The Beast

Part 8

The years are passing by and life just goes its own way. Like all others, Fleur is finishing her studies. She would love to work, but for some reason, it hasn’t happened yet. Until now, her disability has never been a problem, but every now and then she finds out that the world can be tough and that her disability can be a problem for others. There are days when she feels sad about that and she expresses it to her mother. Not that she’s mad at mother, no she never will. She can go to her mother with her grief, but she is not angry.

‘I understand honey, we have to make life nice together and be happy our way. Maybe one day you will succeed.’

Fleur understands her mother too, but she really wants to do something useful and be among the people. Her mother decides to invite her exam class and Fleur likes the idea.

It would be nice to know what the others are doing now. Over time, the contact has become somewhat diluted. Every now and then she meets an old classmate, but usually, there is no time for a nice conversation, and they have to move on quickly. The only one she still sees regularly is Bas. He has always faithfully visited her. It is also he who tells her that it is not a good plan to invite the class. Probably no one will show up, he had said. It is still too early for that, maybe in about ten years’ time. He had been right. On the day in question, no one except Bas came. Now that she thinks about it, she hasn’t seen Bas for a while. She is quite sad about that. They always had a lot of fun together, especially when they went out together and had a picnic in the park under the huge oak tree. Staring out the window, she decides that something must be done. She must do something.

She looks at the old typewriter on the table. ‘Maybe, I should start working out my stories,’ she whispers.

‘What are you say, darling, asks her mother.

‘I’m thinking about writing my stories and maybe they can be published,’ Fleur replies.

‘That is a good plan, strange we’ve never thought of that before. What do you need for that?’

‘Well nothing really, just paper. After all, we have a typewriter over there.’

‘You should start with that. I think it’s a great idea,’ says Mother again.

The rhythmic tapping of the machine can be heard for hours every day. Fleur is happy and proudly shows her work to mother. She reads from her own work and her mother is fascinated by her stories. They find a publisher who wants to publish the stories and her books are sold very well. Every now and then she is invited to sign them in one of the bookstores or libraries. It gives her a good feeling and that is how she finds her way and with the proceeds from her books, she is financially independent.

One day she dreamily stares out of the window and then suddenly something strikes her. At the dry pond, she sees a rabbit and a squirrel sitting next to each other.

‘Look over there, Mom?’

‘What is the matter dear?’

‘Look there. Can you see that rabbit and that squirrel sitting by the pond?’

‘I don’t see a rabbit or a squirrel,’ Mother replies, her eyes scanning the area.

‘Are you feeling well, dear,’ and feels her forehead to see if it isn’t warm.

‘No, Mom, I just feel great. Okay, if you haven’t seen them, I must have been wrong.’

At the same time, she feels a strange feeling coming up in her and she has an enormous need to return to her grandmother’s house. The feeling is getting stronger and she hopes it will be passing by soon. But it doesn’t, on the contrary, that need only gets stronger and stronger. The next morning, she takes her mother’s hand and says:

‘Mom, I want to go to Grandma’s house.’

Mother was shocked and replied: ‘But child, what are you going to do there. No one has been there for years. It’s completely empty.’

‘It hasn’t been sold yet. Is it not,’ asks Fleur.

‘No, nobody wants to live there. They think it is haunted and that ghosts roam in and around the house.’

‘Ghosts, what nonsense. I want to go there anyway,’ Fleur replies firmly.

‘But how do you want to get there. It’s a long way and I can’t drive a car.’

While mother and daughter are discussing how they will be getting there, the neighbour walks in.

‘Hi, how are you both doing,’ she asks.

Surprised, mother and daughter look at the neighbour. They don’t interact with her very much, but for some reason, it seems like they’ve been friends for years. For a moment mother thinks back to a period in her life that she would rather not think about. That was the period when Fleur disappeared without a trace and soon after her mother-in-law died.

Fleur greets the neighbour. She often sees her walking past the window and every time she wonders where the neighbour is going. She never found out.

‘What did I hear. Do you want to go to your grandmother’s house,’ the neighbour asks? ‘I understand that. I could take you with my van. That’s no problem at all.’

‘Would you like to do that for me,’ asks Fleur. ‘Thank you very much. Can we do it right now?’

