Once Upon a Time

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

January 20, 2016

Once upon a time writers had unlimited access to the internet that never, ever failed. The birds always chirped in harmony and the internet lines buzzed jovially. And this writing buckaroo wrote happily ever after, unimpeded by technology.

Yeah, right. We all know the existence of fairy tales is only stories found in children’s book. Happily ever after, blah, blah, blah. Internet that works? In rural northern Idaho? What a tale! If not real, then why do fairy tales matter?

Good question. That was the task of writers this week, to explore the genre in 99 words. As always, a diverse group of writers means a diverse compilation of responses.

The following stories are based on January 13, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) begin a story with, “Once upon a time…”

NOTE: Due to internet technical difficulties, courtesy of the wicked and evil empire of Excede, these stories did not appear on Carrot Ranch Facebook Page. Prince Charli is battling the dragon in charge of fixing the problem. She’s determined to find her happy ending despite the questionable reality of fairy tales. Many thanks to the Land of Coffee & Beer — to Kokanee Coffee and Laughing Dog Brewery who let her use their internet and swill their dark brews.


Magic All Around by Jeanne Lombardo

Once upon a time there was a maiden who scorned magic. A wise teacher called Skeptic had set her straight about the world. One evening Skeptic found the maiden on a cliff overlooking a vast canyon. Condors wheeled against cliffs glowing with a million sunsets. Below a turquoise river coursed its cursive script in an ancient letter to the sky.

The maiden wept.

“Why so sad?” the Skeptic asked.

“I want for the magic I once knew,” she replied.

Silence sang. The sun sank aflame. Stars slowly spangled the indigo sky.

“Be this not magic enough?” the Skeptic whispered.


The Truth behind the Myth by Geoff Le Pard

 ‘Once upon a time…’

‘Please, mum, give me a break.’

‘I was talking to Lotte, Penny.’

‘Can I tell her a story, mum?’

Mary smiled. ‘Sure.’ She snuggled the baby and closed her eyes.’

‘Once upon a time, there were two sisters and one went missing. The other was determined to find her lost sister so she gave up everything, neglected everyone to find her.’

Mary shuddered. Is that how Penny sees things?

‘Finally, despite every setback she found her darling and brought her home. And everyone understood and lived happily…’

Mary hugged her daughter, soaking her with her tears.


No Happy Endings by Charli Mills

“Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who were grieved…”

Sarah listened to Jesse read from her favorite book of fairy tales, their shared birthday tradition. Jesse now 18, and Sarah 89. Satisfied, Sarah dozed. Wasn’t she young once?

The young prince, fired for a gay adventure, set off for the woods. He rocked Sleeping Beauty in her cradle. Black hair like his, blue eyes like hers. The prince smiled. Don’t grieve…don’t grieve…

Sarah woke in her chair. Jesse finished the tale, smiling over the happy ending. Sarah knew better. Sleeping Beauty died in the woods.


The Firmament #3 by Sacha Black

“Once upon a time, we all live happily ever after isn’t going to happen Lexi, people are going to die.”

“I know, Luke. I know.” Of course I knew. If I was willing to die for our freedom, then everyone else would have to be too. But, did that mean I wanted their blood on my hands? Obviously not. I just hoped the sacrifice was worth it.

I yanked my hair into a ponytail, frustration seeping into my scalp and taking residence in my forehead. Knowing it, and being able to do anything about it were two different things.


Paradise by Jules Paige

Cinderella hauled ass. And lead the donkey too. Once
she was freed of the yoke of her Step-mother she did
not immediately marry the Prince. While handsome
enough, he was a bit of a player. And she wanted to
sign a prenuptial agreement that if he strayed she could
take him through the wringer. Well of course the King
and Queen weren’t to happy about that. So they politely
asked how else they could reward their diligent servant.

A private island with good weather for crops, chickens,
a cow, and a good horse. It was a done deal.


The Emperor’s New Clothes by Lee Manila

Once upon a time, there was a selfish emperor who lived in luxury while his people lived in poverty. A man came and told him he’d make him the best robe in the world, and only the pure of heart could see it. Actually, there was nothing but the emperor believed him. The next day the emperor paraded in front of his people – naked. All the people waved and pretended to see what the emperor was wearing. One boy shouted: “he was naked!” The guards took the boy away and put him in prison. How dare he questioned the emperor!


Consequences by Young Master Fanning

Once upon a time there was a boy, and he had a riding lawn mower. He was mowing in the woods one day when he saw….The Abominable Snowman! The boy went faster, but then he ran out of gas.

The Abominable Snowman was nice, and he helped the boy get to the gas station. But after he got gas, THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN STARTED CHASING HIM!

