Twenty years ago, I kept a journal and wrote all kinds of poetry and notes on the streets of Montrose, the gay neighborhood I lived in in Houston. A lot of this observation informed my early stories. My dear friend, Josette, recently found a gift I gave her back then in the form of a strange fairy tale. I thought it was lost to time and am glad to have saved it. The bound journal came from a shop called Events in the upscale River Oaks neighborhood. It reminded me of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so the inspiration stuck from there. Here is the softly edited lost/found story from that time.
A Fairy Tale
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, fair-skinned boy. Doe was his name. He knew he was lovely for all the villagers told him so. Doe was fascinated by his reflection. Whenever he could, he would stare at his image gleaming off of metal objects, as well as the calm of still waters, and especially mirrors. Being an only child, he spent much time alone in a cabin deep in the woods of his family’s making. In the village proper, Mother worked in a pastry shop. Father was always away selling his wares.
On a rare visitation, Father brought home an antique mirror. It was carefully carved with Celtic-like symbols, which brought out a sense of magic from the cherry wood. Doe was enthralled. Every day, he would wake and go to the mirror. Hours would go by in an instant. He stopped playing outside, absorbed with himself. Sometimes he would stare so long that spots would appear.
The seasons changed, and nature died for winter’s sake. Wrapped in a blanket, Doe took his place on the worn floor below the mirror. Cool autumnal air billowed outside the cabin. Doe’s reflection lost its luminousness and began to fade. Darkness crept forward. Doe reached out to touch it. It touched him back, and the world changed. Doe crossed over.
Once upon a different time, Doe’s vision cleared and the mirror was black as pitch. No longer indoors and clean, it was hewn into rock. Vines climbed forth over it. Distraught, Doe ogled the odd surroundings. The trees were bigger and more menacing, as though they could speak but held their tongues. Doe held out his dainty hands, amazed by their peculiarity.
Dead, colorful leaves cover the forest floor thickly. The cold breeze blows away a clump. Doe reaches out, delicately retrieving a bone. It is old, yellow, and twisted. To his/her delight, there are many more twisted shapes and forms. Doe brushes the long locks of hair covering his forehead. Awe strikes Doe’s eyes. It is a graveyard. The scattered bones are those of miniature shape-shifters—small, always changing creatures who are never sure of what they are.
Doe pouts, thinking outside himself for a rare moment. There cannot possibly be a world outside of me in the form of thoughts spinning inside his/her head.
Did the shape-shifters finally choose a shape and turn to dust, or did they stay ambiguous?
Soft breath with the air of cinnamon strikes Doe’s face in a warm wave. Frightened, he/she looks up. A majestic white, soft-maned unicorn stares down from its golden eyes. Doe reaches up and slowly, ever so slowly, touches its velvety skin. The unicorn brays. The forest sparkles. There is a blinding light, and all is gone except for Doe’s reflection in the mirror above.
“Pull!” the paramedic yells.
The strobes fill with electricity again, surging Doe’s heart back into action. Doe’s wig is on crooked, and Doe’s lipstick is smeared. A tear falls from a mascaraed eye. For an instant, a small coyote appears and winks before changing into a sprite and then back again. Doe smiles knowingly, his/her eyes opening wider.
A voice says in a faded monotone, “Let’s call it…”
Another flash of light, and Doe pants by a stream. The forest is alive again with possibilities. Doe feels the soft light and coolness of the coming down. Movement is in the trees—eyes watch with anticipation. Doe, for once, does not want to see his/her reflection, for he/she is both. Doe smiles slowly and assuredly. All is well. The unicorn will come again.
Doe a deer, a female deer.
Beware of the miniature shape-shifters.
They are tricky.
Unicorns are sweet.
A strange gift for a strange time.