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Free-Range Fiction: Fairy Tale Redo, The Red Shoes, with a Southern Gothic bent

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Chuck Wendig once again got me pushing my craft further with his Friday Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s challenge was to do a fairy tale redo. The randomization that Herr Wendig created made me have to write it in a Southern Gothic subgenre. I’ve read Southern Gothic, but never written it, or attempted it. This is my inaugural attempt. Let me know what you think. 

As a side note:  When I was visiting Denmark some time ago, I strolled into a community theatre and saw a dramatization of this Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “De røde sko.” The story has always stuck with me. I can’t see a woman wearing red heels since without shivering. At the end of this post is a music video by Kate Bush from her 1993 album also entitled The Red Shoes. If you can’t stand the story, at least there’s that. 🙂

Without further ado, here is my version of The Red Shoes….

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gorgeoous-red-shoesMama didn’t want me to wear the red shoes to church. She said it drew too much untoward attention, especially from the Ladies’ Auxiliary. What she really meant was attention from the college boys who were home for the weekend.

“Those are for dance class only,” she said. That’s the only reason I had them was because they were part of the costume for my spring recital – a modern jazz piece which also drew a lot of attention. Mama much preferred me in ballet and tap.

I pitched a fit, demanding she not make me change my shoes. I told her she was killing my creative and expressive spirit. She told me to stop acting like a preschooler. I told her to stop pretending she was Granny.

Now Granny was the one I need to thank for even having the red shoes, because Granny didn’t want me to have them, but Mama didn’t like Granny telling her what she could or couldn’t do for me. So, I wore the red shoes.

The pastor droned on and on. I starred at my shoes and smiled, thinking about dancing with them in front of the cute boy across the aisle who kept looking back to stare at me. He had such luscious lips and his hair was like a waterfall over his forehead, begging for me to push it out of his puppy-dog eyes.

I began tapping my foot on the kneeler, paying more attention to how the stained-glass dabbled light shone on my pretty red shoes.

Mama leaned over to my ear and said, “Child, you need to leave the sanctuary and come back when you pay attention.” I nodded and excused myself. Hardly a head turned as I departed content to think I was just having a lady’s room moment.

I left the church foyer and went out into the sunlight. It was such a glorious day, with the sun warm and bright and spring kissing summer’s hand by way of birds, flowers, and green everywhere. I skipped to the church yard, giggling with my good fortune that Mama had dismissed me from that boring ol’ sermon.

I hummed a tune I knew from dance class and began to dance. I didn’t care if anyone saw me. The shoes felt good, the sun felt good, and I was happy to just dance in the grass all by myself. After awhile, I started to get tired. I danced over to a bench in front of the graveyard, which was stationed behind the church. I went to sit, but my feet – the shoes – just kept on dancing, dragging my fanny right off the bench and forcing me to stand up and continue dancing moving back towards the front of the church. My feet, again, rather the shoes, were leading the rest of my body. I was sweating and panting and desperately trying to make my feet stop. I tried to kick the shoes off, but they wouldn’t budge. They just danced and pranced and danced and pranced without end.

It was then I noticed the people coming out of the church, so I maneuvered my dancing shoes and my now nearly limp body back towards the graveyard. As I entered the open gate, it seemed the cherubs and seraphim on the gate were clapping and smiling at me, as if I were the day’s entertainment – me and my red dancing shoes. I see the big oak in the southwest corner, near the caretaker’s shed. I will myself to go there, but thoughts of kicking my heels back to the church and dancing in front, on top of, those cute college boys, fills my head. In a flash of my eyes, I see myself stripping down to nothing right on the church steps. I cry out and realize I’ve just danced right into the big oak. I feel light headed. I’m so exhausted. For a second, I think I can’t breathe, and then things go black.

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Next there is lights, a smell of cedar and mowed lawn, and I can feel my feet moving, but the rest of my body is still, no, not still, restrained. I focus and find I’m on a table, tied down like Frankenstein’s monster. There are tools hanging on the wall next to me. I think I might be in the caretaker’s shed. There is someone mumbling behind me. It’s cold. I look down. My clothes are gone. But my feet move, still in the red shoes.

“Hello? Is someone there? Can you please help me?”

A wet cloth goes over my eyes, it smells of bourbon. It feels someone is pulling my hair. There is more mumbling. Then silence. The next thing I hear is a whirring sound fills the space and then I feel a metallic hot on my skin above my ankles. The pain nearly lifts me off the table, but the canvas tow straps keep the rest of me firmly put. The cloth over my eyes stayed put, despite my screams. I scream and scream and I can feel one, and then the other, shoe release its hold on the rest of my body. The whirring stops. Moments later, someone takes the bourbon rag off my eyes. I look down and soft white bandages, already soaking in with blood are at the end of my legs. The Red Shoes are gone. But so are my feet. I scream again, then promptly give into the shock and pass out.

My next memory is of crawling in the mud, of the darkened graveyard, without a clue where to go next. The graveyard looks just like the one behind the church, but the church is gone. Instead, a forest of white trees, filled with a glowing fog stands in its place. I continue to crawl, the stumps of my legs throbbing with every pull of my arm to move forward, towards what I don’t know. All I know… I have to keep moving. So I do.

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And now Kate Bush:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW5hjWVS3ho

Published inFree-Range Fiction

6 Comments

  1. I love the change to the foggy white forest at the end! And I absolutely love that song by Kate Bush…one of my favorites of all time, especially very loud.

  2. Hmm…your link is for Moments of Pleasure instead of Red Shoes though….

    • Yes, the song is Moments of Pleasure, from The Red Shoes album, and takes bits of dialogue from the 1948 movie of the same name.

  3. Darian Carson Darian Carson

    Wow! The story is great and it brought back memories of the story book that the “Dancing Princesses” and other stories was in! I can see the illustrations in my head right now and they still haunt me! The idea of the shoes that take over and you can’t take them off and you can’t stop dancing is so scary! That HCA story and another one (don’t know if it is HCA or not) but the one where the baby is stolen because the girl wishes that the fairies take her baby away–freaked me out as a kid and I know I am not the only one! (see the movie Labrynth!) Thanks for the song too–also haunting, but hauntingly beautiful instead of scary! 🙂

    • So glad you enjoyed it. I think the things from our youth that scared us is always the things that will haunt us.

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