The monster’s bedroom is empty as well. Save for a pallet on the floor and wood enough to last the night, there is nothing. It resembles a cave; a wounded animal’s den. To my shock, he looks wounded. Curled on the pallet on the floor, swaddled in a torn blanket, he shivers.
It seems he has not yet realized I am here. He looks so much like my Beast did this morning after the transformation, I feel compelled to go to him. I stop my feet from crossing the threshold. This might be precisely what he is waiting for.
“Are you ill?” I ask.
The man on the floor, looking utterly pathetic, opens one eye, just barely. He moans. “You again.” His voice seems weak. What is this? Some sort of elaborate trick? “Haven’t I run you out yet?” A massive shudder passes through him.
“What is the matter with you? Should I call for help?”
“Mind your own fucking business,” he snarls, but though his voice is cold as ice, I can see the effort it takes him to utter the words.
I trace my steps back to the door. Louis is standing guard in the hallway again. I ask him to have a chaise brought to the anteroom. Within moments, two footmen come bearing the heavy piece of furniture. The monster watches this with seething hatred, but does not utter a sound until they leave.
“Why are you still here?”
It is the same question I see in every face and every set of eyes in this castle. “Because I love the Beast, and so I must learn to love you, too. You and he are one and the same.”
He scoffs and it turns into a cough. “Is that what he told you?”
“That is not necessary. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
“Horse shit,” he says. “You cannot possibly understand, unless you feel it on your own skin.”
I am becoming inured to his profanities. “Enlighten me, then.”
That one eye opens again, mocking me. “Come closer,” he says.
He chuckles and his body shudders again. When he speaks, his teeth are clenched and his voice strained, as though he has no control over his movements. “There is another way to break the curse. I’d bet this castle he hasn’t told you that.”
He is toying with me. I know this, and yet I still strain forward to hear more. “How?”
“By the simple fact that he and I are not one and the same.” He pulls the blanket closer around him, curling more in on himself. “Only one can exist at any one time and that moping bastard somehow managed to get the full month, while I have to make do with three days of it. We are each other’s obstacle. Get rid of the obstacle and the possibilities are endless.”
“Get rid of… you mean kill? Kill one of you?”
“Why do you think they chain me? It can’t be done by someone affected by the curse. But accidents do happen.”
“You would kill yourself?”
His laugh is pure evil. “Stupid bitch. Why would I do that?”
I feel cold and put my feet up on the chaise like a little child frightened of the dark.
He sees. The monster struggles to sit up, mirroring my pose, but even in his condition he makes it look much more threatening than weak. His eyes reflect the fire’s golden glow, making them look almost green. “So tell me, Savior,” he says the word as an insult. “Would you kill me to forever free the beast? Or would you free the man to reclaim his home and his life?”