There was a news flash about this girl for a long time, I don’t even remember her name, but she was about twelve with freckles, with pale blonde hair and blue-green eyes. She had gone missing; last seen around the city park. But after the initial reports, the story died down, and her smiling face holding a white rabbit plush would end up on the missing children billboard in Walmart.
Well, recently, I had gone to the park just to take in some sun. I sat on a bench, watching families sitting down on checked blankets, throwing Frisbees and flying kites. I had yawned and turned my head when I saw a girl.
It was summer, and she was dressed in a blue and black long-sleeve dress that looked like it belonged in a historic English-era movie. She was wearing black stockings and shiny blue platform shoes. She held a dirty-white animal, I thought it was a bear, but it had no ears. The girl was dressed up like a little doll.
Her face was pale and downcast, freckled. Her pale blonde hair was put into two pigtails that were put down near her neck. She wore a frilly headband with two snow-white rabbit ears on it.
Her eyes looked empty, and when she lifted her head for a second, the sunlight didn’t reflect off her blue-green eyes.
I’d forgotten about the little girl in the news by then, but I was still fixated on the little lady who stiffly sat down on a bench a few feet away. She looked like she was ready to cry.
I work at a Peter Piper’s so work instinct kicked in and I went over to the kid. “Hey there,” I said, kneeling down to meet her downward gaze.
She was still focused on the ground when she said, “Hello,” in a soft, sort of emotionless voice. Not monotonous, but… you know, lacking feeling.
“What’s wrong? Are you lost?”
“I’m not lost,” she said, stroking the stuffed animal, again with that sort of dead voice.
“Well, what’s the matter, sweetie? You look sad.”
“Sad,” she echoed. “I look sad.” She tilted her head and whispered “sad,” under her breath. Then she looked at me, with those emotionless eyes.
“Do I really look sad?” she asked quietly.
“Yeah, you do,” I said. “What happened?”
Her head fell back into the downcast gaze to the ground. “I’m not supposed to look sad,” she said. “I get punished if I don’t smile. She says I’m supposed to smile. She says we’re all supposed to smile. I don’t see how I can smile without my…” She blinked, and in the corner of her eye a tear bubbled. Except, the thing was, the tear looked red.
My eyes had quirked at “punished”; was she getting abused by her mother? “Where do you live, honey?” I wondered. I had to see if this girl was really getting abused. She stood up, and the way she stood up reminded me of a puppet.
“My name is Alice,” she said, and started to walk away. She stopped once to look back, and then I trailed after her. She led me through the city, always turning her head a bit to make sure I was following. And the whole time she was whispering to her little toy.
“Do you think he can help me, Albe?” she said. “Help all of us?”
“All of us?” I wondered to myself. Were her siblings being abused too?
Alice led me to the house in the suburbs. The strange thing was that the surrounding houses were all vacant. The house itself looked perfectly normal; it looked clean and well taken care of. You’d think an abused household would have an equally abused home. We walked up to the porch and she took the knocker and let it drop.
The door came open and I was met with wide eyes and a toothy grin. It was a ginger girl wearing a similar, but more elaborate and fancy dress. Just as young as Alice, if not younger. Her hair was in ringlets and she struck me as cute. But then I focused on her wide, panicked eyes.
“Alice,” she said, her voice sounding welcoming, even when she said, “Mommy is very angry with you.”
“Mommy always is,” Alice whispered, pressing her face up to her animal.
“You know you’re not supposed to bring people home,” she said, still with that welcoming tone. “Mommy’s gonna hurt you again.”
Then a woman came to the door. She was around thirty-ish I suppose, with long black hair. She smiled at me, pushing the little ginger girl away.
“Hello there, sir,” she said, then flashed her eyes to Alice. I could’ve sworn there was a burning rage in her eyes when she looked at the blonde. “Alice, who is this? Did you wander off somewhere?”
“No Mommy,” she said. “I was in the park and he talked to me.”
“Please do come in,” the lady said, opening the door wide. When I stepped in, my blood chilled.
Little girls dressed in frilly outfits were everywhere, all dressed up and smiling. Their eyes varied from shock to anguish, and their faces never changed, just like Alice and the ginger girl.
They all looked like little dolls.
The lady gestured me to sit on the loveseat in the living room across from the sofa. A brunette set down a silver tray with a cup of tea, sugar and cream, and backed away. Alice began to sit next to me-
“Alice,” the woman said, “your little animal is dirty, go wash it.”
Alice clutched the rabbit tightly. “Albe isn’t dirty,” she mumbled.
