20 June 2014

Excerpt: 'Only Skin Deep'

A couple of years ago I forced myself to be brave and post a piece of writing online, open to the scrutiny of others for the first time in roughly a decade. Not wanting to begin by sharing something something *gasp* original, I decided the best way to ease into writing for an actual audience would be to use a storyline that didn't actually belong to me... a re-telling of a fairy tale, and my favourite Disney film, Beauty and the Beast.

I had a lot of fun with this, and it's something I'd like to go back to and expand on someday. For now though, I'm going to take another baby step in my journey towards letting real people read my ficitonal writing and post a small excerpt I particularly enjoyed writing.

Excerpt from Chapter Five of Only Skin Deep 

Note: The 'beast' in this reimagining is a vampire. I assure you this is conveyed with much more grace and subtlty in the actual story, but it seemed like something important to know when reading this piece.

Belle spent the next few weeks mostly alone, stalking out of any room the Master entered. He had insisted that she was to sleep and rise when he did, which meant long dark nights spent polishing, brushing, plumping, sorting… only to get up the next evening to do it all over again. 

During the shot periods of time when she wasn’t cleaning the mansion, Belle would explore. She had been allowed to leave the mansion to walk through the gardens, but an enchantment had been placed around the perimeter to stop her escaping. On her first evening as a prisoner, she had attempted to crawl under the strange topiary that circled the gardens… only for the topiary to spit her right back out again at the Master’s feet. She had spent the night in the dungeons, hammering on the walls and screaming for release until her voice was hoarse. 

Excluding the night of her attempted escape, Belle had been permitted to choose one of the many grand bedchambers the mansion boasted to sleep in. She had selected one with a large south-facing window and a balcony, so that even though she spent most of her time in the dark, she could watch the sun rise and set each day. It was the one small joy she found in her new life as a captive. 

Belle had instructions from the Master to work her way around the castle, but she was to avoid the west tower. When she enquired defiantly as to why, the Master had laughed cruelly.

“It contains something you could never hope to comprehend,” he had stated with a wave of his hand, and Belle had felt hot anger bubble up inside her at being spoken to so condescendingly.

It was not too long before she stood at the door to the tower, carefully picking the lock and climbing swiftly up the winding staircase. 

Belle crept silently towards the open archway that awaited her at the peak of her long climb. She paused, gasping for breath and leaning against the inside of the stone arch. The circular room before her was shrouded in a heavy gloom, with just a single high window cut out of the rough stone to let in a stream of dust-laden moonlight. Her eyes widened as they fell upon a mesmerising glass effigy of a perfectly sculptured rose, suspended in mid-air above a crudely hewn wooden table. 

Belle stepped closer, transfixed by the glittering glass rose. It revolved leisurely in the quiet air, sending moonbeams bouncing about the tiny room. It looked to be made more of light than of glass. Belle reached out her hand tentatively as if to pick up this beautiful sculpture. 

Oh!” She snatched her hand back from the rose when a sharp pain shot through her finger. She lifted it closer to her face to see bright crimson blood oozing from a long gash that ran the length of her index finger. 

There was a sudden echoing noise that vibrated up the staircase, the sound of footsteps on stone. Belle’s heart raced and she momentarily forgot her throbbing finger in a panic at the thought of the Master finding her in this forbidden tower. She turned on the spot in a futile search for somewhere to hide… but when she spun back to face the archway, the Master had already reached the top of the stairs. His face was contorted with a fury that shocked Belle to her very core, his demeanour until now having been simply arrogant and perversely playful.  

“Would you like to tell me,” he began quietly, his voice smooth and dripping with malevolence, “what exactly you are doing up here?”

“I-I…” Belle stammered, before being cut off.

“Did I not explicitly tell you,” the Master continued, “that the west tower was to be kept away from?”

Somewhere in the back of Belle’s mind, a small voice was screaming at her for her stupidity. How could she ever have thought she could get away with defying this beast? She watched in horror, helpless, as the Master’s eyes lowered to her bleeding finger. His eyes flashed and he shot towards her with such speed he was momentarily a blur. Belle flinched and squeezed her eyes shut, thinking only of her mother, of Angelique and Maurice… 

Seconds passed. Belle peeled open her eyes and was amazed to see the Master had not descended upon her, but was instead hunched over by the glass rose. His pale hands gripped the edges of the wooden table so tightly it was as if he thought he might float away. His breath was ragged and his body heaved, as if he was fighting some inner demon that clawed at his very soul to escape.

“Get out…” he whispered hoarsely, without turning. Belle stood frozen to the spot, spots of blood dripping from her finger onto the stone floor. The Master lifted his head to look directly at the hovering rose. “GET OUT!” he bellowed, causing Belle to jump at the volume of hatred in his voice. She thought no more, and fled through the archway and back down the spiral staircase.

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Read the whole story on my WATTPAD profile

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