Realm of Madness (Novel)

Preface: “My Name is Mary…”

Hi.

My name is Mary.

Mary Sweets.

You’ll have to excuse me. This is my first time on a site like this and I’m a little nervous. I just thought it was a good idea to start with my name; I didn’t know how else to start. Like I said before, I’m a little apprehensive about sharing my story. Nonetheless, I needed to tell my story to someone. When I discovered this site, with it creepy stories and bizarre anecdotes, I thought it would be the perfect place to write my story. I doubt that anyone would believe me, I mostly want to tell it just to prove to myself that it wasn’t make-believe; that it wasn’t all in my head. There’s another reason I’m writing this: I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the most traumatic experience in my childhood that would ultimately lead me to my improvement as well as the six people who would become my best friends in the whole world. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.

This story–my story–is going to be a long one. I would love to type this all in one sitting, but, due to forces that are beyond my control, I can’t. Consider this first post as a preface and the later posts as chapters. In hindsight, I should have just written a whole novel and send it to the nearest publishing agency, but, like I said before, I doubt that anyone would believe me. My story isn’t a sad one, nor is it a scary one. Though, there are some parts of my story that are depressing and even disturbing. Consider this a warning: this story will contain violence, gore, vivid images of graphic scenes, the death of innocence, and other mature subject matter. If any of this doesn’t appeal to you, then I suggest that you stop reading. Listen to me, getting ahead of myself again. Sorry. I’ll just start from the beginning.

Like I said before, my name is Mary.

Mary Sweets.

Posted: August 10, 2020 10:00 PM

Word Count: 877

Chapter 1: Before the Madness

It was the thirty-first of May, in the year 2018. The school year was ending and autumn was slowly turning into summer. The once crisp, golden brown leaves that would fall from the tree branches became an almost radiant shade of green; some trees were even blooming lovely pink flowers. Tomorrow was the first of June and I would be turning twelve-years-old. The party that my class held for me earlier that day was good. “MARY SWEETS, COME OUT HERE RIGHT NOW!” The shrill, raised voice of my mother rung in my ears, but still, I didn’t move from my hiding place. In the far corner of the playground that was built behind my elementary school, were lush bushes surrounding a tall, wide oak tree. It was there where I seat, underneath the tall oak tree, hidden by the bushes.

I was a petite girl; only four feet tall and sixty-five pounds. I had pale green, round eyes, fair skin, and long black hair that was tied in twin ponytails by large, bright white hairbows. I had a petite nose, rosy cheeks, and a round face. I was wearing my favorite white, short-sleeved blouse under my favorite black denim overall skirt. I was wearing my favorite pair of white socks with black polka-dots and my favorite pair of black dress shoes.

“MARY SWEETS!” I heard the voice of my mother again. She was calling on for me to come out from my hiding spot. It was the end of the school day and the other children were gone. The only people left in the school were the janitors, some teachers, and my mother, who was looking for me. “MARY!” She yelled again. I didn’t move from my spot. I wasn’t a disobedience child, quite the opposite. I always did what I was told, I never acted out or throw temper tantrums, and rarely did I do anything that would be considered rebellious. It was just that, on that day, I wanted to be alone; I didn’t want her to see me cry.

Cool tears ran down my cheeks like rivers and I was trying my best to silent the sniffles and whimpers that was coming from my mouth. I wrapped both of my eyes with my hands, but so soon as the previous tears were gone, new ones took their place. I hugged my knees, which were pushed against my chest, with my tiny arms. “MARY!” My mother screamed again. I could tell that she was getting impatient and angry. I continued to cry and sob quietly. I was staring downward at the soil. Tiny insects, like worms and beetles, were crawling around my shoes. “MARY SWEETS!” I didn’t want to disobey her, but, at the same time, I didn’t want to come out. I just wanted to be alone with my tears. You might be wondering why I was crying. The reason behind my tears would become clear to you soon enough

“MARY!” My mother yelled again. “IF YOU DON’T COME OUT BY THE TIME I COUNT TO THREE, I’M CALLING YOUR FATHER!” My sobs suddenly stopped and grasp escaped my mouth. I could tell that she wasn’t joking; she meant what she said. If I didn’t come out in less than three seconds, I would only find myself in more trouble than I already was. “ONE!” My mother began to count. “TWO!” Finally, I begrudgingly stood and walked around the trunk of the tall oak tree, in clear view of my mother, who was standing in the middle of the playground. As she stomped toward me, I wrapped the remaining tears from my eyes, hoping that she didn’t noticed.

