The Prince stood in the doorway of the legendary Princess’s bedchamber. His chest heaved as he caught his breath. The journey had been arduous and hard fought. His cloak was lost and his doublet was torn in several places. His handsome face bore many scratches. The forest of thorns surrounding the castle had stood their ground. It had taken all his might to hack out a path.
The room was bedecked with cobwebs, translucent hammocks traversing the vaulted ceiling. They were easier to pass through than the thorns but their sticky strands clung to the Prince’s hands and blade.
He approached the sepulchral four-poster bed. Its heavy velvet curtains wore a hoar frost of dust. The air was heavy with the scent of mildew.
The Prince hesitated. What if the story was wrong? What if there was no perfectly preserved princess, sleeping the sleep of a hundred years? What if there was a desiccated corpse? The best he might hope for was a handful of jewels to take back to his kingdom as proof.
He lifted the tip of his sword and, steeling himself, parted the curtains so that the moonlight from a high window streamed onto the bed.
There she was! It was exactly as the legend had described. A living, breathing statue. The most beautiful young girl he had ever seen, preserved in an enchanted sleep, while all around her had grown old and decayed.
She truly is perfection, the Prince marvelled. One might believe she had just drifted off. One might believe that she might stir at any second.
Only true love’s kiss shall awaken her… That was how the story went. And yes! The Prince felt it in his heart – I have only just laid eyes on her and I – I – I love her!
In a second, a life with the Princess played out before him. Their sumptuous wedding. The children. The parties. The arguments. The bitterness. The distrust. The betrayals. The injustices of the world. Disease. Infirmity. Old age… and death…
How terrible it seemed. No mortal life is perfect. We must all have our trials and sorrows.
Could the Prince awaken Beauty to the terrible and the mundane?
He froze. He couldn’t do it. Neither could he bear to look away. What a dilemma! The Prince could no more wake the Princess than leave her behind.
Desperate, his mind raced for a solution. How had the story gone? How had the Princess come to such a slumber?
His gaze fell on a spinning wheel, standing in a corner. Ah, yes: the Princess had pricked a finger.
He bounded across the chamber and snatched up the spindle. He took it to the bed and lay on the covers alongside the Princess. Were you awake, he said, you would understand.
He pressed the spindle into the soft pad of his thumb and as consciousness escaped him, he smiled.