THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. SORT OF.
Fairyland is a very special place. It's where all sorts of fascinating people live and frequently misbehave. We all know that.
It's a place that should scare young children half to death, but it doesn't. Young children are, I suppose, resilient.
One of the inhabitants of fairyland is the Fairy Princess, a beautiful young woman who suffered from narcolepsy.
She dressed in the finest silken dresses, wore a glistening coronet and had a complexion that was perfectly described as “peaches and cream” by everyone who saw her. She glowed and it was said that her very beauty illuminated the darkest of nights. That was especially said by passing burglars who used the reflected glow from her fair skin to guide them on their wicked ways. But less of that. There is no place for wickedness in a tale like this.
There was one thing wrong with her, a rare medical condition that made her suddenly and quite unexpectedly fall asleep at the least of whims. She couldn't help it and the condition saddened her greatly. It was, after all, the real reason why she lost her job as a bus driver and had to take up princessing.
One of the things she most missed about her old job was the gratuities she received at Christmas, and she did receive quite a lot because, of all bus drivers anywhere, she was possibly the most beautiful. But falling asleep at the wheel whilst driving down a Fairyland motorway was no joke, and she smashed more than one bus up before the bus company decided that driving was not for her.
So a career as Fairy Princess was offered her, and she passed the entrance exam with flying colours. She demonstrated her skill at wearing the most sumptuous of gowns and dancing the most romantic of waltzes. She developed, almost overnight, an ability at advanced regal gestures and even a slightly tarnished coronet shone like new the moment she popped it onto her head. And princes came from all the lands around, handsome young men in search of a princess bride, and they swooned at her feet (which she didn’t like because it reminded her too much of her own medical condition) and poured gemstones before her wherever she walked.
The idea was that she chose one of these suitors, that there was a wedding the like of which no man or woman had seen before, and that everyone cheered themselves hoarse in celebration of her bridal beauty.
But the swooning got in her way, and she dismissed them, one after another until one day, in winter with sparkles of frost all around, a young man came and didn't swoon but stood, blonde and handsome, in front of her, and she felt a fuzziness suffusing her brain as her old narcoleptic problem struck her down.
Like a May queen on the first of June might, she slumped to the ground and lay perfectly still.
Her suitor, head held low and in an agony of guilt, sloped off and went back to his own land where he moped around until everyone got heartily sick of him and called him names and sent him packing. And from then on he roamed hither and thither, tramping and smelling and becoming increasingly repulsive.
Meanwhile, when it was clear that the Princess was having a truly prolonged sleep a crystal cabinet was built for her and she was laid on a damask and bejewelled mattress within it, and it was carried to a crossroads and a notice sent to every corner of the kingdom that whosoever could wake her would win her hand in marriage whether she fancied him or not.
And all manner of young men came to her cabinet, and the lid was lifted, and they kissed her. And she resolutely refused to wake up even though there were some who said they were sure her eyelids fluttered.
And there she remained, and the days became weeks and the weeks became years and the years became a century. And still the Fairy Princess lay there, her complexion undimmed by the passing of time and her hair entwining her like precious threads of magical silk.
Until, that is, an ancient tramp passed that way.
He could barely walk, so he used a metal frame to support him, and his gnarled and weary flesh came to a halt before the crystal cabinet, and he lifted the lid and gazed at she who lay within it.
“She's a beauty,” he whispered.
“Not for you, you old fart,” nagged a guard.
“She's promised to the one whose kiss might waken her,” said another, “and she's been there, in that state, since before any of us was born.”
“So it's not likely,” added a third.
And the old tramp, antediluvian to the core, leaned into the crystal cabinet, and with a surge of hope suffusing his ancient heart, pursed his lips and slowly lowered them to the peaches and cream skin of the Fairy Princess.
And he kissed her.
But it was all too much. That heart of his, the one that had born the agonies of rejection a lifetime earlier, when this same princess had swooned at his feet, and then been cast from his home and village, finally yielded to the impermanence of life.
And the Fairy Princess opened her eyes...
©Peter Rogerson 21.12.13