Somewhere in America
Horror Short Story
Teddy – Part One
The little girl flew through the door panting, her wavy, corn silk hair bouncing about her little face.
“Quick Teddy, we have to hide!” She whispered across the little room. Her eyes, recently moistened, glittered in the reflected light of the moon outside.
Pulling the door closed, she turned the lock on the knob and ran to her old four poster bed where her teddy bear lay sprawled amidst the other stuffed animals, some new, some old.
But he was the only one who received her attention, the only one who showed any signs of wear. He was the only one whose belly was large in proportion to its chest from years of little arms squeezing its neck and whose facial fur was stiff from nights when a tear stained little face pressed tightly against it.
Through the door she could hear the distant shouts of her father, drunk again.
“Hurry!” She said as she grabbed her Teddy. “We have to go now! Where are the weapons?”
He didn’t answer but she already knew. They were in a wooden chest in the bottom drawer of her dresser, tightly locked with yarn against the robbers.
Teddy in tow she padded as quietly as she could across the wooden floor to her dresser. Outside she could hear her father’s stumbling yet persistent steps making their way up the stairs, his nonsensical rant unceasing.
She pulled open the drawer, blowing hair out of her eyes as she rummaged through the various collectibles of a little girls life. Doll parts, a plastic phone, crayons, all of these went by the wayside as she looked for her little box.
Then she found it. It was at the bottom of the drawer buried under a thin layer of dust and an old t-shirt given to her by her mother. Her father hadn’t been the same since her mother passed. Not that he was much better before. Now the only thing she still had from her was the t-shirt and Teddy. Wiping a tear from her eye she pulled out the box. By the sound of the yelling outside her father had made it to the top of the steps and would be to her door in seconds.
“Get out here, child! Don’t you walk away from me when I’m speaking to you! You good for nothing-”
The box under one arm and Teddy carefully tucked under the other she ran to the closet, cringing at the loud sound it made as she opened it. It was dark inside but she wanted that. She pulled the door closed and buried herself in a pile of clothes, cutting her hand on an old hanger.
With Teddy at her side she reached into the little box, feeling the two little guns made of tinfoil. Her friend Bobby had made them for her when she came to school one day with bruises on her arms. It was all she had now. She hoped it would be enough.
“We have to be strong, Teddy,” she whispered to the bear. “We can’t be weak, okay? Because if we are then they’ll take us. Okay, Teddy? I love you Teddy. You’re my best friend. We’ll make our last stand together, okay? Shhh, I hear him coming.”
Two loud knocks landed on the door to her room. There was a pause as the man outside worked his confused mind trying to decide what to do next. The door rattled on its hinges as he tried to open it.
“Hey you! I know you’re in there! Open up this door! You don’t walk away from me! No child of mine walks away from me!”
There was another pause in which the little girl clutched her Teddy even tighter to her, whispering to him not to be afraid, that the only thing to fear was fear it self… that she was so afraid. If he felt uncomfortable in her embrace he didn’t say. But then he never did.
The door rattled again, a little at first, then harder and harder. “You open up, you hear me!” There was a loud bang and she heard the wood crack. “Open up now, dammit!”
“I’m sorry, Teddy. I’m sorry I got you in this trouble. I love you, Teddy.”
She turned his face to hers so he could see her tears in the dark with his large bear eyes, see her trembling lips, see the shiny dark skin still swelling around her eye. “Hold onto me Teddy. Please don’t let him take me. Please.”
She whispered the final word as a large crash signaled the lock giving way.
“Dammit! You made me break the door! God dammit child! I’ll whip you for that!” Foot steps echoed across the room clashing harshly with the creak of old floorboards.
“Where are you? Where are you, dammit?! Come out here!!!” There was a pause for several seconds followed by a low rumbling laughter. “Don’t worry…. I’ll find you. The good Lord will help me with that. He’s on my side. Not the side of nasty little girls who disrespect their fathers!”
His footsteps marched one way and then the other as if in indecision about what to do next. Unknown items were plucked from their resting places and let go to fall unceremoniously to the floor.
“Dammit! Where are you?! You-” things crashed to the ground, a lamp broke, her dresser, knocked sideways, sent its contents rolling across the floor as its drawers flew open.
The last item, a little red ball, rolled to a stop against the wall and there was silence once more. She heard his footsteps faintly pacing the floor and the creak of her bed as he sat down. Then came the muffled sobs of her father.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry, daughter. I love you. You know I love you, right? Right? You know I love you, right? Right?! You know it! Dammit, you do! Where-” his voice faded out again. She couldn’t hear anything. She strained her ears to their limit but could make out nothing.
Minutes went by as she waited, her heart gradually slowing its mad dash to nowhere. She looked at Teddy and he at her. “Is it safe now, Teddy? Is the monster gone?”
As if in answer the closet door came crashing open. Light filtered in through the thin layer of clothes, the only protection she had from the monster towering above her.
“Help me, Teddy. Please. I want to be like you, Teddy. I just want to be with you, forever.”
Large hands reached into the pile, locking onto her slim frame.
“No!” She cried. “No! Teddy, help me!” She pleaded. “Help me, Teddy!” Tears streamed down her face. The tinfoil guns, impotent in the end, fell from her hands. She knew they would never have helped. Not really.
The monster lifted her up to its face as tears flowed from her eyes like twin rivers. Desperately she kicked at him with her little feet but that only made him more angry.
