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The Rainstorm and the Dog

The Princess and the Pea reimagined

By Julia MarsiglioPublished 3 years ago 9 min read
Image by Vizerskaya on Canva

I think I left because it was so dark and so wet. Had the night been less dreary, then perhaps I could have been more optimistic about the future. Something about the way the empty tree branches reached up to crown the rumbling November sky reminded me of his barbed beard surrounding the smile that charmed everyone else. Everyone else—but not me.

I didn’t want him. I didn’t want any man. But I wanted him least of all. My friends swooned over him. He was ruggedly handsome and rich. Polite. Titled. An elegant dancer. A poet who wrote dazzling verses. Everything I was expected to want. Everything I was raised to complement.

But there was a hunger in his icy blue eyes that would never be satiated. When no one else was around, he kicked his dog and winked at me. When he grabbed my hand to walk me through the formality of a proposal, his grip was far too tight. It took my breath away. My parents had already agreed to the match. I played my role.

The night I left, the night before our wedding, he pulled me aside.

"Tomorrow, you are mine".

His eyes violated me the way I knew his hands would the following day. I pulled away and vomited on a withering rose. He laughed and watched me. He always watched me.

When the sky burst as I settled into bed that night, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I no longer cared about my safety or the comforts of my life. There were servants in the hall, servants undoubtedly too afraid to help me, so I climbed out the window into the pouring rain.

I managed to make it halfway across the estate before the sky roared and illuminated itself. It was then the dog saw me, and I saw him. His eyes shone red as he pulled at his rope, barking himself into a maddened frenzy.

I suppressed the urge to scream and ran, my feet finding a fury of their own and propelling me forward. As I reached the gate, I glanced back. The dog was free and accelerating towards me. Fuck. The gate was locked.

As I climbed over the tangle of vine, stone and wrought iron, the dog gained ground. I tore my nightdress. No. Not just my dress. There was a sizable gash on my leg too. I couldn’t feel it yet, but there was redness snaking down my left thigh. I had to keep moving.

The dog was scratching furiously under the gate. Inching towards escape and closer to me. I was terrified. He was a mangy Irish Wolfhound with gigantic yellowed teeth. He could crush me. Eat me for dinner. He was skinny and deprived thanks to his master’s cruelty. I wondered if he was smelling the blood from my wound and working up an appetite.

I ran. The path was thick with mud, and within minutes I saw the light of a lantern approaching and the sound of muddled voices. I pivoted into the forest. The dog followed.

The forest had always looked romantic and magical from my perch on a horse or seat within a carriage. On that dark and stormy night, it was untamed and untamable. It wanted to devour me, pick my bones clean and grind me back into stardust.

The dog was upon me. I looked back to face my fate as I ran, which caused me to trip over a tree branch and hit my head on something solid as my body met the earth. The last thing I remember was the dog leaping into the air. Then—darkness. An end.

The first thing I noticed was the incessant buzz of insects. Then it was the barrage of raindrops on my face, each like a tiny javelin. I was waking up.

The ground was soft: loose black earth and velvety moss. My body was nestled between tree roots that protruded from the earth. Where was the dog?

The memory of being pursued woke me, and I shot up. My head pounded. There at my feet was the dog. He looked up longingly at me, no longer the menace I had perceived but a fellow refugee.

My heart softened. My fear had blurred my understanding of events. The dog meant me no harm. He was not him.

I tried to stand but collapsed back down again. Something didn’t feel right. My heart was beating furiously. I needed to get out of there. I was afraid he would find me—find us. This time I got up slowly, pacing myself. The dog followed. I wondered how I had ever imagined him to be aggressive.

We wandered through the forest with no perception of time or place. The canopy was thick and the darkness almost absolute. My legs were matted with blood and grime.

It was cold outside and getting colder. Before long I couldn’t stop shaking and a deep ache settled into my left leg. I could feel the murky forest in my bones.

The dog seemed to feel it too—my pain. At first, he roamed around, circling back to me every so often, but eventually, he stayed by my side, almost touching me, his eyes looking up at me with concern. He measured his pace, mirroring mine as I tripped along.

I don’t know if we wandered for hours or days, but I did know that I needed help. The problem was that there was nothing but forest, mud and rain. There weren’t even birds in the canopy or toads on the forest floor. Just us.

It was still night—or maybe night again—and still raining when I stumbled on a wooden door. Or I should say, I stumbled into a wooden door. I felt the rough-hewn wood against the goosebumps on my bare skin where moments before there had been nothing. It felt like I had collided into it, as though it was horizontal, and I had fallen from the spinning sky.

The sky was spinning. Strange. The door was at the bottom of a windowless castle that suddenly loomed high above me. Where had that come from?

The dog cowered under the towering stone giant who had been born from nowhere. I raised my arm to lift the knocker, a rusted lion’s head whose face was contorted into a ridiculous smile—or perhaps more aptly put—a grimace. But I didn’t have the strength to lift it.

Instead, I slouched against the door and weekly tapped my knuckles against it. I couldn’t hear myself knock, but I could feel it with my whole body. The dog howled, and I saw stars.

I was being lifted. Into a cave? No, into the castle. I remembered then. Where was the dog? Voices around me were muffled. A woman’s voice, frantic and high-pitched rose above the din.

