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This story is rated R.
It is not suggested you read it if you are sensitive to violence, swearing, or explicit content.


Alive by CrystalNeonSummerSnow

About: Toy Story

Genre: Paranormal Horror/Friendship

Character's POV: Woody

Summary: When a bad storm happens and the wind takes our precious hero Woody away from Bonnie and his friends, the toy cowboy ends up running throughout the town trying to find his way back home. Yet, when an old friend walks back into his life and is faced with dangerous problems himself, Woody must help him before he helps himself.

Chapter 1: Just Knew

I knew something was going to happen; I just knew it.


I didn't know if it was a random thought or that hollow feeling in my head when I was awoken by a crack of lightning outside, but somehow something was telling me by the way the clouds covered the stars in the sky that today would be the most memorable day of my life.


My friends and I were strewn across the hard wood floor where shelter protected us from the rain. Bonnie had gone on a whole-summer vacation on a cruise ship and wouldn't return until pre-school started again. Yep, all of us toys left with not a whole lot to do but resume being a happy family.


Of course, once in a while, families have to be seperated.


While everyone was pulling out old comedy DVDs to watch and played games like hide-n-seek, I decided to sit at the windowsill and stare at the thunderstorm without even flinching when it looked like the lightning was targeting me. I felt so pathetic, so frail, and this isn't how a leader should feel. I doubt it had anything to do with Bonnie, but it definitely had to do with someone; someone who had seemed to walk out of my life.


Andy.


Looking at the storm surging on outside reminded me of how I felt when Andy gave me up to Bonnie. I wouldn't say that the thunder and lightning represented any anger of some sort, but the rain sure did represent the tears I refused to let fall. I had a reputation of being a big, strong hero to everyone and I try my best everyday to be above petty weeping, but today, with everyone too preoccupied to noticed, my tears finally burst.


It's been a year since Andy left and yes, Bonnie was a good owner--perfect in some ways--but the hole in my heart (hard to believe a toy would have one) just grew bigger and bigger when my missing him reached its largest.


My tears stained the fabric of my jeans and my chocolate eyes to match my hair earned more luster from my excess tears I finally held back and swallowed. I had to get a grip on myself, for nostalgia's sake. After forcefully drying away the tears to avoid suspicion, I laid my head back and let out one last breath before falling asleep.


A ray of light shined right in my eyes and I woke up to see that I was outside on flowering ground and under a cloudless sky that greeted me. I looked at the house before me; it looked nothing like Bonnie's house. Red roof shingles, casement windows with a potted daisy on one of the sills, louvered door, this was Andy's house.


I expected myself to be overjoyed and dance the dorkeist happy dance ever, but I wasn't sure if this was either a dream or nostalgia slapping me with a memory to make me fall and break down. I gripped my cowboy hat and took a deep breath before climbing up the window sill. My eyes examined every blanket of dust in the kitchen and every flickering light to see if there was any shadow hiding from me.


My worrying ended once I saw him.


" Andy?" my voice cracked with a tear to swallow as well. The figure turned to the window and it felt like the world stopped. Two old friends reutinted again. Andy's eyes didn't even blink once; the same with mine. He pulled up the window and we just stared at each other before another whisper was said; just staring, smiling, and noticing our eyes gleamed with our tears blurring our vision. I reached my hand out to try and start the reunion with a handshake, but without warning, I was soon hugged against his chest and I could hear his quiet sobbing a little more.


" Woody..." he still remembered my name. He said it again a few times to reassure that and then darkness closed around us. I didn't care about that; I didn't care at all. All that had really mattered was that Andy and I were reunited. My first--and most special--owner holding me in his arms again. The reunion I dreamt of.


Everything vanished once a hand laid upon my shoulder to nudge me into waking up.


" Woody? Woody, wake up!" Buzz yelled with one final push. Either his yelling or his accidentally pushing me off the dresser and me hitting my head on an open drawer woke me up. Everyone formed a circle around me as I got up.


" Are you OK, Woody?" Peas-in-a-Pod asked while Dolly patted my shoulder in sympathy.


" Yeah, I'm okay. Why do you guys ask?"


" Well, you've been asleep all night, for starters." Mr. Potato Head smirked.


" And you haven't done anything except sit at the windowsill." Mrs. Potato Head added.


I took my hat off and let it fall to the floor as I spun on the heel of my boots to face them. They could easily tell even before I opened my mouth that I was going to lie again.


" Guys, I'm alright. Nothing's going on with me. Just continue on with the night since you don't have much left."


I picked up my hat, stalked myself towards the closet, and jumped onto a chair to reach the handle better. Placing my vinyl hand on the cold metal, I turned around to my friends. They all looked at me and it was as if they could see straight into my soul... a soul filled with nothing but emptiness and misery. I couldn't even find the strength to smile; I just looked down at my feet and sighed. I could hear squeaking plastic feet approach me and all I could do was guess in my head that it was Buzz.


" You're lying, Woodster, and you know that." he began with; his most blatant way to point out the topic of the conversation. I let out another sigh and I slowly drew my head up to see his face. I gritted my teeth behind my pursed frown, jumped down to the floor, and murmured,


" Buzz, I told y-I told everyone for the billionth time today that I'm alright. What's the matter with you guys?"


" Then why exactly are you heading into the closet?"


" Mind your own business, for once! I mean, really!" I veered myself back to the door and slammed it behind me as I left everyone more concered than ever. I never snapped at Buzz like that before. No, scratch that. I never snapped at anyone like that before. Sure, maybe a few bouts of frustration come my way, but this wasn't just a little bout of something. This was real anger.


I laid my head against the ajar door and overheard my friends talk about me as usual.


" What's going on with Woody?" Slinky asked.


" I don't know Slink, but I've never seen him get this angry before." said Buzz. Soon, there was a small silence. I hugged my knees together and waited for a smirk from Mr. Potato Head or at least someone else talking about his or her concern for me. Then I heard footsteps head to the closet, but instead of seeing the doorknob turn, I instead heard another vinyl hand knocking on the door.


" Woody?" Jessie said to start with. " Woody, seriously, come out. What is going on with you? Ever since Bonnie left, you've just sat by yourself, either at the windowsill or in the backyard."


" Jess, I'm fine, really. I just need to be alone." I replied sounding a little more calm that before. I couldn't see her, but I bet she was shaking her head right now.


" Do you miss Bonnie?"


" No. This has nothing to do with Bonnie.... but missing someone is the subject, per se."


Another silence. I didn't even breathe. I felt the pain make me succumb into sheding, what it felt like, a flood of tears. My will was at least able to keep me from sniffling and sobbing, but not from sheding tears. Jessie didn't even try to get me to talk about it; it was apparent to everyone that I was talking about Andy.


This time, instead of placing my ear against the door to listen in on what they were saying, I knelt down to the ground and peeked through the little crack. Jessie turned to everyone and interlaced her own fingers together.


" He misses Andy."


" Yeah, we noticed." Dolly glared at Mr. Potato Head along with my other friends.


" Button it, Potato Head. Don't you think this is at least a little sad?"


" Yeah, sad that this guy can't get over it."


I balled up my fist and it felt like it would go into the dry wall, but I knew that violence wasn't going to solve anything. I restrained my anger and it quickly changed back into weeping. Jessie was about to turn to the door and I scooted away from the crack so that they wouldn't see me.


" Buzz, y-you reckon we should... y'know, talk to him?"


" I think maybe we should leave Woody alone for a little while; he'll get over it."


I rested my forehead upon my knees and finally got the strength to breath. Well, probably that was because of my heavy, yet controlled, hypervetilation. They had a right to leave me alone; in my condition, I needed it. Still, even spending a little time in solitude couldn't get rid of the dark loneliness that seeped into me. I bet that when Andy gave me away, it was like giving away his heart, but I guess to him he was okay about that. It seemed like everyone was okay with that, but me. I had been by his side since Kindergarten and I thought that I would forever be his favorite toy and that he'd never give me away, but as usual, I was wrong. Since a toy never grows and never dies, maybe that was why his departure hit me the harderst.


I crawled into a corner and noticed a pool of tears around my boots. I've really been crying that much? Wow, that's the most tears I've ever shed in my days. My cheeks would've turned crimson by the second if I had blood rushing in me. I decided that I've let the darkness consume me too much. I once again dried away my tears and grabbed onto the handle.


Numbly dangling above the floor for a moment, I finally turned it and saw the lamp light shine in front of me now.


Everyone quickly turned from looking at the wall to looking at me. I hoisted up my belt a little and parted my lips to speak.


" Guys, I know all of you--well, almost all of you--are worried about the way I've been acting, and I'm sorry about that, but I just think that I need some alone time."


" Why would you want to be alone and doleful when we're right here for ya?" Buzz asked in a friendly tone. He reached his hand out to pat my shoulder and I allowed it for a short moment. But then I looked down and said,


" Well, for starters,"--everyone couldn't help but gasp at the sight of seeing me shed a tear in front of them for the first time--"I'm probably never going to see Andy ever again, but I still want to appear a leader, not a weakling."


Buzz shook his head and turned to Jessie; she pursed her lips and gave a sad nod at him. I tapped my fingers on the side of my leg and glanced over at the sight of rain bouncing violently against the pane of the window like hail. Wait, it was hail. I took a step back and said,


" C'mon guys, I think the storm's getting worse, we should seek better protection in the basement."


Even before I took one step closer to the hallway, something tapped on the window and it sounded like it would threated to break through. It was just a branch, but with the storm and the ground suddenly rumbling, I could tell an earthquake was evident. After noticing one of the Pizza Planet aliens stuck under a fallen stack of books, I climbed up onto the dresser and lifted up all those books without any help. In a toy's strength, lifting a stack of books is like Atlas lifting the world.


While he was able to get back with his brothers, right when I was about to climb down, the tapping soon became a low eerie creaking sound of wood. Before I knew it.....


Shatter!


The branch broke right through the window and the little point of the excess twigs hooked into the fabric of my plaid shirt. I was dangling with my life on the line.


" Give him something to grab on!" commanded Buzz. Everyone scattered around the bedroom to try and find something to save me. So far, when it seemed like their attempts to save me came to no avail, Rex tripped upon a bag of pipe cleaners. Soon, Jessie got an idea.


She ripped open the bag with her bare hands and tied together as many pipe cleaners as she could.


" Woody, hang on!"


She reached out her pipe staff and I clumsily swung my hands around trying to grab it until I finally came across success.


" Gotcha!" she cheered, then motioned everyone to grab on.


Tugging and using up all their strength still wasn't freeing me, but all it did was help loosen one of the stiches of my right arm just like before. Soon, the winds were able to grab hold of me and the earthquake grew stronger. Soon enough, the hovering ceiling fan fell upon my friends, knocking them all out.


" No!" I cried as the winds were able to whisk me away into the air.


I screamed as I was hovering above the tri-state area, seeing no cars or people bustle in or out of my town. At least that ruled out a possibility of getting noticed and/or run over. Literally holding onto my hat and falling to the earth at a fast speed, I took my pullstring, tied it into a lasso, and aimmed myself for a cherry blossom tree in the park to at least land on the hill tumbling down, but stand up unharmed.


With one good swing, I narrowly escaped falling and being crushed on the graveled ground and landed on my feet on a weakening branch. I climbed onto a lower (and much more stronger) branch as the one above me fell to the damp grass below.


I fell to the ground as well and let out a few more sobs before fainting and resuming my lifeless toy state.

Chapter 2: Wait For Me

Gentle rain drizzling on my face woke me.


I looked at the full moon above me. Must be midnight.


I jerked myself to knees and just stayed that way for a while. My breaths became shaky and weak, hands twitching and eyelids damp from the sobbing in my sleep. I felt so alone and hopeless. No friends by my side, no kid to hold me close, no nothing. Gradually, I walked on my knees all the way over to a nearby puddle to look at my reflection.


The fabric of my jeans was stained with mud and grass from falling onto the hill, my face was covered with grime, and my eyes were half-lidded and exahusted from pathetically weeping. A part of my mind scolded me for that, but another part said that I'm being too hard on myself.


I'd believe both perspectives, but somehow the self-remorse didn't cease.


Why didn't I just jump off the stupid dresser and guide my friends to safety instead of being frozen from my curiousity of the creepy noise? I sighed and rubbed my itching eyes as the rain continued to soak my clothes. I knew that I had to get home, but I needed to get my strength back, and in my condition, I hoped that that would happen soon. I let one more tear stroll down my cheek and I was officially dried out of liquid emotion.


I still couldn't help but feel that this was all my fault.


The sticky hot air around me pressed hard on the stuffing inside of me; the ongoing rain was at least able to cool me off. The billowed feeling I got in my shirt was able to calm my nerves and make my emotions lighten up from intense remorse to just plain angst. To me, angst wasn't nessicarily a bad thing since I've lived with it since the day I was given to Bonnie. It's like a scar: something pierces into your skin, you're left in the hospital to heal, you develop a scar, and you just live with it. Of course, I wouldn't know what it would feel like to have something sharp and dangerous slice into me and the villian leaving me to cry in pain for help while having my skinned bathed by the pool of blood surrounding me.


But to me, angst felt like a scar, and I just decided to live with it. And just thinking about that made me resume hating myself for a pointless reason.


If I eventually get back home before my now 5 year-old owner does and see Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of my friends still lying under the broken ceiling fan dead and the pipe staff still in Jessie's lifeless hand, I'd never forgive myself. Just the image of coming home, all ecstatic and arms open to embrace my friends, and then they'd lay in front of me, staring at me in their now permenant toy state of mind and each vibrant colorful eye containing no life or emotion, made my eyes well up with the once dry tears again. I shook my head and successfully held my tears back in order to keep my composure in tact.


But still, as hollow as I felt inside, I knew I had a mission to prove my remorse wrong; I had to get home.


I finally wobbled myself up onto my feet and ran towards the park gates, tripping once over the rough-hewn gravel. It looked like I was home free, but surprisingly, the streets were packed with cars and ambulances.


" You've got to be kidding me!" I yelled under my breath. I would understand ambulances rushing to find any sights of injured and/or mortally wounded victims of the earthquake, but why on Earth would other people who should be huddled close to their loved ones at home be out hustling and bustling?


I guess I had to find another way out.


I hid behind the rusted bars of the gate and my self-conscience scrambled all thoughts in my head to try and find the answer out of here. I could climb the cherry blossom tree again and the only success I could get would be falling repeatedly at every try and have a bored teenager with a camera and nothing to do snap a picture of me and put it on his profile on MySpace or Facebook or something. No, I had to find a better plan than that.


Turning my head around to a bush, I lifted my brows up. Time for the ol' disguise trick.


With no sight of anyone walking by due to them being too preoccupied with yelling and honking their horns to speed up a traffic jam, I leaped into the bush and tried digging up the roots so that I could move easier. I only dug them up with my left arm since my right lost one stitch, but even one stich could result in losing my whole arm again like before. Finally pulling up the last root, I ran freely and franticly to the exit far away from the main street and instead to a more ignored road to the simple and forgotten half of the town. It was still strange to me how a park would still be seen near main street and not be bulldozed, dug up, nor drilled into a new restaurant or library for a tourist's smile.


I rested in the middle of the fog for a moment, panting and gripping tight on my knees again. I just let the strange and rare weather surround me and hide me from the civilization, because that was what I was going for. I looked at my pullstring, trying not to tug hard enough to make my voice box go off and attract any attention. Gradually, I was able to loosen the impressive knot I made to create the lasso and it fell behind me as a regular pullstring again. I lifted my chin and picked up right where I left off.


I didn't let anything slow me down; not slipping on puddle nor tripping on gravel. I just kept running until I finally reached my destination. Some of the fog blew into my throat and made me cough it out to avoid it choking myself. As I smiled at the sight of the main street completely vanished in the fog as it would look like to them the same happened to me, I threw the bush aside and brushed off the leaves that rested on my shoulders. It felt like a ghost town when I stepped onto the road and no car came targeting me and my little doll body. Something a sheriff would be relieved about when traveling. Well, somehow to me, it seemed pretty sad that people would ignore the beauty of flowering grass and damp birdnests built on branches just because there's food courts and shopping malls on the other side.


If I were a human to this day, I'd definitely want my house built on the side of the road.


I walked down the road and let out a tart chuckle as it was still raining when I traveled into the quaint neighborhood. The stars looked like Earth's diamonds above me, a type of jewel that would turn a smile on your face no matter what happens to you. I passed by a few closed (or even out of business) cafés along the way and, being the toy sheriff persona rather than the big leader persona I often declined to myself, compared to a saloon in some ways. I continued on and did a few more comparisons to--what it looked like--abandoned buildings, but when a street sign to Bonnie's house appeared, a bright light appeared in the distance, which followed with a loud scream.


Somehow, that scream sounded familiar...


I looked back at the house just ahead of me, then turned back to the fading silver light that looked like it was calling me, hypnotizing me to follow it. I sighed and that image of my poor, unfortunate friends in the bedroom popped back in my mind. The screaming and the light were becoming too difficult and too blustering to ignore. I balled up my hands into fists again and said weakly and faintly,


" Sorry guys, you'll have to wait for me."


I rushed towards the source of what looked like beaming, pure horror happening, now adding a maniacal laugh to dwindle out the screams. The wind tried to push me back to the fork in the road, as if it was arguing with the dripping horror to let my reunion with my friends a reality. Yet, with my will officially gone and turned into ashes, I was able to fight the gust and eventually won.


After a few more gusts of winds that tried to turn me into the now wrong direction, I still held a strong heart along with an equally strong will. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of this simple little summer home. I facepalmed myself for actually thinking something weird and supernatural was going on. Idiot, I reprimanded at myself in my head again, you're mind was playing tricks on you again. Just turn back to the fork in the road and head back home. But before I got the chance, another beam of light appeared just behind those windows. And soon to follow, a tall and lean figure was thrown against the windows and the screeching, ear-numbing laughter was heard again. I thought at first that I should help this man, but his appearance still didn't ring a be--


Wait a minute.


Light sandy brown hair, freckles dotted across his face, ocean blue eyes, two rough hands made for self-defense, low adolescent voice, and tall in height. I stood frozen and speechless.


The bell that I at first said wasn't ringing was probably now broken from ringing.


I would never forget that face.


Andy.

Chapter 3: Blind Eye

I felt like a statue from just looking at him, the one person that I thought had dissolved from my life and left me as a fragment from his childhood.


I tried to form worry lines once looking at his brusied and beaten body. Andy still looked the same: same hair, same eyes, and I bet his smile was the same, but now wasn't the time to prove me right. His cheek was painted with blood that was trickling from the deep slit in his forehead. I gasped in horror and shock. He was still breathing, but barely. The dark navy blue demon closed in on him with her ridiculously long French tips tinted red at each tip from the attack. Who would actually use their fingernails as lethal weapons? Whoever she was, she was a clever mistress. Clever, but evil, I could tell.


There was a risk for me, too. I could lift up the pane and attack her as retaliation for almost killing half of my heart, but then Andy would see me and instead of seeing the toy he thought of as a loyal, brave hero, he'd see me a drastic piece of plastic. I would look like a monster to him and I would most likely jump back into the incinerator I faced in the past and end it all if he became afraid of me.


The sulrty woman stepped closer, placing her stilleto on his tender chest.


" Playtime's over, Andy."


" How do you know my name?" he quivered until he felt those nails stike him across the forearm and dig into his flesh, possibly reaching muscles and tendons. She growled in insanity and evil at him and just kept on abusing him. I couldn't let this trainwreck of an attack lead to success, so I lifted up the pane and leaped onto the granite counter, hiding behind the unwashed dishes.


Think, Woody. Think, think, think!


After a moment of forecful thinking, I finally decided to attack. Even if Andy fears me, at least I'll be able to look at him one last time, hold out my hand for him to shake, and maybe even leave my hat for him to remember me by. As Andy yeled and screamed in pain again, I picked up a dish and aimmed my shot. With one good throw, the woman grunted in pain and wiped off the broken plate pieces. I threw three more and decided to pretend I was just a regular ragdoll again. As she walked closer to me and picked me up, a smug smirk came across her face at Andy.


" You still play with this ratty thing?"


He got up and angrily tried to snatch me, but out of nowhere, she snapped her fingers and these black, bloodied chains appeared through the wall, restraining the poor teen. He squirmed around trying to set himself free, but with no avail, he glared at the lady and seethed in a voice so low and rough, only I was scared,


" Leave my pal alone."


Though sounding a lot less exclamitory that I thought, the lady instead let out a chuckle and grabbed me by the arms. Everything froze and all Andy did was shake his head and the demon only nodding hers.


In an instant, my right and left arms were ripped off and I was purposely dropped onto the floor with the stuffing so stiff and hard, not even one little piece of cotton leaked out. Andy cried out my name in anguish, but was silenced once those nails of hers entered his skin again. This time, she let one hand to the piercing while she held up the other and let the tips ignite a blue bolt of electricity. Soon, those other cat-like claws entered his other arm as well, but this time, electrucuting him.


Armless or not, I let them both move without my own self moving to follow them. They grabbed a sharp butcher's knife off the counter and jumped ungainly off. Despite that, both of my dislocated arms impaled the woman. I knew full well now that she was half human once she melted into a pool of blood and vanished.


I got up onto my legs after a small struggle and I just stared at Andy for a moment, studying all the damage that had happened to him. Apparently, before I got here, once noticing gigantic bruises trailing from his neck all the way down to his bare feet, she must've beaten him badly. The gash in his head still stung as I could tell and he was sputtering and gasping for air. I couldn't believe it at all; I've always dreamt that our reunion would be nothing but imagination at work and us embracing and crying on each other's shoulders, but now here I stand seeing his body leak out blood and spit leaving his small mouth from gasping in pure agony.


