Dental Anxiety

I dislike having dental work; so much so that I haven’t had an appointment in 16 years. Admittedly, I did try about halfway through, I think. I called to make an appointment, may have actually set it, but there were a lot of tears involved and I didn’t go. I know that every time I’ve given serious thought to going in for any work at all I’ve had lovely panic attack-like episodes.

Three weeks ago, though, I lost a bit of tooth. I didn’t realize it until last week, when I found the edge on a tooth that shouldn’t have had one. And that sent me into a new sort of panic. My mom has had root canals before, and they never go well, always getting infected. Surely a hole in a tooth is the next step to one of those!

Pain from the dentist, or pain from not the dentist…

I called the dentist.

Well, I had to find a new one, as my last one is a 2,000+ mile commute. Searching for “sedation dentistry” on Google and then comparing to my insurance, I found someone. It was pretty awesome, actually, because I didn’t have to call a single person. No pre-call anxiety, just a web form, an email, a text, and bam. Appointment made.

Fast-forward from last Wednesday to today, and I actually went to the appointment. My poor kids suffered from my nerves this morning when they got in a fight and I wasn’t prepared to put up with any crap, but I reigned it in for the receptionist. I’m sure everyone was lovely. There were a lot of smiles, just not mine.

I don’t remember ever sitting so stiffly in a waiting room. I’ve learned I can grit my teeth without my top jaw touching my bottom one. I felt guilty for smiling at Kelly and Michael (a show I think I’d rather enjoy–those two are funny!) but did anyway. A little. Then I stopped. (Guilt.)

They finally called me in. I didn’t get any guilt from the hygienist, just an awful lot of x-rays. Last time I went in, you sat still and the x-ray machine moved–one shot. This time there were 18 different pictures and a whole lot of sharp things I had to bite down on. Still, x-rays don’t bother me. Sharp pointy things in my teeth with dentists that don’t believe my protestations of pain, on the other hand, bothers me.

The dentist, a lovely man about my parent’s age, finally arrived. I got to watch lots of HGTV during my wait, so I honestly didn’t mind. The part where I laid back and he went in with the pointy thing and the mirror was the worst. I kept expecting him to poke at things, to test the fillings (as dentists have done), but three cheers–no poking! He even complimented my current fillings, saying he puts in 100-year fillings, and mine look just like ones he would have put in. Um…yay? But then he lowered the boom.

All five of them.

There are four places that need filling, one of them that’s almost down to the nerve. Thank goodness I floss, apparently, because it could have been much worse after 16 years. I think I started that habit after a previously attempted appointment, under the assumption that if I couldn’t get to the dentist, at least I was going to do my best to take care of things myself. I got the guilt trip that the hygienist left out from him as well. Don’t think I can go another 16 years without an appointment just because I was so lucky this time, all my teeth could have fallen out at my age, blah, blah, blah.*

When I could finally get a word in edgewise I pointed out that the reason I didn’t go back was the aforementioned distrust of people working on my teeth not believing my pain levels. He was very reassuring, politely ignoring the tears that finally came, confessing a similar sensitivity. Since I’ve told him, they’ll give me additional numbing meds, and let me sit as long as I want until I’m as numb as I want.

Then, and this is my favorite part, I asked (still sobbing) that if there was anything we could do to reduce my anxiety of the actual appointment. And that was the million-dollar question. I left my appointment with reassurances and an Rx for Valium to take before the appointment.

Oh, and two more appointments. Three fillings on Thursday, one and a cleaning two weeks later. I’ve got a ride lined up to get me to the appointment, and fingers crossed that the Rx work as promised.

I’ve got to say, I am almost kind of happy I finally have the appointment. I’m definitely glad I’ve been flossing as much as I have, and I’m even more hopeful about my kid’s dental habits. (Overall, they’re pretty good. I think we need to work on technique, but the twice a day plus floss habit is there.)

That’s not to say that I’m looking forward to Thursday. I’m looking forward to Thursday being over. But I have plenty of time to worry about that tomorrow.


*Yes, I am over-dramatizing. But there was rotting teeth in the conversation with people in their 30’s.


I’m going to be a runner

But that has nothing to do with this post.

Last month at this time I stopped drinking caffeine. Cold turkey, which I’ve done before, but it usually doesn’t stick for long. This time it’s stuck for a month, and while I’m under no illusions that this means it’s for good, it’s progress.

