"You're nothing but an ugly old witch. I wish I could leave this flock and go back to hunting and being surrounded by pretty things and attended upon, as is my right. I hate the life of a shepherd."
"You would prefer, then, to be the wolf?" she asked, waving her hand about in the air. "Very well. You can have what you want . . . and your outward appearance shall reflect your inner heart. As you wished it to be, so it shall be."
When a spoiled boy is forced to watch over a flock of sheep, he finds himself more interested in catching the eye of a girl with lovely ground-trailing tresses than he is in protecting his boring charges. But after he cries "wolf" twice, a determined fairy decides to teach him a lesson once and for all. She will give him what he desires, and perhaps he shall learn that some things are worth more than simply getting what he wants; some things are worth making sacrifices for.
I shoved a couple of sheep aside, dodged a few playing lambs, and then sat in the middle of the flock, twirling my shepherd staff. I took one hand off the staff and stood it up, end against the ground, so I could pick a few verdant blades and throw them in the air like confetti. But as I looked up from the grass, a woolly sea of sheep parted in front of me.
I dropped my staff in surprise. A green-eyed mass of red fur was heading toward me.
I shot to my feet.
“Wolf!” I cried without thought, bellowing the word so loudly I thought my lungs might burst. But even as my eyes flicked down toward the village, I knew no one would come. I couldn’t save any of the sheep. And the beast was so huge I wouldn’t be able to save myself.READ MORE
The sheep were a whirlwind of confusion. They bleated and scattered to escape their natural enemy. I started to sprint away, wanting to put a few sheep between me and the wolf. But then it leaped at me and knocked me to the ground. I rolled away. Then I jumped to my feet. Then I ran.
Like a fool, I didn’t pay attention to where I was going. And so, my feet took me not to the safety of the village, but to the unpredictability of the forest.
As I fled the flock and went deeper into the woods, I heard the crunch of footsteps and the light panting of the red wolf. I didn’t know why it was pursuing me. It didn’t matter. I was growing winded, and the vegetation was slowing me down. If I didn’t do something fast, I would become wolf fodder.
Ahead of me was a thick low-hanging branch. I sprinted forward and grabbed it, hauling myself upward. I scuttled up the tree like a drunken squirrel, trying to get high enough to keep the wolf’s jaws from latching on to my leg. Then I clung to the trunk and prayed for wings.
Several seconds passed. I didn’t sprout wings. But I did hear an elderly female voice command none-too-nicely: “Come down from there.”
I looked below in suspicion, but I didn’t see any snarling beasts or slaughtered sheep. I was going to be alone with another human being.
I couldn’t exactly stay in the tree forever; my arms were already starting to hurt. I should have been practicing climbing trees instead of watching sheep.
Muttering to myself, I inched down the trunk, a single agonizing branch at a time. It was one thing to climb up a tree when you felt you were fleeing for your life; it was quite another to go down it when you didn’t know what waited for you below.
Finally, I made it, and after brushing sticky sap and crumbly tree bark on my pants in disgust, I turned around to face the stranger. And recoiled in surprise.
The woman’s face—if it could be called that—looked like it had hit the broadside of a barn. I wasn’t sure “grotesque” could begin to describe it. Great Gawain, I wasn’t even sure “witch” could come close to an accurate description. It was as if someone had shoved their fist into a pile of mud and then added eyes to it. Misshapen, wrinkled, deformed—these terms and more could all apply, yet they seemed to fall short of the mark.
“Why did you leave your flock?” she asked me. Her voice was grating yet shaky, and she spoke to me as though I were some worthless shepherd boy who had suddenly decided to abandon his flock to join the traveling circus. She sneered at me, and I cringed. Her mouth was even worse than her face—it looked like someone had melted her gums and then thrown her teeth in . . . or at least some rotting, festering lumps that passed for teeth, anyway. I didn’t even know teeth could be that shade of black.
“I’m above such things,” I told her haughtily. She knew about the wolf; I was certain of it. “I’m not meant to watch sheep. I’m meant for nobler things than that.”
“You think shepherds do not have a noble calling? A shepherd must be willing to give up his life for his sheep—to give his all to them. And what have you illustrated about your own heart? You have shown that you lack even a hint of such nobility. Your upbringing was not what it should have been. Your mother filled your head with fantasy, and your father filled your heart with scorn—”
I cut in: “Oh, what do you know, old lady?”
She continued as if she hadn’t been interrupted: “As a result of this and your personal pride, you refuse to recognize the importance of the common people. Sheep give meat for food, wool for clothing, and fat for soap. Do you think the food on your plate and the clothes on your back simply appear at your command? What do you think your flowery soap is made of?”
“I repeat: what do you know?” I returned, not realizing how important my next words were going to be. “You’re nothing but an ugly old witch. I wish I could leave this flock and go back to hunting and being surrounded by pretty things and attended upon, as is my right. I hate the life of a shepherd.”
“You would prefer, then, to be the wolf?” she asked, waving her hand about in the air. “Very well. You can have what you want . . . and your outward appearance shall reflect your inner heart. As you wished it to be, so it shall be.”
The last thing I saw before the darkness overtook me was an image of her lip curling upward in disgust.COLLAPSE
Haley Keller wrote:
"'Thorny' with all its twists and turns is mesmerizing with its creativity and beauty and was truly worth the read. I will be looking out for more of [Eye's] novels in the near future." --Pennie Mae Cartawick, Author of the Sherlock Holmes book series
Publishers Weekly wrote:
"I'm really happy to say that Thorny was probably one of the best Beauty and the Beast retellings that I've ever read. I started off skeptical, but I really did fall in love with this story quickly." --Haley Keller, Been There, Read That
"Eye weaves a fun tale as she pieces together several well-loved fairy tales." --Publishers Weekly