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Beauty and the Beast

By:Jenni James



The prince half sobbed, half howled into the night air—his feeble skin ripped, agonizingly making way for the tormented form to escape. Nearly doubled over, he’d never known such excruciating pain before, and yet the old woman continued to laugh at him.

Her unmerciful cackles pierced his ears louder than his tearing skin.

Sickened and dazed, the transformation ended with a jolt, leaving a deep-rooted throbbing ache throughout his whole form. Everything stung with the awareness of newly stretched and swollen limbs. Taking a ginger step, he practically fell over from the searing nerve endings as they shot up from the soles of his feet to his legs and back. Tender, singed and unprotected newness covered his whole form. He was so preoccupied with trying to cope, he didn’t hear the woman until she repeated herself.

“You’ll be sore for quite some time, so you’d better get used to it.” Her laughter grated again.

“Why?” gasped the prince, “Why me? Why now?” He tried to straighten and turn to meet her gaze more fully, but while attempting to, he stumbled and collapsed. Fire surged through every bone as his raw nerves met the harsh ground. The pain was more unbearable than the transformation. Nausea flooded into his pounding skull and threatened to spew out his throat onto the ground if he didn’t hold as still as possible.

He felt her cane grind into his hip, but he was too weak to acknowledge it.

“You, boy, needed to be taught a lesson.” She jabbed the sharp stick and continued, “Now you will forever know what it feels like to be ugly. Your eyes are too hazy at the moment to even see the figure you’ve become, but when you awaken”—she moved the cane to his inflamed disjointed knee and dug deep into the taut tissue. He flinched and writhed in agony, his howls filling the darkened forest—“and you will awaken. You may wish you were dead, but however, that is not the purpose of such a transformation. You will live through this—it will be several days until you’re healed enough to make it back to your castle, Prince.” She hissed his title as if it were the curse and not her hex. “At that point, when you’re able to crawl up the stately stairs to your fine room, I want you to haul yourself up upon your chiseled table and peer into the looking glass. Take in every inch of your demented form.

“That will be the day you embrace what has truly happened to you and the day you realize what it means to be a hideous beast forever.”

“NO!” he yelped as her cane lashed at his engorged, twisted spine. “Please…” His body convoluted. Nausea swam in dizzying circles until he could no longer focus on anything but the bile rising, aching to relieve itself, as the cane pounded again and again.

The old woman wheezed and thankfully the whacking stopped. She coughed for some time before weakly sputtering out the rest of the curse. “Y-you will be forced to stay this way forever, half man, half beast—unless you find some poor, pitiful female to embrace, accept, and love you for the monster that you are.”

Her breathing became more labored. “You h-have one year to achieve that impossible feat. O-one year from today to ch-change your spoilt habits and become a man. If-if you do not succeed, you will be forced to roam the earth in your gruesome form, terrorizing all who meet you, c-causing them to flee in fear from your presence. Though I must warn you—”

She wheezed again, a huge snarled inhale, which forced a series of bone-rattling hacks from her. They became larger and more pronounced with each cough—precious air forcing its way into her battered lungs.

The prince felt the space around him shift, before he heard the thud of her collapse and the silence that followed.

It was several minutes before he was able to slowly scrape his body against the earth in painful strides enough to see her, and another several minutes before he could move his limbs enough to ascertain that she was indeed dead.

He smiled then, a bitter hate-filled smile.


Cecelia’s eyes fluttered open and she stretched and arched to the glorious sunshine trickling through her window. The day was warm and welcoming—her toes wiggled in excitement under the delicate patchwork quilt her grandmother had especially designed for her. Today was the day she was going to cast off being Miss Cecelia Hammerstein-Smythe, and instead become the girl promised to Lord Charles David Willington, the most perfect man in existence.

She squealed a very unladylike squeal and hopped from the bed, her black braid bobbing and swaying with her. Within minutes she’d washed in the hand basin and without waiting for her maid, dressed in a pretty white morning frock with a lavender sash and adornments. Whirling around like a little girl she watched the dress fan out below her stockings and smiled.

The world was a wonderful place. And she, Miss Hammerstein-Smythe, was very grateful indeed to be a part of it.

With a delightful curtsy to no one in particular and jaunty half minuet step, she made her way to the wardrobe, dipped inside fetching her lavender slippers and placed them quickly upon her very happy feet before tripping lightly down the stairs into her mother’s breakfast parlor to greet Sanford’s impassive countenance.

“Good morning to you too!” she trilled out lightly as she skipped past the butler into the waiting room. “Cook has outdone herself this morning, has she not?” Cecelia giggled. It had to have been for her. The platters loaded on the sideboard were all of her most favorite breakfast foods. And when she turned she saw a huge bowl upon the middle of the table. “Look at that fruit! How could I ever eat half as much food?”

“Well, you know how Mrs. Parnel dotes on you. We’re all fortunate enough she hadn’t the time to go shopping—or we’d be looking at twice as much food.” The butler grinned at his mild humor, before schooling his features into a more appropriate look and annou