My mother, Susan, was a slender, beautiful woman. Like me, she has long black hair that fell from her head in curls and framed her heart-shaped face. Her eyes were the color of sapphires, big, round, and shimmering sapphires. She had an ample chest, suntanned skin, and full lips. She wore a black dress that stopped at her knees and hugged her body. Her black high heels were undoubtingly getting soiled in the grass and dirt. She was wearing a lot of make-up; pink eye shadow, pink lipstick, and pink blush on her cheeks. She grabbed me by my wrist and pulled to her side. “Don’t EVER hide from me again!” She said through clenched teeth, her eyebrows knitting at the center. “Especially when I’m calling you. Understand?” I feverishly nodded my head. “Good.” Her face relaxed, if only just a little. “Now let go home.”

With that, my mother dragged me toward our blue sedan, which was parked outside the front entrance of the school. My school was about twenty minutes away from my family’s house, thirty if you walked. My family and I lived in the suburban part of New Jersey-Hamilton to be exact- so everything wasn’t too far away. If we needed something, we would just hop in the car and drive there. I’ve never really been outside of New Jersey. I sat quietly in the passenger’s seat as my mother drove down the different streets. I watched from my window the many shops and family-owned businesses that we pass by. My mother didn’t speak to me until we were at the house.

Chapter 2: The Visit

Once we reached the house, my mother pulled into the driveway and parked the car. We got on and started walking toward the front door. My mother and I reached the brown door that led to the inside of our house. My mother inserted the key into the lock, but before she turned the key, she turned to look at me. I looked up at her, expecting her to speak. She whispered to me: “Act happy.” I nodded, telling her that I would do as she told. She turned the key and opened the door. We lived in a large house, probably the largest on the street. Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a family room, a gourmet kitchen, a small dining room, a den, a basement, and an attic. The exterior walls were a pure white and the roof was a light brown. The front lawn was green, freshly cut, and was decorated with different flowers. The porch was cleaned and so was the white, wicker furniture that seat on it. My mother always wanted the outside of our house to look clean and well-kept; needed to make a good impression on the neighbors.

We entered the family room. Like its name suggested, the family room was meant to be a space where the whole family could hang out, but we rarely hang out in there, at least not as a family. The off-white walls of the family room were filled with framed photographs of our family. A white sofa was against the wall opposite to the front door while another white sofa was against the adjacent wall. In between the two sofas were the stairs that led upstairs. A flat-screen television was attached to the far wall and the doorway leading to the kitchen was adjacent to it.

In the distance, I heard the faint voice of my father; it sounded like he was in the dining room. The voice was harsh, loud, and sounded irritated. I soon recognized another voice, it sounded angry like my father’s, but it also sounded gruffly. “We’re home!” My mother yelled in a happy tone and the angry voices silent down to whispers. Curious, I headed toward the dining room, which was pass the kitchen. Our dining room was elegant-looking. It had off-white walls, just like the rest of the house. A large glass table with black legs was in the middle of the room. Eight white elegant chairs were around the glass table. My father and my two older siblings sat at the table.

“There’s my little girl!” Exclaimed my father as he turned in his seat. My father, Derrick, or Rick as his friends would call him, was a tall and muscular man. Dark brown hair that was neatly combed and dark brown eyes that stared through me. He had an almost square face that had goes red; my father’s face would usual go red if he was angry. He was his usual work clothes: a gray shirt, dark gray jeans, and his usual tan work boots. He expanded his left arm toward me; he was expecting me to run into his arms like any other child would do. I stood still, confused. I swore I heard two voices.

My older brother, Flint, turned around to look at me from his seat; his chair was facing away from. Flint was a seventeen-year-old high school senior. He was tall like our father, but thin like a twig; he was almost skeletal. He has a long face with a small tuff of brown hair on his chin. His short, dark brown hair was shaggy and unkempt, like he hasn’t brush his hair in weeks. He had dark brown eyes that seemed to look through me. His was wearing his basketball clothes; a white tank top and a pair of blue shorts. He stood from his seat and walked pass me, probably to go to his room.

My older sister, Marine, sat opposite to Flint; she glanced at me. Marine was fifteen and in her second year of high school. She and Flint attended the same high school and would sometimes walked back home together. She and Flint shared the same color eyes and hair, except her eyes were almond-shaped and her hair was clean, curly, and long enough to drape her shoulders. She, like our mother, had a heart-shaped face that she covered with a lot of make-up. She was wearing a purple blouse and a pair of black pants that hugged her legs. As Flint stood to leave, she, too, stood and walked pass me. Neither she or Flint looked at me as they walked pass, but I would hear them both murmur the word, “orphanage”, under their breath.