It wasn't long until the eyes that were squeezed shut opened and flickered over to me.


Andy's jaw dropped in shock after seeing my mutilated body and my arms all bloodied from the attack. A chill went down his spine as I headed towards him. I paused and prepared myself to take a step back, but instead, I just kept moving forward. Soon, I stood directly in front of his face, searching deep in his eyes and thought that the little drop of venomous ember in there was fear. Andy stood up onto his knees and picked up my now numb arms. He looked at me with his weakest of smiles and said,


" I think one of old visitors left her sewing machine behind. Be right back."


I stood still and surprised. Andy didn't even bother to scream or at least gasp a little? He's helping me? Those questions planted hard in my brain and I just looked into the living room where I didn't pay attention to Andy rumaging around the clutter finding a small needle and brown thread, I was more focused on the overturned coffee table and the chair thrown through the wall.


I think I remember hearing about that demon on the news before. Yes, that's it, she was Bijou, the human demon. Hamm was fiddling around with Andy's laptop one day and on the home page, there was this teenage couple who thought that visiting the place for the summer would be fun, but then the police came in after seeing a figure with a knife knock them down. They were described as completely mutilated before being cremated and their ashes thrown in the lake. The room was splattered with blood, arms and legs were strewn across the kitchen floor, two index fingers left on the counter like burnt cigar heads, teeth were hung on the ceiling by wires, and their heads were found together in the fruit weighing scale, one having the knife sticking out of her head and the other having a knife stick out of his throat.


I let out a shiver that the sight of that. The remains of a killing fiasco.


Soon, my shaking like a chunk of Jell-O once I heard loud footsteps enter the kitchen again. Andy knelt down by my side and picked up my right arm. As he started re-stiching them, he looked up at me and said without losing eye contact,


" Thanks for saving me."


" My pleasure. That's what ol' Woodrow Pride is about." I said, kicking my boot and lowering my voice in a James Bond tone, just to make Andy laugh a little. Instead, he let out a soft chuckle and soon I turned to him and replied,


" Not really the right time for humor, huh?"


" Sorry, Woody. I'm just a little shaken about the whole thing with Bijou and all. I always thought she was a myth."


A small silence, a few more stitches, and my arms were restitched again. I let out a soft and sweet "thank you" and Andy just responded with a nod. After what felt like forever of keeping quiet, I blinked and said,


" Y'know, I have heard of Bijou before. Hamm looked her up."


" Who's Hamm?" I let out a small laugh and said slyly,


" I'll give you a hint: evil Dr. Porkchop!" I stretchedmy arms out like a zombie would and emphasized Hamm's nickname to remind Andy about the goofy and blithe kid he was back then. That time, a large smile came across his face and he had the strength to laugh louder. My voice sobered back down to its normal tone and I let out a small laugh myself.


' You've still got that humor." Andy said, his smile growing half an inch wider. He soon resumed his stunned expression about everything that had happened. I looked up at him, rested my hand on his shoulder, and said,


" Things change a little, too. I hope I didn't scare you a whole lot."


" You've also got that loyal sensitivity." he murmured, the sweet smile returning. I cocked an eyebrow up in surprise. Feeling a little queasy from the blood flooding down his face and arms, I strolled myself over to the sink and grabbed a washcloth. When it became wet and soggy enough, I walked back over to him and he bent over so I could reach his forehead better.


" This might hurt a little," I warned.


I pressed the rag into the deep gash enough to see the giant blood stain leak onto my plastic fingers. Andy didn't budge, didn't move, he didn't even moan a little in pain; he just calmly stayed still and let me wash out the unneeded scaby reminder of how much of a wretch Bijou was. A sad, evil, heartless wretch. Once the redness in the wound decreased, I moved the cloth to his forearms. I breathed heavily at the poor teen's wounds and brusies.


" How'd you get here?" he asked. I expected a question like that. I threw the rag into the sink once the blood had soaked away into the white and wet fabric and said, still facing the sink,


" The earthquake a few hours ago."


" And I'm guessing that your friends can walk and talk, too. Y'know, Buzz, Jessie..." his voice turned into a whisper and I nodded, my eyes now facing his unsure freckled face. I inhaled to speak and continued,


" One of the Pizza Planet aliens got stuck under a fallen stack of books and I helped 'em out. Yet, before I got the chance to climb down, a wooden branch hooked into my shirt and my friends tried to rescue me. They tried to use this pipe staff, which was really a bunch of pipe cleaners Jessie tied together.


" They tried to pull me in with all their might, they really did, but then the ceiling fan in Bonnie's room fell on top of them, and I was blown into the wind straying hopeless and alone.


" I tried to get back home tonight, but then I heard you scream and I just couldn't help but find your voice familiar. And then, when I saw you getting attacked by that demon, I thought that risking my true self would be better than seeing you die slowly."


The stars outside shone upon my cheeks, showing a tear flowing down. Looking back at Andy, he wiped away my tear and lifted my hat up to the perfect angle. Some emotion in his eyes told me that he was really touched that I'd risk a chance to go home just to save him. He picked me up like he did the day I was given away to Bonnie, and he coolly said,


" Y'know, you could've just gone home. Your friends might be okay, but worried sick about you, I'm sure."


" But I'm still your loyal ol' pal since Kindergarten and I promised myself since the first time you took me home that I'd be by your side no matter what happens. I mean, do you really think I'd turn a blind eye at you in your time of need?"


After a small chuckle, he took me to the living room, set me on the couch, and said he'd be right back. I swung my legs around and let my eyes journey around the room. It was an old-fashioned summer home with cute little knick-knacks from wall to wall;at least, I'm refering to the knick-knacks that Bijou didn't destroy. Knick-knacks like little mniature wooden puppets, frames quilt patches, and calming mint green paint. No wonder Bijou would want to haunt the place on account of its innocent appearance.


The only thing that surprised me was that when I looked at the puppets, they didn't walk or talk like most toys would.


Soon, Andy came back now wearing red pajamas with his initials A.D. monogrammed on the pocket. He knelt down to uncomfortable cushion and handed me this little patch from a quilt. I gave him a questioning look, then he showed me one of the framed quilt patches was broken when trying to fight against Bijou. We both skimmed our eyes around the overturned and even broken items that was left untouched and then Andy said,


" At least I was able to find this as a blanket for you. Sorry if the couch is uncomfortable."


" Don't worry about it. At least it's not turned over." We laughed in unison and then I set myself down on the blue fabric. Andy slid my hat upiside-down under my head, also putting in a cotton ball so that it would feel more like a pillow. He started into my sleepy, half-lidded eyes and said in a voice soft enough for me to hear,


" G'night, Woody. I'll take you home tomorrow."


I responded with another "goodnight" and Andy flicked the lights off and closed the bedroom door in the hallway.


As sleepy as I felt, somehow for the first hour my eyes refused to close. My thoughts wandered and danced around my head, thoughts about all the events that were strangely to happen in one night and one night only. I mean, I was seperated from my dear family, yet reunited with Andy, but with a guresome, horrific end to the human/demon. I wondered if I should stay and see if Bijou really did die a deserved death, but seeing how the pool of blood that marked as her remains dried up into a gritty scab, I figured that I had nothing to worry about.


I looked at the bedoom door, curled up into myself blanketed by the quilt patch, and my eyes eventually closed, ready to enter maybe a dreamless, but warm slumber.

Chapter 4: Revenge

The clock chimed 9 o'clock and the Sun shined in my eyes to remind me of that. I groaned in uneasiness as I lifted my head slightly to look at the ceiling. My legs felt like jelly and my breathing was very short, but soft. The ray of sunlight beamed brighter through the hole in the pane from the previous night.


Soon, the bedroom door creaked open and a pair of ocean blue eyes stared at my sleepy self with a chuckle aslo escaping from a pair of smooth, tender lips. Those eyes traveled closer to me and soon Andy knelt beside me again, his cold breath caressing against my slick vinyl skin as he spoke.


" Morning, sheriff." I smiled at the tangled, piled mess on his head he called hair. He headed his way back into the hall and veered himself into the bathroom to get ready to drop me off. For a toy like me, I didn't have to get ready; I always looked perfect, despite that I never felt perfect. The smell of the coffee maker, tainting the tense oxygen that surrounded me that I had to breath in, somehow relaxed me from a dreamless sleep.


I rested my foot on my knee and looked at the worn-out Sharpie signature under my boot. Good times, very good times back then. The times where there were only leisure rather than horror. The times where young 7 or 8 year-old Andy, sprawled out on his bed, would hold me up to his neck laughing after a long day of play. The times where I would be the toy he'd turn to for comfort and happiness until he carelessly threw me and my friends away into the toybox at age 13, leaving us implying that Andy had lost all love and interest in us. Yet now, here on the couch I've rested and lain upon all night, my eyes looked at 18 year-old Andy who now knew my secret and remembered me again as his most special pal.


Soon, Andy came back into the living room, dressed in a casual black and white argyle shirt with plain jeans and sneakers, and snatched his coffee mug from the kitchen. I figured that we weren't just going to sit next to each other and stay silent throughout the whole morning, so I started the conversation by kindly complimenting his shirt, even though it looked like the most ridiculous shirt ever. He snorted and said,


" Well, I don't normally want to wear non-woven shirts Mom made for me." i responded with an agreeing nod. Soon, thinking that I didn't have anything humorous to respond with, I changed the subject by saying,


" So, how were things at college?" Andy shrugged.


" Meh, not really interesting. All this 24/7 drama's real boring in my opinion; it's like watching the same episode of Degrassi over and over and over."


" Degrassi?"


" Mmmhm, that TV show on TeenNick that's like Glee, but on heroin." We laughed in unison and then grew silent again for the next few minutes. In all honesty, behind the laughter, I actually felt sympathy for Andy. Ususally at his age, I was worried that he would turn into those thugs that would do incredibly stupid and dangerous things like drinking while driving and/or using fake IDs to get into clubs, but what relieved me was that Andy still stayed the same: sensitive, kind-hearted, and trustworthy. He then broke the silence by saying after sipping his coffee,


" Still, you understand what I mean, Woody. I was really looking forward to heading to college, hoping that I would be able to survive and enjoy Freshmen Year and then boom, bang, all this news about pregnancies, catfights, wild parties, rumors, drugs, and even suicide attempts that succeeded, I-I don't want to hear about that stuff everyday."


" I hear you," he turned to me surprised that a toy whose life would seem close to perfect because all he had to do was be still, would understand how painful it is to hear about all this drama. Even I didn't believe those words at first. I took in a breath and continued, "really, Andy. I'd understand how irritating it is to get your hopes up about something and then having them just slip through your hands and watch them as they start crashing into reality. I mean, though my friends and I never really dealt with those kinda topics, but trust me, we had a difficult past before you even left us."


His eyes became its widest when those words rolled off the tip of my tongue. And they were true. Life is like that. When your happiness reaches its zenith and then something arbitrary and serious pops in your face and you have to live through it, it changes you. Soon came a moment where Andy opened his mouth to ask how I would know if I spent most of my life left on the floor and then in the toybox, but those words didn't come out. He knew that I would answer before he asked.


" Well, oh gosh, where to I start...?"


I didn't know how to explain the beginning of my adventures, even though I remembered it perfectly, but eventually those mere first four sentences were able to be translated into human speech, not just a voice box talking for me. I began the story by talking about the his 7th birthday when a new friend came into my life -- the space ranger himself Buzz Lightyear. The toy soldiers snuck into the nearest potted plant (with one of them injured from Andy's mother accidentally stepping on em and kicking it away frustrated). Most of the toys were shaking and even chattering their teeth in deep worry, that and the crackling static of the sargent's voice being the music of the moment.


I did my best to keep my composure and stay a strong leader, but when the sargent frantically warning that Ms. Davis pulled out a surprise present from the closet, that was when some of the contagious worry sunk into me. Then with his old buddies scattering throughout Andy's bedroom and pushing me off the bed to make a place "for the spaceship to land", Buzz and I got off on a wrong start considering how annoying his deluded space ranger mode was; that, and the clichéd dilema of a bout of jealousy that I breathed in as everyone, including Andy, became amazed and fascinated about his more modern features compared to a simple ragdoll like myself.


Soon one twilighted afternoon when Andy was going to pick a toy to take with him on the car ride to Pizza Planet, I had comepletely lost control. While my original plan to get chosen instead of Buzz was to simply push him behind the dresser, it grew into disaster when the desk lamp accidentally knocked him out the window. RC, the little racecar, went to everyone saying that it was all my fault and soon, I worried that I was going to be thrown out the window and crushed in the bushes. Even though Andy took my to the van holding my arm tight, for once I wasn't in the mood for being played with nor hugged as I was preoccupied with trying to prove my innocence to no avail once Buzz reappeared before my doleful form, anger burning in his half-lidded and serious eyes.


He leaped onto me and we started wrestling each other to the ground. From plastic squeaking to voice boxes being overused from the senseless beating, it was my most pathetic attempt to come off as a confident, independent hero. I'm still lucky that overtime I changed. My anger was drenched in sadness with that emotion overcoming the other once Andy's car drove down the foggy road, leaving Buzz and I behind.


After a ride in one of Pizza Planet's employees' car, I searched throughout the whole place just to have the delusional action figure ignore my plan and think that some game was a space ship; what made things worse was that it was a claw machine game and by the time I tried to jump it and save Buzz, Sid Phillips, the most destructive kid when it came to toys, was heading straigh for us. Even when I tried to escape with him, we ended up in his dirty satchel being skateboarded to his home, the house of torture.


I still have nightmares sometimes about how terrifying it was to enter his room and look at the dead toys and other decorations in his room just to personify what we would endure intensely. Heavy metal posters from wall to wall, a blood red lava lamp with a toy's head floating lifelessly in it, a baby doll killed after being burnt and flattened in a waffle maker, and to top it off, remains of past toys either dead or reborn in a sick and twisted fate that was held in the hands of one toy-bullying human terror.


Back then, before I could sponge away the fear of adventure considering that I've never been in one, I was shaking like a leaf once I laid eyes on those dismantled and disfigured toys that I accused of cannibalism and tried to once save Buzz from having him "eaten", when in actuality, they were really trying to reattach his arm. Ever since, I try my best not to judge people by appearance.


Yet soon, my friends had lost all trust in me no matter how much I cried and begged them to believe me. Sometimes, it was normal for them not to believe me no matter how much I beseeched them to. And to make matters worse, Sid came running into the room holding with him what he called a plain firework, and what I called his newest death trap. Imagine how scared I was when Sid walked around, trying to find the "wimpy cowboy doll" to blow up. I hid in a blue plastic crate unnoticed, but instead, Sid decided to try Buzz instead, and it was ironic that that was when Buzz sadly got a grip of reality.


There was only way to save my new friend: a revolution against Phillips, which meant breaking the ultimate code of a toy: revealing my real self to him. His hand quivered once I did, wincing in fear as I turned my head all the way around like a possessed toy would, just to freeze his enemy with shock. Despite the jerk running back into his home like a frightened little girl, Buzz and I had to get into the moving truck, but my angered friends, who still didn't believe me, retaliated to avenge Buzz and RC's "deaths" by throwing me out of the truck. Luckily, that's when it hit me, the best idea ever: use the rocket to send ourselves flying safely into the pile of boxes in the moving truck. Yet, with a somewhat expected inconvenience, Buzz and I were sent flying in the sky. I covered my eyes and screamed, thinking that it would be the last scream I'd ever let out, but in a miraculous twist, Buzz and I were soaring to infinity and beyond in the sky, safely landing in the van in Andy's arms.


Before contniuing on with my trilogy of adventures, Andy looked at me gob smacked from all that torture poor Buzz and I had to go through just to end up by his side again. I gave him a warning smile saying it all. Saying that the stories aren't over yet.


I pointed at the stitching on my arm, reminding him of the time my arm got ripped. He probably thought throughout his time at cowboy camp that I was sitting limb on the shelf collecting dust from hat to boot, but a lot of action was awaiting me.


Andy's mother came into the room with a cardboard box that said ¢25, something that would tie to a garage sale and lead to the doom of us toys. At first, she just grabbed simple things like books and a gameboard or two, but the thing that made me shift out of my toy state was when, covered in dust and debris, Wheezy said his goodbye and was prepared to have his fate confirmed by a local neighbor with money and coins clanking in his pockets willing to buy the penguin for a daughter or son or even as a toy for a dog. A fate that I refused to let happen.


Tied tight by the collar of young Buster's neck, I fell to the ground and was sacraficed to a selfish man named Al, owner of Al's Toy Barn. If I didn't break out, I'd be entombed in a glass case and live forever as part of a museum rather than a part of a child's heart. The only wonderful thing about the fiasco was that I got to meet Jessie and Bullseye, the "roughest-toughest team in the whole wild west", yet things took a turn for the worse when I met Prospector, a man who knows what it's like being entombed and admired by thousands of kids, but being seperated from them by a velvet rope.


As many times as they persuaded me to stay, I repeatedly refused saying I'd rather be in Andy's arms than an exhibit in Japan. Enraged, Jessie kept giving me constant grief about that saying Andy wouldn't want to play with some one-armed cowboy doll. One day, after just two snarky sentences towards each other, Bullseye nudged me closer to the window, quietly persuading me to talk to her. She morbidly told me, what I called, the second saddest tale of all time -- the story of her and Emily.


Emily Hanison was the only owner Jessie ever had before Andy. Even with no speech nor a step from the cowgirl, to Emily, Jessie was alive in her own way. Yet, just like what I experienced, her owner changed. Emily became more interested in things like nail polish and 60s disco, leaving the poor yarn-haired doll to just lay under her bed, sometimes even silently sobbing herself to sleep. She was left in the shadow of Emily's childhood, alone and shattered in confidence. Then their friendship came to a tearjerking close once Jessie was left in a donation box, only made to watch Emily's rust brown Lexus accelerate down the road, out of her life for good, and soon leaving Jessie to be prisoned in storage.


As she broke down in tears, that was what made me reluctant to leave this poor girl alone again in the dark after all that had happened to her. Yet what really convinced me was when Prospector stopped me in my tracks not with movement, but with words. He asked me for the point of going home to Andy if he would eventually do the same thing to me like Emily did to Jessie. Patting Bullseye head and shutting the vent shut to help bring back Jessie's smile, my conscience was telling me that I was making a mistake, but I just ignored it.


In a short period of time, I was reminded of that when Buzz and the gang returned just for me to suddenly turn my back at them. Buzz pressed his strong index finger against my stuffed chest and scorned that somewhere underneath that self-absorded and idiotic stuffing still lied the golden heart of a toy who cares deeply about his owner, even more deeper than others. Left alone to watch Buzz fade into the darkness of the metal tunnel, reality just punched me in the face. I was making a big mistake, and the only way to fix it was not just to run home with them, but to bring Jessie and Bullseye with me as well.


Prospector, on the other hand, wouldn't let me leave without a fight. He said with his teeth that I bet would be yellow and green if he were human that I was missing out on a dream, on the chance of a lifetime. Well, I was missing out on a dream, Andy, and I had to leave to make things right. Things between the toy hillbilly and me came to a head at the airport. Some of my friends suggested that I throw him off the conveyor belt and leave him to fall and scream, but seeing as that he's never known the true meaning behing playtime, I decided to put him in the nearest luggage to be mistaken as a treat for waiting patiently at the baggage claim area.


The last problem about the airport before heading home was saving Jessie. I put my index and middle finger in my mouth and whistled for Bullseye. I was successfully able to board the plane and find the right suitcase Jessie was left in to curl up into herself and just wonder if she'll be saved. Yet, as soon as we embraced and made our way out the exit, that's when the engines fired up and the wheels were rolling. The only--and most dangerous--way to escape was to slide down the back wheels and hope for the best. Even though I refused to believe that this would work, Buzz and Bullseye came just in time. Then, from watching Woody's Roundup, I used my pullstring as a lasso and ordered Jessie to let go of the rail. I helped by comparing it to the final episode of WR, but while she said it was canceled years ago, I responded with, " Well, then let's find out the ending together." With one good swing onto Bullseye's saddle, we hugged and looked on as the plane vanished into the clouds.


Thus ending the sequel to my trilogy of life, Andy once again remained gob smacked. That would explain why his mother looked confused when he thanked her for getting Jessie, Bullseye, and the Pizza Planet aliens, but lied saying that she's happy 'bout that, just in an effort to see Andy smile. I then turned to him and reminded that I said to Buzz that night,


" And until the day Andy leaves, we'll be by each other's sides, for infinity and beyond."


Andy then tightened his lips and tried to hold back his tears. He still did remember the day he gave me away, but he didn't know what happened to me and my friends before that. Even though this was in my thoughts, I thought I heard the sound of shattering glass, most likely the sound of his heart breaking into millions of pieces for me.


Yes, things have definitely changed since I came back with Jessie and Bullseye. Wheezy was the first to leave. Poor little penguin. It's very easy for a dog to mistake a child's toy for a dog's toy just because of a squeaker, but did the dog that mauled Wheezy to pieces have to be Buster? Well, that was the last bout of energy the middle-aged pup ever had. Next to leave was Etch. I'm not really sure what happened to him, but I heard that he was left in a toybox in a doctor's waiting room for little kids to use. One by one, toys that Buzz and I couldn't save were either sold in yard sales or even broken and being thrown away...


