Halloween is less than a week away, and we are loving every second we've spent reading spooky stories! To help YOU get in the spirit too, we've been sharing an excerpt of a fun or scary book each week this month (you can read our past posts here, here, and here). This week, we are excited to share chapter one of Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales by Kiersten White.
About the book:
Once upon a time, a girl skipped into the forest and became a zombie.
Wait, no, that's not how this story is supposed to go. Let's try again.
Once upon a time, a boy did a horrible job as a sheep-sitter and burned his tongue on stolen pie.
No, children in these stories are always good and virtuous. From the top.
Once upon a time, a king and queen tried to find a princess for their son to marry, and he wound up fleeing from a group of very hairy vampires.
What about, once upon a time, a bunch of fairy tales got twisted around to be completely hilarious, a tiny bit icky, and delightfully spooky scarytales... in other words, exactly what fairy tales were meant to be. Grab some flaming torches, maybe don't accept that bowl of pease porridge, and get ready for a wickedly fun ride with acclaimed author Kiersten White and fairy tales like you've never heard them
Start reading Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales right here:
Chapter One: "Snow White, Blood Red"
Once upon a time in the next kingdom, several years before the prince learned the difference between fair hair and fair Herr, there lived a queen. There also lived a king, otherwise it would have been a queendom. But he isn’t important yet.
This queen wanted, more than anything, to have a baby. (Obviously she had not spent much time around babies. Anyone who has could tell you they’re pretty awful. They smell bad, they throw up a lot, and they cry instead of sleeping. But maybe she didn’t know this, or maybe she knew and just didn’t care.)
Every evening, she sat at her window and watched the bats fly across the pale twilight sky. Which was a weird hobby, but, being queen, she could do whatever she wanted.
This particular evening, a bat flapped to a frantic halt on her windowsill. Its tiny, furry ribs shuddered with breath. Although it was basically a fuzzy black rat with wings, the queen thought it was adorable. Cooing, she reached out to pet it.
It bit down with surprisingly sharp fangs on her finger. “Ouch!” the queen shouted, scaring the bat away. She shook her hand, and two drops of ruby blood fell to the snowy-white lace of her skirt. “Oh, how beautiful,” she crooned with a dreamy sigh. This might be why the king isn’t in the story yet. The queen is pretty creepy. He probably spent most of his time hunting or riding or hiding in another part of the castle to avoid her.
“If only I could have a baby with skin as white as snow, hair as black as a bat, and lips as red as blood.”
Clasping her hands to her heart, she closed her eyes and wished with all her might that her dream would come true. And, deep within her, something fluttered like the tiny pulse of velvet bat wings.
All through the pregnancy, the queen had gotten thinner, paler, and sicker. She was too weak to leave her room. She only had enough energy to sew. One day, a servant caught her licking the blood away after she accidentally pricked her finger.
“For the baby,” she said with a dreamy sigh. This is getting scary. Let’s skip ahead.
The baby was born, covered in blood. Babies are gross. You were warned.
She had pale, cold skin, fuzzy black hair, and perfect crimson lips. And instead of a gummy baby mouth, she had several tiny pearls of teeth. Sharp teeth.
“Snow White,” the queen named her. The midwife didn’t mind all the blood, because of Snow White’s hypnotic eyes. The servants didn’t mind cutting red meat into tiny, baby-size pieces, because she was so beautiful. The queen didn’t even mind that Snow White bit her with those sharp, pearly teeth when she wanted to eat. The queen was deliriously happy.
The king was happy, too, that his wife finally had what she wanted and would maybe be less creepy now.
And then the queen died. That was not happy.
But no one was sad for very long. Snow White was too beautiful for anyone to stay sad. At first, her stained lips and her pure black eyes were uncomfortable to look at. But the longer anyone looked into those bottomless eyes, the more they realized how much they loved Snow White. The poor baby!
Snow White was beautiful. Snow White was good.
Snow White was sweet.
They would do anything Snow White asked. And they would feed her whatever she wanted.
Yes. Look into those pure black eyes. We love Snow White.
We love Snow White.
The king’s new wife stepped out of her carriage. She was late. It didn’t seem to matter. It was dusk, which was when everyone in the castle started coming out and getting their work done. Everyone slept all day and stayed up all night, because that was what the king wanted, because that was what Snow White wanted.
