Three figures, drenched from head to toe burst into a house to escape from the storm – Belle and her two sisters. They had fled from their village to escape the wrath of the beast who had set its sights on Belle and would surely be on their trail by now. Hopefully, they had gained enough of a head start. They had just arrived at the neighbouring town seeking momentary refuge from the beast and hopefully a place to stay the night while the storm passed. With its small moat and large gates, the next town was known to be a haven/ safehouse against the beast’s wrath and regular hunting expeditions. But when they got there, the drawbridge was down, and the gate was open with no guards in sight. As they walked through the dark, unlit, deserted town, they were faced with dark shadows of the houses and the trees wildly swaying in the torrential rain. At first, they hoped that, as unusual as it was, everyone must’ve been asleep, hence the complete darkness. It was upon entering the mayor’s residence that they realised something was wrong as the door was ajar and inside, not a soul was in sight. Everything seemed to be in place, but it felt unnatural/ sinister. The group cautiously entered the bleak house hoping to find a sign of human presence but all they got back was eerie silence. Stepping further into the house, they checked all the rooms, from the kitchen to the mayor’s study but found no one. An uneasy feeling settled upon them as they took stock of the situation they were in. “What are the odds that the beast got here before us? It could’ve come here via the woods instead of the road like we did. After all, it does know the woods better than anyone else.” her sister speculated. A tense silence ensued until Belle’s eldest sister broke it “We don’t leave this house until the storm calms down. Lock up the house. Go get something to eat and find beds for yourselves but be alert. It could still be in the town.”
As her sisters got to work, Belle was dealing with her own demons in her mind. Everything went as she had initially planned when she was first taken hostage. She had planned to gain the beast’s trust enough to request a visit to her family during which they could flee and move to a place where the beast wouldn’t be able to find her. After three long months, he trusted her enough to let her visit her family. She had learnt early on during her stay that if she behaved well, she would be subjected to less pain. But through all the torture, manipulation, starvation, and fear she had experienced during her time at the castle, she had come to form an attachment to the creature. She couldn’t understand why she felt the way she did despite the fact that it murdered her father and snatched her away from her family to keep as a trophy of sorts. She couldn’t understand why she felt like she was betraying the beast. She felt ashamed of her thoughts, ashamed that she wanted to go back to the castle after everything her sisters were doing to keep her safe from the beast. As she watched them scout the house and search for food and bedding, she felt guilty towards them for feeling the way she did. No doubt, she had missed them immensely, but she felt a sort of loyalty towards the beast as well. She saw it as a broken lonely creature that needed her. But she also recognised that living with it would only cause more emotional damage to her. She hoped the beast would understand and let her go. And if she was to never see the beast again, she wished to at least say her last goodbyes.
Her mind chaotic and clouded with guilt and shame, she took her cloak and sneakily headed to the main door of the house, deciding to return to the castle and make the journey on foot if necessary. But as she opened the door, she came face to face with the beast. Eyes glowing red and large teeth bared and glimmering in the dim light of the lantern. Sensing her absence and feeling the sudden gust of the freezing wind from outside, Belle’s sisters rushed to the foyer. The beast paid them no heed as it stood at the door, unmoving, with disappointment, betrayal, and hurt clear in its eyes. Her heart tugged painfully but before she could utter a single word, she heard a loud bang from behind her and the next thing she knew, the beast fell on its back. Belle froze as she stared at the beast’s lifeless body with blood splattered across her face for several long moments. Eventually, one of her sisters gently guided her inside the house relieved that their cause for fear and the reason they even set out was no more. The same couldn’t be said for Belle who was in turmoil over the fact that she could not say her last goodbyes to the beast.
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