A coworker whom I mentioned my quest to immediately corrected me. “There’s nothing wrong with caffeine,” he said, among other things I don’t exactly recall. Yeah, I’ll give you that. There’s nothing wrong with it. It helps keep you awake, it can help your metabolism, give you energy. Heck, I love caffeine. That jolt in the morning: it’s bliss. When you’re exhausted and have to stay up just another fifty miles or another two hours, it can pry your eyes open like you have toothpicks propping up your lids.

And it can make stress harder to deal with. And it can make PMS symptoms worse. This is why I gave up caffeine.

Of course I didn’t think I was going crazy when I started noticing I was unable to function in the days leading up to the start of my cycle. I knew it was PMS. But it had never been so bad before, and it was starting earlier and hanging on through longer. It felt a bit like crazy, and a lot like depression, and more than once I was just helpless beyond crawling into bed and drowning my emotions in sleep. It took me a while to make the connection to caffeine and my issues, but once I did, however tentative that connection may have been (everyone works differently, so there’s not a lot of definitive “this is what your problem is” out there on this), I jumped on it.

And so. Nicki, one; caffeine, zip. I kicked it to the curb, although not absolutely. It’s out of my daily drink habit, and not my first choice, but I’m not going to say, “Nicki, you must absolutely never, ever have caffeine again,” because that’s unrealistic. I am going to say, though, that I am never, ever going to start depending on it to keep me awake on a daily basis. And I am never, ever going to drink so much that the half-life of it keeps me running for a week. I don’t want any more caffeine withdrawal headaches.

Oh, yeah, and I’m going to be a runner. Because I want to like running. Which has nothing to do with this post. (Except when it has everything to do with it.) ;)

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Tiny reasons for excitement.

1.4 pounds of weight loss took me from one 10lb range to another I haven’t seen on my scale in a while, and further from the Number of Doom, and that makes me happy. I don’t doubt that since I’m weighing every day that there’s a chance it’ll bounce back up there, but I saw it, and I’m going to look forward to seeing it again in the future!

That is all. :D

The Rules of Lawn Mowing (Ivey Edition)

My son is reaching the age where he is able to start taking more responsibilities around the house. Namely, mowing the lawn. So I’ve started making a list of rules for lawn mowing, so he can be steeped in these rules before he ever gets near the mower.

Rule #1: Daddy hates mowing the lawn.

Simple enough–my son must learn to mow because my husband hates doing it. I’m not sure why, but there you go. It’s as good a first rule as any.

Rule #2: You must always wear shoes when mowing the lawn.

Not sandals, not flip flops, not bare feet. Shoes. A lawnmower is mainly an engine turning spinning blades of death, designed to cut arbitrarily through whatever is too tall. Could be grass, could be toes. Let’s slow the blades down a bit with shoes.

Rule #3: You must never, ever pull anything away from the blades.

Because Spinning Blades of Death. Even if the lawnmower is off, it’s a job for Mom and Dad. Best to just turn it off and come running in the house for someone to help.

Rule #4: You must never, ever run over the extension cord.

Again, Spinning Blades of Death. Dad’s more worried about this than losing a toe to the mower. It’s a unique worry to our electric mower, but until we sort out how to affix a charger and battery to the thing, it’s how it goes.

I’m sure those won’t be all the rules, but they’re getting us started. We aren’t particularly fussy when it comes to patterns, as our yard is postage-stamp sized, and too small to bother with the elaborate horizontal, vertical, square, or diagonal patterns that happen more frequently with larger yards (from my experience at my parent’s house).

Does anyone else have any rules for me that fit this particular chore? I can start naming them after people. That’ll really give him something to study this summer. :)


Jon’s Rule: Lawn mowing is not a game!

This would actually be the rule for my daughter to learn (see Jon’s comment below). Goofing off, surprises, not paying attention to your surroundings–not the things to go on while running an electric mower. Because Spinning Blades of Death.

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I’m feeling good…

Which of course makes me suspect I’m not actually feeling good, but thinking I should feel good, so I have that thought misleading me. But, assuming that’s not the case and perhaps I’m just looking for conspiracies against myself, here’s what I’ve been doing differently for the past four days.

I gave up caffeine.


