Short Story by: Shadow Summit
Dark, cold and musty, the only the sound in the room was that of deep, labored breathing. There was a rustling outside the room and then it paused as if waiting. The breathing in the room stopped and there was a moment of silence. The door creaked on its hinges and a faint light streamed into the room. Dust particles floated in the rays of light and a rugged bed could be seen in the back of the room. A large shape was wrapped in worn and torn blankets on the bed and it rose and fell as it breathed. There was a hushed voice from the doorway and the shape shivered slightly. A sharp, clawed hand covered in thick black fur clutched at the blankets, drawing them around their form. The bed creaked and groaned, cracking under the weight of the occupant as he moved.
Feet touched the floor, long nails digging into the wooden boards and short hair covering the otherwise human features. The rest of the floor was covered in deep grooves and the walls were also scratched and the paint peeling from them.
The sheets fell from the furry figure as they took several steps towards the door. A hideous beast was reveal, fangs dripping and bright amber eyes reflected the pale light that glowed from the doorway. His muscular shoulders heaved as he almost stumbled into the hallway outside the bedroom. The beast looked both ways nervously and spotted a grey tail disappear around the corner. The hallway was dim and the endless stone walls didn’t help the matter.
The beast’s claws scratched the stone floor, making a sound that was like nails on chalkboard. His eyes darted from side to side and as he reached the end of the hallway a door was opened slowly. The hinges squeaked and opened into a room that was as pitch black as the bedroom had been.
The beast stepped into the room and the door swung closed behind him. The beast was breathing heavily, his eyes adjusting to the darkness yet again. His ears swiveled, focusing on another sound in the room, that of shallow breathing.
“Have you come to torture me once again?” A female voice asked shakily.
His eyes slowly adjusting, the beast turned to a woman sitting in a chair in the very center of the room. She was beautiful, far more beautiful than any woman the beast had previously met. The woman had slender long legs emerging from a dress that fell far too short for a modest young lady. Dark curls dropped over her shoulders and her arms were tucked behind her back. Dark lashes hid her eyes as they squinted trying to peer through the dark. Her eyes were used to the dark but not with the added benefit that the beast possessed with his animal night vision.
“You’re an ugly, cruel and terrifying beast. Even the light hides from your hideous face,” the woman said shakily.
The beast let out a low rumble from is throat, but remained standing at the door. A quiet sobbing sound started from the chair and the beast was taken aback.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, in a quiet whisper. “Don’t hurt me.”
Curls fell over her face, hiding her eyes from view. The beast shuffled forward cautiously, reaching out his claws slowly towards her. He paused, his paw inches from her face. He let it drop by his side again and stood awkwardly, his eyes studying the girl. The girl continued to sob, curling back in the chair. She was shaking uncontrollably and the beast groaned.
“I’m sorry,” the beast finally spoke.
His voice was low and raspy, and it seemed to echo around the room and the girl recoiled even further. She started crying louder, growing into a scream. The beast flinched back, covering his ears with his claws. He growled angrily, but that just resulted in her full on screeching at him. Her eyes widened in fear and he approached slightly. Another volley of high pitched yells echoed across the stone walls and the beast flinched back again.
“Shut up! Shut up!” the beast roared, his voice seeming to shake the room.
The woman stopped and her head dipped forward again. The beast paced the room and the woman whispered something barely audible.
“What?” the beast snapped, spinning to look at her.
When the girl didn’t speak, he stepped closer to her again.
“I said, I’m sorry,” the girl responded.
The beast relaxed slightly, his shoulder muscles allowing his arms to droop by his side. He began pacing the room, the noise echoing on the stone. The beast’s hair spiked up on his back as a haunting chuckle sent shivers up his spine.
“You are so innocent, yet so incredibly horrible looking. You are perfect,” the woman spoke, in a playful tone. “Even though your mind wants to help, your body is the only thing others will see.”
The beast shivered, glancing over his shoulder at the woman. The woman now sat with her leg crossed over one another and she ran one hand through her hair. A sly smile spread across her lips, her face raised revealing cat-like green eyes.
The woman clicked her fingers and the beast was blinded momentarily as five torches flickered to life around the room. A grey tailed creature scurried forward and crawled up onto the woman’s shoulders. The creature was much like a squirrel or ferret and its beady eyes blinked at the beast. The woman pet the creature, as she continued to smile slyly at the beast.
“You were such a handsome human too. Are you angry? Angry at those who ran from you, screaming in terror? Are you angry at your parents, who threw you away like trash?” the woman asked her smile growing as the beast shivered.
“Why should I be angry?” the beast answered quietly.
“Well, you think you know people, but they run when you aren’t your handsome self.”
“I would run from me too,” the beast answered evenly. “I’ve been turned into a beast, a beast so hideous that even dragons would turn their faces from me.”
“Perhaps, but I love you this way,” the woman purred. “Even I shivered when I first saw you.”
“I do not need, or want your love.”
The beast clenched his fists, but his own claws dug into his flesh and blood dripped onto the floor. The woman just watched the drops splatter on the ground, her eyes flickering with an evil glint.
“Have I angered you, my dear beast? Do wish to hurt me?” the woman asked slowly.
“I am upset, but I would never hurt anyone,” the beast said firmly with a growl.
“Not even if you are defending yourself?” the woman hissed.
The woman sprung forward, a blade seeming to appear in her hand. The beast was taken by surprise, the blade slashing through the fur on his shoulder and biting into his flesh. The beast dodged another blow, running to the door. The door would not budge and the beast saw the flash of the knife as the woman swung at him again.