The king’s new wife watched as they scurried about—pale, weak, with dark circles under their eyes and vacant expressions.
“Oh dear,” she said.
The king had sent her a letter with shaky handwriting. He said that Snow White needed a mother, that Snow White was a dear little thing desperately in need of new company, that Snow White would change the king’s new wife’s life forever. The king’s new wife had thought it odd that he never said anything about how much he wanted her as a wife, or what a good queen she would make. The letter had been entirely about Snow White.
Still. She never turned down a stepchild.
“Isn’t it weird how no one here has a tan?” her stepson, Jack, asked, but she shook her head and drew herself up to her tallest, most queenly height.
“Come along, Jack,” she said as she swept through the courtyard and into the castle.
The wedding was scheduled for midnight. The king’s new wife put on her finest gown, changed her black hair from a no-nonsense bun into cascading curls, and fas- tened a heavy gold necklace around her throat. She didn’t look at all witchlike, despite what certain princes would think upon seeing her at a tower.
“Looking good, Mom!” Jack said.
“Hmm,” the king’s new wife said, gazing critically at herself in the mirror. Her skin was as fair as new milk. This fair is a nice way of saying that she was incredibly pale, prone to horrible sunburns, and didn’t look good in very many colors. She was, in fact, as fair as a person could be while still being a person.
That will be important later on.
She made her way regally to the castle chapel. This was her first marriage to a king, and she was excited in spite of herself. But when she got to the chapel, no one was there. A servant meekly informed her that the wedding would take place in the castle cemetery. By Snow White’s request, of course.
The king waited for her there. He was thin and stooped, and his clothes hung on him like a very wealthy scarecrow. He, too, had dark circles under his eyes and a vacant expression on his terribly pale face. But the king’s new wife was fairer still.
At his side was a small girl of seven or eight. When she saw the king’s new wife, her black eyes lit up with anticipation. Her gaze lingered on the gold at the king’s new wife’s neck. Snow White licked her beautiful red lips and smiled with her sharp teeth.
The king’s new wife smiled back and said her marriage vows to the king.
But when she said, “I do,” she was looking at Snow White and thinking, Oh dear.
The king died a week later. The king’s new wife was now the queen: sole ruler of the kingdom and sole parent to Snow White.
The midnight funeral was an odd affair. No one cried, and the queen insisted on burying him with wreaths of garlic. “It’s a custom where I’m from,” she said. It wasn’t.
The next morning, the queen went into Snow White’s room bright and early. The windows were covered with curtains so thick not a whisper of light came through. Snow White lay still and silent as death on her bed. Her hands were clasped on her chest, her face serene and beautiful.
Well, she didn’t lie on her bed, so much as over it. She hung from a bar, upside down, black hair pooling around her.
The queen ripped down the curtains.
Snow White fell onto the bed, hissing as she covered her eyes.
“Things are going to change around here,” the queen said. She touched her golden necklace and smiled pleasantly. “First things first, we are awake during the day and asleep at night.”
“But I hate the light. Make it go away!” Snow White wailed and bared her teeth.
The queen folded her arms and raised a single eyebrow. She did not look directly at Snow White.
“Please,” Snow White said, her ruby lips trembling tragically. “It hurts my eyes. You don’t want to hurt me, do you?”
“I want to do what is best for everyone,” the queen said.
“But I feel so weak during the day.”
This time, the queen’s smile was not so pleasant. “I know, child. I know.”
After that, everything was different around the castle. The servants loved the beautiful child with a fierce devotion. They tried to sneak around the queen’s horrible, strict rules. So the queen fired them.
She set Snow White to work in their place, scrubbing floors, cleaning rooms, and, though Snow White cried lovely crystal tears, tending the garden. The queen’s stepson, Jack, didn’t have to do anything. He wasn’t even allowed to play with Snow White so she would have a friend.
The new queen was evil, the people of the kingdom whispered. She had killed the king and kept Snow White imprisoned in the castle. After a while of the queen’s rule, all that remained were the rumors of Snow White’s beauty, her sweetness, the way everyone who saw her loved her. But no one ever saw her anymore.
Almost no one, that is. The queen was very busy and frequently traveled on mysterious business. As far as Jack knew, she had been troubled by recent hair loss. Which didn’t make sense to him, because she still had as much hair as ever! (He should have asked for a spellcheck.)
