.
The first thing the fairies ever tell you is what will define you for the rest of your life.
“Your mother was a monster. It’s our job to make sure you don’t become like her. But you must follow our rules, or we will not be able to save you.”
It’s the only thing they tell you about your mother. They don’t mention a father at all. It’s only after years of being locked away in the same ittle hovel that the fairies finally tell you her name: Maleficent.
You do not get bedtime stories or fairy tales or much of anything at all. The fairies whisper over your head, voices too low to be heard, so you ignore them and imagine what it would be feel like to be wanted.
You can’t imagine it.
Still you try; daydreams of a loving family, of hugs and laughter, of playing games with someone where you are the prince and the princess but never the dragon or the witch. And you are wanted.
The hollow in your chest aches. It’s all you’ve ever known.
“Why can’t I go out?” you ask one day, tired of being trapped in the same little hovel, the same little field. Ahead is the forest, which promises adventure and freedom and your feet itch to run into the wild and lose yourself completely.
The fairies flutter in worry and spin around you, guiding you back inside into the only space you’ve ever known. “You mustn’t go out,” they say in the same voice, “It’s dangerous!”
They don’t say if it’s dangerous to you or to what’s out there, but you know the answer.
You wonder if your mother was ever wild, if she every carried the same thrill in your veins that called for heart over mind. You wonder if that’s what got her killed.
When you are older, tall enough to reach the top cupboards on your own, the fairies finally tell you more. It’s not the full story, and it may not even be the truth, but you are lonely and desperate enough to listen to the fae and their ever twisting words.
“Your mother was cruel and heartless,” they tell you, brushing hands over your hair that were once soothing, but now leave you feeling trapped. “When the princess was born, everyone was invited to see her just days after her birth. Everyone but Maleficent. We gave the princess blessings of beauty and fairness and heart, but your mother arrive to curse the princess to fall into endless sleep on her sixteenth birthday.”
“But why?” you ask, trembling.
“She was a monster. They are cruel because it is their nature. She did what she did because she wanted to; there is no other answer.”
“Is that why the king killed her?”
The fairies pull away, and though the weight of their hands is gone, you still feel heavy.
They nod. “Maleficent cursed the princess to die on her sixteenth birthday. She was a threat and the king could not let her roam free to curse any others.”
The fairy who carries a blue glow speaks on their own for the first time. “Cold iron and righteous fury; with that he slayed Maleficent and freed the world from her cruelty. He could have killed you, but you were a child and he was a father. So he asked us to care for you, and we have.”
They all pull away and set to making dinner. When it is done, they prepare to leave as they always do.
You haven’t done this since you were a child, but you stop them and ask, “Where do you go? Why must you always leave me when I have no one else?”
“You know we can’t tell you.”
And with that, they’re gone.
All that’s left is a quiet hovel and the tears you can’t help but cry.
Cold iron, you think. The most harmful material to fairies; you wonder if its touch burns. Wonders what your mother felt in her final moments.
You don’t sleep.
There’s someone outside. You can hear her singing.
Your heart flutters nervously in your chest; you’ve never met anyone before.
The fairies have been gone for days. You can’t rely on their flimsy protection, the only thing they ever give you. So you lay your shaking hands on the table and take a deep breath, then move to a window to peer out at the intruder.
In the little field surround your hovel, is a girl with golden hair, eyes closed as she steps over the flowers without faltering. She spins, swaying with an invisible partner. At her feet, a rabbit hops around her.
And then she turns to face the hovel and opens her eyes.
Her eyes, which are bright and blue and looking at you.
It takes some time before she can coax you out. Her voice is soft and sweet, her hands gentle as they guide you to sit besides her in the flowers.
She calls herself Aurora, and when she asks for your name, you freeze.
The fairies never call you by a name. You know your mother’s name, but not yours.
You don’t have a name.
When you tell Aurora this, her brow furrows as she frowns.
“Well,” she says, “That just won’t do. Tell me, is there anything at all I can call you? I don’t want to refer to you as ‘The Girl With Magic In Her Eyes’.”
“Magic in my eyes?”
She reaches a hand out and cups your jaw. Her thumb brushes the skin below your eye. You freeze, and try not to lean into the touch which electrifies and burns in the most horrible, wonderful way.
“You have bright green eyes. I’ve heard that only those with powerful magic can have eyes like yours.”
