The Evil Queen:
I came back to the castle, drained from the arduous journey to the mountains and back, the second time I had to do so, all because the girl refused to pass on the first time
Pch, she wasn’t too lucky this time. It is a pity to be that beautiful, yet so dolt-ish. I have to admit, I never thought a day would come where I call that pipsqueak beautiful, but it is easier to accept, with her gone, courtesy of my poisonous comb. To have her beet red blood on my paper-white hands made me smile with glee.
I go up on the dais and look at my reflection. I admire my high cheekbones, flushed skin, and my tall, slender, looming presence. The answer I waited for so long was right in front of me.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Rapunzel in a tower so high
With hair so bright
Is a thousand times fairer than you.
Although I hadn’t the slightest idea of who Rapunzel was, all that mattered was that my efforts were in vain. I could feel my face heating up, my reflection turning dangerous red, with the vein at my temple throbbing purple. I took a deep breath to clear my head. It was taxing; took me a few tries, more than I can admit, to prevent my emotions from getting the best of me.
Once I had wrapped my head around the situation, I had figured out the hint—the tower. It was the one amid the eerie forest, the one so high that it is impossible to see its end. The tower was rumoured to be inhabited by an enchantress. Anyone with half a brain would have avoided it. But, now, it was the enchantress who was in danger, the danger of my wrath.
There was no time to think; I cannot let the one who surpasses my beauty live any longer—I had to kill her. I entered my concealed room, the one with my darkest secrets and the most menacing charms. I pick the apple—my most prized creation—born out of my magic.
It was white, with deep red cheeks, almost like the dead Snow White. To refuse this apple would drive one mad, and in that lies its power. It would push one to their breaking point, till they take a bite out of it. One bite is all it takes for Rapunzel to fall into an eternal sleep.
Having summoned a basket of ordinary apples out of thin air, I placed the venomous one on top. Almost immediately, I felt myself transform into a tiny, hunched, pitiful figure. Who can deny an apple from an innocent old woman?
I set out into the wilderness beyond my castle, the path opposite of Snow White’s dwelling. The harsh, hot winds poked my face, making me crave the cool of my chambers. Rapunzel will be the last of my troubles. After this episode, I will be the fairest maiden in all the land.
The evening sun cast shadows on the dry carpet of leaves and fallen fruits. The slanting rays and the sky ablaze with the glow of the setting sun illuminated the path to the tower. My only companion was the sinister calm. After treading for what felt like an eternity, I felt my surroundings become cold. A mist began to engulf me despite it being a hot summer evening. It was hard to see what lay ahead. That is when I heard it. The sound of a branch snap, followed by a muffled cry and what seemed to be the ripping of cloth against thorns. I turned so swiftly that my neck cracked and called out into the unknown. I was acknowledged by the silence of the moor. Assuming that my imagination was getting the better of me, I moved on.
As the mist began to further obscure my vision to a point where I relied solely on my instincts to guide me, my gut told me that my fate was a few steps away. I was caught off-guard by the rays of the setting sun falling back on my face, with the mist having vanished as swiftly as it had arrived.
The tower stood amid a clearing, surrounded by a dense thorny growth at its base, and hidden by clouds at its top. It was painstaking to pinpoint its tip. I circled the perimeter a few times, searching for an entry. Not finding any, I looked up, and called out, “Rapunzel!” I saw a lock of blonde silk strands that began to approach the ground, as though in free fall. Only when the mass of silk plopped on the thorny bushes at my feet did I realize what it was. It was hair, shimmering gold, washing out the gold of the sunset. This hair is what my mirror had warned me of.
Little did Rapunzel know what awaited her on the other side of her blinding gold mane. I held on to the hair, and it began to take me upwards. This startled me, and the basket of apples nearly slipped my fingers. As the bundle took me higher and higher, it was getting harder to breathe, and I felt lightheaded. My disguise not helping me too much, I decided to save my breath rather than cursing. I held on to the apples’ basket so tightly that my knuckles were white and my nails dug into my palm, leaving marks.
I entered through a small opening in the brick tower. I expected to see Snow White’s doppelganger, a petité figure with doe eyes, delicate frame, and carmine red cheeks.
What I did see was a figure in a long, rippling cloak.
My pot is boiling, and my blade is whetted. I lie in wait for the prince. In a matter of a few hours, my world had come crashing down. Everything seemed fine. Everything felt in control. Until it didn’t.
It was like any other morning. Clad in a billowing dark red robe, I stealthily made my way towards the tower, towards my daughter, as the sun polished the single, lonely turret. Brighter than the sun was the golden hue of my daughter’s hair. I told myself, “Nobody must see her. No soul should follow me to her.” I was peaceful until someone did. The sky was splashed with shades of orange, red, and yellow—the nocturnal indigo warring with the morning celeste over the blue turf. I allowed myself to believe in this beautiful mess of colours on the horizon, and revealed the chink in my armour in plain sight.