This isn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last. And I absolutely love caffeine. Not coffee, but Mtn Dew, Amp, Green Tea (caffeine content, not taste), they’re all wonderful and I love them. But quite honestly, I’m fucking sick of these mad mood swings just before my period starts. (TMI? Sorry.) And if caffeine is what’s doing it to me, then by all means, I’m skipping the damn caffeine.

It sucked, and I had a headache all Tuesday and Wednesday, but even though I took a preventative Tylenol this morning, I think I’m over that particular hurdle. Which is sweet, because that’s the first thing that usually drives me back to the ‘Dew.

I’m drinking a shitload of water.

Now, I’ve heard that you don’t need as much water as women my age have grown up believing (eight 8-oz glasses per diem), and that mostly you get your water from other things you drink, like coffee and juices. But since I’m not drinking coffee…well, I’ve been regularly downing 60 to 100 ounces at work for the past four days. I’m always in the bathroom, but I’m drinking it. Mixed with Crystal Light Liquid, the little containers of concentrated juice. It’s good that way, because I’m drinking it like I usually drink soda–mechanically, maniacally, until it’s gone.

I’m not changing my evening schedule.

For the past two or three weeks I’ve kind of been in a depression. I hesitate to say “depressed” because that’s a serious term that shouldn’t be tossed around (like I did in my teens), but definitely sad, apathetic, and my eating/sleeping/regular habits were off. So I’ve amped up on the water and eliminated the caffeine, but I’ve not changed how late I stay up or how early I rise.

That said, last night I realized about 10pm I was as tired as I usually am around midnight. And this morning (even though I went to bed around 11:45pm) I thought I could have risen at 6:30 when my husband left for work and been OK. (I went ahead and snoozed through until 8am anyway. Whatever.) So even though I’m not purposely changing my nights and mornings, I feel them changing without my effort.

And generally, I’m just feeling good.

I’m not crashing in the afternoons. I have to pee a lot, but my pee is that “just a little bit of lemon juice” color I heard some crazy/enthusiastic woman on a talk show instruct the audience about when you’re drinking the right amount of water. (TMI again? Get used to it.) And my mood is good. Now that could simply be that I’m past the PMS, but we’ll see. I wrote it down so I could watch it happen.

Wanna watch with me? ;)

Facebook or Blog?

Sometimes I think all the little status updates I do on Facebook would be better off here. Then I start writing them, they end up horribly depressing, and they get (wisely) tucked away for no one to see but me. I’m really not that good at all this social media stuff, so I apologize for those times when I end up putting everything away instead of finding appropriate things to share. :)

Moving on…

I’m going to quietly ignore the fact that I missed my last writing challenge by a long shot and move on to the fact that I have a problem.

A $100 problem.

2014-05-05 08.08.01

And a AAA problem. Is there AAA Anonymous? For people who’ve maxed out their AAA visits, and called the service three times in five months? (Barely five, by the way.)

My tire is flat again. The same one as happened two weeks ago, that I took to the wheel collision repair place just up the road after I slammed into a pothole and bent my rim. This time I have two bends (not sure if that’s the proper plural) from driving around the block, apparently.

It’s obvious that it’s apparent to the repair shop that it was me, anyway, because I’m not getting any freebies on this repair. Which is fine – if it’s my fault, I don’t need a discount and won’t insist on one (although I probably would accept it if offered). But I can’t wrap my head around it, because it was fine Friday, my husband drove it Saturday with no problem (I think), and I only drove very slowly around one block in an attempt to get my kids to daycare so I could get to work early. Could I have really done that much damage in one block?

Probably. Lay it on me if it’s obvious to you that this is indeed the case – I need to hear it from someone I’m not paying to fix it, I think, to really shake all the doubt off.

I have my appointment for tomorrow morning to put the thing back on. And when I get back from Iowa I probably ought to arrange for someone to show me how to put on a spare myself, because this is getting a bit ridiculous.

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A through G

Okay, so it looks like maybe I gave up on you again this year, doesn’t it? Well, life is significantly busier than two years ago, that much is obvious. But aside from that, I have not given up. I have some other obligations (work related) that I need to wind up before I can continue down the A to Z trail. And in addition, I’m taking the trail more slowly. I suppose that means I’m not following the A to Z Blog Challenge properly at all, and I’m sorry for that, but it can’t be avoided. I may try to do it properly next year again, but it might just be more my speed to plod along on it. (I do realize had I been planning ahead, I could have pre-written and scheduled all the posts for release in a timely manner, and plodded all I wanted–before the month started. Oops.)