“Alice, please, not in front of our guest. Put it in the washing machine.” The little girl stood and walked out of the room. The lady gave me a smile. “I’m sorry about her behavior. Alice has always been the odd one out, and I believe she thinks it’s because I hate her. Kids, huh?”
“Um, yeah,” I said, smiling nervously. “So… uh, are these girls all yours?”
“Oh, yes,” she started. “All of these little dolls are mine, every single one, all twenty-eight of them.”
Twenty-eight? Twenty-eight little girls with different hair and complexions? Well, maybe she wasn’t married, but they all looked around ten to twelve. And if she was able to have mass-multiple children, with all these different features, why wasn’t she in the news?
God, just imagine the poor guy paying child support for this household.
“Well, you must have a hard time taking care of all these little girls, then.”
“Alice especially,” she said, nearly interrupting me. “Alice is one of the older ones. She hardly smiles.” Her hand clenched on her knee as she went on. “It bothers me, when my little girls don’t smile. It makes me think that they don’t like it here.” She laughed nervously, “but, why on earth wouldn’t they like it here? Don’t you think it’s nice, here?”
I looked around; everything was so clean, and this room was nicely decorated if it was some sort of tea party place little girls went to so they could dress up and have- well, a tea party. So I nodded and smiled. “Well, yeah, it’s very nice here.”
Again, nearly cutting me off, “I know right? What’s not to like about this place? She’s surrounded by friends and cared for by a loving mother.” Laughing again, “But she doesn’t smile. She never smiles.”
“Have you ever tried to talk to Alice about why she doesn’t smile?” I wondered, but then she started laughing, almost doubling over. The little girls around her backed her up with dead-sounding laughs.
“Talk? To Alice? Ha! Alice doesn’t talk unless she’s spoken to. None of the little girls talk to me openly. They never talk.” Sort of darkly, under her breath, “They’re not supposed to, anyway.”
“Why don’t they talk to each other?”
“Because they’re...” she started with a kind face, as if I was a child who made a crazy question about why people couldn’t fly and she was trying to make this easy for me, but she couldn’t stop chuckling.
And now she looked like someone prying information from a little boy. “But you said Alice talked?”
“Well, of course-“
“I mean, not in response. Openly.”
“Yeah. That’s how I know her name.” The other girls in the room started swaying, as if they were connected by a string that the wind blew against. My hostess stood up and clapped her hands.
“Well, sir, I’m sorry, but I think it’s time for you to go,” she said, leading me to the door, which the ginger was still by, like a sentinel.
“Wait- Could I say goodbye to Al-”
“Good bye,” she said, shutting the door. I didn’t even get a name from the woman. But I didn’t want to anger her or her twenty-seven other kids. So I left, heading back through the park.
On the bench was Alice’s little animal, with a note and a little green book under it. The note on the earless animal said “For the Man in the Park.” I grabbed the animal and book and hurried to my apartment before the sun set. As I rode the subway, I noticed that the animal had a nose like a…like a rabbit.
I got home and looked at the other side of note.
“Please hold on to Albe for me. Mommy’s going to take her from me. I just know it.
“Take the diary too. Maybe you can help us, when you find out what’s wrong with all of us.
“Please don’t come back to the house. Mommy does bad things with other people who keep coming back. I don’t want you to get hurt.
The diary was pretty plain, just a green notebook with a fancy “B” on the cover and a little ribbon marker wedged near the middle. As I flipped the pages to the marked page, I noticed that the previous entries had been made by someone named Bella Evans. She dotted her eyes with hearts and wrote in cursive with pink ink. She drew pictures on the left pages and I felt a pang of fear when I saw a little stick-figure girl holding a toy rabbit.
“Mom bought me this rabbit at the toy store today. I love her so much! She’s soft and white like snow. I named her Albe, because I’m a B and she reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. Get it? Al- Be?
“Talk to you later,
“Bella Evans + Albe”
Albe was a rabbit, I realized. But, that means, that means Alice was the little girl Bella in this diary. But maybe I was looking too into this, there was probably a reasonable explanation for Alice and Bella having white rabbits named Albe, right?
A few pages later, I found the marker on this entry.
“This lady moved in across the street all by herself. She doesn’t even have a cat or dog. Maybe she’s allergic or something.
“She keeps looking at me. I wait for the school bus and she’s across the street, looking at me. I think she’s pretty creepy, but Mom and Dad don’t believe me when I tell them. They think she’s fine. I’m not sure about her. I don’t even know her name.
“It’s a good thing we’re going to be at the party our neighbors are throwing at the park. I can’t wait to be there.
