The Keeper (19)

Three whole days and nights had passed since Mona retuned home from her father’s funeral. Three whole days and nights had passed since she stayed in her bedroom, barely coming out to do chores her siblings demanded of her. They cursed her and called her lazy, everything they could do to get her to do the chores they’d rather not do, which was pretty much all the chores really. Mona didn’t care, not anymore. Her father had been right. They didn’t care about anyone other than themselves. No wonder he had wanted her to leave, to get away from the ‘leeches’ as he often referred to them in their absence.  It so happened one afternoon, Mona was called a ‘disgusting and selfish being’ for not attending to their every whim. She could barely believe they even realized or cared that their father was dead. From the moment they had come back from the funeral, they were far too busy dividing, fighting and bickering over who gets what. Belle had simply just grabbed her father’s favorite cap and walked in to her room, closing the door behind her and shutting out the hurt. 
Three days later, sitting there on the floor, she caught a glimpse of light skimming on something below the bed and fetched it, cutting her finger sharply on the broken glass of the mirror she’d missed when cleaning up her room. She stared at the sliver and broke down crying. Why had she even left the castle? Why had she left the Beast? Her father was happy and healthy when she was away, knowing she was finally free. Her coming back had caused him illness. 
She cried, gently stroking the reflection on the piece. ‘I wish I had never come back here. I wish I had never come back here!’ 
‘Belle,’ she heard the gentle, yet deep rumble of the voice she’d learned to love, though it now was filled with an unknown pain. ‘My dear, Belle.’
She looked up, half expecting that he were standing in front of her in her tiny room. In stead, she found herself in a dark, barely lit hall of some sort, all but a small candelabra on the mantle. She could feel a draft of cold icy wind sneaking in, and could barely see his outline against the dark. ‘Oh Beast, how I missed you!’ 
She pushed herself off the floor and ran to him. ‘Truly missed you, despite myself!’ She threw herself at him as if he were the closest thing she had. He winched as she did. ‘You’re hurt?’
He shook his head. ‘Just tired.’
‘I don’t believe you.’ She glared through the dark, unable to judge. She reached for the candelabra and brought it to closer to him, and watched him slink away. ‘Come into the light. Let me see you.’ And as he did, a gasp escaped her. ‘What have you done? You look different.’
‘He is dying.’ A voice beside her said, catching her with fright. She turned, suddenly to see the candelabra come to life in her hands. ‘But master is too proud to say this to you.’
Belle let out a squeak. She had heard that voice before, always thinking it belonged to ghosts that haunted the castle. ‘You speak?’

‘We all do.’ Lumiere said, wriggling out of her hands, and within his lights reach, more tools and ordinary objects began to come to life.

‘You must save our master, Belle. You must save our master.’
Belle could only stare in disbelief. 

The Keeper (18)

The silent of the room only stretched. Mona half expected him to hover behind her and speak as if he were part of darkness itself. Almost a month it had been now, and restless she tossed and turned half the night, unable to shake the feeling. Something was going on. If only she knew what. She tossed one last time before flinging herself off the bed and edging towards the giant ornate trunk that stood at the foot of the bed. It had simply appeared in her room and inside, her belongings from the enchanting place were neatly placed. 
She dug through it aimlessly. Half its content had already been plundered by her sisters. What remained were the odd pieces of material, dresses that would only fit Mona’s petite frame and a few brash trinkets. Her hand brushed an ornate handle of something and she fished it out from the bottom of the chest; a small vintage hand mirror with a chip or two in the oddly pewter tinged mirror. She had never seen it before. It was not something from her room. 

Something about its enamel inlay captured her and she took it back to bed with her, flipping it absentmindedly in her hands till sometime in the morning she fell asleep with it laid across her chest. Her hand still clutching the handle.

‘Mona? Get up. We have to get to the hospital and visit dad.’ Estella, her eldest sister’s nasal voice woke Mona up and she found herself holding the mirror up, something flashing across its surface. She pulled the mirror closer and glanced into it. Curious. It was showing her a room she’d once been in, Lucifer’s room. 
‘What are you showing me?’ She questioned, sitting up in bed, the mirror clutched in both hands. ‘What do you want me to see?’

