THE QUEEN’S SPADE, OR THE QUEEN’S KING IN THE HOLE • by Janet Savage

“Off with her head!” About the rudest thing I’ve ever heard. So queenly. That’s me. I wear my robes, do what I want and dare to keep the crown on my head. The rabble and nobility alike get angry. And jealous. But some just sit back and smile because they know that a crown-bearing, get-what-you-wanting royal eventually, eventually, comes to no good. And I know it too.

I stand at the top of the royal mound, the card guards scattered about the hillside of the valley. Today I’m hunting a yellow-haired ninny. Ah! I see her now; her bright curls spill over the top of a pen made of mere fives and threes. Can’t feel bad about harm that comes to one silly enough to fall down a hole and share a table with a dormouse.

“Ace! Come here!” I command.

As usual, the Ace of Hearts comes sniveling towards me.

“Not you,” I say.

He backs away; bending so low I can see most of the design on his back. Then the Ace of Diamonds tries to approach. His usual smirk turns to a frown the second my right eyebrow starts to rise. He retreats, taking solace with the usual inappropriate low company — that convivial Jack of Hearts.

Ahh… finally, the fine Ace of Spades approaches. So sleek, so sharp, so useful. He toys with me, he does. I appreciate his cleverness, letting the other Aces show their weaknesses before bringing his bold shape into my presence. He smiles the deadliest of smiles and I know that he knows that I see the crippled Ace of Clubs, still struggling on all corners to climb the hill behind him.

“What is your pleasure, my Queen?”

Out of the corner of my eye I see the Queen of Spades wobble.

“I wish to rid our… my land of fools and foolish invaders.”

“The guards have captured the ninny. We’ve heard tale that she understands The Smiling Cat and has ruined Old Woman Smith’s house by trying it on.” He pauses, then leans in towards me. “And that she drinks water. “ He whispers this last in my ear, so warmly, so close.

“She… it’s a she?” I ask.

“She has pledged to do no harm here in the land that is not her land.”

“Do those who have met her have a taste for her?”

“They report her to be ‘interesting’.”

I see the golden curls turning rapidly this way and that and sense that the ninny realizes that her need to escape grows urgent. More urgent than she could know.

“Ah, then she is dangerous,” I say.

“Wickedly so,” he responds, running his hand along his razor-sharp edge.

“Then we must be rid of her.”

“I am sure that is the fairest thing to do.”

He flatters me. I’m red and cleaved; he’s whole, but we share a point. His up, mine down. We’re a good match.

“At your word.” He bows to me.

“Well, then. Off with her head!” I scream, raising my right arm and swirling my purple royal banner in the air. A great shuffle arises on the fields below as the card guards rush to be the first to the golden flame of curls. The threes and the fives slide away and now, for a moment, I see the ninny in her splendor.

I blush at her simple beauty. But I will have my way.

The ninny attempts to run through the breaches between the cards, but the Jack and Ten of Spades and the Nine of Diamonds stride towards her. I see her plead with them. They knock her flat on her back. Silly weak thing. One by one the rest of the card guard flap up in the air and flop down on her until they are all as one on top of her, up to her neck.

The Ace of Spades still stands.

I begin to descend the hilltop, eager to see the beautiful soft neck of the ninny. (Why are they always so pretty?)

I finally reach the pile. The Ace of Spades nods at me and takes a step back, making way for me to circle the pile. I stop, standing directly behind her head. The muddy, striped hem of my skirt rests atop her curls that are sprayed on the ground around her head. The ninny, red of face, struggles and unintelligible noise seeps from the stretched, soft throat. We look into each other’s upside down face, which is the way it is for those who fall down the hole and up into our land.

I look up. The Ace of Spades has already begun to move. He stands beside me; we share a point of view. With grace and flair he lifts in the air, ever so gently turns on his side and with a great flourish, descends and slices.

’Tis done well.

