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Beasts and Roses

Amy Smift has two children and a background in lab science. This is her first professional sale.
The Beast doesn't ask for one of his daughters, merely tells him he will never leave. The merchant is numb as he is shown his bedchamber, the dining room, the library. Finally the Beast stops at a carved wooden chest, dark near to black, and withdraws two mirrors.
He hands one to the merchant. It is silver, finely made, but not extraordinary. The merchant is surprised to see that he does not already look older, more haggard.
The Beast offers him the other mirror. As they exchange them he sees that it is, unusually, gold. Then he nearly drops it in shock: the face looking back at him is not his own, but the Beast's.
"You see," says the Beast, the words weirdly doubled, issuing forth from his image in the mirror and from where he stands apart from the merchant, looming despite his distance. "The gold mirror shows what the silver mirror sees." And indeed he holds the silver mirror up in one massive paw, as if to admire his horrible visage.
"I don't understand," says the merchant. It is the first he has spoken since his initial protestations and pleas.
"I will cause one mirror to be sent to your daughters' house," the Beast says, my house, thinks the merchant. "You may choose."
His daughters are eight and six and two. (Perhaps that is why the Beast does not ask for one of them; there are no nursemaids here.) He thinks of giggles and pulled faces, of blushing young ladies arranging their hair. Of explanations, reassurances, words of love. (The silver mirror, sold; the gold mirror speaking to no one.)
"The roses were for them," he tells the Beast.
"They always are," agrees the Beast.
"Why can't I have both?" he asks. "See them, and speak to them?"
"Everyone must choose," the Beast answers, and the merchant wonders how many other poor rose-thieves have stood here before him.
A better man would smash both, he thinks, and puts out his hand to choose.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, April 14th, 2016

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