Bossy and the Beast
by Sandra Crook
“It's not my turn.”
“Look, Josie, Louella's gone missing, and you were next in line, anyhow.”
“But it's not fair. I wasn't due until next spring.”
“Someone has to do it, and that someone's you, Josie, so quit arguing and go get the robe on.”
Josie flounced off, flushed at the injustice of it all. Louella should have told her she was crapping out on the schedule; it wasn't fair that she, Josie, should be sacrificed a year early. Sometimes, she thought, life sucked.
Later that day, a procession wound its way up the mountainside, led by several young girls, robed in white, a kind of induction process. Following behind them, clad in loincloths, was a group of young men, muscles flexing under the burden of a fur-draped pallet.
On the pallet, her back ram-rod straight, arms folded, bottom lip jutting out and cheeks still aflame, sat Josie, nursing a real strop. Her parents followed, her mother sobbing dry-eyed, casting an occasional glance at her watch, and her father fingering the coins received for allowing his daughter to go early to her fate.
Behind the procession came the elders. Well behind. So far behind, in fact, that they'd be back safe in the village a good hour before the others if the monster came out of his lair breathing hell fire and damnation.
Eventually, the pallet was set down before a cave. The elders, still at a safe distance, chanted a few prayers, genuflected, and then prepared to lead the procession swiftly back down the mountainside.
Josie's mother gave her daughter a quick peck on the cheek.
“Remember, you're not to look at it. Just go with the flow, don't make things worse for yourself.”
And she was off... like a jackrabbit.
As soon as everybody left, Josie got up and stomped over to the mouth of the cave.
“Hey you,” she bellowed, hands on hips.
There was a shuffling noise from the back of the cave, and a monster shambled from the shadows, shouting “Don't look, turn away.”
Josie ignored the warning, and leaned against the cave entrance, tapping her foot impatiently.
“It wasn't my turn, you know. You were supposed to be having Louella, till she legged it.”
“I said don't look,” wailed the monster.
“I'll look all I want,” snapped Josie, “you owe me.”
The creature emerged into the sunlight, and the pair stood there looking at each other.
“You're not that terrifying,” said Josie, eventually, reaching out to tuck a lock of its purple hair behind a pointed red ear. “What do you want sacrificial virgins for anyway?”
“I don't,” replied the monster, a green tear sliding down its scaly orange cheek. “your people just keep bringing them. It seems churlish to decline.”
“You mean you've been doing this for a hundred years now, and you don't really want to?” said Josie, waving her arm at the heaps of bleached bones surrounding the cave entrance.
The monster nodded sadly, and squatted on a rock.
“Holy Moses,” said Josie, “what do you want then?”
“I'd really like to come back down to the village and live there like I used to, way back.”
“You mean you used to be one of us?” said Josie, wide-eyed.
“Oh yes, but then I transformed, and was exiled. They kept bringing me maidens, I think it was to keep me away from the village, but I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with them. Nobody said. Eventually there was no room for any more so I had to eat them.”
“No shit?” exclaimed Josie, sitting down beside the monster. “What, all at once?”
“Yeah, it was awful, you can have too much of a good thing, you know. I was ill for weeks, so after that I disposed of them as soon as they were delivered.”
“Didn't you want company or anything?” she asked.
“Well it would have been nice, but none of them could bear to look at me.”
Josie gave it a long appraising stare. “Have you thought of maybe losing a few pounds, getting your hair restyled? I could do that for you, if you like.”
“Would you?” said the monster, grasping her hands in its furry paws.
“Sure,” said Josie, “but we'll need to go down to the village, get some scissors. In fact, once we're done, we might as well stay there. We've got proper huts down there, and there are fires to keep us warm.”
“But nobody can bear to look at me,” said the monster.
“Tough,” said Josie, “that's their problem, isn't it? They can always leave.”
And so it was that the pair made their way down the mountainside, arm in arm, and the villagers who were in the middle of a feast to celebrate the sacrifice of another young girl, all ran screaming into the forest, leaving a banquet table groaning under the weight of food.
Josie and the monster sat down at the table previously occupied by the elders.
“What do you think of this?” said Josie, handing over a platter of deep-fried chicken breasts.
“Hmmm,” said the monster, taking a bite and licking its lips appreciatively, “tastes like virgin.”
Josie choked with laughter, spraying mashed potato over the table. “Hey, you're real funny, you know that? I think we're gonna get along just fine.”
She leaned over and planted a kiss on its whiskery mouth, and the creature blushed an unbecoming shade of purple.
By rights of course, it should have turned into a handsome prince. But it didn't. In fact, Josie thought, studying its face closely, it might even be a tad uglier than before.
“Pass the quail's eggs will you, don't hog 'em all,” she said through a mouthful of salmon mousse. The monster blushed again and handed them over.
She looked at it once more. Yep, it was definitely looking uglier.
“But hey,” she thought, “there doesn’t always have to be a happy ending. And it’s not like I’m a real virgin anyway.”
Copyright © 2012 by Sandra Crook