dramatis personæ:

  • Daisy(-not-so-Sure) wilting in dissolution
  • Rose-on-the-Fur (a young crone)
  • & some minor characters
art, drawing, and girl image black, beauty, and fashion image
“ ‘And what is the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?’ ” —Lewis Carroll

once upon a time ...

castle, clouds, and black and white image fog, forest, and nature image

i.

          here on the dotted map floats an island in the sky with cumulus clouds enclosing its secret locale: a spot of woods, fields of flowers, a towering decrepit castle & a nearby village. calibrate the telescope & you’ll see through one of the castle’s many arched windows the frenzied scene of a girl attempting to alter her identity. Daisy-not-so-Sure wears a crown of weeds & nettles, her visage scribbled over with rage & frustration as she suffers from much weeping & gnashing of teeth. she shears her snarled hair & inspects her multiple reflections in a much-cracked mirror that mocks her:

mirror, mirror, in your hand,
who's the dullest in the land?
edward gorey and maiden image bed image art, maximilian pirner, and sleepwalker image Flagged For Review goya, art, and francisco goya image 18th century, bed, and horizontal image bed, death, and canopy image dogs, tapestry, and unicorn image

          lacework, heartlaced, a tattered nightgown sinks into a mice-bitten four-poster bed. thread & needle embroider satin lucid nightmares onto Daisy’s pillow, imprinting her psyche with gilt lilypads dripping eyeless frogs into a glittering lake where severed limbs abound for delectation; deranged unicorns clamber over violet meadows to spike their horns through scarlet medieval tapestries, giving way to visions of beauty pageant massacres & virgins boiling in cauldrons, melting & popping with poisonous fumes that issue from scented bath bombs. Daisy wakes up rattled from dreams of secrets fathomed but forgotten, of cellos & madness, of skeletons & mannequins hiding in closets.

shimmer, eyeshadow, and sparkle image African, black, and glitter image blonde, hair, and pomegranate image Temporarily removed

          she blinks, a sequin caught in her eye, her pillow now wet with glitter. time rolls counterclockwise & ends with an explosive crack of the hours. near-baldness is merely a wig here as Daisy’s hair grows back to its former length. she wends her way backwards through the nightmares. dessert from the night before is now breakfast, a seedy fruit split open upon a silver tray left in her vaulted chamber by silent little girl servants who are hushed upon pain of a verbal whipping from their young crone mistress. (they encounter each other in the echoing hallways, passing their silent-sister-doppelgängers in matching white lace caps & black uniforms, wiping at frosted mirror images within mirror images within the drafty old castle, around which icy roses are strewn onto a snow-dusted path.)

girls, twins, and black image 1920s, fashion, and dress image
silent sister doppelgängers; a robe de style

          in the other side of the castle dwells an imperious young crone named Rose-on-the-Fur. she has vivid dreams as well, gleeful ones that lace her blue-black tar-silk tresses, neatly tucked beneath a satin boudoir cap that graces her dark head. nefarious, glacial, atropa belladonna: Rose’s lips remain rouged even in sleep, never smearing onto her pristine pillow. as châtelaine of the castle she keeps the keys, rattling them as she haunts the cobwebbed halls & dungeon. usually in a rotting but willowy dress of trailing grey lace, today the young crone feels even more refreshed after a morning stroll in the snow-dusted labyrinth; she dons a pair of black elbow-length gloves & a dark satin robe de style before sitting down to lunch on the terrace. there she performs her daily ritual of peering into a crystal ball & revealing to Daisy: “you are doomed to roam in fields of asphodel.”

hand, hands, and lines image crystal ball image black and white and photography image art, vintage, and book image

          “yes, I know,” comes the usual not-so-sure reply. Rose energetically shakes the water-globe crystal ball in which oily waves clash & float an abnormal girlhood, an adolescence spiked on urchins’ needles, memories of Daisy’s earliest youth frittered away like the edges of fishermen’s abandoned nets. Daisy mourns the faulty vaults of her memory, rent & riven with periphrases, ellipses & lacunæ. when she was a numb & sullen oily-faced & stringy-haired nymphet, she used to fantasize that she was a changeling: her alter ego sprung into her own fictional existence with no familial ties to anyone.
          except Rose is her sister. no, not quite her sister. something sinister, her card a queen of hearts encrusted with black jewels. after sipping chthonic tea with cloud-like cream, they part ways into different parts of the castle. along a dark gallery Daisy roams past inscrutable allegorical paintings that gaze back at her in gloomy shades of grisaille, brunaille, verdaille, the ancient place bearing no ancestral portraits of nobility, but ending with a wall devoid of adornment against which Daisy purposely slams her head: out spatters the blood of black fruit fermented with self-doubt, dripping & forming a meaningless inkblot.

