I have finished the fourth chapter of “Realm of Madness”. I’ll add it the other chapters later, but for now, you can read it here. Enjoy!
Chapter 4: The Gift
Back to what I was talking about before. Great Uncle Arthur and I had yet another pleasant talk while on the back porch. We talked about many things; things that would take too long to describe in detail. I will say though that I got a lot off my chest and I felt just a hint of happiness. Yet, there were times where we needed to stop because the yelling inside the house was so loud that we couldn’t talk over it. I could only assume that my parents were arguing again. Mother did always hate it when my father let Arthur into the house.
“Pay them no mind, Mary.” Arthur said. “They’re being ridiculous, as always.”
I stared down at my folded hands sitting neatly in my lap. A familiar feeling of guilt and remorse rushed through me and I feel that same lump of coal forming in the pit of my stomach. “Are Mom and Dad fighting because of me?” I asked.
Arthur gently patted me on the back. “Of course not, Mary.” He said. “Grow-ups fight over trivial matters all the time.”
“It’s not trivial!” I protested; I even lifted my head to look at him. “Flint and Marine keep saying that Mom and Dad are gonna put me up for adoption.”
“My dear Mary, they would never do that.” Arthur said firmly, as if his words only would make that a fact.
“How do you know?” I snapped. I quickly recognized that I may had sounded angry, and that Arthur might think that I was angry at him, eventhough I wasn’t. “I’m sorry.” I apologized. “I just feel scared.” I felt my lower lip quiver and my hands automatically clench fists as they raised to wipe the tears that were already forming in my eyes. “I’m scared Mom and Dad will abandon me because they don’t care about me anymore.” I exclaimed before breaking into silent sobs. Arthur didn’t say anything. He let me sob while he rubbed my back. It was comforting.
The truth was that I wasn’t afraid of being abandoned by my parents. I knew, even back then, that if they wanted to get rid of me, they would just send me to live with Arthur. I didn’t even care if they suddenly stopped caring about me. No, I didn’t fear abandonment or neglect. I feared the idea of being alone with my depression. Yes, there were times that I didn’t like my parents or siblings, but they, along with Great Uncle Arthur, were still my family. I didn’t have any friends before the incident and even if I did, I doubted that they could empathize with my problem. Whenever I was with my dysfunctional family, I felt as though I wasn’t alone in my suffering.
After a minute of sobbing, I wiped the last tears off my face. I looked up at Arthur with a hint of a smile. “Thanks.” I said.
He smiled as he said: “There’s no need to thank me, Mary. That’s what I’m here for. But you must understand,” His expression slowly turned into one of seriousness. “Your parents do care about you. They just have odd ways of showing it is all.”
“What about Flint and Marine?” I asked. “They hate me.”
A hint of his former smile returned to his face. He said in a whispered voice: “Your older siblings are just jealous.”
He nodded. “It’s common for older siblings to be jealous for younger ones.” He said.
“I don’t want them to be jealous of me.”
“They won’t be.” He assured me. “We’ll grow out of it. I’m sure of it.”
“I hope so.” I murmured. I pulled my knees close to my chest and hugged them with my tiny arms. I settled my chin on my knees and looked down at the ground. The lump of coal began to rock back and forth inside my stomach, until it was rubbing against the sides of my insides, creating a stomachache. Guilt ate at me in this same. It always started with a mere stomachache, then the pain would elevate into something like pins and needles pressing against the skin of my entrails and punching holes in them. My limbs would feel weak; so weak that I couldn’t move them. Finally, when all my energy drained from my body, I would let my eyes stare into space as I contemplated my wrongdoings. With my bloodshot eyes and sickly skin, I guessed I resembled a zombie.
“Mary?” My great uncle said, concern evident in his voice.
“I can’t handle everyone hating me.” I said as my head sunk so low that my face was hidden by my knees. I brought my hands up to my head and started to grip my hair in my fists. I was on the verge of crying again.
“My dear, no one hates you.” Arthur said. “Who could hate you?”
“A lot of people.” I answered.
“Well, those people just need to get to know you, and they’ll see what a wonderful young lady you are.”
I slowly lifted my eyes to meet his. Great Uncle Arthur wasn’t the kind of person to give compliments lightly, but when he did give a compliment, you knew he meant it. “You think so?” I asked.
