For my Write...Edit...Publish entry this month, I am offering a fractured fairytale. If you know the story of Beauty and the Beast, you will get some of the references. I struggled with how to finish it, but I think the ending belongs to a longer story, so I had to make do. I hope you enjoy the read...
The brief was...
TIME for the February challenge for WEP. The prompt is - What's in a face?
What comes to your mind - a ghost story? a treatise on the scientific dimensions of the face? a poignant poem? a photo that captures the face? artwork? Whatever strikes you as inspiration, go for it!
February 14 is Valentine's Day. You are welcome to incorporate this romantic day, but it is not mandatory! Just remember to keep your flash fiction or non-fiction to approx. 1,000 words.
Beauty and the Beast
Why are some people blessed with beauty while other poor souls miss out, abandoned to the world with faces that look like they have been kicked, punched and torn by a savage beast? He has heard the expression: kissed by an angel. Well, he was kissed by the Devil when he gushed, kicking and screaming, from his mother’s womb some thirty years hence.
His life lacked beauty from that first moment, but he finally learned the truth from the birthing attendant, Marjorie. “Take this Devil’s spawn from me!” his mother had screamed. “Leave him on an anthill far inside the forest. I hereby name him ‘Beast’!”
Marjorie saved his life, but his mother’s rejection sentenced him to a life of misery. Every time he sees his reflection, he cringes, he hates, he dreams of revenge. His face is like a monster’s, his eyes black as the pitch he collects from the boglands, his hands permanently stained with inky sludge.
As Beast clumps along the muddy laneway, he oft-times examines his reflection in the smudgy shop windows. He is thankful that his hair has been overlooked by the Devil. It is long, curled and sleek from the rain and snow which falls upon him as he huddles in the abandoned garden near Grimwade Bridge.
Beast wakes to another day. Even without rising from his damp bed, he can guess the weather. Real books are denied him, but these are his books: the colour of the sky overhead at dawn, the cries of seabirds over the icy river, the noisy crackle of waves as the tide ebbs and flows.
He runs his work-wrecked fingers through his hair and prepares to leave. He shrugs into his torn black greatcoat which has offered some protection against the night freeze. Will I ever know warmth? He feels the throbbing need for love. Will I ever know the sweetness of a pure woman? The whores of Grimwade aside, what woman would welcome my cracked, broken hands on her soft body? I need a sweet woman to release me from this prison my witch of a mother sentenced me to.
Beast shakes snowflakes from his hair, brushes the white drops from his shoulders, then knocks on the nearest door. He salivates at the vision of the hot gruel the kind mistress will feed him.
He lifts his gnarled fingers to the shiny gold lion’s head and raps on the cheery yellow door. No answer. He tries again, clump, clump, clump. Strange. The kind mistress always opens her door speedily.
He reaches out his arm, then withdraws quickly as he all but touches the face framed in the doorway.
The kind mistress is not at the doorway. Instead…a vision…Beauty…stands before him, dressed from head to toe in a silky robe, spun from sunshine. He beholds a wondrous golden face wreathed in smiles, laughing eyes and perfect white teeth. At the sight of her heart-shaped face framed by a crown of golden hair, he cannot speak. What lies beyond that perfect face?
He steps a little closer, the better to smell her feminine sweetness; a memory of summer strawberries picked in the abandoned garden.
“Good morning, kind sir.” Her voice transports him to the buttresses of the Opera House where he was wont to eavesdrop on the melodies within. “My mother did speak of you, but is currently detained. She asked me to greet you in her stead.” She takes his hand and he feels how soft and small it is clasped within his rough, stiff claw. Beauty blesses him with a sweet smile, one dimple dancing in her cheek, as if her face itself is winking at him.
Perchance she is confusing him with another. He rasps with longing. “I have but pitch for sale, Mistress.”
“Yes, indeed. My mother has waited on you. She said that you never steal from us.”
She misinterprets his silence as he imagines by what trickery he will steal Beauty from her mother’s kitchen.
“Oh dear sir, do come in. Shelter inside awhile. You must be chilled to the bone in this snowstorm. Our furnace rages day and night. When I lie in my warm bed it is like I have died and gone to heaven; I’m in a fairytale world. I never want to wake up. I expect that is why I have never seen you before.” She looks upon his hair. “I am too enraptured by my dreams.”
He watches as the thoughts dance beneath the surface of her skin, wondering at her dreams. He flicks his long tresses so they cover the lower half of his face, hoping she will be enraptured by his glossy mane and overlook his ugly visage.
He follows her into the grand foyer, his hungry eyes ravished by sights such as he has never seen before—tall ceilings trimmed in gold leaf; walls of green silk, the hue of the forest; furniture of the deepest mahogany, like tree branches. He wonders at the single red rose at the window. Is she already betrothed? No matter...
He drops his load beside the crackling fire while thinking - how can people live like this while I, the Devil’s spawn, live with no walls to enclose me? His ceilings are the underbelly of Grimwade Bridge, his furniture crafted from scraps of timber he finds floating in the river. Why does God choose to give all to some and nothing to others?
“Please, kind sir, stand against the fire. Warm yourself while I make you coffee.” She holds out an apple. He crunches it with his sharp teeth.
Soon he feels uncomfortable. He is not accustomed to such a roaring fire, within or without. He has never known what it feels to be too much heated. He begins to think he would prefer the howling gale outside. It becomes just another part of the ordeal he is meant to suffer. But, be damned, I am done with suffering...I deserve to live...I deserve to wear splendid clothes...To sleep with a full belly each night...To sleep beside this sweet woman.
Beauty will know the Beast.
He will teach her.
Life is no fairytale.
- As always, thanks for coming by. I appreciate your visit. I hope you enjoyed my flash fiction. Please leave a comment and suggestions for improvement. Maybe you'll pick up some tense mistakes. It was tricky moving between past, present and future.
- Please click on the names in my right hand sidebar to read more entries for WEP's monthly bloghop. And the invitation is open for you to participate any month that the prompt resonates with you...March is - Through the eyes of a child.
- Don't forget Michelle Wallace's bloghop, Ubuntu, starting on February 18. Click on the image in my sidebar for more info. Mine is done, dusted and pre-scheduled.
- Happy Valentine's Day!