Mirror, Mirror

It’s not till the early morning hours, as I lie alone in my cold bed, that I realize getting rid of her won’t solve the problem. There will always be someone younger and more beautiful, and I can’t kill them all.

This piece of flash fiction tells an alternate version of the classic fairytale, where Snow White isn’t quite as innocent as she seems. Flash fiction is all about writing a compelling story with all the correct elements (conflict, rising action, character development, climax, etc.) in very few words. The League of Utah Writers, the association I’m affiliated with, sets their max at 1,000 words. I’ve written micro fiction as small as 100 words. This one weighs in at 981.

Mirror, Mirror – by Josie Hume

I step from the bath and walk to the ornate mirror, leaving a trail of wet footprints across the marble floor. I wipe a circle clear of steam. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall,” I murmur as I lean close to its reflective surface, “who is the fairest? Me or that bitch, Snow White?”

The mirror doesn’t answer, of course, but I don’t need it to. I already know the answer. Despite all my effort, time has left the footprints of its relentless march across my face.

My breath fogs the glass until I’m only a blurred shape again. Indistinct. Invisible.

“Still as vain as the day I met you.”

The deep voice startles me. I hadn’t heard him come in. I force myself to ignore the instinctive desire to cover up and turn to face my husband. Even after all these years, his handsome face causes my breath to catch and my skin to flush with desire.

“It’s not vanity,” I say. “It’s…survival.” I walk toward him, searching his eyes for the heat that used to burn so brightly in those midnight depths. I yearn for that fire, for those war-rough fingers to trace my body again, for that smoky voice to murmur exciting, explicit words telling me how much he desires me. Back then, we wouldn’t leave the bed for days.

I’d been hated. Called a witch—what else but witchcraft could keep the king from his duties. But I knew the truth. He was too full of passion, of life and ambition to do anything by halves. When he warred, he warred whole-heartedly. When he entertained, he entertained lavishly. And when he loved, he loved to the exclusion of everything else.

I reveled in it—wallowing in hours of bliss. Entire days lost in a sexual haze.

And I feared it, even then. What if someone else caught his eye?

I was right to fear. He watches me now with the impersonal glance of an auditor tabulating nothing more intimate than numbers. Still beautiful. Still thin. No longer young.

I skim my hands up to cup my breasts, eyes on his, desperate to see something—hatred, disgust—anything would be better than the cold dispassion he shows me now.

But he turns from me. “Get dressed. The guests are arriving.”

He walks out.

I call my servants with straight shoulders and dry eyes. Queens don’t cry. An hour later I’m resplendent in a violet dress, its wide sleeves trimmed with black fur. The white collar frames my face before cutting past my jaw in a sharp vee that plunges between my breasts to my navel, displaying a sliver of creamy skin. It’s daring, it’s scandalous. It’s gorgeous.

The noise in the hall falls silent as I make my entrance. All eyes are on me—men with desire, women with judgement and jealousy. But my triumph is short-lived—there is only impatience in my husband’s gaze as I meet it across the sea of bowed heads. Any hope I have left is snuffed by the ebony-haired beauty at his side.

Snow White.

She stares at me as she sinks into the barest curtsy, her hand resting possessively on my husband’s arm.

I wrench my eyes from her blood-red smirk, but my mind won’t stop conjuring pictures of his strong body moving over hers, his tanned skin contrasting with her alabaster hue, hands touching her the way he used to touch me.

Is she the first? Or just the most recent?

The feast passes in a blur. I was born to this, and my mouth is on auto-pilot. I charm, I flirt—a sympathetic hand here, a pointed glance there. But my mind is busy with a thousand different ideas on how to kill Snow White—venomous combs, suffocating corsets, poisoned apples.

It’s not till the early morning hours, as I lie alone in my cold bed, that I realize getting rid of her won’t solve the problem. There will always be someone younger and more beautiful, and I can’t kill them all.

So, what to do with the real problem—my husband.

I throw the covers aside and begin to pace.

I can’t bring him back to my bed. Despite countless beautifying rituals, he’s still taken his lust elsewhere.

I can’t change his mind. I briefly consider blackmail then dismiss it just as quickly. It may stop the infidelity, but it won’t bring him back to me. Bribery, deprivation and fear tactics are useless for the same reason. So, how can I make him need me? How can I stop him from seeing other women?

Then it comes to me. So simple, really. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before.

The next night, I hide in his chambers. Through a crack in the wardrobe door, I watch Snow White prepare for my husband, primping in a sheer negligee. My husband enters. I watch him pour his whiskey—such a creature of habit, so easy to drug—and share it with her. I watch him kiss her, strip her, touch her.

