Beauty is cursed. She has an obsession with pointy things. Needles, open safety pins, long-stemmed roses, Jimmy Choo stilettos, and yes, spindles.
Beauty first displayed evidence of this curse around the time she turned sixteen, and her parents and the school psychiatrist banded together to save her. They hid the sharp objects. They inspected her arms and legs for suspicious scratches. Whenever they found one, Beauty protested that the thin red line was a papercut, or the caress of a stray branch in the woods, and were they going to take books and nature away from her, too? Still, they never listened; they gave her pills to swallow that left her too sleepy to search for needles.
No one thought to investigate the reason behind this curse or to look for a possible cure. Weren’t all young women cursed, in one way or another, in this world that promised countless possibilities, but only for the kind of girls who had the perfect body and the perfect grades, and always, always, a smile? The best course of action, it seemed, was to medicate, and wait for those most dangerous years to pass.
Somehow, Beauty convinced them all she’d beaten the curse, conquered the obsession, and they sent her off to college. Now she lives too far from home for her parents to invade and inspect her piles of books and clothes for spikes and razors. Beauty herself tries to avoid the sharp objects, because she now associates them with the drowsiness the world forced upon her. But her mind darts, restless, a hook with no meat to sink into, and always her thoughts return to the same puzzle: the tenderness of human flesh amid a world of barbs and thorns.
Beauty meets a boy in her abnormal psychology class, and against her better judgment, she tells him about the curse. He says, “You need to chill out,” and invites her to his apartment to smoke a joint. He has curly hair that dips over one eye and reminds her of a Disney prince. The joint fills her insides with soothing smoke that makes her feel heavy enough to fly away. But that doesn’t make sense—it should be light enough to fly away, right? She doesn’t care that it doesn’t make sense. The joint is a soft, muted rebellion, the opposite of sharp edges. Just like this boy is a soft, muted rebellion, with his warm lips on her unbroken skin, and the eventual impalement so soft and spongy she could sleep right through it.
Beauty steals a joint from the boy’s bedside table and sneaks outside in the moonlight. She spies a rosebush in the courtyard, and remembers a story she read about a girl who asked for a rose in midwinter.
Stories have taught Beauty to ask for dangerous things, so she abandons the lit joint on the sidewalk, stubs it out under her flip-flop, and approaches the bush with its unopened buds. She wraps her palm around a stem, feels the thorns jab their way through tender flesh, igniting nerves that rush all the way to her brain and light her up. The sharpness tells her that so much is possible, on the other side of sleep and fear.
There is so much to do and so much to feel, but Beauty has time. She is awake now.
This story contains the world, or at least one piece of it, and stands as an exemplar of the best in what is possible in very short fiction.
A fractured fairy tale with a possible happy ever after ending.