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Rock-A-Bye Baby

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Snow White
Once upon a time, in a castle in a northern, distant land, there lived a king and a queen. The queen- Adrienne- was happy at first, living in her large castle, surrounded by beautiful woods and secluded from the rest of the land. She had an army of servants who hearkened to her every whim, bent to her every wish, and many companions, especially during the winter months when the entire court remained at the palace, bringing with them their families- pets, servants and many children. However, in time, the queen became filled with bereavement-- for what she craved, what she wanted most, she could not have. The only kindred she had was her husband, and she feared her belly would never be swollen with life for it was long believed she could not bear a child. And so, when Adrienne became pregnant, she and the king were thrilled. She became even more kind, a patron for the kingdom. The people loved her, and she loved them too. But at the first snowfall, when the child, white as ice and dead as a stone, came from within her, she refused to believe it.

“No,” she said. “My child is not dead. She is just not ready for this world.”
So she brought her child out into a cold, and windswept courtyard, where she began incasing her in the snow and ice. In the corner of the courtyard, right next to the ice covered baby was an old, dead tree. It had been dead for many years, yet had never fallen, even through storms of hail and winds that knocked other, healthy trees over. Its branches were stretched out over the courtyard, casting strange shadows in the winter sun and onto the queen’s travails.
A once placid and pleasant queen, she became austere and distant from the servants she had once regarded as her closest companions. The more she spent time out in the cold, chiseling ice and moving around snow, the more it seemed like the cold had entered her very veins, changing what had been a sweet woman to a quiet, paranoid queen. She had no more love for her kingdom and her eyes only saw the ice she carved. Still she worked, singing lightly, softly, to the child.
Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
The tune, though softly sung, managed to echo to the furthest corners of the castle, leaving all the inhabitants with the haunting tune replaying in their minds.
The king too found not only the tune, but also his wife to disturb him. She had become a phantasm of her past self, and was not the woman he had married. He found he could not keep her as queen, for he was sure she entirely lost her sense. So he divorced her, but did not make her leave the castle. He was a merciful man and found that he still had some of his old love for her; she was still as beautiful as a rose, though her petals had begun to rot at the edges. The long winter went on and she remained at the palace, treated as a noble woman, while he married another fine lady.
Still Adrienne worked, and it seemed that the loss of her husband and power did not bother her in the least. Her dresses became disheveled and dirty, but still she labored on, stuck upon her vigorous travails. She spoke to none but the snow she shaped, and even slept outside in the icy winds and blankets of snow and hail. No weather bothered her, and her still-beautiful countenance changed, becoming macabre, twisted by frostbite, yet still unbelievably striking. None were sure exactly what she was doing, and believed the old queen had only given way to the pestilence of delirium that has made many a body its home. Some even thought she was under the steady hold of alcohol, but her hands only touched the ice she used to carve the encasements of her child. The king made sure none disturbed her, and a month went by as she continued her labors, still singing her song:
Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
The new queen, a gentle and kind woman, first pitied the old queen. She knew that the other woman was (or had been) more beautiful than she, however, she was never jealous or spiteful. The queen treated her with the utmost respect and kindness, though something about the past queen was unnerving.
Finally the gaunt-looking woman gathered all to the courtyard. “Look!” she said, animated. “Look at my child, my creation! See her splendid skin, as white as the pearls upon my neck! The beautiful hair, the color of the ebony woods that surround us!”
The courtyard, full of people, remained silent. She is beautiful, they thought. For every ounce of beauty the old queen had, the ice child, who looked to be around three, had double. She seemed alive, except for the fact that she had snow-colored skin. Still, despite her beauty, the sight of her repulsed them. She was beautiful, yes, a beautiful corpse, and surely it was only the cold that preserved her.
The woman had not surceased, however, and continued her one-sided discourse. “Tomorrow, all must come, bearing gifts for the new heir!”
A man buried deep within the crowd called out:
“Dear lady, what can we bring to a snow child? Put clothes on her and she will melt! Give her a bed and she will only make it wet and disappear into the blankets folds! Even a crown will only create a bump on her frozen head!“
“Ice? Snow? My child is only encased in these matters! No, she will come forth when she is ready.” The old queen replied, a large grin spreading on her dark features.
None dared question her, as the pitying king had ordered her to be left alone. Nobleman and servants alike quickly ran to find presents for the supposed heir, and the old queen sat down besides the ice child sang lightly into her ear,
Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Then, for the first time in months, she entered the castle, and went in her chambers to dine and rest.
The next morning, a servant came to awaken Adrienne and found a puddle on the floor by her bed. “My Lady,” she said. “Perhaps the man in the courtyard yesterday was right. Your… child will be no more than a bit of water on your floor.” She said tentatively.
“Foolish girl. I tipped over a jug of water last night, and my child will awaken when given the final thing she needs.” The old queen sat up, placing a pillow behind her back.
“And, and “she spluttered. ”What is that?”
“What Snow White has not.” She haughtily raised her head, yet her eyes never left the servant’s.
“Snow White?” The servant murmured, clasping her clammy hands behind her back.
“Snow White. My child. Go out, look! She is continually growing, until I can set her free.”
The servant girl ran out of the room and out into the snowy courtyard. She stood out in the bitter cold, shivering, with her long hair and skirts blowing around her. And lo and behold! There she was. The ice child, Snow White, she reminded herself and then gasped, covering her mouth in terror. Nothing about her differed what she had been the day before, except for one thing- her lips. They were redder than cherries, more scarlet than the Devil’s eyes. They were the exact shade of blood. The servant women staggered backwards, and began to scream.
A few minutes later, the citizens of the castle were grouped out in the cold once more. Panic reined- women were screaming, trying to find all their children, men were arguing and all were running backwards, trying to keep far away from Snow White. Finally a noble man stepped forward, drawing his sword. ”I will kill the Devil ice child!”
At that moment, Adrienne ran out, barefoot, into the snow, her hair swirling around her in the snow “Stop! STOP! Touch not my child, my Snow White!” She precariously ran in front of his raised blade, and fell, tumbling in front of the child just as the steel flashed through the air. The man tried to stop his blade, but only to partial avail. It ran alongside her arm so that a drop of blood dripped down from her arm onto Snow White’s ice-covered lips, deepening the color.
The man’s eyes widened, and he stepped backwards, his sword shaking in his hands. “This… This is not normal, my lady. You must admit, this, is not, not natural!”
“What is not natural, sir?”
“Your child, your, your dead babe is within a thick entombment of ice! What will become of it when spring finally chokes winter, until our rivers quaff what once was snow? Will she drift along the river, like a child’s discarded doll? Or remain here, in the courtyard, a dead bloom among the new buds? My lady, this is her sepulcher, but this tomb will not last forever! “ His voice had raised an octave, and he seemed incapable of taking his eyes off Snow White.
Adrienne turned, her heavy-lidded eyes turned red by the reflections of the blood she had just spilled upon the ice encasements, and the man took another step back. Before she could open her mouth, however, the new queen ran out of the pack to the king, who had just arrived.
“My King, My lord!” the queen collapsed at his feet. “Please sir, make her go. Take away her devil child, take it away! Please…” she moaned. “This women…she, she, she is attempting witchcraft! Look at the child! LOOK AT IT! Eyes like so do not exist on a normal sculpture, nor do red lips, or such, such life-like hands,” she continued, her breathing shallow as she looked up at her husband, her eyes pleading. But the old queen spoke first: “I may no longer be queen,” she hissed, though the entire court heard her over the howl of the wind. “But my child, my Snow White, is still the heir. And she will be treated as such.”
The king replied. “The heir is dead, my lady. As dead as the past kings, my forefathers. There is no heir. Just a baby’s corpse.” A tear trickled down his cheek, but he did not twitch. “Leave my castle. I have been merciful until now, but I can only let this madness go on for so long.”
“Madness? No. I am protecting your child, and you want to send me away? No. I will not go. Not until she has sprung forth from her ice covering.” And she sat beside her child once more, and began singing:
Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
The tune fluttered in all of their ears, and seconds later, they all left the courtyard, trembling at the eerie melody, which had become even more like a dirge. The king never asked his old wife to leave again, and none questioned his judgment, for what could he do? She was mad, but surely harmless.

