She was a pretty thing to be sure, the little girl with the curl. Her cheeks were as red as blood and her skin as smooth as porcelain. And yet there was something odd about her clear blue eyes—something empty and soulless. She sat atop her throne of building blocks, legs kicking excitedly when the tin soldier-minions brought forth a new recruit. This child was older than she was, but there was fear in her dark eyes. The soldiers threw the young woman down and the girl on the toy throne stared at her. This newcomer was slim and dark, with hair that hung in her face, and thick lips that quivered.
“Do you know where you are?” the girl with the curl asked innocently.
“N-No,” the woman stammered. “Please…l-let me go.”
“Oh, I shall,” the child piped eagerly. “But what will you do for me to earn your freedom?”
“What must I do!?” the woman cried in fear.
“Eradicate my enemies.”
“I-I beg your pardon, mistress?”
“You heard me, foolish girl,” the child laughed maniacally. “There is a boy with golden hair in the kingdom across the Glass Lake. Kill him for me; and then you shall have your freedom.”
“A-And if I don’t?” the woman barely breathed.
“I’ll kill you instead.” The girl’s smile was so pure, so innocent. And then the smell of iron and gore filled the room and the woman looked over. The tin soldiers had lined up, bayonets at attention. Towering behind them in a pile of decomposing waste was severed limbs and heads from multiple bodies. The woman trembled in fear and turned her eyes away.
“I-I’ll do it.”
She’d been nothing but a parlor maid. It had been a long task of cleaning the master’s study, and when she had finished it had long since darkened outside. Her head had been swimming with exhaustion when she had gone to her room, removed her frilly apron and bonnet and climbed beneath her cotton sheets, relieved the day was done. And yet when she’d awoken, she was being dragged by her arms by two metallic men. When she’d tried to speak, to cry out in fear, the men had slapped her viciously. They hadn’t said a word, and moved with an unnatural sort of twitching motion that made her stomach queasy.
Then she’d met the Girl with the Curl—the Ruler of the Toy Kingdom. A savage little beauty with hair in tight little ringlets, and eyes that shone the clearest, coldest blue; a merciless serial killer who harvested humans like it was second nature. What had caused this tiny creature to become a psychopathic murderer? The maid wasn’t sure she wanted to know. She staggered through an emerald forest, boots scuffed, skirts hiked up into a belt. The Girl with the Curl had given her a serrated kitchen knife (already stained with blood from past use) as a form of defense. Against what, the maid was not keen to know.
The girl traveled on shaky limbs. It wasn’t until she had managed to shove through a tumult of thick, prickly brushes that she came upon a lake that was so crystalline it was like looking into a freshly polished mirror. The maid stared down at her reflection. She looked tired, hair askew and face gaunt; wild. She swallowed. Across the lake towered a white castle like in the fairy tales; a peak of shimmering splendor in the distance; a beacon of hope against a backdrop of nightmarish reality.
“Lovely is it not?” a voice of velvet said.
The girl turned to find a tomcat in a waistcoat standing on his haunches. His whiskers were curled into dainty mustachios, and his paws were covered in little leather gloves; his rear paws, in turn, were guarded by sturdy boots. He was the epitome of an elegant little gentleman, and he seemed to radiate a particular knowledge of this about his odd, diminutive person. The girl blinked, feeling undressed compared to the feline-nobleman.
“Lost are you, little dove?” the cat asked.
“No sir,” the girl said, bobbing a quick curtsy. “I am merely contemplating how to cross the Glass Lake.”
“To slay the prince on the other side, no doubt?”
The cat-man curled a set of whiskers about a finger, poison eyes ablaze with guile. “Fear not, pretty maid, for I shan’t tell a soul.”
“Is he evil, then—this child-prince?” she asked, hand on her ragged blade. “I must kill him or be killed myself.”
“Ah, a sore turn of events for him,” the cat said. “Unfortunately no one here is good or evil, pretty child. But some do seem worse than others. Like our beloved little queen—the raggedy bitch has had her share of tyranny. Indeed, it would be best if you would slay her in turn.”
The girl fidgeted. “I’m not a killer,” she mumbled.
“But she has insisted,” the cat purred in amusement. “Will you forfeit your own life, little dove?”
“No!” the girl warbled. “But I’m just a maid—I do not know how I even came to be here! This place is wretched!”
“That it is,” the cat leaned against a tree, little shoulders filling the lines of his fine coat. “But you’re here now, so whatever shall you do?”
“I-I suppose survive.”
“A wise decision.” He nodded his furry head and nodded to the woods. “There is a cave beyond these woods—inside it lurks a master of the night. Seek him out, for he is wiser than I. Perhaps he can tell you what to do about our Golden Prince and Curly Princess.”
“Thank you, master,” the girl bobbed again. The cat nodded and turned smartly on his heel. He was gone in a second.