Whenever she got back, she checked in with Jack first thing. This particular time when she returned, he was nowhere to be found. She went out into the garden to ask Snow White where Jack was.
Snow White hung upside down from the branches of a tree, deep in the heavy shade it provided. Jack was digging in the vegetable patch with feverish devotion, even though it was Snow White’s job.
“Jack,” the queen said. Jack continued digging.
“Jack, that is Snow White’s chore. You don’t know which vegetables to plant. You’ve never even willingly eaten a vegetable in your life. I don’t think you could name a single one.”
“I know,” Jack said, voice distant and dreamy. “Isn’t it wonderful that Snow White’s letting me do it for her?”
The queen took Jack’s face in her hands and tipped it up toward her own. Though Jack was normally healthy and tan, he looked pale today. Almost as fair as the queen.
“You!” she said, pointing to Snow White. “Get back to work!”
“That’s not fair! You spoil him, and you’re so mean to me!” Snow White hissed at Jack, lunging forward.
The queen grabbed Jack’s hand and yanked him out of Snow White’s grasp. Then the queen dragged him away from the garden, through the castle, and out the front gate. She tossed a bag of gold at him.
“Get out of here.”
Jack’s big eyes filled with tears. “What? Why?”
“Go to the first village in the next kingdom. There’s a woman there, an old friend. Tell her I sent you. She’ll look after you. She has a daughter your age—Jill, I think. You two will get along. And if that doesn’t work out, keep going until you find another castle. Castles always have work.”
“But we already have a castle! I want to stay here! With you! And with . . . Snow White.” His eyes got far away and fuzzy again.
The queen kicked his bottom, startling him out of his trance. “And don’t come back!” she shouted as he scurried away.
The villagers saw this and shook their heads. They muttered to each other about the wicked queen. If she treated her first stepson that way, how must she be treating poor Snow White?
Every morning, the queen dragged poor little Snow White out of her bed and into the sunny dressing room. Castles were very inefficient, and each room served only one purpose. A dressing room, for getting dressed. A dining room, for dining. A bathroom, for bathing. A ball room, for playing ball. A toilet room for . . . toileting.
In the dressing room, the queen would sit next to Snow White with a mirror and stare at their reflections as they combed their hair. The queen’s hair, still thick and dark, now with strands of silver. And Snow White’s, as black as a raven. Or perhaps a bat.
“Truthful mirror in my hand,” the queen would say, looking carefully at their reflected faces, “who’s the fairest in the land?”
And the queen was always satisfied that it was herself, not Snow White.
“Why don’t you ever look me in the eyes?” Snow White asked one morning, her high voice as sweet as ice cream. If you listened to it too much, it gave you the same sort of brain freeze, too.
“Of course I look you in the eyes,” the queen said, looking at Snow White’s smooth forehead.
“No, you don’t. You aren’t right now.”
“Of course I am,” the queen said, looking at Snow White’s perfect button nose.
Snow White began to cry and then ran away to her real mother’s old room. She sat at the window, staring out at the kingdom that should have been hers. She tried to have a good attitude, but it just wasn’t fair. Her stepmother was the worst. She made Snow White do all the work while Jack got to play. And then she let Jack leave, when Snow White was forbidden from setting foot outside the castle grounds. She always dressed Snow White in cheery primary colors, ignoring the fact that Snow White loved black the most. And even though Snow White hated garlic and wanted to throw up at the taste, her stepmother insisted on cooking everything with it.
Then there was the matter of her stepmother’s neck. It was always covered! She had even changed the castle uniforms to turtlenecks before firing everyone. No one likes turtlenecks! Especially not Snow White. The wicked queen took away everything that made Snow White happy.
Poor Snow White was lonely, and she was sad, and she was tired and sick from being forced to work in the sun so much.
And she was always, always thirsty.
She stood in the middle of her dead mother’s room. Nothing had been changed. (No one wanted anything that had belonged to the creepy queen. The room was covered in tapestries of bats and cluttered by pillows with stitched-on sayings like “Home Is Where the Blood Is.”)
Snow White opened her mother’s old trunk and pulled out the gowns one by one. Her mother, it turned out, had terrible taste in clothing. She wore entirely pastels with bows. So many bows. Snow White sighed, wishing her mother were here right now. Her mother would never treat her the way her stepmother did!
