Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sparkling Gold - Flash Fiction Challenge 2015 Story 2

Genre: Fairy Tale
Location: Funeral Home
Object: Spaghetti with Meatballs
Sparkling Gold
Rapunzel died on Monday.  Angela hadn't had someone this noteworthy in a long time.  It had been over a year since she prepared Sleeping Beauty.  But, because of their track record and tendency to only seem to die, various tests needed to be administered to any royalty, celebrity, magical creature or historically significant person before they were deemed “officially deceased.”  That was Angela’s job.  She was the resident Death Tester and mortician for the kings and queens and godmothers and just once, a beloved squirrel.


Rapunzel’s hair had not been touched by time.  It had stayed as golden as the straw she spun until the day she died at 104.  Only her face and hunched back showed her age.  She had deep lines around her mouth and crows feet branching out from her eyes.  But her hair still held the luster of youth, the golden trusses hanging low over the cold metal table.


Now Friday, Rapunzel had passed most of the tests.  Her body had been cleared for poison and sleeping elixirs.  Frogs and toads were pressed to her stiff lips.  Magic harps played on a loop.  Enchanted birds were brought in to whistle her favorite tune.  Spinning-wheel needles were confiscated from witches’ homes and screened for spells.  Prince Rupert had just left, the fourth and youngest prince of the current royal family.  It was his job to kiss each dead lady to rule out any bewitchment that might require a prince to awaken them.  He kissed Rapunzel quickly.  Needless to say, this “duty,” wasn't his favorite. 


After all the tests were complete, and the dead remained dead, Angela would prepare them for their glass coffin.  They were celebrities even in death.  Their stories remaining real as long as their bodies could be seen.


Now that Rapunzel had been officially declared dead, the world could begin grieving and await their chance to stand before the glass coffin, and say their farewells to the woman who inspired a century of blonde hair color and floor-sweeping lengths. 


But a year before, almost to the day, Rapunzel had come to Angela and asked her to do the unthinkable. 


“I want you to cut it all off.  And then I want you to burn it.”   The wrinkled woman had to look up at Angela during their meeting at the funeral home, her head weighted down, her neck no longer strong enough to support the weight of the hair. “Please, you must promise.”


Angela didn't want to do it.  She had been told her story as a little girl and she loved picturing the prince climbing up her strong braid to rescue her.  Angela fought within herself, holding onto the magic of Rapunzel and her hair, but also felt pity for the old woman and what had become of her.  She could hear the desperation in her voice and the fear that her hair would keep growing, turning her into even more of a spectacle than she had been when she was alive.


"I swear."


After receiving Rapunzel’s body, she spent five days combing it, running her fingers through the never-tangling locks.  It was cold, the telling chill of dead hair.  She thought while administering the potions and spells to safeguard against burying one of the famous too soon, that the temperature of the hair was the only test they ever really needed.  Living hair retains heat, stretching down to the very tips. But once a person dies, the hair will forever be cold, lifeless and still. 


She thought of their meeting a year before, and remembered her promise to do as the old woman had asked.   She waited until the end of the night, the harps and singing birds quiet under their covering sheets and cages.  She pulled out a pair of scissors, the same ones she often used to trim and style hair and beards and the curling mustaches of the villains.  She held up a handful of gold, allowing it to slip through her fingers like cool water.  Then she put the blade around the thin ropes that raised a man to his love, strong enough to support his quest and magical enough to inspire a story to be told again and again, imprinting a picture of true love on every girl’s heart.


“What are you doing?” Griffin asked while clutching a stained Tupperware of reheated spaghetti he brought in for his lunch every day, a half-chewed meatball in his mouth.


“Nothing!” she said, startled and dropping the scissors.


“Don't do anything stupid.” he said, eyeing her suspiciously.  Griffin was her assistant and a distant cousin to Sleepy, one of Snow White’s infamous seven.  “Whatever you're doing, you won’t get away with it.  You can’t sell it, you'd lose your job.”


“I was just trimming it.”


"Ya, whatever." He turned and left to finish his meal in the front parlor.


She knew she would never get away with what she was about to do, and she wasn't exactly sure what would happen to her.  But despite her hesitation to destroy something so famous, so integral to a story known by thousands, she felt compelled to lift the burden from the old woman trapped beneath the unbearable weight of her golden hair.


So she began to cut slowly, worried Griffin would come back.  But with each lock that fell to the floor, she felt more confident about what she was doing.  Soon, there was nothing more than a rough inch of hair sticking straight up on the crown of Rapunzel’s head.  And for a moment, she thought she saw Rapunzel smile.  But before she could worry she had been declared dead too soon, the old woman started to disappear and fade into nothing.  Only the pile of hair remained.  Angela stood quiet, and then slowly started gathering it up.  She walked to the furnace, careful to not miss a strand, and dumped it all in.  It burst and crackled like straw and sparked like gold. 

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