Sleeping

The sun lanced through the battlements of the Castle but it did not brighten the grey stones or spill life into the moss-covered walls. The figures on the ramparts did not stir at the whisper of morning. They had not done so for nearly a hundred years. Still the sun rose. Still the sun set. As if in vain attempts to wake the Castle at last from its sleep.

Travellers often passed by on the road outside. They would look up and stare in wonder at the construction looming at their side. And many of them contemplated making their way inside to explore further. But they never could. For the Castle was wound about with thickets of brambles and thorns that grew to tremendous height and far too thickly for any blade to remove.

Today was a quiet day. Usually, a few people were camped by the roadside, sheltering under the thorn bushes, using the odd branch to support their tents. But there was no one today. Perhaps it was due to the frost that had settled on the Castle walls, the dew that peppered the grass like stars, or the icicles that hung like fangs around the gaping maw of brambles. The herald of Winter, in all his silver finery, had arrived again. The hundredth time that he had set foot on the turrets of the Castle and found it lost in slumber once again. The sunlight fell away in despair. It could do nothing. It could not wake them. It had not been made for such a task.

For within the Castle lurked a darkness too deep for sunshine to penetrate. An ancient curse that stalked the corridors and hissed at the sleeping figures slumped in the corners. Its grey shape slipped through the cracks in the stonework, through the knotholes in the timber, through the openings in the rusted portcullis to the thorn fence outside. It walked like some shadowy demon up a windy set of stairs to an old and crusted door. Beyond this, it enveloped a small room like smoke, swamping the bed and drapes of a figure that lay in eternal rest. She was quite attractive as girls go, but still retained the same grey hollowness as her courtiers and friends lying around her. The woman knelt at her shoulder had her face contracted into an expression of unfathomable grief. Stains where her first tears had landed still marked the dusty flagstones. A gangly youth had fallen at the girl's feet, curling his arms about him, as if to protect himself from all the miseries of the world.

They all slept. And none dared enter to wake them. Few remembered. There were those who still muttered the story under their breath and shook their heads and sighed. Their eyes still shone with the memory of what the world once was and their hearts still drummed to that of a different tune. But usually, the story was given a happy ending. Mothers would tell their young ones of how a prince came to wake a princess and the Castle came alive. The grass grew thick and green and flowers carpeted the fields. The land had a king and queen again. The thorns receded. The pretty girl opened her eyes and the look of anguish was taken from the face of the woman beside her.

These, of course, are only endings to fairy tales. In real life, fairies are rarely that kind.