After, Ever

By Caitlin O'Brien

A questing knight inadvertently resurrects a giant
Who terrorizes the people and covers the land in despair.
The knight flees the kingdom in shame and lives the rest of his days in obscurity
As a humble tailor.

A prince kisses his wife goodnight.
In the morning, she doesn't waken.
He leaves her body in the care of seven discreet morticians
Who know the land's deep places, where secrets keep.
When the men are away gathering supplies, a crone steals to the princess's bedside,
Forces her gnarled fingers into the maiden's mouth,
And plucks the unswallowed kiss from her throat.
The crone weeps as the princess coughs herself alive.
The tears uncrease her face like a hand over a bedsheet,
And the princess knows the face of her mother.
"I never stopped looking for you," says the queen.

A girl steals her brothers' shirts and unravels them into a pile of nettles.
The boys turn into swans and fly away.

A sinister woodsman sews a young girl and her grandmother
Into the belly of a sleeping wolf.
The wolf wakes in a fever, retching until he expels the captives from his bruised innards.
Apologies are shared.
The grandmother leads them back to her cottage
Where the three heal up with a fine lunch and a rest by the fireside.
When the shadows grow long,
The wolf walks the girl back to her parents' house,
Mindful of the terrors that lurk in the forest.


Caitlin O'Brien mostly grew up on an island in Alaska; because of this, she trusts bears more than people. She's a self-taught lockpick and the champion of an un-aired Australian-American game show pilot. She lives in Boston (for now).

Comments

Oooooh, I love this.

Strange and moving inversions--beautiful, each one.

Gorgeous. Both the prose and the inversion of the stories.

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