by Terron James
My life was usually boring. Every second droned past in a common blur. Occasionally—and I do mean without any hope of frequency—the scene would change. Instead of seconds, people would pass by. Just as slow. Just as common. They rarely stopped. They barely even glanced in my direction. They were terrified of what lay hidden above my shoulders. Don’t misunderstand me. It wasn’t my speared crest or my cold steel. It wasn’t even my menacing blackness. It was the vision I protected. What lay hidden behind me. I could see it in their eyes. They were grateful for me. For the barrier I provided. My job was to keep people out, but sometimes I wondered if it was the other way around. Few crossed past me, but far less ever returned. Sometimes I could hear their screaming. Most times I heard nothing at all.
My Master had a bad reputation. Much worse than mine. Twice as sharp and thrice as cold. He had no friends. Only contacts. A herald here. An embassy there. The rest were usually bound in irons, too poor and too stupid to know any better. They should have paid their taxes. They should have found a way. If nothing else, they should have run away. As far away as possible.
That’s why the wretch surprised me. I’ll never forget that night. A raging thunderstorm had descended, leaving me engulfed in thick, wet darkness. A woman appeared on the road, hunched over and clinging to a gnarled staff. The toes of her ragged boots left long lines in the mud as she dragged each foot forward. She trudged up the road with no apparent destination.
I sunk into the darkness, hoping to remain unseen.
It’s times like those when I wished I could talk. The woman’s wrinkled eyes peered up at me from under her drenched wool cloak. She set her pursed lips and turned in my direction. Moments later, she was rapping on my face. I willed her away, but it was no use. The sentry let her in and escorted her to the keep. To my Master.
I knew I’d never see her again. I was right… well, in theory.
A woman did eventually return a decade later, but it wasn’t the same woman. At least she didn’t look the same. If anything, she was the exact opposite. She held no torch, but glowed with a bright, yet tainted light. While rain poured down from the heavens, not one drop touched the satin in her emerald gown or the tight curls of her red hair. Mud fled from her velvet slippers, along with all other signs of darkness. Except for the silhouette behind her. It thrashed through the shadows, writhing in pain and snarling its protest. It wasn’t until later that I learned the horrible beast was my Master.
Forgive me. I shouldn’t speak of my Master that way. He was a good man… a good… a…
Where was I? Ah yes. My mouth hung open in a wide gape and my Master followed the fairy past me. He hugged her ring of light, desperate and pleading. She turned and scowled at me, then tapped her staff on a rock and disappeared.
People say everything changed after that, but I never saw much of a transition. My Master looked a bit different. That’s about all.
Then the merchant showed up—and left again with a wagon full of prized jewels and linens. The beautiful rose in his hand caught my attention the most. My Master loved and protected his garden, so I naturally suspected the merchant was a thief. Then I saw my Master following after the wagon, waving his paw and baring his sharp teeth in an uncanny smile. My Master’s actions were strange, but his presence was even more unnerving. He never left the keep. Never.
I didn’t understand what happened that night. Not until the young woman returned.
She introduced herself as Belle, the merchant’s daughter. The dots finally connected for me. Even as a beast, my Master still longed for a queen. So he bought one. Belle would be his wife.
I have only disobeyed my Master’s orders once, on the night Belle ran away. Her tear-filled eyes reflected off the mirror in her hand. It was too much for me to bear. Even with my Master’s prized ring around her finger, I had to let her go. I just had to.
I never saw Belle return, but she must have climbed over a wall. Only two weeks after she ran away, wedding bells rang from inside the keep. I suspected that the stablemaster’s brat had been causing mischief again, but then my Master appeared. He had changed back into his original self and Belle was at his side with a shimmering crown on her head.
For the second time since my creation, I gaped at my Master and he hurried past me with a stunning woman. I’m glad to say that Belle never disappeared. I don’t think I could’ve handled the strain it would have put on my Master. My old hinges are just that. Too old.
* * * * *
The purpose of this exercise was to push myself past my limits. To try something new as I retold a fable, myth, fairytale, or moment in history with an unexpected point of view. I chose the original story of Beauty and the Beast (not to be confused with the corrupted version of Disneyfication).