Once upon a time, in a faraway land close to where you sit, lived a young computer programmer and his wife in a small suburban townhouse. Traveling from an even fartheraway land, the young couple had moved in hopes of raising their children in a land rich with opportunity, hope, income, and monounsaturated fats. Slowly building a stable foundation for a home, the computer programmer and his wife worked tiresome days. Life in the faraway land was hard, but much more inspiring and worthwhile than their even fartheraway homeland.
"Do not worry, dear wife," the computer programmer said [in the language of his fathers] one day, "for all this hard work will pay off, when we send our children to particularly wonderful academies where they will become exemplary models of society by taking on careers in medicine or law."
In her free time, the computer programmer's wife would tend to the small grove of trees outside their home, where she grew some few fruits. One particularly sunny afternoon on the day of the Earth Festival, as she went to water the trees, she was surprised to find all the plants gone. In their place stood a single mango tree.
"My! Whatever must have happened to my fruits?" She gasped [in the language of her mothers], and before she could run to call the local constables and file a missing persimmon's report, she stopped to listen to the increasingly loud sound of crying. It came from the tree. As she stood underneath its shade, she was taken aback to watch as one of the tree's blossoms opened, and out sprang a baby boy, who landed in her arms. The computer programmer's wife took the child back into the house, where she waited to tell her husband of the good news.
The young couple declared themselves the proud parents of the baby boy, whose head was covered in an unusual amount of thick hair, dark as a raven's wings and unruly as Britney Spears' career. Fond of constant squirming, shiny objects, staying awake at odd hours, and sweets, one could have mistaken the young child for a woodland creature. As the baby's first birthday - which, they decided, fell on the same day as the Earth Festival - drew near, the computer programmer and his wife sent invitations to all of the village people to meet at the YMCA and partake in the traditional cakes and meats of their homeland.
The baby's birthday was a wonderful one, filled with laughter and music, hairstyles, and shoulder pads from the eighties. The wife, being the social butterfly she was, had even attracted the three local fairy godmothers to attend her baby's birthday. Being godmothers, they of course knew this baby was not like other babies.
"He must be protected," the first godmother said, "so he can become what he was sent to this earth to be. Accordingly, we've decided our gifts will be used for that very purpose. My gift will be the gift of natural wit and humor. May he always use his mind to get out of questionably tight and/or awkwardly uncomfortable situations." She waved her wand over the child.
"My gift," the second godmother said, "will be the gift of health. May he always be fit to take on any physical task, energetic to run on however much calories he has or has not consumed, and enduring to stay up during late hours of the night for hearty partying and/or schoolwork." She waved her wand over the child.
Before the third godmother could give her gift, the great doors of the YMCA blew open, upon whom entered an evil wizard.
"It's quite unfortunate that I wasn't invited to your baby's party. And from what I understand, you wish this boy to become a respectable man of medicine or law? Is that what you wish him to be, what you hope will make him and yourselves happy? Not if I can help it, being the antagonist with a brief cameo! Therefore my gift," he said, drawing out his wand, "will be that the boy will grow up as a beast from this day forth! Not only will he grow up in ridicule for his looks, fashion sense, poor eyesight, and questionable life choices, he'll also suffer poor orthodontics. He'll never be happy! Oh, and to ensure it, your family will suffer misfortune as well." The wand was waved and the wizard vanished.
"Not to worry, I still have my gift," the third godmother said, "but I cannot remove the curse. True, the baby will grow up as a beast. But the curse will be removed if he can find happiness." She waved her wand, and all three godmothers disappeared from the party.
"That was ever so vague a gift," the computer programmer said to his wife, "But I'll assume that by finding happiness, she must mean that he'll earn loads of money by being a man of medicine or law. Besides, one doesn't need to be particularly good-looking to receive a proper education."
As the years passed, the baby grew into a young adult. Firmly believing that no cursed Beast son of his would become subject to bullying or shipwrecks , the Beast's father enrolled him into karate and swimming classes. Sure enough, the Beast swiftly became an outsider amongst his peers with his secondhand clothes, his spectacles, lack of athletic ability, and orthodontic apparel. Unlike the other boys in his class, he preferred to read literature, create art, solve puzzles, and generally apply himself to the school's science club. All of this raised the Beast's father's hopes in becoming a great man of medicine [this and the fact that his wife had given birth to a daughter, uncursed by a wizard, who would double the family's chances of success]. As the wizard prophesized, the computer programmer had soon fallen victim to the faraway land's economic crisis, lost his job, and became a small sandwich shop owner.