My father was still sitting in his seat, his left arm stretched toward me, a silly smile on his face. Before I continue, there’s something you should know about my father: everything he does was intimidating. Before becoming a father, he was a soldier for the U.S. Army. He lived a rigorous and routine life for most of his adult life, travel overseas solely for combat, and had seem many of his friends got injured. Now, after years of being in the military, he was a construction worker for a well-known company in New Jersey. It was because of my father that we could afford such a big house, it was because of my father that my mother didn’t have to work, and it was because of my father that my siblings and I got everything that we wanted. Yet, having a former soldier for a father had its drawbacks. My father was inflexible, harsh, and short-tempered. He was the man of the house, and he wouldn’t let us forget. Cautiously, I approached my father.

His pulled me into a tight embrace once I was close enough. He patted me on the head as he asked: “How was your day?”

“It…it was good.” I stuttered.

“Tomorrow is your birthday!” He said cheerily. “Are you excited?”

Truthfully, I wasn’t-not in the slightest-but I needed to obey my mother and pretended that I was happy, so I nodded. A wide smile appeared on his face; that smile was a signal that told me that I had does or said the right thing. I looked around the room, then looked at my father. “Dad?”

“Yeah?” He said.

“I heard another voice in here.” I said straightforwardly. When his smile faded into a frown, I briefly wondered if he might fly into a rage. I braced myself for the yelling.

Instead he calmly said: “Yeah, that was probably your great uncle.”

I needed to stop myself from curving my lips into a wide grin and jumping up and down in excitement. “Where is he?” I asked as calmly as I could. “Can I see his?”

“Sure.” My father said flatly as he released me from his embrace. “He’s in the backyard.” I walked pass him to reach the door that led to the backyard. As I exited through the door, I heard my father getting up from his chair and stomping out of the dining room, most likely to yell at someone else besides my great uncle.

Posted: August 10, 2020 11:00 PM

Word Count: 1,199

Chapter 3: Diagnosis

Beyond the sliding glass door was our backyard. Large and colorful flowers decorated the ground. The grass was always neatly cut. An old willow tree that grew in the middle of the backyard shaded a polished white table with white fancy yard chairs sitting around it. On the table was a white vase with yellow orchids in it. A white picket fence separated our yard from the neighbor’s yard.

I found my great uncle sitting on the wooden bench on the back porch. “Great Uncle Arthur!” I shouted in glee. I ran up to him and wrapped my tiny arms around his waist. He chuckled in his gruffly and patted me on the head.

“I’m glad to see you too.” He said.

Arthur was the uncle of my father. He was about as tall my father, though, due to his bad back, he was hunched forward and looked shorter. He was over sixty and needed carry a wooden cane to help support him, but other than that he was perfectly healthy. His short, white hair was always combed back and tied into a ponytail. His bright blue eyes were always full of life and energy. He wore his usual black jacket over his usual white shirt, black pants, and black tie. My great uncle was the quintessential old man: wise, traditional, and a little grumpy at times. I loved him for it. For the longest time, he was my best friend and, through I could never say it aloud, I always felt better when he was with me.

I went to sit next to him on the bench. He looked me squarely in the eye and asked: “How are you feeling, Mary?” I could only shrug.

If you haven’t already figured out what was wrong with me, then I’ll just come out and say it: I was suffering from depression. It was because of my depression I was crying in the playground. I was always sad. Despair was constantly with me like a shadow. Somedays, it felt as if I was drowning in a sea of my own tears. It soon became harder and harder for me to get out of bed in the morning. Most days, I would refuse to eat anything. I isolated myself from my peers because I didn’t find the games that they would play enjoyable. I become so tired during the day that I sometimes sleep during my classes. The activities that the teachers would have us do didn’t bring me pleasure or joy. Almost nothing could make me happy.

It might seem odd considering how young I was. You usually don’t think about severe depression when you think about children. Children were, after all, symbols of innocence and joy. Children were supposed to bring happiness wherever they went; they didn’t get depression, only grow-ups did. Truth is, I was very different from other children. Though, I didn’t realize just how different I was until the day I spoke to Arthur.

