Happily Ever After (Short Story)

Emelina Brown

*The italicized portion is from “Little Brier-Rose” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm*

Happily Ever After


They went downstairs together, and the king awoke, and the queen, and all the royal attendants, and they looked at one another in amazement. The horses in the courtyard stood up and shook themselves. The hunting dogs jumped and wagged their tails. The pigeons on the roof pulled their little heads out from beneath their wings, looked around, and flew into the field. The flies on the walls crept about again. The fire in the kitchen rose up, broke into flames, and cooked the food. The roast began to sizzle once again. The cook boxed the boy’s ears, causing him to cry, and the maid finished plucking the chicken.


“My handsome prince, I am indebted to you for saving myself and this kingdom of mine, and I shall love you forever,” Little Brier-Rose said with a dazed smile as she and the prince reached the front courtyard, both having already greeted the awakened king, queen, and royal attendants.

The prince had requested—well, more like demanded—a moment alone with the princess, and she had led him outside, practically skipping with joy. Little Brier-Rose was so infatuated by her prince that she failed to notice that the once green grass was brown and dead, and the once sweet air was gray and putrid.

The prince stared at the girl blankly before clearing his throat. “I’m sorry…what?”

The world seemed to pause, the flying pigeons landing, the barking hunting dogs quieting. Little Brier-Rose blinked. “Why, you saved me and my glorious kingdom from the thirteenth wise woman’s curse, my magnanimous prince; ergo, I shall graciously accept your proposal.”

“Oh…oh—no. Absolutely not. How old are you? Twelve?”

“Why, I was fifteen when the curse came upon me. Is there an issue, my gorgeous prince? Are my features not to your liking?” Little Brier-Rose replied uncertainly, eyes finally beginning to take in the shadows that shrouded everything like night. The princess felt like she was inside of an unfathomable machine of time, able to see both the beauty of the past and the horror of the present.

Fifteen?” exclaimed the prince incredulously, making the nearby horses huff with disapproval. No gentleman should raise his voice at a lady, let alone a royal one. The prince glared at the animals. “Where are your parents?”

“Inside of the castle, of course. I am sure they are anxiously awaiting news of our engagement. We must make haste, so we can inform them immediately,” Little Brier-Rose urged the prince.

The pigeons and hunting dogs and horses began to retreat from the courtyard, sensing the tension that was as tangible as a taut wire. The prince slowly shook his head in shock, his eyes dubious, before muttering, “There must have been something in that drink.”

“My sincerest apologies, my prince, but I find myself confused. Have not you rescued me in exchange for espousal?” The princess cautiously questioned. The prince took a long breath of foul, contaminated air—not that he noticed a difference of course.

“Look, girl, I’m already engaged—okay? I’m in the middle of my bachelor party!” The prince gestured impatiently at the paper crown encircling his head. Little Brier-Rose had failed to notice the cheap circlet, too enamored by the prince’s beauty and bravery. Now, she was beginning to understand the odd looks her mother and father had cast upon the man. “My groomsmen and I overheard this old man at some bar in Berlin talking about some old-school castle behind a thorn hedge. We asked him about it, and he told us how to get there. He said we would be entertained, and he winked. Obviously, we had to come! This is my last night as a free spirit!

“I got separated from Willy and James on the way over, but I figured this was the right place. I thought the thorns turning into flowers was weird, but I shrugged it off as a hallucination. It’s been a…wild few hours. When I came inside and saw all these people passed out, I thought this whole mess was a Sleeping Beauty…recreation or something. Put on by Willy and James as part of the party. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but Willy and James are weird guys. They’re the ones that wanted to do a bachelor party in Germany.”

“Oh, my chivalrous prince, I am so bewildered. Alas, my heart is already yours,” Little Brier-Rose sighed.

The prince’s eyes widened in disbelief. “You’re fifteen years old! Is this a prank or something? Willy? James?” His voice raised to a yell. “I know you’re out there! You two have already given me a hard enough time about me marrying Sandra before she’s twenty-one—this is over the line!”

Little Brier-Rose’s eyes began to fill with tears. “My feelings for you are no jest! I love you! You delivered me from evil, you—you kissed me!” She blubbered.

“Okay, okay, don’t cry. Don’t cry. It’s okay,” the prince said gently. “See, I kissed you because…well, it’s not important.”

Little Brier-Rose’s feelings of affection were rapidly descending into hatred, like the dim sun that was quickly disappearing with the dusk. “Oh, you—you scoundrel! My virtue has been compromised by a man engaged to another woman! Ugh!” Little Brier-Rose shouted before stomping out of the courtyard through a maze of large, purple flowers, the one aspect of the castle grounds that was not gray or wilted or crumbling.

Little Brier-Rose impatiently pushed her way through the flora until she stumbled out onto a stone path she knew so well. What she did not know so well were the tall, rectangular buildings that seemed to stretch to the heavens and the thick layer of smoke that seemed to encompass everything. Immediately, she doubled over, coughing due to the suffocating air.

“Girl! Hey! Are you okay?” Asked the prince as he shoved his way after the princess.

After she straightened herself, Little Brier-Rose was frozen with shock as her eyes soaked in the unfamiliar architecture and vehicles that surrounded her. “I do not understand! My beautiful kingdom—it has been demolished and replaced by these hideous prisms and wheeled contraptions!” The princess cried out.

“The skyscrapers? The cars? You’ve never seen them? What century are you from?”

“Why, the nineteenth-century of course. Are not we all?” Little Brier-Rose timidly replied, no longer confident about anything.

“Uh, no. No, not we all. I’m from 1975.”

All Little Brier-Rose could do was shake her head slightly before the world tilted, and she found herself staring up at a smoke-shrouded sky with ridiculous, towering structures, breathing in intoxicated oxygen. Then, like a curtain closing on a play, her eyelids fell shut, and darkness took her in its firm grasp.


Less than an hour after the castle inhabitants’ awakenings, each inhabitant shriveled with age and fell, never to stand again. Their frozen stages in life had thawed, and the one hundred years had caught up with them in seconds. The long-gone twelfth wise woman had only managed to prolong the inevitability of darkness. The kiss of Death was bestowed upon every living creature, including the pigeons, hunting dogs, horses, and flies.

The clock never stops ticking. The world does not revolve around any one being. The horrifying reality of time allows for no “happily ever after.”