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       Beast, p.1

           Maya Emmerich
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  Maya Emmerich


  Maya Emmerich

  Copyright © by Natalie Lakosil

  Cover design by Natalie Lakosil

  Cover image Yair Haklai; licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

  All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means is forbidden without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this book.

  Table of Contents

  The Beginning

  They Meet

  They Fall in Love

  They Are Torn Apart

  They Reunite


  She laughed as she ran into the courtyard. Behind her, three boys ran, chasing her with smiles and fake chants. “Hurry up, boys!” she called mockingly. “Wouldn’t want the beastie to get you!” She laughed again. The sound carried back to the boys, light and care-free.

  “What beast!” called one of the boys. His brown eyes arrogantly surveyed the weed-filled cobblestones. He tossed back his golden locks. “Everyone knows that’s just a myth!”

  The other two boys laughed along with him.

  Leona stuck her tongue out at them, and then shrieked as they picked up mud and started to hurl it at her. Her breath came rapidly as she ducked behind a large stone wall, giggling, her hand over her mouth. Her light pink summer dress was torn and mud-splattered, her shoes abandoned somewhere along the path to the old palace.

  At only eight, she was the youngest of the group. Destin was the oldest at twelve, the other two boys, Gerry and Lewis, both ten and twins. They were an unusual group; her mother was aghast at the idea that she ran around the countryside like a wild animal with the boys. Usually, around others, the boys liked to ignore her; she would whine and pout until they paid her attention. Alone, however, they were the best of friends.

  Leona crouched down and peeked out behind the corner of the wall. Destin was out of breath, scanning the courtyard for her. “I saw you!” he called. “I saw you duck behind that wall Leona!”

  She gasped and stuck her head out, pouting. “No fair,” she whined. Then her eyes lit up. “But you still have to catch me!”

  Yelling after her, the boys began at a wild sprint to catch her. Her yellow hair billowed behind her as she ran, laughing, picking up her skirt so as not to trip.

  “You’ll never get me! You’ll never get me!” she called, taunting them. She rounded a corner in the enormous yard, turning down a dark corridor. She had no idea where she was; they rarely came to the palace. It had started out as a dare; Destin had bet that no one would ever go, and of course, they couldn’t just ignore him. They’d crept up along the side of the palace, only to find that it wasn’t filled with spiders and bats and wolves. Instead, they’d crept right into the middle of a bright, sunny courtyard- abandoned, yet full of wonderful crevices to hide.

  “Leona!” she heard Lewis cry. “You don’t know where you’re going!”

  Leona wasn’t about to fall for that. Giggling, she dashed farther down the corridor, backing into a large nook in the wall. She checked behind her shoulder. She could just barely hear their footsteps as they ran. Taking a deep breath, she settled her back into the corner, and turned to face forward. She muttered to herself, “They-”

  Then her whole body went still. Her eyes widened.

  “Oh no,” she whispered. She tried pressing farther into the wall. “NO,” she said, still whispering, yet very, very frightened. Her little body started to tremble.


  Her head whipped around. “No!” she screamed. “Don’t-”

  “What the-”

  “Sweet Jesus!” They skidded to a halt, five feet from her.

  “Leona,” Destin said. He didn’t take his eyes from the beast. “Come out of there slowly.”

  Leona turned her head back around to look. She gulped. The thing was staring at her, its small, black eyes mirroring her reflection. Its sharp teeth hung down over its furry mouth, starkly white and sharp. It was as big as a man, with huge, brown feet and hands. Its entire body was covered in foot-long fur, hunched a little at the shoulders because it had no neck. It went straight from the bulky chest to the bulbous head, all but its eyes and wet black nose covered in thick fur. And…it was behind bars.

  “He can’t get me, can he?” she whispered. She was afraid to tear her eyes away, afraid to move. The beast hadn’t moved either.

  “I don’t think so,” Destin said, and she heard him take a step forward.

  “Look at it!” she heard Gerry whisper in awe.

  “So it’s real!” Lewis cried, and then out of the corner of her eye, she saw them move closer.

  “Who do you think owns it?” Destin asked, as he moved just in front of her, two feet from the iron bars.

  A chilly wind echoed down the corridor, down her spine.

  Owns it?

  Her eyes widened a fraction. “Destin…” she whispered. Who’d said that?

  Destin glanced back at her. “What? Like it’s gonna do anything. Look at it!” He laughed.

  Gerry and Lewis, two steps behind Destin, laughed weakly with him. “It probably doesn’t even know where it is it’s so stupid,” Gerry said, and flushed with pride when the others laughed with him.

  Leona shook her head. “Are you all mad? Get away from it!” She was still starkly terrified. Hadn’t they heard the voice?

  Destin looked back at her and scoffed. “Don’t be daft, Leona! It’s stuck behind there!”

  That’s what you think.

  Her mouth dropped open. She felt her heartbeat accelerate. “Destin,” she said, warning strong in her voice. “I don’t think you should make fun of it.”

  Lewis raised his eyebrows at her. “Why not? It’s just a dumb-”

  “Stop it!” she shrieked. Her terrified, confused eyes shot back to the beast.

  Who is this?

  She gasped. “No! Stop!” her eyes watered.

  Destin walked towards her. “Leona, it’s all right, don’t-”

  “No!” she screamed. She got out of the corner, and backed down the corridor.

  That’s right, pretty one, run…

  Leona screamed, and, filled with stark terror, turned and ran blindly home.

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