...one last toy I can remember was Bo. She wasn't broken or anything, but one day, when Molly thought her room would look stupid if it still had Bo in there, she carelessly threw her onto the table for the yard sale. I jumped out the window and ran off to try and save her, but by the time I got there, it was too late. She was already sold to a little baby girl. While the mother of the baby searched around for the walet in that cluttered purse of hers, I rested my hand on her porcelain and took in a breath to finally tell her how much I loved her, but before I could, she handed me her cane as what she said, "something to keep your heart beating for me". I nodded with one tear flowing down and replied, my voice cracking into a sob,


" It would still beat anyways, but thank you, Bo."


And that was the last of Bo I ever saw.


But the good thing was that everyone of my closest friends were still by my side, ready for Operation: Playtime. Yet, when Andy picked up the cell phone and didn't even notice us, I wanted, oh-so much, to speak into the reciver. I wanted to cry for him. I wanted to tell him every single thing I thought about him, an example being his kindness. Buzz gave me a secret nod saying I had to restrain himself and then I felt limp and scared. It seemed like, for the first time in my life, Andy didn't love me the way he did as a child.


That was when misunderstandings arose in the air as Andy's mother thoughtlessly mistook the garbage bag containing my friends as a garbage bag containing, well, garbage. Sliding down the gutter drain not as graceful and gainly as Buzz was the time he tried to save me, I saw the other bags being crushed and smushed into a liquidy pile of nothing. I actually thought my friends were in there, and something in the pit of my stomach wanted me to run to the nearest tree and vomit out any stuffing I had in me. But hearing a clink of glass and a little plastic recycling bin move across the driveway, I sighed in relief.


The next minute, we were left in the Butterfly Room of Sunnyside to be taken on a tour by Lotso and Ken, one of the main head honchoes of the stringent daycare. With the ornimental paper animals and happy fingerpainting hanging by wires to attract others attention, I myself felt like this seemed like the perfect paradise for a toy, but with my knuckles tightened to becoming even a little white and my imaginary heart screaming at me to leave, I tried one last time to reason with my stubborn friends, but of course, it seemed like our story's drawn to a close, despite my protest. Tipping my hat angrily at everyone (even Buzz when he offered a handshake to me), I opened the ajar autumn orange door and looked at my friends one last time with angstful, watery eyes. Was this really the end of things?


After Bonnie's friends taking me under their wings and showing us how Bonnie plays with us, I still had undying loyalty to think about. Before leaving out the doggie door, though, Mr. Pricklepants warned me that, and I quote, "Sunnyside is a place of ruin and despair, ruled by an evil bear who smells of strowberries". That's when the climax of things tied together the drama and sadness once Chuckles told me the, emphasizing tensely the, saddest tale I heard -- the tale of Daisy.


Chuckles was there for Lotso when he was unwrapped and held for the first time in Dais's arms. He, Chuckles, and Big Baby, were all loved equally by her, but Lotso, he was special. The most happy moments of Lotso's life, before his tragic fate was sealed under the cloudy skies in the corn field.


One day, Daisy took the three toys on a picnic, had a little playtime. Soon, a car door slammed, the engined fired down the road, and she never came back. Never. However, Lotso use to have undying loyalty to his owner himself, like me. He traveled for days--or what would feel like forever to a toy--but when he was about to climb through the window and be found and hugged on Daisy's bed.... it was too late. Something snapped inside of Lotso's mind that night, that cold, rainy, mid-winter night. He thought that if he couldn't have Daisy, no one could. Chuckles said that he was able to escape in Bonnie's backpack because he got broken and ripped up at his side. He didn't say how, but presumably Lotso must've broken him because of Chuckles' independence against the bear's tight rule.


No matter how many fights I would have with my friends, I would never leave them alone to suffer. We plotted out our escape and just when things were going great, a couple of problems came upon us. The main one being Lotso threatening to push us all in the dumpster. That was when my most shining moment as a confident hero happened once I confronted Lotso about Daisy, causing him to mentally snap and push me into the dumpster along with himself.


My friends were at least noble enough to be by my side when I needed it. The other problem I mentioned a few minutes ago was Buzz, and how he resumed not only his delusional space ranger mode, but he had to do it in Spanish mode. The only trait that resembled old Buzz was his love for Jessie, he just came on a little strong. Yet, when he sacraficed himself for us, when I looked upon his presumably dead toy form, I actually, for the first time, had this urge to cry, but that urge went away once he lifted his head and spoke a mere few words.


But the intensity didn't end yet, for when we faced the incinerator as a family while Lotso ran away with his skin now chalky and burnt, and while everyone joined hands, I whimpered in nostalgia for a few times, not wanting my journey to end. Buzz turned to me and stuck his hand out for me to grab onto. I gasped in shock silently, noticing how all had lost hope, and I was left to burn into oblivion with my family. I squeezed my eyes and prayed in my mind for something to save us. That was when the aliens saved us with "the claw". With the trilogy drawing to a halting close, without even mentioning our tearful goodbye, I turned to Andy and muttered with a smile,


" Well, you obviously know the rest."


Andy looked at me with eyes that were now letting tears fall freely down to his chin. He know went from gob smacked to touched, touched that I would risk it all for the one owner I loved the most. Touched that I would even die in the hellish heat just to remember myself as the toy who never gave up on his trust. He picked up his unattened coffee mug off the coaster and took one last sip before heading over to pour it out in the sink. It was cold, but he didn't care that much. He sat back down beside me and said,


" Woody, you mean to tell me that you went through all that pain just.... for me?" I nodded and wiped his cold tears away from the freckles. Of course I went though those near death experiences all for his smile. Even though he meant equally a lot to everyone, it was also obivous to everyone that he meant more than the whole world to me.


" Of course I did.... why not?"


" Well, your life's probably perfect now; you're with Bonnie and everything's just peaches and cream now."


" Not really. And why is that, you ask? Well, because....."--I placed that vinyl appendage I've mentioned a lot on his shaking hand, settling it back on the lump, stiff couch cushions--"I missed you."


Those tears of his began to freeze in his amazement. Even after a whole year at Bonnie's house with nothing filling the air but jokes and laughter from playtime, I would still miss Andy? Yes. Absolutely. Since a toy would spend his days roaming the Earth wherever, knowing he or she would be evermore alive, I figured that I wouldn't waste any time missing Andy while I did worry that he was wasting his slowly slimming time with me, a simple ragdoll. Yet, soon, he took my hand into his and said in a voice so soft, so low and heartfelt, his gentle puffs of air grazing across my rosy apple-cheeks along with his words,


" Woody... I missed you too." At that point, I knew I was wrong about worrying.


Without another word, I was soon pressed against his chest and the tears that cascaded down his little dotted face had flow back down to his chin, dripping onto my back. The embrace I always dreamt of became real. A few of his stray hairs from his head tickled my nose and something jovial and blithe in myself tugged the two corners of my mouth, forming a warm and relaxed smile. In that instant, I heard a heartbeat that pounded against the young teen's chest hard enough to scream at me not to let go. It was the happiest moment of my life. Even though I didn't feel anything, I noticed a little salty droplet that fell from my eyes land on the fabric of his jeans. I cupped his cheek to wipe away his own tears while the other hand laid limp and rested on his shoulder. Knowing that we had to let go eventually, his grip slowly loosened and he faced me with his eyes red and sore from crying. He muttered in a happier tone,


" I'll get my car keys."


I hopped off of the lumpy couch and let my half-lidded eyes flicker at him entering his room. The first real, raw emotion I've felt in, well, what seemed like forever. Yet, that moment was cut short, for I had this strange feeling that something was behind me. Something evil and wicked. A chill flew down my back with a jut of fright being my reaction. Soon, a female voice hummed and cooed at me in a foxy tone,


" Oh, Woody..."


I clenched my fist and raised it, ready to fight against Bijou again. As I turned around with a missed swing, she reappeared out of dust in shrunken size to face me and cupped her hand just to place it under my chin and turn me to her face. I studied her for a moment, pointing out every scary detail about her look in my mind. Long nails that could either ignite fire, spark electricity, or inject poison, red drops of bloody venom that rested in those squinted Asian eyes, jet black hime cut hair that bounced around like a flame, brilliant white fangs that would grit behind those pursed, plump lips, and a pear-shaped body that was dressed in a silk, lacey mourning gown, had translucent skin pigmented with a dull and dark navy blue that would make an duck's oil-dipped plummge shimmer brighter in the Sun, and was covering in a series of visible scars from past attempts of some poor soul trying to kill her, including the scar from when the knife I stabbed her with stuck out of her stomach. I sharply glared at her and was prepared for another speech from her.


" Whoa, little cowboy. Hold your horses, I mean you no harm."


" Yeah, how many times I bet you've said that before." I retorted, thoroughly angered. She smirked wryly at me restraining myself from attacking her without a reason to, at least not yet. She then pulled somethings from behind her back. Those plastic brows of mine shot up one I saw before me a porcelain cane in one hand and a picture of Andy's Senior Year at high school in the other. Before I could even blink, she threw the cane down to the floor. My eyes widened as the last memory of Bo shattered into billions of pieces. She then placed the picture of Andy in her other hand and said, while her nails clicked together a few times before igniting a fire just underneath the laminated paper,


" You care about this Andy fellow, is that not true?" she curled her lip until all I replied with was a nod. She ceased the flame's threatening burn for a moment and stepped closer. She popped her neck when tilting her head just in an attempt to frighten me. Attempt failed. It only made me angrier.


" And you certainly want him breathing, laughing with you in his arms, a--" I cut her off my losing my patience once she burnt the picture and slapped her. I knelt down to the remains of my happiness and expected her to pounce onto me and threaten me more. Surprisingly, I let her, trying to look into those glowing red eyes just to see if there was an icy cold past she once that soon melted away in the red heat and say in my own, mental words, I'm not afraid.


She flaunted her nails around my face for a moment until they began digging into the stuffing of my back. I refused to let myself yelp in pain; I was stronger than that. Yet soon, my strong will failed me once watts of elecricity began to course burningly throughout my whole body until even my mouth was glowing when I screamed. Once the screams diminished and my vision became blurry and vague, she whispered into my plastic earlobe, probably licking it for extra emphasis on her chilling, roughly low voice,


" God bless your heart... and let him allow me to pierce it out once you wake up."


That's when I fainted away into the darkness of my core.


A strange beating sound was what awoke me.


I stood up with very little strength left in me and a whirlwind of colors surrounded me. Dizziness was the best way to describe it. Things then took a turn for creepy when I looked down at my digits, showing a little broken nail on each tip. I blinked several times, hoping the image would go away, but it didn't. That's when I became curious. I placed a hand on my heart, felt the same beating sound, and knelt down to what it looked like a pool of blood.


I wished now that the pool didn't show me a reflection, for whem I leaned my head over to see what was going on, a young man was seen instead of a little toy cowboy.


To make matters worse, that man was me.


Fright took away the chance for me to scream; I instead gulped down the air I inhaled to prepare myself to scream. I let my hands travel to every real appendage on my face to see if this was all either real or some potion Bijou injected into me to make me delusional enough to believe I was human. The best case scenario ended in the answer real.


My fingers combed through my burnet hair and felt the sleek strands slip easily between each slender digit. Then I noticed that my vinyl skin had now been transformed into soft skin all around. Soon, my eyes also paid attention to the clothes and hat I wore; still the same, but turned into human clothing. I gasped at it all and my shock was cut short once a scream was heard.


I slipped across the blood into the living room, but quickly got up, running into the room, the source ot the terror. The only thing that I noticed about the room was that the thremostat was droping until it reached -9° and every item was encased in ice, including Andy himself, who was hanging by the same bloodied chains that were cutting off all circulation in his wrists.



The door slammed behind me and Bijou appeared out of the blue again. She tapped on the ice that was ever so slowly killing my dear friend, then turned around to smirk at my eyes earning a more glassy shine from curbed tears that were begging to flood down my cheeks. She pulled from the floor a bent pipe she probably used to knock Andy out and rose it in air, prepared to literally break the ice. Before she did, she turned to me and snarled, curling her lip once again while talking,


" Will you listen this time? Will you? Andy's life depends on it."


Succesfully persuaded, I let out a silvery, shaky breath and nodded in acceptance. With one good swing, the ice fell to the floor and shirtless Andy coughed and sputtered for air, wearing not much except his pants and a scared frown. He looked up at me and shook more at the sight of me as a human. Aside from that, something in his eyes and breath also hinted joy for some reason, but now wasn't the right time to show that emotion.


" Yes, he's a human, but still artless and mundane in my opinion. Now,"--her head jerked around to stare at me--"Woodrow Pride, I presume, answer me these simple questions and your friend goes free. Savvy?" With another quick nod, she smiled.


" Good boy. First question, he is of the Davis kinfolk, no?"


" Yes, but shall I ask you a question? Why was it that when I walked in, Andy was bleeding and frozen solid?" Wordlessly, he caressed her fingers across his shoulders just to annoy me. I rolled my eyes and thought of her as those cliché femme fatales who would only send chills down a boy's spine even when she spoke just to annoy the boy's best friend. She stopped and hummed,


" Oh, well, I thought I should make things a little more interesting. If you dare make one bad move like interupting me or trying to respond in physical response as in hurting me and/or saving precious Andy over here, I'll be forced to put upon him any torture; I already took the liberty to weaken him."


" W-what kind of torture?" I stuttered from the icy cold conditions freezing even my sense of speech. She then pulled out a pocketknife from one of the drawers and set the blade up to Andy's neck. For his sake, I kept my big mouth shut and let her explain.


" Any kind. I could encase him in ice again one hose at a time, I could slit him wherever, and other things. Bijou always comes prepared with any weapons used for torture. Answer your questions? Good. Now, it is my turn to to the interrogating."


If torture wasn't a category, she'd get an award in the revenge category, that's for sure.


Next question.


" Why are you here?"


" I got seperated from my friends in a storm..." Suddenly, she traced her finger across one of the cuts on his shoulder blades she made earlier and noticed it still open and bleeding. He cringed in pain at the surprisingly gentle touch on it. She them took a remote and pressed a giant red button. Had I not known Andy that well after all those years of playtime with him, from watching cartoons late at night, we both knew that flashing red buttons meant trouble. Once one of those slender fingers pressed it, a blast of watery ice sprayed Andy in the right spot the wound was. He cried in pain.


" Wait, whoa, hey! I was telling the truth. There was a huge thunderstorm, then an earthquake, and then this branch dragged me out of the window. I swear." She set the remote down, but let the hose keep on going. My shoulders stiffened as she approached me.


" Stop! You're freezing him to death!"


" That's what I intend to do only to get you talking." She opened her palm and in a flash, an ominous purple orb appeared. Soon, in its shiny reflection, a recap video of last night in Bonnie's room when I got seperated. She paused at the part when the ceiling fan fell upon them and pointed at these strange shadowy green spots that appeared on the branch and the fan.


" What do those spots represent, Woody? Think carefully; one wrong answer and I leave this hose on to encase him again, this time to leave him to die."


I looked at Andy in a worried way and then back down at the orb that was slowly disappearing. I turned to her smug little expression and answered, teeth gritted together and finally ceasing any chatter at all,


" You did this, didn't you?" She nodded and the orb disappeared. She placed her hands on her hips and waited for any disdain from me, which was given after a few more minutes of this realization.


" Even though you're definitely not above trying to kill someone in order to get information, I never thought you'd stoop so low enough just to show the world what kind of heartless monster you are!" She snickered at my confronation and only replied with a soft "thank you". I looked down at my fists and noticed how white my knuckles turned once I seethed at her. She picked up the pocketknife again and asked once last question while pressing the blade up against his neck again,


" Now, are you planning on staying here, hmm? Because if you say yes,"--she moved the blade to his arm instead, making quite an impressive slit on his elbow--"you're gonna end up just like him. Do you really wanna risk your life for him?" Without even nodding nor hesitating to answer, I blurted out,


" Name me one good reason to leave him without addressing your own opinion." She rolled her eyes and made another slit on his arm. She didn't even respond, but instead snapped her fingers again and the icy environment around me and Andy disappeared. She glared at me fiercely before handing me the key to unlocking the chains and vanishing into dust,


" Okay, stay as long as you can, but you've been warned..."



I looked down at the rusted key and punctured the ice blocking the key hole. Andy fell into my arms beaten, bleeding, and probably still frozen enough to not even flex his legs and arms up onto the aging wooden bed frame and stand up perfectly straight. I bent over to the ground and let Andy's head rest upon my lap.


He let out a fake laugh at my new look.


" Y-you're... human."


" Yeah, it's a shock for me, too." I chuckled a little, trying to keep myself from breaking down at the sight of Andy almost dead. He almost lost his life because of me. I stretched out my hand to the phone, about ready to call the hospital, but Andy stopped me and murmured with a hint of lingering pain in his voice,


" Wait, just for a moment. I don't mind arriving late."


" B-bu-b-but look at yourself. Bijou almost could've killed you, and it's all my fault." Andy smiled and rested his hand on my cheek while I mimiced the action. His voice became softer and groggily cracked in a few last string of words before closing his eyes.


" Woody, it's not your fault at all. Bijou would be to blame instead. Besides, if you could face her without shaking in your boots, that proves that I was right about all those things I said about you, like how you're brave and how you'll be there for me no matter what."


A single tear strayed onto his cheek once he let out a breath and knew no more. His last few words of noon before fainting in my arms. I placed my head against his chest to check for a heartbeat. Whew, still has one. I let it pound against my ear for a moment, almost like a drum. and them lifted my head back to look at Andy's face. I stayed still for a moment and let his numb head rest on my lap for a few more minutes.


For once, I actually had a heart, and it was breaking.

Chapter 5: Glad It Was You

Everyone in the neighborhood huddled together on their porches as the ambulance's siren called for attention. I was still grasping unconscious Andy's hand and begging in my mind for him to still be breathing. Even if I didn't hear his heartbeat for one minute, mine would be racing hard enough to die out like a car's overused engine. Resting my fingers upon his cheek for one last time, I felt that soft, smooth skin be taken into the ambulance. One of the paramedics that stepped out handed me a business card and said,


" Just call us, put the phone on speaker, and we'll give you updates on how Randy's doing." I tilted my head to him.


" First off, his name's Andy, second, thank you mister. I'll be listening no matter what."


As the car drove off down the street, I sighed under my breath as another tear threatened to fall,


" Oh God Andy, please still be alive. Please...."


I slouched myself back into the living room, tidying up the place after all the damage Bijou had caused to it. I figured that if Andy were ever at all to come back home, I think he deserves to go home to no labor. With the coffee tables were turned back onto its coasters and the pictures were hung perfectly, I fell onto the couch, not even knowing that my crying was so loud. Good thing the hospital didn't call yet, because I would've been so embarrassed about them hearing my loud, disheartened sobs.


I buried my face into my hands to muffle those cries and still let it all out.


After an hour of continuous cries, that's when the phone started ringing. I wiped away the tears with the back of my hand and kept my emotions from rocketing high enough for me to pass out. Only stuttering a little, I picked up the phone and put it on speaker.


" Hello? Mr. Pride?" the doctor said to begin with, " They've just undergoed a treatment on Andy Davis. The boy will be surveillanced by most of our paramedic team, and you. I don't know how to explain this but somehow, Andy says that you two have this sorta...."


" Special bond?" I interrupted, a random load of warmth entering my blood once thinking about the good ol' days we use to have until this. I gripped the phone tight and breathlessly waited as the doctor said,


" I'll hand the phone to Andy momentarily."


I squeezed my eyes shut and was so silent, it was like I never heard my own voice. I let my eyes reopen gently and journey around the house now that I've rearranged and put everything back in its place. I still didn't see the point at first of simply cleaning up something Bijou would soon destroy again in ill-concived tries to make her future revenge end in either me or Andy staining the rug with our bloodied bodies and the other weeping above our lifeless souls. Yet still, I figured that I should make Andy's arrival back to me as pleasant as possible. Soon, I was back in reality once I heard someone whisper, " It's Woodrow."


A faint voice awoke my ears numbed from waiting.


" Hello? Woody? A-are you there?"


" Hiya, Andy." I said, sounding a lot more depressed than I wanted to. I was at least able to breath knowing that Andy's pulse on the monitor in the background was at a normal rate. He let out a bitter rather than happy chuckle after hearing my assumed New Mexican accent.


" Pretty surprised to even hear me talk, huh?" Even though we couldn't see each other, I still raised an eyebrow at him in humor and said,


" Pretty surprised to even hear me talk." He let out a more happier laugh that time and then the beeping on the monitor cut the silence away before any other string of words could. I tapped my trembling fingers on the table and let a few loud sighs in regret slip from my chapped lips before speaking again. Andy did the same until he winced from the pain of the medication,


" You alright, Woody?" I pulled my right foot, rested it on my left knee, and also let a gasp escape my mouth once I saw Andy's signature still there. I rubbed my thumb against it and didn't even respond to the sight of no metling ink, no smudged words. All I did was pick up the phone and lied,


" No. I'm actually quite okay."


" For originality at lying, a 1.3 out of 5." We both dryly laughed in unison, but it quickly died faded away as his heartbeat got slower. Died was not a word I was wanting banished from my mind. Soon, one more sentence came to my ears.


" Woody, in case this is it, if anyone had to come back into my life... I'm glad it was you."


A long, unending buzzing sound was what made me drop the phone. He needed my help. Quick in pace, I ran to the door, threw on my vest, grabbed the car keys, and ran out to the rusted Lexus outside.


" Mr. Pride? Are you there?" the deep voice called at me, but I was already on my way.


