“I just want to sleep. I just want to be done. I can’t be this man anymore.”

“You’re not going to hurt yourself, are you?”

“…I won’t make you a promise I’m not sure I can keep.”

“That isn’t an answer.”

“No. No, it isn’t.”

I want to say something to draw Tanim out of this chilling resignation but my words have run dry from repetition. What else can I tell him? ‘You did this; you created this monster. You tangled yourself up and now you’ll hang from your struggling before you can cut free’? I can’t. I can’t bear to make him face the truth that all these years of misery and fear and guilt are his own doing. It’s too late, anyway, to undo the damage completely. The loathing is twisted into every aspect of his personality, an undercurrent of darkness running beneath each thought and emotion. How can I convince him that this broken logic is his own creation when to him it feels natural and correct to punish himself for urges he cannot control? Tanim has no idea he’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, a man transformed into a monster by his own self-hatred. He crafted this curse, he set the rules, and no true love’s kiss will free him now. There’s no prince left to rescue, only the beast.