The girl found the cave by nightfall. It was dank and oddly warm, a stench of ancient stone and tomes filled the murky air, causing her to breathe heavily. She moved inside, her heart pulsing hard. Something dark lurked within; human bones, cleaned to their whitest lay in small piles along the smooth walls, and sconces ill-lit with low candles of blood-red. A chanting could be heard within, causing the hair on her arms to prickle with discomfort. She pulled the jagged blade from her belt; if this be how she dies, so be it.
She traveled further inside, coming upon a grand hall of gold and ancient décor. Persian rugs, grand furniture, more majestic than even her master’s manor, treasures hiked to the very ceilings…the girl felt her mouth fall in awe and her eyes take in the rich splendor with a stricken horror. A gust of clammy air touched her bared arms and she inhaled sharply when a touch of naked lips brushed her shoulders.
“Oh, he is here,” she breathed.
“Why do you lurk, child?” the vampire husked out. He stood taller than most men, with shoulders that were broad, and a body that was barely contained in his black finery. His muscles were large, and his eyes of the deepest red, even more red than the blood that filled a goblet upon his dining table.
“Pardon me, my lord,” the girl squeaked in terror. She lowered her eyes and looked down at her worn boots. “I seek guidance and was told to come to you. Please—help me return home! The Girl with the Curl wishes me to kill the prince across the lake, and if I do not she will have me instead.”
The vampire studied her closely. She was a pretty thing indeed, with her thick hair and those soft lips of rose-red. He felt his hunger grow insatiably and he cleared his throat. He’d eaten not fortnight ago; no this starvation was for something no mere child like this could fill. “The Toy Kingdom is not a place for children,” he said solemnly. “That you were taken there is a pity indeed, for you will not return to your home alive. Your head will be removed, your arms and legs torn off, your body fed to the wolves outside, and your blood given to me to drink up.”
The girl sobbed. “Please, for the love of God, help me!”
Her high pitched cries bounced off the walls of his sanctuary. He lifted a hand and set it in her rich hair. “There is only one way you can be returned home,” he said slowly. “And it will come with a price, my beauty.”
“What is it? Tell me and I shall do it now!” the girl quailed.
“The Girl with the Curl must be slain, or else her despotism will continue to thrive on. You are not a killer; but to be free you will have to choose whom you slay.”
“Tell me, vampire,” she whispered out as the candles extinguished themselves. “Is the golden prince evil?”
“The cat told you the truth about us here,” he said, whispering against her throat.
“Does he murder needlessly?” she asked as silk caught her lithe body.
“Does he severe the heads of women and children?”
“Does he have a heart of darkness?”
“We all do, my pet,” he murmured, running large hands over her arms.
“Let me go,” she stood up, shoving the massive creature away. She was done with his game of seduction. “Tell me what to do, and I shall stay with you.”
The vampire studied her. It had been too many long years since he had held a companion; he sighed and sat back in an armchair of human bones and jewels. “Slay the prince, and your freedom is yours; slay the girl and you will free this land, but be trapped here.”
“With you, though,” the girl said slowly. “I may not find unhappiness.”
“You are so sure—”
“Indeed, I am.”
The vampire nodded. “Your choice is your own, sweet child. Take this and slay that little atrocity.” He handed her a new blade, polished with a cross emblazoned in its hilt. “I would do the deed myself if it would not cost me my eternity.”
The girl moved forward and sat on his lap. She stared into his red eyes and lifted a hand, touching his mouth and face. The vampire’s eyes closed and she lifted herself on his shoulders; her hair created a curtain about them, and he fell with her name on his lips.
The Girl with the Curl lay sleeping in her sheets. She tossed and turned with a nightmare; they were always so horrible. Visions of the past, of the torture and pain she had endured. None of the physicians could fix her mentality; none of the doctors knew what to do about her fits and spells. Even the exorcists did not know if a demon plagued her, or twelve. She was a monster; she wanted to die. She wanted everyone to die.
A cold blade slipped across her throat; blood red spilled over her satin pillows; the girl died with a look of shock on her doll-like face. She looked up, eyes growing blind to catch a glimpse of a dark-haired woman with blood-red eyes glaring down at her. A hissing voice slithered into her ear like a serpent prepared to strike: “My freedom be damned.”
In the caves across the Glass Lake, the vampires dwell—a man and a woman. They are happy together, alone but peaceful; they do not lack, and are at harmony with their eternal lives. He seeks nothing more than her company, and she seeks nothing more than his strong, masculine arms at night. The Golden Prince has sought them out to thank them for rescuing his kingdom, but they will not beseech a coward; they have hopes for him, but nothing more. No, the vampires lack nothing—simply an everlasting life in the shadowy arms of their significant other. They are happy and content, and will be forever and always
For theirs is a love that shall never ever die.
Bio: An avid lover of the terrifying and elegant, I have been reading since I was an infant and writing since I could hold a pencil. I was strongly inspired by Angela Carter's short stories to break down and start publishing my own, and hope to become an author one day. I am currently studying English with a focus in creative writing, and I hope to one day publish a collection of my dark works of art. In my spare time I enjoy drinking unholy amounts of coffee and reading books no one seems to have heard about except for me.