He nodded. “Of course, I do.” There was a pause, and his eyes lit up with a little boy who had just be told that he will be getting a new toy. “If you weren’t such a nice girl, I wouldn’t bother with a present.”
One of the many things I loved about Arthur was that he always got me the best gifts. Whether it was my birthday or Christmas, he would always get me exactly what I wanted. Most of the time, he gave me books, which was great. I felt genuine joy whenever I read the books Great Uncle Arthur gave me. I always liked reading, and I was good at it. My teachers said that I read at a high school level. My favorite books to read were mystery novels, like the ones written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie.
I watched as my great uncle brought the black suitcase he always carried with him onto his lap. “Close your eyes and hold your hands out.” He said. I shut my eyes and held my hands out as instructed. I heard the telltale sound of the suitcase opening and I wondered what new book he had gotten me. I allowed myself to daydream about the new mysteries and adventures I would get to read about. Suddenly, I felt something gently pressed into my small hands. It felt soft; not hard like the other books he gave me. A softcover book? I thought. “Open your eyes.” I heard Arthur said, and I did.
Maybe it was because I already expecting a book, or maybe it was because I gotten myself excited, but when I opened my eyes, I was shocked. Though, not to say I was disappointed to find that the thing in my hands wasn’t a book; I was surprised more than anything. “I got this during my trip to Japan.” Arthur said. “The man who sold it to me said it was a rare item. Nothing like it exists anywhere else in the world.” I looked up at Arthur, who had a prideful look on his face, like he picked out the best possible present. “Don’t you think it’s adorable?” He said. I didn’t look to meet his gaze. Instead I eyed to the object in my hands, then turned it around a few times in my hands. My gift from Great Uncle Arthur: a stuffed dog toy.
The arms and legs were stubby. The tail was slender, short, and curved. The ears were ovular and floppy. The eyes, which looked as though they were made from a shiny plastic, were black and beady. The whole thing looked as if it taken multiple types of fabrics to put together. The right arm and left leg were a lavender color. The left arm and the right leg was a bright blue. The tail was a bubblegum pink. The body was orange with patches of blue, lavender, and pink where the arms, legs, and tail were attached. The left half of the head was yellow, while the right side was green. The left ear was red, the other was brown. The small, almost catlike muzzle was pure white, saved for the large black that was most likely supposed to represent the nose. Attached to the nose, there was a thick, black line that ran downward and ended in an outline of a semicircle; a small, simple smile.
I felt so many strange feelings while holding the thing, but I pushed them all to the back of my head and embraced my great uncle is a tight hug. “I love it!” I exclaimed.
He chuckled and hugged me back. “I knew you would like it. I thought you needed something to keep you company.”
I broke the hug to look at him. “So, what’s his name?” I asked.
He answered my question with a question. “Well, what do you want it name to be?”
I looked down at the stuffed creature in my hands with a smile on my face. I then held it–or rather him, because I assumed it to be a male–toward the sky. “I wanna call him Puppy-dog!” I am now aware that ‘Puppy-dog’ wasn’t the most original name for a stuffed dog toy, but I was eleven and I didn’t know many names. Besides, it is far too late to change his name.
“Puppy-dog it is.” Said Arthur. “I can tell that you two are going to be great friends.”
I nodded my head in agreement, but, on the inside, I was nervous, frighten, and uneasy. There was some things odd about Puppy-dog. Firstly, he looked brand new, like he never been touched before, but as I held him in my hands, I sensed the presence of several other people; it was as if other children had held him. Secondly, for some reason, he felt heavy. I knew, even at a young age, that stuffed animals were made of cotton. Puppy-dog should had been light, but he wasn’t. Lastly, and this was the strangest thing of all, Arthur said that there was nothing like Puppy-dog in the whole world, but I had the nagging feeling that I had seen something like him somewhere before.
What I first thought of Puppy-dog was nothing compared to what I discovered. In the days that would come, I would discover just how unusual the stuffed animal was. Almost all my uneasy feelings about him would be answered as I came closer to the truth about my new toy–and yes, I am using the term sarcastically. I am still not one-hundred percent sure that he is a toy, and if he is, then he is the strangest toy is the entire world. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. I’ll get to Puppy-dog’s true nature eventually, but, for those who are reading my posted, you’ll just have to wait in the meantime.
Posted: August 11, 2020 1:00 AM
Word Count: 1,871