“Bella Evans + Albe”
The opposite page showed a dark-haired woman staring straight through to the reader. Despite it being a little girl’s drawing, I felt like it was familiar.
Well, I got a little bored with Alice’s book and fell asleep on the couch, Albe and the book in my hands. In my dream, I was in a house with boxes along some walls, and a woman who looked an awful lot like Alice’s mom. She led me towards a door that led into a basement, nudging me inside. I could hear the door being shut and locked behind me.
As I turned around, the woman snatched up Albe, who had ears, and held the animal out of reach. She said something and pointed to something behind me. I looked to find an illuminated steel table. I walked up to the table and lay down on it. Alice’s mother strapped me down on the table.
I was panicking on the inside, wondering what exactly she was going to do to me, especially as she picked up the knife and said something else to me and motioned to Albe, who was sitting on a counter. She began to undo the clothes I was wearing; a plaid orange-and-pink sundress, exposing my chest to her. The woman hovered the knife over my heart, which thrashed.
She plunged the blade into my skin, and I screamed at the searing pain of my skin, and she slapped me, walked over to Albe, picked up a pair of scissors and cut off her ears. She said something more to me as I wept, and I could see her form the word “quiet.”
She pulls back my skin, revealing my insides, and then she gets a ridged knife and started to saw at my ribcage. I bit my lip until I could taste blood in my mouth, and then she stopped and looked at me. And I was filled with dread when I saw her lips form the word “smile,” before she sliced my heart away.
I woke up in my room clutching Albe to my chest, and as I calmed down I immediately grew anxious as I felt something inside Albe. She made a squishy sound when I squeezed her. I grew pale as I threw the stuffed toy inside my closet in panic, causing boxes to topple inside it.
There was a knock at the door. A knock that was barely above the doorknob. I quietly made my way to the peephole, and I couldn’t see anyone as the person continued to knock. Maybe it was a Girl Scout.
But what was a Girl Scout doing up at nine-twenty-two at night?
Hesitantly, I opened the door, and I was met face-to-face with a smiling Hispanic girl dressed up as if for a Spainish festival, with empty eyes.
"Hello Mister,” she said, giggling, “where’s Albe?”
My heart stopped, I could feel it wither and twist about in my chest when she said Albe. I tried to lie, saying I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she laughed and said something that crushed my heart.
"Mommy says you can’t save Alice,” she said sweetly, “and that people who find out need to be punished.”
Suddenly I felt something leap on my face as the girl giggled madly- I was smothered in cloth and I couldn’t breathe, and I blacked out.
When I woke up, I was in a dark, dirt-floored place, in a cage. The only place that was lit was a good forty feet away from me, and in the light, was a man-sized rabbit trap.
And inside, in the fetal position, was Alice, sobbing. I didn’t know then why she was facing away from me. I only found out why when I tried to move over to her.
I couldn’t feel my legs down to my knees, so I looked down, only to gag. My legs... they were gone. Mommy must’ve cut them off when I was asleep.
Alice began to wail, as if she was in pain.
Alice?” She stopped crying and turned to face me. “Alice, where are we? Can you get out?”
"I’m sorry,” she whined, red streaking her cheeks. “I’m so sorry.”
"Alice. Alice, listen to me. Can you get out of there?”
"It hurts so bad, Mister,” she said, clawing at her chest.
Her heart, I realized. She needs her heart back.
"Alice, please, just endure it,” I said, “Get out of there, Alice. Get out and come over here. I know what you need, I swear.”
She pushed up on the trap, causing the metal to bend, and the latch busted with a popping sound. Alice crawled out of the bent-up trap door and inch my way on all fours, whimpering in pain.
“Where’s...where’s my heart?” she choked out, tearing at her dress, trying to get at her empty cavity. “It hurts.”
"Alice, listen to me. Are we alone?”
"They brought us here to die, Mister,” she said, whimpering. “We’re all alone. I need it back, Mister.”
"Alice, it’s in my apartment, in my closet, inside Albe,” I said. “Go get it and come back for me, okay?”
She doubled over, and my heart sank. This little girl was in agony, and here I was asking her to come back for me.
"Alice,” I said, gulping, “I need you to take something. Maybe the pain will go away until you’ve got your heart back.”
We went back and forth and I told her that there was no way I could make it outside to get Alice her heart back. Tearful, and clutching the torn part of her dress, she came inside my cell, and sat beside me. She tore my shirt, clawed at my skin until the skin broke, and I watched painfully as she pulled at my heart.
Written by JayPuma186