“Disrespect me, will you?! Run away from me, will you?! No daughter of mine disrespects me, dammit!” He dragged her, kicking, from the room, slamming the door behind him with a crash.
“Stop it!” She yelled, her throat choked with tears. “Stop it!”
The muffled sound of their shuffling feet came through the door as they made their way down the little hallway.
“Daddy! Daddy, no! Stop it, Daddy! Please!”
There was a pause, almost electric in its silent intensity. Then came the vague and horrible sound of a little body tumbling down stairs.
She cried out as she fell, a cry cut short by a final knock of wood. It was one word not to be repeated. Teddy.
“Daughter?” The voice of her father demanded. “Get up…. I said get up, dammit! Daughter?…. Dammit, don’t play games with me, child! Daughter?…. Daughter?!”
The funeral was held the following week in the town cemetery, a sprawling acre of mole hills and tombstones with the occasional mausoleum poking its brow to the sky.
It was a dismal service with thunder clouds only adding to the darkness of the already gloomy assembly while at the same time voicing their disapproval of the fate of one so young with a pitter-patter of rain, gently staccato against the stone slabs and sickly grass.
The local priest, Father Jebsen, presided over the function. He was a thin, little man with long grey hairs poking out the side of his head like straw whiskers on an old scarecrow left in the field for too many winters.
“Mr. Phillips,” he said in his dry and cracked voice, “Would you care to say a few words?”
The girl’s father nodded somberly from his seat in the front row of the tiny congregation. Taking the proffered umbrella from his sister beside him he stood, his eyes flitting quickly to the empty plot of earth before him and the half coffin which hung there motionless in the rain. He stifled a cough and nodded again.
“Yes. Yes. Thank you, father.” To those present he seemed to have aged at least a decade in the last week. One could almost hear his bones creaking in the sorrowful expression on his face. He walked slowly to the front of the assembly, two small crowds divided by a too small hole in the ground.
Carefully folding his hands in front of him he began in a voice both choked with grief and yet practiced in its trembling nature. “It is a horrible thing… A horrible, horrible
thing… for a father to have to be present at the funeral of his own daughter.”
“Amen,” whispered the assembly.
Taking a deep breath he continued. “Epilepsy… that fateful disease born of the antithesis of our Lord of light and love, has taken another life. A life very precious to me.”
He bowed his head for a moment before going on, looking out at the small sea of faces as his eyes passed over each, one by one, in a practiced, well acted routine. From where he stood he could just barely make out the face of his daughter, the front of the casket still half open.
“My daughter was…” His voice faltered as his eyes fell upon her lips, full little lips.
“Ahm,” he cleared his throat. “My daughter was…”
He blinked, trying to clear his vision. At the edge of her lips… was that a spot of blood?
No…. No, that wasn’t possible. It was probably a bit of lipstick overdone by the mortician.
He cleared his throat again. “My daughter was my most cherished companion. She was my only child and, I like to think, my best friend. I can only hope that sh…”
His voice trailed off again as his eyes, roving across the assembly, passed once more over the coffin and her face. The spot of blood was a line now, a dark, red line running back down her cheek.
And her eye… No. No, he was imagining things.
“Mr. Phillips?” The Priest had his hand on Mr. Phillips’s shoulder. “Are you alright?”
Mr. Phillips stared blankly at the man for several seconds before seeing him. He looked at the congregation and back again to the Father, blinking to bring the specter of a man into focus. He shook his head, then nodded.
“No. I mean, yes. Yes… I’m fine. Thank you.” He looked back at the coffin but there was nothing there. Only the pearly white skin of his daughter’s face. So white and so smooth. He took a deep breath. A woman in the front row whispered something to the man beside her who nodded in return.
“Ahem,” he coughed, clearing his throat. “I’m sorry, it – it’s still hard to… speak about. Thank you.” He bowed his head as he stepped aside, the priest patting him sympathetically on the shoulder.
“Thank you,” the old scarecrow said to no one in particular. He said a few more words from the good book, blessed the child and the earth which would receive her, and finished with:”We will now lay this poor child to rest. May the Good Lord take her soul.”
The motor whirred as the casket was slowly lowered into the grave by the pulleys. It was a deep grave. Mr. Phillips had specifically asked for it to be, though just now he couldn’t quite remember why. But it had been a good reason he was sure.
He sat there staring at his daughter’s face as it went down, positive that at any moment her eyes would open. Bloodshot eyes, boring into him, accusing him of what he’d done.
Maybe that was why he had wanted it so deep. So she couldn’t make her way out. The same reason he had wanted the casket open until the end. So he could watch her go down. So he could make sure she had.
He chuckled to himself at the silly thought, stopping abruptly as droplets of cold sweat broke out on his forehead.
But as it was her eyes didn’t open and he let out a sigh of relief as the casket hit dirt and the lid was closed. It began to sprinkle as he, along with his brother and father, laid the first shovelfuls of earth upon it, dropped roses and said their dutiful goodbyes. Then they left.
He looked back once through the quickly growing sheet of rain at the hole in the ground. The workers were quickly filling it in. But behind them, blurred by the thick downfall, he saw another dark figure. A fat little child with a round, porky head standing some distance from the workers beside a tree.
Who was that? He wondered, squinting his eyes as he fumbled for his glasses. He couldn’t remember any children attending. By the time he found them and put them on the child was gone. He got in his car and drove away.
This is continued in: Somewhere in America – Teddy – A Horror Short Story – Part Two