          a grand guignol in the dungeon beckons Rose to work: cabinets stuffed with morbid curiosities, pale winding sheets veiling instruments of torture, unhinged limbs left dangling from mysterious accidents. the young crone labors at extracting essences of violent fancies & dramatic death-swoons, distills them into potions & pours them into miniature colored glass bottles to sell & to drink. she strings one onto a necklace & carries a comfit-box of sugar cubes, for ease of sipping & in case Daisy needs reviving from one of her frantic fainting fits, who huffs the strange stuff as if smelling salts.

accessories, alice, and lolita image coffin, witch, and magic image
suck up on the dregs, sister

          struck by a demonic fit of gleeful evil, Rose-on-the-Fur telekinetically stabs a stigmata upon Daisy’s right hand, frightening her half to death with the hysterical swell of violins. the young crone grins at such folly & sneers: “lighten up. it’s not even real.”

pink, texture, and ribbon image flowers image clothes, coat, and costume image 16th century, labyrinth, and maze image

          after Daisy rinses off the fake blood, she withdraws into thick layers of sheer petticoats beneath a brown faux fur coat & fucks off into the winding labyrinth where she loses her sense of self for uncertain periods of time. the convolutions of her déshabillé mind tangle among the rambling gardens of paper lilies & ballerina poppies. she approaches a threshold where all becomes tinsel. a violent wind whips up powdered clouds of pollen & mounds of spun white sugar candy floss, sickly sweet to the eye/tooth, then everything’s freeze-framed as if from a lush film, fragments of moods & subtitled phrases embedded among the flowers from which busy little bees drift to transmute the blood nectar into dripping honey, all in a softly suffocating fog.
          sprigs of sweet alyssum sprout from Daisy’s eye sockets. seeing only soil, she brushes the blooms aside like tears.
          later in the attic, among cobwebs & broken spinning-wheels, Rose disposes the bone fragments accumulated from her day’s work. there she discovers a miniature poppet made with tresses of tar-silk hair, dressed in grey lace, with a bright red cloth heart sewn onto the chest. black candles hold the evening’s vigil, beyond which a broken skull on an Art Nouveau platter grins hideously in the dark.


ii.

          … once upon a biblical time, beastly fathers incinerated their childrenamorphous apparitions whispered in hisses, their susurrations peeling from mottled wallsa princess sobbed in the night, her knight in shining armor found stabbed in the moat

          hot-eyed Daisy shuts the leather-bound omnibus of dark fairy make-believe, her face rubbed raw from jags of crying. she roughens the texture of her skin with the salt of tears, so she bathes her eyes with icy white water to freeze the downpour. after much quiet contemplation, she asks, “how do you make a comb kill Snow White anyway?”
          “by dipping it in napalm, silly,” says Rose. “Medea did it with a dress & a diadem. burnt up a little bitch.”
          the young crone takes a swig from a teacup enameled with slinking cobalt dragons, hiding vanilla vodka in orange cream soda: orange & white, striped orange twist. the image of a grinning skull glows from the lithopane bottom of her teacup, recalling last night’s discovery of the little poppet with the sewn heart. Rose snatches the volume of make-believe & chants the account of Erzsébet Báthory, the diabolical countess immortalized by the growth of little red flowers springing from the wan corpses of doomed pubescent chambermaids, blood oozing from their lips: a thousand rouge lipsticks, red cherry twist. in distracted fashion the young crone meanders away from Daisy to the dungeon, the silent village maidservants backing away upon her approach.

Bloody Countess, elisabeth bathory, and báthory erzsébet image blood, books, and red image blood, Nude, and stephen mackey image art, crucifix, and skull image

          Daisy snaps out of her reverie & starts pacing to & fro, up & down twisting staircases, nerves crackling & forgetting relayed messages, her mind buzzing like a hummingbird’s heart, yearning to break through to something. to dance & leap? split into a grand jetée? be flung into the heavens, into inebriating space? the sky brimming with flickering stars at which to smile widely & wildly, intensity pouring forth in raging torrential waterfalls—giddy Daisy wants to eat the other half of a Wonderland mushroom, to regress to half her size, to run around & scream & bang on gongs & pans, fingers stuck in wooden slats, poking curiosity, smashing pies with her fists & tipping carts over at the supermarket. wait a minute. I was never that little mad flower, she thinks. I refused to dance at that age.

