It’s time to get Fictional….
She walked up the dust-coated steps that groaned beneath the pressure of her weight.
They spiraled up a high tower, reeking of mold and mildewed cloth. Discolored drapes clung to the cracked window, marking the halfway point. Through the holes in the worn and moth eaten fabric, beams of sparkling gold shed light on just how neglected the old castle was.
She slowly crept up, cautiously aware of the silvery cobwebs dancing beneath the glow of her flashlight. She had nearly reached the top, when she heard a muffled rustling above her. She froze, already on edge for mistrusting the staircase that cried out in agony with the lightest touch of her foot.
The noise began again, like a pet skidding across the floor in the dead of night.
“H-hello?” Her voice echoed throughout the rotting wood beams. The noise paused, momentarily, only to return. Instinct told her run. Run down the creaking staircase, across the dusty floorboards, out the main door, and as far away from this castle as humanly possible.
But another impulse was far stronger and more tempting. It pulled her up the remaining steps and to the attic entrance, towards whatever might be making that unsettling noise.
She slowly walked around on tipped toes, careful not to announce her presence so loudly. She knew she didn’t have the element of surprise, but regardless she wanted to exercise some sliver of caution.
All at once, she crossed the threshold, raised her light, and exclaimed- hoping to stun the intruder.
It stared back at her, with beady eyes and a twitching tail- frozen across the back wall of what appeared to be an old dungeon.
She lowered her flashlight and sighed in relief. It was only a chipmunk, scuttling across his makeshift home.
She went to turn, ready to explore what secrets might lie at the highest point of this castle- but face planted into the soft chest of a stranger.
She screamed and stumbled back, scaring away the woodland creature into a hole in the ground. Her light had slipped out of her hands, now rolling across the floorboards. She shuffled for it, straining her eyes against the darkness.
“Leave it!” A deep growl rumbled, shaking her into brief submission.
She opened her mouth to speak, but found it was suddenly dry and empty. The voice boomed once more, and she shuddered in response.
“What. Are. You. Doing. Here?” The bearer of it seemed to be talking through clenched teeth.
And though she gave much effort to respond, her tongue had seemed to betray her.
He asked again, and that seemed to snap her out of her trance- enough to scoot across the room to where her light had landed.
There was a scuffle, the owner of the voice charging after her. Her hands clasped around the handle, and she pointed it right into the face of….
It wasn’t a large man who stood before her, but a… a monster!
It was a creature with a face covered in fur, with reflective eyes and sharp tusks as large as her hand. He was still before her, just as she was before him.
Get out. A voice whispered inside the base of her skull. Get out! It grew louder. GET OUT! It cried, and she finally obeyed. She darted away from him, heading straight for the stairway.
She leapt down the steps, abandoning the caution she had exercised just moments prior during her ascent.
She could hear the monster calling out for her. The stairs wobbled beneath her, and suddenly gave in. She grasped the air as she fell with them; her stomach lurched as she plummeted towards certain demise.
Something caught the end of her sleeve, and immediately, she hung in the air. Her body swayed- until it crashed right into the far wall. And with a final, silvery spray of dust, she closed her eyes as the light faded away.
She wouldn’t wake up. And that was problematic. It brought to remembrance the one tale he wished he could forget. But, the memory of it seemed to be the only thing that he had left these days.
Dishes clattered in the distance, a stirring of whispers had fallen upon the broken household. They were all, no doubt, curious about the stranger who had invaded their secret corner of the world.
But unlike before, a sense of dread had fallen upon the ruins of his once so enchanted kingdom. They were terrified. And so was he.
For there hadn’t been an outsider in this hidden corner of the world for nearly three hundred years.
The girl finally stirred, and he couldn’t helped but think of how young she appeared. And how old and deadened he had become. As she peeled her eyes open, the minute they fell upon him, she leapt backward.
They sat in stunned silence, staring wondrously at each other- taking the other in. While she was a girl of barely twenty, he as a furry shadow of a man, trapped in a beastly, aching body.
He gritted his teeth as her breathing began to slow, becoming used to the sight of him.
“Let me guess,” she muttered after a slow, agonizing stretch of time. “You’re under a curse and need true love to break your spell?”
He pondered at how to respond- her rebellious, independent attitude caught him off guard. She did, after all, run away from him. Nearly killing herself and him in the process, though he had wished for that fate long ago.
“True love?” He snarled, angered at the mere suggestion. “So you wish to here that I am a prince, trapped in a hideous form, awaiting a pretty girl like you to sing and dance her way into my heart?”
His laugh quickly turned to a menacing growl. “She already came.” He jabbed a finger at his hardened heart. “Clearly, it didn’t work.”
Her curiosity, dangerous and deadly as it was, seemed intrigued enough to simply ask the ghastly man what he meant.
He flashed his teeth in a wicked grimace before indulging her in a tale that seemed as old as time itself.
He spoke to her of a maiden who sold her freedom so cheaply, for just a simple rose. She was kind, but stern. Frightened, yet bold. Foolish, and still cunning. He was mesmerized by the conundrum she was, and that led to the first sparks of a burning love unlike any other.
The flames began to fizzle when she left, promising to return. They were extinguished all together when she did… with an army by her side.
“Who could ever learn to love…” He couldn’t bear to let her finish, nearly dying there of a broken heart.
But his faithful servants stood by him, healed his outer body. They could never mend his heart though, he admitted. No one ever could.
When the tale was over, she noticed how gray his fur was. How worn and crinkled the pads of his paws were. How pained and dead his eyes were.
Beyond the tattered, terrifying shell, she could not help to see the old and broken man within.
She placed a hand on his palm, offering him a genuine smile, before breathing out heartfelt words of understanding sincerity.
“Well, that sucks.”
(what? You thought they’d fall for each other?! He’s over 300 years old!!! That’d be grosser than… Twilight. 🤢 Sickos.)