“Turn and fight me, beast. You have the body of one, use it to your advantage!” the woman said.
“This is not my body!” the beast huffed, running to the other side of the room.
“It is now, you may as well get used to it.”
“I am not a monster, although you seem to want me to be one.”
“Ah, you are smart. If you understand, then please oblige me and lash back!”
The woman dodged forward her movements so swift that the beast once again received a deep cut to his shoulder. It was in almost the identical spot to the other wound and blood streamed out, soaking the fur with the rich red. The beast howled and shuffled close to the ground, his other arm nursing the wounded shoulder. His eyes scanned the room frantically, looking for shelter or an escape. The beast growled and came to a halt, pausing and turning towards where the woman was casually wiping the bloody blade.
“Are you ready to fight?” the woman asked, flipping the blade.
The beast growled, but instead of attacking he knelt to one knee and bowed his head. The woman raised an eyebrow and clenched her jaw in annoyance.
“I’m afraid you’ll just have to kill me then, because unfortunately your magic has no effect on my heart,” the beast said. “I’ll never become like you want me to. So give up.”
“Is this a challenge?” the woman hissed.
“No, just the surrender of your prey, who is ready to accept their fate,” the beast replied calmly.
“Very well,” the woman grinned. “But it will not be a quick death.”
The woman ran forward with every intent to drive the blade deep into his opposite shoulder. The beast waited, watching her approach until the very last second. With only moments to spare, he dodged, pushing from his knees to spring out of the way. The woman was not prepared and her eyes widened as the chair was revealed behind where the beast was kneeling.
The beast spun around to see if the woman was knocked off balance even as he made his way to the door. He paused however, his brow furrowing and his feet refusing to budge.
The grey creature, who had retreated to one corner, scurried forward to its mistress, licking at her cheek nervously. The woman gasped, her breaths jagged and short. She rolled onto her back and her eyes were wide with shock. The hilt of the knife she had been wielding was the only thing left sticking out of her chest. Dark liquid seeped from the wound and she lifted one of her hands to feel it.
The beast ran forward, just as the woman drew the blade from her own chest. The woman’s eyes flickered in confusion as the beast tore a strip from her garment. The beast wrapped the cloth into a wad and immediately put pressure on the woman’s wound.
“Shit…shit,” the beast swore, glancing at the wound as it quickly soaked the cloth.
“So it seems you ended up hurting me,” the woman said, spitting up her own blood.
“I’m sorry, just hold on and I’ll try and stop the bleeding,” the beast said, tearing a new piece of cloth.
“Don’t apologize,” the woman ordered, with a sneer. “You’re not savage at all.”
The wound didn’t stop bleeding and the woman began choking on her own blood. The beast kept pressure on the wound but the damage had been done.
“You’re a beast,” the woman muttered weakly.
“I know,” the beast answered simply.
Warm tears dripped onto the woman’s face as the beast leant over her, trying desperately to save her.
“You cry for your innocence, for I do not deserve your tears,” the woman said.
The beast didn’t answer, yet his amber eyes just looked into her green ones. The tears continued to roll down his snout and onto her cheeks.
“Don’t you want to see me suffer, I have tortured you after all,” the woman said, turning her face away.
“Nobody deserves to be killed,” he responded seriously.
“Not even me?” she asked gritting her teeth.
He paused for a moment and looked down at the woman. She had hurt him beyond anything any human should ever have to experience. He however, could not hold anything against her. Not because of sympathy, or because he was a good person, but because it was the only way he would be able to move forward. He would be consumed with the rage and pain if he didn’t just forget about it.
“Even you,” he confirmed in a whisper.
The woman smiled weakly, and shook her head. She reached up, her hands covered with her own blood, and caressed his cheek gently.
“To think I was defeated by you,” the woman said. “I wanted to break you, but it seems your heart and soul are far too strong.”
Suddenly the room shook and the stone began to crumble. The beast stood glancing around in surprise as a stream of dust crumbled onto his head.
“We have to get out of here,” the beast said hurriedly.
The beast kneeled to pick up the woman, but her bright green eyes warned him off. The grey creature wrapped around the woman’s neck as if it was comforting her.
“I will not be leaving this place, but you, you are free to leave,” the woman said. “You will never be a beast. You were pure hearted from the beginning, so much so, that when I saw you I felt challenged to break you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, we can discuss this later,” the beast growled.
“They say a beast can be created, but in your case I don’t believe it is true,” the woman spoke slowly. “I will die here. I will be buried with my wretched castle.”
“No!” the beast yelled.
Even as he called out, the woman burst into a cloud of black dust. The wall opened up on one side and the rolling countryside was revealed. Even as the black dust floated around the continuously crumbling room, the beast began to feel a change in his body. His claws retracted, his fangs and face returning to what it had been before the woman had cursed him. His now handsome face still had tears dripping down his cheeks. He glanced around, but the roof was beginning to give way. The beast, or the man who had been the beast, stepped through the opening and began walking away.
He didn’t glance back, even as the woman’s large grey stone castle crumbled behind him. He never returned to the mountain where he was kept. He returned to his family, who were worried after his disappearance on the same night as ‘The Beast Attack’. He never touched a blade, nor did he ever intentionally hurt anyone. The woman had said that she didn’t think he’d ever be a beast, and he was intent on showing her that it was true. A beast of body he had been, but a beast of heart and soul, well, that was never to be.
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