There were no mirrors in the Bell Tower of Notre Dame.
There never had been and there never will be.
It wasn’t until long after he had been put to work to ring the bells every day when Quasimodo first looked upon his own hideous visage. Of course, for as long as the boy could remember; his master had instilled many powerful lessons upon him.
“You are deformed.”
“And you are ugly.”
“Out there, they will revile you as a m o n s t e r…”
These words may not have been altogether false. Perhaps his face was not a pleasant thing to see. But a monster? Such a concept was so far beyond his naive perception. He was a man of flesh and blood. God created men in his image. That much, he knew for certain.
So why was it that his master had placed such a cruel title upon him?
Quasimodo was perhaps fifteen when he first caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection of one of the bells. It was then when he finally understood. Years of teaching and strict practice had all begun to crumble around him most immediately. He had never before taken the time to look at one so close. But he now knew why.
He understood everything now.
At first, he could hardly believe that what he was looking at was a face at all. It was too incomplete to be a human visage. In fact, had he not been standing so close to the bell’s metallic surface he would have guessed that he was staring into the face of one of the many gruesome, snarling Gargoyles which dotted the Cathedral’s great exterior.
The moment he reached up to touch the warped surface of his features was when all reality had truly struck him, like a blow to the heart. The truth of it hurt far deeper than any physical wound of the flesh. The twisted upper lip, the eyes which seemed so lifeless, the bones of his face so poorly constructed. All of these traits, Quasimodo could have certainly lived with. Not easily, but he could have. And then he noticed the hump protruding upwards from his back. The force of it was pressing down on his crooked spine, forever pushing him down. He always knew that weight had been there, but he could never place a vision to it until now.
His master’s words had rung true after all. How utterly grotesque he was!
Quasimodo could not stand to look at himself any longer. He immediately turned around but upon doing so dropped to his knees. He felt a heaving sob well up in his chest and throat. The tears all came flooding out of him without even a fighting chance to stop them. It didn’t matter if he was looking at himself, or not. He could not eliminate the image of his hideous form from his mind.
If only he were made of stone like the Saints and the Gargoyles. At least he would be senseless and numb to his ugliness. Just another monster of stone, streaming rain water down upon the streets below.
Never again would he question the words of his Master.
And never again would he ever pretend to be anything other than what he was.
“I am a monster…”
“Only a m o n s t e r….”