“..."No!” he raged, pacing back and forth in front of the mirror. “No! This can’t be happening.”
Nicole watched from the bed. She said softly, “How?”
“I don’t know. The spell was gone, broken, it—” He turned on her suddenly. “You! You did this to me.”
“What? But I . . .”
He sat down beside her and took her by the hand. “Do you still love me?”
“Of course I do.”
“With all your heart? Like you used to?"...”
Go read it, right Now. I'll wait :)
Good, isn't it? (I had the chance to do the illustration for it, which was intimidating, as the story just blew me away.)
It reminded me of a story I heard over at Pseudopod last year, Pieces, by M.C. Funk. You need to go listen to it RIGHT NOW. That episode has three stories, Pieces is the middle one, it starts at 8:20 minutes in. It's only about 4 minutes long, GO LISTEN NOW. I'll wait. :) "I knew your demon would be hungry the moment I found it...."
Probably my favorite thing about Pseudopod, is Alasdair Stuart's closing remarks after each story. He has a gift for reaching into the fiction, finding that hinge upon which everything turns, then nailing you to it. Here was his take away from Pieces (which I roughly transcribed from the audio, apologies for the errors):
"There’s a concept in a lot of martial arts I’m fascinated by of keeping your guard up. You keep your hands high and protect your head and if you protect your head then you don’t get hit as much and you’re still together enough to fight back. You need to guard your sense of self too. If you don’t, than sooner or later someone will stab inside your guard. If you are incredibly lucky that person will make you more by being there, as you will them. If you are not they will take pieces of your self and add them to themselves and give you you nothing whatsoever in return. Guard yourself. It belongs to no one but you. No. One. If you choose to give it away than do so, but if not, let your partner feed their own damn demon."
Nicole, from Kirtley's story, was able to guard her sense of self. She came through on the other end wiser, stronger. (Of course, also maligned). Our unnamed narrator from Funk's story didn't. She was taken to pieces by a sick sense of love that made her willing to sacrifice herself for another's comfort and safety.
One of the reasons I'm an illustrator in the spec fic field is my fascination with monsters. We all have a bit of monster in us. We all brush up against monsters in others. Life is the process of learning to love and connect, while protecting our own sense of self. And of keeping our own monsters under control. Anyhoo, just a few thoughts that came to mind, working on the illustration for Beauty.
Thank you, David Barr Kirtley and M.C.Funk for telling truth with fiction, Alasdair for being amazing, and Lightspeed for letting me work with Kirtley's story.
And now, because it feels fitting when discussing such matters, here is Rammstein's Du Hast.