Surely there was something in here worth wearing, though. Something she could have to remind her of the woman who had truly understood her. Snow White’s hand brushed against something cold and hard in the middle of the dresses. She closed her fingers around it and pulled it out. Metal clinked with dull tones. Snow White smiled, showing each of her perfect, tiny, sharp teeth.
“Thank you, Mother,” she whispered.
The queen woke up aching and sore. She thought she must be coming down with a cold. She unlocked her door, then unlocked Snow White’s. She stumbled to the kitchen. To her surprise, Snow White volunteered to make their customary breakfast of oatmeal and garlic.
(Lunch was tuna fish sandwiches and garlic. Dinner was pasta and garlic, with a side of garlic. The kitchen did not smell pleasant, and, frankly, neither did their breath.)
“It’s a beautiful morning.” Snow White’s singsong voice was sweeter than the honey they never ate with their oatmeal.
“Yes, it is,” the queen croaked. Her whole throat felt like it was on fire.
“You look like you don’t feel well. Let me get us ready today!”
The queen let Snow White brush her hair. She did it so softly, and it felt wonderful. Rather than forcing her to go outside, the queen agreed to let Snow White stay in and read aloud to her.
She really did have a nice voice, the queen thought. Despite everything, she cared for the child. As long as the queen remained the fairest in the land, everything would be okay.
The next morning, the queen awoke even sicker. She felt like a hive of hot lava bees had stung her throat.
Once again, she stumbled to her door and unlocked it. But it was already unlocked. That’s strange, she thought. She very clearly remembered locking it the night before. She always locked her door!
Brushing it off as a mistake due to her sickness, she unlocked Snow White’s room (at least she had remembered that!) and was greeted with sympathy. The girl sang and chattered all day, fussing over the queen. But no matter how hard Snow White tried, the queen never looked her in the eyes. Still, Snow White was so attentive that by the time it was night, the queen was almost feeling better.
“See you in the morning!” Snow White chirped cheerily, black eyes bright with feverish intensity the queen could not see.
The queen nodded, patting her affectionately on the head. After locking the doors, the queen draped a small strand of red thread on the doorknob to her room.
When she awoke the next morning, she could barely move. Her head felt as heavy as a three-story-long snake and her eyes felt as fuzzy as a pig’s chinny chin chin. When she tried to get up, every muscle screamed like a prince locked in a tower.
Her door was still locked. But the thread was on the floor.
Trembling, the queen took out her mirror and stumbled to Snow White’s room. She unlocked the door to find Snow White looking happier and healthier than ever. But the girl’s skin was as white as a blanket of fog.
“Truthful mirror in my hand,” the queen whispered through her tortured throat—which she now saw had two tiny red marks on the side—“who’s the fairest in the land?” She looked at her own reflection, as pale as death (who, being Death, can’t ever get a tan but at least doesn’t have to use sunblock), and then she looked at Snow White’s reflection.
Or, rather, where Snow White’s reflection was supposed to be.
Snow White stood right there, smiling. She was the most beautiful girl the queen had ever seen. More beautiful than the queen had ever been. More beautiful than anyone had ever been. Her reflection should have said the same thing.
But in the mirror, nothing.
The queen let out a single sob, finally looking Snow White in the eyes. The girl’s bloodred lips parted in a triumphant smile—and then the queen slammed the door in her face, locking it up tight again.
She leaned against it, trembling. After several shaking breaths, she had barely enough strength to drag and shove all the moveable furniture in front of the door. It took her too long, and then she was so exhausted she knew she couldn’t do what had to come next.
So the queen called for her huntsman.
If you looked in the kingdom’s dictionary under bully, the full definition was the huntsman’s picture. As much as everyone hated the queen for the way she locked up Snow White, they hated the huntsman even more. They were both mean, but at least the queen was pretty. It was a very shallow kingdom, sadly.
“Hey, babe,” the huntsman said.
“You do realize I’m the queen.”
He grinned, winking. “Oh yeah, I do. Listen, what are you doing tonight? Maybe you and I could go out. On a date.”
“Okay, some other time, then. Is this about the snake? Still haven’t found it.”
