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Beast1

Preface

Robert Louis Stevenson had started awake in William Henley’s drawing room with such violence he’d almost toppled from the chair in which he practically lay. To his initial surprise, he found himself at Henley’s writing desk, Fanny’s letter in his hand, a fire burning in the hearth. Everything right.

In his waking hours, Louis worked hard to deny all that had happened. But when sleep came—as indeed it must—he wrestled helplessly against the facts of his subconscious, the quarter of his being self-delusion could not penetrate. Flashing yellow eyes obscured suddenly by a fallen hood; claws that swiped, transforming from keratin to steel before sinking into soft flesh; the brays of a donkey punctuated by the click-clack of her tiny hooves retreating into the deeper recesses of Louis’s brain where he feared she could not be safe. To say nothing of the blood.

Louis straightened a little, pushing himself up in the chair, feeling the stationary of the letter between his fingers, the warmth of the fire on his legs. He could use a drink. It was only after one of these terrible dreams that he would willfully allow himself to think of everything that had occurred, and now, his tired reason fell languidly into that state, thinking, remembering, witnessing all over again . . . .

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