Belle, part 1 of 3 - Cat and Mouse

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

Belle crouched in the corner, her fingers raw from scrambling across the stone floor. The Beast lurked somewhere nearby. She couldn’t tell exactly where, but she didn’t doubt it knew where she was.

It found her first in the forest. She’d been looking for her father. She hadn’t realized she’d wandered so close to the manor. She wasn’t too concerned about it anyway. Everyone knew the stories about the Beast of the manor, but many brushed them off as fairy tales. There were those who swore they were true, that she shouldn’t dismiss them. Well, she did. And now look at her—running around the old abandoned home like a mouse from a cat, desperate for a way out.

It just dragged her in and left her there. Other than the bite on her arm, it had left her relatively unharmed. She’d thought she’d been abandoned, that the beast was too full from whatever else it had eaten. There was plenty of evidence that it wasn’t going hungry. But as soon as she climbed to her feet and made a move for the door, it was there again, barring the door and inching her back with its growls. When she tried to run, it would swat her back and forth like a plaything.

Eventually, Belle found one place the Beast wouldn’t go. It was a hall in the west wing. Something about it seemed to scare it away. No windows. No light. An abandoned hall that smelled of rot. She’d stayed there for a while. A day or two. It may have even been hours. She couldn’t get a solid grasp of time here with all the moments spent running for her life. But soon, the hunger grew too strong, the thirst too dire. She had to leave her refuge.

First, she tried to escape again when she thought the creature was sleeping. But it never slept—or it did so with one eye open and an ear perked because it was always there in a moment, ready to stop her and chase her back to her hiding place.

Another time, she made a move for the kitchen. She didn’t expect to find anything to eat in there that wasn’t a few years past poison. But there was a spigot to a well somewhere. The pipe was rusted and she rummaged to find something to prime it, having to settle for vinegar from dusty jars. When she finally pumped it, the sound was grating. The noise made her heart race as fast as it had during any one of her chases with the Beast. She quickly filled the jars and turned to leave. And the Beast was there, sitting inside the kitchen, just near the door. It didn’t move.

She dropped one jar at the sight of it. Glass shattered across the dirt-strewn floor, but she held to the other two. Slowly, she crossed to the door, eyes on the Beast. It watched, long rumbling breaths rolling around in its throat. Its head turned to follow her, but the creature stayed sitting. Content, seemingly, for her to get what she needed to keep her strength up. To keep running. To stay entertaining.

When she got back to her corridor, she dropped to the ground and drank deeply from the jars. The water tasted like metal and mold. It was the best thing she’d ever drunk in her life. When the second jar was empty, she set it aside and curled her knees up to her chest, absently scratching at the marks on her arm. It burned most of the time and was turning an unpleasant color. She was so thirsty she’d nearly forgotten about it.

She couldn’t keep running. Her stomach twisted in knots from hunger and her wounds itched where they hadn’t quite healed right. She didn’t want to be in the dark, anymore. Shielded from the light and unable to sleep for fear of being set upon by the monster. And even if she were to escape the manor, she wouldn’t make it far. Reaching the door was difficult enough. Moving beyond the grounds would be impossible. She really only had one choice. It was just like the books she read growing up described. The way creatures built their hierarchy in the wild. Kill or be killed...

Either would be better than this.

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