The Ace of Spades stands, his side glinting scarlet in the lowering sun. As he bows to me he bends a corner, our secret sign. He returns to stand by the Spade Royalty. The King of Spades stands stiffly, the Queen of Spades sighs. The card guards at once rise and form a cart to carry the ninny and her head to the lands beyond, where those with no will dwell.


Janet Savage says: “I am an empty-nester, re-starting the writerly life that I missed. I have a wonderful husband and two splendid children and two dogs. Upon discovering that a genre existed that took advantage of my penchant for brevity and power in stories, I felt validated.”


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Every Day Fiction

  • So, dark. That seems to be a trend for October.

    There was a moment when I thought we were going to get a motivation for the beheading. There was a hint that it may be related to some complicated (or not so) relationship with the other Queens.

    • Friedmab
      Check my story from the 1st - it's as not-dark as they come!
    • MPmcgurty
      Hi, Ward. Glad to see you. :)
  • So, dark. That seems to be a trend for October.

    There was a moment when I thought we were going to get a motivation for the beheading. There was a hint that it may be related to some complicated (or not so) relationship with the other Queens.

    • Friedmab
      Check my story from the 1st - it's as not-dark as they come!
    • MPmcgurty
      Hi, Ward. Glad to see you. :)
  • Mickey Hunt

    Not my cup of tea. But then I never liked Alice in Wonderland, even though I played the Cheshire Cat once.

  • Mickey Hunt

    Not my cup of tea. But then I never liked Alice in Wonderland, even though I played the Cheshire Cat once.

  • MPmcgurty

    I detested the book and never fully watched any movie based on it, but I’m always interested in short variations. This held my interest, at least. It could use trimming and sharpening. For instance, I enjoyed the voice, but – and I said this about another EDF story I liked very much – sometimes it felt that the author got carried away with the fun. It’s easy to do, especially in first person, present tense. You’re rolling with the character, she’s saying whatever comes into her head, it makes you smile. It’s gold! But you have to subject it to the x-acto knife.

  • MPmcgurty

    I detested the book and never fully watched any movie based on it, but I’m always interested in short variations. This held my interest, at least. It could use trimming and sharpening. For instance, I enjoyed the voice, but – and I said this about another EDF story I liked very much – sometimes it felt that the author got carried away with the fun. It’s easy to do, especially in first person, present tense. You’re rolling with the character, she’s saying whatever comes into her head, it makes you smile. It’s gold! But you have to subject it to the x-acto knife.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I couldn’t really get into this one.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I couldn’t really get into this one.

  • I agree with some of the comments below. It was hard to get into this one yet I’m not sure why, exactly. I think it could use some trimming. It was a cool concept, but I think the author can do much better with it.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell
      In general, I'd prefer that we don't speculate here on what an individual author is or is not capable of, without a reference example of that author's other writing to substantiate it. Thanks for understanding.
      • I make comments like that because I see talent in the writing and I want to encourage an author that even though I may not love the current story, he or she is still capable of producing quality work. It's meant to be a compliment, not an insult. I do understand that a reference would help, of course, and I will try to use them in the future. I certainly don't want to discourage an author from writing, even if I don't like the current work. So I try to say something positive (and sincere) whenever I write a review.
        • Camille Gooderham Campbell
          That makes sense. I interpreted it as referring to the author's technical capability (impossible to know without a frame of reference) rather than the story's potential (completely fair to say), but of course your comment makes sense from the latter point of view.
          • Thanks Camille. I really don't enjoy making all negative comments when I don't like a story, and in this one I saw a lot of potential in the author's writing. I like to encourage that sort of thing. :)
  • I agree with some of the comments below. It was hard to get into this one yet I’m not sure why, exactly. I think it could use some trimming. It was a cool concept, but I think the author can do much better with it.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell
      In general, I'd prefer that we don't speculate here on what an individual author is or is not capable of, without a reference example of that author's other writing to substantiate it. Thanks for understanding.
      • I make comments like that because I see talent in the writing and I want to encourage an author that even though I may not love the current story, he or she is still capable of producing quality work. It's meant to be a compliment, not an insult. I do understand that a reference would help, of course, and I will try to use them in the future. I certainly don't want to discourage an author from writing, even if I don't like the current work. So I try to say something positive (and sincere) whenever I write a review.
        • Camille Gooderham Campbell
          That makes sense. I interpreted it as referring to the author's technical capability (impossible to know without a frame of reference) rather than the story's potential (completely fair to say), but of course your comment makes sense from the latter point of view.
          • Thanks Camille. I really don't enjoy making all negative comments when I don't like a story, and in this one I saw a lot of potential in the author's writing. I like to encourage that sort of thing. :)
  • Friedmab

