Q’An Speaks

(from the novella “Snow White: A Mirror In Several Voices;” “Q’An” is how who is commonly referred to as the evil queen prefers to be called in this rendition of things)

Truly, I am tragic.  I am hated and necessary to them at the same time.  I’m the one they have warned you about.  I’m a creature of joy.  Like a girl kicking up her gorgeous black fishnet stocking legs in a open roof Sapphire Cabaret car, squealing with gleeful invitation.  Desired and despised.  Then I dance into death and my feet are on fire.  Some of the stories they told of me were pure lies.

Little Snow White was the one to whom everything came just because she happened to be beautiful, just because she happened to be young.  She didn’t have to lift a finger for anything.  Whereas I’m the one they warn about, she’s the one they always warn.  Don’t trust anyone, not even another woman, perhaps especially not another woman.  She lives in total fear.  She is practically dead—deadly in fact, still, stilted, but beautiful.

And me?  What choice did I have?  It’s all fairytales anyway, and no one is ever telling these tales fairly.

You probably don’t want to hear this, but evil as such doesn’t exist.  It all depends on whether you look from the view point of the lion or of the gazelle.  I didn’t mean anyone any harm.

As to that precious little Snow White?  I didn’t mind her that much, really.  I wasn’t particularly interested in her.  She was just a little doll left over from the last queen.

Regrets?  I can’t say that I have any.

I don’t have hatred either.  What I have is cold, numbed rage.  Why should I go through the trouble of hating, high blood pressure and all that?  I merely see an obstacle and determine that the best line of defense is to get rid of it before it gets me first.  Eat or be eaten; something like that.  I didn’t really want to kill her.  I just wanted her gone.  Out of my life.

I didn’t exactly think the hunter would kill her.  What do you expect from us fairytale creatures anyway?  A consistent affirmation of your own puny morals?  I made it into a sort of roulette, with the universe free to make its own luck.  Sure, I wanted her out of the way.  I also wanted her so scared that she would never trouble me again with her open-mouthed enthusiasm and that radiant peach-blossom beginning-of-life beauty.  Fancy me having to look practically jaded at the tender age of seventeen next to this little fizz of enthusiasm.  It made me itch like flea bites just to be near her, that little goo-goo-eyed bundle of eagerness.

And he didn’t kill her in the end, did he?  So the roulette worked out in her favor.  It was the old Nazi dilemma, really.  Whose responsibility was the execution of a command?  That of the commander?  Or that of the executioner?  I merely gave the order and left it up to fate to determine how it was completed.

I’m cold.  I’ve never had the luxury of warm and fuzzy dreams.

Anyway, later she will quibble over the details no doubt, once she has had a chance to think it over, the little beauty.  She will say that she wasn’t the one to condemn me to dance to my death on heated iron slippers at her wedding feast.  Rather I “was condemned.”  Same sort of scenario, but if you don’t do it yourself, you’re not implicated.  You’re just audience, shocked at best.  Unlike with me and the hunter, in Snow White’s case we hold the audience innocent.  Especially since she is so very young and luscious.  Iron slippers had already been heated over the fire anonymously and were now brought to me with tongs.  Nobody in particular did the condemning, or the heating, or the forcing.  All that “was done,” passively.  But I did dance for them.

In any event, back at the castle while we were still expected to peacefully coexist, she simply was too much trouble for nothing.  On top of it all, she was too beautiful.  It would have been too easy for her to slip into my place.  And for the first time ever I happened to like my place in life.

I don’t know if her daddy-o, my precious husband, would have been capable of diddling his own daughter.  He did rather fancy me when I was still very young and he was still married to his former queen.  Going through a scenario like that yourself, you can’t help but wonder.

Other than that wonderment, my heart is just a lump of ice here, really.  I don’t judge anyone.  I may make people jump at my command, but I don’t judge them.  I never judged the king.  I’m as cool as a snake in the shade, thank you very much.  Life taught me to be self-possessed.  It was necessary to survive, and I did that very well, didn’t I?  Until the end anyway.  And that makes me just like you and everybody else, doesn’t it?  We live until we die.

No, I was never meant to be a mother or a sentimental lover.  What I was meant to do was to drink the sweetest possible drop that I could suck out of the bitter rind of this world.  The most succulent bits, or the last hint of honey from a comb.  Whatever I could get.  That’s right.  That, too, makes me just like you and everybody else.

The king thinks I worship him.  Well, that’s my job, and I do it well.  He is my meal ticket, and who wouldn’t value one’s meal ticket?  My great heroine is Sheherazade.  Not that my king is anything as cruel as hers was.  But she did tell stories for her life, a song and dance for her dinner, if you will.  Isn’t that what we all do in the end?

Why should I care what happens to others?  I don’t even have the privilege of caring properly for myself, never mind “loving” myself.  That part was somehow left out of me, or maybe drilled out of me.  Where others have feelings, which I quite envy them, I have this stark gaping hole that doesn’t even scream to be filled.  It just sits there, gaping, saying, “Here I am.  Deal with it.”

I am not like others.  I never have been.  I am high drama over emptiness.

I see others being emotional, happy, laughing, distressed.

I am merely a cool and beautiful entity with a poker face.

It angers me, their easy vibrancy, like Snow White’s expectant, radiant face.  Of course I envy it.

No, I don’t see myself as evil at all.  I merely am.  Successful, among other things.  And beautiful.

