Good People

Edited by Chelle Parker

Copyedited by Chelle Parker

December 2021

Later, they said
it was the way she kept
watching the sky, the way she kept
bending to stare at the castle swans. The way
they kept finding nettles scattered
in her bed, the way
the servants saw her stealing through
the gates at night. The way
the prince had fallen in love,
so suddenly. All reasons, surely,
to send her to the stake. Not
her silence — oh no. And not
the scars on her hands. They were
quite decent people, you understand —
all of them. Even the queen,
concerned only with the safety
of son and kingdom. Even the ministers
urging death, even the crowd
cheering on the flames. Good people,
all, with good reasons, all,
to think the girl an ogre. A witch.
A monster in disguise. Not people
who would condemn a girl
with scars on her wrists, or condemn
a girl who could not speak. No. Good people.
Decent. Kindhearted, all. With good reasons
to burn a girl at the stake.

Afterwards, others crept in
to pick over the remains, saying not a word
when the white feathers and blood
clung to their bandages, their canes. And later,
when they told the tale, they said
it had a happy ending. That the king
was good, as was the queen. They were
good people, after all. Quite decent.
And good at telling tales.

© 2021 Mari Ness

About the author

Mari Ness

Other work by Mari Ness appears in, Clarkesworld Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, Apex Magazine, Translunar Travelers Lounge, Diabolical Plots, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and right here at Fireside Magazine. A poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, is available from Papaveria Press; an essay collection, Resistance and Transformation: On Fairy Tales, from Aqueduct Press; and a chapbook of fairy tales, Dancing in Silver Lands, from Neon Hemlock Press. For a list of selected works, visit, and for the latest news and comments on terrible television, Twitter at @mari_ness.