‘If your mother doesn’t mind, I will.’

Full of expectation Fleur looks at her mother and asks: ‘You do not mind that, don’t you, mom?’

‘Please, can I go?’

‘Do you think you can handle it? No one has been in that house for a while and it is very quiet,’ Mother replies.

‘Oh, Mom, I am managed fine at home too. That will certainly work, and I will certainly get a lot of inspiration for my stories, over there.’

‘Even more. I don’t think you can complain about your inspiration. Nevertheless. At least let us pack you some food and drink,’ Mother suggests’ She turns to the neighbour and ask:  ‘Can you also bring her home again?’

‘Obviously, I do,’ she replies

When everything is ready the neighbour comes to get her and together with mother, they load a basket with goodies in the car. Mother still doesn’t feel good about it, but she also understands that she can’t always keep protecting her daughter. She too must learn to make and accept decisions that are sometimes not right.

The van is in front of her house and a young man gets out and walks towards Fleur. He introduces himself to her and tells her that he is the son of the neighbour. Roel and Fleur chat a lot. Then he helps her get in the van. Carefully he folds her wheelchair and places it in the back of the van. The neighbour takes a seat next to Fleur and then the door is closed. Roel carefully drives the van out of the street. One more time Fleur looks back and waves enthusiastically at her mother.

Mother waves back, but her feelings are mixed. Wouldn’t be better keeping her at home or should I have come along? A thousand and one thoughts occur to her mind, but in the end, she still believes that it is good for both to take a break.

The van leaves the village at moderate speed and turns onto the highway. There Roel speeds up a bit and looks silently but relaxed on the road.

After a while, they take a turn and the van drives into the dark forest. Roel now asks Fleur a few questions and she tries to answer them.

Then he suddenly says: ‘We really haven’t forgotten your part in the fairytales,’ but Fleur no longer gets a chance to ask him what he means by that.

‘We’re here,’ and he stops the van in front of Grandma’s cottage.

Fleur is happy at the sight of the house. She feels a strange peace of mind and Roel helps her to get out of the van.

‘What time do I have to pick you up again. I suggest I get back here before dark. Agreed,’ he asks.

‘Yes, do that,’ replies Fleur.

‘Until tonight then,’ he shouts and together with his mother he rides back down the trail.

Fleur slowly drives the wheelchair to the front door. Strange, mother had told her that the house had been empty for a while. It looks like it was painted recently. Maybe other people just moved in, she wonders. She first decides to drive around the house, but then she stops abruptly. The back door is open and when she looks in, she sees that all of Grandma’s furniture has been replaced. It looks light and fresh.  But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that reminds her of Grandma. If Mom knew anything about this, why didn’t she tell me about it, she wonders?

‘I would understand it,’ she whispers

‘What would you understand?’ she hears a deep male voice ask behind her.

She turns her wheelchair and looks into the most beautiful blue-grey eyes she has ever seen. Her heart suddenly starts beating faster and it seems like she can’t get out of her words. For the first time in years, the words do not flow from her lips.

‘Don’t be afraid. I’m not hurting you,’ says the handsome man in front of her.

‘I was not at all shocked. Why should I be scared? I’m really not scared,’ she replies.

She can’t break free from his blue-grey eyes and her heart now looks like a steam locomotive. She gets hot.

‘Hello, wake up. Are you okay?’ And he waves his hand before her eyes.

‘Oh sorry, I was not expecting anyone here and was somewhere else with my thoughts.’

‘I’ll get you something to drink, would you like something to eat too?’

‘No, something to drink will do me good. Thank you,’ Fleur replies.

He walks into the house to get her a drink and Fleur looks around confused. Suddenly she is aware that she has become a young adult woman. For a moment she scans her body. She hasn’t been that little girl for a long time. That girl who was once taken to her grandmother to come to terms with herself. The years flew by without she is realizing it. ‘I’m an adult,’ she whispers and puts her hands folded on the tray in front of her. Takes a deep breath and suddenly understands what those confused feelings are. I am in love; she thinks and brings her hands to her face. She feels like she’s flushing.