So if you’re here for the A to Z Challenge, I know. It looks like I gave up. But I didn’t. I have H is for House in my head and ready for the page, but it may be Saturday before it sees the light.

I’ll be over here, formatting a worksheet.

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G is for Ghoti

GI almost had him. That spiteful little troll had been stealing pearls from my oysters for years. I watched, and waited patiently. After all, what could I do? I live in the river, and cannot be free from it. I do not have arms, I cannot yell for help, I do not make an awful noise that scares anyone.

My name is Ghoti, and I will tell you my tale.

* * *

It started when I began harvesting my first oyster crop. My father had shown me how to seed them, my mother taught me how to care for them, and I learned to judge for myself the best time to harvest their precious fruit. And I was good at it. I knew when the pearl would be the most beautiful without cracking open the shell prematurely, and I was so sweet with my extraction that the oyster would joyfully take another grain of sand to start another when I removed the finished one.

But the troll came as I gathered my last pearl during my first harvest. I had hidden the first batch, as my father taught me. I could trade with the fishermen for my life, and thus live as long as they both had – nearly 100 years, which is quite a long time for my kind. I could trade with the housewife coming to get water from the spring for her promises to throw me back if I should come home with her husband. There were many reasons I would need them, not the least of which, life in my river was the best life possible.

I would decorate my walls with the pearls, I imagined. I would have enough to make myself a bed of treasures to sleep on every night.

My grand plans were gone when he found me.

“What are you doing there? Give me that!”

I could not stop the troll from picking me up, his hands firm on my scaly skin. The flap of my fins on his rough palms, strong from years of hard work, did not deter him.

He plucked the pearl from my lips, and dropped me back in the water.

“Ah, it’s a fine day for my fortune,” the troll said to himself.

“Give that back.” I was furious, naturally. I splashed and tried to jump from the river to attack him, but what can a fish do against a troll?

He only laughed.

“I think not. What does a little slippery eel like you need with treasure such as this?”

“That treasure keeps me alive,” I said. I think I knew even then that he wasn’t going to give it back. “I keep one with me when I travel, and when the fishermen pull me into their boat, I trade them a pearl for my life.”

The troll shook with mirth, infuriating me only more. “Well, now you will trade with me. I will come by every day and you will give me a pearl, or I will eat you for my supper!”

“But they don’t grow that quickly!”

The troll put the pearl into his sack. “No?”

Thankfully, I have always thought quickly. “It takes 21 days for these pearls to grow,” I managed to lie. “If you come before then, you will only earn a grain of sand.”

To this day, I’m not entirely sure he believed me, but it didn’t matter. He sneered, showing his awful, black teeth. “If you lie to me,” he said, snapping his jaw together like an alligator, “I will cook you for my dinner.”

And he left. I was distressed, of course. And furious. I spun around in the water until I created a little whirlpool that threatened the safety of my oysters, and would not stop until my mother came to me.

“Son, what bothers you so?”

“The troll,” I replied, in too much of a rage to explain. But my mother is a patient fish, and she waited until I had wore myself down, then set my oysters back in their nests while I lay still on the river bed.

“That evil creature, did he bother you?”

“He stole one of my pearls! The last, the best of course!”

My mother merely fussed over my oysters, even though she had her own to tend to. “The troll is mean, but he is not very smart. He can twist a person to do his will with his fancy talk, but he does not think things through like we fish. When is he to return?”

I began then to think to know what she intended. “Twenty-one days. I misled him, but not by a lot.”

“A day or two is all we will need. My oysters will be ready in five days. Reseed yours now, then give all but the worst one to me. I will give you mine save the best one when they have been harvested. Then when the troll comes back, you will only have one pearl for him to take.”

I was not at all sure that it would work as easily as she said, but she has always been wiser than I, so I listened and did as she asked.

When the troll returned, as she predicted, he asked for more than one pearl.

“Give me two! You owe me more for sparing your life twice!”

“There is only one to give,” I told him.

Thankfully, fish can’t smile, because I was thrilled with the deceit.

“What about this one?” And he leaned down to grab one of the oysters from my next.

I slapped his hand with my tail, but I could not stop him. It was his turn to laugh as he easily pried open the oyster with his hands.

Imagine my delight when he was met with a grain of misshapen sand, and the oyster died in his hands from the bruising it took.

