The death happened on a sunny day down by the peaceful brook where families often picnicked in the warm days of summer. Who among the villagers would have guessed that a venomous snake lurked among the dark bushes that lined the silver stream? The girl Pinnoca, who was entering into the cusp between child and woman, certainly didn’t. As she picked the sweet smelling flowers of dazzling colours that grew beside the water, the snake had struck out and plunged its fangs into her rosy flesh. In her shock she had staggered back, lost her footing and plunged into the chill waters. The bite was not deep but the venom spread through her veins and froze her limbs. She drowned, her lips inches from the air that they so desperately sought.
The villagers grieved for a time, then moved onwards. The girl’s father, a widowed carpenter, was driven mad by the loss of his only child, his dead wife’s only legacy. He locked himself away in his workshop, living on the stale bread, potatoes and small wedges of cheese that an elderly women left on his doorstep each week. Friends and neighbours feared for his health, but no amount of knocking or calling out his name summoned him forth from the decaying house.
Night and day the steady sound of hammer and chisel reverberated through the house. The carpenter worked to ease his pain, his tools the vassals of all the emotion that could no longer flow from his body. Numb was his mind but skilled were his fingers. A single image was burned into his mind, all the more vivid in the troubled dreams that filled the scant scraps of sleep that he could not fight.
After three weeks he lay down his tools and with eyes that had not known peaceful sleep for too many nights, he gazed upon the smiling face of his blessed child. Her skin was pale, almost perfectly white, her shimmering hair was a shade lighter than one might remember and her pale blue eyes were bright like sapphires but looked glazed and did not shine. She wore a pretty dress of red cloth that her father had bought her to wear on her coming of age birthday.
The father sat the child upon his knee and whispered stories and fairytales into her ears. The fine golden strings that hung from looped earrings jittered from the vibration of his voice and the gentle breeze from his breath. His gaunt face was reflected in her eyes but that was the only sign of life within them.
Night came and the father tucked his daughter into bed. He sat down in an old chair beside the window and watched over the perfect girl. Her glassy eyes did not close though. They stared forward and yet seemed to follow his movements like old portraits.
Turning towards the window he cried out into the star flecked sky. “Lord! Return her to me. I need her back. I beg you!”
Amidst the light specked sky of darkness, a distant star glistened for a moment then shot across the heavens like a firefly across a still pond. Before the man’s thoughts caught up with his vision, a woman sat upon his window ledge, clad in nothing but a veil of moonlight. Her skin was like golden leaves and her hair like spun silver.
“Your Lord will not heed you but the Moon Fae shall grant your heart’s yearnings. Sleep now, and when you awake, young Pinnoca will return to your arms,” she spoke, her tones told of sugar and unseen depths.
Golden dust fell from the wooden ceiling like a fine snow. Its touch placed the carpenter into a deep sleep, as it did to the mice and lice who too called the house home. Falling to his knees he slumped forward, his head resting upon the edge of Pinnoca’s bed. He dreamt of days gone past and smile softly in his sleep.
The new day was heralded by a creaking sound beside the poor man’s ear. His bleary eyes opened upon the sight of a perfect little face. Blood red lips smiled sweetly upward.
“Good morning, Papa,” greeted his daughter’s voice, an eerie resonance of the past. For a moment he believed himself still in the blissful throes of his dream.
“P-Pinnoca, is it really you?”
Lovingly sanded wood caressed his whiskered face as she placed a hand upon his cheek. “Of course it is me, Papa,” cooed the voice sweetly. It was undoubtedly the voice of his daughter.
He swept the child into his arms and rushed from the house, shouting with joy as he went. Others emerged from their cottages to investigate the commotion to see the carpenter holding up the child to show the world his pride.
Clanking wooden arms waved at them, unblinking glass eyes drifted their gaze across them. Greetings fluttered from rose tinted lips like they spoke to a gathering of old friends. The villagers looked on in horror while the man beamed with paternal pride.
The girl resumed her former life but the God fearing villagers kept well clear. There were constant gasps of shock, of horror, and many a call to remove the unnatural child from their village. The local preacher had gone so far as to try and exorcise her with holy fire, until the poor carpenter had threatened to wedge a chisel into his chest.
