This one time I wrote a 6,000 word story called My Name is Gerda.
It was for school and everyone was like “if there are TWO things you shouldn’t write, it’s 1) fantasy and 2) young adult fiction.” So, lol, I did both.
But anyway, I thought it might be something you guys would like – it’s dark and creepy and I’m thinking one day I’d like to make it into a novel. I posted part one here if you’d like to read that.
Where we left off:
Her heart, though. Her heart is still full of Kai.
We must work on her heart.
And let’s get right into it!
“Ravens have always been wise birds.”
~ The Snow Queen
There are snowflakes between my eyelashes as I wake. In front of me there is a black bird, head cocked to the side – a raven. Overnight, the forest has transformed from one of bare skeleton trees to one brimming with life and energy.
‘You’re looking for Kai,’ says the raven.
I pause. ‘Yes,’ I say.
The raven seems to squint. ‘You seem hesitant.’
‘Maybe you should just leave him there. It seems like a lot of bother.’
The raven hops from foot to foot, cocking its head to each side. I frown. ‘Kai is my best friend. I love him.’
‘No you don’t,’ the raven caws. ‘You don’t need him. He’s human.’
‘What does that make me?’
The raven steps onto my forearm and looks me in the eyes. ‘Are you human…Gerda?’
‘What kind of a question is that?’
‘Well, it’s just that the Snow Queen likes to trick people. She likes to play games.’
A shiver prickles up my spine.
‘Doesn’t she…Gerda?’ the raven says.
I’m shaking all over now. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Just that you have more in common with her than you think.’
‘I don’t play games.’
‘Oh, dear Gerda. Everything’s a game.’
Before I lose consciousness, I could swear the raven turns into a black swan and glides away, into nothingness.
Dreams. Terrible, awful dreams. There is darkness inside Gerda. It is an elusive, slippery thing, twisting around her, becoming part of her, so that she cannot separate the evil from herself. It takes Kai and blasts him into a million pieces, and the darkness inside her laughs.
She screams until her lungs are full of ash and the whole world has turned to dust.
She tears everything in her path and it is still not enough.
It is never enough.
She does not know that yet. In her mind, she is still Gerda.
But we are winning.
I need winter back. I am weak without its simple black night and white light. Movement…movement is better than lethargy, and I am moving.
I can’t bear the harsh sunlight. It hurts me. I long for winter.
The music finds me again, though, despite all of Grandmother’s warnings.
And this time it has a voice.
The stars in the sky and the midnight moon
You know we are here
The breath of the wind on the windowsill
You don’t look out
The chill in the air, the swan’s endeavour
To show you the way
But you will
They say she goes by another shape
She likes to hide
She’s the product of legends, the tales that were
You know her name
But you don’t know
I scream. It is not the scream of burning myself on Grandmother’s stove, or the scream of joy when I used to sled with Kai. It is the scream of not knowing who I am anymore, not knowing what is wrong with me.
Is this her? Is this the Snow Queen warning me away from her?
Because it will not work. I will find Kai if it’s the last thing I do. I will defy the raven.
I will be Gerda.
I am filled with a blood-boiling rage, and suddenly the beautiful spring flowers seem like they’re mocking me. I rip them. I scream and I tear them and I destroy the beauty because it is not mine.
I am running and running and running, and the world seems to bleach of colour as spring fades into autumn fades into a bleak, beautiful winter.
And I can breathe again.
Or at least, I can breathe until ice cracks undereath me and I fall into the black, icy water.
No time to scream. I gulp in a mouthful of the water, so cold it feels like fire down my throat, and I can’t breathe, and then, again, everything goes black.
She is trying. It is almost admirable, how hard she is trying to remain Gerda. But we are smoke, we are darkness, and we are chaos.
And we will triumph.
THE LITTLE ROBBER GIRL
‘‘You shan’t kill her, you shan’t,” yelled the little robber girl. ”I want her. I want to play with her.”
~ The Snow Queen
I’m awakened by a kick in my side. I roll over and splutter, throwing up the water I swallowed. I am wet, but sun warms my back and I know that I have again left winter. ‘What do you want?’ I say through gritted teeth, not wanting to look at this new person.
‘I’m Tyv. And I’m taking you prisoner.’