" Thank God you got here in time." the nurse happily cheeped once I rushed through the glass doors, too busy panting and worrying to speak. She pointed over to Room 113 on the camera and said,


" Andy's doing okay, I think. The monitors beeping, an--" Then once that long beep came back, the captions said: This man has no pulse or respiration! I muttered a sad "no" and beseeched the nurse to let me help them, but she sadly shook her head, saying that visitors cannot interrupt any medical procedure at all. I nodded and sat in a chair facing the TV better, seeing Andy slipping away from me, and slipping fast.


Another hour pasted by and Andy's had two resuscitations enough to keep him living enough for me to form a relieved smile, but alas, not even that could be formed even in the slightest drop of strength. Bijou had drowned that in my sea of angst this morning. I tried my hardest to banish that image from my head -- the image of the hoses, three or four, spraying beaten and bleeding Andy, while he cried for mercy and all I did was stand back and watch him suffer. A cowardice I was. I could've stopped her easily. I could've pulled out one of the knives in her belt and slit her deep across the throat without worrying that I'd kill her. Pure rage in my blood that was on the verge of exploding. And at that point, I could take it no longer.


I raced myself through the halls and even jumped over a few desks in order to get to the sign on the door that said "Stairs" and my heart also raced in unison with my feet. I know people would think it'd be easier to take the elevator, but when someone close to you has his life on the line, running up the stairs would be quicker. I soon panted once I got to floor A.


Skimming my eyes at every number inscripted in metal and screwed into the doors, I finally stopped at 113. I left the door alone for a moment to let myself peek through the small window bolted onto it. One doctor went over to the monitor, now turned blank once he turned a knob.


Knowing I was out there, he saved me the trouble by opening the door for me and extending his arm out, just to show, lo and behold, Andy Davis dead.


" No!" I cried again, louder this time. I ran past the other doctors and nurses, not bothering to politely go past them, and they understood. I looked down at his face not yet paled and soon noticed a little tear dripped onto his cheek, seeping into one of the cuts Bijou made with her fingernail. I let my hand smooth across against it and then let it slip away once I knelt down to his face and whispered,


" You'll always be my favorite deputy."


Before jerking myself back up and heading to the door, when I laid my head on his chest to weep, I heard a drumming sound against my ears that kept another tear from forming. With one sigh released from him, that's when I finally smiled. The doctor scratched his head and asked,


" But, the medication wore off hours ago. How can Mr. Davis be alive?"


I didn't bother to answer. All tht mattered was that Andy was still with me.

Chapter 6: Meet AnnaCarol

The Sun beating down my head didn't make me weaker that afternoon after leaving the hospital; it just showed how stronger I became.


Andy had fallen asleep durring the drive home, mostly from the medication the doctors injected into him to try and save him; either that or the beautiful morning Bijou wasted out of her anger and insanity. Whatever the reason, I didn't care about anything but his life saved by my tears. Throughout my time getting use to my new life at Bonnie's, I've acknowledged myself to curl up into myself and weep softly. I've acknowledged myself to bite my lower lip to muffle those cries so that I wouldn't be heard. I've acknowledged myself to sleep alone at night in her closet with nothing but a shield of angst and dread fending away any happiness I had left in me. The only thing that would break that shield would be seeing Andy again at least for one day and one day only. Melodramatic nostalgia pressed against me hard at night enough for the pain to lull me to sleep.


Yet now, looking over at sleeping Andy, that shield had shattered like broken glass. Now I could look over at him and I wouldn't worry if his heart and lungs were still working; all I worried about was making sure he stayed that way. That Bijou wouldn't destroy him again and leave me to suffer and be entombed in my emotions for the rest of my life.


I was a vigilant as ever.


Soon when a traffic jam stopped my steady drive, I let my chocolate brown eyes gaze over at his sleeping form. The nerves in my hand begged me to extend it out to smooth across his cheek again, just to let him know I was there for him. Just to let him know that I wasn't going to leave him to heal on his own anytime soon. But seeing how I think he deserved all the rest he could get, I restrained my twitching hand and let it grasp the wheel again.


I still couldn't help but feel this burning bile feeling try to dissolve my Adam's apple. I still had that feeling that this wasn't the end of everything. But of course this wasn't the end of everything. Whenever you have a life that someone thinks it deserves to end with either a knife in the throat or a bullet to the head, there's no such way it could be over with now. The only thing that would end everything is following this rule to the letter: kill or be killed. There's no simpler or more suble way to explain it. The bottom line was that either you take the nearest weapon into your grasp and finish the job or you lay on the kitchen floor without a single breath dripping into the thick air and the pool of blood that went from just splashing onto the collar of your shirt to drowning you. Drowning in your own life even when your already lifeless and pale.


And for Bijou, she's gonna make sure that that will be my fate; mine and Andy's.


Still, everything in me had changed that day. Even though, like I said, I was so doleful since I arrived at Bonnie's, but I was able to successfully pull of the quickest lie I could think of and plaster my face with that artifical look of optimism, just to cover my tears. But that was gone in a flash, almost like Andy. I almost lost him, but that just reminded me how thankful I was. My eyes may've been able to behold to me the young man sleeping peacefully for a few brief seconds before reopening them to any possible danger, but a new side of Sheriff Woody was born.


My heart was painted black, my thoughts were far too scattered around in my skull for me to turn them into speech, my eyes were red and sore from the entire fiasco, and every ounce of last-minute esctasy was flooded out by the venom of fear and bitterness that dripped out of my tongue as I breathed. This was nothing like the toy persona I was, and I liked it. It would be my best defense against the ghastly demon. What other choice do I have?


I let the glow of the sunset envelope me as I finally started to drive by it.


I didn't step out of the car once we were home. I just sat there with the sweetest smile I could have play on my lips for Andy. His eyes fluttered, not wanting to acknowledge that we came back to the house of sadness. I laid my hand on the side of his face and let him ease into the leathery seat for just a few minutes more. He rested his head against it and obeyed my mental command to let him savor any peace and bliss he had left before Bijou would most likely take it away with the tip of her blade and her screeching laughter bouncing off the walls and echoing in our heads. Before the worse would happen.


I turned my head to see a few sequins of a halter dress shimmer once they got closer to the car door. I looked up at me a young girl about Andy's age. Her puppy brown eyes were filled with worry and her French twist bun that looked like it would fall apart from the sweat pulsing down the back of her neck. She looked like a regular teen to me, with expected accessories like three lip piercings and blue and pink cotton candy clip-on highlights. Nothing seemed strange about her except the fact that she suddenly appeared on Andy's porch out of nowhere. Her sympathy distracted me from any suspicion I had in me.


" Andy?" she asked, innocently smiling to make us laugh. She didn't seem like the preppy fragile girls at all.


That assupmtion didn't just come from her appearance. I remembered in those days in the toybox Andy talking on the phone with this girl he would joke around flirtatiously with instead of being extremely romantic. He always talked about--wait, what was her name again? Oh, that's right, AnnaCarol. He always talked about her. He talked about how much she loves playing baseball, how much she listens to heavy metal bands, and surprisingly how much of a soft, kind social butterfly she was around people. She was pretty much the only Goth girl at school that was popular. But then AnnaCarol was said to have moved away and he never saw his ex again, until now.


She let a smirk stretch across her face, but then parted those rosebud lips of hers to speak.


" I knew you were dying to see me, but I didn't know you'd take it that seriously."


A small, weak laugh was his best retort. Her eyes looked at me and she cocked an eyebrow up, as if she's trying to remember me.


" You look a lot familiar, almost like I've seen you as a little girl." I blushed in embarrassment and just responded by saying that I get that a lot. I'll have to change clothing later. He slowly stretched his head off of the scratched leather and didn't say a word. Not a chuckle. Not a smirk. Nothing but a smile that refused to leave his face. I looked down at the floor in order to turn my head away from her. Something about her was intimidating. Something about her made the white flesh of my skin crawl and shrivel along with my heart and lungs. My mind reprimanded me for being so judgemental in a way. She was just a regular collegiate teenage that only intended on being their for Andy. Almost like the promise I made, except hers was to comfort him flirtatiously. But still, while my mind confirmed at me that it was probably just the anxiety Bijou put me into that was making me think strange and bizzare thoughts, my beating organs were arguing with my mind, saying that a gut feeling can never be ignored.


" Woodrow," Andy said to snap me out of my inner argument, "I'd like you to meet AnnaCarol, an old girlfriend of mine."


" What a pretty name." I said kindly, acting like I've never heard that name before. She tapped the tip of her acrylic nails on the rusty handle of the car door and smiled, letting the early stars make her black lipstick-spread lips glisten, despite having a lip piercing already doing that job.


" Woodrow? That sounds so presidential. And I bet they call you Woody, too."


Pause.


Oh God, please tell me she didn't think I'm, or was, a toy.


I stammered and stuttered out unfinished words for a minute or two, trying to think of what to say next. She laughed a little at my face turning crimson and said,


" I was just teasing. You'd actually think that people would think you're Sheriff Woody. He's just a toy, but you do look like your heading to a cosplay convention." I was able to laugh that time. Thank goodness she didn't know who I really was. Andy stepped out of the car in a sluggish fashion, which AnnaCarol didn't seem to mind. Most college students would rather stay asleep than work. He took her inside the house to show her around. I knew he wouldn't invite me to come inside. They had a lot of catching up to do.


I stared helplessly at the house, hoping that Bijou wouldn't pick this a perfect time to strike. Hoping that maybe Bijou would at least let the flames of a teenage love before her overpower the flames of insanity that rested in those frightening glowing red eyes. At least maybe once she could let the ice block she has of a heart melt into a real giant heart. In some ways, I highly doubted that she would ever know the word "love".


My skin shivered at that thought, almost could've peeled off and crawled onto the road to pose as roadkill. I was drenched in fear, in terror, in a quivering state of mind that made me think that my hat all the way to the heel of my boots were painted black from the pain. Empty was whatI felt. Worthless. Thin in spirit. I couldn't keep my eyes of the two shadowy figures laughing in the living room. I waited for something sinister to appear. Something evil. Something like a navy blue whisp of Bijou leaking in through the fire place and burst from the dimming fire reduced to sparks and let her chilling laughter drown out the sounds of glass-breaking screams.


I blinked hard enough for me to lose an eyelash. Okay, maybe I'm getting a little too dramatic about all of this.


I mean, I would understand myself getting worried, but I didn't really think worrying too much would get me anywhere. One more thought like that and you'll jinx it again, idiot, I thought lividly to myself. Something dug into my back that night, like a dagger, with my self-conscience gripping the hilt with raging fury. I would've never forgiven myself if Andy died. Not any amount of self-reprimanding would make me think about what would life would be like without Andy.


Nothing, that's what. A cold, shameful, joyless nothing. No smiles, nor a laugh to pierce the silence, just cries.


I tried my best to banish any visionary of what the loss would be like. Of what would've happened if my tears didn't revive him, but my will finally caved in once I blinked and ended up seeing before me a graveyard, with a group of people dressed in black and one, only one tombstone that I noticed from the full moon shining on it like a spotlight.


Men, who sported grey tuxes rather than formal black ones, and women, dressed in the loveliest of black lace, held flowers and even hands as they let their mournful cries fly out of their mouths. I extended my hands out to open the gate, but my hand was able to pass through when I tried to grab one of the tawny, corroded bars. Curiously, I walked through without having to open them. I get it now, this is classic Kate Hudson stuff. I can see them, but they can't see me. I didn't know how my visionary would feel so realistic, but didn't care once my eyes focused on three main things: a sobbing mother, her daughter doing the same, and the dirt-caked tombstone with a dreadful raised bronze inscription:

Andrew Michael "Andy" Davis

1993-2010


I let out a gasp so big and hard, my lungs must've felt like they would explode.


Andy's mother grasped tightly on Molly's hand as some flyaway stands of her sandy blonde hair wiped away her tears. I patted her shoulder in sympathy, a sympathy she couldn't respond too. Then my eyes flickered over to Molly, her knees stubby and scraped and her frizzled hair soaked from the rain. I extended my fingers, even shivering the the warm rain of summer, just to straighten those tangled curls of her without her knowing. Even when I had to yank my fingers out of those curls, it was good to know that her head didn't jerk back. She had her own business to attend to -- mourning over the imaginary loss of her brother.


I politely walked over to the grey slab of stone marked with the inscription that would forever haunt me. The raspy, low voice that I'm use to hearing reprimand me all the time in my head, this time, whispered that I had to blink. Besides, this all wasn't real anyways. I ignored that request for a moment, just one moment for me to trace my index fingers against the inscription.


Then that's when the mourners disappeared, leaving me and the tombstone to also soon be consumed by darkness.


That's when I blinked and ended up back in the driveway, still buckled in the car and the two teens still laughed. I knew it. I was sleeping. I let out another sigh in relief once Andy and AnnaCarol stepped out onto the porch and I didn't see anything that represented horror. No scars, no blood oozing from their skin, no tears of fear, so no worries. Bijou didn't attack.


" Sorry it took so long." I smiled at Andy's kind apology. AnnaCarol flipped her hair off her shoulders and nodded at Andy after smoothing across his shoulders with her nails that made her fingers look longer. She turned back to me and said softly,


" Mr. Pride, since Andy told me about this little conflict with you and Bijou, I figured I should stay a while and help figure out a way to kill Bijou."


I quickly shot my eyebrows up in disbelief. High doubt hung heavily in the words that just cynically rolled of my tongue. A girl like her taking on Bijou? A fool's errand is the best way to put it. She knew I would protest, so she lowered her eyes into snarky slits and smirked, while giving my shoulder a jab,


" Don't be a chauvinist. I could kill her with my eyes shut."


She let out a dry laugh and swaggered herself inside. Andy's expression at me was more worried than joking.


" You okay, Woody?"


" Yeah, yeah I'm okay. I just had a weird dream." Andy nodded, probably getting the fact that it had to do with him, so he just patted my shoulder and took me back into the house. My heart protested. I wasn't ready to face Bijou again, but strangely, despite the slamming against my chest, thinking that pain will make me change my mind, my legs still made their way into the living room.


As I prepared myself to go to bed, I had this weird feeling that the wind blowing against the mailbox sounded like evil laughter.

Chapter 7: Deadpan

It was strange, really.


What was strange was that one minute, I felt my legs rest upon lumpy cushions that felt like laying on rocks, then the next minute my eyes fluttered, something cold and hard replaced the cushions. Perhaps a metal floor. I let my right hand, sweaty and shaking, travel around the floor in a circle to make sure if I was seeing things correctly. Not only did my hands feel that cold, smooth surface of the metal, a stinging sensation entered my palm. I lifted my head to see what it was, and that's when I saw that my hand came across a bowie knife that had the tip dripping only two drops of blood.


That's when I heard the laughter. That sinister, ear-numbing laughter.


I jounced upwards onto my feet, just to notice little drops of blood come from my hand as well as the blade. I was surrounded by anything that would spell torture -- knifes, guns, hoses, bloodied chains, and to make matters worse, the temperature was -9-what? No, -11° and dropping. My skin looked blue under the dying lightbulbs and the silvery puffs of air that I let out fogged around my mind. That's when I saw it, the navy blue whisp of light that ignited like a fire.


Soon her figure formed into the same sultry pear-shaped figure that would freeze men in their tracks; either in lust or fear, mostly fear. She flashed her yellowing teeth, just to show the only pearly whites she had were her fangs. She waggled her fingers around to flaunt her nails, her deadliest weapon she could use. She then hovered her hand above her tools.


" Ahh, so many torture ideas, and unlimited time." she cackled, trying to send me into a state of fear. Even though I tried to keep a deadpan face on, she could easily penetrate through that and see the trembling fear in my heart I refused to show. She didn't move for a moment. Not one step closer. She just stared with a look that did the talking. I returned her smirk with a cold glare. I waited for any cynical remarks rather than a staring contest. Soon, she took her index finger and hooked it through one of the blood-splashed links of the chain. What, exactly, was she planning on doing now?


My mental question was answered once she whipped the chain above my shoulder, barely touching my earlobe. The chain then fell onto my shoulder and Bijou gripped it tightly. I didn't know if she was either gonna whip my neck and ear in order to laugh at my brusies or if she would leave me waiting in order to annoy me. She twirled some of the links around her finger, like her own twisted reminder of what she was here for. With that, she took the other end of the chain and wrapped it around my neck. What she would call a scarf, I would call torture. And I congradulated myself for guessing correctly once she took both ends and yanked them, jerking my head back and making my neck pop. She flashed her teeth again in a crooked smile once she smoothly, but quickly used her pinky nail to draw a skull and crossbones on my head. A laugh soon blustered out once her picture was soon trinkling with blood.


In an instant, her laughing ceased once she gave the chains another hard pull. I let out a tense hiss in pain. She was trying to choke me. I rose my hands to try and pull the chains off, but she just yanked harder and it became more difficult for her not to laugh. She enjoyed seeing me in pain. She loved how I lamented louder everytime the grip got stronger.


" Why...?" I was finally able to bemoan once the pulling ceased to see if I could talk. " Why do delight in torturing me?"


As another smile couldn't help but stretch across those lips of hers, I lifted my chin up as I bemoaned once more, angrier in tone, " I haven't done anything wrong. Andy hasn't done anything wrong. Why would you get pleasure from seeing us suffer?" I was asking for it now.


She didn't respond disgusted nor angry, just deadpan. Her deadpan face was a lot better than mine, that's for sure. She only responded by giving one last hard yank on the chains until finally letting go. Actions can speak louder than words. As I felt the chains slip off of my neck and up to my chin, she stared triumphantly at the damage done to my neck. The patterns of my neck were printed not only in a purple bruise, but in the blood that painted the black chains. She then placed the chains back on my neck, just for me to stuggle with taking them off. I tried to fight back for once. Then without thinking, I slapped her across the face in a (most likely) failed attempt to break free. Her angered glare froze me in my tracks. She took hold again and my hands fell by my sides again, prepared for another tight yank now tighter out of rage.


Instead, I then felt the back of my head slam against the wall. That was when she left the chains alone for once. That was when she threatened me not with word of mouth, but by aimming her pinky nail underneath my chin. She pressed her forehead against mine and traced the nail down my Adam's apple. It felt anything but ticklish. Bijou's touch was everying in the category painful. She tilted her head and let her hand rest on the ground. All she left on my neck was a little scratch, barely noticable considering how pale my skin was.


" It doesn't have to be like this," she purred softly, almost inaudible, "if you do what I say."


" I'd never listen to such an untrustworthy, darkhearted monster like you!" I seethed, a lot louder than expected.


Now apparently, that time I got a reaction. She was definitely stunned by my outburst. I could tell when she raised her upper lip and responded simply by flipping me over and slashing me across the back. Those eyes drilled into my soul and before I knew it, those nails drilled into me. I laid motionless on the floor as she forcefully pushed me against it and walked on over to her tools that would make a victim's life Heck; I wasn't dead, but at least not yet.


Soon, her palm carried the ornate hilt of a simple dagger. A simple dagger that would soon drip with my blood.


It glinted under the shine of her skin for a moment, then turned around and slowly, ever so slowly, gave me a closer look. She laughed under her breath at the sight of my reflection, soon to be a scarfaced reflection, I bet. She bent over and left the dagger to dangle above my jeans. After making a few sharp cuts on the blue fabric to show me what I was in for, she flipped me back to her face in a strangely gentle way. Soon, she pressed the blade against my neck before rasing it in mid-air. I squeezed my eyes shut, expecting her to violently thrust the blade into my neck, ending it all.


The blade never came to my neck, but instead my leg. The fear that flared up in me finally was known once I let out the first scream. Bijou finally lost control and guffawed once it slid deeper into my leg, almost as if it touched my kneecap. Red and white spread across my leg as it continued on like that. With the screams and the laughs trying to drown each other out, it was a tie once our lungs were close to dying.


Soon, it slowly drew itself out of my skin. She grinned at the second accomplishment she made. She laughed at the sound of my lungs beating against my ribcage. Her eyes consumed all the weakness before her and then she raised the blade to strike my cheek.


I exclaimed in shock rather than screamed in pain. Violence had a new definition that night. She let go of the dagger and tapped the tips of her nails together, trying to decide what to use against me now. Should she set my cheek flesh on fire? Nah, overused. Inject poison? Cliché. Send lightning coursing through my veins? Hmm... cheap and fast, but Bijou seemed perfectly fine with that. She let her nails slide themselves into my cheek and feel the flesh be the pillow to those polished acrylic tips of hers. After a moment of feeling around, that's when the lightning began sparking.


I cried for mercy. That was my only weapon. Everything went black and white as the lightning reflected at Bijou my skeleton in a few flashes. Hysteria dripped into the air through her maniacal laughter. Slaughtering me slowly, but painfully. She hissed once all the lightning she had in her was used up. I was shaking, shivering, and twitching in horror. All the life I had in me was slowly draining out. Her eyes rolled themselves over to the dagger she left on the floor an hour ago. The chunks of ice that froze on the ceiling felt onto my burnt body, soothing the pain not a whole lot. Soon, the dagger was in my face again, wanting me to acknowledge the final and ultimate pain I was about to go through.


With one good swing, the blade slashed across my throat. I sputtered and gasped for air and the black blood pooled around my head and hair. A cry for mercy was choked back and instead replaced by the gasp. Once the pool was dried red, she knelt besides me and sneered once she saw me grimacing from the deep slash,


" Why do I enjoy seeing you suffer? Because when you want to start something, Woody, you shouldn't if you can finish, i.e. your life." Wordlessly and breathlessly, she jammed the blade into my throat and disappeared as I let out my last breath.


