Tears welled in Emery's eyes and she blinked them away. "Hi." She forced a smile. "Are you hungry? Let's see if we can find some food."
Beastly released her hand and trotted up the hallway. "I know where some is." She disappeared into the office.
Emery followed. She found Beastly rummaging in the bottom of a metal cabinet. "There's probably only paper and office supplies in here, Beastly."
Beastly's head emerged and she shook her hair out of her eyes. "My name is not Beastly." Then her face disappeared again.
Emery puckered her eyebrows. "Then...what IS your name?"
"Elizabeth," came the muffled reply. "Or sometimes just Beth."
"Beth." Emery said it slowly, awed at the difference a name makes. "Why do they call you Beastly then?"
Beth scooted back from the cabinet, her arms full of tins and glass jars. "Because of IT." She shoved her shoulder in the cabinet door, slamming it closed. "When IT takes over me, then people call me Beastly."
A jar slipped in Beth's arms, and Emery rushed to help her. They set the things on a desk, and then Emery peeped inside a tin. It was full of peanuts.
"Good work!" Emery opened another one. It had old, stale Christmas cookies. "Are these all full of food?"
Beth nodded, stuffing a Christmas cookie into her mouth.
Emery lifted herself onto the edge of the desk and sat there with her legs crossed at the ankles. She scooped a handful of peanuts and then asked, "Who is IT?"
Beth licked her finger and used it to pick up cookie crumbs that had fallen on her white gown. "IT does bad things and I can't stop IT. IT is too strong. Big men can't stop IT. The asylum can't stop IT." She cocked her head up at Emery. "But you can. Every time you tell a story. You stop IT. Why?"
Emery didn't know what to say. She had never heard of anything like this before.
Or maybe she had. In a Bible story about Jesus.
"I suppose..." Emery looked up into Beth's hungry face, and the words suddenly came quickly. "It's not me. It's the One in me that IT can't stand. I'm a Christian, and IT can see that. And IT hates it. Because there is power in the name of Jesus that is stronger than IT."
"You're like David." The crumbs fell from Beth's finger and she set about picking them up again. "And IT is Goliath." She licked the cookie crumbs from her finger. "And I'm Israel." She looked up at Emery and a shudder ran through her body. "IT hates you. IT wants to kill you."
The peanuts in Emery's mouth suddenly felt dry. With difficulty, she swallowed them. "And you, Beth? What do you want?"
Beth pressed her hands against her head and started rocking. "I think you should tell a story, Emery." She whimpered. "You have to stop IT."
Before Emery could answer, something beeped and crackled. Then a voice squeaked through the intercom. "Miss Clayton?"
Beth yelped as if she had been struck.
Emery leaped from the desk and grabbed Beth's hand, dragging her from the room. "Come on -- I'll tell you a story in this other room where it will be quiet."