The image suddenly became sharp, as if she were in the room itself. There was a figure huddled over the edge of the bed. It was Beast. He looked odd, something about the way he held the bed post for support. 

‘Master, you need to get out of this room. Some fresh air might help you.’ A familiar but body-less voice came from behind and Mona instinctively looked over her shoulder only to see her wall. 
Beast grunted somewhat of an agreement and ambled along on a cane, struggling to reach the door. 
‘Would you like your dinner brought out to the garden?’
He stood at the doorframe, and through struggling breaths managed to say ‘No.’ His voice gruffer than before and full of pain. He turned directly to the mirror as if he could see Mona through it. ‘Fetch me only if the lady returns.’

‘Wait,’ she whispered, silly as it was. ‘What is wrong with you?’ She traced his retrieving form on the smooth surface. 

‘Mona Belle!’ She heard the shrieking of her sisters and the door burst open only to startle her awake in bed, the handle of the mirror still in hand. She couldn’t help but turn the mirror to face her in the hope that the she could see the Beast through it, but nothing.
‘It’s dad. He’s gone.’

The last thing Mona remembered hearing was the shattering of the mirror as it fell to the floor in her rush to leap out of bed. 
‘No. No. Daddy!’



Balen stood at the edge of the roof several feet above street level. The tips of his shinny leather boots poked out into the night sky. His dark leather cloak flapped like a bat’s wing behind him, and his skin still glistened from the sweat trickling down his blood stained face. His dark eyes focused on the street below with intensity. He could make out a four-horse drawn carriage pulling up outside the hotel and a couple stepped out in style. The size of the woman’s hat spoke immensely of their wealth. 

Catherine Bigums. Until last year, she was a pauper forced to put her three children up for sale for she could no longer afford to feed them. A year later, she was married to one of the richest man in Motown. Her children were still in the orphanage where she’d placed them, and the missing case of her ex-husband was no longer missing. Mr Joel Bigum had been discovered dead a fortnight ago in a small town thousand miles away by a sheep dog out on a farm. The only identity on him had been a fading photograph of three children with their names written on the back.

Balen jumped off the edge and headed down to the theatre level through the stairwell. He needed to observe Catherine close up. See what story her face revealed. Catherine wasn’t Bigum’s style. Her angular face and skeletal figure hardly inspired any curiosity in him. A body of a woman half wasted, not one for a mother of three. Why ex-Mrs Bigums hadn’t claimed her three children begged an answer and Balan knew he had a task ahead. 
He followed the woman and her new husband, Mr Watkins down the street. He followed them through the town centre, pausing in the shadows as the woman made several stops oohing and aahing at trinkets by the shop windows, shimmying through shops as if she were made of money. And whatever she fancied her husband obliged by making a purchase, only to have her gush as his kindness. It all made Balan feel sick. 
It was close to midnight that the couple reached home and Balan stood in the shadows of tree across the road eyeing the house for several hours. ‘Do you see it?’ The soft whisper broke the silent night and Balan to his surprise found himself under the shadows of a tree sprite. 
‘Tell me you see it too!’ The tiny green smoke of a figure whooshed out in front of him and floated there in the air. A sliver of smoke still anchoring it to the ancient tree. ‘I’ve noticed this house for a while now. Curious little thing. Too bad I can’t simply make my way over there to examine it.’

Balan considered the sprite. ‘How long has that been there?’

The sprite shrugged his shoulders. ‘Oh you know, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe a year, maybe more. These things are hard to say.’

Balan clasped his fist around the sprite’s neck, watching it whither and struggle. ‘How long has it been?’
‘A year. A year!’ He struggled and Balan let it go. ‘Ever since that thing has moved in.’

Balan ducked into the shadows of the tree and put his camouflage up as a car pattered past them and turned into a driveway few doors down. 

‘Do you know what it is?’ Balan peeled himself away from the tree and his barks fell away from his torso. 