“I’ve– I don’t have magic.”
“Maybe,” she says, smiling, “You just haven’t found it yet.”
Aurora leaves before the sun sets. She mutters something about overprotective guardians, and promises to sneak out to see you tomorrow.
You hold the promise close to your heart and linger in the warmth of her touch.
No one’s ever touched you before.
But then, no one’s ever known you before either.
Suddenly, you look forward to each new day. The fairies don’t remark on your improved mood, but they seem to enjoy how you hum when you help them clean and garden.
They still leave, every afternoon, and every afternoon, Aurora comes back for you.
She always smiles and sings and pulls you close.
You, always shy, always unsure, ask her why she touches you so much one day.
“I am alone, too,” she admits, “And I don’t want to feel alone. I pet the animals and let them sleep on my lap, but it doesn’t ever feel like enough. But then I met you, and I felt I found a friend. Why wouldn’t I always show you that I care for you?”
It’s enough to make you cry, but all she does is gather you close in her arms and holds you tight.
You hold her back, and wonder if this is what it feels like to be wanted.
“I still don’t know what to call you,” Aurora says one day, as you both lay in the flowers, turned towards each other with your hands clasped between your chests. “I’ve been going between different names for you.”
“Green eyes, the girl with the beautiful laugh, the mystery in the forest, sunshine,” Aurora pauses and brings your hand up to brush a kiss against your knuckles, “Lovely.”
You pull away to hide your face behind your hands and whine. It's high pitched and resembles a boiling kettle. Aurora laughs, bright and beautiful, and the rest of the day is lost in light.
The fairies have been frantic lately. They flutter around the hovel, worrying about she’ll be sixteen soon and there are no spindles in kingdom, but a curse is a curse and can we really keep her safe?
You don’t ask. You pretend you don’t hear. Whoever they are worrying for, it is not you. After all, your sixteenth birthday was many months before.
Still, you hope whoever it is will be okay.
The last time you saw Aurora was three days ago, when she danced with you and told you she won’t be able to see you the next day, for it was her birthday and with so many eyes on her she wouldn’t be able to slip away.
You assured it her was alright, pressed a kiss to her cheek, and wished her a happy birthday.
She leaves with a glowing smile and says, Tomorrow, we’ll be the same age!
But she doesn’t come back.
She’ll be sixteen soon, you remember.
No, you think, but your blood runs cold in your veins and you know better than to lie to yourself.
Despite how you longed to leave and lose yourself in the forest, you find yourself stuck at the very edge, terrified of what lies ahead and to leave behind the only thing you’ve ever known.
But it’s not the only thing that you’ve ever known. Not anymore. Not when you have Aurora.
Even in the day, the forest is tall and imposing, and you wonder if you really can do this. You don’t know where to begin, where to find Aurora.
There’s only one way you can go: forward.
It takes the day. It takes most of the night.
You wander, lost and scared, but you push on regardless and put one foot in front of the other until you find a little cottage, bigger than your hovel and covered in flowers and vines. You peer into the windows, but the cottage is empty.
Inside, the fireplace is still warm, the embers still glowing a faint orange. If Aurora is anywhere, it must be here, so you stay and look around, waiting and hoping and even daring to pray to gods that have never listened to you before.
The fairies come in, at sundown, and you think the gods have finally answered you.
They startle, then titter around you, flying too fast for your eyes to keep up with.
“What are you doing here? You shouldn’t have left, it’s too dangerous!”
“Oh, we were so worried when we couldn’t find you!”
“Are you alright? Have you gotten hurt at all?”
For once, their care and concern feels sincere. This is not done out of obligation; no, they truly do care for you.
You stand, and let them look over you. “I’m alright,” you say, “Scared, but alright.”
It takes a few minutes before the fairies begin to calm down and let you go. When you sit down, you catch a blur of red and green flying into the kitchen. The last fairy hovers in front of you, a gentle blue glow that reminds you of moonlight.
“Why did you come here?” the fairy asks.
You hear a soft sigh, and then the fairy glows brighter, bright enough to make you shut your eyes and turn away. When the light subsides, a tall woman kneels before you, pale hands on your shoulders. Her eyes are a bright blue, her skin is covered in strange patterns, and behind her are the barely visible outlines of wings.
The fairy’s true form.
“What do you know about Aurora?”
