Just one bite.

That’s all it takes to forget, to wake up from a sleep you never fell into, from dreams you never dreamt. Just one bite, one piercing of the tooth through soft, blue flesh, and all of the ravened textures of this world could flutter away. One swallow and everything will go numb, the way my feet used to when I ran barefoot through the snow as a girl.

I miss those soft winter days. They made life softer, as if the snow engulfed the bad things and melted them away with it. I miss catching the snowflakes on my tongue and tasting their evanescent winter nectar before they disappeared like magic. Now I know real magic, and it’s not white like I thought, it is green and gold. Real magic is not pretty like I used to dream.

“Oh, how fair she is!” they used to exclaim, and my mother would beam like the moon, shedding her silver ribbons on an otherwise lightless night. “Her skin is pale as snow, and her hair is dark as pitch. She is truly the fairest of them all!” But even my mother’s moonlight one day waned into dusk, and I visit the stone that vests her name often. It was there I planted a nightshade bush that seemed to only bloom from the fresh powder that melted around it.

My father was quick to love again, to find a new stone for his heavy hand. First were the bottles, when my milky skin often soured to dark violets, but a good princess knows how to hide such blemishes. Because second was the witch, haggard and volatile, like a flame, keeping me far away, afraid to dissolve. My father fell for her like an avalanche. He loved her, and I loved him, but she only loved herself. One night I heard her crooning from her bedroom, and I tiptoed to peek through the crack in the door.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,” the witch sang, eyes closed and nude. “Who is fairest of them all?” But when her eyes opened and saw my reflection in the golden scalloped mirror, her blaze extended and seared my frosty flesh.

And I know she was a witch, because the longer she stayed the sicker my father grew, until his residence was reduced from our luxurious palace to solely his bed. She powdered her face with diamond dust, but I could still see the burning coal underneath, and the smoke made him cough until he bled.

Her fire grew when he was gone, and it was all I could do to stay frozen. My eyes thawed frequently, dripping onto my rug, staining it black like ice. So I did what I always did when the earth was cold and crunchy and my arms bubbled with gooseflesh: I curled up in the snow near my mother’s grave until my bones felt hollow and the berries from the bush fell like hail against my skin.

Just one bite and I could enjoy being numb forever.


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