Something had been going on with Rapunzel for a while now. She always seemed to have a look of dreaminess on her face, and a silly smile I could not decipher—a first. I thought it was nausea, maybe she was sick. I checked her food, brewed special herbs, concocted medicine, I did it all. She is my daughter after all. Not by blood, but in every way that mattered. In all these years I had never allowed her to be sick. I never let her innocence be tainted by the cruel world outside the tower.
That irksome little chameleon, Pascal! He knew it all and yet stayed mum about it. If I find him, he is going into the boiling pot, straight with the prince. I would have killed him before, but Rapunzel had taken a strange fancy to him. Nevertheless, I spared him—biding my time to get rid of him. No one can be trusted, especially where my daughter is concerned. I took every kind of precaution. I may sound severe, but love comes at a price and I paid it in full. And yet, I never predicted that something terrible like this would happen. I never anticipated that the last person I suspected would betray me, throw a wrench in my meticulous plans and sabotage everything I ever lived for.
Treacherous girl! I stood at the bottom of the tower and waited for her to let her hair down. And with it she let it slip about her secret prince, all charming and wonderful and light. I’m sure he was, but I know better than to trust him with my little girl. He would abandon her just like her father did. Oh, he was a thief too! And I knew—as I fisted her hair as yellow as corn—that I must show some tough love, and teach her that some lines are never meant to be crossed. Some people are never meant to be found, and some things must remain unseen. I sent her weeping and mourning to the swampland in the neighbouring kingdom. No one would dare find her, least of all the prince. The golden mane that got that dolt here had to go. So I chopped it off, tied it to a hook in the tower and let it fall to the thorns below. The foolish prince will come, attracted to it like a moth to a flame. Not unlike the moth, he will burn—burn for plunging me into loneliness. He will burn for being the reason I had to send my faithless daughter away. He will burn for everything his ilk represents.
I stand concealed within the shadows of the tower. It’s dull and dreary. No cheery laughter echoes through the walls, and no blinding smile comes my way. The sunset seems eerily calm, irreconcilable with my raging emotions.
I will not fall for your lie a second time. I will not let my guard down. I lost too much the first time around.
I grip what is left of my daughter, her pale, golden locks, and I feel a tentative tug. Dearest prince, imposter and thief, you stole the love of a daughter for her mother, and for that, you shall dearly pay. At long last, I saw the thief’s face, and I let go of those tresses in disbelief. They tumbled smoothly and cloaked the bristles below. When I finally found my voice, all I could manage was, “You are not a prince!” And that frail, bony, despicable excuse of a human in front of me squealed, “And you are not beautiful!” This had to be the strangest exchange all day. And to think that I was having a strange day already. I knew my girl was different due to her isolation. I knew that she didn’t know the world as others did. My gut churned. For the first time, I doubted my decision to lock away Rapunzel. Was it so bad that she mistook this thing in front of me for a prince?
“You are trespassing, vile creature!”
“Creature? Oh, how dare you, you hideous enchantress! My mirror has lost it! I am the fairest of all. Whatever made it say it was Rapunzel.”
“Well, well, Insecure and blind, are we? You do look like a washed-out worm after a particularly nasty spell of rain. But, that isn’t important. How do you know about Rapunzel, Miss Vanity?”
With a wave of her hand, in a flourish, the Queen returns to her original self – tall, slim and proud. She drops the basket of apples mindlessly, and Gothel’s eyes follow it
“If you are not Rapunzel, I have no business here. I will find my way to her, and slit her pretty little throat.”
Mother Gothel paces, and stops, standing eye-to-eye with the Queen.
“You know what, lady? Since you came all the way here on your metaphorical high horse, let me play host and give you a takeaway—Never mess with a mother whose child is in danger.”
The Evil Queen:
I flailed my arms around in the hope of holding on to the ledge, but my body had left the sill. I felt a heavy weight in my stomach as though I had gulped down a boulder. The winds pushed me down; the last thing I saw was the enchantress’ face.
“Just one more killing and I’m set for tonight. The prince is late, such tardiness. Whatever Rapunzel saw in him…
Wait, are those apples? So red and shiny, surely I deserve a victory snack. I know it’s mine to take. Something so perfect must certainly belong to me. Let me take a bite… “
The Enchantress fell to the floor, her beet-red blood leaving her paper-white skin.
Pascal the Chameleon:
Although I watched it all from atop a cupboard, that was quite melodramatic! Now without further adieu, I must be on my way to rescue Rapunzel. There isn’t any prince with his goody white horse. Just two good old friends. A little smile here, a silly giggle there and a fictional prince in tow. Recipe for the kingdom’s greatest adventure. No more of that ‘Motherly Love’ nonsense, just Pascal and Rapunzel against the rest of the world!
Written by Deepthi Priyanka C and Lekhya Reddy for MTTN
Featured Image by Susanna Reynold for MTTN
Edited by Avaneesh Jai Damaraju for MTTN