Frederick, an artist, attempts to escape the memory of his wife's tragic death by moving to the mountain village of Halo. There he transforms a century old barn into a gallery and studio. He resumes painting, only now, all of the female images he creates are in the likeness of his departed wife. One rendering having an overwhelming resemblance to her is of a half-human lioness.
He pays little attention to stories of slaughtered animals and livestock, until on a hot summer night, while sleeping outside on the front stoop, he awakens to find himself face to face with the beast of his painting, and he soon discovers the tie binding them together is far stronger than mere paint and canvas.
The Familiar, a variation of the beauty and the beast theme, is also an experiment in role reversal, for in this story, beauty is the beast.
Excerpt- The Familiar
©Copyright 2006, Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The beast withdraws in a cautious step allowing Frederick to gaze upon the fierce countenance and exacting womanly fullness borne from his inspiration. Subtle curves of erotic form, as they were cast upon the canvas, are here, beneath a bodice of golden fur, matted by rain. His heart softens and is moulded by the gentle hands of empathy.
The attentions of both are drawn toward the muted snap of a twig at the distant edge of the grade that leads to the gallery. The beast charges to the far end of the stoop, hurdles the railing, where she vanishes amid the near vertical drop to the forest's edge. Gone, she leaves a lasting vision of herself bounding the railing, and of her tail reaching to its fullest extreme to guide her balance.
"Mr. Frederick!" he heard from behind, and turns to see Rankin trotting up the last steps of the grade.
"Didn't mean ta startle ya, Mr. Frederick!" the hunter added, as he approached the stoop, "up a might early, ain't cha?"
"The storm knocked out the electric," the artist replied, and for the first time takes in the disquieting silence and gloom of the darkened street, "it was too hot inside, I came out here to sleep."
"Storm maybe downed a tree ‘cross a power line, bin out all night trackin' down what's bin tearin' up livestock," and the hunter lowers to one knee to examine a muddy footprint.
"O‘most same as a man," the hunter explained, "‘cept, large pads on the sole. Ain't like nothin' I ever seen. See ‘ere," and Frederick peers over the railing to where the hunter indicates, "claws."
"A bear?" the artist suggests, and Rankin eyes the tracks up the step and onto the stoop.
"Like I said, ain't like nothin' I ever seen. Smart too. Backtracked on me more times ‘an I care ta think about. Milled about yer chair a bit too. Lucky she took a likin' to ya."
"Yeap, done my share of things I bin shamed ta admit. Even convinced m'self that after I pass, I may do time with tha devil. But only tha devil can make what I seen, an' it's a cryin' sin fer it ta walk among tha livin'," and standing, he looked off into the forest, resting the crossbow in the crook of his arm.