Months slid by and Pinnoca’s birthday passed. It should have been a time of great celebration to mark a step away from childhood and toward becoming an adult woman but none of the villagers accept their invitations and none of the ceremonial rites where offered. The carpenter did what he could but one man could not fill the role of an entire community.
Pinnoca did have the soul of a girl though, a girl who continued to grow even though her body was in stasis, and so found herself drawn to the preacher’s son. He was a tall youth with blonde hair, green eyes, strong arms and a handsome face. Unable to approach him due to her new role as pariah she followed him, watching from a distance, admiring how his skin glistened with sweat as he worked and how the wind ruffled his hair. This continued for many weeks until the day of the anniversary of her death.
As most days before, the preacher’s son entered the forest and made the short walk to the small chapel that sat just within the expanse of trees. She ventured after him and finding no trace of him, peer through a small crack in the stained-glass window. There was no sign of life within. A sudden crack behind her caused her to whip around. The young man stood before her.
“So you have been following me,” he growled.
Pinnoca shook her head rapidly, caught off her guard. The movement caused her nose to grow slightly.
“You think that you love me?”
“No!” she blurted. Her face was unable to blush, but her voice portrayed the same message. This time her nose grew further so that it brushed against the young man.
“Father was right. You are an unnatural monster, ungodly.”
Pinnoca whimpered but no tears could fall. “I am a real girl!”
“Real?” he spat. Grabbing her roughly he tore open her shirt, the small flowery buttons scattering across the dirt around them revealing a pale, small breasted chest. He knocked upon one of the perfectly formed mounds creating a hollow thumping sound that echoed through the trees.
“You are nothing but a toy fuelled by the devil. A doll.”
A sharp sound pierced the quiet of nature. The preacher’s son recoiled as Pinnoca’s wooden hand slapped against his cheek. He staggered back before regaining his wits. In a rage he grabbed hold of her and began to shout.
“Father knew what had to be done to cleanse the town. Father is the spokesman of God and it is he that demands your destruction!”
From his belt he drew a knife used for whittling branches and held it before him. “It was God’s verdict that you should die, but here you are. It is sacrilege. Return to whence you came, doll of the devil!”
The knife entered her with a dull thud that seemed to reverberate through her hollow chest as he stabbed out with righteous vengeance. She screamed then fell. Drawn by the scream came Pinnoca’s father. He ran through the forest and saw the girl upon the floor with the preacher’s son stood over her, knife still in hand. With an anguished cry he rushed toward her, shoving the youth away before kneeling down next to her.
He scooped the limp body into his arms and ran back to the village. The sky had been darkening with cloud for the past few hours and chose that moment to begin its downpour. Upon hearing the commotion the villagers gathered and watched silently like ancient statues as the poor man staggered frantically amongst them, screaming for help.
A stone tripped him and both he and Pinnoca sprawled forward in the dirt. The girl rolled for several feet further down the slight slope away from the carpenter’s frantic hands. This knock proved too much for the girl. With a shuddering final breath, she returned to death. At her passing a magical light that appeared as a thousand fireflies descended upon the body. They flared brighter than the crowd could bear to watch, then faded away.
Pinnoca’s father rushed to her side yammering. He touched flesh that was still warm against his fingers, felt skin that was soft. Crimson blood pooled around her from the wound in her chest. Into his arms she was once more placed.
“I told you all she was real, that she was alive! Look at her! Now its too late!” he wailed. The villagers looked on with grim faces. In his arms was a battered puppet whose paint had begun to run in the rain and now dripped freely from the gnarled limbs. Glass eyes that bore no semblance of life stared hauntingly forward.
Without a word the villagers returned to their homes, leaving the carpenter alone in the vicious rain. The clumsy wooden imitation of a life was still clenched in an embrace within his arms By morning, there was no sign of either.
Here is an Angela Carter style subversion of a fairytale that I wrote about six years ago. Its not horror but it is kinda creepy. I wrote it as an end of year present for my English teacher then used it on numerous occasions after for school and even uni projects. Enjoy.