After a while the pricks and scratches left his arms and face numb; the razor-sharp points that dragged across his skin felt more like caresses, caresses leaving lines of red in their wake. But then- but then the thorns really were caressing him, and they weren’t thorns at all. Roses had bloomed, roses more vermilion than ever possible, with more petals than he’d ever seen, and they beckoned to him with their whispering brushes. Stay with us, they called. Will you choose a probable future of love and pleasure over what you have now?
As he walked, the prince closed his eyes and took a breath. He could smell the roses and feel their whispers, but in his mind he saw the looming towers of the hedge-guarded castle. He opened his eyes, expecting to see the same scene, but they were out of sight. Above his head, at his sides, everywhere around him, the tempting roses crept and welcomed and embraced. The boy paused in his march; could he be sure that he was the one fated to find the sleeping beauty?
Mother and Father sat by her bed today, and told her of the cook’s daughter’s newborn child; a girl, they exclaimed with smiles, named Katarina, or Katrina, or Catharine. However this would mean their food would be the responsibility of the cook’s older daughter, her parents pondered with frowns. An image of men and women retching in the rose bushes lining the courtyard came to mind.
The princess’ parents stood and left after patting her golden hair, leaving the young girl to stare out at her ornately decorated room. Her window was only partly covered with the drapes, and she could see the sun setting, slowly disappearing below her balcony. The princess brought her gaze back inside her room and stared for a moment at the tattered drapes that seemed to be made of dust, and the cobwebs that were woven one on top of the other in the crevices of the walls, and the half-destroyed wardrobe and dresser that no longer held her copious amounts of dresses. She tried to scream but couldn’t bring herself to open her mouth. Or her eyes.
Sometimes, the young princess had great difficulty distinguishing between consciousness and unconsciousness. However, she could usually tell which it was when the old crone came to care for her. If the ancient hag looked much less ancient and haggard than usual, it was probably a dream.
I thought you’d be able to keep in your panic by now, Rose; it can hardly be considered a surprise. Then there was the old crone, entering, as was her habit, by materializing from all the dust and gloom that pervaded the room. And it seemed that Rose was still dreaming, or maybe dreaming once again.
Would you tell me a story, now that you’re finally here?
Well, once there was a girl that they called the Sleeping Beauty, because she was very pretty, and- well- asleep. Many princes tried to wake her, but none succeeded.
Did she ever wake up?
After more than one hundred years, everybody started to lose hope.
That’s not it, is it?
And why wouldn’t that be the end, little princess?
Because the story just can’t end that way.
The old crone laughed and sat in the chair the princess’ father had previously occupied, before proceeding to pick through her gnarled, twisted teeth. Of course the story can end that way, girl, if I choose to stop telling it.