The diabolical Chuck Wendig chose the picture for the newest cover of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as the inspiration for his latest flash fiction challenge. Yes, I agree it is creepy, worthy of inspiration. The challenge: one thousand word based on the picture. I’m not quite the horror type, but I gave it a shot anyway.
The Good Girl
Eight-year old Merry knitted her little fingers together, her arms twisted to her back while she surveyed the scene. Her mother’s tea set sprawled over the length of the living room, some of the pieces inexorably shattered, lost beyond repair. Her upper teeth pushed into her pink bottom lip, the barest quivering of tears wetting her eyelashes. It was revenge, and she knew it.
“I didn’t do it, mommy,” she said. Her voice was plaintive, but she knew what was coming.
“You never do it,” said her mother with disapproval. “Just like the Christmas ornaments you smashed. Go to your room, and stay there.”
She went to her room, but only for a little while. Merry was told enough times by both parents that she was a bad girl. She was supposed to be perfect. At times she was. Merry never fussed while mother made up her hair just so before she went to school, and she took care to keep her clothes clean when she was out in public. Even her teachers told her parents how good she was at school.
But when she was at home, things took a different turn. And it wasn’t her fault.
Tabby curled around her legs while she crept up the hallway. She tried to push him away, but he wouldn’t leave her alone. Merry ignored him in favor of getting close enough to hear her parents speaking.
“Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. I try and try, Harry, but she does things like this all the time. She’s so destructive.”
“You know,” said her father. “She does well at school. And she’s old enough for boarding school.”
Merry almost hissed. No way she would let them send her away. She had to fix this, and fast. She heard her mother get up, her heels clacking on the hardwood floors. “I’ll check on her,” she said.
Alarmed, Merry scuttled back to her room. She just managed to settle on her bed with a book in her hand. Her face was all innocence when her mother pushed open the door.
“Come eat dinner,” her mother said.
Merry was in luck. Dinner was hamburgers. She ate hers quickly.
“Mommy, can I have another?” she asked sweetly.
“Only if you eat all of it.”
“Yes, mommy, but I don’t want the bun. Is that okay?”
Her mother looked at her like she was up to something, which she was.
“Okay,” her mother said unable to figure a reason to say no.
With the hamburger on her plate, she waited until her mother and father weren’t paying attention to her. She slipped the patty into her napkin.
“Mommy, I’m done. Can I leave the table?”
“Yes, Merry. Go do your homework.”
“Yes, Mommy.” Clutching her prize she slipped away without her parents noticing her contraband. After she closed the door of her room so Tabby wouldn’t enter, she slid the napkin and hamburger under the bed. After she finished her homework, Merry put on her pajamas and brushed her teeth. Merry waited for her mother or father to tuck her in.
It was her father tonight. He sat gently on the edge of her bed and looked at her kindly. Merry did her best not to twist her face into the emotions she felt. He thought she was bad and wanted to send her away!
“Merry, your mother and me have talked. It might be better if you go a school that is a little way from here. You like school, don’t you, Merry?”
Actually she hated school. “Yes, daddy.”
“Wouldn’t you like to go to nice school, nicer than the one you go to now?”
“But wouldn’t you be happier, oh, never mind,” he sighed.
“Daddy, I’m sorry about the tea set. I’ll be better, daddy, I promise.”
He pursed his lips. “I’m sure you will. Get some sleep.” He gave her a little kiss on her forehead and flicked off the light before he left the room.
Merry waited. Finally, the scratching she expected started up on the walls, just as it did every night. She heard the scratching since she was old enough to remember. It had gotten worse since Christmas, since she was forced to stop the destruction of the Christmas ornaments.
Emboldened by her previous victory, she lay for the opportunity to stop all the nonsense that made her parents think so badly of her.
She heard the noise under her bed. Quickly, Merry reached down and under, snatching the creature in her nimble hands as it bent over the hamburger. It scratched and bit, just as its brother did at Christmas, and Merry cried out. With her free hand she wrenched the creature’s neck until it hung loosely in her hand.
Her bedroom door flew open. “What the…” her father said in shock. He looked at the twisted and ugly white thing, its head, arms and legs limp in Merry’s grasp.
Merry held the otherworldly creature out to her father.
“This daddy. This is what broke the tea set. It was mad at me for killing its brother for breaking the Christmas ornaments.”
Her father backed away.
“They are always there, daddy, in the walls. You hear them, right? At night? I always do.”
“What’s going on?” said Merry’s mother appearing behind her father.
“Oh good lord, she broke another one of her toys. And she’s lying again.”
“Merry!” said her mother.
“It’s not a toy, mommy. Look!”
“You have to do something,” said Merry’s father to her mother.
“Me?” said her mother. “What do you expect me to do?” Quickly the row started between them.
While they were fighting, Tabby scooted in between their legs. He leapt on the bed, and snagged the creature from Merry’s hands. He took it under the bed.
“No!” cried Merry. She pulled up the dust ruffle and looked. Tabby had the thing half eaten.
“Bad kitty. Now they’ll never believe that I’m a good girl.”