She rocked in her armchair, her fingers wrapped around her throbbing skull. The creaking of the old springs was only making the pain worsen–or was it? She paused, and realized that the rocking was the only thing keeping her conscious. Through the dark haze she returned to motion, and it eased the slightest bit. Enough for her to keep her sanity.
Hours later, days later, she woke on the floor in front of her chair. The clock told her that hours had passed, but the soreness in her knee told her it had to have been at least a day. She fumbled for her phone on the table nearby. Hours. Only hours. A sigh of relief escaped her lips. At least she wouldn’t have to find another job again for not showing up.
Her stomach grumbled its discontent, and she thought back to the apple she ate the day before, the last food she’d had. The corner of her mouth drifted upward, and she took a moment to appreciate the little things in life: a pain-free head and Pink Lady apples. She rubbed her knee another moment longer before rising, slowly but surely, and heading for the kitchen.
The apple bowl contained one shiny but lonely specimen, and she picked it up and took a bite, chewing thoughtfully as she rummaged through the pantry, then the fridge. Juice dripped down her chin, and she absentmindedly wiped it with the back of her hand. She paused. Something was wrong.
The silence struck her like a bolt of lightning. The silence. She checked her phone again for the time, praying that she was muddled and confused and didn’t know when it was.
She was neither muddled nor confused. He was over two hours late. She dropped the apple in the sink and rushed down the hall to check the bedroom, hoping against hope that he had somehow slipped by, not noticing her lying on the living room floor.
The bed lay empty, sheets unmussed and pillows perfectly aligned. She checked her phone again. No missed calls. No texts. Thumb shaking, she called the pizza place twice before correcting her sim enough to call him.
Straight to voicemail. She sank to the bed, mussing the sheets and misaligning the pillows. He never let his phone die. Why would it go straight to voicemail? Hope leapt in her chest. Because he was calling her, of course! She kicked herself for choosing just the wrong moment to call.
Her migraine returned like a gunshot, and she dropped her phone to the floor. Tears fell from her eyes, and she collapsed to the bed, never hearing his Berlioz ringtone as he called her back.
Stan peeked out the window, his hair wildly tufted from the long minutes spent hiding in the coat closet, his grubby little fingers gripping the windowsill.
“Is it all clear, Stan?” David whispered from his hiding place beneath the teacher’s desk.
“Yup. The last bus has gone. I think we’re in the clear,” Stan agreed, relaxing his grip and sinking back down to the floor.
David pulled himself out from under the desk and sat up. “So now what do we do? Go upstairs?”
Stan shook his head. “We still have to wait for the custodian to leave, but that should only be a little while longer. Then we’ll be the only ones left in the whole school!”
The pair grinned at each other, wicked in their complicity.
Stan pulled his backpack off one shoulder and around to the front where he could access the zipper. He opened the small pocket and removed two suckers. “Apple or cherry?” He asked his friend, after a brief inspection of the labels.
David reached for the green-wrapped candy. “I’ll take apple,” he answered.
The boys dropped their wrappers on the floor in unison and popped the lollipops into mouths waiting to be stained red and green.
Stan scrambled to his feet with the sudden realization that he’d forgotten one of the most important parts of his plan. He rushed to lock the classroom door and slap their sign on the window, then quickly duck out of sight before the janitor could notice the real reason room 4B was inaccessible.
Mr Mills tried the door. Fortunately, the school board didn’t pay him well enough to make retrieving the keys from the office worthwhile.
David’s wide eyes tracked Stan’s slide along the wall, away from the door. “I can’t believe you made it!” He cried in a hissing whisper made lispy by the recently-lost incisors.
TBP OLWG #34
25 minutes handwritten at work, including one customer interruption. I choose 4!
The apple fell from her hand and rolled across the floor until it came to rest against the leg of the dining table. It lay there while Snow White slipped deeper into unconsciousness; it lay there while the dwarves trooped in from work to find her lying cold and still.
Days passed, and even though the dwarves grieved too deeply to clean house, the apple stayed fresh and crisp. Not so well fared the ants who had discovered it. Their lifeless bodies created a border around the tainted fruit that no other insects dared to breach.
When the happy day came that the Prince resurrected Snow White with a kiss, the apple still remained as it was the day it had been cursed. After the revelry, one of the dwarves swept the apple from beneath the table in the midst of cleaning. In the hustle and bustle, the apple was knocked about until it bounced out the front door, where another dwarf picked it up to throw it onto the compost pile.
The shining redness of its skin caught the attention of birds and butterflies alike, but only the first wren was daring and hungry enough to attempt a taste. He lay, wings spread, a cautionary tale until he and the apple were eventually covered over with leaves and vegetable scraps.
Winter passed, then spring, summer, another winter, and while the wren rotted and returned to the earth, the apple did not.
Spring came again, and the dwarves began to shovel compost for their garden. They came upon the temptingly bright apple and marveled at such a thing.
Snow White had not shared her story; indeed, she remembered nothing of the moments before her brush with death, so she had nothing to tell even had she been so inclined.
Fortunately for his brothers, one of the dwarves had enough sense not to consume produce that stayed fresh in the middle of a compost heap. He warned the others off, and he picked up the apple with a shovel to bring it inside, where he put it in the fireplace.
The next morning the dwarves lit a fire before they left for work, expecting the apple to be ashes when they returned. It was not.
The logs had burned to nothing, but the apple still remained, perfect but for that single bite. The dwarves immediately knew that the apple must be bewitched. Using the shovel and teamwork, they knotted the apple in a worn old sock before placing it inside a burlap sack, which they tied securely.
The seven drew straws to determine who among them would travel to the castle to speak with Snow White and her Prince, now king and queen. The loser was well provisioned with food and water, and he set off early the next morning with the apple well separated from his necessary supplies. The others wished him luck, and each retreated into his own realm of worry.
The unlucky dwarf set off for the castle. Before too long, he sat down for a rest. Walking required a different kind of stamina than swinging a pickax all day long. He opened his pack to get some food for a snack and set the bag containing the apple on the ground to his side.
As he chewed on some jerky while resting his sore feet, a great eagle swooped down at him. He was too frightened to think straight, and grabbed his pack, but not the apple, as he ducked for safety behind the nearest tree.
The eagle was already committed, with razor-sharp talons outstretched, but since it couldn’t get to the dwarf from the angle of this dive, it snatched up the bag containing the apple and soared away before the dwarf could realize what had happened.
He breathed a sigh of relief, but as he was picking himself up, he saw the bundle in the eagle’s claws, high above the trees. He quickly took an inventory to establish what was missing. When he confirmed that it was the cursed apple, he staggered fro a moment of indecision. Ultimately, he decided to continue on his journey. The king and queen needed to know that a piece of evil was loose in the kingdom.
To be continued.