"Look at her skin! So pale. Must be a real princess! She looks like a real princess! God has answered our prayers!"

I looked at my skin. I’d never considered myself to be light-skinned. Merde! It was clammy and grey. Sickly pale. My arms looked wasted and drawn, as though the blood was no longer pulsing through them. Where was my dog? I wasn’t sure if I was dying or dead. I did know that either way, I was no princess.

"You! Run her a bath! You there! Prepare her bed. But wait, come here…"

My leg oozed puss. The tendrils of lace from the few remaining shreds of my nightdress dug into my skin like razors. Someone removed it, but the air was caustic. I was breathing underwater. Each breath drowned me.

The woman barking orders was short and pretty. Middle-aged. Her waist unnaturally tapered from a cage of whalebone, and she wore a towering golden crown. It looked ridiculous.

"There, there pretty. If you prove to be a real princess, in the morning you will marry our prince! What a treat!"

Madness. I found myself submerged in water, up to the neck. It burned me, and I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came out. Servants poured bucket after bucket of molten lava—or so it seemed—into the bath.

The scrub brush was made from a thousand knives. It scraped against my body, and I felt my skin disintegrate. No, on the second inspection, it was just horsehair, and my skin was largely intact. The woman smiled. I realized I was screaming.

"So sensitive my pretty!"

She seemed to relish this fact. I was shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t stand after the ordeal. This seemed to please the woman a great deal.

I found myself sat down to dinner. I couldn’t eat. Again, this pleased the woman. Where was my dog? I threw up. The woman smiled.

"Princesses don’t eat such things. But you shall sleep the night on the finest bed in all the land, and in the morning you shall eat only the finest entremets! Sweet things for you my sweet."

The bed was a flurry of activity. Servants were piling mattresses and featherbeds one on top of the other.

"17…18…19…20! Perfect! Now leave!"

The servants shuffled out of the room, leaving only the woman. I realized then that I was being held in the arms of an armoured knight. Strange. I hadn’t realized before. I was experiencing only snippets of reality. I was missing pieces. The woman motioned to him and he threw me on top of the bed. It swallowed me.

That night, no matter how exhausted I was, I couldn’t get comfortable or fall asleep. I could feel the feathers in the featherbeds, like a thousand little razors cutting me without leaving a mark, and the lumps in the mattresses, like burning coals. And there was something I couldn’t quite place that felt like a sword jabbing up through the pile. The agony was unprecedented. I was surely in hell itself.

I was burning up and freezing at the same time. I could barely breathe. Air felt like hot oil. At one point I thought I saw the dog and reached for him, but by sitting up I passed out. He wasn’t there when I came to.

Morning finally imposed herself on me, and the sun that crept in through shutters blinding me. I heard the woman’s voice.

"How did you sleep pet?"

I moaned, choking back a cry. She smiled. She always smiled at my suffering. I grew angry.

How should I sleep on such a bed of nails?! I tried to speak but I didn’t recognize the syllables coming from my mouth. It seems like she did though. Grinning, she reached under the bottom mattress and pulled out a single, shiny and hard pea, the size of my pinky fingernail. That was the fucking sword I felt at my back?

I was dying. My wound was festering and oozing green. Were those maggots I saw on it? Somewhere in the distance, I heard bells ringing, and then suddenly they were ringing in my ears instead. An ancient bishop droned on and on.

"Ego conjúngo vos in matrimónium."

Ego conjúngo vos in matrimónium. Ego conjúngo vos in matrimónium. Ego conjúngo vos in matrimónium. Oh shit.

I found myself propped up against a chair in a large banquet hall. Beside me was a young man with a long nose and hair cut straight across his forehead. From his right nostril grew a single black hair that brushed against his upper lip. My skin was on fire. Looking down at my palms, I saw that they were peeling. He chewed rhythmically and loud.

The food began to dance on the tables. No. It was just my mind playing tricks on me. I saw one colour at a time as though the world was shuffling through the rainbow.

And then, at the entrance to the hall—I saw him. My big beautiful grey dog. My fellow escapee. He looked straight at me and turned away. I knew then that he was asking me to follow him. I didn’t hesitate.

I jumped straight up and ran towards him—away from the madwoman and her son. Away from the screaming nobles.

"We have found a true princess at last!"

"She has skin like glass!"

"She is so sensitive, she even must be carried to her own wedding feast!"

"She does not eat! Nothing is good enough for her!"

"How glorious!"

The pain had stopped. I only looked back once. There was my body—eyes glossed over and death written on my grey skin. My lips were the colour of the lily of the valley that crowned my head, and they stretched over my mouth like wrapped silk. The prince held my cold hand in his, raised it to his lips, and kissed it. I didn’t feel his nose hair tickling the skin.

They all danced and cheered, having come into possession of my corpse, which is what they really wanted all along. As for me and the dog, we walked into the light—free at last.

Horror

About the Creator

Julia Marsiglio

Loss parent. Canadian poet. Fiction and nonfiction writer. Intersectional feminist. Writing on trauma, grief, mental health, marginalization, neurodivergence and more.

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    Julia MarsiglioWritten by Julia Marsiglio

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