This Choose-Your-Path Fairy Tale Justifies the Existence of Twitter
Electric Lit fave Jared Pechachek’s story makes use of social media by letting reader votes decide the plot
Most of the time, people just use Twitter for the same thing everyone else is using Twitter for: world-weary jokes about the news, outraged RTs of the president, and trying to get people to explain Tuov theory. But every so often, a light shines out in the dim murk that is Twitter, and someone uses the platform in a way that transcends its daily grind. Sometimes, that person is the social media manager of a British farm museum appreciating a rotund sheep. Fully half the time, it’s a dog being awesome. And much of the rest of the time it’s Jared Pechacek.
You may remember Pechacek from his dystopian fashion show story or his modern fashion show Dante’s Inferno. But this time he broke out of the Fashion Week mold with an eerie fairy tale powered by user decisions. Over the course of seven hours, Pechacek—with the help of his followers—spun a narrative that was a little King Lear, a little Cinderella, a little Tam Lin, and 100 percent a bright spot in the usual Twitter slog. We’re posting the full story, with Jared’s permission, and hopefully it inspires other people to use Twitter’s capabilities for a righteous cause.
Your father is setting off on a journey that he hopes will rebuild your family's ruined fortunes. Weeping and bidding him farewell, your sisters demand presents. You, your heart aching as you dutifully sweep the floor, ask for:
The door closes behind Father. "Oh, I see," says your eldest sister. "You think you're better than us," says the other. "Since you're SO virtuous, you can clean this kitchen again," says the eldest. "For father's sake." "From top to bottom," says the other. They flounce off. You
Feels good to be outside, even though it IS snowing. You can't see Father's horse, and the prints have already been covered up. Still, he was headed to Haven and you know the way: just follow the road through the woods. But the way is long, and winter has settled in.
It's quiet except for the snow; if you heard anything, it would mean something big & hungry afoot. Blue evening comes quickly. You've been in the woods too long: they're not that big. And you haven't taken a turn; there's no turn to take. To your left, distant lights bloom.
You know not to leave the path, but you're cold, tired, & thirsty. The lights ahead of you are warm & steady, seeming to come from a large building. But there are no castles or palaces nearby that you know of. You come to an arch ornamented with antlers.
Beyond is a castle, rising in pinnacles upon many terraces, like pins stuck in folded fabric. It overlooks-as you can now see-a wide, deep valley that should not be there. Ahead of you is a great heavy door that opens as the gate behind you shuts. You:
The outer wall is high. The woods do not lean over it. Inside is a half-moon of snowy lawns, gardens, avenues. Everything, tho, appears to be dead & dry. Formless statues dot the grass. The grounds end abruptly at the steep valley edge; the only structure there is a gazebo.
The gazebo is a little stone structure with a beautiful, sad view of the valley-that-shouldn't-be-there. Its pillars are caryatids: the first actual figures you've seen. The snow has stopped; the sky is dark blue. Everything is quiet. Until you hear the crunch of feet on snow You
A woman stands in the snow. She wears the dress of a century ago: petticoats & ruffs & jewels, all figured with animals. From her pile of red hair rises a pair of antlers. She doesn't seem to see you-until your eyes meet hers. -What are you doing here? she demands.
Whatever her heart is made of, it softens instantly. -Oh my dear, she says. You must be so cold & hungry. Do come inside. The lamps are lighted the table laid. She spreads her gloved hands to you; her smile is like the snow, her eyes kind as your father's-when he notices you.
She goes ahead of you to the stairs up the first terrace. The castle's stone is slick and dark, without mortar or seams, but its lights are warm. The Lady starts up the long stairs, turning every so often to make sure you're following. -Come along, she says.
She is heading for a doorway full of firelight. The arch above it is carved so that a deer skull looks down upon you. -Come along, says the Lady. In the warm vestibule, she puts out a hand. -Do put aside your damp cloak, she says, smiling. Do. You:
Are you sure you wouldn't like to set it aside? she says. You keep it, scowling. After a moment, she folds her hands. Just as you like. Come along for the pies are piping hot and the wine is sweet. She leads you to a vast dining hall and waits on you herself.
Of course my dear, the Lady says, and cuts a slice from the crisp white loaf beside her, passing it to you along with a silver bowl of butter molded into a rose. With your food perhaps you would like some entertainment?
She laughs like a tapped wine glass. My dear it is only a little masque got up for all our guests. Her smile is like cold clear water. Shall I order the mummers in my dear.
