Monday, 3 October 2011
Griff's Fairy Tales, Part 4: Learning Fear
'Scared. I want to know how it feels to shudder with fear.'
Which made people around feel a sense of great unease. He was a funny boy, the kind you wouldn't trust alone with a beloved pet. You know.
There was an incident, one day, when his parents, sick of his constant pleas to make him shudder, sent him to a midnight bell-ringing lesson with his priest. The priest was a funny man, the kind you wouldn't trust alone with a beloved child.
Needless to say, the midnight bell-ringing lesson did not end well, with the priest spending a short time in hospital and Ute spending a slightly longer time in a naughty boys home. During this whole process, Ute felt annoyed, frustrated, and claustrophobic, certainly, but not once did he shudder with fear.
Upon his release, Ute travelled the world, attempting to learn fear. He ran with bulls, and received a nasty gash, he swam with sharks, he scaled buildings without ropes, then jumped off them with a tiny set of wings. It was exhilarating, all of this, but at no point was he scared. Ute began to suspect that he just wasn't the type.
One day, having wrestled an alligator, and while painting a sandwich board with a particularly inflammatory message that he hoped to don while walking through a bad part of town, an old man approached, and asked him what he was doing.
'I want to shudder with fear,' said Ute.
'Looks more like you're suicidal,' said the old man, stroking his hairy chin.
'Not really. Being close to death is supposed to make you scared, that's all,' said Ute. 'Not that it's worked for me, yet.'
'Close to death, you say?' said the old man. He sat down next to Ute, which took a good deal of huffing, puffing, and time. 'If it's closeness to death you're after, I'll tell you where you want to be. It's not for the faint hearted, mind.'
'Do I look faint of heart?' asked Ute, though he was, for the first time in a while, slightly less sure of himself.
'You look like a real nancy, if you don't mind me saying,' said the old man, 'but maybe that's just the fashion.'
There was an uncomfortable moment between them.
'Where was I? Oh, lovely, yes, death.' The old man shot a finger out, pointing beyond Ute to a large-ish house on a hill. It looked, well, evil. 'That there house. If you're going to learn fear, you'll learn it there, you mark my words. And if you don't, there's a prize for anyone who'd dare stay there for three nights on the trot.'
'A prize?' asked Ute, who was beginning to like the sound of this challenge. He would either earn a prize or, finally, shudder with fear.
'Yes, a prize,' said the old man, 'that's what I said. There's a man what owns the house and he's said he'll give a cash prize to whoever manages to stay there for three nights, and they can marry his daughter, Princess.'
'A dowry, you mean?' asked Ute. The prize was sounding less like a prize.
'No, a prize. He's old fashioned. You don't win many wives as prizes these days, more's the pity. Tis a shame because I lost mine.'
Before he could be sidetracked by talk of lost wives, Ute set out to find the house's owner and to meet his future bride. He found the owner living in an adjacent, much smaller house. Ute knocked on the door, which was opened by a kind-looking old man, who introduced himself as Mr. King.
'And here is my beautiful daughter, Princess,' he said, gesticulating behind him and an annoyed-looking girl. She was beautiful, thought Ute, in a bit of a manly way.
'Princess King?' said Ute.
'Don't start,' said Princess, and Ute was instantly in love.
'So this house of yours,' said Ute. 'I stay there for three nights on the trot and I get to marry your daughter and loads of money?'
'Pfft,' scoffed Princess.
'Oh, dear,' said Mr King, 'there was a bit of a typo in the advert. I said "marry" but I meant "go for dinner with".'
'Yeah, I'm not a whore,' said Princess.
'But the money is still the money,' said Mr King.
Ute thought about it for a moment. Princess was scowling at him, Mr King was smiling kindly, and looking old.
'I'll do it!' exclaimed Ute.
'Marvellous,' said Mr King, clapping his hands together.
'You won't last an hour,' encouraged Princess, 'weedy thing.'
And so, with adventure in his heart, Ute tottled down the road to Mr King's other house, the haunted one. It looked very much like your usual haunted house, except it was more of a two-up, two down affair. He entered the house, without the least trepidation, and set himself up in the main bedroom, excited at the prospect of a date with Princess, almost as much as his imminent encounter with fear.
On the third night, the house tried to scare him with spectacle. All kind of ghouls came down the chimney. A flood of disembodied body parts burst through the door, dancing and clenching with rage. Normal-looking people sauntered in, whistling show tunes, before completely exploding, showering Ute in soggy flesh. It didn't even make him jump. He saw RatKings fight to the death, before merging to form a RatKing, the likes of which you've never seen, and angry as Hell. There were other things too: bigfoots, griffins, chimerae, things like that, but Ute was not scared.
The next morning, he want back to Mr King's house and knocked on the door. Both Princess and Mr King answered, looking shocked to see Ute still alive.
'Finished!' said Ute, unable to control the smug grin spreading wildly across his face.
'Um,' said Mr King.
'I'll collect my prize tonight,' said Ute, when I take Princess on our date.
'Hold on...' said Princess, but Ute didn't hear the rest as he trotted back to the haunted house to prepare himself for dinner with Princess.
He picked her up at eight, and she answered the door in a power suit and with a notable frog on her shoulder.
'This is my friend Frog,' she explained, 'he's coming too.'
'I'd rather he didn't,' said Ute.
'I'd rather I didn't,' said the frog, to Ute's alarm.
Princess huffed, and looked crossed, and shrugged her shoulders, and the frog fell to the ground.
'Fine,' she said, as she closed the door, to the tune of a grumbling amphibian. 'Where we going then?'
They found a restaurant in town. Ute was, he thought, a perfect gentleman. He linked arms with her on the walk, steadied her when she fell, accepted Princess's assertion that her fall may have been due to his inability to let her go of her arm, and in the restaurant he pulled out her chair. She was an excellent listener. She listened so well! He told her all about his pursuit of fear, a fear so intense that he would shudder. He told her about the old priest in the bell tower, and about each of the nights in the haunted house, and about all the ghosts and such he'd seen. He boasted (slightly) about how nothing could scare him, and how never once in his life had he shuddered.
After the mains, Princess leaned forward and said, with charm and a smile, 'I can't do this.'
'Beg pardon?' said Ute.
'You may be the most self-obsessed person I've ever met. You've not let me talk all night.'
'Well that's not true, I'm sure you-' tried Ute.
'Oh really? Tell me one thing about me that you've learned from our actual conversation,' said the beautiful, reddening Princess.
'Um... you like frogs?'
'Good one. Here's another: I'm a lesbian. I was just doing this to be nice to Dad, but nothing is worth this.'
She stood up from her chair.
'You want to shudder?' she said. 'Here.'
She picked a jug of ice water from a nearby table and flung its contents into Ute's face. It trickled all down his chest and back and even into his pants. He gasped with shock and shuddered with cold.
'You're welcome,' said Princess as she stormed out of the restaurant.
The other guests were looking at Ute now, wondering how he might react to Princess's attack. Though a huge array of people, an entire cross-section of the village, they were all surprised at what he did next. He leaned back in his chair, his hands behind his head, and smiled the biggest smile they'd ever seen.