This was the challenge from Terrible Minds - Death Is On The Table.
You have 1000 words to write a short story that prominently features death. What that means is up to you, of course. And genre is also in your court.
But a death — or the concept of death, or an exploration of death — must be front and center.
So I called up my fairy tale friends and away we went.
Death Is On The Table
"Just let me die," said Red. "Never again."
"You say that every time," said the witch. "Here, drink this, it will make the pain stop."
Red sipped on the drink - vile tasting, hot, and just a bit slimy. She sighed with relief as the headache faded.
"I'm glad you have potions that cure too," she said. "If the magic in the stories heals wounds, even brings us back to life, why can't it cure a frackin' hangover. God, what a party."
It had started with just a trip into town with some of the others, including Snow, for some shopping, then dinner. Dinner turned out to be Mexican, which of course meant Margaritas, then the karaoke bar, then shooters, then nothing.
"Did you hear about the Grimm's wanting us back for more stories?" said the witch. "No more of this retirement crap."
"We heard at the bar," said Red. "But I can't face that life again - it was too frustrating."
"I've had it," she said. "I'm tired of living. Yes, retirement has been boring, but back to work will be the same old same old. We do a story, we run, we fight, we laugh, we cry, we die. This fairy tale life is too tame, too safe. There's no risk, no passion, no sex."
They all played several roles, but her specialty was herself - naive, vulnerable, helpless, saved at the end by some strong silent type. With maybe a brotherly hug before the curtain came down. Almost 300 years old and still a virgin.
The witch reached over and pushed her sleeve up. "And what's this?" she asked. "Can't be from a story, too long ago for that. Are you cutting again?"
Red pulled her sleeve down. "I like the pain," she said. "It's something different, something I control. And it distracts me. But I need a way to stop all this for good."
"We're all really worried about you," said the witch. "Your wild party moods, drinking into a coma, then depression and crying, now you're cutting again. Are you still seeing that therapist? Does he have you on any meds?"
"They don't help," said Red. "They just dull everything for a while, then reality is back. I don't want it back, I just want it to end forever. Please, can't you mix something up for me to do that?"
"I'm not sure if my potions are strong enough to overcome the magic, but anyway, you're a friend, I won't do that."
"If you're a friend, you have to do it," said Red. "I can't stand suffering through living for another day. Just help me to end it all and find some peace - please. Or I'll talk to one of the other witches."
The witch looked at her sadly. "How about if I make you a different sort of potion?"
"Another one of your happy pills?" No thanks," said Red. "Nope, that was even a worse feeling, bouncing and bubbling around like an idiot - no thanks."
"No, what I was thinking of was a way to work on your loneliness, your frustrations. We need to find a special someone for you, to appreciate you for who you are. And we'll give them a potion."
"So now I need to drug people to like me?"
"No," said the witch. "Nothing too strong, just a nudge to get them to notice you, to realize that - when you're not pushing yourself into a drunken coma or a manic panic - you're a nice person."
"OK, but no dwarfs," said Red. "Snow can keep them all."
"I'm sure she wouldn't mind sharing," said the witch. "But I hear they're actually kind of boring, always talking about work. And someone like woodcutter is too nice - he puts women up on a pedestal. No, I think what you need right now is a bad boy. And there's one I've seen you watching - wolf."
"Wolf!" said Red. "I wish. But he hardly knows I exist."
She'd often admired wolf as he loped through his character's parts, leaping around, stirring up everyone's blood, leering at then with that toothy grin and those bushy eyebrows, his hot breath panting on their neck as they grasped at his thick bushy fur, feeling his hard muscles under them as he tensed for the attack ..."
"Red? You okay? You look all flushed," said the witch.
"Sorry," said Red. "OK - let's try it."
"We'll just use a bit," said the witch. "He's been a little too wild lately, chasing everything in a skirt - not that some of us haven't minded - but it's affecting his work. He needs to settle down a bit and focus."
"Focus, OK - I'll focus him," said red. "Where's the potion?"
"Here, this is one of my favorites. Be careful - just five drops in his drink for five nights and the magic will start."
"Thanks," said Red. "I'll go find him now."
She gave her friend a big hug then hurried off. She could hardly wait to find her prey. But five nights? No way, witch was always too cautious with these things, never taking risks. He was getting it all at once.