Tuesday, 3 August 2010
HERO OF THE DAY By Michael S. Collins
Well, here’s my fairy tale. I hear they are all the rage these days. This one is an old story, but no one has ever heard it from my perspective before, and since I was the hero of the show that seems a strange enigma that needs overturned. So here I am, all words on the page to give you my version of events, that dark day in history when the grizzled, evil beast stole away Belle to his tower.
Her father had three daughters, all of whom would have been the prettiest face at any given dance, but of all of them, Belle shone the best. Her radiant, glowing, smiling face is one I remember well. The father had been a big shot merchant in the district, until his merchandise sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic. After that, he was just another failed money man, plying his trade as a farmhand to try and get the bread on his table. Not a very good farm hand, I hear, but he was reasonably well liked in the area, so I guess that’s Farmer Williams sympathy for you.
His daughters strove to keep up his spirits, and helped bring messages to and fro the town for a tidy sum. I would occupy the eldest two as newspaper deliverers, but I must admit, it was the youngest I had my eye on. Innocently, of course, she was fourteen back then, but she would have made a fine wife for someone in time. You could sense that in her. And with her innocent charms and wide-eyed niceness, she had the eyes of the village on her.
It was three years after the ships went down that The Incident went down. The father had heard word that the shipwreck of one of his cargos had been found, and the cargo retrieved. At once he set off for Calais to see how much was salvageable. He never returned for a month. His daughters, all of them, were getting worried. Then suddenly he was back, and in that same instance, Belle was gone. Vanished in the blink of an eye.
Naturally, I was worried. This was no age for a girl to go wandering off in the middle of the forest. But as weeks went by, we began to realise just how serious the situation was. Until Belle’s father finally broke down and told us all the horrible truth: Belle was taken away by a hideous brute of a monster, who lived in a Castle somewhere five miles east of our village.
At this point, I could take no more.
We were in the tavern when I made my stand with the locals. It was a Friday, the beer was flowing mournfully, and people sat about disenfranchised instead of deciding on plans to save the day. That was my jurisdiction. I stood on top of the nearest table and banged my beer mug off the ceiling to get silence.
“Men, and womenfolk”, I said. “Let’s be under no illusions that the fate of Belle is a tricky one. Some foul wretch has stolen her away from our midst, from the protective arms of her father, and we must do something about it.”
“What can we do?” came the cry from the bar. Little Tommy, no doubt.
“Well, we can’t just stand around here moping and hope that one day she was turn up. We can’t just sit around here and make it someone else’s problem. Belle was one of our own, therefore her kidnapping is our problem, and we need to get her back.”
A murmur of support began to rise up from the rest.
“What I suggest is we set up a militia, of our strongest bodied men, ride into the depths of the forest, find the Castle, kill this demonic imbalanced creature, and save our Belle from the Hell she is no doubt in!”
An uneasy silence filled the room, broken by Timmy, Tommy’s brother.
“Well, sure”, he said, “I’d love to join this little Militia of yours. Only, I think I left the gas on.”
Laughter, from every portion of the room, in response to him. It filled every essence of my soul, and anger burned up in me.
“This isn’t funny!” I yelled. “If you are not with me, then I’ll have to do it myself.”
“Look, Gary”, replied Timmy. “We are all with you, in spirit, but that forest is dangerous. All kinds of wild animals live in there. And we have no idea of where this Castle actually is. It’d be a fool’s errand.”
“Fine”, I said. “I’ll go myself, and I will find Belle, slay this vampiric disease, and then I intend to marry Belle.”
I dropped back down to the floor and was on the way out of the door, my hand resting on my trusty sword, when Timmy put his arm out.
“I don’t want to see you going out into the unknown like this, Gary.” He said. “I’ll go with you.”
Old friends. You can always count on them in the end.
Together we rode through that evil forest, heading east, all kinds of hideous monstrosities attacking in the rare instances our guard was down. Snakes and wild boars and cats and animals you would never believe in. The forest is a home to all kinds of hibernating deadliness.
And then we found the Castle. Weeks after the trek had started. The quest.
“Cyclopean leviathan, we have found you at last” I said, starring up into the vertigo inducing towers. We stormed over the drawbridge, but then disaster struck. Timmy died. I’m not really sure what happened, what dark forces the evil at the heart of this stone asylum had used, but he was dead. And I was on my own. I let him drop slowly to the ground, and grabbed my sword tightly in caution.
I knocked on the large oak front door.
A voice called out from the other side.
“State your name, occupation and business being here” it said.
“Gary Gaston, tailor, heroic quest.”
“Very well” said the voice. It sounded bored, but the door swung open. The servant the voice belonged to welcomed me in.
