PROMPT: Use a painting (Waterhouse’s Lady of Shalott) as inspiration for a story. (20-30 minutes)
Version 2: Waiting Dame by Maureen L. Hough
Lady Elsa’s days thickened into weeks, but still the embroidery stayed unstitched further, ends unknotted. From her window, at the King’s request, she could see poles and lumber joined together in the moat. It was curious work, because a different person brought each piece, and none but the king and his diadem gleam saw the construction come together. Lady Elsa was not content just to watch, no more than one might be content to light a smoky fire in a windowless dungeon. To watch was to suffocate, because she alone knew the purpose of the king’s new whim.
Earlier, despite his interest in making the cloth come out right, the king had not dared to enter, having been informed by the room’s previous captives that if a mind even with the smallest stain entered the chamber, the thread would positively turn tawdry. And no one – especially a king mid-rebellion – can risk a threadbare prophesy. The king seemed to have not trusted his own saving graces, and instead diverted his interest to a peculiar project by the bridge – a house for a newly acquired infant boy, Gustav, a boy for whom vice would be made, shall we say, impossible.
As she returned her eyes to the chamber filled with every pleasure to suppress any inkling of envy, she alone had begun to know that, like her son chained in the king’s whim construction, she would stay put behind the curtain of luxury, refusing to tapestry the prophesy and cut it loose upon the land where paupers remained veiled by the distances demanded by decrees and decorum.
Like looking out the window, this too wasn’t a happy thought – to remain unmoved may mean unchanged scenery, but to tie oneself to the fate of the threads was to never change, to remain forever young with the unfinished task, to become a weft crossing the warp of others’ short lives.