That's when I woke up.


I had to feel around my face for a moment to see if it was all a dream. No chain-pattern bruises, no blood flooding from my throat, and best of all, not a single organ in my died. Sigh. That was almost too real to be true. Bijou bent besides me and smirked.


" Did I wake you, sleepyhead?"


" Are-a-are you trying to give me a heart attack?!" I snapped furiously. First, she had to torture me in real life, now she had to in my dreams?


" If I'm lucky..." she laughingly retorted.


I slumped my head back on the hard pillow and groaned in frustration. Blood didn't pool around me, but sweat did. Bijou let her knees straighten again and sat on the other side of the couch, the only cushion that my long legs didn't cover. This felt so weird. The way her nails gently scratched the heel of my feet and her hands massaged my ankles. Was this another seductive way of torturing me or was this... actual affection? I couldn't allow it a second longer once those cold hands of her got a grip on my right foot. I jerked my feet back and stared at her for a moment. That's all I did, just stare. As much as I wanted to yell at her for killing me in my dream just to wake me up, I felt like for my sake, I should just keep my mouth shut.


In time, a smile came to her face. Not a snarky smile, but a sweet smile. A smile where I could see a softer side to this wicked beast. I sat up on the couch and turned my head to the hallway, checking to see if Andy and AnnaCarol were awake. She patted my shoulder and gave a nod that said they were still fast asleep. My eyes flickered back to her and she shot another toothy smile, this time, all of her teeth were pearly white.


" My teeth color can change depending on mood." she said, the last three words lowered into a calm whisper. And even with that whisper, a chilling splash of ice encased my spine in freezing uncertainty. Then, I felt something tender and quivering near my ear and in a gentle puff of air, she whispered,


" Frightened much, Woody?"


" Bijou,"--I hugged my knees and let my voice turn into nothing but a soft murmur--"why are you doing this? Why are you haunting Andy and why did you turn me into a human?"


The answer never escaped her lips, mostly from when she bit into them. That's alright, I thought, I could wait. Eventually, she's gonna cave in. But then again, another part of my brain warned me to reconsider. Bijou definitely was mysterious in her own way. The clock's ticking kept the silence from devouring any last thoughts that we could say. Still silent, Bijou twirled around her finger the hoop of my pullstring. My expression metled into one of confusion.


" Wha...? My pullstring? What does it have to do with all this?"


" You'll see."


That's when the windows flew open, a shooting star soaring through the sky to savor any last moments of beauty. The winds blustered at my face, almost as if they were sending me a message. Bijou swayed her arms and hips around, channeling all of her energy for another supernatural fright. The only gift she would ever give to anyone. Fright, an endless amount of fright. I reached my hand out to turn her around and bark at her to explain what's going on, but then a lightning bolt picked me up off the ground and entombed me in a green force field. Her cocked eyebrows and half-lidded eyes told me to just sit back and enjoy the show, or at least she will.


Then, a chant hollered from her mouth and echoed in the kitchen. It was barely a foreign language, but a garbled string of gibberish. The pullstring was then taken away by the wind and the same purple orb I saw before had reformed. She turned to me and flexed her four digits a few times to undo the force field.


" Do you remember me showing you that I'm the reason for your friends' 'deaths'?" I gave an angry nod. Suddenly, crackling static was shown on the luminous orb. A few flashes of Bonnie's room and then it zoomed in on a group of toys restitching Jessie's legs. I let out a happy sigh in relief. They were alive.


" Still not seeing the big picture, here...." A smirk came across her mouth.


" You're not the fastest, are you? Look, if I can control dreams,"--she turned her head to glare at the wall--"I can control the weather. I caused that earthquake, didn't I? So right now, your pullstring is floating freely in the wind. Now, if it oh-so happens to end up in Bonnie's room and since your friends don't know that you're humam, then,"--the cracking noise erupted in the air once her head turned all the way around to face me--"just imagine what would the reactions would be."


" You wouldn't dare, Bijou. You know that you're not that cold-hearted."


" Am I? Maybe so. But, like I said, these events can be averted... if you listen." My anger then melted into pure outrage.


" What do you want?! What, exactly, is it about that Andy and me that's causing you to do this?" Her jaw dropped and her eyebrow raised in disgust. I, myself, was taken aback by my outburst. Me and my big mouth these days. The ticking on the clock fended away the now awkward silence. Once the clock striked 15 till 11 o'clock, she zoomed in more on my friends just to mock me.


" Poor cowgirl... too bad she didn't have a chance to walk the pain off." She then let out the most evil of giggles. No girliness about it. She enjoyed seeing Jessie's legs mutilated from the broken glass. Without a word, she turned slowly towards me. My weak deadpan face returned. Her rosebud lips then parted again to speak.


" What do I want from you? That's the question and here's the answer: I want Andy's uncle, Lars Davis, to feel my wrath. I want him to die. Nothing more, nothing less." My deadpan face rendered into a cowed expression, an expression she very much treasured to see in her victims. Then, on the screen, that's when the pullstring was blown into the bedroom.


No one noticed at first, too preoccupied with fixing the cowgirl's leg. She then turned back to me.


" Are you sure? Do you want to help me? Because, if you do, Andy goes free and you go free."


Silent I was. Blankly, utterly silent. That was the best rejection I could throw at her rather than a harsh rasp or a shaking head. She drilled those intimidating eyes into mine and what was scary was that those heated eyes filled with hellish flames could have such an icy stare. I feigned confidence, but she knew I was lying. I always lied when it came to emotion.


Her eyes then rolled back to the orb and refused to move them any place else. She waggled her fingers around and on the screen, a little plant pot hovered behind them. Instead of it being like a loud toc on the floor, the thing fell with a crash. Jessie's now-repaired legs paced over to the broken item. The pieces still had the chipped red paint on the hardened clay and the dirt caked the wilted petals of the daisy.


" Howdaya reckon that happened?" she said, brushing her hand around the pile of dirt. Her constrernation was interrupted when Rex called loudly after her,


" Hey Jessie, look! I found a pullstring. Ha, strange, really. It looks a lot like--"


" Woody's pullstring!" said Jessie as she pushed the dino out of the way. She stared mournfully at the string and pressed in against her heart, thinking that the worst had befallen on me. Despite the stubborn strength she was known her life for, nothing could keep her from letting a tear slide down her cheek. Her arms flung around Buzz's plastic shoulders, her hands not daring her nerves to let go of the hoop, and her voice cracked while she weeped,


" No... This couldn't have happened."


" Woody's fine, Jessie. I bet he's probably racing through the streets right now...." Buzz shook his head at himself; not even he, himself bought that. To them, it was all over for me. To them, I was dead. Finished. Gone without a trace. As Jessie's weeping gradually became softer, but still strong, he looked at the string and sighed,


" God I hope so."


That's when I had enough of this torture. It may not've been torture like a slit across the throat or a stab in the stomach, it was equally painful and unbearable. I kicked the orb out of her hands and it landed on the wooden floor with a shatter. I glared the harshest glare I could pull of at her, just to make her stop in her tracks. She flipped her long bouncy hair and I hoped that her little visit would end soon.


" Oops. Did I happen to ruffle a few feathers?"


" You're a monster Bijou, you know that? Even I would see through this heinous shell a heart aching, but apparently, I was wrong. You're weak and pathetic and you know that."


Slap.


My head was still, steady as stone; it didn't even jerk around when her cat-like claws struck me across the face. Not even the stinging pain from the deep gashes' blood cascading to the floor, forming a pool around the heel of my boot, stuck any sense of pain in me. Bijou was honestly surprised by my bravery. I was going to be weak no longer. With our interaction drawing to a close, she threw at me what looked like a locket with a ruby dangling freely from the chain. My forehead furrowed in confusion and she calmly responded,


" Press the ruby when you're ready to listen."


She soon began to turn into dust rather than a pool of blood again, but couldn't conclude the visit without smirking,


" Sweet dreams, cowboy."

Chapter 8: Strange Intentions

A faint call for my name woke me up.


" Woody? Are you alright?" Andy asked, worried obviously. He took me by the arm and helped me up the wooden floor of the kitchen. Once staring at the sight of three scabby gashes on my cheek, he didn't ask what. He only guessed with Bijou's name. With a wordless nod for a reply, AnnaCarol snapped her fingers and stomped on the floor in frustration.


" Crap! Why didn't I see that coming? How could I've been this dumb?" She facepalmed herself and Andy patted her shoulder in comfort towards her.


" Whoa, AC, this wasn't your fault. Bijou's a tricky one. Maybe you should just---"


AnnaCarol jerked her head around--almost slapping Andy with her highlighted hair--as a way of cutting him off and said sternly,


" No, I'm not leaving. I'm gonna find that little beast and wring her neck raw and bleeding."


A concerned frown stretched across my sore cheeks. She actually wants to stay? Had I not known her well enough, I half-expected her to be running out the door, screaming at the top of her lungs, but to a Gothic, it's an understatement. She looked burly and tough enough to take on the malevolent demon named Bijou. I grabbed Andy by the shoulders and pulled him into the living room.


" Last night, Bijou said that my pullsting ended up in Bonnie's house. The whole reason she turned me into a human was so that she could steal my pullstring and have it end up in my friends' hands so they think I'm dead."


Andy's eyes widened in disbelieving shock. Does that girl ever give up? He paced around the floor, muttering to himself words of doubt. He simply couldn't just call his own toys and tell 'em I'm alive and well with AnnaCarol standing right next to him. No one besides him should ever know that I was a toy, ever. Then, before the bouts of uncertainty in me could consume all of my composure, an idea lit up in Andy's mind. Wordlessly, he ran to the kitchen, shoved AnnaCarol into the living room with me, and said he has some work to do on his laptop. Before she could even ask why she can't be in there, he quickly responded with a lie saying,


" It's very private and personal. Plus, maybe you and Woodrow should bond a little more." Her eyebrows still furrowed in suspicion, but she carelessly shrugged it off and let Andy enter the kitchen, alone and at ease.


Things between AnnaCarol and I were awkwardly silent to start with. Her folded hand cupped her cheek and her puppy brown eyes glanced at me for a short second before looking back at the closed kitchen door in boredom. Then, a conversation finally brewed up once she pulled from her back an icy cold bottle of Vampire wine.


" Where'd you get that?" was the most expected question I could hurl at her. She let a smirk play on her lips and coolly replied,


" I have my ways. C'mon, have a little." She then swiftly pulled out two wine glasses as well. It was almost as if she planned on bringing alcohol with her. While she gazed at the door again once more, I secretly realized her "ways" once I saw the soggy price tag hadn't been peeled off yet. She stole that bottle, and from seeing the same thing on a pack of Emerald Mist cigarettes peeking out of her pants' pocket, my eyes, half mast and tired, blinked sadly. She stole all of that stuff and Andy didn't even know about it. Despite my brain protesting my soul to resist, I still gave a reluctant nod and muttered,


" Maybe just one sip."


Though most people would break that rule, that was a rule I stayed firm about. I wasn't about to lose my sense of reality. Strangely, she, herself, passed up the wine and hid it back in her jacket. She pulled out a cig and then her red lighter. The flame danced around the head of the cigarette before flicking off. The smoke hung heavy around my ears and forehead as I swung my legs back and forth awkwardly. She turned to me, blew a little cloud of smoke in my face to tease, and asked,


" So, what job do you have?"


A short moment it took for me to come up with the perfect lie.


" Uhh... I-I'm a lawyer." Another self-reprimand was shouted at me in my head for stuttering. That's the easiest way to prove that a lie had just been said. Fortunately, AnnaCarol didn't seem to have any drop of suspicion on her tongue when she exhaled, trying to make me react to the unhealthy smoke,


" Funny considering you wear a cowboy single garment all the time. Lemme guess, New Mexican?"


A nod while sipping was the best way to say "yes" to her. Why was she asking all these questions? Was this interrogation? Or was this... flirting? Everytime I answered her other ridiculous questions, she'd write my answer down on a little notepad. Only a glimpse of the blurry, messy red ink was noticed before she slammed it shut. I swear, one of those words included the word lies.


" Is there a reason as to why you're asking me all this stuff? I mean, what exactly do you do for a living? Smoke and drink with your friends at a club all day?" I gasped at my quiet outburst at her. I didn't just say that to Andy's girlfriend, did I? Yes, sadly. As I quickly apologized for losing my composure, she bitterly chuckled and said,


" Trust me hon, I've been called a lot worse."


She didn't answer the first question, nor did she ever, but when she remembered the second one I threw at her, a raised eyebrow and sensual grin formed as she murmured,


" Oh, maybe. I've done a lot of things, Woodrow, a few I'd rather not mention. I'd end up in jail for that... again."


My eyes widened to full capacity. I didn't even want to know those illegal and mischievous thoughts of hers. Grudgingly, I muttered,


" Does Andy know about this?"


" Yer too protective sometimes. No, he doesn't know nor does he need to. This'll be our little secret." Those last few words weakened into a chilling whisper.


I quickly excused myself to the bathroom and clenched my stomach hard enough to form a white blotch. What have I done? Now, there's two more problems to add to the whole situation. On one hand, from judging her attitude, her rebellion against all sins would pay off in the end, but on the other hand, that would mean lying to Andy about her own sins, something that would return to haunt me. Yet again, I could tattle to Andy about AnnaCarol's stange intentions of a leisurely life and he would end the only relationship he had. But as always, there'd be a downside:


Andy would be severely heartbroken and we'd be powerless against Bijou. The same ol' question of life with two answers. Either Answer A, lie to your best friend for power, or Answer B, rat out your only advantage to your best friend and pay the ultimate price in life. Just the thought of that made it harder for me to choke back any tears of remorse in my choices.


I rubbed my temple for a short period of time and sighed tensely at my pathetic-looking reflection. My hair had become shaggy and dilapidated from lying on the floor which was oddly cold comparing it to the hot, sticky, humid heat of mid-June. My finger traced across the three gritty slash marks in my cheeks, cringing from the instant pain from touching it. My chest heaved from my forced breathing. Sweat collided down my neck, but somehow remained on my moist forehead, one sweat bullet sliding across the dried blood. I buried my face in my hands and sighed. I felt so pathetic. I had to get a grip on myself.


Luckily, I found a small box of asprin pills in the cabinet behind me. I quickly snatched it off the wooden shelf and guzzled it down with a glass of water. The guilt kept brewing hard in my veins as the scent of wine hung heavy in my breaths. I quickly licked my lips, just to clean away any drops of wine that was hanging on. Then that was when it came to me: maybe that wasn't really AnnaCarol; maybe that was Bijou. What if Bijou had cleverly disguised herself to make me think AnnaCarol was untrustworthy. Entirely possible.


My theorizing was drawn to a close once I heard a small knock on the door.


" Woody, are you OK? I have good news."


I let the door crack open slightly, but he only saw a glimpse of my eye. He said slyly and happily,


" Y'remember Velocistar 237. Well, he just sent a message saying you're OK."


I happily high-fived him, and thanked him oh-so kindly. At that moment, I almost forgot what I was going to say. I almost forgot that I was going to admit to him that something crazy was going on. Fortunately, the screaming pain in my head reminded me of that, and I began to speak, but started with a whisper.


" Andy,"--I let my smile sobered into a nervous frown--"I think I saw Bijou at it again. You see, while you were tracking down Velocistar, well,"--my boots clinked down the hall as I stopped at the couch to pick up a biten cigarette--"she said some crazy things." I didn't continue from there. Andy's eyes looked in constrernation at a chewed up ciggie that possible had the teeth marks of Bijou's venom-dripping fangs. He glared blankly across the room, wondering if the ghost was in front of him smirking. He turned back to me and said,


" I'll go get AC; I think she's in the backyard."


I mouthed my approval and he rushed out the door. I let myself fall to the couch, grazing my hand across the patches of mismatched fabrics sewn into the cushions. Bijou had really done it now. I could practically feel that snotty grin of her pucker behind me as a pathetic tease. After letting out frustrated groans at random intervals, a little tapping sound helped me fight my way back into reality.


I turned around and noticed stranges slashes and dots on the wall. It read:


.-.. --- --- -.- / -... . .... .. -. -.. / -.-- --- ..-


Morse code.


As I let my hand freely smooth across it, I tried my best to translate it into English. A few moments of flashbacks to Andy's young teenage years and I remembered it clear as crystal now. When Andy went on a weekend getaway, Hamm found this book on the shelf and thought it'd be useless. I picked it up and blew the dust off the title. Morse Code Translator. Hmm, could come in handy someday. As everyone fell asleep in the living room, I went upstairs and read the whole thing cover to cover with a flashlight helping me read easier. With a few hard blinks, my mind could translate it perfectly.


Look behind you.


As I unwillingly did so, I saw before me on the table a shattered figure, probably porcelain, crying in pain with a blue cane that had been glued back together. Sunflower yellow hair, rosy cheeks to brighten up her creamy white skin, and a lacey pink bonnet...


The figure in front of me was Bo.


I made no hesitation to run to her side. Her sky blue eyes widened at the sight of my human form. Yet, she felt to need to fear me. She tried to let her arm, broken off of her body, hop over to let it clasp my three fingers tightly. I gave her a weak smile in return, but I didn't see the point. I knew she was going to die. She parted her lips to murmur these last few strings of words,


" I love you, Woody."


That was when her eyes closed, then reopened to expose to the world her beautiful eyes had been dimmed into lifelessness. I was surprised I wasn't cryin' gallons after that, but my insides started to churn. Bijou then turned my head around and whispered,


" Mary was a little girl, who died for Woodrow Pride."


I burst with rage. I couldn't hold back my negavtive feelings any longer. She had gone too far this time. At first, I didn't swing at her. No, all I did was smile with the blatant fury painted on my face, walked to the kitchen, and said with that same fury dripping out as I spoke,


" So, this is your way of playtime? Well then,"--I grinned evily at my reflection in the butcher's knife--"let's play."


The first swing landed at her left arm. A shrill howl of pain pierced the silence. I didn't have the slightest idea how to mutilate someone, but my first lesson was happening and she was the teacher. I slowly pulled the blade out from her skin and gazed emotionlessly at her bleeding shoulder, soon to be gnawed with the rest of her limbs. I closed my eyes and swung again, hitting the shoulder slit again. As another cry dripped into the thick air, this time, I let the blade dig deep into her shoulder, possibly touching bone. I pulled it out again, studing the amount of blood that shone on the steel, and swung back into it. It continued on like that for, what felt like, days.


Soon, the clock struck 11 a.m. and the painful shrieks and cries had finally stopped at the 30th strike in her arm. With her arm hanging only by a thin amount of flesh and skin left, I set the knife down to take a moment to gather myself. Did I really just do that? Did I really and completely gnaw Bijou's arm? I hyperventilated as I saw an enormous pool of blood surround both our feet. My eyes shot back up to her and surprisingly... there was a grin on her face. It was almost as if she wanted me to kill her. I then gasped in shock as I saw her legs begin to melt into blood. I ignored that and prepared myself for one last swing. Before the blade struck her one last time, she muttered smugly something that was nothing but a heartless joke to my life,


" Bo would be so proud."


With one last swing, her arm drowned in her own blood as I fell to my knees and wept.

Chapter 9: Grip on Reality

" You actually cut off her arm?" Andy asked in surprise after I told him about the previous fiasco. A sad nod was my best reply. AnnaCarol dipped her fingers in the sticky remains of the demon and said seriously, head jerking back to us,


" Then that means she's coming back soon. Whenever she melts into a pool of blood, that's only to throw people off. She's a resilient chick, that's for sure."


" How do you know this much stuff?" Andy asked with a semi-suspicious smirk on his lips. AnnaCarol mimiced the action and laughed,


" I still had a life when I left you, ding dong. Umm, can you excuse us for a moment? I need to say something privately to him." With the kitchen left alone for just the two of us, AnnaCarol was too concered to even notice that her blood-tinted tips were grazing across the back of my hand. That's okay. I allowed it for a quick minute. I knew she would pull away.



In time, she finally did once she looked down and saw streaks of blood from unwittingly caressing my hands. She blushed in embarrassment for a moment, but quickly resumed her sobered tone when she spoke,


" Woodrow, have you ever had any encounters with, I dunno, the paranormal before Bijou?"


" No, m'am," I responded calmly. She folded her hands and I did the same, trying to be professional. A half-slime tugged for a minute, but then ceased as her eyes flicked back at me. One hand grabbed both wrists and her cold fingers gripped tightly. Those eyes of hers froze at the sight of a little golden chain poorly hidden behind my sleeve.


" Where'd you get that?"


" Bijou gave it to me." Her eyes widened in full shock as I said that. Had she not known that the wicked don't always attack with every innocent object, she'd probably think that it was a solid toxin when coming in contact with it. I smiled at her concern and said, " Don't worry. It's not dangerous; at least, it doesn't look that way. She said that when I'm ready to listen to her, I just press this ruby."


" Wait, what's this on the back? The inscription?" She flipped it over and let her nails trace across the words engraved in solid gold. Press the ruby. Even though I already heard that command, I still felt that same wave of black ice splash my spine and slash through my heart. In other words, I still felt my spine freeze and my heart bleed.


I looked over and saw stray locks of hair--highlighted and black--bounce around like a little flame. I shook my head, but the image remained. This had to be a dream. This had to be nothing more but a hallucination. A joke. My eyes playing tricks on me for Karma's sake. I had to be sure my grip on reality was strong. She patted my shoulder once she saw me rubbing my itching eyes, thinking that tears were forming up. I was still strong, but she did say something that almost made my eyes glaze with tears.