Of course, this merely meant that the Beast would work in the store, where he would roll sandwiches, sweep floors, and deliver food in poorly decorated automobiles instead of partaking in underage alcoholic shenanigans, like so many of his peers.
Yes, the wizard succeeded in shattering the Beast's self-esteem. At family gatherings, many guests would comment on his sister and cousin:
"My, look at the daughter! How she looks so much like her mother. How beautiful."
"Ah! And her cousin! How she too looks so much like her mother. Beautiful as well."
But when they looked at the Beast?
"Oh. And this is the son."
One day in the sandwich shop, the Beast asked his mother and father, "Mother, Father, when will I cease to be so beastly?"
"When you find happiness," his mother said as she sliced bell peppers.
"That's what the fairy godmother said, so we can only assume that's when you bring honor to your ill-fated family" piped up his father over the ham slicer.
The Beast found this particularly strange. Having always read fairy tales, he was sure that true love's kiss would break a curse. And, considering he wasn't waiting atop a tower, the Beast hesitated about asking if the 'happiness' he had to find was a someone rather than a something. Never considering himself particularly prince-ly or heroic, the Beast continued to place cheddar on bread, pondering where he could find happiness.
One day during his first year, whilst running for a physical improvement course at his academy, the Beast was almost knocked into concussion by a rogue basketball [thrown by an ogre and his band of horrid ogres who were much more physically developed for their age].
"Oh athletics!" the Beast cried to the heavens, "Why must you be my downfall in higher learning?!?!?!"
"Fear not, dear Beast," a soft voice said. The Beast turned, and saw a fairy godmother appear where the basketball had landed. "There is a way for you to avoid taking any more of these unnecessary so called 'physical education' classes. If you truly want to grow, join the circus performers. Dance with them."
"But they would never take me! I've never performed, nor danced before!" the Beast exhasperated.
"I can help with that. I helped you once, and I will help you again. After all, it's where you're meant to be. You'll never have to lie in the dangerous shadow of any more basketballs. However, because your state is one of few in that requires 4 years of physical education, you'll still be forced to participate in unnecessary physical examinations [involving an ridiculous amount of running, situps, pushups, and stretches] twice per year."
"Oh, thank you, Fairy Godmother!" The Beast fell to his knees. "I'll be forever grateful to... to... to..."
"My name is Orchesis."
And thanks to Orchesis, the Beast did in fact befriend a considerable number of creatures, persons, and imaginary hallucinations in the faraway land's local high school's circus ring. Here, he met mysterious persons from foreign lands, giants, little people, rhinestone artists, princesses, fortune tellers, chefs who cooked bugs, and even the occasional hypochondriac. 'Twas amongst this motley group of performers the cursed beast decided to best use his talent of poor public speaking skills, martial arts body awareness, and general lack of self-esteem in the art of dance.
"My, I'm doing wonderfully courageous and different things for a Beast my age," the Beast said to himself one day, "and no doubt I've enjoyed it, with the eclectic group of friends I've made. But why am I still so Beastly?" He frowned at his reflection in the mirror. Happiness hadn't hit him yet.
Nearing the end of his high school career, four years later, the Beast's family was hit with yet more trauma and turmoil from the wizard's curse. Due to poor location, terrible seasons, and lack of karaoke participants, the sandwich shop had closed and the Beast's father had been stricken with heart disease [the even fartheraway land's traditional meals held a surprisingly high level of cholesterol]. The Beast's mother had sold herself as slave to an evil department store corporation, leaving the Beast and his sister to fend for themselves in the rapidly deteriorating townhouse.
"But... But... But how will I afford college? Can I even apply?" the Beast cried in agony one afternoon.
"Mayhaps, dear Beast Brother," his sister replied, "I can quit school and take up lanyarding or churning butter or embroidery and earn money for your education."
"Fear not, dear Beast," a heavenly voice said, and the Beast and his sister turned to see yet another one of his godmothers. "Like Orchesis, I can help your life. There is a way to get a proper education, given your current situation. Apply, and I will help get you into the right schools. After all, it's where you're meant to be."
"Oh, thank you, Fairy Godmother!" The Beast jumped for joy. "I'll be forever grateful to... to... to..."
"My name is Fafsa."