The troll roared, and stormed off into the woods with the one pearl.

So it went for an absurdly long time. Every 21 days he would come, take the only pearl that was ready, and rage about the rest. But he didn’t take another from the nest to pry it open, because, as stupid as he was, he did know how to count, and that he would get far more pearls by waiting instead of ruining them in fits of temper.

Yesterday, I finally thought my luck had changed. I had begun to taunt the troll, teasing him so he did not know he had been insulted until after he left the river.

This time when he visited, he went for another oyster.

Now fish aren’t good for much besides nursing oysters and making more fish, but I have always had a particularly strong mouth. And when the troll’s snowy white beard—although a bit shorter than the last time I saw him, I think now—fell into the water, I clamped it in my jaws and swam as quickly as I could.

Oh, he yelled. He yelled furiously, and writhed and flopped about on the shore. While I belonged in the water, he did not, and I knew if I could just pull him in a little further, I could drown him, and save my fortunes for myself instead of handing them all over to him.

But two stupid little girls, one wearing white and the other red, rescued the damn creature! They cut his beard from my mouth, so that he was safe, and I was left one pearl poorer.


* * *

Someone is calling my name from the shore. He calls, “Ghoti! Ghoti! Where are you?” But he is human, and with those two wicked girls, and I’m only a fish. Because of my fight with the troll, my treasure has been lost now, my oysters all crushed beneath the troll’s feet.

“Ghoti! Ghoti! I have killed the troll! These girls who saved him knew not what he was, but with his death I have been freed from my curse, and now I would free you, brother, from yours!”

I can do nothing but lay on the riverbed, but perhaps…could he really have killed the troll?

Suddenly there is a shower raining down, not of water drops but of pearls.

My pearls!

I don’t resist the urge to swim to the surface, to rise and splash in the cascading drops of good fortune. I jump once, twice, then the third time…

I fall on my arse, which is unusual, because previously I did not have one.

“It’s a man!”

I’m staring at the open mouth, painted red as blood, of a black-haired beauty.

The lady beside her, with white hair and dress, has covered her hands with her eyes.


I’m enveloped in a great hug, and I don’t know what to do with the arms that now sprout from shoulders, and legs from hips where before there were only fins and a tail.

My eyes remain fixed on the dark beauty, however.

“Don’t you recognize me?”

I look back at him. “I…” And part of me does recognize him, from a dream. “Have I paid you with pearls to not eat me?”

The man who calls me brother laughs, and slaps me on my naked back.

I sputter, and fall in the water.

“Oh, sir,” the dark one says, stepping into the water without a care for her fine dress. She comes to me, and holds out her hand. “We’re so very sorry for saving the troll. You very nearly had him, you know.”

She takes my breath as I take her hand.

“But perhaps now you’d like to put on some trousers?”

Something soft and heavy hits my head, obscuring my vision. It’s a heavy fur cloak, and it falls from my shoulders to my feet, trailing in the water.

“Come, Brother,” the tall man says, pulling the girl in white to his chest so she’s not forced to cover her eyes any longer. “We shall go to our palace and celebrate our new lives by marrying these women. The pearls will stay with the river, with the fish who need them to pay for mercy.”

I go with them willingly, but make sure that the dark girl on my arm does not step on the precious pearls the man calling me brother rained down on me to bring me to the surface. My fish father and mother call from the river, bidding me joy and good luck, and not to forget them.

My name is Ghoti. I will never forget.


This post of fiction is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge.  I’m doing short stories of about 1,000 words, based on words I like that start with today’s letter, and twisting each to a Grimm Brother’s fairy tale. Don’t forget to check out the participant list to check out other amazing bloggers blogging about today’s letter!

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F is for fool

FOne thing the Brothers Grimm did not tell us in their story about Briar-Rose is that she was not exactly asleep.

Nor was she saved by a prince.

And she wasn’t even kept isolated by a great hedge of thorns that surrounded her castle and prevented anyone from trying to wake her before her 100 years of sleep were up.

They actually seem to have gotten it all quite wrong, except for the girl, the spell, and the castle.

Well, technically, it was a palace.

* * *

Briar-Rose, Sleeping Beauty, Aurora…of all the names that she was called, she actually preferred Maddie.

Francesca Madeline Aurora Rose, Princess, daughter to Thomas Thorne (which is obviously how the Grimm Brothers were led astray) and Theresa Simmons-Thorne, King and Queen.

