Saturday, 3 July 2010

Gold, on Snow: an excerpt

Let me tell you a fairy story. It's very well known: it's the story of a young princess whose stepmother is homicidally jealous of her beauty (Hmm. Sounds like there might be a little more to it than that, doesn't it?), so she is sent off to her death in the woods. She somehow manages to persuade her would-be-murderer to let her go (I wonder how she did that..?) and she wanders through the woods until she find the house of seven inhuman men, who agree to take her in and look after her out of compassion. (Yeah, right: we believe that!) All they ask in exchange of this stunningly beautiful maiden is that she does their housework for them... (Who are you kidding?!)

That's where my story Gold, on Snow starts. And it's told from the point of view of the wicked witchy stepmother, who has come to finish the girl off once and for all. This is not one of my nice stories. Make no mistake: it's dark and it's very very dirty.

Yes, seven dwarves...

I ignore the insects that whine in my ears as the world darkens at my back. I am all patience. Haven't I been patient many years? I watch as they eat their stew and lay the bowls aside. Then the girl lifts her eyes to the oldest, broadest and most knotted of the svartalfar. He nods, and two of the others hurry to take an iron chest from the shadows and lay it before him.

It is full of gold. Not coin, but jewellery of extraordinary delicacy and beauty. The girl stands. See how the tip of her tongue wets her plump berry-coloured lips: she is trembling with anticipation.  She moves into the centre of the room, the circle formed by the svartalfar on their stools. Then one of them, his eyes the yellow of topazes, comes forward and unlaces her dress, dropping it to her feet then helping her step out.

Skin as white as snow. It is very nearly no exaggeration; in the lamplight she seems to glow.  I squirm with envy and with trepidation; she is absolutely beautiful. Perfect breasts, twin-tipped with pink. Perfectly curved hips. Perfect, flawless thighs. She is as smooth as marble taken from a riverbed, as a polished moonstone, as new-fallen snow. The only colours about her are in the soot-black hair upon her head, her gleaming dark eyes, her blood-red lips. I hear the svartalfar sigh.

They dress her from the treasure box. They come forward all at once, and work with the patient care of true craftsmen, neither getting in each other's way nor fumbling, their dark hands delicate and sure on her pale skin: a pair of elaborate earrings, filigree greaves that embrace her shins and calves, wristlets that attach to finger-rings by a web of golden links, spiralling armlets. Then a collar of gold, and chains that hang down from it to rings that go through her nipples, pulling them up. Rings through her labia and her clitoris. She does not flinch; the invisible holes in her flesh must be old, and she well used to the jewellery. Her whole body is hung with arcs of delicate gold chain, pinned to her flanks by fine wires. Filigree wings attach flat to her shoulder blades. A plug is inserted deep between the snowy globes of her bottom and she bends and takes it with equanimity: when it is in place a gold tail stands in a curve like a cat's behind her, gleaming in the light of the fire.

See how they admire their own handiwork when they are done, standing back to revel in the full effect? They love artifice and they love beauty; she is now the perfect combination of both. Her lips curve with satisfaction.  She runs her hands gently, gently down her own body, plucking at the wires that pierce her flesh, circling her breasts and hefting their orbs to make the pendant beads dance. She rolls her rear to make her tail twitch. She shimmies her hips.  She loves her own body, dressed only in gold. She loves what they have made of her: a pagan idol.

To show her gratitude, she begins to dance for them.

If you've ever harboured nasty suspicions about exactly how snow white Snow White was, this is the story for you! Gold, On Snow appears in Alison's Wonderland, edited by Alison Tyler and offically out on sale this week.

Buy at Amazon US : Buy at Amazon UK

Visit the Alison's Wonderland blog, where you can read interviews with me and the other authors in this scary fairy anthology.


Danielle said...

as pure as new york snow..:-)

and i so love the coverart too:-)

great snippet and that book i want for sure too...even though it always takes agessss until the american books and uk books arive here at my door..:-/

Jo said...

Damn, Janine.

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh I think I am, Jo.

And Danielle - Tallulah Bankhead described herself as "pure as the driven slush." I've always liked that!

Kat Black said...

Never mind the snow and slush, this is PURE GOLD, Janine. Thanks.

Janine Ashbless said...

I wrote it with feverish enthusiasm, Kat! Thank you!