The Skulls: Microfiction


Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The princess was awakened in the night by rough hands and gruff voices.  Her attendants were killed, and she was thrust into deep hole, a dungeon known only to few, while her captors decided if she was more valuable to them alive or dead. She was a pawn in dynastic feuds.

She lay there in the dark, too stunned and fearful to think or do anything. A rustling in the fetid space around her, finally got her attention. Somehow she knew the sound came from beings, not only rats–though they probably would come looking for a piece of her to chew on soon.

“Don’t be frightened,” she said. “Someone will help us.

My mother used to tell me stories. Shall I tell you one?”

More than a little frightened herself, she began speaking, telling a tale of magic and light, of music and sunshine, of finding a way home from the darkness. Gradually, figures appeared, glowing spirits. They hovered around her, listening to the tale and illuminating the dungeon with their light. She was now able to see that all around here were piles of bones and skulls, the remains of men, women, and children who had been left here to die alone. The princess told these lost souls story after story, until she, too, was near death.

But the princess did not die. One of her attendants had hidden under the bed and survived the slaughter in the bedchamber. This loyal attendant had run for help, the kidnappers were captured, and the princess was rescued–but she did not forget the lost souls in the dungeon.

Eventually she became queen. Shortly after her coronation, she returned to the dungeon. Ordering her guards to remain at the entrance, she walked down the dark steps alone. She sat there in the dirt and told a story of magic and light, of music and sunshine, and of finding a way home from the darkness. She rose then and told the spirits she would build them a new home.

Before long a section was added to her palace. It was called Hope’s Annex, named for the Queen, who had taken the name Hope. The bones from the dungeon were gathered, sorted, and placed there. The building was filled with light from large windows and glass doors, which were opened to the flower gardens in fine weather. It was furnished with comfortable seats, tables, and bookcases crowded with books. People visited, day and night. They read the books, had concerts, and told stories. And the spirits were happy, at last.


This is for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.

The prompt is the illustration above, which is certainly strange. I have no idea what the original fairy tale was about.



21 thoughts on “The Skulls: Microfiction

  1. Lovely fairy story, Merril 🙂 And a fitting ending. I’m glad she didn’t forget the bones once she escaped. Btw, I wonder if you meant to say:
    the princess was rescued–but she did (NOT) forget the lost souls in the dungeon.
    Apologies if it was intentional and not a typo, but that was the way I read it.

  2. Interesting, Merril. Did you happen to read the story this week about the place in Ireland where they found a gravesite filled with the bones of dead women, infants and children? As I’m traveling to Ireland in May, I found it very haunting.

    • Thank you, Susan.
      Yes, I did read an article about the graves. It made me think of all the horrors of some of those places. It made me think of Joni Mitchell’s song,”Magdalene Laundries.” And of course, there was the movie, “Philomena.”

  3. The way you took the fear of the princess and allowed her to become a storyteller to the dead, “lost” souls was lovely, Merril. It is so full of wonder, a testament to a young girl, (and her brave attendant) too. The ending with a room full of brightness, books, music and nearby nature (gardens outside) really became a happy ending for all.
    I would have possibly written a midsummer’s night’s dream type of post. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Robin.
      We’re actually going to see A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream next week. 🙂
      I was thinking about you today when we were looking at some old (as in medieval) doors at the art museum today.

  4. Lovely and haunting, dear Merril. My favorite part was how she drew the souls out of the darkness by reading to them. You certainly are a writer — stories are our saving grace! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.