And thanks to Fafsa, the cursed Beast did get into a school, and a very special one at that. Located even farther away from his home, in the frozen lands of the north, lay a quiet and hidden academy for intellectually and/or monetarily gifted youngsters. Here, the students were considerably different than the ones in his high school and circus group. Although the diversity in this academy was roughly the same as his high school's, the tolerance was considerably higher. 'Twas amongst the peers here that the Beast began to accept his and other physical and mental differences with a reasonably liberal frame of mind and attitude.
"My, I've earned the incredible chance of going to an esteemed instution to further my personal growth and education," the Beast said one day, "and no doubt I've enjoyed it, with the all-night paper writing, the delicious all-you-can-eat buffets, the rush for greater academic understanding, several failed attempts at relationships, and the uneasy levels of racism and homophobia on campus. I've made friends who will last for my entire life, not-friends who pushed me in all the right directions, un-friends who made me realize what constitutes a friend, and the occasional fleeting friend who I'm sure would have been a best if we hadn't been together for just a moment. But why am I still so beastly?" Again the Beast frowned in the mirror. Happiness was doing a good job of hiding itself.
Before he knew it, four years had passed at the academy, yet the Beast still remained a Beast. Graduation swiftly approached, and the Beast had come to two realizations.
"I don't want a career in medicine AND I don't have a job for post-graduation! This will be my ruin!" the Beast cried, tearing some hairs from his scalp.
"You can always live with your parents back in their cottage," one of his chambermates said.
"Or you can just move to the metropolitan area without a job and find one once you're there," another chambermate suggested.
"OR you can sign away two years of your life to the Peace Corps, where you'll only have five days of vacation in the entire time to see your family and friends," the final offered.
"They all sound like the rustlings of Death's robes!" the Beast threw himself upon the nearest oversized cushion.
"Fear not, dear Beast," a heavenly voice said, and the Beast and his chambermates turned to see the third of his godmothers. "Like Orchesis and Fafsa, I can help your life. There is a way to live after the supposed best four years of your life; to which, I must say, if it were true, I would be highly disappointed. See the world and do what you love for one year. Apply, and I will help you travel to lands of which you and your family have dreamed! After all, it's where you're meant to be."
One year? Could it be true? This would give him some time to figure things out...
"Oh, thank you, Fairy Godmother!" The Beast fainted upon her lap. "I'll be forever grateful to... to... to..."
"My name is Watson."
And thanks to Watson, the cursed Beast did get to travel and to do what he loved. Inhaling the smells of the east, swimming in the southern oceans, coasting along red-dusted plains, and wandering the brightly lit streets at night, the Beast felt... different. In his journeys, he had met friends, made family, and learned from would-have-been-enemies-in-another-life. A certain rush filled his lungs evertime he set foot on a street he had never walked before, entered a restaurant or bar alone, and saw the sun rising and setting from a new horizon.
"My, I've earned the chance to travel to foreign lands where I will certainly unearth some long-harbored secrets and experience scary but refreshing awakenings," the Beast said one day, "and I've no doubt enjoyed it, with experienced chilied foods, stranger hospitality, dressing in women's clothing, hostile partners, and questionable skin deisease. All this, I had the chance to do while studying, doing, living what I love. But why am I still so..." the Beast didn't finish his sentence. He stared at the mirror, and noted that some things did change. No, he didn't turn into a prince [unlike most Disney movies, but he was certainly considering his followed the Dreamworks/Pixar route] with golden curls and a square jawline. The Beast saw himself, still as a Beast, but only a few years older. What did change was the way he looked at himself, his life, his world. There was only so much that he couldn't control, but so much more that he could [with the help of fair godmothers, of course].
Living with what he was given, it was time to stop trying to change everything he was and to start changing the way he lived. The Beast was done lying in wait for someone to save him, to remove the curse he was given since birth. He was done doing what was expected from him, and to follow that twist in his stomach and shiver down his back. He now realized that finding happiness, but the act of looking for it that would make him stop feeling like the Beast his life made him out to be.
Far from everything and everyone familiar, he knew now that whatever happened, happened for a reason. He might not have been a prince, or even the hero, but in this story, the only person he could save was himself. Wherever this chain of events lead him, he followed, and it all surprisingly turned out very well. The Beast wouldn't know if it lead towards happiness, or if it was all just an awakening to the fact that somewhere down the line,
he. could. find. it.
Maybe it would happen this year, or maybe it wouldn't. Yet. But the Beast got an unsettlingly good feeling that he had already begun to change, to be a little less
-| A long time ago... |-