The Storyteller This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

He sits, the storyteller, straight-backed
Surveying his audience with calculating eyes.

And from my seat, I lean forward,
On the edge as I wait
For what comes next
How it will start,
Wondering what words will flow into my mind.

And then, the storyteller opens his mouth,
Assured of my focused attention,
And thus begins:
“Tonight, on the ten o’clock news…”

And so the words take me away,
Shattering any preconception of classical fairytales and
Bedtime stories that used to consume my mind
And fantasies,
Filling me with the more gripping version.

Instead of the knight in shining armor
Sweeping the damsel in distress off her feet,
He devotes his life to a rallying cause
To battle oceans away
And leaves his devoted damsel
Weeping and praying on her knees.

The witches that brewed cauldrons in my head,
Tossing in newts eyes, livers, and magical balderdash,
Have matured into those whose trade involves the selling
Of poisons to the unaware.
And the righteous hero does not boldly refuse the temptation
To prove himself above such skullduggery,
But succumbs
With unexplored reasons that override the childhood warnings and lessons

And so it continues,
But still I listen with baited breath
As Little Red Riding Hood disappears without a trace
(No doubt kidnapped by a wolf).

My romantic bandit who stole from the rich
Now robs any target
Only to be gunned down.

Little Matchstick girls die from hunger
In the snow,
Never to be rescued by a heavenly angel

And Prince Charming now has a negative connotation,
Forgetting the ideal of “one true love”
So that any princess must never drop a glass slipper at a ball
Or she will always fear that corruption will
Crumple that loving heart
And leave her wondering how she got there.

I want to plug my ears, beg him, the storyteller, to stop,
While in the back of my mind I wonder why I continue doing this?
What do I expect to discover?
For bedtime stories still grip my imagination,
Unrelinquishing upon that small child like fascination
Still burning inside of me.

But still, the storyteller continues on
Unaffected by the emotional turmoil his audience is experiencing.
How he captivates my horrified curiosity
For he is the true magician in this setting!
He closes with the Ugly Duckling,
A personal favorite of mine:
The thought of a metamorphosis
Into a swan made me hope for
Some magical transformation to sweep me away in elegance.
Except, now, the Ugly Duckling is a high school girl,
In the wrong place at the wrong time,
Ripped from this world
Before she conquered that gawky stage
To achieve the potential
And slide smoothly into her prime.

That final riveting horror story
Engrains itself in my mind
I stare nonplussed as the storyteller prepares to leave
The only thought pounding through my mind:
Will I next become part of his string of tales?
And what will tomorrow bring?
More thrilling stories
That somehow manage to echo the previous ones?
Same tone,
Same grief,
Same horror.
There must be some tale, in the storyteller’s mind,
Of the weak overcoming obstacles to rise above
Or, even better, people bonding together under mutual compassion
To rebel against these fears that corrupt us.

However, that will be another night.
The storyteller smiles benignly up at his captivated audience and calls:
“Thank you everyone, have a good night.”
So, snip, snap, snout,
This tale is all told out.
And I am left alone,
Waiting for that reassuring, “Happily Ever After”
That once belonged to all my bedtime stories.





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