This surprises me so much that I roll back over onto my back, and squint at her. She is only a young girl, maybe six or seven, with blonde pigtails and grubby clothes. There are brown leaves below me – so this is autumn. My hands, unintentionally it seems, revel in the feel of the crisp texture.
‘You’re not taking me prisoner. I have to find my friend.’ My voice sounds desperate even to me.
She crooks an eyebrow. ‘You almost drowned. I saved you. So you have to be my slave for a day. That’s the rules.’
‘No,’ I say, and struggle to get up. But I am bruised all over and I sink to the ground again.
‘See?’ she says with a smug smile. ’You need my help.’
‘I really do have to leave.’
She frowns. ‘But I haven’t had another girl to play with for ever so long.’
‘But Kai…if I don’t find him soon, the shard of mirror will kill him.’
She’s silent for a moment. ‘Well, I suppose that’s a good enough reason. Follow me.’ She begins walking forward, and I almost run into her as she stops suddenly. ‘But you have noticed that it’s autumn here, haven’t you?’
‘Well, yes,’ I say, holding leaves up in front of her.
Tyv squints. ‘Vondur works in funny ways. It wants you to go through the autumn before you get back to winter. Which means we have to take the Elamen Bridge. Mind the faeries – they’re absolute pains, but they’re harmless if you step on them.’ She cackles.
I’m not so sure I want this girl showing me around, but I suppose I have no choice.
‘Come on then!’ she yells, and I run to catch up.
The Elamen Bridge is a sight of complete awe. On the side we’re on is autumn – golden-brown leaves. Over the bridge is the Snow Queen’s castle, not a hint of colour. Planks sway from side to side, blown hither and thither by eddies of wind from below.
‘Is this bridge safe?’ I say to Tyv, feeling sick.
‘Not in the slightest,’ she says cheerfully. ‘But I’ve been on worse. Just don’t look down. And I hope you didn’t eat too much today. The slighest extra pressure and you’re down the ravine.’
My hands shake the whole way. Getting to the winter side is even worse, because my feet slip and slide across the ice. The wind has picked up, and the bridge sways even worse than before. I grip the handholds tighter.
I’m only a few steps away from the end when I fall.
My scream is snatched from my throat as a board snaps underneath me, and I dangle from the bridge, attached only because my scarf caught onto the side. My heart beats so fast I can hardly breathe and tears spring to my eyes.
‘Tyv,’ I say weakly, scared that even yelling will dislodge me.
‘Just hold on!’
I reach my arm up, inch by inch, until my fingers catch the edge of the bridge. I hold on, my knuckles white, and reach up with the other hand. Another gust of wind buffets the bridge and my left hand is thrown off. I scream and dig my fingernails into the wood, but I’m slipping – fast.
Then a hand catches my wrist and I look up into Tyv’s face.
She rolls her eyes. ‘Why does this always happen when I try to bring someone across the bridge?’
When she hauls me up onto dry land, I take deep breaths and respond. ‘How many usually survive?’
‘Oh, none,’ she says airily. ‘But you always hope, don’t you? Sometimes if I get sick of them I bring them here on purpose.’ She pats me on the back. ‘I had high hopes for you, Snowy.’
I’m so dazed and dizzy that I almost miss it. ‘What did you call me?’
I never find out what her response is, because suddenly there’s an enormous gust of wind, so large it can hardly be natural, and Tyv and I both topple over the side of the ravine, into nothingness.
It is working. The Valkyrie are the only beings that stand in our way. They are the only good left, the last vestige of humanity. They will try to make her remember. But she is too far gone. And they are far too weak. It is time, again, for Mitgart to reset itself, for humanity to start again.
She will never escape us.
‘‘Don’t you see how powerful she is already? In only her dress and her bare feet she has come a thousand miles through bitter experience, with only her innocence and her belief to guide her.”
~ The Snow Queen
I’m caught by a being. It’s too early to say if the being is a person, and I can’t see where we are. I blink but the colours around me don’t focus.
‘Calm,’ says a gentle voice.
Such a strange, ethereal voice.
‘Are you an angel?’ I say.
A small pause. Then: ‘My name is Hervör Alvitr. I am a Valkyrie.’