I need a couple tweets for this. We'll get to a choice in a minute.] She rings a small silver bell. The door by which you entered opens, but now it opens on a dark passage. A ragged child comes out & capers toward the center of the hall.
The women glide, seeming not to touch the floor. They whirl around the child like tops. One of them pushes the child down. The other scatters pebbles. The first hands them a broom. There is no music, but the Lady keeps time with her hand as if she hears it.
Now, says the Lady, bring in the argument of the play. But my dear you have not eaten. You came here for shelter and warmth and food. Should not you like to eat.
She doesn't notice your deception and is satisfied. The masque continues. The door opens again, and, bound with heavy rope, garlanded with roses, and dressed in blue, your father is wheeled in. You:
Would you ask anything of this man? says the Lady. Some boon a player may grant to his hearers? A song a jig. A murder foul a love scene tender. [The poll below is to choose what KIND of action you take. I'll provide specific options once we have a winner.]
You look at the whirling women with their blank white faces. You look at the child sweeping up pebbles only for them to be scattered again. You look at the man who silently lived with you, whom you followed into the heart of winter. His eyes meet yours.
Father is wheeled around to face you. The women still. The child stops sweeping. The music swells. The roses are very fragrant as the Lady gestures for him to begin. He opens his mouth & screams. -Such talent, murmurs the Lady, nodding along. Do not you agree he must sing always.
The Lady is puzzled. She glances at the crumbs on your plate. For a moment her eyes are a deer's eyes. She folds her hands. -My dear, she says. Yea or nay. Yea or (her fingers tighten) nay.
The music stops. She stands. Her face has turned icy, her eyes hot & clever. -I will let him go, says the Lady. If (she raises a finger) you stay in his place. Winter will not be denied. Either you or he shall stay. You have supped at winter's table & its hospitality is eternal.
You stand, scattering bread from your unfurling cloak. "I'm going," you say, "and he with me." The Lady looks from your face to the bread & back. Her kind smile reappears. -You may take him & any treasure you choose, she says. If you can tell which he is.
All three are bound and garlanded and dressed in blue. All have two daughters in white visards. Each in turn speaks to you.
Father the First: "Thank God you are here. With what we can get from the Lady, we can live like we used to. Think of it, the larder full, you in beautiful clothes, servants to do the chores. It's me, my dear. Choose me.
Father the Second opens his mouth as if to speak, but looks at the silent daughters flanking him, at you, and the floor. After a moment, he whispers, "I'm sorry. It will be different when we go back. I promise. Choose me.
Father the Third jiggles in his bonds. "Oh for heaven's sake," he says. "What are you waiting for? It's me. Can't you see it's me? Be good and just do as you're told. Choose me.
The Lady leads you toward them. -Choose, she says, & goes as still as the castle. Everything is cold. The fires seem to have gone out. Harsh blue light comes from a window high above; the three fathers' garlands are as dark as blood, the six daughters bright as moons.
The Lady smiles as everything goes dark except the second father. The smell of the roses is very strong. -I am to be lonely forever, she says.
The castle splits like ice & falls as snow & ash. Fathers, daughters, sweeping children quiver & shrink into birds, martens, stoats. The birds fly to nest in the Lady's antlers. The animals leap into the embroidery on her gown. In the blue winter sky appears the green aurora.
But-the treasure!" says Father. The Lady looks at you for a long moment, then removes a pearl earring and hands it to you, ignoring him. -You are alive, she says. In the heart of winter not many can say as much. Do not spend it all in one place.
Father sighs and starts walking. The rose garlands turn to hay and he brushes them off irritably. He is almost to the tree line when he notices you're not following. "Well?" he says impatiently. "Coming?" You:
He shouts after you but you can't hear him. After a moment the shouting stops, but you don't look to see why. Ahead of you, all that remains of the castle and its grounds is the caryatid gazebo on the valley's edge. The aurora swirls as if centered on its peaked roof.
The earring is very cold, and as you step onto the auroral bridge you wonder for a moment if it will support your weight. It does, though it is also very cold. And, bundling your cloak about yourself you follow the caryatids up the green path in the sky as the snow begins.
You look down in time to see the woods and snow swallow the ashes of winter's heart, & the port Haven dwindles into the sea, & the sea vanishes behind the snowstorm, but the Lady's bridge goes on, & it's her token you wear now, & wherever it leads, home is forever behind.