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Linda and Marcus watch their beautiful daughter, Emilia, as she gently brushes the hair of her favorite doll, Jane. As they hold each others' hands, they smile at the sight of such innocence... of such happiness. The two young parents would do anything to protect their little girl, even if it meant giving up their lives for her. They loved her so much and having her in their lives strengthened their love for each other.

Marcus stares into Linda's eyes, as she smiles brightly in response. They kiss, feeling each other's warm embrace. For ten seconds, they remind each other of the passion they have felt for the last ten years, a passion that has burned strong that entire time. For ten seconds, they take their eyes off of their beloved Emilia.

As they slowly pull away from each other, Linda just so happens to look into the direction where Emilia is supposed to be. To her horror, the previously occupied 9-year-old child and her favorite doll were gone. "Emilia?" Linda exclaims in a panic. "Emilia!" yells Marcus as well.

Panic strikes at their hearts as they begin to frantically search. Soon, the decision to live a quiet, isolated life in the middle of the woods, away from the dangerous and unpredictable happenings of the nearby town, no longer seemed like a wise decision. It was unlike the young couple to take their eyes off of their child while outside the safety of their log-built house, even for just ten seconds.

Ten seconds, which seemed so minuscule at the time, proved to be just long enough for their worst fears to become reality. Ten seconds became ten minutes of searching, which became ten days, and eventually ten months. Ten months passed, until Emilia's tenth birthday, and for ten months the couple that had once felt nothing but love and happiness were now reduced to empty shells of their former selves.

In ten months, no trace of Emilia was ever found. Nothing except for one thing, that is. During the initial search by the panicked couple, Marcus stumbled upon Jane, their now lost daughter's most cherished possession. Beyond the lone doll, however, it was as though the poor child simply vanished into thin air. There were no footprints, torn articles of clothing, or stains of blood anywhere in the vast forest, and they made certain to spend every minute they could combing the entirety of that forest.

As Marcus drinks his fifth bottle and passing out yet again, Linda stares into the eyes of the doll. Tears cloud her vision, but ever since that day it was as though she were looking into the eyes of Emilia herself. This feeling made the inexplicable loss that much more painful. Such a small part of her was not nearly enough, she wanted everything back, she wanted her baby.

Wiping the tears from her eyes, she looks over to the poor excuse of the man she once loved, utter disgust in her house. She blamed him of course, but with that, she also had to blame herself. They both took their eyes away from her, and so they were both responsible for losing her. Those ten seconds of love for each other would prove to be the last.

The sight of each other now disgusted the couple that once held each other in such high regard. It was as though Emilia had been the glue that held them together, and with her gone, their love was doomed to fall apart.

One night, however, there would be yet another change in the direction of their lives. There was a knock at their door. As always, there was just as much hope of it being their recovered daughter as the dread of it being a police officer delivering tragic news. Cautiously optimistic, Linda opens the door to see a strange man.

His face was covered by a long gray beard and his eyes were a strange, sickly yellow. "Hello, ma'am," he began, a tired old voice escaping his lips. "My name is Nicolas Rasguño, and I have come to offer you a gift." As Linda, not amused by the sudden appearance of a stranger, gives him the once over and bitterly remarks, "Oh yeah? Is it my daughter?"

To this remark, the old man gives Linda a rotten tooth-filled grin and answers back, "Well actually, Señora, that's exactly what it is."

"What?" she gasps, her eyes growing large at hearing these words.

"May I come in, por favor?" asks Nicolas, maintaining his smile.

"Why.. yes, of course!" Linda exclaims, allowing the old man to enter."

At this point, the only thing that concerned the hopeful young mother was that this strange old man might actually be a lead to finding their daughter. She didn't understand what he meant by his gift being her daughter, but she was determined to find out by any means necessary.

"Please, have a seat," Linda offers Nicolas as she kicks her passed out husband who was lying drunk on the couch.

"Thank you, Linda" answers Nicolas, accepting the offer.

"The hell is this?" asks Marcus, slurring his words from inebriation.

"This," Linda begins to answer, the tone in her voice communicating her annoyance with her husband, "is Mr. Rasguño. He may have some information about where we can find Emilia."

Almost immediately, these words seem to all but sober Marcus right up. His eyes grow large and he stands to his feet, staring directly at the still smiling Nicolas, and demands, "Well? Speak!"

"I'm afraid you misinterpret," answers the old man. "I don't have information for you. I can give her back to you, right here and now."

Suddenly, rage explodes inside Marcus, who rushes over and grabs Nicolas by the collar of his coat. "Tell me now!" he yells, what did you do with her you old son of a bitch!" As much as Linda wants to join her husband in beating the information out of the stranger, she understands that Emilia is clearly not with him at the moment, and if they want any chance at seeing her again, they need to not lose their heads.

"Knock it off you idiot," she yells at Marcus, pulling him away from the ever-smiling Nicolas.

"He knows where she is!" her agitated husband exclaims.

"Yeah, no shit! Do you think he's gonna tell us where if you act like a moron?"

"Again, Señora," Nicolas interrupts. "I'm not going to give you any information about where your beautiful little girl is. I am going to present her to you."

Linda and Marcus look at each other in confusion, and then back to Nicolas. "I... I don't understand," says Linda.

"I will present to you, your child, but before I do so there are a couple of things I'm going to need."