‘Are you taking me to the next world?’
‘There may not even be a ‘next world’ if we don’t act quickly. No, I am taking you to a memory.’
The colours around me reform and then I’m standing on my own, in front of two small children. Two small children who are Kai…and me. I try to step forward but in front of me is a kind of glass, invisible and impenetrable – almost like a mirror. Hand on the nothing-glass, I watch the two children. The girl is as different from me as if she were a new person entirely. I cannot hear them but I sense their happiness, the ease with which they embody innocence.
‘You’re crying,’ says a voice behind me. The angel.
‘Am I?’ I take my hand off the nothing-glass and put it to my cheek. ‘Why am I crying?’ I turn to the angel.
She considers me. ‘Do you love him?’
I don’t answer.
‘Do you?’ she prompts.
‘Of course,’ I whisper.
‘Are you speaking the truth?’
‘I don’t know,’ I say. This time I feel the tears. ‘I don’t know.’
Of course I love him! something screams inside me. But I can’t say it.
She is impassive. ‘You have to fight it, Gerda. You have to fight it, fight them. Everything is lost if you don’t. Gerda!’ she says, and her voice betrays a hint of fear for the first time. She strides forward and grips my arms. ‘Why are you going to the Snow Queen’s palace? Tell me!’
‘For Kai,’ I say, breathless.
‘To rescue him? To take him away from her? Because you love him?’ She shakes me. ‘Answer! You have no idea what is at stake!’
‘For Kai,’ I say again, and I’m not imagining it this time: there is fear on her face.
‘What do you see when you look in the mirror?’ she says, and her voice is smaller. Weaker.
‘Darkness,’ I say, and I break from her grip.
I have travelled the four seasons. I am so close to breaking the curse. The Snow Queen does not exist, but all stories are based on truth. The Valkyries’ curse is true, the only way to stop the corrupting influence of the mirror, to try and aid humanity in some way.
I am coming.
We are coming.
The music swells and I draw it around me like a cloak, revelling in its power. In its chaos.
THE SNOW QUEEN’S PALACE
‘‘She saw the determination in her own eyes, and she knew she could beat the Snow Queen and take Kai home.”
~ The Snow Queen
When I open my eyes I am past the bridge and looking at the palace. To think that less than an hour ago that other Gerda was struggling to cross the bridge. But I am not that Gerda. I am powerful. I will let nothing stand in my way. I have broken from the Valkyries’ grasp.
When the sorceress broke the mirror, she was playing into the hands of fate. She was repeating a pattern that has persisted since the dawn of time itself. The universe revels in breaking people. She proved it right.
But I am still not free. I must put the mirror back together. To do that I need Kai; I need the shard of ice that rests in his heart.
And Kai left me. Left me for the woman who masquerades as the Snow Queen.
He deserves to die.
One of the armed bears guards the entrance to the palace. He does not notice as I slip past him. I am not light. I am not darkness.
I am the winter frost.
The doors open at my touch and I glide into the ice palace.
He is there.
Right in front of me. Head bent. The mirror assembled in front of him.
The mirror that will be my freedom.
And the destruction of Vondur. The destruction of all.
There have been prophecies. They call it Raknaroek, the end of the world, where Mitgart would fall into the abyss and chaos would reign.
I will be its queen.
Sweet little Gerda.
The music has begun again. The raven flaps its wings and the girl has blood on the stumps of her hands. The deceptive old woman smiles and the little robber girl. Even Grandmother had her part. They are mine. They are all mine.
We are the Snow Queen. We are the sorceress.
We are chaos.
The other woman sees me. The fake.
‘Lumi,’ I say, and my voice is resonant. Such power.
Her hand is on the ice-sculpted banister, her absurd dress falling around the steps. ‘You,’ she murmurs.
I glance at Kai. His eyes are glazed, and he is almost finished the puzzle.
‘Me,’ I say. ‘Little Gerda.’
The music is slowing.No. We have come so far. It cannot come undone now.
‘You didn’t suspect me, did you?’ I say, walking towards her. ‘You tried to take him away.’
‘I did know it was you,’ says Lumi, staying where she is. ‘I tried to take him away. You were already becoming too dangerous. Too influenced by the others. ’
A voice. A small voice, the smallest voice possible, crying out.Louder than us. Louder than we could ever be.