It was June of last year; I was eleven-years-old. We were having a small get-together in the backyard as we did on most weekends. My mother, the hostess, as always, had invited most of the block. My father and Flint were in the den playing some kind of card game with my father’s friends from the army. I could hear their boisterous laughter, even from my spot on the back porch. Meanwhile, my mother and Marine were at the table, chatting with the other mothers while enjoying some meatloaf that my mother made. “Marine is the co-head cheerleader at her school, and Flint is the star player of his basketball team!” I heard my mother boast. From my seat, I watched the children of the other families played with our yard toys. I was the only child who wasn’t playing.

Then, Arthur came up to me. He sat next to me on the bench and we started talking. He asked me why I wasn’t playing with the other children. I just broke down. I told him everything, how angry and sad I was, how tired I was during the day, how I hadn’t been eating, how I was having trouble concentrating in school, and how I been having headaches or stomachaches; I even cried into my hands.

Arthur was a professor at a university in Jersey City, in the psychology department. Before that, he was a social worker at a middle school. Even at a young age, I knew he was well-versed in child psychology, so I immediately believed him when he told me: “I believe you are suffering from early-onset depression.”

“What’s that?” I asked in between sobs.

“It’s when a young child like you feels sadder than usual.”

“Just make it stop.” I murmured under my shaking breath.

Arthur began to rub my back in a comforting gesture. It was more than enough to quiet my sobs. I removed my face from my hands and looked up at him. “Don’t fret, Mary.” He told me. “We’ll make it stop. We’ll just need the proper treatment.” As he rubbed my back, I felt a contentment that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt as though I was being looked at for the first time. I don’t mean the regular way that someone looks at someone else, I mean the special way that someone looks at someone else. How do I describe it? Usual where someone just looks at you, they’re only looking at the superficial things like clothes or hair, but when someone really looked at you, they see more than hair or clothing. They see the aura that surrounds you, and they see inside your heart. That was what Arthur did. Somehow, saw my sadness, and then took the time to listen to my problems. There was probably over a dozen people at our house, but only he saw. I liked being looked at.

“I’ll talk to your parents about finding the right psychotherapist.” Said my great uncle. At the time, I didn’t know what a psychotherapist was, but I smiled nevertheless. Someone must had saw me cry and told my mother, because it wasn’t long before I noticed my mother making her toward us. I’ve seen mother worry about their children before, but there wasn’t a hint of worry on my mother’s face. Instead, there was only annoyance.

“What did you do?!” She said in voice loud enough to sound threatening, but silent enough so the other mothers or children couldn’t hear. It already angered me, the way she blamed Arthur. Any other person would had been offended, but Arthur didn’t let it get to him. As always, my great uncle was honest and told her that there was something seriously wrong with me. “Yeah, it’s you!” She snapped at him. She grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me inside the house. Great Uncle Arthur followed closely behind us. Once inside my mother yelled for my father. “Your good-for-nothing uncle is making our daughter cry!” She told him, eventhough it wasn’t true. Upon hearing this, my father turned to his uncle and started yelling profanities at him. Whenever I tried to use my voice, my father would yell at me to stay out of it.

Arthur never raised his voice, never swore, never fought back. He took my father’s anger like a champion. When it seemed that my father’s tirade was over, my great uncle spoke. He told them exactly what I told him, word for word. “I think Mary has depression. We must get a professional opinion to be sure.” But mother and father didn’t need a professional opinion. I could tell from the shock expressions on their faces that they believed him. For my father, shock quickly turned into anger. For my mother, shock turned into disgust. Arthur started to list the different treatments and medications we could try, but was he quickly interrupted by my father, who said that he wasn’t going to waste his money on drugs.

“We need to take every opportunity to help Mary!” My great uncle protested.

“No!” Shouted my father. “WE don’t have to do anything!” He said while gesturing in between him and my mother. He then pointed at Arthur. “YOU need to stay away from my daughter!”

“Keep your voice down!” My mother ordered. “Our guests will hear us.”

“So, you won’t take her to see a counselor?” Arthur asked.

“Absolutely not!” Exclaimed my mother. She continued, this time in a much lower voice. “What if one of my friends sees me taking her to a therapist. What if they find out that one of my children has a mental disease? What if they spread rumors about us? Do you know how long it took me create an image for us?!” As she finished saying this, she glanced toward the door that led to the backyard. I looked too and saw that the mothers were hunched together as though they were whispering among themselves.

“Now that’s just preposterous!” Said Arthur.

