Sliding open the large, wooden gate, she quickly remembered how the family loved keeping everything well-maintained. The lawn, fresh and vibrant green, was neatly and squarely cut. Not a single weed or other unsightly blemish was to be found. Even the paint on the house looked like it was new. She walked toward the oak front door, packet in her hand, and noticed the unsettling silence that blanketed the house. It was as if the house and its immediate surroundings had been placed in a soundproof bubble.
As she crossed the stone pavers toward that door, she looked around, expecting to hear birds chirping or something but heard nothing. The silence felt like it was drowning her, forcing her toward the ground. Akiko stopped for a moment, looking for any sign of moving life, but was still greeted by overwhelming silence. Her feet hurried toward the door, her heart fluttering. She knocked. And waited. It felt like she waited a while. She began to speak as soon as the door finally opened, her eyes cast toward the floor with respect.
- “Hello, I’m Akiko Watanabe, one of Miy—"
- “Your hands are so pretty,” the little girl commented, voice
quiet and as tiny as the rest of her. With the utmost care, she examined
the hand, turning it this way and that, bending the wrist and posing
the fingers. Akiko didn’t know what to do or say; she wasn’t exactly
comfortable with a strange girl getting so close to her without
permission, but it wasn’t like this girl was doing anything harmful,
either. She was just a curious little girl, Akiko supposed.
- “Um…” she began, hoping to get the little girl’s attention. Sure
enough, black eyes returned to looking at Akiko’s face. “I’m a classmate
of Miyu’s, I was asked to bring some work to her. Can I give them to
her?” she asked. A couple seconds of silence passed between them as the
little girl thought this over.
- “You’re here to see Onee-chan*?” She finally asked with a pin drop of disappointment in her tone. “Well, come in, then.”
Akiko looked around and took note of the details of the living room they passed through. The walls were a soft cream color with detailed rectangular paneling and a white trim running along the top, where several pictures of various shapes and sizes hung. A few featured trees and gardens with lush colors; a couple depicted open fields and rivers, green and thriving in the height of spring; one had a girl, standing and looking at the viewer, holding a china doll tightly in her arms, with a look of sadness in her eyes.. The dark wood couches and armchair were upholstered with matching cream fabric and positioned just so around the square, dark wood coffee table that had magazines arranged perfectly on it. The red and off-white Persian rug beneath their feet muffled most of the noise they made as they crossed the room. An old grandfather clock stood stiffly in the corner of the room, its massive bronze pendulum making the only other noise in the house.
The silence that loomed outside, it seemed, pervaded inside the house as well. Everything looked as though it had been cleaned just a few minutes before her arrival and yet there was this feeling that Akiko couldn’t shake off, a feeling that the room hadn’t been touched or disturbed in years. Everything was immaculate; there was not a speck of dust to be removed, not a spider web to be seen in any corner, not a trace of life. Nothing but the sound of the girls’ footsteps and the ticking that the grandfather clock emitted from its corner in the room. Akiko blinked, eyes returning to the picture of the girl, staring for a few moments, before continuing to follow the small girl.
They moved through the hallway which had the same cream colored walls and hardwood floors. They reached the staircase on the other side of the hallway, which the little guide started climbing, holding onto the railing and taking one step at a time, making sure that both feet were on the step before she proceeded any further.
- “So,” Akiko began, trying to break the silence that fell upon
them again, for the grandfather clock could no longer be heard. “What’s
- “Ai,” the little girl said, not looking at Akiko as she slowly made her way up the stairs.
- “And how old are you, Ai?” Akiko asked after a few more moments of silence. Anything to get rid of it would work.
- “Well, see… Onee-chan's sleeping right now, and, and, so
you can’t go see her right now,” she mustered, fumbling over her words.
“Why don’t you play with me until she wakes up?” Her large black eyes
looked up to Akiko, who frowned slightly.
- “I’m sorry, but I can’t. I need to give these papers to your sister and go home.”