1920s, edward gorey, and hands image pattern, purple, and swirls image

          so, tell me another story. once upon a time, foreign imperial conquistadors sailed in billowing galleons & wiped out the myths & practices of Daisy's pre-colonized ancestors, replacing them with wooden crosses & the glory of saintly womanhood. some women rebelled, & continue to rebel, but Daisy is too far away in the diaspora to care. fairy tales & mythologies inspire her envy because no fairy-witch-godmother or fierce goddess exists in the records for her to invoke, although remnants of native dryads & fairies still poke through religious trappings in the form of superstition, urban legends, & religious syncretism. but the main myths are either lost or kept in high ivory towers or highly expensive books, except for simple folktales & silly origin stories propagandized by a stupid dictator. the erasure of her ancestors’ knowledge oppresses Daisy. “you have no myths,” it mocks, “you have no literature or culture. you hardly exist.”
          oh drear, that Minotaur is loose again. sweet things console Daisy, the clack-clack of hard candies raining against the high arched windows, colored cellophane wrappers & broken shards of rock sugar glittering & littering the ground as she putters around the labyrinth. the snow melting at the touch of spring. she clips overgrown hedges & topiaries & tends to her field of asphodel, unsure whether to taste their petals, but forgoes them in favor of soporific tea steeped in imported Lethean water, laced with honeysuckle or vanilla dew & drops of the universal solvent, Q.R.V. Daisy prunes here & there, encouraging vines & flowers to creep up & dress sections of trellises at a time. frozen moments in the garden, little creatures darting around or disappearing in a time-lapse. endlessly weeding & despairing over large swaths before Daisy decides to just let them be.

bear, candies, and candy image hands image

          later upon her old wooden escritoire, tired Daisy sifts through stacks of junk mail. a hand-engraved invitation falls onto her lap, addressing her in fancy looping script to borrow/steal the young crone’s satin dress & throw on a wig of Louise Brooks’s bob. there is a small silent movie premiere & a birthday party to go to.


iii.

          a graveyard silence falls over the curtained screening room. candles lit for the Virgin Mary grow ever taller, wax dripping upward into soulless saints’ eyes. crystal shards rend the veiled mystery of her satin pearly finish, dissolving it into spectral effervescence.

toy Mary, mother of trinkets:
china blue votives & broken shards
of macarons trail at your naked feet
as satin dragons line your eyelids
like steam ghosts curling out of a teapot.
your joyous son stomps in candy boots
laced with licorice whips. kiss, kiss
& make bleed Mary’s weeping eyes
backwards like blackened strawberries
swelling into ruby youth. the jagged edges
of Mary’s glittering crystal-dripping halo
inscribe upon the Ouija board:
O ye fearsome fauns &
ye beauteous bacchantes!
blood orange piñata candy for all.
flowers, rose, and red image rose, die, and red image

          shaky intertitles flicker quick interludes between scenes of Elagabalus smothering Daisy to death with drifts of efflorescence: paper roses, painted roses, blooming undisturbed in profusion in a roomful of antiques, sifting dust & cobwebs as they reach the high ceiling, claiming old frames & cracked vases; yellow bouquets light the lamps as stems & leaf-tips tint old tea-water, pollen dripping until the room reaches the height of scented rosy fever. the crushing weight of flowers! asphyxiation by inhalation of their attar. the thorns sting & scratch her to death.

          cut to elegant ballroom minuets cresting with elaborate powdered wigs that sail past each other over pannier gowns, breeches, & stockinged finery. close-ups of plump genteel hands clutching roses in pastoral settings, the veiled eyes of the ancien régime winking sleepily with oblivion light as floating feathers, cotton-mouthed puffy. special cinematic techniques reduce Marie Antoinette to a nodding flower, enchanting an audience who marvels & applauds.

flower and gif image

          resuscitated from her onscreen demise, Daisy reappears among the party-goers at the after-movie birthday gala, which revolves around the nodding flower actress who plays the film’s Virgin Mary. donning a rose-thorn tiara on her platinum blonde crown, she blows kisses at the cake candles, her lipstick graduating in shades of blood, her breathless beauty nearly masking massive psychological problems. she hovers on a high wire above broken glass flowers: delicate, fragile, troubled, blinking. 15 seconds or 15 lifetimes? our ogling will preserve her tragic glamour.
          or not. a jealous rival starlet swings by on a drunken trapeze & spits seltzer at the pretty face. Elagabalus bums a cigarette from the actress’s fallen & forgotten clutch as the final credits roll Dottie Parker’s Résumé.

