Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 224



Conomor, No Longer Accursed

Conomor raised his hands in delight and watched the fur curl up like leaves drying in the sun. “You love me! I am free!”

The scream kicked within Belle’s round stomach and she staggered with the suddenness of it. Tears continued to run down her face and she still could not say why.

“You should be happy!” Conomor demanded as she sank to the ground. “Be happy for me!” More thick blue curls floated off of him.

“I am!” Belle answered, and she was. “I am happy and relieved and so many other things, I cannot say what has come over me.”

Her husband lurched over and sniffed at her. “You are with child.”

It was a scream, not a baby, she wanted to say, but his furious movement had frightened her. The scream was trying to claw its way out through her mouth again and it made her throat seize up. The tears kept falling and she began to tremble.

“Don’t deny it!” he swore at her shaking head. Even in his soon-to-be human form, his temper flamed up just as quickly. “Look at you! The child will come at any moment, it seems!”

She wanted to say that her belly had been flat earlier that day and that he had seen her that morning, but the words could not make their way past the scream and Conomor either did not or could not remember what had happened earlier in the day. All she could do was to hold on to her abdomen with one hand and grab the ground with the other as her body shook more and more strongly.

“How can you do this to me? Take this moment of joy from me when I am finally free of my curse?”

Belle’s eyes filled with sight of the red handprints covering the white dress. She only looked up when Conomor’s voice strangled itself into a roar of pain. Her husband seemed somewhat shrunken even as he swung left and right, trying to get at something that only he could see.

“Get it off!” he bellowed. He snapped his now much shorter jaws at whatever plagued him. His stomping feet scattered blue leather curls to all sides. While he still cut a powerful figure, his own skin, still blue under the beast-like curse he had worn thanks to the wizard’s evil, was wrinkled, thin, and sagging. His cheeks sagged. With every new bit of animal that dropped from him, an old, even ancient man took its place. His movements became both sharper and slower as he roared at his back. “Something is keeping me bent over. Help me!”

“There is nothing on your back,” Belle said in a choked whisper. “That is your back, hunched and twisted. You are old, my love.”

He did not answer her, but thrashed about with a renewed vigor that only seemed to exhaust him more. “Help me! Get up and help me!” His once powerful voice was now a demanding bleat. “I’ll finish you if you don’t! This is your fault!”

Conomor spun upon her but he no longer had the strength or control that he was used to, and he wavered for a moment on one foot before he fell, tipping like a hewn tree, into the shrub altar of scream flowers.

The skies heard his pain as the flowers’ petals delivered their venom to his skin. He shrieked threats and curses to his dying breath.

“I know why I am crying,” Belle told his twitching body. “Because you are a terrible man and yet I loved you.”

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