Yearning for Wonderland

There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery

Once Upon a Time Writing Contest: Cath Barton

The Shining Vase
by Cath Barton
I’d picked up the vase in a junk shop in that little town over the Black Hill. It shone at me from the depths of a dusty room on a dank day. I ran my fingers over the surface and it felt like the smoothest skin that ever was. It’s a funny thing to say but it seemed alive. It was only when I got home that I realised I hadn’t paid for it. I went back the next Saturday, but the shop was shut up and empty. No sign, no nothing. So what could I do?

I do a lot of flower arranging, it’s what I love. And the vase was wonderful. It seemed to physically meld with whatever flowers I put into it, enhance their colours and their scents.  The more I used it, the better my arrangements.

But one day an annoying thing happened. I had flowers all over the table and the front door bell rang, really loudly.  It startled me and I knocked the vase over. All for nothing because it was some stranger asking for Shaylee.

When I’d got rid of the man, told him there was no Shaylee at this address, never had been, I went back into the kitchen and I could hear weeping. The walls are thin and I thought that it must be the kid next door. I put both my hands on the vase to set it upright again and the noise stopped. But something was different. My flower arrangement just wouldn’t come right and I felt as if I was in some kind of battle with nature. Flower stems snapped, petals fell off, the greenery wilted and the vase looked sullen.
“Well, so would you be upset if someone had pushed you over.”  I whirled round. There was a shining girl standing in the doorway.
“I’m Shaylee,” she said. “I used to live in the fields here. It’s time for us to go on a journey together.”

Shaylee’s taken my place, and now that I’m on the other side, she arranges flowers in me.

Once Upon a Time Writing Contest: Oliver Barton

This entry is by Oliver Barton. Contest details found here.
Pink Bells
The pair progress laboriously along the path in the park. He leaning on a stick, each step a pain, she almost bent double, hand in his. She clutches a paper bag. They sit carefully on a bench, very close, avoiding the damper spots. In front of them stretches a sea of pink bells.

It is nine in the morning, and the bag contains croissants. Gertie hands one to Arthur. They nibble in silence, flakes fluttering like confetti.

While a blackbird sings and sparrows edge towards the crumbs, Gertie extends a bent finger towards a plaque half-submerged in the flowers.

‘What does it say?’ she asks.

‘I don’t know,’ he says, because it is several feet away and his eyes aren’t too good.

With a groan, she gets to her feet and shuffles towards it. Bent as she is, she still can’t make it out. She retrieves a pair of spectacles hanging round her neck, and peers closer.

Arthur hears her saying something, but his hearing is not too good either. He sees her move forward among the flowers. As she does, she shrinks, smaller and smaller, until she vanishes into the pinkness.

Two sparrows squabble over a croissant crumb and fly off, startling Arthur. He struggles to rise. With his stick, he moves the blooms aside so that he can see the plaque clearly. He expects something like the name of the business that has sponsored this bed, but it simply says ‘Come in. Make yourself at home.’

So he steps into the sea of flowers, and at once the pink bells inflate and grow until they are several times his height. The scent is overwhelming, the chime of the bells deep and sonorous. He walks towards Gertie and the others, praying that it doesn’t rain. A raindrop the size of a settee would be unsettling. But, he thinks, they must have ways of dealing with that.

Back on the bench, a little breeze sweeps the paper bag off into a graceful dance, a homage, an obeisance, and all is still.

Once Upon a Time Writing Contest: Chella Courington

As always, glad to post story entries for those who do not have a blog. Please participate, we’d love to have you.

Contest details here.  

Bad Timing

Want your gold ball back? 

The Princess came to a halt. A talking frog? Surreal.

Why not. Thanks, she said.

Here’s the deal, the frog said. Love me, let me eat from your plate, let me sleep in your bed. And the ball will be yours again. 

Like a manikin in pink organdy with a hem tipped in mud, she stood motionless.  

What about a kiss? she asked.

No. I need the whole program. 

Don’t think so.

With that the princess walked away. 

Now the frog started to hop up and down. How can the little bitch refuse me? Doesn’t she know the end of the story, how I’d sleep on her pillow three nights and turn into Ashton Kutcher the third morning? 

Meanwhile at the castle, the Princess, after a lecture on responsibility and the cost of gold from the King, was given a new ball. She tossed it into the sky, enjoying the way it reflected the sun.  At the very moment she let the ball loose, again she heard a croak, startling her. The ball landed on her foot and careened into a thicket.  

Hey, pinkee, want that ball back?

I’m not sleeping with you for one ball or two. 

She stalked away into the palace. 

The frog started hopping up and down. This is my destiny. To follow in Dad’s footsteps. The frog gathered the second ball and swelled up his body.


What do you want? the doorkeeper asked.

I seek an audience with the King. 

The doorkeeper frowned. 