Then she hears a smacking noise. It seems like something wants to get her attention and she leans forward a bit. There is a rabbit on the ground and when he notices her, he immediately runs away.

In the tree, she sees that the birds are making a nest. Wherever she looks around she sees life everywhere. What a person cannot get into his head. Come on Fleur. Fairytales are to be told; they don’t really exist. Also, that handsome man who has taken possession of grandma’s house doesn’t exist. Where is he anyway? He just went to get some water, she wonders.

‘Hello,’ she shouts in a low voice,’ but the man doesn’t respond.

‘Pst …,’ she hears behind her and suddenly a large grey wolf comes out of nowhere. He stands in front of her and stares at her.

‘Calm down, I won’t hurt you,’ she whispers.

He lies down humbly and keeps looking at her. Then suddenly the man comes out again and puts a cool glass of lemonade in front of Fleur. He walks up to the wolf and shouts: ‘Get out, Trip, you’ll be scaring her.’

‘Trip,’ whispers Fleur. ‘Where have I heard that name before?’

Fleur can’t remember, but it keeps gnawing at her in the hope that her brain will one day reveal the secret.

Trip willingly lets himself be dismissed and walks back into the forest. When he is almost out of sight he disappears between the bushes and stretches out there. In the meantime, he keeps an eye on Corn and Fleur.

‘Is that wolf yours,’ asks Fleur.

‘Not really. When I came to live here, I found him wounded on the ground. Sorry, how rude of me. I haven’t even introduced myself yet. My name is Cornelis, but friends call me Corn,’ and he kindly extends his hand.

Fleur takes his hand and feels a shock running through her body. Suddenly the memories come up. Corn holds her hand and gives her a penetrating look. He too feels strange and, just like Fleur, all kinds of memories flash through him.

Then suddenly there is a terrifying screech. They have no idea where the screeching is coming from and then they see that the rabbit is running nervously back and forth.

‘Find a shelter,’ he shouts at them, but they can’t hear him because the rest of the animal’s panic, yelling at each other to hide. From the camel hill, Cherry comes running towards them and tries to calm the animals down, but nobody is listening to him.

Cherry runs up to Fleur and Corn and shouts, ‘The beast is coming … The beast is coming!’

Corn and Fleur look at each other and do not understand who or what he means, by the beast. Fleur thinks he means Fred the ferret and she laughs and shouts: ‘Just let Fred come. I’ll make a steak of him.’

‘Get out of here Fleur, it’s much worse. It’s not Fred the ferret. Hurry up anyway. Find a safe shelter,’ Cherry replies, and he runs back into the forest to the camel hill.

Dark clouds are gathering above them. Behind the Camel Hill, they hear heavy rumble arrive. Both stare at the oncoming dark sky and the thunder gives them an unpleasant foreboding. The dark cloud, now hanging over the camel hill, turns into a large black hand that completely obscures the sun with its fist.

Wappert jumps nervously in her chair and says again that they must get away quickly. ‘The beast is coming …’

‘What animal,’ asks Fleur. ‘Where should we go?’

Wappert gives Corn a questioning look and begs him to move her away from this place.

‘I know Wappert. I know, but I cannot move,’ he replies.

Then they see a bright flashlight and a hard blow follows. A little further on, a tree splits in two and falls on the ground.

‘Please get me out of here. Corn, do something,’ begs Fleur.

The beast is unstoppable and works thoroughly. The successive flashes of lightning unceremoniously split several trees and branches in two. Then the water comes pouring down from the sky and within seconds the veranda is flooded. In order not to have to hear the ghastly laugh that echoes through the forest, Fleur holds her hands tightly against her ears. Corn still cannot move and she decides to find a safe shelter for herself, but her wheelchair sits stuck in the mud. Finally, Corn loosens up and lifts Fleur out of her wheelchair to bring her to a safe place, but she wants him to wait. Wappert is sitting on the edge of her wheelchair and she grabs him by the neck and throws him further up the hill. ‘Save yourself Wappert,’ she shouts. ‘Get out.’

Corn wants to take her to higher ground, but the water comes quickly towards them. Then that ghastly growling voice comes out again and is shouting at them: ‘You’re too late. Too late. Finally, it is my time, and I will deal with those fairy tales of yours. They will be destroyed forever.’