She continues. ‘You gave in to it. To the evil. The mirror isn’t you, Gerda. The Snow Queen isn’t really you. It is just a part of you. And it doesn’t have to be.’
The small voice protests. Gerda. We try to strangle it but it is too strong for us.
‘If you had the power that I do, you wouldn’t want to go back.’
‘I don’t believe that,’ she says, and holds her head up high. ‘I think I would do the right thing.’
I laugh. ‘How foolish to believe that there is black and white, good and evil, right and wrong? There is consciousness, for a small time, and then there is the void from whence we came. And I will rule it.’
‘That’s impossible.’ Her voice quavers.
‘Oh, but I can.’ I gesture to the puzzle that Kai is completing right now. ‘You see that? It was carved from Ygdrasyl, The Life Tree, and given to the sorceress at the beginning of time. It is the most powerful object in the world. And once I have the last shard of mirror, I can complete it, and break the Valkyries’ curse.’
‘That’s what they all thought, and they were wrong. You are wrong,’ she says, and she looks pathetic now, with her hands in front of her. Begging. ‘Please, Gerda, this is evil. That’s what the mirror is! It corrupts and corrodes. There are dozens of you now, all influenced by the ones who came before, by the first sorceress. But this is not you. You are Gerda.’
I am Gerda.
I love Kai.
The voice is louder now, cutting above the music.
But it is too late.
It is much too late.
We will win after all.
THE SORCERESS AND HER MIRROR – PART TWO
‘‘It was no use. The Snow Queen had won.”
~ The Snow Queen
Kai has finished the puzzle. He stares up, a faint dazed smile on his face, hands cut up by the edges of the glass.
I take the ice dagger from my side. It takes only five steps to reach him. A scream, an ice-shattering scream from Lumi, and I plunge the ice dagger into Kai’s heart. The ice palace rumbles under my feet.
But something is wrong. There is a piece missing from the mirror still.
Lumi is sobbing. ‘It’s yours,’ she says. ‘The last shard is in your heart.’
Unbidden, the swan comes into my mind. Seeking him will destroy you both.
Look inside yourself, Gerda. You will see. But it will be too late. That is your curse.
The mirror is the most powerful object in the world. And it has sensed that the last piece is nearby.
I gasp, falling to my knees.
‘No,’ I whisper. ‘No, what have I done?’
Nobody hears. Lumi is dead already, killed by a fallen pillar of ice.
In the moments before I die, I look inside myself. And I see. But it is too late.
That is my curse.
But before the end; before the mirror repairs itself; before Mitgart falls into the abyss and chaos reigns; before all that, I am next to Kai, our hands intertwined. Our hearts have been ravaged, torn apart, but these last few beats are good, not evil.
They say the mirror is sentient. In any case, it completed itself, and in its reflection was the world, and in the world was evil. Raknaroek had begun, and the cycle would repeat itself into perpetuity.
But the evil would never truly leave. And after each cycle, it would manifest deeper into the middle realm of Mitgart. More like us would be created, forever watching for the next girl to fall into the mirror’s trap. And there would be countless little girls, and countless black swans that glided into the path of innocence, that became the perpetual Snow Queen, who was not a woman after all but a legend. A human legend to explain evil.
There would be raven-haired girls who choked on ruby apples.
Sleeping maidens buried alive.
Mermaid girls who drowned in human voices.
Girls like Gerda, only able to feel love when it was too late.
Good is not a universal constant. The angels are no match for chaos. Darkness weighs heavier than light.
Gerda would never have won. But you knew that.
And that is where this story leaves us – with Mitgart falling into the abyss and poor Gerda and Kai too late to save each other.
The universe rewards chaos. It revels in consciousness. It tests people.
Often, people fail.
But often, it is their last moments that prove the universe wrong.
Her name was Gerda.
Definitely different to the contemporaries I usually write.
(and searching for those gifs…wow, there are some TERRIFYING things on Tumblr)
I’d love to know your thoughts! Are you a fan of creepy retellings? What’s the creepiest story/book you’ve ever read? (I’m still scarred by Paul Jennings’ stories…Aussie kids will know what I mean!)