This is my first Friday flash in a long, long time. I don’t really like how some of it came out so if you see a way to improve it, let me know! It’s just a little over 600 words.
Once upon a time, there was a princess happily married.
Then came the fourth day after the full moon in the eighth month of the year.
Hunger gnawed at her. The smell of cooking onions pricked her stomach. Her throat was parched. She prayed for the moon to come up, so she might drink.
She looked at the living room window. Stars sparkled in the sky, nearly as bright as her finery, but the moon was no where in sight.
This was for her husband, she reminded herself. If she was dizzy, if her head felt lighter than a leaf, it was for the greater good.
Gold bangles jangled as she walked back to the sofa. Sitting felt good; she felt as if hunger had taken her legs from her.
Her younger brother watched her with worried eyes. “You should eat, sister.”
”The ritual isn’t complete yet,” she said.
He shook his head, frowning. Her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law strolled in, followed by the maid. She carried a tray of savory fritters and sweets for the men and single girls.
Her brother pushed the maid away and rose to his feet. “Excuse me.”
“Come.” Her mother-in-law clapped her hands. “The moon will he up soon. Lets prepare our prayer trays.”
Obediently, she polished hers until it was as bright as a mirror. Her red veil looked good on her, she thought. Her husband would like it.
Her brothers, all seven of them, came back in. “The moon is up, sister,” the youngest sang out.
She rushed to the window to look. A bright, yellow light glowed in the distance.
She snatched up her prayer tray, but paused when none of her sister-in-laws prepared to come outside with her. “Aren’t you coming?”
”Oh,” said the oldest, a vision in green silk and delicate gold embroidery. “This moon is for you only.”
She frowned, puzzled. But the maid walked in and set a tray on a table. Her stomach rumbled at the smell of sugar and butter.
She ran out, prayer tray in hand. She flicked and poured water, murmured words over her offering.
Dinner was wonderful, fried bread and cheese, and her favorite, stuffed okra.
Than the maid walked in and announced: ”Your husband, the king, is ill.”
She rushed to his side, fell to her knees and cried out.
Her younger brother, shame-faced, told her what her sisters-in-law already knew: they had built a large bonfire on top of the next hill so she would think the moon was up and eat.
The princess begged the goddess forgiveness for her mistake.
Hundreds of needles pierced his skin. Slowly, laboriously, she pulled them out. Night and day, she knelt at his side and pulled needles. The pile grew to the thickness of her thumb, than her wrist and after months of labor, twice as big as her husband’s chest. Finally, only a few needles were left in her husband’s body.
The fourth day after the full moon in the eighth month of the year came again.
She left the maid pulling needles while she prepared her prayer tray.
She poured and flicked water to complete the ritual.
When she came back to her husband’s side, he was smiling and holding the maid’s hands.
She thought her heart would stop. She prayed to the goddess. Years passed.
She murmured words over next year’s prayer tray. “The queen becomes the maid and the maid becomes queen. The queen becomes the maid and the maid becomes queen. The queen becomes the maid and the maid becomes queen.”
One day, the king, curious, asked why kept the repeating the same words. She told him the story. He made her queen once more.
And that is why you don’t end the ritual before the moon rises.