The sprite nodded. ‘I haven’t seen one in a long while. They used to call them the Black Widows back then. Nasty little things they used to be before they were restricted to the forest dwellings.’ 

‘What’s it doing this far out of its territory?’ 

‘Whatever it is, it bodes ill for that human.’ The sprite slunk back into the tree. ‘Last time one of these came out was almost 300 years ago. The most demonic thing I’ve seen all my life and that’s saying something. Almost killed them all off, those stupid humans.’

Balan stood by the edge of the footpath and studied the strange green gossamer tendrils whistling about the property, snaking out of windows and doors, and floating up from the chimney. ‘And how did they stop it?’ 

‘I have no idea. Seeing how I’m rooted to one spot, I can only tell you what I heard, and this far out, I wasn’t hearing much back then.’

Balan crossed the street and looked up at the facade of the double story house. The lights had been off for a while now and he assumed they’d gone to bed. He took a few more steps towards the house only to have one of the tendrils flick him away viciously. He flew across the road and crashed into the bush at the front of the house there. The wind knocked out of him. It took him a while to catch his breath and get back up on his feet. 

He glared at the house sickly aware that those tendrils of gossamers were nothing akin to spiders, but a rather strong ward against the other side. His side. The Keepers of Light. As he came to once again stand under the sprite’s tree he couldn’t help but notice a figure by the top window, it’s slightly glowing eyes set on him with a mischievous grin on its black face. 

‘Whatever magic that is, it’s not from our…’

‘Realm.’ Balan finished in awe. 

(Inspired by the accompanying photo prompt.)

The Keeper (17)

Something was falling gently from an ornate ceiling and Mona was mesmerized. She lay in her bed knowing that she was hallucinating but she didn’t care. She’d been inclined to day dreaming a lot since she got her freedom back. Yet something didn’t feel right. Part of her wished she was back in Lucifer’s strange but wonderful home. Part of her thought she was crazy, and that part was probably right.

Instead of forcing herself to snap out of the day dream, she embraced it. All its magic, all it’s obscurity that there could be beautiful red rose petals falling down towards her from the dark ceilings but never quite reach her. She’d extend her arms up to reach them part way but they’d vanish before they ever touched her. Strange, she thought. She was not much of a rose fan and here she was, enchanted by a hallucination that somehow made her think about beast.

‘I wonder what you’re doing right now.’

An image of a lonely man walking around the grounds of Lucifer’s home pierced the floating image above her briefly. The man languished away from her vision, assisted by a cane. Mona followed as if she were walking right behind him. ‘Master, it’s time. You need to ask her. Maybe she will say yes.’

The man turned partially. ‘I will not put this on her.’ He looked a little familiar.
‘But master. Beauty may say yes.’

She stopped. Were they talking about her? But who were they? The man rested by the dying apple trees in the orchard. He turned, a hopeless smile on his handsome, yet tired young face. It was the man from her dreams, the one that asked her to marry him for he only had a fortnight, whatever that meant. ‘And what are the chances of that, Mr Lighthouse, for a monster like me?’
‘But you’re not a monster,’ Mona uttered under her breath as she stared at the young man floating above her bed, and for a moment there she thought he heard, for the look in his eyes intensified. Something familiar about them, like she’d seen those eyes before. But where?

‘Belle!’ Came the frantic screaming of her sisters and as much as Mona wanted to stay there and look into the eyes of her dream she had to leave. ‘Something’s happening to daddy!’
The dream bubble burst immediately and though she felt torn, Mona ran out her room double quick to find her siblings hovering over their fitting father instead of calling for an ambulance.
Mona paced to and fro of the disinfectant smelling corridor. She’d had countless teas and coffee from the waiting lounge. She couldn’t sit and wait, nor calmly go home like her brothers and sisters had done. It was their father in an ICU recovering from a massive heart attack.

‘You’re father is asking for you Miss.’
Mona nodded at the nurse who’d come out just to let her know. She wiped her tear streaked face dry and calmed down before going in.

‘Quiet a scare you gave us.’

Her father stared at her a long moment. ‘Tell me about this Beast. Is he truly terrifying?’

‘Daddy. You should be resting.’