Corn looks around. Trees are still falling, and the strong wind blows the roof tiles of the house. From behind the Camel Hill, a stream of water comes towards them and take all that comes on his way along. Corn stumbles and unluckily he must let Fleur go. She is carried away by the swirling current and Corn can no longer reach her. He too is fighting for his life and Fleur shouts at him that he must now take care of his own safety.

Corn sees that Fleur is carried away through the water. There is nothing he can do, absolutely nothing. For his own safety, he flees into the house.

Fleur is now fighting for her life; with difficulty, she can keep her head above the swirling water. Every now and then she is pulled down and when she comes up, she is sneezing. Then she sees a stump coming towards her and tries to reach it. She stretches her arms forward as far as possible, but it is hopeless. She must let him go. Tiredness starts to play tricks on her, but she continues to fight for her life. Suddenly she feels a blow to her back, and she loses consciousness for a moment. When she opens her eyes, she notices that the wind has laid down and that she is lying in a muddy mass. Surprised, she looks around and is unaware of the fact that she is moving. She is moving with her legs and tries to reach the sidewall. She pulls herself up on a tree trunk, but she is tired and exhausted and then she falls back into the mud.

‘Corn …, Corn …, please come and help me,’ she begs.

Nobody can hear her. The animals are also not to be seen. There is a dead silence all over the whole forest. Fleur scans the area with her eyes, hoping there is someone who can help her. She realizes that if nothing happens, that this is the end. Not only for her but also for all the animals and the fairytales, they all stop to exist. That is what Grandma and the animals tried to tell her all along and for a moment she’s mad at herself.

I wish I had listened to them better and not been so much concerned with myself.

‘Why did I have to come back to this place,’ she grumbles to herself.

Suddenly the silence is broken, and she hears the deep growling voice of ‘The Beast’ through the woods.

She stares at the sky but cannot see him.

‘So girl, you want out of that mud pool. There is a way, but you have to listen to me,’ the beast roars.

‘Let me out. This is no fun anymore,’ Fleur replies.

The Beast is becoming visible. It’s getting bigger and bigger and looks horrible. She stares at his misshapen head that gets bigger as he approaches her. Fleur now understands why the others have fled and fears that she is no match for his strength. In her mind, she sees all the people who are dear to her. She sees Corn’s beautiful grey-blue eyes and she feels a warm feeling. In one way or another, it is as if his image gives her unprecedented power and at that moment The Beast shouts: ‘I help you, but on one condition?’

‘Whatever you want but get me out of here. I’ll do whatever you ask me to do. Help me, please,’ Fleur replies.

‘Give me the ring that you wear and then you are free to come and go wherever you want. Ha …, ha …, stand. No, you cannot. At least I don’t have to worry that you are running away,’ he yells at her.

Fleur looks at her smeared hands and now she understands what it’s all about. The ring, it’s about the fairytale ring. That is the power, she now understands.

‘What if I don’t accept your offer?’

‘Then I will leave you there and you will die of an awful death. Now give me the ring. I’ll keep it safe for you. If you ever need it again, you will get it back from me.’

Fleur lets his words sink in. Once she had promised to cherish this ring and never take it off her finger and certainly not give it to anyone else.

He sees her hesitation and impatiently he shouts, ‘Come on, your time is almost up. If I were you, I’d hurry up.’

‘I don’t know if I can do that. I have to discuss this with my friends first,’ Fleur replies, hoping to get some more time. Maybe help will still come somewhere, she thinks.

Despite the clear blue sky, something strange suddenly happens. Lightning flashes across the sky and again one of them hits a tree. The tree splits in two and falls right next to her. She sinks deeper into the mud pool again and when she regains her senses she crawls up and then the beast asks her sweetly: ‘Give me that ring. Come on darling, there is no one here to save you. I promise to spare you but give me the ring.’ He realizes he needs to adjust his tactics and tries it on a friendly tone. In the hope that he will succeed.

‘Good, but can you keep your promise,’ Fleur replies.

‘Give me the ring and you will be free.’

The beast approaches and promises to keep its promise.