When a king or a general looks in the mirror, do you think he sees the dead bodies he has lately commandeered?  No.  At best he sees marble opulence behind his self-satisfied face.  He has no time to worry about the feelings of soldiers with sand in their noses and death dangling in front of their eyes.  Then why should I worry about the feelings of a little chit like Snow White, dancing around like a carefree butterfly in sunlight?

Which brings me back to my own dancing feet.  Few fairytales have such a cruel ending—often they stop with happy, don’t they?  Not this one.  It stops with me being condemned, at their wedding feast no less, to dance to my death on red-hot iron slippers that are brought to me with tongs.

I wonder how that charming little Snow White enjoyed her honeymoon, after seeing me suffer and hearing my shrieks of pain and torment.  Or, even if I went in dignified and silent agony, the horror of seeing me bear these things with composure.  You see, what is the point here?  My cruelty?  Or hers?  She’s your typical man’s woman, isn’t she?  ‘Okay, so step-mama is tortured to death.  But that won’t happen to me.  My prince will protect me from that sort of thing once I’m his queen.  My man will look out for me.  And that’s that.’

But that was my point, too.  That’s exactly what I tried to prevent from happening to me when I tried to get rid of her.

Note the different methods, though.  I always did things to her that could be undone.  I didn’t watch her death as a public spectacle.  In fact, she didn’t die at all, little missy, did she?

I will die, however.  Well, like I said before, in the end, so will she, so will we all.  But she’s the one who watches me die in torment, without lifting a finger to help.

It’s just a matter of living and being calmly able to bear what that entails, to pay whatever price must be paid.  My price was pain in the end.

Let me play devil’s advocate here—what if I only wanted to prevent her eventual calm cruelty toward me?  I would have saved her soul with that, don’t you think?  In this instance, it is she who reminds me of my heroine Sheherazade, knowing that the nice king with whom she copulates every night after telling him one of her fascinating cliff-hanger stories, has before her time dispensed with a virgin a night, fucked her, then had her throat cut.  Sheherazade could deal with that.  Hands down.

Just so can Ms. Snow White deal with the image of me dancing to my death at her wedding, my feet scorched, the smell of burning flesh among the fragrant roses.  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, how that gorgeous, radiant, open-mouthed girl doesn’t step in to ask for mercy on my behalf.  Lovely bride that.

Not that I ever expected, or received, mercy in my life.  That’s not how it went at all.  No, Sirree.  I just did what I had to do to get by.  I wasn’t given elaborate maps or writings on walls that spelled out what I had to do.

All I had was that darn mirror that told me how beautiful I was.  Magic mirror, indeed.  Every mirror in the world is like that, if you know how to look.  And every mirror can instill the fear of judgment in every woman who looks.

I’m quite philosophical about my death.  What choice do I have?  Well, not as philosophical as Socrates, I’m sure.  He was probably quite pleased to be proving his eternal philosophical point with his death.  But I will, forgive the pun, take it all in good stride.  Bring on those red hot slippers.  Then when you watch me faint into oblivion, try not to forget that my death is not in aid of anything at all.  What good does it do her that I die at her wedding?  In fact, what good does it do anyone?  Oh, I suppose she can be reasonably sure now that I, personally, will not make any more attempts on her precious life.  That makes sense.  Especially since her own attempt on my life is successful, finite, and witnessed by all.  And it will be named justice, not cruelty.

How will she live?  How will she feed her children, carrying inside of her the image of me burning, much like a witch of old, except that I get to dance while I burn to my death?  But didn’t they speak of bodies dancing in the wind on gallows beams?  Dancing in the flames?  How cold we are.  Even a fire like that can’t quite cure our coldness.

Come to think of it, I do feel a bit like Socrates, dying here, proving something, and, like Socrates, never quite sure if anybody will even get the message, though I do pay for it with my own life.  You see, this is exactly what I wanted to prevent by getting rid of her.  But I wasn’t successful.  It’s as simple as that.  She, on the other hand, will now be successful.  For a while.  Until someone else comes along and has a compelling reason for her to die, or rather, to push her hour of death forward a little.

I’m not even sure what I am trying to say in the end, except that I am convinced that I did the right thing by living, as long as I could, a life of pleasure and extravagance.  Better that than patiently sitting around by the window sewing and then dying anyway, in gloom and melancholy, making everybody else feel vaguely guilty.  That’s how her lovely mother did things.

I reach to you through borders between life and death, Snow White.  You weren’t particularly dear to me, no indeed.  But now that I am fading, I wish you well.  I can’t think of anybody else to wish well.  You’ve emblazoned yourself onto my life.  You’re my last thought, while the rest of the world already blazes up in torment and confusion.  You and your beautiful face, your huge eyes as you watch me die.

Be beautiful then.  And dance as long as you can.

About the hunter?  I should have known.  Men are wusses, all of them.  They’re good for nothing.  They promise you the earth.  Then they simply keep it for themselves after all.  They’ll tell you they owe you everything—and then they’re quite willing to keep on owing.

How I would love to wring that hunter’s neck in retrospect.  For a while there I thought he was my ally.  I really did.  Why, I had fantasies about him being my brave and devoted sidekick for a long and profitable time to come.  But men, no matter what they say, are devoted to one thing only.  Their own hide.  And how best to justify saving it.  So now he’s gone.  Good riddance.  If he were around for their wedding, he’d probably be celebrated as a post facto hero.  Meanwhile I’m wandering around with boar’s liver molecules upsetting my system.  No wonder it was so chewy—no wonder it was so hard to digest.  No wonder I nearly threw up.

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