Pondering in the Powdery Snow.
A post-modernist take on the tale of Little Snow-White by the Brothers Grimm.
Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes had sprinkled from the heavens, there lived a Queen who forever sat at the highest window of her castle, staring out at the powdery swirling mists below. She would reside there in the castle each and every winter until it melted from her land. For she was a lonesome woman. Her husband, the King, had died some time ago and left behind his entire kingdom on the condition that she would raise his motherless infant daughter. The child wore skin as white as snow, lips as red as a blood red rose and hair as dark as an ebony night, and she was therefore known as Snow-White.
She could have come to love this child, and she quite nearly did so, but she was proud and arrogant, and couldn’t stand any creature that might surpass her in beauty or reverence. At the top of her tower the Queen possessed a magic mirror, fashioned from a dozen twigs of an elder tree, the three hind feathers of a crow and the bones of Snow White’s mother, her younger prettier sister and every evening at the stroke of midnight she would stand before it, admiring herself in the reflection, and say:
‘Slave in the magic mirror,
From the huntsman’s woods race,
Fly from the farthest reaches of mine Kingdom
And show me thy face!’
Every candle of light would be extinguished in the room. There would be a gust of wind blowing open the window, the crack of thunder and the spitting of fire. Fluorescent flames would extinguish the Queen’s enchanting reflection and there, emerging through the fires of Lucifer, will appear a sinister smiling face..
‘What wouldst thou know, my noble Queen?’ The voice would ask. ‘Magic mirror on the wall, whom is the fairest one of all?’
It would say she and so each and every night the vain Queen would return to her window, satisfied, for she knew the mirror would only answer to her and speak the truest of truths. Yet on that bitter night in midwinter it replied:
‘You, my Queen, are fair, ‘Tis true, Yet there is another, Snow-White, By in far much fairer than you.’
The Queen turned a sickening shade of green and away from the messenger of truth before her. From that hour on and through onto dawn she grew restless and intense hatred for the young girl. She would only find peace in Snow-White’s eternal slumber. Envy and pride grew had gotten the better of her, they had manifested themselves like a weed in her heart, until she could no longer find peace of mind, neither day or night. By the coming morning she had decided to summon her noble huntsman and permit him to relieve her of this boiling burden in her bosom. She would give him a chest, a gift of her late husband’s from her sister with instructions only to return to the castle once he had murdered the young girl in the forest and cut her heart, full of warmth and peace, from its resting place. She envisioned the huntsman taking Snow-White deep into the dark woods, producing his hunting knife and piercing her chest with it. Yet, she consulted the magic mirror before she sent for him, it was a task near-impossible to complete by one of faint heart. Crying the words of enchantment, the face appeared readily at her command. ‘Yes, my noble Queen?’ the mirror responded. ‘See into the farthest depths of the future, Sup on the blood of a lamb, And tell me, Will the huntsman take the blade into his hand?’
The voice thought, long and hard, for it could only tell the truth and serve only one mistress. Yet she was no longer fair in face nor gracious of heart, the Queen had become stubborn, almost poisonous in thought and tongue. It was as if a stone had lodged itself in the mirror, it was torn between right and wrong, for its words would result in the spilling of young innocent blood without reason. Yet her spell compelled it to do just otherwise:
‘The hunter won’t hunt the hunted, my fair Queen, Snow White will be turned loose to the mouth of the forest, In undertaking this task of slaughter, you cannot be seen.’
In a cloud of purple and red the mouth sneered, disappearing, twisting away into a magnificent fireball. The Queen admired her tainted reflection in the mirror for a moment then scorned at it. She had a tall neck, a thin face and long eyelashes, she was fair in face but not in heart and would never be the fairest in the land. She turned away from it and summoned the incapable huntsman. And when he bowed before her, she asked for his hunting knife, he parted with it and she painted the walls with his incompetence. As she turned from the stomach-less being it had come to pass that a handsome prince had entered the castle’s walls and happened onto the courtyard where Snow-White picked unspoiled roses for her majesty. And from the thin window pane, she heard his infectious singing and watched the two of them flirting below, narrowly. Snow-White remained cautious of the man however, she remained atop a flight of steps and smiled a feeble smile. She was embarrassed but at the same time looking at him how a man wanted to be looked at. At this the wicked Queen’s heart overflowed with rage and so she charged down the spiral staircase of the tower and into a secret room in the base of the dungeons, of which only she had the only key to. The room was decorated in chains, plastered with naked rock walls and secured with iron bars. Furthermore, it was partly submerged with sewer water and produced a ghastly fragrance. The Queen practiced witchcraft in this room and was well-known for her evil deeds. She produced an apple as red as Snow-White’s heart shaped lips. She twirled it at the stem between her thumb and forefinger. She mixed a concoction in a cauldron consisting of the pelt of a black cat, the scream of the night and the blood of a virgin; taken from her own wrist. From the outside it was perfect, the skin was crimson and full in face and nourishment, but any who took a bite from it would be sent into an eternal slumber only to be awoken by love’s first kiss. The Queen returned to her bedchamber, preparing herself, and placed the single perfect apple in a fruit basket at the window, in full view of the magic mirror. And then, after doing so, summoned the young princess to the tower. ‘Yes Stepmother?’ young Snow-White asked. ‘Dear child,’ she smirked, ‘You have grown into a beautiful young lady, more beautiful than I, and have the attention of a charming prince. Tell me child, and tell me true, do you intend to elope with the young prince?’
At this the young Snow-White’s cheeks blushed, as red as her rosy lips. ‘Well, your majesty, I…’ The Queen cut her off.
‘Then I propose a gift,’ she said, taking the apple from the basket and handing it to the young girl before her. ‘This is no ordinary apple, it’s a wishing apple, one bite and that is all it takes for your dreams to come true. The prince, and all that you seek, will be yours for the taking.’ she said in a sinister tone. Yet the young Snow-White remained hesitant. The Queen urged the forbidden fruit into her hand and chortled as the young girl took a bite and dropped to the floor dead. And only then, was her envious heart at rest. ‘Now I am the fairest in the land!’ she shouted, circling the sleeping Snow-White. She cackled and cheered unawares of the troupe eavesdropping on the whole scene. Outside stood the prince and seven little men, wielding swords and brandishing axes. The charged through the door, picked up the Queen and flung her on the bed, fastening her arms and legs down before rendering her unconscious.
Slowly Regina attempted to open her eyes. She was aware of a throbbing from her head. Her eyes sprang open at the blood trickling down to her neck. A furious beam of light blinded Regina and she closed her eyes. Quickly she closed them and then, now ready for the shock, allowed her eyelids to flick open. She found herself gazing at a lamp and tiled ceiling that seemed to gleam. She could hear the handsome young doctor from Princeton urging the Director on.
‘She’s a danger to herself and the other patients sir.’
‘Need I not remind you of your position here doctor, you are still a junior and have much to learn. I, and I alone, decide what is to be done with her.’ the Director responded.
‘Sir, with all due respect, only more modern methods will help here. Christ, she poisoned her sister and husband for an affair rather file for divorce! She butchered Howard, he was her longest-running psychiatrist and poisoned Sister-Watson! Where will it end sir? She’s in goddamn wonderland!’
‘Then what would you suppose son, scrap all the medication?’
‘Entirely. A frontal lobotomy would be the best course of action at this time before she becomes even more violent. Heck, it took seven orderlies and myself to restrain her. All I ask is for your permission sir.’
There was a long pause that seemed to linger in the air for minutes: a lot of umming and ahhing before the clearing of a throat and a grunt. Only one word was uttered: ‘Fine.'