I’ve always like fairy tales, particularly the brutal versions. Bluebeard, in particular, has always stuck with me. This was my attempt to modernize the content, while staying as true as possible to the form of the original story.
What does the woman who brought Bluebeard’s ruin do after the smoke settles? Find out below.
by Curtis A. Deeter
Once upon a time, in a distant yet not so alien land, lived a woman named Kate and her gentlemanly, hardworking husband William. They were well in love, owned many a fine estate in both the country and the city, and enjoyed all the finer things in life. Namely, mid-afternoon cheese and wine tastings with their dearest and closest friends, trips out on the lake aboard one of William’s ships—he had such a passion for all things nautical and had collected a veritable fleet over the years—and monthly masquerade balls—some of the most lavish parties in all the land. Everyone from every corner of the country made their greatest effort to attend.
Despite their happiness, Kate had a dark, guarded secret. A secret she vowed to never reveal to her husband, for it was so horrible just thinking about it made her blanch. If she were to ever speak it aloud, she was certain she would die. Somethings were best buried and left unspoken.
Kate had been married before, and it hadn’t ended well. His name had been forgotten, but not his nickname: Bluebeard.
Her and her sister Anne promised each other they would never speak a word about what happened that afternoon in the summer estate. They took a blood oath, vowing on their lives to forget it and be done with it. Their ichor intertwined in a golden chalice, blood boiling until it cracked the cup itself. That’s how they knew the oath had taken. That’s how they knew they could never mention it again or terrible, terrible things would happen.
Some things are uglier, more terrifying, than a blue beard or a locked door.
Kate and Anne had two brothers too, a retired special forces member and a Chicago police officer, who had saved them from the clutches of Death that day, but they knew not the extent of Bluebeard’s treachery. All they knew was their sisters had been in trouble, and they had arrived just in time to save the day. So, they did not take part in the blood oath. Instead, they rode off to live their own happy, unburdened lives.
Anne, our heroine’s dear sister, lived in the guest house just around the bend. She married an on again off again writer, and worked as a waitress herself, but they still did not earn enough money to live the life of luxury Kate enjoyed. The oath bonded them; they lived next to each other both by fate and by the kindness and generosity of Kate. She liked Anne, and it was nice to have such a close friend so nearby because William, Kate’s husband, was often off on business.
The two women drank mimosas on the veranda, read books by the pool. They rode horses through the mountains, made wakes on the lake with jet skis. When they grew even a smidge wearisome of each other’s company, they invited celebrities and rock stars to the summer estate for parties of music and food and debauchery.
They lived, and they lived, and they lived some more.
This went on for years after the incident they vowed never to mention, nearly a decade of peace and bliss passed between the sisters.
Then, things started to go wrong. Skeletons resurfaced. These sorts of events usually start slowly, with subtle warnings. This was not the case for Kate, Bluebeard’s widow.
One night, after a romp at the club, Kate was impatiently waiting for the valet to bring her Porsche around. She’d had too much to drink, music thrummed in her ears, and she’d gotten herself in a tizzy when she caught Anne kissing a young up-and-comer in the lady’s room.
Suddenly, her small pocket burned. She reached into it, grabbed her key, and found it was red-hot, singeing the fabric of her jeans. It burnt her hand too, and she threw the key out of reflex, losing it between the slots of a nearby gutter drain. The valet was due to return at any moment. She didn’t have a spare, so she had to try to retrieve the key from its watery tomb.
On her hands and knees, Kate looked down into the sewers, squinting to see in the dim light. At first, she couldn’t see a thing but blackness and rust. Then, the contents of the drain became clear. She screamed.
Kate saw hundreds of rats swimming through a lake of blood. The smell of rot and death knocked her onto her backside in the middle of the road. An oncoming bus nearly hit her, sounding its horn. When she found her senses, Kate didn’t wait for her car. Instead, she ran from that place as quickly as she could.
Back at home, she made for the kitchen for a glass of water to cool her nerves. Anne would worry, but she did not care. Her weariness was starting to get the best of her, and William still would not be home for another week.
And it would be the longest week of her life, seeming to never end.
She choked, spit water up on the fridge, and froze, petrified with fright. The lights in the kitchen flashed, the cupboards opened and closed, and all the electronics turned on and off, filling the room with the noise of toast popping, a microwave beeping, a radio crackling, and her heart pounding.
Kate curled up in a ball on the floor, her hands over her ears.
Then, she felt as if she were no longer alone, which indeed she wasn’t. She hadn’t been alone all this time. Not ever.
“Kaaaate,” a disembodied voice called out.
She shrieked, tossing the glass that was still in her hand.
The ghostly figure of her late husband, the one she was bonded to keep silent about, stood over her, a saber in his hand. His beard, though transparent, was as blue as her fear-frozen lips.
“Kaaate,” he repeated, shaking his arms at her.
“Leave me alone!”
“We have unfinished business, you and I.”
She couldn’t possibly imagine what business they had together. All that ended when her brothers had run him through.
“Please,” she called out. “We do not. Leave me alone. Let me live my life!”
“Like you let me live mine? You went into the closet, Kate. I told you you’d find your place among those other ladies there. I trusted you, and you denied the covenant between husband and wife. Then, you killed me, Kate. You killed me without a second thought.”
At this point, the lights were as bright as they could be. They burned so bright it hurt Kate’s eyes. She covered them and looked away, but soon the lights burnt out completely, glass shattering all over the floor.
“Now, you must die too, madam,” he yelled, breaking all the wine glasses and wine bottles in the cupboards around the kitchen island.
Kate leapt to her feet and ran down the hallway towards the back door, tracking red footprints the whole way. All the doors of the guest bedrooms flew open and slammed shut as she passed. The ghostly figure of Bluebeard followed her. To her horror, the back door was locked; she couldn’t turn the deadbolt one way or the other, and all the other doors in the hallway were shut fast, except one.
She made for it, narrowly avoiding the grasp of her late husband. He cackled, as she shut the door behind her. Leaning on it, she took a second to catch her breath. The room was spinning, her head was throbbing.
But all was quiet. He hadn’t followed her in.
She needed to call for help, but her phone was in the kitchen next to the sink. Kate was trapped.
When she realized where she was, there came a rattling at the door.
“Kaaate,” Bluebeard said at the other side of the door. “I told you you’d find your place among the other ladies there.”
She looked down at her hands, saw through them to the floor. She looked around the room and didn’t recognize what she saw. After the incident, she’d hired a contractor to convert the closet—the tomb—of Bluebeard’s dead wives into a walk-in closet for all her clothes and shoes. Now, she stood among the skeletons of the ladies that came before her. The door she came in was gone. The windows, too. Feeling around for an exit, she yelled for help, but no help would come. She knocked on the walls, but they would not give.
Utterly alone with the ghosts of her past, Kate gasped as dark figures appeared from the corners of the room. They danced around her until her head spun, bringing everything that happened in the summer estate around full-circle for Bluebeard’s widow. She’d spend eternity with her ghosts, for one atrocity does not permit another.