Girls with Red Shoes
Acrobat: standard (rank 1)
He’d make the children follow his rules. He’d make the little girls dance for him; he’d make them play his secret games. If they didn’t play, he’d make them hurt inside…
I follow the beads. The children continue, disappearing through an alley buried in fog; they were gone.
…But music grows through the fog. So faint, but could it be…bells?
They appear, a league of women dancing on pointed toe through the back alley. In graceful mechanical formation to…yes, yes it is… The Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy.
It is beautiful and horrible. Their bodies jolt at every bell, rhythmic spasms punctuating every twitch of movement. Only their legs are free, their swollen ankles contained in ballet shoes turned red from dripping blood. But even locked inside those straightjackets their arms convulse in melodious unison. Curious leather masks obscure their identities. I reach out to touch one.
My vision reverts to sepia memory, my ballerina strapped down tight, electrodes invading her body. She dances with every volt, pleading at the restraints. She wails anguish into the rubber gag, supposedly placed there for her safety.
The vision fades. They dance away in the same painful, lightning, rhythm…
The Big Bad Wolf
Berserker: standard (rank 1)
Big Bad Wolf
When the girls wouldn’t play his games anymore, he sent them into the forest where wild beasts lived. When they went into the forest, they never came back...
The beads lead to a derelict dwelling. I step through the threshold, walking into a fading snapshot unstuck in time
I was there. Grimmwell reestablished. I knew its skin, its veins, its soul. This was its bottom, the basement. The air was soot. I heard a manic cry.
“Please let me out! I’ll be good! Don’t leave me alone down here with hi—”
The voice shrieks, dies. I turn towards it.
A tall women stands, eclipsed in a fading crimson robe. Her skin is gruesomely tight. It spoke in two voices; one the same feminine cry as before, the other hard, bestial.
“Are you lost little girl… Let me show you out.”
A male face emerges under the hood, underneath that first layer of flayed skin this creature wore like a coat. My, what big teeth he had, and so sharp. He lunges. I run. It howls. There’s a claw at my back; then,
I am gone, returned to the real world. A sweeter voice calls out to me.
The Ugly Duckling
Slashing Weapon: standard (rank 1)
One day the Giant found a lost little girl. She liked his games, so he kept her all to himself. Then he found the Princess…
The melody leads me away; I rediscover the path of beads and follow. The voice trails off, the asylum finally reasserting itself.
An operating room, first glorious and sterile. Grimmwell blinks; the room is mired in filthy brown blood. A young nurse hovers over a patient on the table.
“I know why you’re here,”
She raises a glimmering razor.
“You always try... But why? He loves her… like he loved me…”
Her lower face is covered by a surgical mask, the rest by a hatchwork of scars.
“He said that even an ugly little duckling like me was a swan… He made me feel pretty… but I got too old… so he took her instead… and I had to get rid of everything that wasn’t pretty anymore…”
The lights flare. The body on the table is her own, a naked, lifeless, spirograph of surgical slices. Her lips are lacerated and two bloody concave divots replace her breasts.
“Aren’t I beautiful?” asks the nurse.
She whips the razor upon me. It swipes through vacant air.
Illusion Control: standard (rank 1)
The Queen missed her little girl dearly. She asked Jack to save her, but before she could tell him how, the Giant stole her voice…
The sand is warm. The world turns from sepia shades to vibrant hues, from Grimmwell to an ample beach. Waves lap at my feet, that sweet melody reenters my ear.
She’s sitting next to me in the sand. She’s just as I remember, hair golden, eyes deep pools of green, enchanted by the voice of an angel. It is her lullaby haunting the air.
“I can’t keep saving you Jack; he’s grown too strong. If you face him, you will lose…”
“I can’t leave her,” I say.
“You’ll never win...”
The waves echo against the floating harmony.
“Mother, you have to let me go.”
She sighs. The song dies.
The wide beach ebbs to a claustrophobic cell. My mother sits beside me, emaciated, pale, and silent. Her throat has been slit, the larynx pulled out.
The twins from before are with us, curled safely in her arms.
Her eyes still shine like emeralds against Grimmwell’s murk. They glance upwards towards the door. I stand. She merely watches as I grip the handle.
Commander: superior (rank 2)
Jack scaled the tall tower. When he arrived, the Giant was already there, waiting for him…
The door opens. The office is long, dominated by a single mahogany desk. Yellow light floods in from two shaded lamps behind it. A man sits at the desk, a cigarette holder between his fingers.
“Jack my boy, how grand to see you. I was beginning to think you wouldn’t be coming this year.”
He lights a cigarette in the holder, illuminating his immaculate suit and neatly receding hairline. The tactically placed lamps force this diminutive man’s shadow to loom.
“Taking in the sights? Fine parade they’ve got this year. You ever see a troop of phantasmal ballerinas dance down Fleet Street?...Breathtaking.”
“You know why I’m here?”
The man inhales smoke, smiles.
“Oh yes, the old duologue. Fine, I shall play along… Should I know?”
“You can’t remember your own crime?”
“There have been so many my boy… and it’s been so long… you’re here to stop me then?”
“Yes. It ends tonight.”
I charge. It will end tonight. It will end with my hands around your throat.
His mouth opens.
I stop mid-stride, hypnotized, paralyzed, controlled.
Mind Control: superior (rank 2)
The Giant tricked Jack. He let him see the princess, but she would not leave. The Giant had put her into an everlasting sleep. He trapped them all inside his castle, forever…
“What a shame,” he says, “Every year you come so close. Repeating history: your anger, my murder, the fire, your failure. It never changes…”
I’d rip out his throat if I could move.
“Well my boy, since you came so far, I’ll show you what you wanted... Nurse Swan?
The nurse enters, rolling in a girl in a wheelchair. The teenage patient’s dress is plain, her eyes dead, her head shaved bald. She monotonously brushes the hair on a doll. The nurse grins.
“Perfect timing doctor, we just got back from the parade.”
Rosalind strokes her doll. He pats her head, moving over a circular scar drilled into the back of her skull.
“Rosalind, Jack is here. I’d like you to show him the new game we’ve been playing… do it for daddy… I know you can do it…expand Grimmwell, so that all Khazan can play with us.”
Rosalind says nothing. She strokes her doll. Her lifeless eyes open wide. I feel Grimmwell shudder, breathe, and expand…