Those slippers, so beautiful, so delicate, fitted my feet so daintily, so perfectly. I believed her when she said they were made for me. The glass shaped by thousands of facets seemed to move with liquid light. She assured me that though they were glass, they were stronger than diamonds.
They warmed to the touch; from the moment they were on my feet, they were as snug as a second skin. Every step sounded with filigree chimes; every step left a print of diamond dust, leaving a glittering wake wherever I passed. The faintest breath of a breeze would send motes of light and sound dancing in the air around me. I could not resist criss-crossing my own path just to glance at the beauty that followed me. Shining dust refracted the light at different angles, depending on the direction; it seemed I left a trail of rainbows, and all the world delighted in them.
I glided on light and music to the pumpkin carriage and onwards to the ball and the prince I desired. Midnight was my curfew; the limit her magic could hold.
A dream of dancing and rainbows trailing on the floor, a dream of a violet-eyed prince falling in love with a nameless princess who wore glass slippers, trailed prisms and chimes wherever she walked, turning every eye to watch as she passed. So many eyes that watched, but I did not see, for I was blinded by dreams and dust, by violet eyes and lust. I fell just as hard, just as deep, and dreamed that the dream would never end. Just as she promised.
The first bell of midnight tolled. The slippers fractured and splinters of glass stabbed in-between toes. The diamond dust fell from my eyes, no longer refracting the truth into my hope and dream: covetous glances from rivals turned murderous in a blink; flirtatious smiles from long-haired courtiers slithered to lecherous.
The crowd shoved the prince back, as they surged forward with the truth. I retreated from the feral eyes of the rejected women – promised and denied a prince – as they lurched for me, dragging the rainbows from my feet and trampling them. I spun away, only to freeze at the sight of the lascivious eyes of all the second-choice men, as they lunged for me, tearing my glittering dress. The third bell.
Oh, how she lied.
I fought tooth and nail for my freedom, pounded up steps and down hallways, leaving that tell-tale, tattle-tale trail of glass behind me. The slippers stabbed and gouged with every step, but refused to shatter and free me. Every shard dug deep, deeper into heel and toe, under nails and through bones. I tore handfuls of my dress and stuffed them into my mouth to stop the screams, but the gossamer tulle melted like spun sugar. As the sixth bell of midnight rolled through the air, all I could taste was glass and blood.
I wept at the sight of the pumpkin carriage, and limped inside. By the ninth toll, the carriage had left the castle grounds and pelted at speed down the forest path. Still the slippers clawed through my feet, and every bump in the road left me breathless with pain. Glass-dust and blood littered the floor of the carriage.
I felt the final bell of midnight. Felt the vibrations tumble down my skull through my body. The slippers resonated, shuddered, and jagged cracks criss-crossed every facet, grinding together with a tooth-shuddering tone. But still they refused to dissolve, clung to the remaining flesh.
The carriage, the pumpkin trapped me inside as it bounced once, twice, and splattered on the third impact. I hit the ground, bounced and rolled and twisted, screaming all the way. The slippers would not break. I fetched up hard against a tree-trunk, my head striking the knot of a long-dead branch. Blessed darkness descended, and I escaped the pain.
It was not midnight that was my undoing, but those damned slippers. Shredded gristle and bone were the only remains of my delicate feet, still trapped by the shattered glass. My screams brought me back, clawing the earth to stop the pain. Ragged and gasping, I squinted against a sharp light as it danced into my eyes, burning away the last of her lies.
She stood over me, twisting and turning the glass blade, watching the dawning light play across my face. With every pass of light, her face changed – stepmother to godmother and back. I glanced behind her – a stepsister looming next to each shoulder, glass blades in their hands, glass slippers on their feet – and finally understood the truth.
LMA Bauman-Milner is an ex-teacher turned writer, but avoids most other clichés. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds Trinity University in December 2015, soon after publishing her debut collection of horror short stories, Dark Doors. She lives in West Yorkshire with her husband, son, two fractious cats and a menagerie of personal demons, which she stalks and traps in her writing – the demons, not the cats (no matter how richly they deserve it).