Maddie was, as previously mentioned, not exactly asleep when the spell hit. She did fall to the ground, and she did appear asleep, as did every man, woman, child, and beast that was within the walls of the palace at that fateful moment. But their sleep was false. They could still hear, and though their eyes were closed they could still see.

It was as if every eye in every head flew five feet above the ground where the body had fallen, and allowed a view of the entire palace to all within. The victims of the horrible spell, with Maddie herself able to direct the conversation and view from her own spell-sleep, could watch over the palace, the grounds, and any who dared enter.

Or try to enter. Maddie watched more than a few young men—Princes, the horses in the courtyards tried to convince her—come to the palace and immediately be overcome. It wasn’t clear what exactly caused them to turn and run like the devil himself was chasing them, but each and every one of them did so.

Maddie had to laugh. There was nothing there to frighten them. There was nothing there to keep them out. Perhaps there was a nasty layer of dust on the marble steps, and maybe nobody had been around to pull the weeds that surely crept up between the paving stones.

If they couldn’t tolerate those things, that they shouldn’t be trying to visit in the first place.

Maddie and the children, in the 100 years that they slept, made up games to pass the time. They played as if not a day had passed, with joyous laughter ringing through their minds. But never their hearts, because they knew that with each day that passed, even though the spell was strong, that their bodies grew weaker. If the 100 year spell wasn’t broken soon, there would be no way to continue their lives.

Mistress Maddie, I see someone!

A horse neighed its agreement, and spoke in their collected minds as a human might.

(This particular palace would never look at their beasts of burden quite the same way again, by the way.)

It’s not a prince, the horse conveyed, sounding quite disappointed.

Of course it’s a prince, an old maid of Maddie’s replied. They’re always princes.

No, this is not a prince* a dog that lay quite close to the gates replied. It looks much more like…a fool.

A fool? Maddie was curious. What’s that?

It’s like Brian, right? a small voice piped up. One of the youngest children, only five years old and the most hopeful that the spell soon be broken, continued, Because mama always says he’s acting like a fool.

The queen’s laugh was like crystal, cascading throughout the palace. *No, not like Brian.*

We haven’t had a court fool for some time, Maddie’s father said thoughtfully. A fool is someone who makes a dark king light, who brings levity to times when things see the most hopeless.

What’s levity, a young girl asked.

Laughter, Maddie replied, but she did not have the definition of her answer in her voice. Instead, she was concerned. Why was her father giving them hope? They had watched men run from the palace for only a few days short of 100 years. Time was out. Better to prepare them for reality, that this was life now, not true joy and running and playing games with toys instead of thoughts.

She bit back a sob, but the bitterness remained.

Maddie was tired of not having a private thought to herself, and it was harder as time went on to hide it. She was tired of trying to convince the children that things would be okay, and even tired of trying to keep them children, instead of letting them grow up as they yearned to.

It was exhausting.

Is he gone yet? she snapped.

This time it was a guard who answered. He has not. He’s…well, he’s just standing there, Princess.

Her curiosity overtook her, and she watched the strange man approach.

* * *

Jackson was trying very hard to walk away from his problems when he managed to stumble on to someone else’s.

Is he gone yet?

His head jerked up at the voice that was quite loud in his head, as if someone behind him had spoken.

Someone quite beautiful.

And angry.

He looked up from the path he’d been on for some time. He wasn’t even sure how long at this point, only that several days ago he’d walked through a patch where everyone who saw him warned him that if he stayed on the road he was on, he’d better take a wide berth around the palace at the end of it.

He’d apparently not paid too much attention.

Jackson had found the palace.

He’s just standing there, he heard on his other side, and he spun to look in the opposite direction. He actually looks kind of scared.

“Who is that,” Jackson demanded in his court voice, one that rang loud and carried far. “Who are you?”

He did not look scared.

“I demand you show your face!”

Ha! Fat lot of good that’s going to do him.

How long is he going to just writhe around like that?

Does it matter? It’s been so long since anyone’s been by. Maybe he’ll come in!

He’s not coming in, Mother, a sharp young voice snapped that Jackson recognized as the first he had heard. He’s going to run like all the others.

Jackson swatted at the noise that swam around his head, the voices without bodies that he could not control.

