NOTE: This was a short, random piece of fiction I wrote during the 2014 A to Z Challenge at The Cryton Chronicles. Feel free to check out its original posting here. Being it was specifically a fiction piece, I thought it made sense to also share it here.
Samantha — or Sammy as her parent’s called her by, despite the pleas against it — trudged down the hallway, each footstep lightly emphasized by a soft echo. Her head was hung low. The flowery sundress she wore swayed with her movements, now and again obscuring the view of her cute, pink-sparkling, princess shoes. They were brand new and she had begged her mother to purchase them solely for today’s event. To show them off. To show all the other six-year-olds that she was somebody too. That Samantha was important.
There was no need to pay attention to where she was going, she had been there before, and knew the layout of the house; where the bathroom was. Samantha drifted away in her thoughts, the muffled clamor of the birthday party being celebrated in the backyard fading. All the other children were playing games together. Ones that required you to have a partner. She was certain that with her new shoes and dress that someone would take notice. There was no way she would be the odd person out. Not this time.
But no one had claimed her as a partner. She watched as, one by one, teams were formed among the other twelve kids. That made her thirteen. That made her unlucky.
One parent, who had decided to stay and help chaperone, offered to be her teammate, but Samantha knew the truth. They were just feeling sorry for her situation. Pretending to care. She wasn’t completely oblivious to the generosity of such a deception. It was more than could be said for her friends attending the party. Like Becky, her best friend. At least when no one else was around for Becky to engage with instead, that is. The two of them had barely exchanged more than two words since being dropped off. A brief wave and curt smile.
Samantha became aware that she was about to reach her destination. It wasn’t so much that she had to go to the bathroom, but that it offered seclusion. She turned right, just stepping past the threshold of her makeshift sanctuary, when the slow creak from the door directly behind her stopped her cold in her tracks. Goosebumps raced up along her arms and her muscles tensed. The sound continued to resonate throughout the hall, as she began to turn around. An idea she was certain she would regret. She may only be six, but she had seen her fair share of horror movies.
This was the part where someone dies.
The creaking subsided and Samantha spun around faster to get it over with. Nothing. Blackness. She then realized her eyes were cemented shut and hands balled up into small fists. Throwing caution to the wind, she slowly opened one eye, determined to face her demise head on. Again, nothing. Just a partially opened door. No killer with a knife, no monster with sharp teeth. Sammy let out a long sigh of relief.
The dark stained, wooden door loomed in front of her, but it didn’t take long before curiosity sprung to life. She crept her way across the short span to the room across the hall, as though afraid there still may be someone, or something, lurking close. She reached out with a tiny hand, gripping and twisting the doorknob out of habit. It gave her a brief sense of control. Then Samantha was stepping into the room. As she opened the door fully, she was greeted by blinding light.
The room was so bright, sunlight pouring through a large window across the way, Samantha couldn’t get a bearing on her surroundings. She brought a hand up to shield herself while her eyes adjusted. She was amazed that the room had appeared so dark originally from out in the hall. Perhaps the sun just broke free from a string of clouds. But then she saw it. The light seemed to be focusing around a central figure sitting in a chair positioned in the middle of the room. The sunshine illuminated it, rays of warmth surrounding its otherwise shadowed being. She squinted a little more.
It was a doll. Or perhaps a puppet, dressed in a red and white jester-like outfit, sans the cap. A fool with his hand-painted, wooden head exposed. And despite the light display, highlighting the toy, it looked rather gloomy. The puppet seemed to be frowning. It — or he, it seemed — was against the back of the chair, but hunched over, its gaze cast to the floor. She was reminded of the ventriloquist puppets she had seen on television programs. They always made her uncomfortable, and what sat in front of her seemed to fit the bill. She took two steps in attempts to gain a better view.
It was then that she became aware of the some other features of the den she had just entered. A fairly small and clustered room. Her attention, however, was drawn to the couch to her right. It was placed diagonally in the room so that it faced the door. Simple, a light brown with slightly darker matching pillows tucked into the corners. In the middle of the couch was an array of dolls. Beautiful ones. Some had streaming blonde hair, others brunette, but all were adorned with intricate, white dresses and smiles. They all seemed so happy. A close knit group sitting together gossiping about their lives, waiting for the tea party to begin where they would be served sweets with their drinks.
She counted twelve of them. Of course. Something was off about them, though, despite the merry disposition of the scene. Each of the dolls were facing the same direction, their blank stares turned away from greeting people as they entered. She followed theirs back to the lone puppet occupying the center of the room. On his throne of loneliness.
Samantha understood then. He was an outcast, like her. Cast aside and left alone. It now made sense to her why he was staring down at…
She was startled as she locked eyes with the puppet. Eyes that looked alive, and were no longer downcast. On it’s pale white face, marred with black paint surrounding its eyes, with red surrounding its mouth and cheeks, was a smile. It did little to distract from the sorrow encompassed in the eyes, however. Samantha’s breath quickened and she assessed her memory. There was a good chance she had mistaken how the puppet was originally positioned. With the drowning light and her imagination already running wild, she possibly projected it in her mind to mimic her current emotions. It was impossible that the doll could have been looking down and frowning one moment, then staring and smiling at her the next.
But there he was. Smiling at her. Eyes searching hers, almost yearningly.
She felt a growing sensation of need growing within her. A need to connect. Thoughts came through to her from seemingly nowhere. Questions being asked. Would she be a friend? A best friend? Promises being made. I will never leave you. We will be friends until the end of time. Samantha almost thought she could hear them voiced, or rather whispered, through her mind. She became lightheaded, woozy, almost drunk with emotions. With an equal yearning she imagined from the puppet.
She really wanted a friend, a true friend. Needed one.
There was the desire to touch the puppet. To hold it. To play with it. The urge began to overpower all of Samantha’s other senses. All other thoughts beyond the doll, her parents; Becky; the birthday party, were suppressed and systematically eliminated until there was only that connection with the puppet. Her peripherals narrowed, giving her tunnel vision, and at the end was her new friend. The only thing that mattered. In her dreamlike state she watched as her hand tentatively stretched out towards the puppet.
Play with me, she heard, and she had no choice but to comply.
Samantha never heard the creaking, or the latch engaging, as the door slowly closed shut behind her.