Updated: Nov 20
Many of us love fairy tales because they tell us moralistic stories, fantastically romanticise our world and offer sympathetic characters. However, what if one lives in the real world as though they were living in a fairy tale?
“A Fairy Tale Life” by Vrinda Wakhlu tells the story of a man who has lost his senses and no longer realises the difference between a fairy tale and real life. It is all the same for him; others must live with it.
He woke up in a dark and eerie place. Deep in the corner, there sat a girl, so small that she would have gone unnoticed had it not been for her long tresses curling over themselves and making their way up to his feet. Legs bent up to reach her chest, and with her head between her knees, she was whimpering.
She kept crying. It was surprising how her soft sobs tugged so hard on his gut.
He must have hiked this mountain a hundred times with his friends, and he could have sworn he had never seen this castle before. His friends had all been just as surprised but, surprisingly, not even half as curious as him. Their fear had gotten the better of them, and they had left him all alone on his quest to explore the castle.
More astonishing to him was his lack of fear.
Unlike most guys of his age, he had always loved fairy tales. His strange fascination with these tales of magic and wonder had carried over well into adulthood. But, even if he hadn’t, drawing a comparison to his favourite story was easy. The eerie-looking castle, the sad girl, living at the top of the tower, her unusually long hair - this was Rapunzel.
He might not have feared much standing at the castle door, and he had no idea how he had climbed up all the stairs without even thinking of running away; but looking at her now, she shook with every little sob. He was a little afraid. He was afraid that he had landed right inside his childhood dream with a stroke of luck. The days when he used to practise fighting the wicked witch with the sticks he used to collect from the forest had prepared him for this one moment.
And just then, the girl looked up. With a slight upward tilt of her head, she looked at him, and he looked into her big, bright eyes. And that was the moment he knew she was his Rapunzel. He didn’t know how he had manifested his dream, but he would, and God was his witness, save this girl at any cost.
Treading through the hair as fast as he could, he held both her arms and said, “Let’s leave. Come on, get up. Let’s leave! Before she comes for us!”
“I can’t! You know, I can’t.”
“What? No, I don’t know. Why?”
“Not just me”, she said meekly. Her eyes welled up. “It’s both of us. We can’t leave. Don’t you know? Don’t you remember?”
Not soon had the words left his mouth that he heard something. A knock on the door with a familiar voice calling out, and suddenly, all surrounding sounds drowned out, making the heartbeat progressively louder.
She was here, and he knew her, the witch.
It all came back to him. It had been years and years ago that he had stumbled upon this castle with his friends. Years ago, he had stepped inside. Years ago, he found the girl. And he has never been able to leave since.
“It’s the witch again!” cried the little girl. “She’s here! What are we going to do?”
“What we always do”, he said. “I am going to go fight her.”
“Oh my God, no! We have been fighting her all this time. And we have never been able to beat her.”
“But, she, too, hasn’t beaten us yet. We’re still alive, right?”
The girl nodded but again started wailing.
Eyes sparkling with new determination, he started walking towards the door. Turning back one last time to see the girl, he grabbed the doorknob and pulled it open.
“Dad! I have been calling you forever! Why didn’t you answer? And how many times do I tell you, do not lock the door from the inside!”
He just kept looking at her, his expression giving nothing away.
“Dad”, exasperated, said, “If this goes on, you know I will have to remove the lock. You know that, right?”
“You will not”, he replied as slowly and deliberately as he could.
“All right. I don’t want to fight. I just came to tell you that lunch is ready. Come on, let’s get you your medicines.”
“No. No medicines.”
“What? This again? Why? Do you want to spend your eternity in the castle with Rapunzel? Do you never want to get out? See the real world?”
“World where witches like you exist?” he snapped.
“Wow. Witch. Really? That’s what you call your own daughter?”
“You’re no daughter of mine. I don’t have a daughter, and you’re a witch trying to fool me.”
She couldn’t do it anymore. But she had known that her whole life. She cursed the day her father went out hiking with his friends and met with an accident. That day, time stopped for him.
The irony was that he did not remember anything from his past except the damned story of Rapunzel that he used to read to her every night. Not his daughter. Not the days they used to go to the forest together and fight each other trying to save Rapunzel, playing the hero and the villain, turn-by-turn. Nothing.
And now that she had her own family, her daughter, she dreaded the very idea of fairy tales.
Her little trip down memory lane ended suddenly as she saw her father stepping back into his room. She almost jumped, wedging herself between him and the door. Hearing the ruckus, her husband came rushing to them.
“What’s going on?” he exclaimed.
“Listen, get the syringe. Come on, fast!” she cried.
With one hand trying to close the door, her father tried to push her out. He could hear the little girl sitting in the corner, weeping inconsolably. And then, with a little pinch in his arm, he felt her fading away till everything went dark.
This short story is available in a paperback & ebook.