You think of sunlit days dancing in flowers, her laugh, her golden hair always soft under your fingers, how she giggled if you brushed your hand along her side, the songs she would sing for you.
“She’s kind,” you say, “And beautiful. She loves to sing and dance and dreams more than I do.”
The fairy smiles, but her eyes are sad. “Aurora is the princess Maleficent cursed. We did what we could, but the curse is strong. She went to the king for her birthday and fell into an eternal sleep.”
No, you think, but your voice fails you and all you have is silence.
“I’m sorry,” the fairy says, "If we could take her place, we would in a heartbeat.”
I would too, you think, but all you say is, “Please, tell me everything. Be honest, and tell me from the beginning.”
When Aurora was born and blessed and cursed, the king did whatever he could to protect her. He destroyed spindles and went to every fairy and witch in the land in search of help. But Maleficent’s magic was too strong, and no one could remove the curse. And so he begged the fairies to take Aurora somewhere safe, away from humanity, so that she would never encounter a spindle.
And then he went and killed Maleficent.
The fairies accompanied him, protected him, and guided him until he struck the cold iron into Maleficent’s heart, unprotected even as a dragon. He searched her home in search of a cure, but nothing would undo the curse. The only thing of value he found was you.
For years, Aurora lived safe in the forest. But on her sixteenth birthday, she heard the full story and ran away to meet her father. The curse took hold of her and led her to a spindle, where she pricked her finger and fell into eternal sleep.
“The only way to save her, we believe, is true love’s kiss.”
True love, you think, doesn’t exist. There’s no saving Aurora.
“Where is she?” you ask.
“Eat something and sleep first,” they answer, “Then we will take her to you.”
So you eat even when each bite feels like a stone in your stomach. You sleep, even though it takes hours before you drift off into blurry colors of dreams.
And then you go.
The fairies guide you through the forest to a tower, covered in ivy and stretching high into the sky. They lead you up the endless stairs, their glow enough to light the way.
At the very top is Aurora, asleep in a simple bed, hands clasp over her stomach. She looks peaceful.
She looks like she’ll wake up at any moment.
“Look after her,” the fairies say, “We will search for someone who can give her true love’s kiss.”
They leave, then, quick and elusive as ever. Such is the nature of fairies; efficient, without sparing a moment to feel and only focused on doing. They are wise, though their ways are nonsense to mortals. To err is to be human, but they are fae. They will bring the hero who will save Aurora. They will not allow for anything else.
It is only then that you realize that all these years, the fairies did care for you. You were just too human to see it.
For the first few days, you sit besides Aurora, holding her hand as you tell her stories and reassure her that all will be fine.
A few days is all you get with her before the first heroes and princes start showing up. The hope you had quickly turns into despair and rage as these men try to force themselves onto you, onto Aurora, and care only for themselves. Your hands shake as you push them away, use your body as a shield, and force them out of the tower.
You decide enough is enough, and wipe away the blood on your hands.
You think of your mother, powerful and cruel. You think of Aurora, how she called you “The Girl With Magic In Her Eyes”, and you reach deep down inside yourself in search of that magic Aurora always believed you had.
You did your best not to become a monster. But your magic shakes the earth and calls forth a wall of black brambles, filled with thorns. The sky is dark under heavy storm clouds and the air itself is filled with the heavy pressure of danger.
When you see your reflection, your eyes are green and glowing, with slit pupils. Small black scales cover your cheekbones, your arms, your neck. At the top of your head, you can see two bumps - horns - beginning to emerge. More monster than human, your reflection tells you.
You really are your mother’s daughter.
The days are quieter now. Less knights and princes and heroes pass through the wall of brambles and those that do run at the sight of a large black dragon.
(It’s an illusion, but they never find out. That would, of course, require them to fight it, and none have the courage.)
And then a prince slips through your guard and climbs the tower.
When he comes in, after politely knocking on the door - something no one else has done - he hesitantly peers in. When he sees you, he smiles and enters the room. Immediately, you place yourself in front of Aurora, tense and ready for a fight.
The prince doesn’t fight. He doesn’t draw his sword or demand to have the princess.
No, he holds he hand out and says, “Hello, I’m Prince Philip. It’s nice to meet you.”
You have no name to give you so he settles for calling you “Miss”. He startles at the sight of Aurora, sleeping, when you move away. When he asks if she’s alright, you stare long enough that he shifts and looks away, embarrassed.
