But that is not what I'm writing to tell you about. I'm having a bit of a geek-out moment because last night I found out I won this little writing contest. It's just a little competition on an author's website, but my bff Brianne told me about it & how the theme was "Twisted Fairy Tales." I doubted I could write anything under 1000 words (you know me, ever the long-winded one!) but I gave it a shot anyway.
So here is my winning submission, voted on by the other participants; I thought I'd share it with you if you're interested. Remember, this may be the shortest thing I've EVER written, at 999 words. I'd love to hear your thoughts!!
"The Last Job"
“You don’t have to do this, you know.”
“One last job,” I told him. “I promise. This is the very last one.”
He looked at me skeptically. “That’s what you said last time. It’s what we all say.”
“You quit,” I reminded him. I touched up my pale makeup in the mirror, careful not to smudge my blood-red lipstick. “And the world hasn’t come to an end. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.” Time for the wig—long, raven black tresses fit snugly over my own auburn braids. I swiveled to face him. “What do you think?” I held up a portrait for comparison.
He looked at it, then me. “Not bad. I’d say you’re giving the Fairest in the Land a run for her money.”
I took it back, my pale skin blushing pink. “I really don’t look anything like her, but all people notice are the details. They’ll fill in the rest, and Snow White will never be missed.”
“But you will.”
I turned to him. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
He put his arm around my waist. “And then you’re done?”
“And then I’m done,” I agreed. “And we open Dot’s Dinner in Manhattan, where no one has ever heard of Witch-Killers and Giant-Slayers.”
“It’s a good dream,” he said.
“It’s going to be a reality, Jack,” I said. “Our own Happily Ever After.”
“Do you really think we deserve it, after all we’ve done?” he asked quietly as I packed my trunk.
I wrapped my silver slippers in the invisible cloak Jack had given me. “I think…we did what had to be done. And now it’s time for us to retire and live like normal people.” I closed the trunk and locked it. Jack kissed me goodbye, helped me into the carriage, and stood looking after me as I hastened to my last job.
The long journey gave me time to reflect on how far I’d come from my simple Midwestern farm girl roots. Innocent and naïve, I’d never have dreamed of killing anyone. The crash landing and bucket of water were accidents, not the weapons of a trained assassin. I remembered well the wave of fear and revulsion that swept over me when I’d seen those two feet sticking out from under my displaced house; the idea of wearing the deceased woman’s shoes, no matter how shiny and alluring they were, repulsed me. But my encounter with the second witch had sealed my fate. Even as I’d looked at the steaming remains of the Witch of the West, even as my stomach had heaved and hands had trembled, I had felt suddenly powerful. I’d done what others could not: freed a land from oppression, fear, and tyranny.
The silver slippers of the first witch also allowed me to go home—but home was no longer enough for me. I found that I could travel to other worlds in my shoes, and in these worlds I was a hero. I was Dorothy Gale, Witch-Killer, and such a talent was in high demand. Messengers often traveled many weeks to find me and request my assistance. Imprisoned princesses in peril. Little old ladies and pigs alike besieged by wolves. Enchanted animals of all kinds. Slowly I had warmed to my profession, learning how to watch and wait, to slip into someone else’s place and strike. I’d even become quite adept at devising crafty punishments for the wicked. Red-hot, searing iron shoes. Trained attack birds. Barrels lined with nails. It wasn’t that I enjoyed the killing; I was simply good at it. And how could I refuse a cry for help? It just seemed natural that I should put my talent to use. And so the tales about me spread: Dorothy Gale, Witch-Killer eventually became Dorothy Gale, Assassin.
The castle came into view and I tried to focus on the job. Snow White was certain her stepmother was trying to kill her; well, I’d soon put a stop to that. It bothered me, though, that all my years of work hadn’t seemed to make a lasting difference. There were always evil queens or wicked wizards somewhere, scheming. I was weary of killing them. Like Jack, I’d even begun to wonder if it was the right thing to do.
It took me less than two days to discover that Snow’s stepmom was a lunatic. Crazy with jealousy, and schizophrenic, to boot. Snow wasn’t being paranoid, either—her stepmom had made a batch of poisoned apples to literally knock out her competition for fairest in the land. But was she evil, or did she just need therapy and medication? I pushed my doubts away and reminded myself what I’d been hired for. One last job. I pilfered the apples and baked a pie with them. Normally my pies are to die for, but this one would actually kill you. Sure enough, after three bites the queen was asphyxiated. Snow White was safe and could live happily with her prince, but I felt hollow and exhausted.
I collected my reward—blood money—and packed up my things once more, leaving my silver shoes out to wear back. I thought of Jack, waiting for me in New York. I wondered if death haunted him, too; Jack the Giant-Slayer was no innocent himself. He could be cocky and arrogant; when we first met I hated him. But he’d taught me there was more to life than the job; he’d seen past my warrior façade, he’d saved my life, and I loved him. He was no slouch in the kitchen, either—he could do things with a can of beans that were pure magic. Dot’s Diner would need more than pies and beans on the menu, but we’d make it work.
No more yellow brick roads, I told myself. Or witches. Or killing. I clicked my silver heels together and murmured, “There’s no place like Happily Ever After;” and hoped fervently it was something a witch-killer and giant-slayer could attain, after all.