“Derrick, you know I’m right.” She said to my father. “These two are already ruining my party, do you want them to ruin our family name as well?”

“Susan, please.” Spoke Arthur to my mother. “Mary’s mental health is more important than-”

“Shut up, Arthur!” My father shouted, interrupting Great Uncle Arthur again. “Don’t ever talk to my wife like that, and don’t ever tell me how to take care of my child! She is my daughter, so I’ll handle it!”

“She needs proper treatment-” Arthur tried to explain before being interrupted by my father for a third time.

“She just needs to get over it and stop being so soft.” He said.

“She might try to hurt herself with treatment!” Arthur warned them. I think he was hoping to get a reaction out of them; something to get them to care.

Instead, my father, in a tone of voice that made him sound tough, said: “If she does, then it’ll be her own false.” With that, he wordlessly stomped back toward the den. Whenever he did that, it usually meant the conversation was over.

Once my father was gone, my mother stepped toward me. She kneeled so to be at eye level with me. In a stem voice, she said: “Mary, don’t tell anyone what happened here. What happens in this house, stays in this house. Understood?” Without thinking, I nodded my head. “Good girl.” She stood and faced my great uncle. She narrowed her eyes at him, then she signed. “If you want to help so much, Arthur, then you be her shrink.”

“I have a career, Susan.” Arthur protested. “I have papers to grade, students to teach. I can’t come up every week and-”

“I don’t care, Arthur!” She shouted. “Make it work!” Then she calmly walked back outside as if nothing happened.

And that how it started. Great Uncle Arthur began to see me and have “therapy sessions” with me. Sometimes, he would take me to the park and we’d play together. Other days, he would take me to see a movie and we’d talk afterward. This one time, he took me on the tour of the university where he worked. Arthur loved me like his own daughter, but he can’t always be there for me because of his career. We had no choice but to meet every other week; sometimes it was every other month.

I learned something new about my family on that day. I learned that my father not only hated his uncle, but he also hated weakness; couldn’t stand to be around weakness. He was a decorated member of the American military, he worked hard every day to provide for this family, he personally made sure that we had more then we needed, and he took pride in knowing that the family was strong. So, when he learned of my depression, he began saw to see me as the weak link of the family. I once asked Great Uncle Arthur why father was so hard-hearted. He told me that war had a way of changing people, that he didn’t mean to come across as uncaring, that my father was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that he refused to seek counselling.

My mother was a different story. For her, it was all about appearances. Since she didn’t work, she devoted her time to cleaning, gardening, shopping for new clothes, planning parties, and anything else that would make the house or the family look good. She pressured us into doing certain activities, wearing fancy clothes, and join certain clubs at us schools, all so she could boast to her friends about what wonderful children she had. She took pride in being a “trophy wife” and enjoying all the benefits of being married to a man with money. She was happiest when she was showing off a new and expensive to her friends; she would smile as her friends practically became green with envy. So, having such a wonderful life and still have a child with depression would look bad.

Oh, and if you’re wondering if my older sibling helped at all. Don’t waste your breath. Marine hated me the moment I came out of our mother’s womb. When I was first born, Marine refused to touch me. Flint, on the other hand, didn’t care about me at all. He didn’t even bother to feed me, even when I was crying. I don’t know how they found out, but when they did, they began to take turn whispering things in my ear while I was sleeping. They said things like, “Mom and Dad are going to put you up for adoption” and “You’re going to end up an orphan”. I knew it was them because, while they were doing it, I was awake. I had my eyes closed, but I was just pretending to be asleep. I heard my bedroom door open, I heard footsteps entering my room, and I recognize the hush voices of my siblings as they spoke into my ear.

Saved for Arthur, no one in my family cared or did anything about my depression. I was expected to neither act as though I was happy, or suffer in silence. Mother and father made me promise to never tell anyone outside of the family of my condition; to keep it “our little secret”. My father took it upon himself to monitor my mood. He would notice my lack of interest in things that previously gave me pleasure, and would punish me. Sometimes, when he was too busy, he would entrust Flint to “teach me a lesson”. As you can imagine, my depression only gotten worse and I soon became aloof toward others around me. I started not caring about what happened around me. It felt as though I was on autopilot and was just going through the motions. Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that my family were the cause of my depression. They were just one of many factors.

Posted: August 11, 2020 12:00 AM

Word Count: 2,504

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.”

“Jealous? Really?”

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.”

“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 stay in Korea.” 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

To be continued in the next update.

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