" So, uhh, that little shattered praire girl.... What was so special about her?"


A moment passed before I could come up with a quick lie. I couldn't just say I was her old soulmate until Andy's mother sold her at a yard sale. Unless I wanted to sound like a masochist, I had to think of something fast. AnnaCarol shot her eyebrows up in impatient suspicion until I finally opened my mouth and took in a breath before talking.


" A gift from my sister, Layla."


" Oh, well that's sweet. Mushy and vomit-worthy, but sweet."


" Yeah... she would've been 20 if pneumonia didn't rear its ugly head around the corner. Ya see, when she was born, Father left us because he wasn't thrilled about the idea of having another kid. Of course, he wasn't abusive, but when he suggested giving up Layla to an orphanage, Mother filed for divorce immediately.


" When I was 12 and she was just 7, we had a very strong--almost perfect--sibling friendship. One day, while she was performing a scene from Romeo & Juliet, she collapsed and was hospitalized. Turns out she had pnuemonia since last week and wasn't treated. I tried to get to the hospital as fast as I could, but it was too late. She gave me that little lamp as a gift, just to make me feel like I'd have her with me. And just like the pieces, well, Layla slipped out of my grip."


Wow, even I was convinced by that lie. When saying that, I could just picture this Layla, wild burnette hair, dressed in a velvet purple dress with petal-shaped braid beads resting on the shoulder, and paling after her death in a hospital bed. I could also picture me there, a young, yet slender, 12 year-old boy weeping before her. So realistic, but a complete lie. I quickly squeezed out a few tears to make it seem almost too real.


A low creak of a wooden chair scooting next to me easily drowned out my fake, shameful sobs. I then felt two arms wrap around my shoulder and four little tips tickle my neck, almost doing the same to my earlobe. Something in me, at first, told me to push away, but I couldn't. Not only did I have a lie to keep intact, this wasn't comfort in a flirtatious way. This was surprisingly a more sympathetic way rather than seductive. The sympathy continued on for a few minutes when I felt one small foot pick up my feet by my ankles, just to let me relax them. One arm unwrapped itself from my shoulders and an unclenched hand laid on my kneecap, massaging it without much pressure. An unexpected gesture, but done with utmost sympathy. Her breath grazed across my cheeks as she spoke.


" Shh, it's okay, Mr. Pride. Layla's probably looking down at you, smiling."


Poetry, pure poetry it sounded like. Words like that aren't really expected from a rebel like AnnaCarol. But of course, every rebel had a soft side. Soon, she quickly ceased her sympathetic comfort once she noticed how much of a short distance her tender lips were from my cheek. She didn't want to sound like a flirt. I stood up from the table, crossed my arms across my chest, and stared out the window, trying to let the grey smog of the city help me forget. Even though it was most convincing, it was also, in my opinion, the most ridiculous lie I've ever told. I'd actually come up with something I probably got from Desperate Housewives and use it in an ill-concived lie? For now, yes.


I didn't let my eyes turn to anything else. I just watched as the wind blew away specks of the thick smog and let them land on the ground like snow. Summer in Sycamore felt nothing like summer; more like a preview of a drastic fall. I let my fingers rub my forehead for a moment, then ceased and went back to crossing my arms in shame. I knew AnnaCarol was still there, and I had a feeling that she wouldn't leave until I was alright. I let out a barely audible sigh.


" Listen, AnnaCarol, since Andy told you about that Bijou pretending to be you thing, well, I'm sorry if I thought she was y--"


I couldn't finish my sentence once I turned around and saw an empty chair.


I called her name in worry, rushing into the living room. The chains of my boots clinked with such anxiety. No trace of her was found. Not even a footprint. My worry at first increased, but diminished once a playful giggle was heard outside. With one peek through the curtains, I saw Andy and AnnaCarol practacing karate and then kissing in the front yard. A sigh of relief escaped my lips. For a moment I thought Bijou had gotten her claws on her. I then turned to the table and saw Bo's shattered remains sealed in a plastic bag. A little Sharpie message was written on the front.


Don't let Layla slip away, Pride.

- AC


A whole smile finally came to my face. A very sweet gift, but how'd she do it and end up outside soundlessly?


I guess I didn't need to know the answers to everything.


As soon as a quiet yawn escaped my lips, I figured that maybe I should sleep on things. Before I got to the couch, my stomach growled in unbearable hunger. It was begging me that I fill up with lunch before even getting any intention for sleep. Somehow, I was able to ignore it and sat over on the couch. I didn't bother to lie down, I just fell asleep while sitting up.


With one more smile at the shattered remains of Bo, I closed my eyes and entered a dreamless, but blissful sleep.


Something dripping on my forehead was what woke me up. Something black and thick. Sorta like... paint. Looking at a shattered piece of glass to see my reflection, I saw the paint slide all the way to the tip of my nose. Wait a minute, where was I? And why was there pieces of glass on the floor? As I stumbled up onto my feet, I shot my head up and saw a room completely destroyed.


Even I didn't have to guess who did this.


There were painting from wall to wall that were dripping with melted paint, a couple of mirrors had been punched and broken, and all the doors and windows were slamme shut. Judging from the shattered Three Days Grace CD on the mussed bed, this was AnnaCarol's room. Bijou had struck again and this time, it seems like I'm being held captive.


I panted in anxiety for a moment and paced around, almost tripping over the pile of lacey Gothic clothes. Oh great, Sheriff, I thought to myself, now things've gone from bad to worse. Soon, a loud groan came from the floor. It sounded like it came from the bed, but even if it was, no way was I going to look under there. Everytime in a horror movie when you hear a noise from under the bed, the most unexpected and ugly evil pops out to take you in as either hostage or lunch. All I did was stand still and steady like a stone statue as the noise got louder.


I finally got the strength to move once a blue hand emerged from the wood floor and grabbed my ankle.


I screamed in terror once it happened. The nails scratched through the touch blue fabric and almost pierced my skin. The best defense I had was taking a baseball trophy from the floor and smashing those long, slender fingers with it. I fell on my back and scooted closer to the wall. The ghostly moan never came like it usually would, but the figure still closed in on me.


My eyes fixated mainly on the bloody stitch on her left arm.


" Like what you see?" she sadistically smirked. I cocked an eyebrow up and gritted my teeth while I responded,


" Define like."


" Y'know, a few hours ago, after stitching my arm back on, I actually thought you'd chicken out, but I guess I was wrong. I guess your not that wussy." I stood up, not in an annoyed way, but in a serious way. My eyes drilled themselves into hers.


" You're just like a tumbleweed, Bijou. Tumbling through life, not caring about the events happening around you," I didn't continue on after that; I had made my point. She placed a hand on her hip and let out a small chuckle in her breath.


" Why, thank you so much." she smirked and showed the grin of an actress that just won an Oscar. I rolled my eyes. Typical. Soon, those white fangs were flashed at me and this time, her tongue dripped with venom when she spoke with emotionless delight.


" You afraid, Woody?" I didn't respond. The last thing I needed was to give her the satisfaction of saying "yes". I just let out a few shaky breaths and she walked over a little closer to me. She and I were face-to-face, attacking each other only in our minds. No violent words pierced the silence like a knife in the heart, but no deadly fight was started either, which still surprised me. She didn't even give me a dirty look, just a poker face.


Soon, I felt one of her claws draws circles underneath my skin. Not in a threatening way, but rather questionable.


I soon made her end her gentle contact by unhooking and held in front of her the locket she gave me last night.


" Why'd you give me this? What's the big deal about this locket and the whole press the ruby charade?"


She spun on the heels of her feet and pulled out two chairs from the piled, scattered mess of clothes and blankets on the floor. I was surprised she didn't spit out the ugliest and coldest retort she could think of at me. She patted the weak, almost wobbly base of the chair and gave nod telling me to sit down. I unwillingly obeyed.



" Look at me, Woody." My eyes blinked hard a few times before reluctantly letting them flicker over to her luminous form. A small smile stretched across her face and a surprisingly delicate hand laid upon mine.


" Now, do you remember all that stuff you told Andy? Y'know, about your life and everything? Well, guess what, my life has been a lot harder than yours, hands down. And when you're ready to listen, just press the center of the ruby and you'll feel my pain. Strangely, out of all the victims that I've given my fair share of hate to, I guess I could apply some mercy on you, beacause for some reason, you're the only victim I like."


" The only thing you like is misery and pain!" I snarled fiercely, not even knowing that I should've savored the tender moment. She gripped tighter on my wrist and whispered,


" You know me better than I thought."


That delicate hand of hers came to my cheek, calming me. I wanted to push away; this wasn't right. I wasn't suppose to feel that way towards an enemy. But somehow, the pit of my heart told me to be still, so I just sat there motionlessly and allowed her to get closer. A bony leg nudged against mine and a foot rested upon the scratched brown leather of my boots. Soon, a hot and thick breath grazed my neck, making my skin shiver with goosebumps. She turned my head to hers and then pressed her forehead against mine gently. Bijou was known for having a touch that was everything but soft and angelic, but this time, things've changed.


Then, a thin, smooth pair of lips planted themselves upon mine.


A shocked squeak was muffled once I felt her lips against mine. This couldn't been happening. I moved my hands from my lap in order to grab her shoulders and push her to the ground. Yet, when I lifted them, they were frozen in the air. I instead gazed at her, still kissing me and those hands refusing to let go of my cupped cheeks. I flexed my fingers for a short moment to get rid of the numbness, and instead of landing on the shoulders, my hands landed on the back of her head and pushed her tighter against my lips, fingers tangling themselves in her jet black hair.


What was I doing? I couldn't really be enjoying this. I couldn't be. But I didn't really care once my eyes finally closed and a regretful nose sigh grazed across her own nose. Soon, once a happy moan was let out from her, I finally snapped back into reality and pulled her away. She didn't seem like she would pout about me breaking the moment, but instead, she sneered smugly at the sight of my crimson blush, half-lidded eyes, and lightheaded smile. I looked down awkwardly at the floor and she patted my shoulder before disappearing.


" Get some rest, sheriff. You need it."


Soon, everything began to fade from the bedroom into the living room. I was sitting on the couch, Bo's remains were inside the bag, and all the knick-knacks were in place. I slipped my boots off, snuggled up into the quilt, and said while looking at Andy asleep on the bench with AnnaCarol,


" I'm sorry, Andy."

Chapter 10: Unanswered

I buried my face in my hands when I fell asleep, trying my best to redeem myself. But how could I? I had just betrayed Andy's trust in me by falling in love with the enemy. By falling in love with Bijou. Why didn't I just push away? Then I wouldn't have to feel this repent and sorrow. My hands fell to my side and my eyes noticed the stars bejewling the black night sky. I noticed the rustbucket car wasn't in the driveway and Andy wasn't in his bedroom. Meh, I think he just went to the supermarket.


I'm not surprised that we haven't spent a lot of time together. I mean, sure he and I haven't seen each other in a year, but AnnaCarol moved away from him when she was 14. That's a lot longer that just one measly year. They had a lot of catching up to do. But I still knew we had a strong friendship. Heh, I'm kinda surprised that the day he found out I was a human-like toy, he didn't freak out.


I slumped my head back onto the uncomfortable pillows and stared blankly at the ceiling. This wasn't an action to fall asleep, but more like an action to recap about all the things that had happened in these past 3 days.


The image of Bijou had planted firm in the back of my mind. That lusty demon with an ice block for a heart and acid for blood. I still felt those stray shimmering flyaway locks of hers, tickling my face. I still felt those tender lips, once cracked and blue to match her skin, upon mine. The last bit of sanity was taken away one little touch at a time. That demon really has a way to tug the heartstrings with those claws. Ambivalent relationship or not, I argued with myself not to cave into her request. I wasn't going to betray Andy's trust by killing his uncle Lars. I tried my best to savor up any resemblence of innocence in me, but every time my heart beat, it was like another slit was made inside my soul.


A splitting headache interrupted my worrying. I'm guessing that it must've been caused from when I jerked back to the wall in fear. I also felt something warm drip from my ankle. I already knew it was blood from the little pricks Bijou left when grabbing my foot. All over me were reminders of what I came for: the dried blood on my fingertips, the bruises, dull blue and faded greed, that marked my heroics on my head, my bleeding ankle, the three slash scars on my cheek, and that same self-confidence dropping. I think of them all of signs of bravery. Of courage, Of loyalty and heroism. Those were reminders of who I was trying to save. Reminders of the reason why Andy trusts me. Reminders that I had to eventually kill Bijou.


My prasing my injured body stopped once I heard a quiet tapping on the kitchen window.


I turned my head and stayed frozen for a while. All I saw were two miniature human figures and a horse to match. My eyes had to be deciving me. This didn't seem real. What didn't seem real was that out the window were Buzz, Jessie, and Bullseye. A mental snide about it made me form a half-smile. Good to know Bijou's not dry with tricks. Not the wittiest, but still true.


" Woody! Open the window!" that familiar fresh-accented voice called after me. Despite my disbelief, I still obeyed the command and lifted the pane up. I wasn't dreaming.


All the characteristics were real: the red yarn hair of a cowgirl, the stuffed and scratched fabric of a plush horse, and the squeaking plastic of a space man's armor. It was real, not just some 3-D animation that Bijou would put up in order to hurt me emotionally now.


The only thing that came from them at the moment was there gob smacked faces from seeing me a human for the first--and hopefully only--time. There lifely colorful eyes were ablazing with wonder.


" You're... a human. How?" Buzz asked, still staring up and down at me. They all blinked in unison to make sure if this was all not a dream. Sadly, no. Knowing that they still didn't know whether or not to believe this, I stretched my hand out to pet Bullseye with my index finger. Buzz and Jessie's eyes were still filled with surprise, but it only took a friendly action like that to prove that this wasn't a hallucination. My semi-happy chocolate brown eyes momentalily glanced back at the two, guilty and pursed frown formed solid on my face.


" Well, to start off, there's this ghost here, named Bijou. She knocked me out by electrocuting me and, well I don't know how she does it, but I think she injected some sort of potion into me and now... here I am."


" But, you're starting to look like a toy..." It was a good thing Buzz pointed that out, for when I looked down at my hand, it looked like the skin was vinyl. I gasped in shock. The potion was wearing off, I think. A little concerned herself, Jessie asked if I could sit down in front of her. I didn't know if she was going to turn my head around to face her or what, but eventually, she did. At first, her hands trembled in quivering worry that she would fail and kill me. Buzz gave her a nod that it would be okay. When my neck squeaked like plastic when she did her task, she let out a sigh in relief that she didn't kill me. I didn't bother to turn my head back to the fridge nor did I move; I just stared blankly into those emeralds hidden behind her glassy eyes. She then parted her lips and said,


" Well, why're you spending your time here, cowboy?"


Silence. My self-conscience scattered around the scattered and piled thoughts in my brain that I could've turned into speech. Soon, after a minute of tidying up my thoughts, I turned my head back to the normal direction, but still turned to them and sighed,


" Well, it's really... complicated."


I then went on with telling them all that had happened from my fighting against the urge to ignore the paranormal and go home to my possible betrayal of Andy's trust. I set my cowboy hat on the counter and my friends didn't give a response, but they looked up at me, lower lids lifting up in sympathy. I warmly smiled at their concern, but soon it vanished as I looked down at my boots. Without turning my eyes back at them, I murmured,


" I think you all should go..."


" We're not leaving you just yet, Woody." Buzz assured, but it wasn't really necessary. Still not letting my gaze rip away from the dirt peppered tile floor of this disgusting place, I sighed, not in a frustrated way, but in a solemn way.


" You have to." was all I could say. Jessie stepped up to my face staring more seriously, and Buzz defered his own attempt to confront the choice I made. Her eyebrows knitted into angered worry lines and her tight lips were doing the talking for her.


" Why on Earth would we leave you alone? Give us one good reason."


A reason she wants? At that point, I came up with the best one. Wordlessly, I stood up and stalked myself to the living room. I'd hoped that I didn't wake AnnaCarol up. Swiftly and gingerly, I snatched the bag of Bo's remains from the aging polished wood table and held it up to my friends. They just stared in saddened shock as their eyes comsumed every shattered piece of Bo in the bag. I set it down and shuffled my feet across the floor to the living room, but not before looking at my friends one last time and said,



" Horrifying, ain't it? Look, I'm not turning you down because I'm being stubborn, but it's because I want you guys alive and well. I mean, bad enough I was worried that the ceiling fan killed you guys, now I don't want your fate to be Bo's fate. I'd slit myself across the throat it Bijou killed you."


Before I left, Jessie stopped me by squeaking out something that was soft, but said with utmost love.


" Woody... we wouldn't live with ourselves if you died."


I squeezed my eyes shut in order to fight away any tears to come. I then looked up and said, without even facing them from the corner of my eye,


" Well, if death means Bijou sparing Andy, then... death's all I have left."


That was all I could say. That was it. Not another self-threat could drip into the air, thick with nostalgia. This wasn't the way I was suppose to feel when my friends and I are reunited. This whole situation changed me. It was as if I wasn't Sheriff Woody Pride anymore. It was as if this double rainbow in my heart and that smile that pleased my owners for years had been blown away like dust in the wind. I didn't look back at my friends when I walked away. I just wanted them gone, just for their own safety. All I heard were sad mumbles between Jessie and Buzz and the pane clicking shut.


I clenched my fists hard enough to make my knuckles whiter than my teeth. The pain from that was enough to make my tears curb and any happiness in me vanish.



Then I heard a little toc sound on the kitchen table. Possibly a champagne glass.


" You could've just went home with them." A faint, tomboyish voice cracked with utmost disapproval. AnnaCarol's voice. My heart skipped a beat and I stuttered in my head for the perfect lie again. Before I could say anything else (which was hard considering that I was blushing and awkwardly chuckling to savor the embarrassment), AnnaCarol lifted her chin and said,


" Enough pretending, Sheriff. I know that you're a toy. I knew since the first day I saw you, idiot!"


My eyes widened after she said that. The room became dense with the thickness of stomach-churning silence. My secret was out. At least, it would be soon. I was too shocked to notice a smirk AnnaCarol gave at the sight of the chains of my boot shaking and bouncing around. My nerves froze me before I could embarrass myself anymore in front of her. She sipped some of her beverage and shot a coyly smile.


" Don't worry, I'm mostly trustworthy."


A shaky sigh of release dripped into the air.


I then strolled myself over to the kitchen counter and stood still for a moment. I weeping inwardly as I saw the sight of three pairs of eyes--sky blue, emerald green, and button black--gone. A few taps on the granite counter and I finally moved my hand out to grab my hat, blow off the dust, and take the bag with me, as well. AnnaCarol stared straight at me with those semi-sweet eyes for a seemingly long moment until she took in a breath and said,


" Go home."


" Excuse me?" my voice cracked at her. Could she seem anymore empathetic? Her half-lidded eyes blinked and she gave a small nod.



" Go home. Your friends miss you and besides, they're alive and well like you wanted. So why turn them down?"


" Uhh, hmm, did you even notice what's been happening since you got here? And now you're suggesting that I just leave as if this all had never happened?!" She patted my shoulder and mouthed a sentence telling me to calm down. Her eyes were refilled from empathy to concern. I gave her a nod and sat back down. Silence came, but never calmness. I was too wound up. After going through such a dramatic plight, there was no such word as "calm". The billowed feeling was gone. The danger consumed every ounce of happiness I had left. All that was left was the friendship and love I had for Andy. And to her, she could see that. Then, out of nowhere, a huge thump was made on the table. The source was something encased in dried plaster.


" What's this?"


" The reason why you should go home." Then with a swift grab, she pulled out a knife and stabbed the plaster hard. With a few more stabs, I almost fell out of my chair at the sight of Bijou's head. This was just amazing. AnnaCarol decapitated Bijou. I looked at her with wide eyes, disbeliving, but she just smirked while twirling a lock of lifeless hair around her fingers.


" Ahh, the wonders a knife, a bucket of plaster, a lighter, and a teen can make these days."


I didn't have the nerve to respond to that. All I did was purse my lips in a still unconvinced fashion. She smirked as she pet Bijou's head and shot a toothy smile at the ember that burned in Bijou's eyes now disappeared, leaving them lifeless and grey. Bijou's mouth was open enough to show her teeth, now missing a few and green. I stared down at the knife, the tip peppered with the lime plaster, and pointed at it as a gesture to ask if I could hold it for a moment, just for examination. She nodded. Hesitantly holding the rubber hilt in my hand, I flipped it over to see the sight of blood splashed over the once stainless steel, possible having a few specks of flesh dotting the dried scabs. My mouth hung open, but no air came in or out.



The skin, once translucent with ghostly reasons, now felt solid and matte in skin color. She felt human for the first time I could remember. But my hand's touch on the skin wasn't what I focused on, no, I focused on the sight of green and brownish bruises underneath her chin, the expression of terror she was frozen with, and the blood all scabbed up, maybe a few drops of blood marking their place on my boots. While i didn't want to be drenched in the blood of something I didn't do, I didn't bother to wipe it away. All that was most important was that it was all over.


" Wanna know how this happened?"


I didn't bother to answer. I got a pretty good vision. All I could picture was what might've happened. Maybe, while I was asleep, that was when the fiasco took place. There was no "maybes" about the rest. I had a good feeling that judging from all of AnnaCarol's weapons, I knew full well what happened while slumber enveloped me into a numb, dreamless sleep. AnnaCarol had had enough, the last straw was broken. Stumbling herself up after being thrown against the mirror, she grabbed Bijou's throat and the next minute, she fell on top of the demon, shaking her head violently back and forth, marking several bumps and bruises on her head. Then, a small clatter came to the floor, and AnnaCarol had found her perfect weapon.


