Flash Fiction: Beast

It was the hardest choice, and yet, one could argue, there truly was no choice at all. Not for her, not now. The choice had been made for her, years ago, and it was a good choice, and she was grateful for it. And yet.

And yet here was a problem, the problem. The only problem there had ever been after she’d found herself here. What was she supposed to do with him? They’d found him, berserk, running through the woods with foam dripping from the corners of his mouth and leaves matted in his hair. And they’d brought him to her, to her of all people, because they didn’t know, because no one could know. His mind was completely lost to the wilderness, and he would not tell. Years it had been anyway, and he had made the choice.

But here he was, and she was shivering so. Uncontrollably. He would never be the same man, the man who had been the Greatest. The only with no comparison, until a son was born, and everything was ruined.

The madness was all consuming, it seemed. He left, threw down his sword, made his choice. He was taken by the night, and now night spat him back out at her feet. She knew there was nothing she could say that would break the insanity. Hers were the only words that stood a chance, but she was scared to try.

He prowled the room, confused by the stones, by the tapestries and the furniture. He stopped and listened for a moment, and she could only guess that he was listening for the lively sound of insects, of animals snapping twigs underfoot, of constant movement. He would not find that here. The stones were cold.

She watched him, paced with him, and she cried a little. She had already mourned and that deed was done, but the dead was living once more and she was completely at a loss. She opened her mouth to say the words once, twice, and could produce no sound. She tried to catch his eyes but his fevered gaze was focused on his surroundings, like a beast in the house where it has been brought to die. Her hands twisted together furiously.

Finally, “Lance?”

He did not look at her. Did he know his name? Was it hidden somewhere deep within his mind, or had it been replaced completely with feral instinct? She remembered a different kind of fever within him, a need so all consuming it could never be satisfied. She had said his name then, too, and other things. Other things. Some that were only half words, but he still understood.

“Lance?” she tried again. He turned to her this time, and he met her eyes. She gasped, believing for a moment that he had heard her, that he understood. They watched one another, frozen. He began to shiver, not from cold, she realized, but from fear. She took a step forward and he moved back, away from her. She was his jailer. He was pleading with her to set him free. Those eyes, those eyes. He didn’t remember her.

The large oak doors burst open and there he was, the other, the third. She guessed that Lance had never seen him bearded, and would not recognize him now. He was the very image of the lion-hearted king, the very embodiment of the fierce but fair ruler. His eyes were lined now, but still impossibly blue. They had grown so, the three of them. Had loved so.

“Is it him?” Arthur asked. His stride was urgent, his face full of hope. “Has he come home?” He stopped when he realized that she was staying several feet from the feral, naked man, and not moving any closer. He looked at his wife and she closed her eyes. The choice had been made. The choice had been made.

Now it was unmade.

“Where is Merlin?” Arthur asked. He trained his eyes on Lancelot, who continued to pace the room. She did not answer. “Guin,” Arthur said. Gently, he took her shoulders and turned her to face him. “We must find Merlin.”

“He needs rest,” she replied. She took his hands in hers. “He is mad and weary. He needs to eat, and then to sleep.”

Arthur looked as though he might argue, but thought better of it. Merlin was often gone these days. It could take more time than they had to reach him. Arthur nodded. He squeezed her hands and turned again to watch his old friend lope about the room. Arthur loved him too.

“I did not recognize him for a moment,” he said softly. “But it is he. Underneath the madness it is still our Lance.” Guinevere closed her eyes. She wanted and did not want it to be so.

“I hope you are right, My Lord.”

“I can tell,” Arthur replied. He smiled. “He will break free from this.”

They said no more. Arthur pulled his hands from hers and left the room. Lancelot, exhausted, lay himself down and curled up on the floor, like a wounded animal, like a dog. He whimpered, fearful, surrendered. Guinivere could not move, and watched him sleep, and quietly prayed that he would never remember that he was a man, and not a beast at all.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Flash Fiction: Beast”
  1. Jared says:

    Big fan of Arthur’s world. Great read.

  2. Adam says:

    Hannah,

    Loved this post, wish it was a book I devoured it so quickly. Well done.

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