So. This is the first Grim Fairy Tale I’ve written. Here’s your teaser, ladies and gents. If you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to remember to buy my book when I publish it.
The sun wasn’t shining. It hadn’t shone for years, not really. Not since the nuclear fire had filled the skies with ash and smoke and dust nearly twenty years ago.
Snow White shivered as she stepped out of her warm shelter. A biting wind swept down from the nearby mountains, cutting through her ragged dress. Lamia, the consort of the chief, had ordered her to fetch wood and stoke the fire, and Lamia could not be disobeyed.
Sharp stones pricked her feet as she went to the tribe’s woodpile. She gathered as much as she could, her slender arms surprisingly strong; this was far from the first time she had been ordered to do this. As she returned to the tent, she saw Lamia and the chief still sound asleep. That was a relief. If Lamia awoke before the fire was ready, she would have beaten Snow White for sure.
Her silvery hair cascaded down around her shoulders as she stacked the wood over the glowing embers. The color of her hair was part of her namesake. In addition, her skin was pale white, flawless as alabaster, and her eyes were such a light blue as to be almost white themselves.
The fire popped, and Snow White hissed softly as a flurry of sparks landed on her hand, and she pulled it back quickly. She looked at the burns on her hand. Far from the first she had received; mercifully, they had never scarred. For some reason, that lack of scarring had infuriated Lamia, and she had pressed Snow White ever harder.
As though she had felt Snow White’s thoughts, Lamia stirred in her bed, her eyes opening as Snow White scurried into the shadows of the tent. She sat up and slipped out from under her furs, careful not to disturb the chief, and beckoned for Snow White to follow her outside.
Snow White obeyed, a little dubious. Lamia usually didn’t hide her beatings, so if she wanted to be alone, this was doubtless something worse.
“You’re sixteen today, Snow White.”
The young girl blinked in surprise. She had forgotten. “Yes, I suppose I am.”
“You’re growing up.” Lamia walked around her, running her gaze over the girl critically, yet not finding anything to criticize. Her countenance darkened. “It won’t be long before the chief notices you.”
“Me?” Snow White shook her head, her hair rippling in silver waves. “I’m not that lovely. Not like you.”
Her modesty and meekness only made Lamia angrier. “I won’t let anyone take my place as consort.” She snapped her fingers, and two of the biggest, dumbest men in the tribe came out of the tent next to the chief’s.
Snow White took a step back. “What’s going on?”
“I can kill two birds with one stone. The only girl who can steal my place will disappear, and we’ll have fresh meat for the festival tomorrow.” Lamia’s dark eyes glittered as she watched Snow White’s mouth fall open in horror. “Take her.”
The men advanced, and Snow White turned and ran into the wastes. She heard the men chasing her, but they quickly gave up. Snow White was small and strong and fleet. Besides, what point would there be in spending all day hunting her down? Radioactivity and chill would finish her just as well.
As soon as she was sure she was alone, Snow White fell to her knees and wept. She could never go back to the village. Whatever Lamia’s reason for hatred, she always hated with a passion. By now, lies would be circulating through the village. They would all follow Lamia’s orders and attack and either capture or kill Snow White if she tried to return. It had happened before… and Snow White was now ashamed that she had believed the lies.
No time for pity and self-recrimination now, though. She had to keep moving. Ahead of her, to the north, lay the unexplored mountains. To the south, the village. To the east and west, slightly less barren forests. Her fellow tribesmen hunted those forests; she couldn’t go there. North, then. The only direction that didn’t guarantee death.
She started off, aiming directly for the highest peak in the mountains. The dust of the plains blew into her face, blinding and choking her. The wind that carried it was cold, biting. Already she was beginning to feel queasy; the first sign that she had taken in too much radiation. Whatever was giving it off had to be ahead of her, in her path. Just one more thing conspiring to kill her.
For hours, nothing changed. The landscape was flat, the weather was hostile, and every step she took seemed harder. Suddenly she grabbed onto a nearby rock, as her guts roiled, nausea welling up violently. She somehow had the presence of mind to grab her hair and hold it back as her stomach emptied itself of its meager contents. Shaking, she pushed off the rock and tried to move on. She hadn’t made it far before she realized she was climbing a slight hill. The crest was only a few feet away.
Snow White pulled herself up over it, standing and looking down. Beneath her, she saw a huge pit, perfectly round, stretching out across the plain. She could practically see the radiation emanating off it. Her dizziness and nausea struck her hard, and she collapsed, lifeless, at the edge of ground zero.