Beauty and the Beast, part 1 - MMM

For my fifth installment of May Monster Madness I present you with the first part
of a two-part horror short story. It is one I wrote long ago, but it has taken me
a while to translate it into English. I will post the second and final part tomorrow.
Please excuse any mistakes :)

Beauty and the Beast

       My escort is still talking. Does not the gentleman need to take a breath now and again? I fan some fresh air unto my face and try to reassemble an interested expression. Mid-sentence the man suddenly lifts a long finger and points to himself, while he arches what he undoubtedly thinks is a charmingly inquisitive eyebrow, to underscore his point. As expected of me, I smile and give a slight nod. Why cannot he stop talking, and offer to fetch us some refreshments instead? I try to check myself, but soon my eyes start to wander the ballroom. The orchestra is playing a waltz and beautiful skirts whirl past us where we stand. I cannot understand it. I am usually fond of such events as these, but tonight I just feel tired.

The man sitting on the chair to my left fetches up another glass of champagne as a tray passes our faces. I wish I had the courage to act in the same manner, my throat is so dry. My escort does not pick up on my longing looks and the next moment the tray has vanished in a sea of starched tailcoats, waxed mustaches, laced bodices and soft locks of hair. I turn my face towards the dance floor and look upon red faces and happy smiles. Suddenly the dancing couples separate and on the other side of the ballroom two dark eyes meet mine. I look down, try to shake away the image of what I have just seen. Brown curls and a well tailored jacket over broad shoulders. That raw and intense gaze, fixated on me. But it is no use, a few moments later I lift my head to search the crowd. Who was that?

My escort has finally understood that he has lost my attention and falls silent. I forget to hide my surprise as I turn to him and he repays me with a stern look. A restlessness is spreading through my body and I find myself too befuddled to offer any real apology. Instead I excuse myself and head for the powder room. On my way through the crowds of people I discreetly look for the man with the dark curls, but he is nowhere to be found. An irrational thought comes over me: It is a game. He is hiding from me, playing with me.

While I examine the somewhat unfamiliar face in the mirror, two older ladies enter the powder room, gossiping loudly about the financial status of our host. Their high pitched voices are like angry birds in my head. Did it become warmer in here? Like the man accompanying me this evening, the women will not stop talking. My discomfort grows and for a moment I think I am going to be ill. I am suddenly overcome with a longing for fresh air so strong that I fling the door open and burst out of the powder room. I push past some servants and rush down the stairs, forgetting my coat as I pull open the main entrance doors. I catch only glimpses of the surprised looks I am receiving, and hear only fragments of the things that are said around me: “...no way to behave...young lady..” but I don't slow down until I have reached the gates to the park across the street from the house.

As I draw deep breaths of the damp night air I start to feel better. I look around half-heartedly for a carriage, but my gaze lingers on the gates to the park and I stare into the darkness. Somehow the park seems.. inviting. I have never walked in the park after nightfall, but my house is just on the other side. There might be a different, more cautious, voice trying to be heard in the back of my mind, but I cannot make out the words. I push open one of the gates, surprised and delighted by my decision. My behavior is on par with the rest of the evening; I was insolent to my escort and rude to the host couple. Why not add foolhardy to the list? The prospect of ten minutes alone, unescorted - ten minutes of freedom - almost makes me dizzy.

Halfway through the park my delight and excitement have waned, and are slowly being replaced by worry. Any moment now, I am certain to run into a thief or a thug. I curse myself for my rash behavior. What had I been thinking? Every little sound; a rustling in the leaves, the screech of a night bird - causes me to twitch and speed up my steps. When I reach the narrow lane with refreshment stands that have been boarded up for the winter I am almost running. Then I hear a sound that I know is made by something else than birds or a small animal. I freeze in my step, not to listen better, but because the sound is coming from somewhere right in front of me. Only a few steps away, from behind the last stand in the row.

I stand absolutely still with all my senses on high alert, but the night has fallen silent once again. My memory is working hard trying to remember and classify the sound, but it is failing. It had not been the sound of footsteps, or the sound of lovers sneaking away for a secret kiss. All I am sure of is the lasting sensation of something being wrong about the sound, that it simply did not fit in somehow. When I hear it again I realize that I have been waiting to exhale. The sound cuts through the calm night, the compact darkness and my treacherous solitude. A horrible crushing or snapping, followed by a wet tearing noise that knocks the wind out of me. Before I can stop myself I have let out a wince and something in the air around me instantly changes. The next moment I am standing face to face with a monster.

To be continued...

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10 kommentarer:

  1. The writing is very good, and I wouldn't have thought it was translated. It would have been nice to have some dialog rather than all inner thoughts. Adding dialog and smells, textures (the five senses) would have made the ball come to life. Looking forward to tomorrow. :-)

    1. Thank you! You know it's funny, I don't really like dialog, not to read and not to write. But I know others do :)

  2. Like Roland said - what a place to stop! I can't wait to read Part Two!! :D

  3. A compelling tale, I like your style. I eagerly await the next part :).

    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles

  4. I love how you used tiny details to put us in the mood of era. Like the fact that she is half-dying of thirst, but won't grab a drink because it's not proper.

    Write on...

    1. Thank you Magaly. It's a little bit of a struggle making it work in English - I rely heavily on things I've heard in Austen adaptations, Downton Abbey and the like :)


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