Day 7 of this writing experiment was my jackpot day. I liked everything I wrote, some more than others, but Day 7 was when a run-away idea took hold and didn’t let go for most of the day. You know how people describe some books as ones they can’t put down? Once in a very great while I have an idea like that, that has to get typed up as fast as possible and won’t leave me be until it’s done. I love days like that.
On Day 7, I set a personal word count record, typing around 6,000 words. That turned out to be about two-thirds of “The Princess Behind Thorns,” a kind of Sleeping Beauty story, though a great many things are different from the traditional tale. My story is about Princess Rose Amelia, who is very much awake, but trapped by a spell in a garden behind thorns. And the prompt that inspired it all was “The garden shrank at night.” Here’s a bit from near the beginning.
Tonight was worse than it had ever been. She had been out on the wide lawn with her cats, so big a lawn that by day she didn’t even mind the thorns bordering the far side. Her latest two kittens, Silvertips and Emerald Eyes, were especially adorable today. She had been teasing them with a long grass stem, laughing at their antics, and she hadn’t noticed the descending sun until the shadows had nearly reached them.
She looked up at a sudden chill on the back of her neck, scrambled instinctively backwards away from the reaching shadow of the thorns. It was long, so, so long, deep, deep black, and mere feet away from her. For a moment she tried to look through the shadows, to see the grass that had to be there, that had been there minutes before.
Nothing but blackness.
In another moment she jumped to her feet, caught up a squirming kitten in each hand, and ran. She ran through her garden, heart pounding in her chest, ran through the paths she knew by heart, and shied away from even normal shadows.
It wasn’t only the shadows. It was the noise. The sound of creaking, rustling, scraping branches. The thorns were moving, swaying and shaking and writhing. There was often a gentle, tricksy breeze in her garden, but the thorns moved like they were caught in a storm, a malevolent, howling storm. Except that there was no wind at all.
She ran all the way to her bower, dropped the kittens and fell onto her bed. She hadn’t been a child for many, many years, but some buried instinct told her that she was safe with the blanket over her head. She lay huddled there, shaking, listening to the thorns moan, for a long, long time. The kittens scrambled in beside her, and only their warm furry comfort let her finally fall asleep.
In the morning the sun rose and all seemed well. She walked the edges of her garden, exploring. Half-afraid of what she would find, eying any shadows suspiciously. But all seemed well.
Until night, when the shadows reached out and the thorns moaned again.