I smile as confident hands begin to fumble and forceful movements become sluggish, until heads droop in unconsciousness.

I creep from the wardrobe and stare at their naked bodies still entwined upon the bed. A shadow slips into the room. My huntsman. He gathers Snow White and leaves just as silently. He’ll take her to the forest. The dwarves are always looking for slaves. They’ll pay well for her.

I dismiss her from my mind and examine my husband. It’s a sin to mar such perfection, but it’s the only way.

I pull a small vial from the purse on my belt and uncork it. The smell of the acid inside the flask stings my nose.

It’s true, I can’t kill every beautiful woman, but I can stop him from seeing them.

I pull back his eyelids.

Ever After

With a sigh, I close my laptop. Life beneath its cover seems so much easier. Cleaner. The story ends, summed up in three little words: happily ever after. For a moment in time, everything makes sense.

The diarist, Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” I’m always surprised to find my characters saying things that I haven’t thought. I often read what they’ve said and think, “That’s deep. Thanks for sharing that thought with me. I hadn’t thought of it in that way before.” But of course, I must have. My fingers just typed it. It’s not actually my character saying something, it’s the quiet part of my brain that’s been busily chewing on a problem finally churning out the answer. I write to discover what I believe. I write to understand my life. I write to understand others’ viewpoints. I write to live. And I live to write. Life is an amazing adventure and I love to capture its shades and shadows in words.

Ever After – by Josie Hume

Story. It’s there, trembling on my fingertips, dancing in the front of my brain. I can glimpse greatness, but so far it’s ephemeral. A hollow outline waiting to be filled. My character stands before me, arms folded, head thrust forward. “So, tell me what to do.”

I scowl. “Be patient, I’m thinking.”

The blank page mocks me. Glowing white, the cursor blinking. On. Off. On. Off. Waiting for me to type something. Anything.

My fingers move. Haltingly. Words I know I’ll never keep. They feel like progress, anyway. Water to prime the pump. Okay, here we go. A little better, a little smoother. Still nothing brilliant, but the plot is moving forward. I know I’ll be able to come back and revise. Edit. Erase. But for now, I’m content to push forward.

And it is a push. A physical effort. Brute force.

Things are plodding along when suddenly I stall. There’s a word I’m looking for. A certain word. It feels vitally important to find it now. Now, while I know what I mean to say. I click on my Thesaurus and comb through hundreds of words. No, not that one. Close, but not quite.

Ah. There it is.

I sit back, pleased with myself until I realize Newton’s first law of motion is in place. I am an object at rest. I have lost all momentum. It’s uphill again. My character rolls her eyes. “You shouldn’t have stopped.”

I grind my teeth.

I start again. Forcing creation. Shoving my character around. Dragging her, kicking and screaming, where I need her. “Knock it off,” I demand. “Stop acting like a teenager!”

She flips me the bird.

I have to smile. She’s a rebel. She’s strong and smart, and exactly how I want to be. That’s what this is: two strong personalities fighting each other. One of us has to be the adult.

“Fine,” I say. “Then you do it.”

And she does.

Now it’s flowing. Now I’m not a writer—I’m a stenographer, a reporter. I’m watching and recording—language, inflection, action. My fingers are flying over my keyboard. It’s coming so fast words are misspelled, and punctuation is missing. But all the right words are there, on the page.

I can see my creation, the one who is me—part who I am, and part who I hope to be. Alive. Acting independent of me, the creator. I’ve taken a backseat. My creation is dictating things now. It’s not my book, it’s hers.


And then, finally, silence. Exhaustion. I have no idea how much time has passed while the movie in front of me played out, while my fingers raced to keep up with the action. But now the colors fade and time slows. Reality reasserts itself. Dinner still needs to be made. Kids need help with homework. The list of things I meant to do today is still waiting on the kitchen counter.

My character winks at me. “See you again tomorrow.”

With a sigh, I close my laptop. Life beneath its cover seems so much easier. Cleaner. The story ends, summed up in three little words: happily ever after. For a moment in time, everything makes sense.

My life is messier. I lose my omniscience and have to bumble my way through my own first-person present-tense story. It’s full of starts and stops, wrong decisions, and the endless minutiae of living.

Rarely greatness, but often goodness and kindness and laughter.

There’s no happily ever after in the real world. No way to skip the boring parts or know how it’s going to end. But even here, I’m still the writer. I decide what stays and what goes. And maybe the best story is just in front of me: here, today.

I’m on the edge of my seat.

Joyfully, crazily, excitedly ever after.

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