Twisted Fairy Tale: The Cottage by Cynthia Pelayo

Welcome to the 8th annual #SpookyShowcase! The Spooky Showcase celebrates the dark minds of creatives around the world through short stories and artistic creations that are dark in nature, macabre, or horror themed.

This year’s theme is Twisted Fairy Tales. Expect twisted legends, creepy creations, and dark fairy tales that will keep you up at night. Visit each day in the month of October for a scare. The master schedule is here.

The Cottage

By Cynthia Pelayo

This is your curse too, and the only way to break it is to make it to the end of the story, for if you make it to the end of the story maybe you too will survive. Woods are places of magic, places of power, that radiate energy. Let’s not say that there are good things or bad things that happen in the woods, at least not just yet, for there is still a story to tell. Let’s just say that this place of fantasy and wonder is a place of energy. Whether that energy is good, or bad, it does not matter, because energy is still energy. Energy comes from something and serves something. And, I know how to hone all power.

I came to be here the same way you came to be where you are, dear reader. There was a mother once and a father once. Whether or not they loved each other I do not know. I do not know the things of love. I just know things of practicality, of keeping my small cottage clean, sweeping the floors and washing the windows, tending to my small garden, chopping wood and making sure there is enough to get me through the cold and dark days, and of course how to prepare and maintain my herbs. Because you see, the lavender that grows in the garden must be cared for, it must be spoken to and watered, and when the lavender is plucked and dried it still holds all of its power from when it was connected to the earth and bathed by the sun. Lavender is for clarity, cleansing, relaxation, healing and peace, and so much more. All of my herbs and all of my charms hold power, and my house radiates their energy.

Sometimes I like to pretend that I do not know what came to be of father. I remember him in whisps of memories and snippets of sounds, and every time I make a stew of carrots, potatoes and beef, I can almost smell him. He smelled of fresh cut sage on Summer Solstice. Mother was with me until her sickness rotted her from the inside out. One day while picking lemongrass, mother collapsed in the meadow and asked me to leave her there, to die and sink into the earth and to become one with the great energy from where we all came and from which we all will return to again. I was still young when mother died, but before she died she showed me all of her ways, leaving me detailed notes and handwritten books, with instructions for creating her tinctures, potions, resins, powders, salts, oils, enchantments, and rituals. With mother’s last breath she whispered to me “You are blessed and damned all the same, my child. Consume them with great pleasure, all of their brightness and cheer.”

For some time, I was able to subsist on what little I had; corn and potatoes, carrots and beets, and when I dared in the earliest of mornings — I would venture to the market wrapped in my cloak to purchase sugar, flour, nuts, apples, nutmeg and cinnamon, because the smells of a pie baking in the forest on a summer day is the second most luscious smell I have ever smelled. When I would arrive in town a great bell would toll, and mothers would be seen fleeing the roads with their small children, demanding their babies turn their heads from me, and all I could do was smile, because one day, I would meet some of their little ones whether they wanted me to or not. For little children are curious beings, and the woods sing songs that lead them to me.

While I was just a girl of sixteen, those in the market knew not to look at me and into my eyes. I’m not sure where they learned this. Perhaps it was from mother or from father, but they knew that one look into my eyes, one look into the gold that encircled my irises was all it took for them to come under my spell. It was that simple, and no one could deny me. For while the weaker ones of my kind may need the herbs and tinctures to lure, I just needed for someone to look into my golden eyes, because all of that energy from my woods, from my forest, naturally empowered me.

Time passed, as it does, my solar returns coming and going, and I aged there in the cottage alone. Many days and nights I would go hungry, because as time moved on the corn and potatoes, carrots and beets all took the taste of grainy sand on my tongue. Even my love of apples and the smell of fresh baked pie hanging on the summer breeze smelled of decay to me, for all I craved and all I needed was what my mother denied herself there at the very end. Her hunger had grown so intense that even my father fell victim to it, for she would rather feast on his bones than another one so small again, and that is what killed her.

Still, I have waited enough, and it is time. I know those smells that you so desire little children. I know the taste on your tongues that you so crave, of sugar and honey, caramels and syrup, and tarts and cakes. Do you smell that delicious feast I have prepared for you? Can you see my cottage, perfectly set in an open clearing? Better yet now, can you see my house built of gingerbread and cakes, and the windows made of clear sugar? I hear you now children approaching. Little brother who reaches up and takes a bite of my door. Little sister who tastes the window, and now you can hear me:

Nibble, nibble, gnaw. Who is nibbling at my little house?

And when I open the door and let you in, I ask you dear Hansel and Gretel are you ready for the great banquet I have set for you?

About the Author

Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo is the author of LoteriaSanta MuerteThe Missing, Poems of My Night, Into the Forest and All the Way Through, and the upcoming Children of Chicago to be released by Agora / Polis Books in 2021.

She is an International Latino Book Award winning author and an Elgin Award nominee. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, a Master of Science in Marketing, a Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and is a Psychology Doctoral candidate. She is a Pitch Wars mentor. She lives in Chicago with her family.

She is represented by Amy Brewer at Metamorphosis Literary Agency.

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