‘Did he treat you well? Gave you food? Clothed you?’ He stared at her. ‘My dear Belle, was he kind to you?’

Something made Mona burst into tears. Perhaps it was that she had almost lost her father, or perhaps it was that what her father asks were all true and so she suddenly missed her friend very much so, missed him like never before.

‘He was too kind, daddy.’ She cried into his palm. ‘Too kind.’

‘Then what are you doing here my child?’ He wiped her tears. ‘You have very little time.’

Her father smiled at her reassuringly and fell into a gentle sleep, leaving Mona wondering. What did he mean by she had very little time? Little time to do what?

‘I only have a fortnight…’ The young man’s voice echoed in her head and his eyes covered her vision, those familiar honey coloured eyes.

‘Who are you?’ She muttered that night in bed as sleep took hold of her. ‘Tell me who you are? Why do I feel like I know you?’

‘It’s me, Belle.’ He said in that familiar voice. If only she knew where she’d heard it before. ‘It’s me.’

‘Beast?’ Into the night she spoke. ‘Is that truly you?’

The Keeper (Part 16)

The days that followed weren’t exactly easy for Mona, nor were the nights. During the day, she suffered, watching her father wither inch by inch into his skeleton. His cough worsening. 

‘Why don’t you let me take you to the doctors, Dad?’ Mona had begun to lose patience. ‘Your coughs sound terrible!’

‘I’m fine, Belle. You go back to your work!’ And equally, her father was getting stubborn.
And between looking after him and the other children of the house, Mona was beginning to wish for some comforts her stay at Beast’s had provided. 
It wasn’t the daylight that worried her as much, it were the nights. The terrible nightmares that left her trembling awake. Night after night, she’d been dreaming of Lucifer. And night after night, the dreams got darker and darker and he grew less and less like a beast, but a man. A man suffering. Till one night she woke in such fright, yelling his name into the cold air. 
‘Lucifer?!’ She murmured in the dark. For days, she had tried speaking to him, or the voice of him in her head, but for days he’d remained quiet. This night, it was different. This night, she’d seen him die, or the man he’d become die. The dark corridors of his palace unlit. The rooms once filled with unexplained life now soulless. The voices she’d hear in the corridor gone. Nothing remained but a beast who grew weaker and weaker dream by dream till he stopped roaming the hallways. Till all that remained between her and him was the wall of thorns, the door she’d once seen. This night she’d heard his agony from beyond the door like so many nights. This night, she’d gone in. The next night, his moans and groans had fallen silent like never before. That night, the man lay dead. 
‘Lucifer.’ She called gently into the night, her eyes barely making out the shadows in her room. ‘Are you there? Can you hear me?’

Moments stretched as eons and finally his voice broke through, feeble. ‘Yes, beauty. For now…’

Mona squinted her eyes. Was that a flicker of his shadow along the wall. ‘Are you okay?

For the briefest moment, his eyes glowed red. ‘Never better. You? Enjoying your stay?’
Mona rose from her bed slowly. ‘I don’t think you are okay.’ She could hear his laboured breathing as she stepped closer. ‘Won’t you tell me what’s wrong?’

‘Sleep, dear Mona. Sleep.’ His voice floated and echoed around her head. And then he was gone. 

‘Beast? Are you still there?’
Mona couldn’t sleep all the rest of the night. Something untoward was happening and she could feel it. She flew around in a trance all day, from getting breakfast in bed for her father, to getting ready for work. She couldn’t make sense of her worry. Beast was fine. She was sure of it. 

She found a seat on the train and soon, let the restless night catch up with her.

‘Have you come?’ Lucifer asked quietly from beyond the glaring white light. 

Mona blinked till her eyes adjusted. The room was dusky, the curtains still drawn. The massive four poster bed loomed ahead of her and she recalled the ghastly thing she’d once seen on it. This time, there was no sign of anyone, bar the slept in bed.

‘Come closer.’ Mona stepped closer to the head of the bed but remained at arms length. It wasn’t till she saw a striking young man drowned by the folds. His honeyed eyes locked on her with a sly smile. ‘Don’t tell me I still terrify you?’ He laughed, a rough, raspy laugh.
‘Who are you?’ Mona gasped. ‘You sound just like him…’ She dared step closer. ‘Just like him.’

