A short story by Manelle Oliphant
Text and illustrations © 2017 by Manelle Oliphant
Thank you for downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoy this book, please return to your favorite ebook retailer to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.
A Short Story by Manelle Oliphant
Part 1: The Beast
The mirror’s screen flickered to life. Bête picked it up. He’d programmed the mirror to alert him when she came to town. As she entered the town square, Bête zoomed in on her using his cyborg connection with the town’s security cameras. She still looked as radiant as he remembered. It had only been six days, but it felt much longer.
Bête sighed. She said she’d be back when her ill father felt better but why would she? He was a monster made half of cybernetic wires, and she was the most beautiful girl in town. He stared at his robotic hand and clenched his fingers. His brain moved it the same way it moved any of his limbs, but there was no feeling in the fingers.
He watched as she ran her errands, and talked to people about plans for the next day’s Rose Festival. It was customary for the lord of the manor to crown a Queen of the Roses at the festival. Bête hadn’t ever done so. Before the war, and the explosion that blew away half his body, his father performed such duties. Now his father was dead, and he avoided company as much as possible. If there hadn’t been a war, if he hadn’t been so deformed, maybe he would crown Belle the queen tomorrow. As things were, he could only sit in his tower and imagine the possibility.
Belle worked as a servant in the Manor House to pay off debt her father had owed to the previous lord. Her father’s ill health kept him from working off the debt himself. She’d taken his place to keep him out of prison.
Belle attended to Bête’s needs, and in time the girl and the cyborg man became friends. Sometimes he imagined they could be more, but he squelched these feelings as much as possible. Those kinds of thoughts would only bring pain. He groaned. His breath mixed with the whir of machinery as it left his mouth and sounded like a low growl, a constant reminder that he wasn’t a whole man.
Only a week ago Belle encouraged Bête to come to the festival and do his duty. “You don’t look as scary as you think. If people got used to you, they would accept you.” He’d flinched away from her and told her to leave him be. Later that day she’d taken a leave of absence to help her ill father, and they hadn’t talked since.
In the mirror, Belle chatted with some townsfolk. A stout man who had obviously spent a long time oiling his dark hair and arranging his neck cloth joined them. His name was M. Gros, Bete’s estate manager and steward. The man stepped close to Belle and put his hand on her back. He smiled, said something and winked. Belle gave him a half-hearted smile as she stepped away. He closed the gap. Belle waved at the group and began to walk toward home. The man grabbed Belle’s arm, pulled her to him and spoke. Belle scowled as she replied. He grinned and let her go, leering at her retreating form until she turned a corner.
Bête wished for the hundredth time the network transferred sound as well as images. The wood under his hand creaked and snapped. He’d broken the table’s top with his cybernetic hand. Exasperated he tossed the piece of wood into the corner and shut the mirror screen off with his mind. He stalked through the manor house for the rest of the day, unable to calm his thoughts.
To be continued…
Manelle Oliphant is the illustrator of over ten books for children and the creator of Tales Fantastic. A series of illustrated short stories available free at She lives in Salt Lake City UT, with her husband. Learn more about Manelle and Her books at
[+ Get another free story when you enroll to recieve Tales Fantastic eLetters+]