Here’s the story so far. Now to the latest fairy tale:
The Woman with the Broken Heart
(Containing a smacking good tale of a thwack and a whack.)
Sarah O’Connell had not been the same since her love affair with Death.
Her love for him was genuine, she believed. She loved the fact that he was true to his nature and did not hide who he was. She loved the fact that he had no fear, of others, of who he is, or of telling others who he is.
But then, one day, Death broke her heart. He had feigned anger, and told her to leave.
She did not believe that he was angry, not even at the time. But she did believe that he wanted her to go, although she did not understand why. Since he wanted her to leave, she walked away.
When Death and Sarah O’Connell, who were one, broke into two, her heart had also broken into two pieces, and her tears filled three rivers and one brook.
After the first week of tears, she decided she would never love again. For that purpose, she cut a piece of cloth from one of her shirts, and blindfolded herself, vowing to never set eyes on another man, lest she fall in love again and her heart be broken into four pieces.
A few weeks after that, when no more tears came out of her eyes, she met a stranger in the woods, a stranger called John the No Longer Cute. He had claimed he had fallen in love with her immediately and wanted her to be with him. But he could not promise that he would live long – in fact, he knew that he would not – and he would not promise to spend what remained of his life with her.
She had sent him away, and he had vanished immediately, as if he were a cloud and had risen into the air itself.
And yet, over the passing weeks, John the No Longer Cute’s voice haunted her. She kept hearing it in her mind’s ears, imagining what he was like, feeling that he was a worthy man who had seen pain in his life.
And so, for weeks she mourned her relationship with Death, and could not understand the change that had come over him. And during those weeks, she had also become familiar with the voice of John the No Longer Cute.
The Fates had brought her to the palace, when she had caught with her own bare hand a man who sought to escape the king. The criminal’s name was Al the Average, and with Sarah O’Connell’s hand on his throat, she dragged him by the throat for four days and four nights, until they reached the king’s palace.
They entered the palace swiftly, his hand still on his throat. Sarah O’Connell felt a shadow on her face, and froze. Something was happening nearby.
She heard many people move, and then a familiar voice exclaimed, “What are you doing in my palace, Death?”
With her free hand, she signaled Al the Average to be silent. He, who had also recognized the voice, was happy to remain silent. The two remained unmoving behind a statue, and listened to the events nearby.
The more she listened, the more she learned. She learned that John the No Longer Cute was actually King John the Cute. She learned that Death was here and that he had lost his hand to a mysterious stranger. She learned of a bargain struck by the king and Death. She learned of Death’s list, she learned of the Afterdeath, she learned of Death’s prophecy of Life, and she learned that Death had been a revolving door.
She also learned that King John the Cute was a brave man. She learned that his name was already on Death’s list, and that this did not frighten him. She learned that he was trying to save the Land of All Legends from a mysterious sickness. She learned that he was determined to reveal all secrets, to find the truth behind falseness, and to do all of that before he dies.
And yet her broken heart beat quickly at the offence that had broken her heart.
When she heard that Death was leaving, she stepped out of the shadows, Al the Average’s throat in hand, and called “Hold on! I have a question for Death!”
Everyone around her froze, even Death.
Death turned around. “Sarah O’Connell!” he said, surprised. His eyes searched her, to see if she was holding a seashell.
“John the No Longer Cute,” she said. “May I ask Death my question?”
“Certainly,” said the king. She was sorry that she could not see the surprise on his face. “And he must answer.”
She did not hear Death move away. And so she asked, “I want to know why Death left me.”
“Answer her question, Death,” she heard the king’s familiar voice.
There was silence, and then Death spoke. “Sarah O’Connell, I realized that one day your name will appear on my list. And on that day, I must take your soul. The thought was too much for me to bear, and so I cast you away, hoping that the next time we meet enough time will have passed, and I will not care as much for you as I do now.”
Sarah O’Connell was surprised. “Everybody dies, Death,” she told him simply. “But until then we must live. What you are telling me is that you fear death. To that, I have only one thing to say.”
She stepped closer to Death, Al the Average’s throat in her right hand.
“Your touch no longer kills, correct?”
“That is correct.”
“Good,” she said. And with her left hand, she socked Death in the jaw.
Death fell to the floor.
“Now I realize that you are a frightened man and you fear life just as you fear death. You are not the man I thought you were, and I am glad I realized this now. Now you may go.”
She heard Death rise and slowly leave.
Once he was out of earshot, she turned to face King John the Cute.
“John the No Longer Cute,” she said. “Death did not honor his side of the bargain completely. Will you still honor yours even though you do not have to?”
“I will,” said King John the Cute. “He has honored all that he could. I have learned quite a lot. And I would rather Death’s hand be attached to Death than to a mysterious being. I will do my best to restore Death’s hand.”
“Even though he will touch you once his hand is returned?”
“Yes, Sarah O’Connell. Even though.”
“John the No Longer Cute,” Sarah O’Connell continued. “I have noticed that you did not ask him about the mysterious being who stole his hand.”
“No. I did not. Since Death called him a ‘mysterious being’, he clearly knew nothing about him. I am sure I will of him hear quite soon and from many sources. A man who is walking around the Land of All Legends with Death’s hand as his weapon will draw attention.”
“So,” Sarah O’Connell said. “You forgot to tell me that you are king of the land.”
“I am sorry I lied to you, Sarah O’Connell.”
“I do not think you lied, King John the… Cute. I think you told me your real name. I think you think of yourself as a man, not a king. And I think you see yourself as no longer cute, rather than cute.”
“Then I shall keep calling you John the No Longer Cute, because that is what my king wants.”
She heard John the No Longer Cute approach her. “Stay in the palace,” he said softly, and he was close enough that she felt his breath on her cheek. “Stay with me.”
“John the No Longer Cute, I have had my heart broken by an unworthy being. From what I have heard today, I know that you are truthful, honorable, and brave. My heart is not free to be broken again, which surely will happen when I take off my blindfold. And yet, it is fear speaking out of me, and I do not want to be fearful. I also do not want to be unworthy. Your cause is a just one. Please, give me an impossible task that serves your cause. And once I succeed and prove myself worthy, I will take off my blindfold, and we will be together.”
King John the Cute was silent for one minute and eleven seconds. “Sarah O’Connell,” he said at last. “Discover the secrets of the Afterdeath.”
She nodded. “I will do just that, and I will leave immediately. In the meantime, I leave you with a gift,” she released her hold on Al the Average, and threw him on the ground. “I will see you again and for the first time at a future date, John the No Longer Cute.”
“I am sure you will,” said the king, with sadness in his voice. And he did not add the words that rang in his head: But by that time, it would no longer matter.
Sarah O’Connell turned around and walked out of the palace with her head held high.
This has been the thumping good tale of how Sarah O’Connell overcame her love for Death and how her heart began to mend. This has also been the story in which Sarah O’Connell received an impossible quest, to discover the secrets of the Afterdeath.
(To be continued on Sunday…)
Remember: Find the Easter Eggs in the fairy tales and have a fairy tale written about you.