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200 years ago, the Brothers Grimm unleashed their stories upon the world.
My name is Alice, and I’m a hero. A hero keeping a really, really weird diary. I learned the hard way that Prince Charming really doesn’t exist … or isn’t supposed to, at least. I learned that all of the characters from Grimms’ Fairy Tales are real and the longer they remain alive, the more Corrupted—evil—they become. Only the hero can stop them because she wields a magic pen, one capable of destroying the Corrupted once and for all.
Oh, and by the way? The Frog Prince is gross. Really, really gross.
It happened about three weeks after Edward’s death. It was a nice, warm summer evening. The setting sun bathed dozens of puffy clouds in beautiful red and oranges along the horizon. I was on my way home from the library, where I’d spent nearly two hours vacuuming between all of the bookshelves on the first and second floor. My back was sore.
I’d made a habit of cutting through the alleys to get home quicker. Really not a big deal in my neighborhood—the most recent crime had happened two weeks ago: some teenagers had toilet-papered a house. They got caught and were promptly grounded for two weeks … it was big gossip.
Briar the giant rabbit was with me, gleefully recounting old stories about past heroes. He seems to enjoy doing that. Usually I listened pretty intently, but tonight I couldn’t stop breathing in the perfect air.
Somewhere, a handful of birds were finishing up a conversation before bedtime. The end of a beautiful Wisconsin summer day.
So I wasn’t exactly expecting a giant frog monster to be lying in wait behind the Williamsons’ garage.
“Rabbit!” I shouted, pushing him aside the moment I saw the shadow spring out from behind one of the tall green garbage cans next to the garage door. Briar went flying to safety … and I ended up right in the monster’s path.
I didn’t even get a good look at him before a pair of strong, slimy arms wrapped around my body, pushing me across the alley and toward the Carlyle family garage. I could feel his hot breath on my neck. I could hear saliva vibrating in the back of his throat and it was all I could do to keep from screaming in horror.
My leg planted itself firmly on the concrete. I dropped my weight and spun us around, letting the momentum carry us forward. Only now the slimy creature was leading the way; he slammed into the garage and his grip loosened enough for me to pull away.
Slip away, actually. Because he was really slimy.
I jumped a few steps back so I could get a good look at him. The sun had almost completely set; the light on the Carlyle’s garage blinked on like some serendipitous spotlight.
“You’re disgusting!” I exclaimed. I couldn’t help it … he really was disgusting. He looked like a giant human-shaped frog. His arms and legs were thin and green. His head was big and round and he had enormous bowl-sized white eyeballs. His mouth opened, letting thick white drool ooze out.
“Alice!” he said. Or maybe it was just a slurping sound and my mind was playing tricks on me.
He smelled like a sewer. Like rotting grass mixed with old banana peels and dog dung. I smelled that way, too. My second-favorite sleeveless linen Pintuck top was soaked through with whatever stinky slime had been coating his arms.
“Stay back!” I warned, but the creature stumbled forward, reaching out for me. I dodged out of the way and backed up, trying to put some distance between us. But before I could, the frog-creature turned and hopped.
Right on top of me.
We fell onto the hard concrete. His slimy webbed fingers held me to the ground. His giant mouth opened and more drool oozed out. Deep inside that giant mouth were teeth: little, sharp teeth.
“No!” I cried out. I kicked wildly and connected with one of his legs; he groaned in pain, losing his balance. I pushed with all my might and rolled him away from me. The sharp tips of his webbed fingers cut my skin as he tried in vain to grab me again.
But now I was up. My elbow hurt from when it had landed on the concrete and my arm was bleeding from the stupid creature’s claws, but I was still up.
“The magic pen!” Briar called out.
I turned, searching for his familiar rabbit-shaped form in the darkness. Only a few of the garages had floodlights so most of the alley was full of creeping shadows. My vision blurred. The entire alley seemed to be spinning. Get a hold of yourself, Alice! Use the pen!
I pulled it from the pocket of my jeans and ran to the other side of the alley. I drew a saber on the garage door and pulled it away. I spun, watching the frog-creature stumble to his feet, groaning a stomach-churning guttural groan.
My sweaty hand tightly gripped the handle of the sword. The weight felt good. The blade looked sharp. About 88 centimeters long, give or take. Unlike the foil, which was a fencing sword designed for stabbing, the saber’s entire blade was sharp. I could slice this nasty frog-guy in half if I really wanted.
“Alice! Look out!”
I glanced up and jumped out of the way right before the frog-creature could grab me. He kept going, slamming into the garage door with a thud and falling over. I stepped up and stabbed my saber at his head. He ducked out of the way and the saber’s tip connected with the concrete.
The blade bent, then snapped in half.