Clinking of wind chimes was the first thing my clouded mind registered. There were multiple ones, but strangely, neither did I feel any wind caressing my skin nor did the whooshing sound of air made its presence known. There were only numerous strikers hitting the metal tubes, again and again, creating a unsynchronized symphony which soon adjusted itself to create a definite tune, a tune much resembling to that of a musical box.
Jack in the box.
Cold freezing water suddenly made contact with my body, clearing my hazy mind immediately as my body jolted up of the ground it had been occupying previously,
“Oops, my hand slipped.”
Saucer-eyed, I looked at the source of the sound only to find a grinning Hysteria leaning casually against a wall behind me, holding a musical box in his palm,
“Just kidding! the sight of blood was making me nauseous.”
My sleepy gaze slid down my wet form to land on the rough concrete beneath me. Mixture of water and blood had made small puddles all around me on there.
The events from before I had lost consciousness started flooding my mind, making me immediately look at my bitten arm and ankle, there were traces of dried blood on my skin which had turned the puddled water under me into a small crimson pool yet there were no traces of injuries left. I lifted my left hand to place it at the junction of my neck and shoulder, patting to see the extent of the damage left by the cursed doll on my neck, but the pad of my fingers could detect nothing but smooth skin resting underneath them.
‘It’s gone. I’m healed.’
Sensing a movement out of the corner of my eye, urged me to turn my head in that direction. The silhouette holding the music box had moved away from the wall he had been leaning against. Towering over my huddled form, his long legs were standing just behind me. I couldn’t see him clearly due to the lack of lamination in the alleyway yet his translucent amber eyes were glowing brightly, reflecting some invisible light that made his irises appear like a swirling lake of gold.
“Mm. My darling likes gold?”
I couldn’t believe I had eventually found the courage to say this to his face. Maybe the multiple near-death experiences had finally kicked in, wrecking what was left of my sanity.
Large warm hands suddenly crawled up my damped tank top from behind, locking just beneath my heaving breasts, tugging me into a hard sturdy chest.
“Don’t you understand, Gia? They don’t believe you. They can never accept you. For them, you’re forever going to remain an outcast.”
His voice had unshackled the countless memories I had been suppressing for years, had kept them bound and locked into a cage deep inside my aching heart. Over the time, I had turned my chest into a cemetery and these painful memories buried deep into it were the remains of my dead emotions.
The horror written on my parents’ face when I had narrated to them my yearly encounters with Hysteria, the pitiful look my shrink had given me when I had told her about my doll coming to life as the reason behind my hiding in the small cabinet, the bullying and humiliation I had faced in every institute of mine because of my unnatural breakdowns, the way I had been cornered all my life, never allowed to become the part of the crowd; everything was coming back, washing over me like tides washing over a defenseless broken flank of wood, trying to take it with them to the deepest darkest parts of the sea.
I had been running from place to place, trying to find an escape from those damned ambers yet in the end those ambers were the place offering me a solace from my tortured past.
“Come to me, Gia. Come, and I’ll take care of all your pains.”
My hand which had been dangling at my side all along had started creeping up the leather clad arms, slowly moving up to reach and hold the already clasped pair of hands in front of my rib cage. His touch had woken up those dead feelings. His words had stirred the graveyard of my heart alive,
“Embrace your Hysteria.”
The man started placing butterfly kisses on the length of my neck, igniting a deep hunger inside of me.
The hunger to be accepted.
The hunger to be loved.
I could feel the ‘yes’ scratching my throat from inside, trying find a way to crawl out and escape from my lips and it almost did. It was on the tip of my tongue, ready to leave my mouth when the haze surrounding my head suddenly cleared as I saw the Jack in the box lying by my legs,
Pushing his hands away from my small frame, I broke out of his embrace, whirling around to glare daggers at him,
“Stop playing games with me!”
“But it is two hours before sunrise and our little game is still on.” His chalky lips had turned upside down in a small pout making me fume at his audacious behavior.
‘This is all just one big game for him, nothing more. I mean nothing to him.’
“And you’re about to be, with those wet clothes,”
With a snap of his fingers, the water clinging to my clothes instantly dried out.
If I hadn’t known what this crazy ass bastard was capable of doing, I’d have easily become fooled by his action, considering it a token of his care.
‘If he cared this much, he’d have let me go.’
My soft mumble had caused him to tilt his head to one side, letting his raven hair fall over one side of his head,
“A plaything, that’s what I am to you, right?”
Biting my lips to stop them from trembling, I kept my brimming eyes down, staring at my bloodied sneakers.
Keeping my frown intact, I turned my heated gaze back in order to glare up hard at him but found the place he had been sitting on empty.
In a flash, he had materialized in front of me, causing me to whirl my head in his direction with a snap, but I immediately froze in my position when I noticed how close we were. Our lips were just a hair’s breadth away. I could feel his hot breathing on my lips as he parted them to let his next words out,
“If this had been the case then that poisonous little mouth of yours would’ve long been added to the list of my prized collections.”
Running the pad of his thumb on my bottom lip, he gently grazed his soft lips against my static ones,
“I love your lips, more so when they’re joined to mine,”
It’d be a lie to say that his unusual remarks weren’t doing sinful things to the butterflies in my stomach. I had never witnessed this side of him and now that I had seen it, it had made captivated down to my bone.
“I’ve accepted your offer. I’ll become your companion. Now, it’s time for you to do the same.”
I had been tormented for too long to just let everything go in a single night.
Staring for a moment at his extended hand in my direction, I shoved it away with my curled fingers, trying my best to not flinch at the contact my fingers made with his burning skin.
“So you’ve decided on continuing the game, Gia?”
I had no idea why I became more unnerved whenever he addressed me my name instead of his infamous endearment.
I had almost forgotten about the stupid thing.
“Remember, I can’t bring you back from dead, especially when there are humans involved,”
‘Humans? Was he talking about that crowd around the doll incident?’
Placing a finger under my chin, he tilted my head towards him, making me crane my neck to look up at him. The unforeseen serious air that had appeared around him had disappeared altogether He was back to his crazy playful self,
“Do you know who you’re up against, darling?”
Pushing a lock of hair behind my ear, he neared his mouth to the side of my head before I suddenly felt something warm and wet running up my neck. He was licking my neck.
Just as he said that word, our surroundings started melted into a blob of nothingness, changing into a pitch black room with no source of light before small chips of colour started replacing the dark background, merging together to form a bright scenario once again.
The room we were standing in was empty of any objects. Its bare walls along with its high ceiling painted with the same colour, red. Crimson paint was dripping down from the ceiling onto the floor and the walls, resembling strawberry syrup trickling down snow white frosting of a cake, but I knew better than that. This was no piece of cake.
Slowly, Hysteria who was still leaning down for the purpose of whispering in my air, detached himself from me, allowing me to see his newly painted face.
Instead of the black and white colors marring his flawless skin, a new addition of green, blue and red had been made to his features, especially the blood red which was currently sticking to the tip of his nose and stretching his plump luscious lips into a wide grin.
“Darling, tell me what are you most afraid of?”
Over his shoulder, I could see a figure dressed in a red and blue silk shirt and a pair of bright yellow oversized pants. Similar to Hysteria there was smeared fake blood on his chalk white cheek, but his makeup hadn’t been done with as much grace as the man looming over me. Adjusting his scarlet wig on top of his head, the clown was waving to me with something that hadn’t been in his hands previously- a butcher’s knife, his polaroid camera nowhere to be found.
“Tell me, darling.”