A pocketkinfe, not large, but useful. Then, with one good thrust, the ghost's screams were silence and her head fell to the floor with a hard thump.


Sometimes, I don't know how I almost got the order of events right.


AnnaCarol snapped me back into reality when she gave me a hard push on the shoulder. A small smile quirked across her face. She laughed saying,


" You're almost there, but can you tell me why I had lime plaster and a lighter?"


That was when I stopped guessing. I decided to let her take it from here. She then pulled out a red lighter and let her thumb smooth across the metal top before opening it. Then she flicked it on and let us be brined in the warm glow of the flame. She explained that she used the lighter to cauterize the flesh on her neck so that the rest of her body can't reattach her head. She also said that it'd be a smart move to dip the head in the plaster so that she can suffocate Bijou incase she was still breathing.


Marvelous, I thought, just marvelous. For a girl who didn't spend a lot of time with Bijou, she's a professional, I bet.


With her story done, all AnnaCarol did for the next few minutes was flick the lighter on and off repeatedly. I didn't respond or knock the lighter out of the hand, but I just sat there and let the neon orange ember dance in front of my face. After, what felt like, an eternity of gazing in fake awe at the dancing flame, I wordlessly flicked it off without acknowledging the fact that it burnt my index finger a little, leaving the sking red and tender. Whatever, I've felt worse pain, right? Her eyes shifted to me and she said softly,


" See? She's dead." With that, she pulled up to the table a ridiculously large duffel bag, holding Bijou's body in there. An eyebrow cocked up and an almost disgusted frown came across my face as I crossed my arms.


" You kept her body in a bag with you? Where do you even get this stuff?"


" I always come prepared, cowboy. But don't you see?" she asked while heading over to the sink and using a brillow pad to scrub off the dried sediment of plaster, "It's over now, Pride you can go home."


" But I can't just leave Andy out of the blue alone. He might get worried since apparently, you're not going to tell him you killed Bijou." She threw the scratchy sponge in the sink and spun on her heel.


" There's always a problem with you, isn't there? Is this because you don't want to leave him unprotected or is this because you don't want to leave him, period?"


At that point, not a mere five word response came; just saddness on my face. My head drooped down and I tried my hardest to hold back any tears. For once, she was right. I didn't want to leave Andy, but I didn't want to be stuck a human necessarily. As I tipped my hat so that AnnaCarol couldn't see any possible tears, out of nowhere, a hand rested itself upon my shoulder. Then a soft murmur brushed against my earlobe.



" He's safe now, right? And you love both your owners, right? Well, what're you waiting for? Bonnie's coming home soon after July and Andy's saved. It's a win-win thing."


" Okay," I murmured back. AnnaCarol pushed me into the living room and said again,


" You should get some sleep. Andy's gonna come home any time soon."


" Before I do, how'd you know about Bonnie?" She let a smirk play on her lips and said with suspicion hanging heavy in her voice,


" Some things should be left unanswered, cowboy."

Chapter 11: Ready to Listen?

The sky soon had a layer of purple and orange flickered from afar and I was ready to go.


I walked calmy down the hall and peeked through the door to Andy's room. My eyes reached half mast as I saw Andy sleeping in his bed with a pile of white tangled sheets covering him. A small nose sigh couldn't help but escape and I was about to close the door. This was goodbye, and I wasn't even sure if this should end like this.


My heart commanded that I walked closer to him, just to whisper to him the most beautiful goodbye I could think of. So that way, I could forgive myself a little bit. I tried to be as quiet as possible, so his slumber wouldn't be interrupted. Gently shuffling through assorted pop rock CDs and deveral articles of clothing on the floor, before I knew it, his peacefully sleeping form was in front of me.


I knelt down to look at him closer. A warm smile came across my face and it stayed on there for a while. He was free. He didn't need me around anymore. I extended my hand out to touch his cheek for a moment, a gesture done with utmost care. But like a chickenheart, I pulled away and flexed my aching, shivering fingers. I let the burn on my finger rub against the thumb, just to prove to myself that no greater pain would overcome the pain of leaving Andy again. I let out a soft whisper in the distance as I back away, nothing but these mere three words that weren't strangers to my mouth,


" So long, partner."


The door creaked when I shut it, but it wasn't loud enough to wake him. I laid my back against the door and gradually sat myself down on the jagged fabric of the rug. Surprisingly, it felt so comfortable in between my fingers. My "de-humanication" didn't make any progress because I felt my heart beat against my chest and I could take off my boots, but my skin looked like the vinyl appendaged I was created with and each finger's features were gone, from fingertip to burn. Without slipping off the boot, I rested my right foot upon my kneecap and never let my gaze rip away from the Sharpie signature on the base of my boot.


That was when tears finally burst from my self-command to hold them back.


I didn't know what came over me. I thought I'd gotten strong enough to avert crying. But apparently, I was wrong again. I felt wrong about everything. I couldn't leave Andy. Something in my head told me not to. Bijou may've been dead to AnnaCarol, but when it comes to people like Bijou, you just never know when they'll die.


After a few more sobs escaped my lips, I wiped my eyes hard enough to make the eyelids red and my 'lashes fall off. Time to get it togehter, cowboy. I stood up and was about to slouch myself back home, but then tripped over my boot and collapsed to the hard wood floor.


I didn't bother to move until I saw a yellow light shine in my eyes. Almost time for Andy to wake up.


Sluggishly, I wobbled myself to my knees and massaged my temples for a moment. My eyes shifted around from knick-knack to knick-knack, noticing the ugliest, lifeless puppets and old-fashioned sepia print pictures in bronze ornate frames. Who'd ever want to live here? Before getting up, I noticed a little trash can in the corner was flipped over, spilling out useless crumpled papers. I guess, while I'm not a maid, I could do one more act of kindness before leaving.


Quietly, I swept up all the paper into the metal bin and got it done predictably fast; I also pulled out the locket Bijou gave me and let it fall into the bin and join the rest of the junk. Yet, one piece of paper had the name AnnaCarol smudged on there. Hmm, wonder what it was. No, I couldn't just rummage through trash just out of curiosity. But still, now I see it as the wisest move I've ever made. With one swift grab and a few tries to flaten the paper, the words typed on it were consumed by my eyes and everything came crashing down.

Annabelle Caroline "AnnaCarol" Cheribal

1993-2010


" To Andy, love is undying..." that voice hissed behind me, sending a wave of terror on my spine.


I relucnatly turned around to see the ugliest thing to ever happen. The skin metled to the bone like candle wax, the appendages peeled off, burning blood pooled around, and the shrieks of the girl were silenced by Bijou's phsycotic laughter. In a blue burst of flames, any resembalance to AnnaCarol was gone. She was now, officially, dead.


" But with me, everything's dead."


" Why on Earth would you do that? I mean, you were killed!" She let a smirk play on her lips as her fingernails traced across every bloody stitch on her neck. She snapped her fingers and suddenly appeared behind the bin. She stuck her hand in and hooked her finger into the tangled chains. She handed it to me and said before doing so,


" Woodrow Pride, are you ready to listen?"


Before pressing the ruby, I nodded.

Chapter 12: Bijou's Story

In a flash of light, I was again in my invisible form and I wasn't in the kitchen. What appeared before me was a small, cramped, crowded den. And a very disgusting one, I might add. The dirt caked carpet had Coke stains step by step, the walls' striped wallpaper were halfway peeled off, and everything was either broken or thrown into the wall. Please tell me this wasn't Bijou's home, I thought, but I could tell in an instant that it was; if it wasn't why else would I be here. A little girl was screamed at by a taller, middle-aged man in an oversized Titans shirt. He spat out a string of curse words no one should hear while the little girl sobbed for her father to calm down. Right when he was about to strike her, Bijou paused the whole thing. Her long, slender index finger pointed at first to the little girl, then the parents, one yelling and the other lying on the floor with a hole in her forehead. I knew that it was her family. She told me that as much as she wanted to let me watch her childhood happiness die, she said I had to see her parents' stories first. I blinked hard again. More mental torture awaited me.


A young woman was the first to be shown. A young woman with electric orange hair curled into perfect finger waves to make up for her evil personality. Most of the time, she'd wake up at the bottom of a staircase since her mother pushed her down there. Yes, she'd wake up with one shoe always missing, her clothes stained and ripped, barely covering her own self, and an open wine bottle that leaked into a pool around her hair. She'd always wake up and head on over to the guest bathroom and look at herself in the broken relfection before pulling out random perscription pills from the cabinet. Her name was Katrina Parley.


Pills were the only things in life that could apparently free Katrina from the nightmare she calls life. Pills were really all she had. No love, no friends, no anything, just pills and an abusive mother. Sometimes, Katrina would sleep in the bathtub full of wine as punishment for her constant drinking. It's still a wonder to me how her hair could still keep a perfect bounce considering how crunchy her locks were from the dried wine that became her signature look.


Motherly love was a complete stranger to both Katrina and her mother. Katrina was born for only a mother to love because her father left her right when Katrina was born. A scared, pitiable man I bet he was. It was rather sad watching Katrina being born in the locker room, really. She was all ready for her senior football team at college to win and just as she picked up her pom-poms, that's when Katrina began descending. It was sad compared to the happiness that most teenage mother's would have. Sad to see Katrina crying and her mother telling her to shut up without hitting her.


She began hitting Katrina at age 14, when Katrina began to take a stand rather than cry herself to sleep after her mother curses at her. Katrina didn't seem to mind being beaten all the time; she was stronger than that. She became strong not because of her mother, but because of the abuse she forever suffered at school until she was expelled.


School was honestly a living hell for Katrina, just like home. All the girls would tease and gossip about her because of the fact that Katrina had dried wine in her hair all the time and because she was overweight and style-challenged. The spread awful and false rumors, i.e. saying she was bisexual just becasue she talked about female celebrities a lot rather than male. They also stole other girls purses and put 'em in Katrina's locker just to send her to the principal's office and watch her cry.



Boys weren't really kind-hearted to her either. They always thought she was the ugliest thing on planet Earth. Everyday, they would say something that would always lead her to coming home in tears. They would compare to other girls just to make her feel insecure, at first. But eventually, the insults lead to threats and pranks. They would post altered pictures of her on MySpace and do YouTube parodies that parodied everything she wrote for English and every project she'd make.


One day, she'd had enough of the bullying. This time, no tears came from Katrina, just rage. When one of the queen bees, Amelia, teamed up with her jocular boyfriend Anthony, to hand out flyers that had an altered picture of her head on the body of Aretha Franklin, saying she has the right body to be her. When that flyer ended up in Katrina's hands, instead of running out of the cafeteria crying, this time she took a stand. She walked up to Amelia, took off her rather sharp-heeled stilletto, and slit Amelia and Anthony across the throat. That was when school finally ended, but a new nightmare began, and she was only 14.



The abuse that Katrina's mother would inflict upon her was really like a basic routine since Katrina lost her good girl status. Every morning, it would be the same. Katrina'd either wake up at the bottom of the staircase or in a tub of dried wine, she'd take some pills, fight with her mother, and be knocked into unconsciousness in order to sleep. Surprisingly, even when her mother once slapped her across the face or hit her in the back of the head with a frying pan, Katrina didn't beg for mercy. Almost as if she was enjoying the pain.


One time though, during a snowy night, Lil' Ms. Masochist decided to run away. Yeah, run away in the snow wearing nothing but a lacey nightgown. Well, since she broke a little vase when sneaking out the window, Katrina's mother came outside this time, not carrying a frying pan, but instead a pistol. When she tried to aim her shot once Katrina tripped over a wire decoration her neighbor had out, something stuck Katrina's mother in the back of her head; presumably a champagne bottle. Then, a man with matte black hair always piled up on his head in an afro, African skin, and the sharpest of soulless blue eyes stared half-lidded at her Katrina's future husband. His name was Calvin Sashenhire.


Calvin's story was almost the same as Katrina's except he didn't have a family, just a group of thugs to care for him. At 6 years old, his parents got caught in a tornado. Unexpected and scary, it was. Little Calvin was just sleeping calmly in his bed with his baseball cap still on, and all of a sudden, a loud blustering noise came out the window; what sounded like a freight train was actually a tornado. The winds practically picked up his parents to dance with them and then drop them and left them impaled by sharp branch trees. And Calvin slept through it all.


He was then alone, homeless, left to wander the streets hoping that a miracle would happen. Well, instead, he was taken in, but by a thug by the name of VJ. A tender soul, but tough as nails. He showed Calvin his own tricks of the trade from being able to steal brown liquor without getting caught to being able to trick locks. A bad influence was Calvin's miracle, and he was too happy to even realize that. The only problem was VJ's gang.


VJ's gang weren't too cool with the fact that they had to bring a kid around with them everywhere they went, but acting fatherly, he said that if they can't deal, why were they still with him? That's what made everything crumble. One of the gang members, "G6", attempted to shoot VJ, but he missed and the bullet bounced off a metal knife, sending the bullet through his eye. All the others quivered in fear rather than fight against it. It was just another way of saying that no one messes with VJ. Out of rage, he quickly slaughtered the rest and Calvin was watching in the background. He ran away when he was 8.


No matter how many foster homes or orphanages he could go into, since everyone was intimidated by his tattooed neck and alcohol-scented voice, they always turned him down... except for one. One elder, about 65, named Ms. Emmilet, was kind enough to let Calvin in, thinking that it would lead him down the right path. But it wasn't even a month till disaster struck.


With the orphanage's debt making it hard to feed children, Calvin decided to stoop to desperate measures to help his new friends. He snuck out at night and left on their porch dozens of cashews and tea bags he stole. As much as he wanted to steal something VJ would want like, he had to cleanse his reputation. But it wasn't long until suspicion arose about how those treats came to the doorstep. One of the girls, Cynthia, pulled Calvin into the closet and scolded him, saying that she knew it was him who did his seemingly evil act of kindness. He responded by pushing her into a mirror saying that he can do whatever, saying his pop told him so, referring to VJ.


The next few days were pure Hell on Earth. The fights were continuous, the words were drenched in rage and hate, and the friendship that Calvin and Cynthia once had vanished into thin air. The love they almost had as supposed siblings drowned in the bile that shot out of their lungs as they bayed at each other words that still echoes in my head. The other sound that echoes is the sound of the screams of one ice cold night. With Calvin having enough of Cynthia's nosines, without thinking, he grabbed a champagne bottle, channeled all of his negative energy, and with one good swing, everything ended for Cynthia.


It's still hard for me to get rid of that image of Cynthia dead. It's hard to sponge away the image of a young teenage girl, curly beaded blonde hair, lying lifeless on the floor with the champagne sinking into the red gash on her face, the alcohol mingling with the bullets of blood that almost fell. Ms. Emmilet begged Calvin to stop beating Cynthia, but before he got his hands on the bottle to use as his weapon, without thinking clearly on how to respond, he took a kitchen knife and slit the poor elder across the throat.


Calvin never had any regret about it all honestly. He half-psychotically smiled at himself before sneaking out of the orphanage, that cold New Year's Eve, when he was the same age as Katrina. He never showed any signs of pain in himself, but I could easily penetrate past that icy blue stare of his and see the souil of a truamatized child begging for a future. When he pasted by a simple neighborhood, that was when he noticed Katrina and her mother. That was when the shine of a blue-steeled nuzzle caught his attention. That was the time he once killed for a good reason.


Katrina and Calvin's relationship was a rather bizzare one before more torrents of abuse came to be. I can't even recall all the things they got into. They lived a leisurely life of comitting crimes without even knowing what a prison cell looked like. Calvin provided the stealth when comitting crimes and Katrina provided the lunacy when plotting them out. They made the perfect crime team. Sometimes, it's still hard for me to understand why a man like Calvin would "love" someone like Katrina. Throughout his adolescence, all I saw was him turning his head around to gawk at a nearby female stick. So maybe he didn't love Katrina for her weight, but maybe her kind personality? Yeah, right. What kind personality? More like for her drunken, crazy scheming.


The first time they stepped into a prison cell was when Katrina became pregnant with Bijou. The scheme seemed so perfect, to Calvin. Nothing but a simple attempt to steal a few beers to celebrate the year they got together. Nothing more, nothing less. But apparently, since Katrina's love for action died out once she realized she was going to have a baby girl, she always fussed at Calvin about his love for crime being greater than his love for her, begging him to try and give up his crimes so that they would be a positive influence on their baby. When he attempted to shoot the cashier so that he could get away with the crime, but the stealth that Katrina was known for was gone when she headlonged Calvin to the floor just when the bullet was shot. They were sentenced to prison the next day until further notice.


Things became heated between Calvin and Katrina. That was when the abuse pourred out of his mouth when he slapped her. The beating was getting so bad that the police broke it up and put Calvn in a seperate cell where he could mingle with the right crowd. With Katrina all alone and empty, sometimes she wept herself to sleep and stared at the tears as reminders that eventually, she would have to end things with Calvin. But that thing on her to-do list was crossed out and forgotten once she began going into labor. That's right, she gave birth to a baby girl, soon to be a monster, in prison. The screams weren't able to echo in just her cell, but in the entire hall. All the inmates gripped onto the metal bars of their cells as they watched one of the female cops be Katrina's coach until a mewling cry was heard. There, in the overjoyed mother's arms, was Jezebel "Bijou" Sashenhire.


Now with the prologue done, the real story began.


With Bijou's childhood begining, I wouldn't say it got off to a happy start. Only a mere week after Bijou was welcomed with tears of love. Since both Katrina and Calvin were only teenagers (17 is my guess) at the time, they decided to get married in order to seem innocent, as if they were adults. Yet sadly, so that they wouldn't leave Bijou unattended, they could not apply for college and due to the word about the supermarket murder, they were turned down every time they applied for a job. So secretly, Calvin steals food from the market and still not leave a trace and, for once, Katrina allowed since her love for Bijou was really great.


Yet, she still hadn't changed some of her ways. She was incredibly lazy and had to give Bijou chores to do all the time. Yet, she never was abusive towards her daughter like her mother was to her, but when Bijou didn't do the chores, Katrina would lecture her over responsibility and cleanliness until Bijou caved in and picked up after herself. It was also evident that Katrina's addiction to pills never went away. Yet, she was able to pull off a good lie saying that she always had arthrits and she had to take pills every day. Not the best lie, but admirable enough to hide her immoral behavior.


Calvin never let the abuse fly away off the balcony every time they'd fight on it, but closed the slide door so that Bijou wouldn't hear. They were lucky enough that the welfare money they earned was enough for them to aford a balcony, so Katrina wanted Calvin to stop stealing for now, but being as stubborn as he was, he refused. Soon, the debating lead to yelling, then the yelling lead to cursing their tongues off, and it would only end when Calvin would swing once and leave Katrina unconscious with a black eye. This explained why Bijou would spend most of her time in her bedroom; she was afraid of her parents.


Everything came crashing down for Bijou not too long. Feeling tired about the abuse she suffered everyday, Katrina said she "accidentally" spilled about Calvin's behavior, leading to one of her good friends taking his welfare away. Enraged, not only did he punch her again, he shot her in the head while she was unconscious, leaving her to bask in the mist of Limbo for her bi-polar sins, but for her attempted acts of good, too. And Bijou, gripping tight on her frost-bitten teddy bear and refusing to hold back any tears, saw the whole thing. She was only 11.


The pain of losing her mother overcame her strength to keep it secret. She cried about the whole thing to the first person that asked her what was wrong. And surprisingly, the first person she told was a police officer, the same one that helped Katrina out the day she gave birth to her daughter. When the police busted in to arrest Calvin, that was where Bijou and I left off. That was where everything was a mess and booze hung heavy in the air as Calvin screamed. With one punch leading to another and another, a gunshot was fired at Calvin, ending it all for Bijou's parents. Wiping away the blood that filled in her mouth, she quietly snuck away and ran out into the streets, alone and freezing in the snow.


That was what made my heart ache the most: seeing a young girl, wearing only a tube dress and galoshes that got lost in the snow bank, hiding behind a dumpster in an alley crying for a miracle. That scene itself almost made me shed a tear, but my will fought my emotions again and won. I wasn't going to cry and sympathize for this wretched waste of air. Soon, a tall and flexible figure knelt, well bended, down to Bijou and began drying away her tears with his own tricks from jumping from building to building and pulling boquets of carnations from a simple soup can. Bijou paused again, pointing to the man, asking me who he was. I knew the answer instantly. That was Lars Davis, Andy's uncle. Still, my question remained: why would Bijou want revenge on him. She smirked at me as she drilled into my eyes once more, knowing that I was still going to ask why. She snapped her fingers and the torture continued.


Lars welcomed Bijou into a new life, the life of the circus. Everyone, from knife throwers from clowns, shook hands with her and provided her more lavish things compared to all the stuff her parents tried to give her. It wasn't long until Bijou was welcomed in as an entertainer for the circus. She signed a contract and everything, but just when she thought there'd be a light that welcome her into the perfect life, happiness became dim and nothing more than a desire never to come true when it turned out that they needed someone as a punching bag for the show and thought that considering Bijou's Asian race, she reminded them of their old one, who died of "unknown reasons".