Akiko stared, bewildered by the sudden onslaught of tears; having no interactions with small children before, she had no idea how to respond to this behavior.
- “I-If I play with you for a little while, will you stop crying?”
Akiko asked desperately. Ai’s crying ceased almost instantaneously.
- “Yeah, yeah!” Ai smiled, gently grabbing Akiko’s hand and guiding
the girl toward her room. Once at the door, the little girl stopped to
pull a necklace up and over her head; it was plain with a brass key
attached and used to unlock the door.
- ‘Maybe a bathroom?’ she thought.
- ‘It must be a disease. But… Why would a little girl have this on her wall?’
She mentally questioned, her eyebrows furrowing as she looked closer at
the clippings. The rest of that page was covered by another article.
Ricin: A chemical made from processed castor beans, Ricinus Communis, and is fatal in small doses. Can be ingested, injected, and inhaled. When purified, it becomes a white powder. Dissolved, it is odorless, colorless, and flavorless. There is currently no cure or antidote for it. Symptoms can appear in as little as a few hours and often include--There seemed to have been more written but it was torn in half.
- “Hey, Ai,” Akiko asked, as she started to gloss over the
fragments. “What are these papers? Do you know what they’re talking
Akiko moved away from the corner, as she spotted a dollhouse. It was large, perhaps a few feet tall, and as she moved closer, she noticed the high level of detail that went into making the house. The main room on the first floor had pink walls and white, Victorian furniture. There were two couches and an armchair arranged perfectly around a square coffee table with some tiny, fingernail-sized magazines spread over it. There were all sorts of miniature paintings stuck to the walls and a large, white grandfather clock in the corner. The room led to the hallway which had a staircase that led to the second floor, which had four rooms in it; two of which had their furniture thrown about in chaos and completely void of all colors; the third room was bright and colorful and looked like a child’s room, with pink walls and white furniture. A little girl doll sat on the bed in that room, with brown hair and a pink dress. The fourth room was tiny and attached to the bright, colorful room. In it were a few chairs, a large shower, and a couple of empty tables, as if it were a craft studio of sorts. A Victorian-styled doll sat in that room. A chill ran down Akiko’s spine.
- “We’re in the middle of a tea party, but you can come, too,
Onee-chan. Here, put these on,” Ai smiled, getting up and hurrying over
to the girl who had moved away from the dollhouse.
- “Now, choose an animal. You can have either Mr. Kero or Mrs.
Nya,” Ai held out the two animals for Akiko to choose; Akiko took Mr.
Kero, the frog. The two girls took their seats and Ai turned on a small
electric kettle which took a few minutes to heat up the water she put
- “So, Ai…” Akiko began, watching the small child. “Where are your parents? I haven’t seen or heard them since I’ve been here.”
- “…Mama?Is that you? Mama? Where are you?!”
- “…Ai?” Akiko asked, but got no response. After a few moments, Ai
blinked and looked up to the older girl, quickly smiling before sipping
her cup of tea. A little time passed, the two girls sipping a few cups
of tea and playing with the stuffed animals. Ai poured another cup of
tea for Akiko, who looked at the door.
- “Well, I have to give these to your sister and head back. It’s been fun playing with you, but I really have to go now.”
- “No, Mama! Don’t! I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna!”
- “Just drink one more cup before you… go,” Ai’s voice quieted as
she handed Akiko the cup. A small smile spread over her face as she
watched the older girl take the cup.
- “Alright, but this is the last cup. I really have to go, Ai,” Akiko
said, forcing a smile. After a few moments, she felt a little nauseated,
but figured it was because she was hungry.
- “Oh! Before you go, I have to show you my doll! She’s really pretty,
you’ll love her.” Ai eagerly rushed off to a separate room before Akiko
could object. The older girl sighed and, after waiting a little while,
sat back down at the tea table. Her stomach suddenly felt sore and the
- “No peeking!”Ai called out soon after, still from the other room.
- “Okay, you can look now!”