A look of disgust shows on Linda's face as she says, "How much..." Nicolas then begins to laugh, the sound of an old dying hyena.

"No, no, no. I don't need money. All I need from you is the child's most cherished possession, and for you to sign this release."

This is completely fucking ridiculous, Linda thought to herself. How could anyone require grieving parents to sign a waiver to see their missing child, and on top of that hand over her most cherished possession as some sick form of payment? She maintains her composure however and walks over to the table on which Jane, their daughter's most cherished possession, sat. She picks up the doll and hands it over.

The old man strokes the hair of the doll, and Marcus tries his best to contain his rage at the thought of this old man doing this with his little girl. "And now, the release," Nicolas reminds them, handing Linda a piece of paper. She reads over the very small amount of writing which simply reads:

In exchange for the soul of our daughter, Emilia, we in sound body and mind, sign over that of our own immortal souls to one Nicolas Rasguño.

Linda, losing her composure, scoffs at what she has just read. "What the hell is this?"

"Exactly what it says," answers Nicolas. "In exchange for your immortal souls, I will return the soul of your dearest Emilia.

"Oh the hell with this," shouts Marcus, fists balled as he approaches Nicolas.

"Stop," says Linda, not taking her eyes at the vile old man. "Just sign the goddamn papers, and if we don't see our little girl, we kill this son of a bitch."

Nicolas chuckles at that remark as Linda signs her name to the paper. Reluctantly, Marcus signs it as well and shoves it into the old man's chest.

"Excellent," says Nicolas as he rises from his seat. He then takes the doll and places its mouth to his, giving it a long and uncomfortable kiss. He then hands it back to Linda, who accepts it, feeling utterly confused. "Thanks for doing business," he says, turning to leave the house. Quickly, Marcus blocks the door before he can do so."

"Hold the hell on," the furious father yells, "Where the hell is she old man?!"

"What do you mean?" answers Nicolas, still smiling. "She's right there." He points at the doll as Linda stares down at the tiny body in her hands.

Confusion quickly turns to anger, as she throws the doll to the ground, grabs one of her husband's empty bottles, and smashes it over Nicolas' head. He yells in pain, as blood and broken glass flies away from his wounded head and he falls to the floor, that wicked smile finally leaving his face. Marcus then proceeds to kick and beat the old man viciously, as Linda walks to her bedroom and promptly returns, holding a 9 mm pistol.

"Where the hell is she you old fuck?!" she screams in his face, pistol-whipping him repeatedly. Blood gushing from his nose, eyes, and mouth, and slowly but surely, that same smile forms. He then begins to laugh uncontrollably. Her patience gone, and under the impression that Nicolas was a crazy old bastard that just wanted to make her pain worse, she fires a single shot between his life, abruptly ending his laughter.

For ten seconds, there is silence, until suddenly there is a voice. A small, faint, and familiar voice coming from behind Linda. "," says the small yet unmistakable voice of Emilia. Trembling, Linda turns around to see the small broken body of Emilia's doll, Jane. It's around, moving around and it's now partially shattered head trying to pick itself up but ultimately falling back down.

Tears fall from Linda's eyes as she witnesses the small porcelain doll which she had carelessly thrown to the floor, struggle to move. Marcus, frozen with shock and confuses can only mutter out, "Emilia?" in a strained, choked voice.

"Why..." says the voice of Emilia. Linda rushes over to the tiny body, completely at a loss for words, and picks her up, pieces of her shattered head falling to the floor. A single eye looks at the distraught mother, and one final time utters the word, "Mom..." before there is once again silence. She dolls stops moving completely. For the briefest moment, and most unexpected of ways, Linda and Marcus had gotten their beloved daughter back, but before they could even realize what was happening, she was gone once again... and for good.

Linda screams and Marcus falls to his knees and weeps. Once again, carelessness has cost them their daughter, and Linda can't take it anymore. Her heart shattered and her soul apparently gone, she glares at Marcus, who stares at her, hatred burning in his eyes. He doesn't have time to do anything about it, however, as she aims the gun at him and fires three times, hitting him in the chest.

She doesn't bother to make sure he's actually dead before she turns the gun on herself and fires a single round into her temple. All is quiet in the house of the dead. There is a dead silence... until the sounds of laughter echoes throughout. Nicolas Rasguño picks himself up and pulls the single bullet from between his eyes, and flicks it away like a dead bug.

Smiling wider than ever, he picks up the lifeless head of Marcus and claims his rightful property that is the man's soul, as he places the cold dead lips to his own. He then walks over to Linda and does the same. Only by Linda and Marcus offering their souls free in exchange for the soul of Emilia, who, being a child he had easily conned out of giving up her own 10 months prior, was he able to claim them.

Giving up the soul of a single child was more than a deal to exchange for 2 adult souls, rich with pain and sin. As Nicolas takes his newly acquired property, he leaves the poor lonely soul of Emilia, now doomed to walk in Limbo, with no longer a human body, as it remained perfectly hidden and rotting away, and not even a vessel such as her most cherished doll to inhabit any longer.

As far as the rest of the world would know, the grieving mother, distraught from the disappearance and presumed death of her child, resorted to murdering her husband and taking her own life. No one would ever know of Nicolas Rasguño... except, of course, for the next unlucky soul that would cross his path.

Written by NerdxCorexCreep

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