If you’re looking for a quick, free read this weekend, “These Deathless Bones” by Cassandra Khaw is a dark and gorgeously-written fairy tale about the tension between a Witch Bride (the penultimate “wicked stepmom”) and a truly loathsome little princeling.
Told from the Bride’s unflinching POV, this short story is anything but Disney-esque. If anything, it’s militant Grimm with a sprinkling of Lovecraft:
There were many things I wasn’t supposed to do, or be. I wasn’t supposed to be someone’s second chance, someone’s happily ever alternate. I wasn’t supposed to be the malevolent stepmother—heartless, soulless, devoid of the natural compassion expected of childbearing women, the instinct to drop everything and coddle needy, whiny little whelps like him.
Actually, I suppose I was meant to be all of those things, but I was also expected to rise above the unflattering stereotypes.
Well, fuck them.
This is the third work by Khaw that I’ve read and one of the more enjoyable, because she concentrates more on story in this than vomiting up a thesaurus. Even the body horror, though deftly-handled, is delicately portrayed, more danse macabre than machete strike. The dialogue is raw, the imagery darkly sensual, and the ending, a chef’s kiss of poetic justice.
After all, bones don’t lie.
Happy reading… Oh, and sweet dreams!