Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Ma Belle, Sa Bête

by Luc Reid

When I woke the next morning, sunlight was stretching up the coverlet toward where I lay with ma belle. Only yesterday evening had she first said she loved me. Then she nearly dragged me into the bedroom, where she did a good job of proving it. In the end, it didn’t matter to her that I was covered with coarse hair, that I had the face of some indescribable forest beast.

As I drowsed there, contented, I caught a glimpse of my own bare arm. My bare arm. The curse had been lifted! I was transformed! And ma belle really did love me!

Cherie!” I whispered, “Ma belle, ma petite chou! Wake up! Look!”

She stretched and languidly opened her eyes, the tips of her eyelashes catching a ray of sunlight, her hair pooling around her face like liquid gold. Then she blinked. Then she sat up, pulling the coverlet around her.

“Who are you?” she shouted, terrified. “Ma bête! Aides-moi!

Ma belle, it’s me!” I crowed. “Human again! Your love has broken the curse!”

She stared at me for a long time. I pushed the bedclothes away. She studied me closely, her gaze pausing here and there.

Finally she said, “You’re a little short.”

A miracle, and her first response is that I’m short? “You can’t expect me to be the same size I was as a beast,” I mumbled. “Anyway, I’m nearly as tall as you are.” Because ma belle is tall; there’s no getting around that. But at least I was human!

“Well, this is wonderful,” she said weakly. “Now I can return to my family, I guess.”

“What? No … no! You should marry me … come back to my kingdom …”

She gave a sad kind of half-smile, and the thing I’d begun to fear was clearly shown in her face: her love for me was gone; all that was left was pity.

She didn’t have to say a word to confirm it. I could feel my face stretching into a muzzle, the coarse hair growing out of my skin again. Her eyes opened wide, watching in amazement as I transformed. When I was done, there were tears in her eyes.

Ma bête!” she gasped, and her eyes were filled with love again. She’d probably make me human again by lunchtime–and if I was lucky, again by midnight. I smiled a slow, feral smile … and pounced.

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