So the boy had to go even faster….in an airplane. But then he ran out of gas. And The Abominable Snowman’s mommy put the snowman in consequence because he wasn’t being nice.

The end.


Cold Cuts and Fairy Dust by Papa Pete Fanning

Once upon a time there is this lame freshman play, Gypsies and Fairies. And because the lead gypsy is Lani Andrews, an inspired sucker snatches the opposite role that no guy wants to touch.

Fairy. As in wings and wand and this glittery vial of fairy dust. The boy tosses his props in my—er, his locker on the way to football practice because it’s not a conversation he wants to have with teammates.

In his rush some fairy dust falls into his cleats and he’s screwed because, well, glitter and all. Instead something magical happens.

He becomes unstoppable.


Once upon a time…by Deborah Lee

Jane Doe flushes under the smiling, expectant gaze of this most attractive man. Imagine, someone asking her out to dinner! Here is proof that her efforts are worthwhile, a few dollars a month for the gym and access to a shower, her thrift store clothes carefully selected. Maybe she’s pulling it off well enough to fool a potential employer.

She entertains Cinderella’s daydream for a second, then shakes her head regretfully. He likes her now, but what happens when he finds out she squats in an abandoned house? At least Cinderella had a proper home.


Lucky Fiver by Kerry E.B. Black

Once upon a time, an impoverished eighteen-year-old found a discarded five dollar bill. He put the cash into his hole-riddled jeans. Throughout the day, he patted his hip to be certain the money hadn’t fallen out. At lunch, he ignored his growling stomach. “I’ve plans for this money, and it ain’t buying mystery meat.” Through classes, he jotted numbers whispering through his mind. After school, he ran to the store to purchase a ticket. “Can I stay to watch? No t.v. at home. I wanna cash in fast.” The clerk condescended, then choked with surprise when the boy won.


Rainbow Tops by Olianna

Once upon a time there was a floating field of mushrooms; each top was a different shade. If you looked closely from above, you could count all the colours of a rainbow. At night the tops glowed; white and silver fairies sat watch so worms wouldn’t munch on them. One day, a huge odd looking fairy, flew in and landed on the largest mushroom in the field. Her wings almost touched the mushrooms on either side. She announced the arrival of a new monarch who would save the field of any maggots, so they could live happily ever after.


Fairy Tale by Anne Goodwin

Once upon a time there was a lonely little earthworm. He wasn’t born lonely; he’d been happy tunnelling through the humus until a spade sliced through his mother. As she twitched at both ends he thought it must be true that worms don’t die. Until she stopped moving completely.

He searched for friends among the children digging in the dirt. But when he wrapped himself around their stubby fingers, they squealed and shook him off.

A blackbird almost caught him as he wriggled into compost, ready to expire. Until a galaxy of red brandlings welcomed him to their world.


Starman Jane Dougherty

Once upon a time there was a little boy who gazed at the stars. Far away, a little girl wished on every falling star to catch one and follow where it led.

The boy grew up to be a starman. On his first voyage to investigate Earth, he was drawn out of orbit and fell, streaking the night with fire. He climbed out of the vessel, the smoking crater, and took the hands of the girl with brilliant eyes who was waiting for him. Together they repaired his ship and flew away to write their destiny among the stars.


Once Upon a Time by Carol Campbell

Once upon a time, there was a small boy named Austin. He lived with his family on a small street in a quiet town. His parents had raised him to be a manly child. He was not a bully, but he was not one to allow anyone to get their way if it affected him. One day a fairy came to him and said, “Austin, the way you behave is not really the way God intended men to act.” She taught him that the true male energy that God gave man was strong but gentle. He learned this well.


Fairy Tale by Ula Humienik

Once upon a time…

there was a girl who had a secret. She could hear music where others heard none. She saw colors, patterns and textures where others only heard sound.

One day, she decided to share her inner world so others could see the magic in the mundane. Maybe they too could hear the sound of red — a jazzy trumpet — or see the colors and patterns in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

But one day it all stopped. Submerged in darkness, she couldn’t find a way out.

How could she share her inner world if she’d lost it?


Fairy Tale Castle by Ann Edall-Robson

“Whatcha doin’ Mom?”

“Writing a once upon a time fairy tale about a little girl and her horse.”

“What happened?”

“She didn’t want to grow up. She was so happy on the back of her horse. Running wild and free across pastures and through the trees. The barn was her castle surrounded by her kingdom known as Mother Nature.”

“And then what?”

“Alas, she married her Prince Charming who had his own castle and pastures.”

“Is that picture of your old horse?”

“Hey, we have a barn and pastures.I think your story’s about you and dad.”

“Could be.”


Rich Man, Poor Man by Larry La Forge

Once upon a time Charlie was rich. At least that’s what Ed always believed about his friend. Edna agreed.

