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Every day. The same thing. The same question.
“On the wall,”
I used to be great. Prized. Revered. Even worshipped. I have been owned and used by the greatest philosophers of all time. They all asked the same question, of course. And all suffered the same fate. But that...that is a different story.
“Who in the land is fairest of all?”
The question is predictable. All questions are, when your job is to know everything, but the queen holds the record of having asked the same question every day since she received me. And so I’m ready with the same answer she’s heard every day.
You, my queen, are fairest of all.
I must answer. I am enchanted to speak the truth, and it is the truth. She is the fairest of all. The king would not settle for second best. And yet, as I begin to speak, I find that I can’t begin. I’m enchanted to speak to the truth you see. I can’t lie. To do so would be to unmake myself. I can no more tell a lie than you can breathe underwater. And so, instead of my usual answer, a new one comes.
"Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you."
Ah. Snow White then. The old queen’s young daughter. I believe she turned seven today.
The queen stops.
I cannot see her of course, I have no eyes. I am simply enchanted to know everything that is happening, or has happened, or will happen. All I have to do is think about it. And right now, all I can think about is how the queen is taking the bad news.
Right now, she is standing stock still, her face a jumble of surprise, confusion, rage...every emotion you could think of. Suddenly, she straightens, and walks out of the room without a word.
Well. This is certainly entertaining. I would continue to follow the queen, but I am incredibly tired, and I can always catch up later....
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who in the land is fairest of all?”
The familiar question pulls me back to reality, away from sleep and my....dreams. Before I answer the question, I remember Snow White....
I see images. The queen, standing before a kneeling hunter. She is demanding something, the heart of Snow White. He agrees.
He agrees, but does not obey. When he and the princess reach the forest, he tells her to run. He kills a deer and takes the heart to the queen, who...has it cooked. And then eats it.
I am vaguely disgusted.
But what of the child? What of Snow White? I see her running through the forest, her ebony hair full of leaves, her blood red lips streaked with dirt and tears, and her snow white skin covered in cuts and scratches.
By chance, she stumbles into a clearing, and an unusually small hut. Inside, she finds seven dwarfs, whom agree to let her stay, providing she cooks and keeps things orderly. She readily agrees, and is currently making beds.
Ah, but the queen is still waiting for an answer! And I cannot speak a lie.
"Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you."
Again, the queen stops dead. But instead of being stunned into silence, she flies into a rage, demanding I tell her how and why.
“‘Twas not the heart of Snow White you ate. She now lives with the dwarfs, it is too late.”
“It is never too late,” the queen snarls, her eyes narrowing dangerously. “The dwarfs. Where can I find them?”
“One mile west, and one more south, will bring you to the dwarfs’ small house.”
The queen, muttering to herself, walks out of the room. And I go back to sleep.
“Mirror. Does Snow White still live?”
I almost cannot believe it. It is a new question. And yet, I know it is not. It is the same question, simply asked in a different manner. Does Snow White still live? If so, the queen is the fairest.
At the thought of Snow White, I see what happened since the queen’s last visit. I see the queen disguise herself as a peddler, and approach the dwarfs’ small cottage. I see her speak to Snow White and offer her a bodice. Snow White eagerly accepts, and the queen laces her up so tight she faints.
The queen leaves her for dead and returns to the castle.
But Snow White is not dead, and the dwarfs are there to rescue her. She thanks them, and cooks, and keeps things orderly. And all is returned to normal.
“Your plan, though clever, did not succeed. And in the race for beauty, Snow White still leads.”
The queen is angry. But she does not yet give up hope. She has more plans to rid herself of her step-daughter. I debate peering into the future, to see what it holds, but decide I would rather not ruin the fun.
“Mirror. I ask again. Does Snow White still live?”
Back to repeating questions. I should have expected it.
In an odd twist, I know the answer before I search for it. Perhaps I did glance into the future before I fell asleep again, or perhaps I have simply learned that Snow White is not one to die easily. The queen did come close for a second time however, disguising herself as an old woman and brushing Snow White’s hair with a poisoned comb. But Snow White lived, with help from the dwarfs.
“Your clever plans have failed again. Snow White still lives, to cook and mend.”
The queen surprises me. She does not show outrage, or shock. She simply nods, and walks out the door. I feel a quick flash of pity for Snow White before falling back into my dreams.
“Mirror, I...I ask for the final time. Does Snow White still live?”
As I awake, I know that this time is different in. The queen is uncertain, defeated. If this has failed, she will not make another attempt. My thoughts find Snow White.
I catch only glimpses, the briefest of images. An old woman, an apple. Snow White. And...and a glass coffin, with a young Snow White inside. I almost stop...but something catches my attention. A prince, requesting the coffin from the dwarves. The servants carrying the coffin stumble, and Snow White’s eyes jerk open. The prince declares they shall be married.
I come back to myself.
"You, my queen, are fair; it is true. But the young queen is a thousand times fairer than you."
The queen pauses, unsure of how to react. Is this a confirmation? Is Snow White dead, only to be replaced by an even fairer queen?
“Where is this young queen?”
“You will find her at her wedding place. But to arrive on time, you must make haste.” The queen departs, and I wonder what it is like to walk unknowingly to your death.
Mirror? Are you...are you awake?”
It is not the queen who awakens me now. No, now the speaker is her husband, the king. The father of Snow White.
“I am awake.”
The king stands before me, hesitant of addressing something more powerful than even he. “My wife...she has not returned from a wedding. Where is she?”
A smile finds it’s way into my words, despite having no lips.
“Now that all is done and said, the evil queen? She does lie dead.”