A Crumpled Tale



A backwards fairytale, remembered wrong.



You cry after forever making a stranger of your baby. Half-sized in silhouette, a crumpled man enters through the barn door, carrying a baby in a cloth. The man is rumpled, stilts-for-legs, wrapped in skins. Arms outstretched, you collapse backwards into bloodstained straw. Your dress rises above your thighs and bloods rush back into your body. You exhale the smell of the sea. The man places the baby between your bare thighs, saying ‘born-first, an undemanding’. The baby is pulled back into your body, it clenches and curls head-down inside your womb.

The crumpled man walks backwards out of the barn as you stare at him in horror and swallow screams as your contractions are fast and violent, slow and then stop; you are soaked and then dry. You think of threads and the distortions of magic. The baby kicks, your swollen belly flattens as the baby shrinks. Your breasts unswell, your hipbones reshape themselves and your body is thin. You long to name a fertilised egg in a glow of love before it splits and splits and splits. Your period doesn’t come. You hide, ashamed.

In a forest, half naked, you take lust from a disguised farmer against a stone wall. His sperm rushes away from your egg and he pushes and pulls until his body is separated from yours. Backing away from each other, you get dressed as you eye him with feral curiosity which fades into fear as you startle each other.

You break down the door of the barn which mends itself behind you and locks you inside. Through a crack in the door you watch autumn leaves blow back up onto the trees. Something shakes in the air. A feeling of Wrong. Think of guesses. An impossible game; you regret all your attempts at choice. Your thoughts split hint from clue, puzzle from maze, key from lock. Final try. Wrong. A second guess. You are clever, you know this. The first guess is wrong.

Night after night, the crumpled man is with you. Through your dreams you hear him suck in the words, ‘name my guess.’ He hands you the spindle and is gone. From midnight back to dawn you unravel strands of gold from the spindle till blood runs into the cuts on your fingers. Wiry threads soften into straw which fills the barn with warmth. This is an impossible task. You are choked, unravelling, alone.

A wind pulls away from the sky and an old woman unlocks the barn door and steps inside. She removes the spell from the spindle, empties the straw out into the fields, and pushes you through a forest all the way to your childhood home. Tears roll into your parents’ eyes as they embrace you. They throw gold coins into the hands of the old woman who disappears, leaving you staring at a thickening sky in anticipation.

Inside the cottage your mother and father sit by the fire, starving, poverty-stricken and strained. You beg them for time. They explain to you that they are welcoming you home. You feel young, small as a child. You push yourself upon them and cry like a baby, at least once.


(Short story on three tissue paper layers, ink, cotton threads, white pillowcase.)

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