Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Fairy Tale Challenge

This is my re-imagining of a classic fairy story, as per the challenge set on our main blog:

Hope you enjoy, and I apologise for my lack of research in Stockholm Syndrome before writing this. Unrefined and unresearched is my methodology, I'm afraid.

Beauty & the Beast

He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. I’d managed to escape my father’s drunken pawing and I was sitting in my favourite place. It’s so peaceful by the lake, the moonlight rippling towards my bare toes. He made me jump but when I turned and saw his face I was unafraid. I felt safe.

He asked my name. I was ashamed to tell him. He understood. He said that angels don’t have names. I said he can’t have one either then. His laugh was husky and his eyes deep and shimmering. They just seem watery and weak now.

I thought he’d come to rescue me; to take me away from my father, from the louse-ridden bed, from the fear of being mauled again. From my bed I could see the sky through my small window. I could imagine flying away, up to the heavens, while my father sweated over me and the stench of ale wafted from his maw.

He did save me, but where I am now is dark, and cold. The stone bites like ice. There are no windows. It wasn’t always that way. When I first came to live in the mansion in the valley, I slept on silken sheets and looked out on my lake through bay windows taller than myself. He was kind, and gentle, at first.

He was patient with me, with my rough manners. He taught me to hold cutlery correctly, to speak correctly. He taught me to read. Whole worlds opened in his library, taking me beyond the edges of my small experience, and he guided me through them.

I called him Teacher. Sensei. Master. I never saw anyone else.

One day I was at a loss for something to do. I’d seen little more than our suite of rooms, and my Master was out on business. I wandered for hours: I saw the ballrooms, the dining halls, even the kitchens. They were all empty. I was alone in this great house.

Finally I made my way to the West Wing. Most of the rooms were empty, except for one. It was a long hall lined with portraits. All the faces I saw were beautiful. Men and women looked down with shining eyes and red lipped smiles, although they were somewhat tight smiles. The eyes were a little too bright.

At the end of the room was a door. I tugged at it but it would not budge: the first locked door I’d encountered. I put my ear to the door and I thought I heard something. A faint noise, like crying. Like a scream.

Despite the warm evening sunshine flooding through the windows, I felt cold. I hurried away, back towards the safe eastern end of the house. I had barely left the Portrait Room when I heard his voice calling me. I ran along the corridor and he was there. I smiled in relief but he did not return my warmth. His bright eyes were angry.

“You’ve been prying.” It wasn’t a question. I shrunk back, suddenly afraid, away from his accusing eyes. He advanced and raised his hand.

That night he came to me. The bruises were tender. He slipped between the sheets and pulled me close. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, and kissed my face. It didn’t stop my tears.

He was less patient after that. Every little mistake irked him. He beat me, he took me against my will; all the gentleness of before was gone. I quaked every time I heard his voice, his footstep. Yet I could not leave. He had me trapped in his house, a gilded cage for his angel.

One night, the wine flowed freely. He seemed relaxed and more talkative than usual. Eventually he dozed in his chair. I grabbed the wine bottle and broke it on his brow. He bled and I ran, blindly. I didn’t know where to go. My footfalls echoed in the empty house like cruel laughter. The house mocked me further. I swear its walls moved. Despite my attempts to run northwards, towards the front door, I found myself in the Portrait Room. I turned to run but he was there in the doorway. He loomed, blood dripping from his forehead, his face demonic with rage. I had no choice. I ran to the locked door, desperate, and to my delight it opened at my touch. He raced after me, silent, as if on wings, and I looked into the darkness beyond the door. The scream was louder now, and there were more; a host of tortured cries crept out with an icy cold that tried to suck me in, to swallow me. I turned and he was behind me now, still beautiful, terrible. I could not move.

He grabbed me, clasped my arms, his fingers biting my flesh. His eyes bore into me, and I knew I was doomed. He forced me back, into the dark, down into pitch...

And now I am here. He dragged me past what looked like torture chambers, with men and women in shackles, but their screams seemed breathier, the groans were groans of pleasure.

My cell is small. There are no windows down here. When he comes to me he treats me kindly. I cannot hate him. I love him. When I’m alone I hear the pleasured pain of his other lovers and I echo their cries. Waves of bliss wash over me. I shudder to think of him.

But I cannot forget. When I am quiet the stories of the library come back to me. I remember the tales of Nature’s beauty, of kind lovers, of sweet caresses that don’t leave bruises. I remember my lake. I miss the sunshine.

The house hears my thoughts. I’m sure of it. Sometimes my cell door opens of its own accord, when the others are silent, daring me to leave, but I cannot. He needs me. He loves me.

I am growing weaker. He hates my lank hair, my bony frame. I hate that I am shrivelling. I cannot please him like this. I must wash myself.

The door is open. A flicker of torchlight hurts my eyes. Perhaps I can make it to the lake. I need to be clean.

I feel dizzy but I can stand. My fingernails are bloody. I am stumbling forward, towards the light. I can smell freshness. The corridor seems shorter than before. The house is listening. There are no stairs, just a gentle slope to an open door.

The Portrait Room is streaked with moonlight. The windows are open. I can reach the ground outside. The grass is dew-laden. I wander towards the lake. I can wash. I can be beautiful for him again.

The water is warm. I walk in and it soothes my sores. The lake’s bed is soft as sand. The moonlight shimmers about me, in my hair. I remember the night he came for me. I remember his eyes. They seemed so bright. How they’ve changed.

Now I am swimming. Do I need to go back to the house? He will join me, like he did before.

I’ve reached the other side. I hesitate. The water is so warm. I could just sink...

Something pushes me on. I climb upwards, onto the shore. I look back. The house seems so small from here.

The sun is coming up, to my left. Its warm rays are drying my clothes. I stare at the house.

He’s there, at the door. My heart stutters. I love him. My beautiful monster.

I turn. I am walking towards the hills. Maybe he’ll find me there. I hope he does. I’ll be beautiful there.

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