Once upon a time there lived a beautful princess in a far away kingdom. The King and Queen ruled wisely, the people were happy and content and the princess played in the garden and the forest without a care in the world, her name was Crustarella.
One morning, just like every morning Crustarella was anxious to leave the breakfast table and go out to play with her animal friends in the forest, but the Queen warned “Now Crustarella, you haven’t eaten your crusts again, you know what the legend says…”
“Oh mummy, I don’t believe in all that nonsense, it’s my birthday soon and now I’m too old for fairy tales!” With that she skipped out the door and into the sunshine, singing as she went.
The Queen eyed the plate of toast crusts nervously, she knew the old stories and Crustarella’s flighty manner and picky eating would mean trouble if she didn’t change her ways by her sixteenth birthday.
The weeks passed and soon it was the day before Crustarella turned sixteen, “Please my girl, eat your crusts, just today?” “Oh mummy, I’ve no time for crusts!”
Off she ran out the door as the Queen emptied the plate of crusts into the bin once again as she looked at the clock, midnight would come all too soon.
Tired from another day of fun in the kingdom Crustarella demanded another story from the King “Oh no my girl, you must be sleeping before midnight, it’s a big day tomorrow.” “Okay dad, night night”
The King kissed her forehead and turned out the light, closing the door behind him with whisper wishing of a happy birthday to come.
The King kicked off his royal slippers and climbed into the king sized bed where the Queen worriedly scratched at her crossword “Good night my dear”
“I hope so my husband… I hope so….”
The castle was dark and silent, tapestries swayed lazily in a slow dance to a silent tune as the suits of armour reflected the few beams of pale moonlight which found their way in through the clouds and high windows of the grand halls and passageways. Everyone was asleep, except for one cloaked and hunched figure that scuttled through the darkest shadows singing a song so quiet and so sweet but oh so chilling. The figure shifted through the corners and found the staircase and paused. A chuckle like broken class emptied onto a steel plate and the figure climbed the stairs towards the sleeping chambers.
“Yawn!” Crustarella stretched and half opened her eyes, the bright morning light streamed in her window and blurred her vision. What a lovely morning this will be she thought, and it’s my birthday too.
She swung her legs out of bed and put here feet on the floor and stood up rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, it was time for presents and cards, and party and playing and why was the floor all rough?
Crustarella looked at the floor, the floorboards were all rough and twisted, and what was that inbetween them? She looked up and saw that here whole room was different, the bookshelves were gone, her toys were gone, the walls were bare, the same bare twisted beams that made up her floor. She walked to the wall, huge beams with rough jagged edges, joined together with glue, red glue, but it smelled so familiar, so sweet…
“Ah ha ha ha ha!!” Crustarella shrieked with fright and whirled around to find the source of the vicious laugh. Sitting on her window ledge was a hunched figure, draped in a torn and dirty cloak, ragged black hair hung from the hood which partially covered the face, only a long thin nose and a lipless toothless mouth which was twisted into a grin could be seen. Long sinuous arms hung from drooped shoulders as toes that could only be compared to a pigeons hung from the windowsill as the firure rocked back and forth, enjoying it’s own little joke.
“W-w-w-where am I”
“In a prison of your own making, my little princess, ha ha haaaaa…”
“I, I don’t understand… ?”
“Close your pretty eyes, use that royal nose!”
Crutarella did, she had to know…
“What do you smell, do you know yet my dear?” There was no warmth in the term of endearment.
Crustarella sniffed, she pressed close to the wall, so familiar, so warm, the smell of home. She snapped here eyes opened and looked at the cement and held her breath as she reached out her hand. A pointed finger pressed into the soft cement and came back out shining red.
“Ha hahahaaa, do you know, do you know now?”
Crustarella’s heart beat ever faster as she pressed her finger to her lips. No, no, it was… strawberry jam.
She stood back in utter horror and looked slowly around the room, crusts, it was crusts, a room built of crusts cemented together with jam, crusts jagged with bitemarks. There was no door, no door, it wasn’t a room it was a prison, a prison of crusts.
The figure was now rocking back and forth, its laughing almost push it backwards out of the window “Now you know, now you know!”
“But how, why… ?”
“Like the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus I too visit children in the night, but I do not reward hehe, I keep your crusts. The ones you leave on the plate, the ones the King and Queen have to cut off your sammidges, the ones that go in the bin and don’t get fed to the ducks, they are all collected and counted. If by your sixteenth birthday, a complete tower of crusts has been built then it is my task to bring you here to live forever… hehehe…”
“Tower? What do you mean Tower?” Crustarella ran towards the window as the figure shot back out into the clouds, tumbling and laughing as it faded into the blur. Crustarella stretched over the wide windowsill and peered outside, just mist and fog, but looking down she gasped, she was at the top of a round tower of impossible height, made entirely of crusts as it disappeared beneath her and into the clouds.
She stood up shaking and realised she had almost stuck to the windowsill, she stared at it, it wasn’t a windowsill, it was a giant Bourbon biscuit, no, half a Bourbon biscuit with all the cream scraped off. Tears welled up and she ran back to the bed to throw herself onto it, but stopped short, even through the tears she could see that her bed was actually a giant fairy cake with the icing all torn away leaving a bland but comfortable yellow sponge.
She hurtled back to the window and screamed “Why, I never did anything wrong!!!!” But the ragged figure was gone, but perhaps the cry could have been heard by someone, as the clouds ebbed and flowed, more towers, many more towers, could be glimpsed, tall lonely and made of crusts.
The Queen woke with a start and checked the clock. She ran from the room and burst through Crustarella’s door. The duvet was on the floor, her slippers were still by the bed and her window was open, the curtains flapping in the breeze.
The Queen’s face hardened, she tightened her fingers into fists and straightened up. There would be no panic, the Queen was strong, she glanced around the room, nothing to see, nothing to help. The Queen turned on her heel and strode from the room, she knew where she was going and she knew exactly what she had to do.