“I hope you had a trouble-less journey” he said. “Now, what is this heroic quest you are on?”
“To save the lady Belle from your evil clutches” I cried and stabbed him through the heart.
He yelped in pain. At this point I realised he was actually invisible, but not to worry, I got him anyway. You never know, that servant could easily have been Timmy’s killer.
Inside the castle, were books everywhere. Shelves of books rising up to the ceilings on every side, and the ceiling were ten men high at the very least. A librarian’s wet dream. I strode up the stairs, dispatching demonic invisible servant after demonic invisible servant, and finally I found myself in the bedroom.
There was the grotesque gargoyle in all his wickedness, draped across a chair. He acted like a King lion regal. And sitting next to him, laughing, in some form of ecstatic joy over a terrible joke, was Belle. The object of my quest. Having fun. She was meant to be suffering and being tortured to make my heroic saving of her from the hands of desperate destitution and criminal civility all the more heroic. Instead she was here, laughing her head off, seemingly having the time of her life. Clearly, she was brainwashed. I could stand it no longer.
“Monster, rise and face your enemy” I yelled.
They both turned around.
“What is the meaning of this?” said the creature. His voice boomed out over the room, and echoed down the stairs and along the castles Cyclopean walls.
“Gary, what in Hell's name are you doing here?” said Belle. She seemed surprised by the appearance of her knight in shining victory.
“I am here to save you from foulest Hellspawn” I cried aloud. Impressively.
“And where would that be?” she said.
“Why, right here!” I cried.
The monster rose to his feet.
“I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave.” He said. “You will upset my wife.”
“WIFE?” I yelled.
“That’s me” said Belle.
I could take this slight no longer. I lunged forward and plunged my sword into the deep abscesses of horror that was his chest. Blood began bubbling out of a wide wound, and he sunk to the ground. Easily defeated. It was now that I could triumphantly take Belle home.
Only she wasn’t happy to see me. She was screaming, and screaming, and screaming. And fawning over the body of the dead villain, and crying, like a woman in deep mourning would. And she pushed me away when I went over to see how she was, and ask why she was crying. Strange, women always do weird things at the moment of success.
It was as I was thinking this that she began to attack me, with a fury gained straight from the bowls of Lucifer itself. Unwomanly power. She was a possessed harlot. I struggled from the blows, and fought to defend myself, but then, it was not to worry, as she died. These things happen.
Belle was dead, but at least the foul monster of Hades was defeated. I think, as heroes go, that was a pretty good job on my part.
It was then that there was the knock on the door. I waited patiently for a servant to answer the door, until I realised that I had rid this world of them. So I went down and answered the door.
Two policemen stood on the front door. They were dressed in the Metropolitan Police’s finest outfits.
“Excuse me, Sir”, said the first one, “We’ve had reports of a disturbance.”
“A disturbance?” I said.
“Yes, Mr Gaston, a disturbance. We had reports from the pub that you had gotten drunk and started yelling out abuse against your ex-wife. Then you and Mr Granger set off to her house to ‘sort out that husband of hers’.”
“That’s not quite true”, I said. “I had a heroic quest to fulfil.”
“We have found Mr Granger dead in the driveway, stabbed to death with a kitchen knife. Attempts to raise Mrs Beast’s parents have been thwarted. Tell me, Mr Gaston, where is the homeowner and your ex?”
I shrugged. “They are upstairs”, I said.
I never understood why so many police showed up so fast. Why they surrounded the streets and looked at me with a mixture of loathing and fear. I accepted the handcuffs without any debate. The charges happened without my understanding, and the judge put me down for life. I still don’t understand it, to be honest. What a way to treat a hero! I rid my village of that evil scum. So what if my village was London, and my forest, in reality, Hyde Park. It still counts. I still succeeded. Nothing could ever have thwarted me in that heroic quest to save my Belle from the clutches of bestial viciousness. And I did. In death, she was saved. And that was all me. I am a hero, you see. That’s what we heroes do. Save folk.
There’s an old saying around here, that Beauty killed the beast. And if you ask me, that beast killed beauty, because she was dead to me when she started going out with him. This was my fairy tale. I don’t quite agree with how the end turned out. Seemed far better when I was going over it. The Beauty didn’t kill the beast. I killed the Beauty. To save her. Because everyone needs saving, in the end.
It was a mercy. She’d have thanked me if she could. I know this. I believe this. Trust me, I am an honourable man.
Just, don’t look at me like that. With those critical eyes, through the bars of my cell. Don’t look at me like that! Like I’m some sort of serial killer. I’m not a serial killer, for gods’ sakes, I’m a hero!