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Joan was very relieved when she climbed the beanstalk, to find a most handsome young prince.

Oh yes, he was so very lovely. It was worth climbing those sharp, painful vines and clambering over the oozing mushrooms. She had initially been quite hesitant, she’d heard all about what had happened to Jack after all, when he climbed his beanstalk last month.

‘Oh yes, he seemed to have fallen upon a spot of luck at first’, her mother said as she folded her endless ironing, ‘but it didn’t take long before curiosity got the best of him, and that awful giant ate him right up.’

Her mother ensured to warn Joan that she was in even more danger than any number of Jack’s could ever be.

‘Young girls are infinitely more delicious to those supernatural creatures up above,’ she told Joan that evening as she wished her goodnight.

‘You are just beginning to blossom, Joan. Be careful, for all sorts of monstrous spirits will be after your tender flesh. To creatures so monstrous, you will taste of strawberries and cream, honey and a fresh bed of lilies. It’s best to stay in here and be safe with me.’

But Joan got bored. She wanted excitement, thrills. So when the beanstalk sprouted from her back garden that very next day, it simply seemed too good to be true.

And it was certainly worth it, when she knocked at the door of the golden castle, and such a gorgeous man answered.

‘Why hello my dear’, he cooed in his honeysuckle voice, ‘what have we here?’

‘My name is Joan’, she stuttered nervously, ‘Nice to meet you’

‘Nice to meet you too Joan, please, do come in’ and he extended out a hand.

*

Hours passed in his company.

They danced under the primrose chandelier, read his strange, otherworldly novels in the massive library where pixies danced and sung, swam together in the pond amongst lilies and lotuses, which spurred to life with his every touch. Joan barely noticed the blood moon rise in the sky, and felt an irresistible urge to touch him and join as one with him, whilst the stars shone up above.

They left the pool and lay together upon the golden grass. Fire crests bloomed beneath his syrupy skin, contrasting his smooth, tanned skin with their shades of pumpkin and parakeet.

His eyes, Joan noticed, match that of the moon.

They were crimson and beautiful. They never left her face, with their thick lashes and angular pupils.

He sat up, contemplating her for some moments as he held her hand. Joan’s heart was beating out of her chest.

‘You smell simply appetizing’, he would murmur, ‘like strawberries and cream, honey and a fresh bed of lilies.’

She grinned from ear to ear.

‘I had a feeling you’d say something along those lines’.

‘Joan, my dear’, he whispered, ‘I would like to try something, if you don’t mind.’

She felt her cheeks smudge ablaze, her ears pricked up as he brought his lips towards hers.

Or, in this case, towards her throat.

*

Joan’s mother was still ironing, as mothers are so wont to do. It had been a long day, and she had so missed her daughter, who so often could be heard singing and dancing through the house. It cheered her spirit up so, and she silently wondered where her dearest daughter had gone.

A colossal thump shook the house from its foundations, Joan’s mother holding onto the worktop for balance.

What in the devil’s name was going on outside?!

She raced out, to see the emerald beanstalk, now rotting away underneath itself. Leaf by crinkled leaf withered and fell down, vines slithering to the ground, meekly curling up like Joan’s crumpled socks.

And right beside all this decay, a mangled, beaten corpse. A naked man, would you credit it! Fallen all the way from the top of the beanstalk!

And climbing down from above, was Joan.

‘Joan darling!’ her mother cried, ‘whatever is happening here?’

‘Ah yes, a colossal shame, that’, Joan declared, ‘but he tasted so lovely, like strawberries and cream’.

 


Yes, sorry, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a tale for my Gothic series, For I am no Lover of Lilies! I promise there will be more soon. I’m reading Grimm’s fairy tales as part of my dissertation, so that will give me plenty of ideas for stories!

I’ve also been eyeing up Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, which I’m sure will be full of wonders…

Copyright © 2017 Rebecca Sherratt

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