Once upon a time, not too long ago, actually, there was a village which was plagued by a strange curse. It was strange because it only affected the women and it didn't really make much sense.
The curse went like this:
Anytime a girl took a man into her life, she would turn into a thing.
So, little girls and boys would grow up and then they would fall in love. And as soon as they became a couple the girl would suddenly turn into some thing and then stay that way.
At first the villagers were alarmed and tried to lift the curse. They really did. They tried spells, incantations, potions, kisses, and all sorts, but nothing worked. Eventually they gave up and just learned to live with it. After all, it didn't really affect the "thing's" ability to survive and have children, so they got used to it. In fact, they got so used to it that it became normal and any girl who did not couple and become a thing was considered weird and given the inglorious title of "Old Maid".
And so it went that if you walked down the streets of Village you might run into Mr. Tailor and his girlfriend Doll, or Mr. Carpenter and his wife Broom. Over at the bakery you could greet Mr. Baker and his wife Stove and just outside the village you might pass Mr. Farmer and his wife Hoe. In town there were, and still are, many men whose women were pots and pans and fridges and mops and baskets etc. etc. etc.
Then one day, a few years ago, actually, there was born a girl whose eyes were too wide and whose ears were too big, which did nothing to minimize her too-large head. She said too much and listened too closely, which caused her to think too deeply.
"What will happen to me?" she thought, "What will I become?"
"You think too much!" her mother said, "You will probably become a book!"
"Oh how awful!" her aunty exclaimed, "A useless ugly book!"
And everyone knew the shame and criticism that befell those girls who became books.
"I don't want to become a book!" she cried, "I don't want to become anything! I just want to be me!"
And so, one night she decided that she would not become a thing, ever, and ran away from the village. She found a cave in the forest and made it her new home. Sure that no one would ever find her there, she resolved to remain human and never couple with a man.
She was wrong though, because a few years later a man did find her there.
It was a terrible night and the rain fell down in torrents. She was warm and cozy by a fire in her cave when a man came in soaking wet and startled her.
"Oh, sorry" he apologized, "I didn't realize anyone lived here."
"Yes, well, I do and I like being alone so please leave!"
"Really? You're going to kick me out in this storm? What if I catch pneumonia and die?"
"Oh! Fine! Stay until the storm is over, but then leave immediately!" she said crossly and settled down on the opposite end of the fire furthest away from him. He looked at her curiously as her warmed himself by the fireside.
"So, what are you doing here alone? Assuming that you are alone." he asked.
"You know," she said, "it's not necessary for us to talk. I don't want to be your friend and I definitely don't want to be your girlfriend, so let's just save ourselves the effort and just ignore each other, okay?"
But the truth was, she had been alone for a very long time and even though she had been perfectly content living by herself, she had missed having someone to talk to. So despite her rudeness they began to talk and from that night on they became friends.
Friends. Until, inevitably...
"I think I'm in love with you" he declared.
"What!? Are you crazy!?" she cried in alarm.
"Yes! Crazy for you! Please be my girlfriend!"
"No! Never! Absolutely not! Don't even think about it! Not a chance!"
She shook her head and wagged her finger, stomped her foot and pushed him away, literally, because he was a forward type of guy. But, once again, words contradicted feelings because the truth was, she was falling for him too. Before she knew it he was holding her in his arms saying, "Please! We'll be so happy together. I'll love you forever and give you everything you want and you'll be mine and I'll be yours. We'll belong to each other! Forever!"
And she protested weakly, "No...but...I don't want to become a thing! Wait!"
But it was too late. The deal was sealed with a kiss and POOF! Like magic she became his girlfriend and turned into a mirror.
"Noooooooooooooooooo!" she cried to herself, "Stupid girl! You stupid foolish girl!"
"I'm so sorry," he apologized, "but don't be upset, we can still be happy. Come with me, I'll take you home and we can live happily ever after."
And so it came to pass that the girl went back to the village to live with her man. To this day she goes around and everyone says she's the prettiest thing in the village. But not a moment passes when she doesn't try to think of ways to lift the curse. She tries it all and all of it has been done before and still doesn't work. She is unhappy and reflects upon her fate.
Then a thought occurs to her: "What if I just decide not to be a thing anymore?"
She says to herself out loud, "I don't want to be a thing anymore!" But it doesn't work.
Then she thinks about it, then goes to her man and says, "Sweetie, I don't want to be a thing anymore." He looks at her and replies, "What do you want me to do about it? Why don't you just accept it already?"
She cries in despair. Some time passes until she sees a newspaper. An idea occurs to her. She goes into the town square at the busiest time of day and shouts out for everyone to hear.
"Listen to me! Everybody! I don't want to be a thing anymore!"
They stare at her and blink their eyes.
She shouts, "I'm NOT a thing! I'm a person! I have a voice, a mind and an opinion! I have dreams and ideas and ambitions!"
People begin to point and gasp. Her toes begin to take form. Her hair grows. Excitedly she shouts, "And I have emotions! I feel happy and sad and angry! I worry! I care about others!"
Fingers, knees, elbows, nose, teeth...
"I'm self-aware! I'm conscious!"
Wide eyes, big ears, large head, and finally -
"I am human!" she cries.
And so she is! The girl, who became a thing, who became human, stands there in the middle of the square staring all the men straight in the eyes while their things, littered about, start to shout:
"I'm human too!" POP! A skinny woman appears where a broom once stood.
"i'm human too!" POP! A stout old woman where a stove once was.
And so on and so forth until all the things-who-were-girls regain their human forms and look the men straight in the eyes.
"I know this is a big change for you to deal with," they say kindly, "but it's for the best, so you'll just have to accept it."
And they will, eventually.
And they will all live happily ever after.
Art by Radhika