Fleur understands that she has no other choice and slides the ring off her finger, but then she suddenly hears a familiar voice. ‘Honey. Don’t give him the ring.’

Fleur does not understand. That is Grandma’s voice and she immediately slides the ring back on her finger. She looks around and then, among the trees, the face of grandma appears. ‘Grandma, it is you,’ she shouts surprised.

The Beast gets angry and screams for the ring. ‘Give me the ring, you promised it.’

‘I didn’t promise you anything at all. You made me do a promise, but you can’t be trusted.’

‘Give it to me and I will keep my promise,’ The Beast keeps asking her.

Then Fleur feels that the mud pool begins to heat up and a mist rises from the pool.  Her vision becomes less and soon she can no longer distinguish the environment. She can no longer see The Beast or Grandma either.

‘Slip the ring on the finger of your other hand,’ she hears Grandma’s voice calling.

But Fleur has doubts. She doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Maybe this is a trap. The Beast is incredibly good at distorting Grandma’s voice. Her suspicions are correct. Suddenly Grandma shouts, ‘Don’t do that, dear. The beast misleads you.’

Then she smells a familiar scent. Grandma’s smell and she now know for sure. One of the voices belongs to her grandmother, but which one?

‘Fleurtje,’ a friendly voice calls over her head. She looks up and sees through the mist the face of her grandmother. Visibility is very dim, but the contours are very clear.

‘What should I do, grandma,’ she asks, unable to hold back tears. The reunion with grandma affects her.

‘Take the ring off your finger and slide it around the finger of your other hand,’ says one of the voices.

‘Don’t do that, honey,’ says the same voice.

Fleur gets confused and understands that one of the two must be the beast, but which one?

‘Honey, you don’t have that much time. Slide the ring directly onto your other finger,’ says one of the voices again. Fleur understands that the voice is right. The mud feels more and more unpleasant and she understands that this must end soon.

Stupid that I have not thought of that before, she thinks.

‘l will give the ring when the fog clears, and I can see both of you. I will not give the ring until I know who my real grandmother is!’

The fog suddenly clears, and she sees two images of her grandmother, but who is who. She sees no difference between the similarities.

‘I’m your grandmother, honey,’ says one of the images.

‘No girl don’t be fooled,’ the other shouts.

Then Fleur comes up with a trick and asks: ‘Who of you can tell me what Grandma is called in the village. Who knows will get the ring.’

Almost immediately, one of the images approaches her and whispers, ‘They call her…. The storyteller.

‘You’re right, but I also have to give the other one a chance,’ Fleur replies.

The image retreats, assuming that is the correct answer.

‘Give me the ring now. I gave the correct answer. Don’t let the beast fool you. You can see that he is defeated and leaves you alone.’

Yet Fleur still wants to get the answer from the other image. The mud is now drying up and it feels less hot. Then the other image slowly approaches her and whispers: ‘The ugly fairy.’

Fleur takes the ring and slides it off her finger. Just as she wants to put it on the finger of her other hand, the beast pounces on her and shouts:

“Wind, hail and thunder lightning, take your power and destroy the fairytales.”

The wind picks up again and hailstones, the size of tennis balls, fall down. Fleur gets angry.

‘Go away beast. Otherwise, I will send … … the ugly fairy at you.’

The storm and the hail disappear, and Fleur puts the ring on her finger. The beast still does not give up and tries to take the ring from her, but it is too late. He cringes and the wind carries him along. Fleurtje watches how the wind carries him with him and she knows she has won. Suddenly she feels her body tingling and stares in amazement at the ring that produces a red-orange glow. Around her, the branches break off like matchsticks and the ground grinds open. For a moment she thinks that she has made the wrong choice and that she is still at the mercy of The Beast, but it is nowhere to be seen. The wind has not only carried him away but also dissolved him completely.

‘Grandma,’ she calls, but Grandma is no longer here either … The mud disappears under her feet and next to her she hears the creaking of a tree. For a moment she thinks that the tree is falling, but that does not happen. Then something wonderful happens. Everything around her changed. She feels a sultry wind sweep through her hair. She hears the buttons on the branches of the trees crackling. New leaves are about to hatch. On the ground, the grass begins to spread its green colour.

The End of Part 8