The man smiled. ‘Name’s Lucifer, according to you and many others, but I once used to be called Lucian.’
Mona knew she was staring but she couldn’t help it. Where was beast? She knew she didn’t much like him, but she’d somehow grown fond of him in a way. He was a friend. ‘Where is Beast? What have you done with him?’

Lucian heaved a heavy breath. ‘I cannot tell you.’
Mona narrowed her eyes in a flash of anger. ‘Then what can you tell me?’

‘That, should you marry me within this fortnight, I shall be the luckiest man alive.’

‘Marry you? Why should I? I don’t even love you.’ She couldn’t help herself.

‘I only have a fortnight…’
The dream screeched to a halt. Mona’s eyes flew open as she glared around the carriage bewildered. People stared at her, and she felt the questions rise. She stood up and walked to the door, her stop was next. 

‘What happens in a fortnight?’ She muttered, looking out into the dark tunnel whizzing past, hoping for a voice to answer. 

None came.

Dinner at 6 

Eric looked at the grey sky. Then his watch. Then back at the sky. It was a miserable day whichever way you looked at it, and the worst part was, there was well over 12 hours of it he had to endure. For God’s sake, how was he going to avoid the commotion?

As he stood there on top on his narrow steps down leading to the footpath, he wondered. Couldn’t he just slip back inside the house, change back into his comfy trousers and hoodie, call his work and feign contagious flu, then brew a cup of milk tea, slump on the couch, watch old episodes of Friends and pretend the world outside his door didn’t exist?

Instead, he was dragging his feet on the ground, eyes barely looking up for fear of seeing the flood of pink, or huddles of couples giddy as teens hooking up for the first time. Ugh! He thought. Stupid, silly people. Didn’t they know what was waiting for them at the end of it all? And yes, there was going to be an end. Either the relationship would die, or one of the two will go first. Either way, doomed! Just to be left with an ache in your chest no amount of binge drinking foul tasting beer, or hitting the scene will fix.

The whole 15 minutes to his work, Eric kept his head down, the music loud and angry in his ears, and a chant in his head, ‘She is dead to me. She is dead to me.’ He forgot the number of people he bumped into thus. But it must have been the effects of the day, but no one seemed to mind that he walked into them, sliced past them, or plain out spun them around. They just smiled, wished him a wonderful day and continued, bewitched.

By the time Eric got to work, the place was maxed with customers, laughing, giggling, whispering, making goo goo eyes or making out. Ugh! ‘She is dead to me,’ he muttered, causing a lady waiting in line to order coffee frown at him.

‘Hey Eric, got any plans for tonight?’ Mickie asked, rattling around the coffee bar as he spotted Eric. Eric shrugged, got behind the counter, chucked on an apron and said, ‘I think I’ll go out the back today.’

Mickie grabbed him by the shoulder. ‘Not gonna work man. I want that handsome face out here where customers can see you, today of all days. Now get on the register.’

Eric forced a smile and approached the register. ‘What can I get for you?’

‘Where can I get me I one of you?’ The old lady winked her wrinkled eye, giggling like a school girl when Eric gave her half a smile. ‘I’m only kidding. How about a cup of flat white and you for dinner tonight?’

Mickie laughed, pouring a shot into a cup. ‘Don’t do it lady, not unless you want to be a rebound.’

The lady giggled and oohed. ‘I don’t mind,’ winking once more at Eric.

‘One flat white coming up,’ Eric gave her a hard stare and her change back. Then he turned to Mickie. ‘What the hell you doing man, embarrassing me like that?’

‘Oh come on. I’m just trying to fix you up. No one should be alone tonight man.’ Mickie’s cheerfulness dropped several degrees. He handed a couple of takeaways over the counter and dropped his voice to a whisper. ‘Mrs Mackerel,’ nodding towards the old lady sitting in the corner table still smiling at them. Mickie smiled back. ‘She lost her husband of 50 years this year. This is the first time she’ll be spending today alone. Where’s the harm in trying to make her smile?’