But now Ed thinks Charlie is poor. Edna agrees.

Charlie? Well, he thinks he used to be poor, but is now rich.

“He lives in a fairy tale,” Ed said to Edna.

Charlie changed almost immediately after his lottery winnings were certified. He abandoned his many friends and began spending lavishly on himself. Cars, clothes, houses, exotic vacations. His ex-wife and kids haven’t yet seen a dime.

“Fairy tales . . .” Edna lamented, shaking her head. “Not all of them end well.”


Bedtime by Pat Cummings

“Once upon a time,” Grampa Ray began.

“Wait, Grampa! Why it is always ‘once upon a time’?” Mary wriggled under the covers with the urgency of her question. “Why do bedtime stories begin that way?”

“I don’t know…” Her grandpa scratched his head, then his chin. “Maybe it’s like, ‘And now, the news.’ Just a way people have of telling us that whatever follows is either real or make-believe.”

“Oh.” Mary thought for a moment, then said, “Once upon a time I wanted to watch TV until 10 o’clock and my mom said I could stay up late tonight.”


The Knight of Calm by Paula Moyer

“Once upon a time, when all the great trees in the forest were still quite small …” Jean lay in bed, waiting for Daddy’s next words.

It was like this every night that he did bedtime. “Tell me a story,” Jean would beg. And then he would begin.

But the story was always very short. The topic may be a princess, a knight, an overgrown forest. No matter. Soon Daddy’s breaths lengthened. The voice rose in pitch but softened.

Moonlight drew Daddy’s profile. His eyelids fell. Nxxx – the snore.

The door opened. Momma’s voice. “Honey, come on to bed.”


Let There Be Light by Jane Dougherty

Once upon a time the world was dark, and people lived in fear of things that went bump and things with sharp teeth and claws. A little girl sat in a corner out of the way of blundering feet, listening to the mutterings and the scufflings, waiting until she was big enough to help the people get over their fear. On her sixth birthday she decided she was big enough. She felt her way around the room until she found the place, then she reached up high, as high as ever she could, and she turned on the light.


When Frogs Could Fly by Roger Shipp

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived two flying frogs.

Free-wheelin’ Fredrick and Voluptuous Freda frolicked and fluttered instilling fright and fear.

Even lions, baboons, and falcons were in awe of them.

These callous, winged-rulers hoarded flies and fruits- sometimes even fish- from all the kingdom.

The familial swamp creatures sequestered themselves to find a fitting way to overthrow the freakish tyrants.

Assassins- leafcutters were dispatched. Carefully spiking the castle with an airborne fungus- frog wings were soon ant fodder.

Hence the saying… If frogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump their butts on the ground.


Contentment by Norah Colvin

Once upon a time there was an ordinary girl who lived an ordinary life with her ordinary family. She did all the ordinary things that others did and dreamed of nothing else. Each day followed one after the other with little difference. There was no magic. There were no fairies, and there were no dragons to slay. She just did what she had to do and took little notice of others doing the same. Strangely enough she was content for, from somewhere deep within, she knew that this ordinary life was but preparation for the extraordinariness of the next.


Tsunami by Udosdottir

Once upon a time, on an island in the southern reaches of the ocean, there were a girl and a boy. They loved each other and wanted to marry. However, for both a different destiny was foretold. No-one knew what the saying meant, but getting settled was not it, and acting against fate unthinkable. The pair decided to complete the ancient task to prove that they were meant for each other. They set out for the beach, holding hands, searching for where to start their spirit journey. They heard a sound, saw a wave, and then – nothing.


Fairy Tale by Irene Waters

Once upon a time there lived a miserly woman who hid her money under the mattress. One day she died. That night the beneficiary dreamt he was to give the cash to the poor, keeping only twenty dollars for himself. Reluctantly, as he craved wealth, he carried out these wishes buying a watch with his twenty dollars. He stuffed it into his lunch box. Coming across a diabetic man needing sugar, from his lunchbox, he gave him his jelly beans. The man stared at the watch in the apple. Thrilled, Steve Jobs paid handsomely for the apple watch idea.


Once Upon a Time by Lisa Reiter

Once upon a time a memoirist got all confused about a flash fiction prompt requiring a fairy tale ending. In real life, it seemed they hardly ever came along. Not those that can be written in 99 words anyway. (She forgot she could just make it up.)

So she huffed and she puffed and the deadline drew near. She tried waving her magic wand but the words would not appear, so in the end she made more coffee, ate up all the chocolate in the house and pretended she and her monsters would live happily ever after. THE END.