- “Wow, Ai, it’s amazing! Can I touch it?” She asked, and the
little girl nodded, a creeping, cat-like grin now on her face. Akiko
noticed it became a bit hard to breathe. She tilted back the doll’s head
and jumped back, knocking over the table and shattering the tea set in
the process. Hands thrown over her mouth, she stared in horror, unable
to turn away from the sight before her. There, with soft, black eyes
that shone dully, sat Miyu. Akiko wanted to scream but her throat would
not allow it and she seemed permanently glued in place, weighed so far
down with shock and disgust. She wanted to cry for her friend and demand
to know how Ai could do such a thing. She wanted to think that this
hadn’t actually happened. It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be!
- “What’s wrong? Don’t you think big sister looks adorable as a doll?
The best part is she won’t ever leave me…” Ai stood up slowly, walking
toward Akiko, her smile spreading into an unsettling grin. “And neither
- “…N-No… No!” Akiko ran to the door but it was locked. Her heart
began palpitating, her body shaking, she tried forcing the door open,
shaking and pounding on the door as hard as she could. “Please!
Somebody, anybody, help—Please!” She cried.
- “No one else is here, silly. Mama hasn’t been here in two whole
years,” Ai’s own voice quivered now, tears starting to form in her eyes.
“I told you not to leave me! I didn’t want to be alone! You left me alone when I needed you most, Mama! Well, now I don’t have to ever be alone again. You, and Onee-chan, and Akiko will stay with me forever and we can play all day and I won’t get sick ever again!”
And then Akiko’s vision went black.
Ai soon dragged Akiko’s body off to the door that was off to the side and into a redesigned bathroom. There were two long, knee-high tables with small stools by them, and several dissection tools in different containers. She paused for a few minutes, coughing, before washing her hands and then putting on long gloves. Ai carefully took off Akiko’s clothes before pulling her body into the walk-in shower. She took time washing Akiko’s hair and skin so they were as clean as possible, before retrieving a scalpel. She made a few incisions along Akiko’s abdomen and carefully took out as many organs as she could, blood flowing into the shower drain.
- “You have to stay in your room, sweetheart.”
- “We can’t have you getting sick again, can we?”
- “Why do I get sick all the time?”
- “Well, Daddy says that your body doesn’t have everything it needs to
protect itself from getting sick. He says it’s best for you to stay in
your room, where it’s safe.”
- “You told me you’d stay with me today!” Ai whined, lying in bed with an IV drip in her arm.
- “I’m sorry, honey… Daddy says—“
- “But you promised! I hate being by myself…” She started sniffling and whimpering.
- “I’m sorry, honey. But, I bought you a new doll! It was the one you wanted, right?”
- “Really? Thank you, Mama!” Ai’s face instantly brightened.
- “I’m sorry, honey, but, Daddy says—“
- “No!” Ai knew this day was coming. “No, don’t! I don’t want it!”
- “I’m sorry, but it’s for your own good. You need to stay healthy.”
- “I am healthy! I don’t wanna be alone!” She started crying.
- “Well, I got you a present. I know how much you love dolls and when I saw this, I thought of you. I’m really sorry.” The porcelain doll was left at the foot of the bed and Ai’s mother walked toward the door.
- “No, Mama! Don’t! I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna!” Ai
started throwing pillows, stuffed animals, anything she could get her
hands on. Her mother didn’t look back as she walked out of the door. Ai
threw the doll at the closed door, watching it shatter and leave a chip
on the doorframe.
“Would you like more tea, Akiko?” Ai asked, as she poured more into the child-sized cup before her friend who sat beside Onee-chan. Her parents lifelessly watched with their unnatural, glass-like eyes from the crack in the door that connected to the other room. “You have such pretty hands, just like a doll’s…” she smiled before sipping from her own cup. The cough returned, wracking her lungs with pain as she spent several minutes coughing.
*A term of endearment, meaning “big sister.” © 2010 Brooke Clifford