But the last…

“I am not a coward,” he growled, this time not imagining that they could hear his reply. He was not a coward! He was many things—unemployed, unloved, and friendless, but never a coward.

He was within ten steps of the palace gates, and they stood open as if they’d been in the middle of a busy day.

So Jackson stormed through them.

And froze as the voices stopped as if startled by his action.

“See? Not as scared as you are now, am I?”

What does he think he’s doing?

“I’m coming in your damned palace, that’s what I’m doing,” he growled.

This time the voice that replied was new, deep, and commanding, even though the words were not a command. He can hear us.

The press of voices now were more than a buzz, they were a roar. A physical weight that pressed down on him and forced him nearly to his knees. Jackson now was scared, as he felt like the life was being squeezed from his body.

His hand touched something warm and soft, and he turned to look at it. It was the body of a small dog that appeared to be dead. It did not move, or take breath, but lay there with eyes closed.

Jackson ignored the voices now and looked around him. The courtyard was filled with animals, not only this dog. Horses lay as if they had folded where they stood, harnesses and saddles still strapped to their bodies. Goats, sheep, and chickens were grouped together in pens, but all were asleep. One rooster still sat on his perch.

He stood—the voices had again gone silent. Walking over to one of the horses, he saw a thick layer of dust and grime staining the saddle on the animal’s back. He knelt again, feeling its head and neck.

The body was as if dead, obviously not moved from its position in years, and yet still warm to the touch, as if alive.

“What the hell is wrong with this place?”

This time, no voices answered.

Well, if they wouldn’t give them to him, he’d find them.

He walked past something coated in dirt and mud, and it wasn’t until he made his way indoors and saw a young maid lying on the ground with her face towards the ceiling. Her clothing was filthy, as was the horse’s saddle, but her face showed no sign of age. It was as clean as if she had washed it, then lay down in the doorway for a nap.

He passed her, and moved quickly down the first hallway he saw.

Jackson’s heart leapt from his chest to his throat when he saw the children lying as if…

He couldn’t even think it.

He kept walking.

He passed a long room, and looked in it only long enough to see that there sat a king and a queen, their crowns long since tarnished, their gems coated with dust.

They had yelled at his back that the young woman had been ensorceled in a deep sleep. It had affected the entire palace, and only she could break it.

He remembered their words now that had previously been lost in the haze of drink. He needed to be looking for a young woman.

“Where the hell do you hide a princess in this damned place?”

Up the stairs, a young voice said, and if he could have seen her, she might have been smiling.

And don’t say ‘damned’, another child reprimanded him.

“You said it,” he replied, actually talking to the voices now. He was talking to voices in his head. He knew it was crazy.

Except these voices sounded like they could have been the group of children he’d passed, the ball on the floor waiting to be picked up so they could resume their game.

I just said it ‘cause you said it, the small voice replied petulantly.

He’s just teasing, an older child soothed.

Fools do that.

“Who told you I’m a fool? I’ll have his head!”

The King told us.

Jackson stopped, and looked around at the empty stairwell. “Well, maybe not his head.”

Down this hall, a woman whispered now.

His assistance was getting older.

Through the third door on your left, another voice instructed.

On your right, not you left, you dolt!

Oh, yeah. Right.

Jackson smiled to himself. He kind of thought he liked these voices.

The instructions were true. He opened the third door on his right, and found a most magnificent room with a very large and elaborate stained glass window. Each framed piece of glass formed to display a magnificent rose on and about the centerpiece of the room, a pedestal with a young woman prone on its surface, her hands folded gently below her chest.

A spinning wheel sat in the corner, as pristine as it was the day it was manufactured.

“I think I found you,” he said to the young woman. She was beautiful, with dark hair and long lashes. Her dress was a little out of fashion, and quite dirty, but again, her hands and face, any part of her that was exposed, was as clean as if it had just been washed.

What took you so long, the first voice from the courtyard snapped.

Jackson just smiled. He had spent his entire life in one court or another, and he held more than a little pride—justly—at his ability to understand royalty.

“What, you missed me?”

How can I miss someone I’ve never met?

“Come on. Admit it. You missed me a little bit.”

And then, Jackson broke the spell.


This post of fiction is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge.  I’m doing short stories of about 1,000 words, based on words I like that start with today’s letter, and twisting each to a Grimm Brother’s fairy tale. Don’t forget to check out the participant list to check out other amazing bloggers blogging about today’s letter!

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