Fairy Tale by Luccia Gray

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, who loved listening to stories of knights in shining armour, princes and fairy godmothers in faraway places, who rescued beautiful princesses in distress.
Years later she discovered that knights, princes, and godmothers needed saving, too, so she became a teacher and told her students stories about people who needed help, and how ordinary children who aren’t princes, princesses, or fairy godmothers rescue each other every day, in small ways, like saying; NO FAIL ‘Next Opportunity! It’s your First Attempt In Learning!’ and this isn’t the END because ‘Effort Never Dies!’


Unhappily Ever After by Sherri Matthews

Once Upon A Time they had been happy: Prince Charming, riding in on his white horse Lamborghini, saving her from going-nowhere-fast.

He had dazzled her with his glossy, black hair, deep brown eyes and penthouse suite in New York.

But now the suite was her jail and Charming her captor; disowned by her family, her friends gone, clothes worn only he approved to cover her bruises.

“Well fucker,” she whispered, “I’m no longer blonde and I’m sure as hell no Rapunzel. Our fairy tale’s gonna turn grim…”

She smiled, cocked her pistol and waited patiently for Charming’s grand entrance.




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  1. Annecdotist

    Commiserations regarding your Internet problems, Charli, but thanks for another great collection.

    • Charli Mills

      It was a great week for fairy tale exploration!

  2. Lisa Reiter

    Always interesting what other’s imaginations can do with a prompt!

    • Charli Mills

      The weekly reward is seeing the collection!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, no! I was on pint #2 and missed it! I’ll make amends soon!

      • TanGental

        My bad – that is such an annoying phrase but like lol it weedles its way in

      • Charli Mills

        I believe I was warned by Hemmingway and Fanning to write drunk, edit sober. Alas, I compiled from a pub therefore, my bad. I think that’s an annoying/charming Americanism, by the way. It’s added now.

  3. writersdream9

    Internet problems can be as bad as having a cold. Everything just slows down. Thanks for this great platform to share. Reading these was great!

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! It is!

  4. Sherri

    Prince Charli And The Tale Of The Dark Brew. Now there’s a story waiting to be told 😉 Hang in there my friend… <3

    • Sarah Brentyn

      ~ Princess Charli And The Tale Of The Dark Brew ~

      Once upon a time, there lived a fair maiden who loved to write.

      Princes came from near and far, trying to lure the princess from her tower but she rejected their fine gifts and offers of marriage. “I’m busy,” she’d shout from the top of the castle.

      “’Tis not lady-like to shout, my dear,” her mother admonished.

      “Well they need to hear me now don’t they?”

      The queen shook her head. “Your father requests you join us for dinner in the great hall tonight.”

      “I would prefer someone send food up here,” Princess Charli answered. “I’m busy.”

      “You cannot stay in this tower forever.”

      Something in the queen’s tone made Charli look up. “Why not?”

      “Darling, you’re a princess. You must start behaving like one.”

      “But…I’m happy.”

      “You can’t possibly be,” the queen strode out. “You’ll be leaving here soon.”


      Days passed and Princess Charli, buried in her writing, forgot about her mother’s threat. Until a great darkness spread through the castle. It smelled of rotting eggs. Charli fled the tower, burying her mouth and nose in her satin sleeve.

      When she returned, her writing table was empty. Everything was gone.

      “Mother! Mother, come quickly!”

      “What is it?” the king appeared.

      “Oh, Papa! My writing…”

      “That. Well, something had to be done!”

      “What?” Princess Charli squeaked. “What did you do?”

      A tall figure appeared in the doorway. “Daughter. This is Prince Brew.”

      “It’s ‘Drew’, sire.”

      “Prince Brew will take you to your,” he waved his hand, “writing things.”

      Princess Charli backed away, “But, Papa, I want to stay here. I’m…happy.”

      “You can’t possibly be. Prince Brew will take you into town where you will drink of ale and eat a meal together.”

      “It’s ‘Drew’, your majesty.”

      The king went on, “Then you shall visit his castle until a wizard can be brought round the castle to fix you.”

      “Pardon me, sire, but I see nothing of Princess Charli that needs fixing. However, I shall be happy to bring her to court and allow her to write until you see fit to send for her.”

      Princess Charli smiled up at the dark-haired prince. “Let’s go, Brew.”

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! What a delight to read! Dare I ask — has your writing blood pulsed again? If so, let us part together with Brew and write! <3

  5. Sherri

    Haha!!! I’m in stitches Sarah, bloody brilliant 😀 That’s one Dark Brew alright lol !!!! Charli will love this 😀

    • Sarah Brentyn

      It was your title. This just popped out. 😀

      • Sherri

        The title called for a story, and you rose to the occasion brilliantly 😀 I’m still laughing… !

    • Charli Mills

      You cause a riot of inspiration, Sherri! Fabulous Dark Brew!

      • Sherri

        😀 <3

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