In which we celebrate Halloween and the publication day of The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade.
We are delighted to announce the official publication day of The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade. This is the kickoff volume to our ongoing Novella Initiative, and our way of celebrating Halloween this year–with a disturbing, dark excerpt from the first story in the novella narrative, and a giveaway!
The Sleeping Beauty woke with a heartbeat between her legs.
Five classic fairy tales are reimagined by award-winning master of horror Octavia Cade in The Convergence of Fairy Tales. Sleeping Beauty. The Snow Queen. Snow White. The Frog Princess. Rapunzel.
Five new fairy tales. Five different accounts of betrayal, of power, and rage.
The Sleeping Beauty
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY WOKE WITH A HEARTBEAT BETWEEN HER LEGS. That was what dragged her out of the sticky swamp of enchantment, of curses and nightmare dreams—a red beat, one centred in her cunt and pulsing. It anchored her as fishing line, hooked into her flesh and hauling upwards until she broke the surface of her sleep and woke to a world so much different than before.
Her eyes were sticky-shut, the lashes glued together. It took work to open them and then the sun was so bright, shining through her tower window, the Sleeping Beauty promptly closed them again to let herself adjust to the light glowing pink through her lids. It was in that moment, floating just above unconsciousness, that she began to feel more than flares and fish-lines.
The sheets were wet. Damp, really, with the sour odour of sweat, especially in the space around her hips where she could feel the liquid pooling, feel the heaviness of the sheets against her skin. She tried to move, to shift out of the damp spot—had she wet herself, had her bleeding come early?—but it hurt to move and there was something between her legs, something soft and wet and spongy. Her lower back felt as if she had been beaten, and there was a tugging at one finger.
Her throat was dry, as if she’d been screaming and days without water. It took the Sleeping Beauty a few minutes of working her tongue around her mouth to find strength enough to make a sound. “Is anyone there?” she croaked. “Can somebody help me?”
It didn’t take long for her to come to the conclusion that no-one was coming, that she was left alone, abandoned. And still there was the tugging at her finger, a small warmth different from that of her linen nightdress, clinging to her form and wet from the heat of body and blankets. The Sleeping Beauty opened her eyes. She focused on the ceiling until her eyes watered into clarity, until the light had resolved into recognisable shades. “Don’t bother snivelling,” she said to herself, aware of the chest that wanted to hitch, the shallow whimper on the edge of breaths. “Something’s wrong, and you’re going to have to figure it out by yourself. Just don’t panic. There’s no need to panic.” She inhaled once, twice, as deeply as she could in an attempt to steel herself against pain, against shock and the desire to avoid discovery. “You can do this,” she said.
When the Sleeping Beauty raised herself up, sat in a bed red with her own blood and with fish hooks in her abdomen, she saw what had happened to her and began to scream.
She bundled the sheets, bound them up so that the birthing blood didn’t show and threw them into the fireplace. It took her a long time to ignite them—her hands were shaking, slick with sweat and the sheets not dry enough for catching, but with enough kindling, enough alcohol, she was able to get them burning.
The mattress was more difficult. She had to turn it over to hide the stains, but the Sleeping Beauty had weakness in her muscles, had wasted away from long sleep and improper care. The horsehair mattress was heavier than she was, and she had to stop on wobbly legs, to lean over and put her head between her knees to send the blackness from her vision, stop the little spots from circling. When she was finally able to lever it over, to see the smooth, unstained surface, the dizzy pounding of blood in her ears drowned out the baby voice, the little cries.
She threw the placenta out of the tower window. It was unpleasantly warm and amorphous in shape, like some sea creature hauled out of depths and pressure. The Sleeping Beauty could hardly bear to look at it. The touch of it made her want to scream and she thought she should probably bury it, but the thought of carrying the thing downstairs was too much for her so she let it fall from her fingers, watched it hit the side of her tower, watched it slide down the stone surface, and vomited over the windowsill.
Still the baby wailed. “Shut up!” cried the Sleeping Beauty. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” and she staggered into the bathroom, locked the door behind her. There was no hot water. From what she had seen of the garden, with her hands all empty and bloody and gripping the sill as she retched, the Sleeping Beauty had been asleep for a long time. The flowerbeds were overgrown, the grass rising high about her tower and there was a barrier around, a huge high mass of thorns, all bound together and sharp-edged. No wonder there was no hot water for bathing.
The Sleeping Beauty would have liked the warmth. She would have liked to scald herself in it, to scrape off all the remnants of her labour—but most of all she would have liked the steam billowing up around her, a layer of kind condensation on the mirror. Instead the surface was all too clear and she could see herself, see the stains on her flesh. Not just the blood and the fluids of her womb, but the permanent changes: the purple marks on her belly, the new heaviness of her breasts. The Sleeping Beauty turned her back on the mirror and cried as she scrubbed herself with frigid water, with lye soap. She would have broken the mirror, smashed it into pieces so that the sight of her reflection was beyond her, but she would have broken it with her fists and there was already enough blood to mop up.
When she was as clean as she possibly could be, the Sleeping Beauty wrapped herself up in an old nightdress and remade her bed with fresh sheets. The child was still on the floor, against the wall where she had thrown it. The Sleeping Beauty stood over it, frowning. “How the fuck are you still alive?” she said.
Buy the Book
The Convergence of Fairy Tales is available as an ebook (EPUB & MOBI) from all major retailers online, as well as directly available from us. The ebook edition also has an essay from the author.
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To celebrate the publication of The Convergence of Fairy Tales as well as Halloween, we are giving away a copy the novella in ebook format. The giveaway is open to all addresses internationally, and will run until Sunday November 6, at 12:01am EST. In order to enter for a chance to win, use the form below. Good luck!