“If you didn’t know about Aurora, why are you here?” you ask.
“Ah, well, you see, I heard that this tower was protected by a dragon. I left before I could hear what it was protecting and made my way here as fast as I could. But I didn’t see it?”
Prince Philip is strange and acts like none of the others who have climbed the tower.
“Did you come here to slay the dragon?”
“No!” he seems offended by the mere idea. “I came here to befriend it.”
He’s kind enough that you feel bad about the illusion. So you assure him that the dragon is just out at the moment, then use your magic to call upon a few crows and discretely ask them to find a friendly dragon for Prince Philip.
In the meantime, he’s content to wait with you and push selfish men down the stairs.
All the while, Aurora sleeps.
“If true love’s kiss will wake her up,” Prince Philip says one day, “Why don’t you kiss her?”
You flush and push him away. “I can’t!”
“Why not? You’ve been here from the beginning, protecting her. You know her better than anyone else. Do you not love her?”
“I’m a monster. Monsters don’t love. And true love doesn’t exist; that’s why the curse is unbreakable.”
He frowns and straightens up, drawing on his royal heritage like a cloak. He sits tall and strong, and you can see every inch of prince in him. “What?” his voice is dangerously low. “If anyone’s a monster, it’s the person who laid this curse, not you.”
“My mother laid this curse!”
“You are not your mother. You do not carry her sins. You are not a monster.” Abruptly, he pulls away, expression softening. “You protect Aurora even at the cost of your own safety, you conjure up new flowers for her every day, you keep her company and have more heart than most royals I have met. If anyone can wake her, it’s you. Even if you don’t believe in true love. It can’t hurt to at least try, right?”
It can. If Aurora doesn’t wake up when you kiss her, if this proves that you are heartless and can’t love, it would hurt more than any loneliness ever did. It would hurt more than cold iron.
But you would do anything for Aurora.
Prince Philip leaves when you tell him you’ll try. You hope the dragon your crows found will be here soon for him.
You take a moment to prepare yourself, then you sit besides Aurora, lean down, and kiss her.
It feels like coming home.
You pull away. For a moment, all is still. You feel your heart sink and shatter, and then–
Aurora opens her eyes.
Slowly, and then she sees you and she smiles, soft and slow. You swallow, blinking against the tears building in your eyes, and she lifts a hand to cup your jaw.
“Angel,” she murmurs, “I knew you would save me.”
And then you’re both crying and laughing and nothing has ever felt so good.
Prince Philip helps you both down the tower. He’s happy to finally be able to talk to Aurora, and ecstatic at the sight of a dragon just beyond the brambles. It takes a while for you to bring down the brambles with how Aurora steals your attention with kisses everytime the magic swirls around you.
Each time, you flush and glance at Prince Philip, who graces you with an impish grin that makes you want to push him.
He gives you his horse to the two of you can travel through the forest faster, and waves you goodbye as he chats with the dragon, an old, friendly creature that has lived long enough to see kingdoms rise and fall.
“I should let my father know I’m okay,” Aurora says, guiding the horse between the trees.
You hold onto her waist, reveling in her warmth. “How far is the castle?”
She glances back at you with a sly grin. “Far enough away that we won’t make it today.” She gently kicks her heels and the horse speeds up. “Let’s go home.”
Home: her cottage in the woods, your little hovel and its flower fields.
Home: wherever you and Aurora are, together.
You smile and press a kiss to her neck. “Let’s go.”
After you both stumble into the cottage, pressing kisses to each other’s skin, Aurora takes a moment to look at you.
“What?” you ask, ducking your head in embarrassment.
She brushes a finger along the scales on your cheekbone and you feel your blood run cold.
“You’ve changed,” she says, and tilts your head up to meet your gaze. “I like it.”
“I look like a monster.”
“You look like an angel. My angel.”
Aurora won’t listen to your denials, and kisses you until you forget what you look like. She kisses you until you forget everything but her, and you lose yourselves into the night.
In another world, the king can't kill Maleficient and Prince Phillip, love pure enough to count as true love, save Aurora.
In this world, Aurora stumbled upon a lonely dragon witch's daught and loved her. Now, Aurora is awake and loves you so fiercely it aches; you are not human, but you are loved.
