Once upon a time, a young girl hid in a cave while monsters ravaged her parent’s house. She’d jumped from her bedroom window and run through the woods when she heard the screams. And now she heard the growls and messy sounds of teeth tearing flesh and she saw the smoke rise from the roof as the house burned.
She sobbed quietly and wondered what she would do now. The chance of anyone else escaping from the house was slim. There was no way she’d be able to take care of herself out here.
She heard her name in the distance; a quiet calling. She wiped her tears from her face and peered out through the entrance to the cave.
She didn’t recognize the voice and she hesitated.
“I know you’re in there, Mary.” The man’s voice was like silk and calmed her nerves. “Why don’t you come on out?”
Despite her gut instinct to stay where she was, Mary found herself moving forward. Something in the man’s voice compelled her to follow his instruction even when she didn’t want to.
“Aw, there you are…” his voice trailed off and a hand snatched her wrist before she could pull back.
In an instant, the man pressed his mouth to her throat, pierced the skin with his fangs and he drank. An instant so fast that Mary remembered nothing but the cold of the man behind her.
The next time Mary opened her eyes, she saw dirt above her. Dirt with twigs and tree roots winding through it. She lay in a small burrow, dirt on either side of her. And for a moment, she panicked, but before her breath could catch in her throat, she realized she wasn’t breathing in the first place. And the thought made her pause and her brain worked at hyper speed to put it together.
And then a shadow fell across her body and she looked around. An opening to her burrow was above her head and a man stood there with hands in his pockets. He rocked back on his heels and smiled at her.
“Good evening, Mary.” The man with the voice like silk.
“Where am I?” She’d wanted to sound strong and demand an answer, but her voice came out a whisper and the man’s grin grew wider.
“You’re in our hut. Please follow me and I will give you a tour.”
He stepped back and waved a hand down the hall, but Mary stayed where she was. Even though she was on the ground and laying at his feet, she felt safer in the little burrow.
“Come now. No need for this. You’re perfectly safe in here. Nothing will hurt you.”
His eyes glinted and Mary didn’t believe him. But she climbed to her feet anyway to give herself the chance to run when possible. And when she straightened up to her full height, she realized she was taller than the man. Taller by quite a significant amount in fact. And she felt relief wash through her. Why, she could push him over and run by him now. How had he overtaken her in the forest?
But the man saw her smile and fangs flashed at the corners of his mouth. “Don’t get ahead of yourself now, Mary. I’m much more than I appear. Now, follow me and I’ll introduce you to the boys.”
The sight of sharp teeth turned her stomach and her hand flew to her throat to brush the two puncture wounds there. He’d bitten her! What kind of creature… But she didn’t have enough time to think on it. The tunnel widened and opened into a larger room with chairs and cushions along the walls.
Six other little men looked up from their various tasks when they entered. Their expressions varied from delight, to desire, to anger and Mary found herself shrinking back from them all.
“Now, why’d you bring her back?” The angry man snapped from his spot by the fireplace. “She’s not worth anything, look at her little arms. Couldn’t put in a day of work if her life depended on it.”
One of the men close to him snickered. “Her life, ha, that’s a good one.”
“I thought she’d be a perfect fit for the house is all,” the man with Mary said. He lowered his gaze and looked bashful, but his face was too deadly pale to really complete the impression. “She’s not too tall. Her head won’t smack the ceiling. And she could clean up after you lot. I’m tired of being your maid, you know.” His argument finished with a stomp of his foot and then he flashed another grin back at Mary. “You wouldn’t mind that, would you? Living here and looking after us men?”
“I… What? Of course I mind!” Mary’s voice found strength. “I want to go home! I want my mother and my father! I don’t want to live in this house with you and be your maid!”
“Well, I’ve had a taste of your father, dear,” said a man shining his small shoes, “And he didn’t seem like much. A bit anemic.”
“And your mother really needed to have more vitamin B,” another man said with a book in his lap.
“And your house, well, I thought you saw what happened to that.”
“Besides, do you really think they’d want you back? Now that you’ve become a monster?”
“A monster…?” Mary clutched her chest and couldn’t help but notice the absence of a heartbeat. Her mind raced, but she didn’t want to understand.
“Look at her!” the angry one said and cracked a rare smile. “She’s white as snow!”
The men laughed and their hands pulled her into the room for her to sit down. And even though she cried, they wouldn’t let her leave. And there she remained, with the seven little men calling her Snow because of her pale face.
And she lived there, ever after.