    This seemed a bit macabre just for the sake of being macabre…and I wasn’t sure what point I was supposed to come away with in the end. I enjoyed the mannered language and the reflections on different cards’ though.

  • Friedmab

    This seemed a bit macabre just for the sake of being macabre…and I wasn’t sure what point I was supposed to come away with in the end. I enjoyed the mannered language and the reflections on different cards’ though.

  • Vicki Doronina

    Splendid

    • Friedmab
      You would enjoy a story about chopping off someone's head for the pleasure of it, wouldn't you Vicki?
      • Vicki Doronina
        A story told by an unreliable narrator? Yes. I have it on an Oxford don's authority that the girl survived.
  • Vicki Doronina

    Splendid

    • Friedmab
      You would enjoy a story about chopping off someone's head for the pleasure of it, wouldn't you Vicki?
      • Vicki Doronina
        A story told by an unreliable narrator? Yes. I have it on an Oxford don's authority that the girl survived.
  • For me it was hard to get into as I don’t find the picture cards interesting as characters. I look forward though to reading more by the author.

  • For me it was hard to get into as I don’t find the picture cards interesting as characters. I look forward though to reading more by the author.

  • Shelle Klein Houser

    I love Alice in Wonderland, and I like the language of the story, the Queen’s voice, but I want to know more about her motivation for killing Alice. Also, the water-drinking line hints at an analogy between the Queen of Hearts and the Wicked Witch of the West. Was that on purpose?

  • Shelle Klein Houser

    I love Alice in Wonderland, and I like the language of the story, the Queen’s voice, but I want to know more about her motivation for killing Alice. Also, the water-drinking line hints at an analogy between the Queen of Hearts and the Wicked Witch of the West. Was that on purpose?

  • The use of the word “ninny” became tiresome. The action felt robotic as I read. Mechanical. None of the magic and fantasy of the original.

  • The use of the word “ninny” became tiresome. The action felt robotic as I read. Mechanical. None of the magic and fantasy of the original.

  • Marie

    Hi everyone. I’m the author.
    The Queen’s motivation is to destroy this pretty, popular and interesting intruder who has the power to usurp her rule. To thrive in this Queendom you have to be strong but not stronger than she is. (Something the King of Hearts did not understand and that is why he is not around – and is in fact in the hole of the title along with the rest of those without will.) I intended to be referential to the original story – not to copy it in tone or otherwise – as the very different ending indicates. The water is not a nod to Oz, but rather to the famous scene in the original story where Alice drinks water that causes weird effects. That reference is what tips the reader that the ninny in this story is THAT Alice (note she is not named in this story). Thank you all for your comments; reading them is like looking backwards through the looking glass. See you next time!

  • Marie

    Hi everyone. I’m the author.
    The Queen’s motivation is to destroy this pretty, popular and interesting intruder who has the power to usurp her rule. To thrive in this Queendom you have to be strong but not stronger than she is. (Something the King of Hearts did not understand and that is why he is not around – and is in fact in the hole of the title along with the rest of those without will.) I intended to be referential to the original story – not to copy it in tone or otherwise – as the very different ending indicates. The water is not a nod to Oz, but rather to the famous scene in the original story where Alice drinks water that causes weird effects. That reference is what tips the reader that the ninny in this story is THAT Alice (note she is not named in this story). Thank you all for your comments; reading them is like looking backwards through the looking glass. See you next time!

  • Netty net

    Great story, I see you used the cards.

  • Netty net

    Great story, I see you used the cards.