I’ve got the Princess’s gold balls.  

A servant carrying the balls escorted the frog into the dining hall. The King and the Princess were eating Escargots Bourguignon.  

Who wants their balls back? the frog asked.

Get it out of here, the Princess said.  

Egad, the King said. 

Things might have turned out as expected, happy ending and all, if Jacques, the Chef de Cuisine, had not come in and seen what all the fuss was about.

Chella Courington has been eating an apple a day and so far, so good. Both a poet and fiction writer, she published three books in 2011: Paper Covers Rock, a flip book of lined poetry released by Indigo Ink Press;Girls & Women, a chapbook of prose poetry released by Burning River Press; and Talking Did Not Come Easily to Diana, a collection of linked microfiction by Musa Publishing. Her recent fiction appears in The Los Angeles Review, Smokelong Quarterly, riverbabble, Monkeybicycle, and Everyday Genius. 


Once Upon a Time Writing Contest: Conor A

This entry is by Conor A (@ConorDA) on Twitter. Go to Once Upon a Time: Ready Set GO! for further details on entering this contest.


“So, (belch), so that’s it?  Hmmmm?”  Leaning in with intent, Hank stared with one eye wide and protruding, the other in a sort of confused squint, trying to coax a response from Bronson, currently distracted by the nutshells he flicked lethargically across the bar as the days events traced themselves across his vision once more.  Four weeks suspension, with pay for two.  How would he explain this to Rose?  Not that she hadn’t seen it on the news already, or heard about it in texts of hysterics from the other constables’ housewives.
“So we take our eye offa his Lordship Dumpty… for FIVE seconds, and he… he falls on his arse quicker than our Bertha af’er a ni’ on the piss.”  Hank wiped away the excess beer from his face, his words beginning to trail like the stain drawing itself across his sleeve.  
“Five seconds”, Bronson echoed.  “How did he not jump that wall? It was two feet, hardly a bloody obelisk now, was it?”
“Nothing”, Bronson sighed. “Finish your pint, bar’s closing”, pointing at the clock.
The innkeeper rang for last orders.  An inebriated smile stretched itself across Hank’s face.
“That’s wha’ I like about you, Bron-boy”, Hank flinging a friendly, albeit sweaty arm, across Bronson’s shoulders. “Ed-ya-cated, never… never shy to face up to anyone.  Eh?  Eh? Inspector King, he near had a heart attack when you tol’ him what happen, haha!  You see the look on ‘is face!?”
“I did, yeah”, replied Bronson, wanting to subdue the show-reel in his head.  A broken ankle.  Fractured wrist.  Fractured cheekbone. Cracked elbow.  What puzzled Bronson was how a man could inflict so much damage on himself from one measly fall.
“Still”, Hank raised a hand, calling for last pint of ale, “boy shoulda kept his glasses on, keep ‘is eyes front.  Lords, eh?  Wassa point?  Fat men with no sense, I say.  (burp) What kinda name is Dumpty, anyhow?”

Bronson remained drooped over his beer, listening wearily to the last few chairs being placed on the tables as the evening drew to a close.

Artwork by Jo Bradney

Once Upon a Time Writing Contest: Phuong Nguyen

I once thought that once upon a time meant that I would get a happily ever after. That no matter what happens—that whatever crap lands in my hellhole of a life— somehow things will all turn out for the better.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

“It’s too bad you couldn’t come to the ball, Cinderella,” Anastasia said with a triumphant sneer. “The prince couldn’t keep his eyes off of me.”

Stepmother pinched her thin cheek and beamed with pride. “I just know he’ll come calling on you soon.”

“Of course. He has to return my shoe after all.”

I stumbled backwards in a blurry haze. “I’ll get you your tea.”

No, this wasn’t supposed to happy. I was supposed to go to the ball and meet the prince. To fall in love. This was supposed to be my reward for being kind all my life. She wasn’t supposed to charm the prince. She wasn’t supposed to live out my dream.

Yet somehow, in some way, she did. She will.

It wasn’t until then that I knew happily ever’s don’t come for free. I’d have to work for my dream, my future.

It took me a few minutes to prepare their tea. Only a second to pour in the arsenic.

Later, I hummed a little tune to myself as I washed the dishes. A dream is a wish your heart makes. When you’re fast asleep…

Thud. The first thump came from the directly above my head. I didn’t even look up, still continuing with my chores. After I wiped my hands on my tattered apron, I picked up Anastasia’s sparkling blue mask and brushed at the invisible dust. Thud. Another one. This time from the bedroom above the dining hall. Barely noticing, I fastened the mask on and brushed a few blond tendrils off my face. It fit perfectly.

Thud. The final thump was the loudest of them all.

Finally I allowed myself to smile and settled on the wooden with the glass slipper in my lap. Now I’d just have to wait for my prince to come.