1920s, 1928, and death image dorothy parker, quote, and resume image

          bob-haired Daisy drifts away from the party to sit near a fountain that spouts layers & layers of diaphanous netting; all underneath are even more veils, a fathomless fountain of veils. she dips her hand & grasps almost nothing. underwater wisps elude her: the swish of a fish, a thread of mermaid hair, jellyfish tentacles that hardly sting. the underwater æther is a preservative & anæsthetic, & the night is a black swan, starry-eyed & shimmering with piles of stars, gold & silver stars. druzy nebulæ, glittery constellations conflagrating into mythical figures with wings that cleave the sky.

1881, cassell’s family magazine, and desolate shore image beautiful, Hamlet, and ophelia image

          Daisy's thoughts collide into disarray as she grows bored of little fish nibbling at Ophelia’s hair, the mad girl's nightgown wet with river damp, water crashing & frothing into hidden caves, signposts paving the way to the eternally young maiden with sequins for eyes & ribbons for brains, her endlessly insatiable guts digesting the most cake you’ve ever seen with frosted roses raging laced with baby’s breath. doors forever closing upon closing doors, a yawning corridor: a mental ward, or a metaphor for infinity? insanity’s just a slogan here, facing a NO EXIT sign. a flickering screen, a vapid gesture, a boring cityline where the sky glows nothing. a grid pattern. how electrifying! empty words installed in neon lights. a cesspool with no reflection beyond the surface, its murky waters drowning out the patina of unanswered wish-pennies that sift toward the bottom of the fountain.
          Daisy wants to scratch & peel the skins off marble sculptures to reveal cardiovascular systems pumping inside, bodily organs spilling out, sinew, synapse, & skeleton. pith & marrow, not just hollow bones & empty ribcages. blood & life & conviction, analysis & reflection. instead she faces a mural of twenty different charts of the anatomical heart with not one beat to pump blood into her imagination, although mysterious wet black poppies begin to flower within the palm of her hand. just the side effect of a faded stigmata prank. hot-eyed Daisy wipes the blood on her satin skirt & yearns to dig into flesh, but there’s none to be had here, so she closes her phone & goes home. ✕


iv.

          at the castle early the next morning, Daisy witnesses the young crone drift down the stairs in a black Givenchy outfit, her face set with an immaculate red sneer. Rose looms over Daisy on fearsome black stilettos. “hey, I tore the silly heart off your little poppet. I stomped on it.”
          this being the servant girls' week off, unfazed Daisy grabs a broom to whisk away curtains of spiderwebs that accumulate from the unseen ceiling & brushes away burnt-up husks of dead fairies from the tops of ancient bookshelves. she ought to stop blazing the candelabras at night, notes Daisy. it attracts insects!

fairy tale image glitter image

          the broom awakens their glitter that clouds up in puffs & gently rains down onto the furniture, glitter that will magically rearrange all the contents of bell jars & bookcases as antiques roll & lumber across the floor: a short piece of music in which every note falls into its proper nook & cranny, just a spoonful of glitter making it all go down. Daisy starts to dance in the air, slowly bouncing up & down, then rising en pointe with the stick-end of the broom on the tip of a finger. the young crone’s sneer opens with distaste as Daisy descends to the floor to sweep away little flame-licked fairies into a dustpan.
          “close your mouth, Rose. it’ll attract insects.”


this is not the end, I think


          the title image is an earlier draft from a self-published zine from which these chapters grew. all the other images aren't mine. 7/1/18: major changes in text. 7/3/18: minor changes.


tl;dr: unfinished fairytale vignettes of dysfunctional paper dolls from my psyche.


@berlingot

#angst #article #castle #daisy #fairytale #fiction #fictional #hearts #novella #poem #poetry #prose #story #synopsis #writing