What lies outside this forest can’t take it away. The two of you have drifted, lost and abandoned, until you came together despite the odds. ou love her enough to break your mother’s unbreakable curse. Aurora loves you enough to threaten giving up her title as Princess unless she can have you by her side, always.
The journey to this hurt more that you can endure, but, you think, as you dance with her in the cottage’s little kitchen, that you wouldn’t have this any other way.
distant cassandra, sailing to her grave
The men sing the liveliest songs they know as they leave
burning Troy and all its anguished dead;
Agamemnon drinks deeply,
laughs the way a dying warrior does when he thinks he’s won.
Alone, Cassandra watches the waves,
wrists bound as she sits with the other captured women
who wail for what is lost, what little remains.
Alone, Cassandra’s eyes are dry beneath the weight of mourning;
She’s seen this all before.
The war is done and the victors sail home with their spoils.
Cassandra sees the rot in their ribs, the blood soon to be spilled;
vengeful wives and desperate widows lash out in the same way
and all Cassandra has ever seen in people are their graves.
“Sing with me,” Agamenon orders, wine on his breath,
warm blood ready to be spilled from his veins.
“There is nothing to mourn,” he says as though Cassandra hasn’t been
mourning her whole life, in her high tower waiting for the end.
You’ll be dead before you see the dawn in your homeland;
Cassandra’s prophecies are always true, but never believed.
She stays silent, still, a daughter without a father;
Iphegenia will rest once she gets her share of their hearts.
The men keep singing as they row,
sharing drinks between themselves in celebration.
Praise to the gods leaves their lips as easily as souls leave their bodies;
Cassandra sees their lives play out before her eyes
And patiently waits as they sail to her death.
engraving antigone’s tomb
I touched the divine and let it rot me inside out,
looked at the man and knew I could be more
with my hands mudstained and bloodstained;
Creon, you know your delusions will destroy you.
Blind crone of a mother gave me the blood in her veins and said,
“You will die for nothing, but the hopeless will make you their saint.”
Take the wedding veil and the noose;
they serve the same purpose,
Haemon your sword will save no one but yourself.
Hate the father more than yourself, hate the self you were moulded to be,
it’s still love even if it’s only found in the grave.
Hate the father that sees you as a tool,
Hate the father that gave me that stone heart;
I know my brother didn’t love me but I was divine.
I could rise above conflict with my knees in the dirt.
Sister of mine forever stuck in dawn,
another girl that could only offer words not hands not bone.
You will die for nothing.
In nothing I am eternal.
Death is divinity is more than these sun-bleached bones--
I bury my wretched brother, another victim of our crime scene life
let the guards shackle me before Creon, king of men but not women.
Antigone is remembered with the gods’ hands on her shoulders,
Justice rising in her throat and Mercy in her broken fingernails.
Antigone dies and lives eternally;
stubborn martyr of a girl who should have known better.
conversation between hero and victim
where does the pain go? you ask, all that hurt you carried.
I haven’t slept soundly in days;
it hurts and hurts and hurts, burrows into the marrows of my bones.
it goes, I answer, it never stops moving.
you remember the long nights, where the fire burned cold.
all that fear, and the tears that salted the earth behind us;
hope had no place there, at the end of the world.
only duty carried us forward.
do you dream, still, of something better?
I want to laugh. I haven’t laughed in a long time.
dreams are for people not weapons. you should know better.
you are still and small where you were once so bright.
you are worn down now, where you were once a child.
the dark scares me, you admit.
i fear the light, I whisper, it reveals too much.
what was once a sign of safety now shows no mercy.
in the dark, monsters can hide.
in the dark, monsters can lie to themselves.
a kind world lets monsters be monsters;
a cruel world makes monsters understand monstrosity.
how did you survive it?
i didn’t really have a choice.
but who saves you? who saves me? who saves us?
these are all the same question, and so they have the same answer:
on writing communities.
It’s not often that I publish something that isn’t poetry or prose. I seldom share my thoughts with the world, due to my nature as a private person and unfortunate online encounters in the past. But with all the different posts I’ve seen on WTW and Prose about the site and the community, I thought it might be a good time to share my experiences with online writing communities.
The situation on Prose has nothing to do with me. I haven’t encountered anyone leaving rude comments or complaining about new users, though that may be from rarely being online while I focus on school. But as someone who has been a part of many online writing communties, I often think about how things have changed in them as the years passed.