Days passed, and all the court and the inhabitants of the castle stayed far from the courtyard and its ice sculpture. Words were few and laughter non-existent throughout the castle. At night, none slept. The phantasm of the ice child loomed in everyone’s dreams; however, no one heard or saw Adrienne. They assumed she remained in the courtyard, where none dared go.
One morning, as the new queen had just returned to her rooms from an early breakfast of hothouse fruit, all were awoken by sudden screams.
“Beth? Beth! ELIZABETH? WHERE-“
“George? George? Did you take George, Lucy?”
“Where did you put Martha and her cradle?”
“I know I put Lewis right here! Where is he?”
“MY GOD!”A blood-curling scream pierced the air, and all opened their windows and looked up to see the new queen visibly trembling and pointing to the courtyard.

On the ground, next to the now branch-less tree, lay long, gnarled branches, with broken cradles hanging from them. The floor was a red sea of blood-splattered pieces of the castles babes. The ice child’s lips were redder than ever, a red so deep it was like blood solidified. In front of her, Adrienne sat, shaking a babe’s blood onto the child’s crimson lips. ”Why do you not leave your encasement of snow and ice, child? I have given you all the blood of the babes, yet you will not come forth! Come out, Snow White! Need you more blood? Child?”
She paused, leaning in as the wind swirling her hair, which was tinged red with blood, then she gasped. “I? Ye- ye-yes child. Anything for you.”
And she took out her dagger and plunged it into her heart. She fell forward; crumpling at her ice child’s feet, blood spilling from her breast across the babe’s red mouth, while from up above, the new queen , in her terror, threw the only thing that had been in her hand- an apple. It was as red as Snow White’s lips, a perfect, even tint, of scarlet. All watched as it twirled through the air, time slowing down as it made contact with the scarlet lips, cracking the ice and snow. The thick sculpture that Adrienne had painstakingly carved crumpled, leaving only the frozen body of a dead babe exposed. Held up by a thin shard of ice, it remained, unmoving, for what must have been hours, before falling into the pile of the snow and ice that had been its cocoon for the many months, its cold, ice blue eyes staring up at the sky.





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