aqua fortis

Friday, October 13, 2006

Flickr Fiction: The Beast Wakes

C'etait un vrai desastre. Nuages... brouillard... partout, et les personnages... chacun courant sur les rues pendant la nuit... Non. Je ne puisse pas oublier cela.

No, I could not forget it, though it has been centuries of human time. It has only been a matter of days for me. Something happened that night, something that was not supposed to happen. I was watching it all from my window, pulling the drapes back and peering out at the marching throng, torches held high, ghostly reflections flickering off the fog. Just as now I stand at a window of a Paris apartment, watching the men and women purposefully stride towards the subway and the bus, workplaces and schools. Only today they are not looking for me.

I was supposed to have her--elle, la plus belle de la ville, de la paysage--my Belle Fontaine--that is what it says in all the stories, does it not? La Belle et La Bete? And I, the beast, does my inner beauty not prevail? No, they did not consider the practicalities. That she would be considered mad, and walled up in her parents' home. That they would then come after me in my own home, despite that I have never harmed a single one of that village or any village. That I would be forced to exercise the only option I felt was left to me; a dignified death by my own hand and not by the pitchforks and kitchen knives of a ravening horde of rabble.

But the moment I drew my knife across my broad wrist, the fog swirled in through my open window to engulf me, the voices spinning around me--Lui, lui, il est la! Venez, vite!--and that fog was all I knew for a time.

And in another rapid moment, I awoke. In a ludicrously small bed, unadorned with the canopies and carvings I had labored so long in solitude to create. A small mirror hung on the opposite wall, over an even smaller basin. I never once allowed a mirror in my manse. Clearly I was far from home. I could still hear voices outside, but there were also strange grumblings and roarings, belchings of smoke and honkings as if of wild geese. When I hastened to the window, the world was not as it had been. Mysterious machines prowled the hard black roads, carrying people to and fro, and the buildings grew tall, much taller than ever my own tower had been.

Not that it has been difficult to accustom myself to this new world, this modern world. At first it seemed as though someone, somewhere, must have wanted to ensure my survival. At first I did not know how or why this could have happened. I still do not know why. All I had was a letter, written in some strangely familiar script, that explained how the electric devices worked, told me where to find the food that had been left for me, and told me how to turn on the computer.

Without this computer, I would not have been able to survive. It has allowed me to eat, even to begin some small amount of work, though it has taken me many weeks, even months, to get to this modest plateau. And it has enabled me to control my earnings. The anonymous benefactor who left me the note, the apartment, also left me a surprisingly generous gift in an account with the national bank. This allowed me to live while I looked for a way to earn my own living.

Now, some years later, I have educated myself about the computer. I know much more than most in this modern age of technology. I have searched every last petit peu of this machine that was left for me when I first woke here. And all I have found is one single piece of information about my benefactor, one single name that was on the bank account when the paperwork was first drawn up.

Le Duc de Bellefontaine.

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user sevres-babylone. This piece made me realize how much French I've forgotten...I can understand things, but as for writing any complete sentences, forget it. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, and TadMack.


TadMack said...

Dude -- French? Welsh? What DON'T you do?! I'm shocked that there was one other lone person who took French instead of the ubiquitous Spanish... I am currently listening to CD's, trying to recall almost three year's worth of college French that has vanished down the hole in my head (which I assume drains out my ear?). I can READ it, but let's not try having me speak. I look at Welsh with great bewilderment - !

TadMack said...

And anyway - I love the story, which was the point of posting. I'm always good for a crowd with torches and pitchforks...

Elimare said...

It's got touches of Lovecraft and Poe. Very nice.

Donal said...

Tres mysterious. It is full of ze intriguery. J'aime.

a. fortis said...

Merci beaucoup.