Eric felt low. So low. Here he was wallowing in self pity over a one year old relationship. He grabbed Mrs Mackerel’s coffee and walked off.

‘Here you are, your coffee,’ he placed the cup in front of her and returned her smile, ‘and your date for tonight. What time shall I pick you up and where?’

The smile that lit her face, it was all he could see for the rest of the day. It was what made the day fly by, and before he knew it, he was knocking on the door of her granny flat. He held out the bouquet as she opened the door, wearing her Sunday best.

‘How do I look?’ She asked. ‘Wonderful.’ He replied, taking her hand in his. ‘You look wonderful tonight.’

[Today’s prompt : it’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t mention love, Cupid, roses, February, Valentine or heaven.]

The Keeper (Part 13)

Mona felt every bit confused and overwhelmed as she stumbled upon the lounge room to find it as messy as it had ever been. She walked about, dodging several dangerously placed items till she reached her father’s door. She rapt on the wood ever so lightly. ‘Father?’

She held her breath for there was no reply. ‘Daddy? Are you awake? It’s me, Bell.’ And in that split moment she heard a faint moan, enough to invite her inside. She swung the door open gently and peaked into the dim air, dank, and sad.

‘Bell, my child, come in and let me see you!’

Mona inched closer to his bed, fear seeding inside her at the sight. ‘Oh, daddy, what has become of you since I have been gone?’

Her old man smiled, beckoning her closer. ‘It is only a slight ailment. It will pass, honey.’ Mona sat on the side of the bed and touched his haggard face lightly. ‘I missed you dearly!’

‘I missed you too, papa.’

Her father struggled to sit up. ‘So, tell me child,’ he coughed, a violent cough. ‘Tell me what the beast is like? Has he hurt you? Been cruel to you? Threatened you in any way?’

Mona shook her head. ‘No. None of those. In fact, he has been the kindest yet.’ She touched lightly, meaningfully at the fabric of her dress. ‘I have want of nothing, except…’

Her father jerked up straighter yet. ‘Except what, dear? He promised me you’d desire for nothing if I left you there. If he were to ever break that promise, you know my child, you are free to come home to me?’ There was a desperate longing in his aged, raspy voice. A desperate longing indeed. ‘Except what, dear? What is it that you lack in that tricksy home of his?’

Mona felt a strange guilt as she said this, ‘I’m like a princess there, but I wish for you, my family. It gets awful lonely, papa. I just miss home, that’s all.’

Her father seemed confused as he looked past her at the open door, where one by one her sisters and brother were appearing so, with sleep still in their eyes. ‘You miss this? The filthy house, the angry shouts, your brother and sisters all about their own, leaving you to take every responsibility on?’ He turned to her with a sad smile. ‘Thats no life at all. That’s no life I wish and want for you. You should be treated like a treasure for they only ever made one of you.’

‘Oh papa.’ Mona embraced her father tightly. ‘My place is here with you. Look at you! You are half the man I last saw. You are not well, and I will not leave till you are better.’

‘And what about Him?’ 

‘He can look after himself for a few days, I’m sure. After all, I am nothing more than a decor.’

Her father nodded. ‘Till I’m okay then.’

Suddenly, upon the two were the others. ‘Oh my, Mona Bell, look at you? What beautiful dress you have!’ One sister squealed, a set of tightly arms around her neck. ‘Oh Mona, look at your jewels! Where ever did you get them?’ The other one chimed, pulling at the necklace off Mona’s neck till it came loose. ‘Simply divine!’ And her brother barely cared as he glanced with one eye at Mona and left. ‘Oh Mona, however did you do it before, keep the house? Look love, it’s been the worst since you left.’ The first said again. ‘Yes, now that you are here… We so missed you and your cooking, girl.’ Said the other while putting on Mona’s necklace. 

So much for being home thought Mona, but one look at her ill father, and she forgot the unsightly home and the selfish siblings. Instead, she rose in one stride and started clearing the dirty soup bowls from her father’s bedside.