Bijou demanded that she'd be treated with more respect or she'll quit, but Lars countered her outburst with a grin and said that she signed a contract and if she disobeyed them, instant death. She snapped back, more smug that independant, saying that she's not afraid by some broomstick. She questioned why he would kill her, and then she said that he was part of the group of people that took away her precious father's welfare, and said that when he retired, that didn't mean he'd give up his trusty shotgun.


So with that, Bijou spent the most miserable 5 years of her life from being punched in the gut hard enough to cough up blood to being dipped in scalding hot tanks of water until the crowd started throwing roses. And everytime after those performances, she'd always head into the nearest vacant stall in the bathroom, pull out a pair of scissors, and let the cuts she'd make on her arm mark the remembrance that life was a bleak nothing. Sometimes, she had to be hospitalized for her injuries, but Lars just said that it was part of show business. Well, despite that and the threat of death, Bijou had had enough.


On the night of her sixteenth birthday, when everyone was asleep, she gingerly snuck out of the trailer and instantly dashed into the woods to find the tallest tree to climb up and hide in the branches. While she was even quiter than a mouse, when she heard footsteps, she didn't even look down to know that it was Lars. He said that if she went back into the trailer, everything would end like a happy birthday. When no response came in the next thrithy seconds, he shrugged, gave his regards to Satan, and grabbed the ax he carried with him to chop the tree down and watch Bijou's bone crack as she hit the ground and let her screams be silenced forever.


As she paused it all after Lars threw her into Lake Michigan, I begged her to cease this torture as I saw the blood taint the water. She let another smirk tug her mouth and she whispered that the good part hasn't even come yet. I let out a wince and cringed. More was to come.


The last scene to end this series of events was when AnnaCarol went camping in the same woods that Bijou was killed in. I wanted to cover my eyes as the worst was to come, but my hands couldn't; they only twitched. When AnnaCarol tripped across a little tree stump and noticed quite a big splash of blood in the center, a shrill scream pierced the silence. AnnaCarol's scream. Bijou laughed in hysteria as her possession ritual had been completed, leaving AnnaCarol lying presumably lifeless and dead on the ground. The last thing in the forest that came to my ears was the loud wails of her heartbroken mother.


The eulogy burned my ears, the sting of restrained notes the organ played circled around my head, and all I could focus on was the coffin, velveted inside and entombing AnnaCarol's "dead" body, sinking in the earth and the mascara-tinted tears marking their place in pockmarks in the mud along with the rain. With the image fading away and the story finally drawing to an inside-churning close, I woke up visible again and chained to a cold metal chair. Bijou stood in front of me, holding a picture of Andy and Lars at a family picnic, and said softly while burning the picture into ashes,


" Do you take it all back, cowboy? Do you?"


At that point, I finally burst.

Chapter 13: Make Your Choice

I don't know what came over me.


If I hated Bijou because of all she put me through, why was it that at the end of the story, I burst with tears?


As the cold steel of the chair caused a few goosebumps to form, my eyes fluttered just to see the pool of tears around my boots. I must've cried myself to sleep considering that my eyes were burning and itchy the minute a ray of light hit my eyes. I knew Bijou was there, but strangely she wasn't in sight. But my mind was too focused on other things to care about that. For once, I felt empathy for one that I hated and even wondered if I should help her rather than kill her. Of course, I've never sunk to the level of actually killing someone, but when adventure calls, sometimes you have to do the craziest things.


No peace for the wicked, that's what I say.


Before I could dig deeper into my thoughts, a scalding hot liquid splashed in my face.


" Wakey, wakey, sleepyhead." Bijou mocked, sipping the little amount of coffee she didn't splash in my face. I took in a breath to snap at her, but the breath instead turned into a depressed sigh. Good to know she was enjoying all of this. With the clock's ticking going eerily slow, I lifted my head to hers and frowned. Not sympathetically, but the sympathy did remain deep behind my gaze. I refused to see that hollow heart behind her unhollowed shell of a demon. Not ripping my gaze away, I seethed, barely audible,


" I may feel bad for you, but I'm not going to kill one of Andy's closest relatives for you."


" Why doubt your senses? They're all you have left." she laughed, crushing the styrofoam cup in her hand. A curl in her lips hooked into her nerves, mocking me with her monsterous visage. I snapped back at her,


" Yeah, and self-mutilation was all you thought you had left to feel happy, but here you are." She balled her hands into fists, resisting the urge to stike me across the face again. She retorted through her gritted, yellow teeth,


" Feisty now, eh? Well, let's put your feistiness to the test once Andy comes home." She knelt down to my level and I eyed her claws with heavy worry, the acrylic tips smoking with poison. The nerves in my forehead clashes against one another as sweat collided down to my neck. She placed her index against my lips and hummed in a rough tone,


" Now listen, partner, I don't care about Andy; I don't care about his precious uncle; I don't care about you. You knew my so-called, 'affection', was fake, right? So why do you feel bad for me? Because you're a pathetic, weak waste of time. You may want to kill me, but I know you more than you think. The minute you'd be ready to fire a bullet at me, you'd chicken out."


" Your point, Bijou?" I interrupted, not bothered about the fact that she slapped me without usage of her nails.


" The point is that when Andy comes back into the room, he's either gonna listen to me or you'll end up another sputtering, dying, bloodied corpse on the ground. So make another sound and I'll go ahead and do that without further ado." Without ripping my gaze away from the cluttered floor, I just drooped my head down and nodded. She smirked one last time before knocking me out and covering me with a thick, shaggy quilt,


" Good boy."


A knock on the door was what brought me back to my senses.


" Woody?" came that familiar male voice, " Woody are you in there?"


I lifted my head up to respond, but only one muffle came considering that my mouth had been duct-taped shut. Bijou jerked my head back down and imitaded my voice saying to come in. In a quick second, he did, but instead of gasping in fear at the sight of Bijou's presence, he instead addressed at her, thoroughly angry,


" What've you done with Woody?" Not an annoyed look ever came, just an expected smirk.


" Have I become that predictable? Maybe so. But still, do you really want to know where Woody is?" He replied with an angry nod and, lo and behold, she threw the quilt to the floor, manifesting to him my soon-to-be injured self. My face became red and tender from the coffee she splashed in my face, the duct-tape faded to the point of being a part of my face, and my hands would've been purple from the chains strained around my wrists if my hands hadn't turned vinyl. His ocean blue eyes widened to full capacity at the sight of me, the last sight at me (seemingly) healthy appearance before any damage and torture was inflicted upon me. I wanted to say something; I wanted to mutter something that would incapacitate Bijou and free myself, but with her, that was just a petty dream. He screamed my name in worry as he ran towards me, but was smacked by a green force field around me. She stepped through it and hooked the uncomfortable tape off my mouth before stepping out.


" Ah, ah, ah! You don't lay a finger on him until I say so." her menacing voice turned into a whisper. Andy ignored her threat and placed a hand against the glowing green force field. He said my name again, only this time, softer and with one hundred percent pain. All I did was smile and say,


" I'll be okay, Andy, I promise." I knew that by the way tears were almost welling up in his eyes, he didn't believe me. I didn't believe myself either. A faint voice in my head was telling me that I would die, and as much as I wanted to ignore it, I almost wanted to listen to it. Before another word was said to hang heavy in the dense, foggy air, Bijou snapped her fingers and a whip appeared in her hands. She cracked it at Andy's wrists.


" Back, you cretain! Back!" the knife-sharp tip caused several cuts to form; maybe not deep, but stinging and bleeding? Of course. Bijou knows how to make cuts hurt more than needed. She gently whipped it behind her back in order to avoid hurting herself and muttered, stalking herself around the force field and eyeing me at random intervals,


" Bad boy, Andy. I didn't say you could touch him yet, did I?" I rolled my eyes. She sounded like her mother. She continued,


" Now, I am going to ask you a few questions and you either answer them correctly or your dear ol' pal suffers the worst. Capiche?"


Silence, but a nod was the only response his strength could give him. As the force field faded away, she tightened the chains in order to restrain me more and turned back to Andy.


" First question, do you remember what it was that I wanted all along?"


" To kill Uncle Lars, but what does that have anything to do with this?" She shook her head and used the whip to stike me across the back three times. The small stench of blood creeped into my nose, alerting me for more to come. She looked at him and smirked,


" Think, Andy. What jobs did he have over the past decades ago, before you were even born?"


His upper lip lifted in disgust at her, but he still answered the question, simply stating that his uncle did mention something about the circus once, but the rest is a blurred history. She smirked before striking my back again and clicked her tongue in disbelief.


" Did you know that they used punching dummies in their shows?"


" He just said that inanimate figures were used, but I still don't se--" It took a moment for everything to click in his brain. Not a word came in an instant, but a wolfish chuckle did. He quirked an eyebrow up at her and snarked,


" Well, you are inanimate, that's for sure." I winced in fear, prepared for another whip on the back, but nothing came except a spider-like hand behind my head. Those nails dug in for a moment and a brownish red blossomed once I saw her tips dripping with my blood. Soon, she jerked my head towards her, almost cracking a bone or two.


" Don't worry, I'm use to being called that. That doesn't mean leniency will follow along, too, y'know." Her head jerked back to Andy, his smirk at Bijou melted back into worry for me, and hummed again,


" That's right, Andrew. I was the dummy, and guess what? These scars? Not only did I cause them, he caused them! Your precious uncle did this to me! Thought he was that same fat and caring uncle all these years? He wasn't! Kinda makes you wanna think differently about him now, don't you?"


" How do I know you're not lying...?" I could tell by the ellipsis that he regretted asking that question. Another curl hooked into her lips and another clash came onto my back, awaking my nostrils again with the stench of blood and evil. She continued on like that for another four times, my strength getting weaker at each whip.


First strike. A hiss in pain dripped into the air and Bijou smiled, obviously satisfied.


Second strike. Another hiss, another smile. At the halfway point, Andy couldn't take anymore. He tried to rush to my side again, but the same bloodied chains from before held him back. My eyes gazed sadly at his failed attempts to break free. My gaze ripped away to Bijou and it went from sad to angry, another emotion in me that satisfied her.


Third strike. Sweat began cascading from my forehead and forming a pool around my boots bigger than the pool of tears that had dried away. The scent of my blood, which began to scab up as Bijou took breaks to study her work at random, became unbearable.


Four and final strike. I choked back my cry in pain and replaced with another soft hiss. My brows furrowed in pain and I was surprised that a claret cape of blood didn't cover my back. I gritted my teeth as Bijou traced with her finger across the cuts that may not've been spewing the red fear I called blood like I thought, but were definitely leaking a few rivulets.



My gaze never left the floor, not even to look at Andy. It was almost as if he faded away like the hue of the paint. He didn't do much except watch (but not enjoy) the show before him, I knew. I could tell without looking at him. I also knew that it wasn't because he didn't care, but with the chains possible cutting off oxygen, there wasn't much he could do about it. However, after the last strike, when Bijou lifted the whip again, he cried out,


" Stop! I.. believe you. Just don't hurt him."


" Don't bet on it..." she whispered more to me than to Andy. With the chains not disappearing and the pain still lingering, she snapped her fingers again and instead, a metal bucket came along with a little rusted metal scooper. I eyed it for a short moment. The show isn't over yet.


" Next question, do you know where your uncle lives?"


" In Cincinnati, but it's gonna take him about two days for him to get here."


" So? If you have his number, call him saying that he needs to arrive because of 'special reasons'."


The eyebrow quirked back up again. His lips curled to counter her menacing grin. She dipped the scooper in the bucket and my eyes peered over to see what it was. It was white, hot, gooey -- candle wax. I prayed in my head that it wouldn't go down my back, but I knew I would be proven wrong. She never scooped any wax up yet, but stirred it around like a chef would stir her batter. Yet there was nothing sweet about this. Andy shook his head, telling her not to hurt me anymore, but she just smiled before the scoop of hot wax ran down my back.


The sickly grin Bijou had on her face escalated to a strident, hysterical laugh. That laugh penetrated my soul and exposed the weakness I did have. That weakness being pain. Though pain and I have known each other the day Andy left me with Bonnie, all pain does is ruin me. All pain does is destroy me. All pain does is reduce me from a strong leader into a misfortunate coward. Nothing could be further from the truth; I was nothing. As the liquid hardened from the breaths Bijou hotly let out, she pulled out a dagger to break the sediment and once finished, she rose the blade above my back. She turned to Andy and growled,


" Either do what I say, or your little cowboy dies. Make your choice..."


After he let out a few whimpers at the sight of my almost unconscious body, he tearfully agreed. Soon, the chair and chains disappeared, and I instantly fell to the floor. Bijou strutted herself to kneel beside Andy for a moment and murmured,


" And now, the final question, will you do everything I say in order to keep your friend here alive?"


" Y-yes... please. D-don't kill--" She placed a finger on the weeping boy's lips and said evily,


" You're stuttering... I like that. It just shows how weak you are and how powerful I am. Sweet dreams, Andy." she cooed in a mocking tone before vanishing into the sunset. Andy instantly ran to my side and gasped at the sight of me. He studied every little detail of damage done to me -- the pool of blood, the spit that ran to my chin, and what else? Agony. Pure, grueling agony. The same agony Andy felt when Bijou tried to freeze him to death.


He reached his hand out to touch my cheek. Not in a fast motion, but in a loving way. His shaking palm swept across my cheeks, pale from screaming. I softly blinked and let a smile stretch across for a short interval. I whispered softly before fading into the numb core of myself,


" You're definitely my favorite deputy. Don't worry, we'll ge through this."


" Well, at least tell me you're gonna live." The last sentence that was said by me,


" I at least... hope so."


That was it. The last few sentences spoken to each other before unconsciousness enveloped me and the sobs of Andy faded away with the room. The last, honest, but teary emotions felt before my eyes shut for a pained sleep. The only pain I felt left was Bijou's sickening laughter, echoing in my head.

Chapter 14: Wasted Over You

A flutter of my eyes and I was back in reality. I felt a trembling hand smooth across my forehead and a series of lumps in the couch that formed underneath my back, which still has a few desiccated chunks of wax. A starlit night appropriate for the comfort I woke up to.


What also made me wake up was the icy cold rag that Andy used to clean my wrists, which were marked with blood and grime in a chain-like pattern. The wet fabric that pressed in didn't feel too cold or painful, actually. It actually felt kinda good for what damage I've been through. The cold that jutted through my nerves gave me a startle though, but I calmed down when I turned and saw Andy treating my wounds. A sort of bittersweet moment, but still sweet in a way.


" Doesn't that hurt even a little?" A smile passed over my lips after he asked that. I just replied with a country twang rolling off the tip of my tongue,


" Nah, it doesn't hurt,"


Andy responded, but he didn't need to. As he kept tending to my injuries, I shifted my eyes over to the cushions under me and behind me. I'm still surprised that there wasn't a massive bloodstain on each one. But I didn't have the time to ask myself why they weren't there. How come? Because I was very thankful, because if there were bloodstains on there, that would mean one thing and one thing only:


I'd be dead. Inwardly freaked out at my dark and deep thought, I turned back to my dear friend and extended out the other wrist. As he began scrubbing gently, my hand balled up into a fist when I asked,


" So, is Uncle Lars coming?"


Silence.


It felt like a century of silence after I asked that dreaded question and after Andy scrubbed my other wrist to almost perfect cleanliness. It was the question that Bijou would probably force me to ask, but it was the outcome that made both of us cringe at the thought of Bijou's revenge going underway. If only the woman knew of the word "forgiveness". The two halves of my brain argued at each other about whether or not I should apologize for asking that question; the half that always reprimanded me for every mistake I made was screaming and cursing now, but the half that always told me to be easy on myself beseeched me to just drop it and wait for a response. It was a quick moment until I agreed with the more logical part of my mind. When I took in a breath to apologize for bringing it up, Andy turned to me and said,


" He's almost here."


My left eyebrow jumped up along with the right one. That was amazingly fast. I opened my mouth to ask why, but I figured that it was time that Andy did the talking. I just simply shuffled my bare feet across the carpet and waited for the moment when Andy would respond. He shrugged with a calm, collected smile,


" I know, pretty fast. Of course, I didn't call him since I spent my time taking care of you. So, since she's good at changing her voice into someone else's, she called Uncle Lars and told him everything. He was pretty hard to crack, but he was convinced once she said that I would be her next victim if he said no." I noticed him replacing Bijou's name with the word "she".


I wanted to ask this question, though. I wanted to ask him if he was angry-no, furious at his uncle for lying all those years saying that he was the kindest towards his circus friends when really, he was as hard and ruthless as a tank when his punching bags were as hard and ruthless as rose petals. Yet, feeling the sour, lukewarm bile rise up to my Adam's apple just thinking about that, I figured I had asked too much, too soon.


Then, out of nowhere, when I turned around, a tear strolled down Andy's cheek. He was.


I didn't even have to ask now. Of course he'd hate Lars now. What man would treat someone that harshly and lie for years to his family about it? Why couldn't he just treat everyone the same instead of turing one against either another or themselves? Why would he fill Andy's head up with lies all these years? His job, his attitude, his was to happiness, nothing but lies.


Lies, lies, lies! And now it's time for him to think again with his lying.



I didn't say a word about it, I just patted Andy's shoulder and gave it a squeeze everytime another tear won its fight to fall freely. Bless his little heart, I thought, he's been through so much. If Bijou had to target a family, why the Davis family? Why Andy's family? Lars may've betrayed her, but the rest didn't do anything to her.


Irony is a sin, sometimes.


Soon, footsteps came into the living room. A few crackles of static came onto the laptop until a man appeared with mutton chops, thick-framed glasses, and a double chin. That was Uncle Lars? So much for skinny and graceful. A small chuckle didn't escape, but wanted to. Now wasn't the time to be rude and laugh, I knew, considering the angry face Andy had on when he saw his uncle on the screen. Bijou set it on a table and smirked,


" You two need some alone time."


I scooted myself closer to Andy to get a good view of the sniveling bastard that betrayed us. My fists were so tight, my knuckles were shaking from the pain they were going through. I ignored their protest and stared blankly and emotionlessly into the camera. Lars just shrugged.


" So, what new friend have you made today?" Andy sighed, obviously annoyed. Typical sarcasm, typical Lars. I ripped my gaze away from the man to look at my knuckles, white and aching from channeling my anger to my fists without punching. With his eyes narrowing into slits and his teeth ceasing their gritting, Andy seething in a low, rough voice,


" Why? Why would you lie to me all these years?"


" Why wouldn't I? D'you really think that I would let a kid know about my personal--"


" Well guess what, uncle, I'm not a kid anymore. I'm 18 and I learn new things everyday, and what I've learned today is that you're a self-centered sadistic cynic and because of you, my best friend almost got killed!" Even I was thrown off by his outburst. I clenched my teeth behind my emotionless smirk and waited for Lars to respond. He just piped some smoke for a moment and a half-smile tugged for a short interval.


" You mean that ragdoll? How can that piece of cotton be killed? It's just a toy, hear me? A stupid, lifeless--"


He couldn't contniue once he laid eyes on me.


I just tipped my hat with a smirk on my face and stood up in from of the camcorder, showing once more that I was human. Aside from the vinyl hands, he looked awe-struck. He stuttered for a moment, trying to think of the right thing to say, but I defered that and said,


" What was that you said about me being a stupid, lifeless toy?"


Lars ripped his gaze back to Andy, whose stare was ablazing with anger. The air thickened from the silence and it pressed heavily on my back, but I didn't wince in pain. I was too busy waiting in snarky anticipation for a quick retort against what I said. Lars lost his sly look; he's never seen Andy like this. He's never seen pain and anger combined in his eyes. To me, it was almost as if the ocean blue hue in his eyes had faded into black, making him lose his color in life and making him nothing more but another person that would soon meet the grave. To me, he wasn't suppose to be just a person, but Bijou incapacitated him enough to make him feel that way. But now, I'm getting off-topic. I fought my way back into reality and Lars opened his mouth to speak, but the only mere word that came out was Andy's name. Before he could say anymore, Andy cut him off, yelling,


" Listen, all those years, I've always looked up to you. I thought you were a hero, a saint, a giant when it came to life. You were the first person that comforted me when Dad died and you gave me Woody in the first place! All those years was it for me to realized that all that air I took in to talk to you, all that love was wasted over you."


With that, he wept.


Shocking, saddening, Andy let out all his negitive feelings and now, he broke down in front of me. I patted his back and encircled my arm around his shoulders, doing the best I could to comfort him. I didn't mind that he didn't thank me yet. I would understand since he was too preoccupied with weeping over the lies that had completely taken over his life. I looked at Lars, shook my head angrily, and mouthed,


" You disgust me, Lars."


A few moments pasted and Andy finally got himself together after his whimpering and weeping were done. Lars shook his head and blinked at the floor. He stroked his fingers across his chin for a moment and said,


" I can get you through this,"--Andy's eyes shot up to his--"and if that's really how you feel about me, after this, you'll never have to see my face again."


Andy blinked, his eyes red and bloodshot from crying. I shook my head and Andy for a moment, showing him my rejection for him, but he nodded at me, saying that I didn't have to turn down the opportunity to destroy Bijou just because of all he put Andy through. I sighed and mouthed my approval. No turning back now...

Chapter 15: Full Circle

I was panicking, no doubt about it.


Honestly, I wasn't even sure if Lars would actually go through with this plan. If he could lie to Andy for 18 damn years, then I expected him to weasel out like the vermin he was. However, instead of questioning him, I just went along with it. I couldn't thing of anything else; all I could think of was the shrill sound of Bijou's pained and garbled scream.


I glanced over at the clock. When is that man gonna get here, already? Lars did look like the man to show up late, albeit unfashionably late.

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