Margaret Had A Brother
Margaret had a brother.
Margaret also had a doll named Jessica and Jessica had a thing that watched from behind it's glass eyes. It watched as the boy, much like their father, left the house each daylight with a bag of books and papers. That was Jessica's favorite part of the horrid morning, the time when the boy went away. The doll's relief was short-lived because the boy always came home soon after the sun reached its awful peak in the sky.
His name was Tristan and he was taller than Margaret, older. Jessica never saw him bother or abuse his sister. It was quite the opposite. Whenever Tristan came home, Margaret greeted him with a flurry of what were called kisses. Jessica knew kisses well. Margaret often kissed the doll after brushing its hair or dressing it in fresh clothes.
The thing behind Jessica's glass eyes grew annoyed. That annoyance matured into resentment, which in turn became fixation.
One night, Jessica climbed out of Margaret's arms while everyone was asleep and smashed several of Margaret's newer toys in Tristan's room. The doll then laid on the pile of broken things, watching.
The boy woke first. Margaret and their parents stormed into the room seconds later. Shouts were followed by denials, but the doll learned that Margaret was unique among children, rich in a trait called forgiveness. The girl cried at the destruction of her things, but she never raged at Tristan, not the way their father did. It was a reaction worth noting and Jessica soaked in every detail.
Each night, the doll found new ways to torment the boy. It shattered his expensive things and tore at his clothes. It crawled over him as he slept and scratched his arms and legs. After every encounter, the boy entered conflict with his parents, which made each effort doubly satisfying.
One of the mornings when Tristan and his father stayed home, the whole family went to an outdoor place where many other people gathered. The sun hid away more quickly at this time of year and it was cold enough for people to wear extra layers of clothing, even on their heads and hands. Margaret bundled the doll in extra layers as well and carried it with her.
The outing was pleasant, mostly walking from one shop to another.
After a time, Margaret's eyes became heavy and her walk slowed to a stumble. Her father lifted her high in his arms and held her there. Margaret refused to release the doll, but even her resolve couldn't hold out against the march of sleep. The doll slipped from her hands and fell to the ground.
As horrible as it was to be dropped, this was the opportunity that Jessica wanted. Tristan reached for the doll and Jessica bit him on the hand. The boy's blood was more tart than it was sweet, the doll discovered, like under-ripe strawberries.
The boy screamed and ran to his mother. His father huffed, then commanded him to get the doll for his sister. When Tristan refused, the father put Margaret down and began scolding him. The boy wilted beautifully, like a flower starved for water and light.
Margaret ran to the doll and grabbed it by the arm. She then darted past her mother, between the pair of males, and clutched her brother tightly.
Being pressed between the two children, the doll considered its failure. Tristan, it seemed, could do no wrong in his sister's eyes. No matter the offense, Margaret showered him with adoration. It was then that the doll accepted the simple truth that Margaret would never turn against her brother. Tristan had to go.
The next morning, the doll broke a glass frame and hid shards of it in the boy's first meal. There was blood, followed by screaming. Lights flashed outside and concerned-looking strangers in uniforms stomped all over the house. When they left, they took the boy with them.
Times were good while Tristan was away. Margaret cried often, but talked almost exclusively to the doll, telling it her deepest secrets. Margaret had silly secrets. The ones Jessica knew were far better.
But this, too, did not last. The boy came home many days later and Margaret still rushed to greet him with hugs and affection. Obsession festered into an all-consuming hatred, an inconsolable rage shrouded behind a porcelain face.
The house was mostly quiet during Tristan's first night back. Margaret and her father slept while Margaret's mother sobbed alone in the kitchen. Her mewling allowed the doll to climb out of Margaret's bed and creep into Tristan's room unnoticed by anyone other than the boy himself.
Tristan lay on his bed, staring at the doll as it opened his door. He was as still as stone, save for his eyes. They followed the doll's movements as it crawled up the boy's body and lay on his chest.
The thing behind the glass eyes flashed the boy a glimpse at the space beyond time. It showed him the place of its birth and death and rebirth, the place where it and others like it consumed the children of the daylight, not for sustenance, but to spite the sun.
Tristan screamed throughout the rest of that night. Morning came and there were more strangers in the house, dressed in still different uniforms. The family left with them, but returned without the boy, saying empty phrases like "they'll know what to do there" and "we'll visit him."
Margaret cried herself to sleep for many nights after that, clutching her beautiful doll.