I first began writing when I was in 5th grade, a small 10 year old with no idea what I was doing, but having fun despite that. It was another year before I found a website created soley for sharing written work: ReadWave, the very first writing site I joined, that is, unfortunately, no longer running.
As a child with little to no experience online, I had no idea what to expect. Internet safety had been drilled into my head and I was careful not to share any personal details about myself. All I did was post my first short stories, all of which were terrible. But at the time, I thought they were great, and I had fun writing them. The community saw me and reached out, giving me kind compliments and gentle suggestions about things to watch out for when writing, and little tips on how to improve sentence structure and grammar. Through these comments I learned how to give constructive criticisms; never with an air of superiority, but with the intention to help the author grow and improve because I wanted to read more from them.
The kindness shown to me on ReadWave shaped how I interacted with others online. Especially in other writing communties. I have joined a variety of them through out my years online-- Commaful, Inkitt, even a month on Wattpad. Somewhere down the line, things online began to change. The anonimity of a username and the distance between screens allowed people to be cruel with few repurcussions. It’s part of the reason I tend not to be very social online unless talking in private messages.
Many of the writing communities I joined lost sight of the community part of it. The focus was on getting attention for their work, demanding comments and reactions but refusing to reciprocate. People constantly misunderstood what constructive critism was and they lashed out to others, either by being called cruel, or by being insulted. Many users were focused on just publishing their own work and never interacting with others; it became a site for them, and no one else. Those became quiet sites. Lonely sites.
Others tried to force the community aspect a little too much. Constant contests and calls for collaboration, to the point where if you weren’t constantly active and working with others, you were excluded from much of the community. The balance between writing and community has become lost, and I’ve watched as each site created a new writing culture that lead to complaints; WTW and Prose are the best (current) examples, from unreasonable censorship to paid-membership superiority.
But what I’ve never seen before is the belief that “new users should be kicked out because they only bring bad writing”.
The one constant in each website, with each unique community, was that everyone was writing because they enjoyed it. It wasn’t about good or bad, it was about passion. What is the story you want to tell? What world do you want to bring others into? What feeling do you want others to understand? These were the important things, not whether or not it was “good” or “bad”.
Who decides? Who is the authority on what is good or bad writing?
In fact, who is the authority on what writing is? A fictional story and a poem are both writing. So is a blog post and a news article. Having a prefernce for one doesn’t mean the others aren’t “writing”. That users on here are being harrassed about “social posts” and “bad writing” is absurd to me.
We are here to write and support each other as we all grow. This site is just a place for us to post and interact with each other. A site for all of us. That’s it. That’s what sites like Prose are for.
Let me tell you a secret I’ve learned in my 10 years of writing and being part of writing communities: we are all bad writers and we are all good writers. We are bad writers simply because there is always room to improve, ways for us to grow. We are good writers because we write for the love of it, for the need to share our words with others.
We are here on Prose because we share the same love of writing. Let this be something that brings us together, rather than push us apart.
somewhere in the sugarcane #worlduchinanchuday
I remember how my baachan brushed my hair back and told me to stay close to the shore before letting me run off into the waves. How the salt in the air tasted sweet, and the water was cool and clear around me. How my cousins all laughed as they splashed each other, and my brother dove down to grab starfish and sea cucumbers.
We'd all turn golden under the sun, its gentle rays watching over us as we kicked up sand and raced hermit crabs. It was always simple then, when we were kids.
And my baachan was always there, while the other adults were out buying lunch and drinks for the rest of us.
I remember this often, those blissful summers, when all the world was narrowed down onto one little island and its quiet streets.
The desert air is dry, and the sun is unforgiving. Though I call this place home, I long for the water and wind that raised me. All the mountains here tower over me, remind me how small and easily forgotten we all are. The ocean was always kinder, showing us the life she sheltered beneath the waves and cradling us close as we learned how to swim.
We've all moved away now, scattered across the world. My grandparents spend most of their days alone, in a house that's gotten emptier over the years and their fading memories keeping them company. They call when they can, and often their words slip past me, unfamiliar, as I try to wrap my tongue around the sounds I grew up singing.
Had life been kinder, I would be on that beach again, feet in the sand and face turned to the sun. The sugar cane would line the roads back to my family, and I'd collect seashells in liue of kisses to give them.
The desert traps me in its vastness, but in my dreams, I go home.