The queen shook her head and pointed to Snow White’s bedroom. “There is a wild animal in there. I need you to capture it, take it outside the village, and leave it in the meadow near the dark forest in the next kingdom. You’ll need to do it before sunset. It’s very important that you leave it in the middle of the meadow, directly in the sunlight.”
“Got it. Dark forest. Midnight. Kill it.”
“No!” The queen rubbed her forehead. The huntsman was like a headache in human form. “Meadow. Sunlight. Leave it.”
“I want you to repeat it back to me.”
“Leave the sunlight in the meadow.”
“No,” the queen said, gritting her teeth. “How can you leave sunlight in a meadow? Take the creature to the meadow and leave it in the sunlight.”
The huntsman groaned. “This is getting boring. I got it.”
The queen pointed to a large bag made of thick, rough fabric.“Capture the animal and tie it up in that bag.” Then the queen held out a strip of black cloth. “And you need to do it blindfolded.”
The huntsman frowned at the blindfold, then looked warily from side to side. “Is this a trick? Am I being pranked?” He clapped his hands and bounced up and down on his massive, clunky feet. “No! It’s a surprise party! I always wanted a surprise party! Every year I tell my friends they’d better throw me a surprise party or I’ll beat them up. Then I punch them to make sure they understand.” He paused, frowning. “And then by the time my birthday comes around, I don’t have any friends. It’s weird.”
“No parties. You simply can’t look at the creature. It’s too dangerous. Can you do this or not?”
“Do you dare me to?”
The queen was beginning to seriously question her choice to use the huntsman. But she didn’t have any other options. “Yes,” she said, sighing heavily. “I dare you.”
The huntsman was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a party, but he loved a good dare. It was actually his greatest flaw: He was unable to refuse a dare. Because of this, the huntsman had only three remaining toes, no hair, and had not been able to taste anything for the last five years due to an incident with an industrial-size jar of ghost peppers. He also had an unfortunate tattoo on his arm that said love mome fo r ver . When asked, he usually lied and said Mome Forver was his girlfriend. In truth, he just really loved his mom and had picked a terrible tattoo artist. (Another reason spelling matters.)
The queen tied the blindfold around his eyes as tightly as she could. Then she stuffed garlic in all his pockets. Finally, she shoved cotton into his ears so he couldn’t hear anything.
“THIS IS THE WEIRDEST JOB I’VE EVER HAD,” he shouted.
She ignored him. Taking a deep breath, she dragged aside the furniture, opened the door, and pushed him inside. Then she slammed the door shut and locked it again. There were some bumps, a few curses, and a terrible hiss and shriek.
“DONE!” the huntsman said, banging triumphantly on the door.
Relief wilted the queen like an old piece of lettuce. This was not the way she had wanted things to go. All her hard work and sacrifice! All that time spent looking in a mirror! Even sending away poor Jack.
But a stepmother had to do what a stepmother had to do. She squared her shoulders, opened the door, and let the huntsman out. The shape of poor Snow White wriggled in the bag, letting out inhuman shrieks.
The queen put one hand on the bag, a single tear in her eyes. But the queen couldn’t let Snow White be the fairest in the land. It had to be done.
She pulled the blindfold off the huntsman. “WHAT DO I DO NOW?” HE SHOUTED, BECAUSE HE COULDN’T HEAR ANYTHING AND DIDN’T REALIZE THE QUEEN COULD HEAR PERFECTLY WELL. THIS IS WHAT YOU DO, TOO, WHEN YOU HAVE HEADPHONES ON AND FORGET NO ONE ELSE DOES. SEE HOW ANNOYING IT IS?
Sighing in exasperation, the queen grabbed a quill and ink and scribbled instructions as quickly as she could. They were running out of time.
“Do not look at the creature. Do not listen to the creature. Take the bag to the meadow. Untie it and leave it in the sun.”
The huntsman took the note and nodded, smiling big to show off several chipped and missing teeth. He really did need to learn how to say no to dares. He also really, really needed to learn how to read. But he was too embarrassed to tell that to the pretty queen. So he took the note, slung the bag over his shoulder, and set off.
The queen stood in her tower, silently crying. Her time as queen was over. She’d go to the next kingdom and resume her work there. At least there was still some good she could do for others. She watched out the window as the huntsman carried Snow White out of the village and out of her life forever.
Or so she thought.
Want to read what happens next? Learn more about Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales by Kiersten White here!
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