Balloon Girl touched the last two strings to the floor, unlocking girls who twirled in glitter and gave me nods to tell me they were ready. I dashed toward the kitchen, prepared to grab the biggest knife I could find. Pulling open a drawer, there it was. A sharp butcher blade as long as my forearm. I told myself I could do this. I picked it up and shut the drawer.
The girls were waiting near the entrance. I ran back to them. As I did, the knife turned to plastic in my hand. I stared at it in dumb confusion. Then, beginning at the ceiling, plastic began spreading over the entire home. Every wall, every edge. Plastic and colored white.
“What? What’s happening?” I fumbled with my plastic blade, then dropped it to the plastic floor.
Stitch Mouth pulled in a meek breath of defeat. “I don’t know.”
Balloon Girl shook her head.
I turned and turned, spinning in horror. “Why?”
“We have to go,” Stitch Mouth said, fumbling through her purse.
“Where? You hardly have enough chalk!”
“I have enough for now. We need to go!”
Balloon Girl whipped her head towards the nearest window. They are here!
Windows were pulled open.
Run! Upstairs! Stitch Mouth! Get us out of here!
We raced towards the stairs as the sounds of eager bodies emerged through the windows. A plump girl in a dress was in the window nearest us, and a boy climbed through another window just ahead. They shrieked in glee and began clambering through frantically as we passed them. I was at the spiral staircase first, Balloon Girl in my arms. Stitch Mouth was slowed by her search for a new chalk that would be our escape, lifting her eyes from her purse in short spurts only to yell, “Go! I’m right behind you!”
A child lunged, grabbing hold of Stitch Mouth’s purse and causing her to trip. Stitch Mouth fell. The remaining chalk scattered away. Stitch Mouth worked her way back to her feet, but a boy jumped on top of her.
Go to her!
Before I could do anything, a balloon girl dove into the child who had mounted Stitch Mouth, allowing Stitch Mouth to break free.
I carried Balloon Girl up the stairs. Stitch Mouth followed. The other balloon girl was up ahead, waving frantically for us to hurry. I glanced behind. The balloon girl who had saved Stitch Mouth was having her head stomped by the three children. I wanted to go to her.
I ran up the stair. Stitch Mouth shut the door.
I placed Balloon Girl to the floor. “Chalk, we’re out of chalk!” I stated. “What do we do?”
We wait out the night. It’s our only choice.
With my eyes, I searched the room for any sign of a weapon or some idea on a new plan. The children could be heard racing up the stairs. They began banging against the door in a fury, causing us to huddle against the door to support it. The banging continued in loud thuds that filled the plastic room with muffled noises that drained my hope. The night had just begun.
The door gave off a pathetic sound. It was breaking.
We cannot do this all night. Balloon Girl’s voice was quiet and defeated.
“I know,” Stitch Mouth said.
I had hoped –
“Me too,” Stitch Mouth said.
I love you, you know.
Tears coursed down Stitch Mouth’s face. “I love you too.”
“No,” I said, trying to regain their attention. “It’s not over. We can do this. We just have to wait out the night.”
They ignored me.
You have one last chalk, don’t you?
Stitch Mouth smirked through the tears. “Of course.”
I thought I was supposed to be the tricky one.
Stitch Mouth smirked.
Then use it, my friend. And goodbye.
They wrapped themselves in each other’s arms. They kissed. Stitch Mouth stepped from the door. “Sarah, help Balloon Girl and the other hold the door as long as you can. I have one last chalk. When I call to you, come to me.”
“We can still do this,” I said, crying.
“No. Please. No.”
“When I call to you, you come to me. Understand? Tell me you understand.”
Tell her, Sarah.
Stitch Mouth removed a translucent chalk from a tiny fold in her skirt.
“We can hold the door,” I said to Balloon Girl.
Sarah. You need to do what Stitch Mouth said. All the levity, all the playful sarcasm I had ever heard from Balloon Girl, was gone. She sounded tired and sad.
“Please don’t do this. There’s another chalk. Please.”
“Come, Sarah!” Stitch Mouth called. There was an open door beside her.
The door was breaking even more at our backs.
“Not without you two,” I said.
“You’ll go through with me?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yes. We’ll go! Now, hurry!”
“Balloon Girl, you’ll come with us?”
Yes! I’ll be right behind you. Go!
The center of the door split apart, large enough for fingers to dig through. My hair was yanked. I ripped my head away, losing a chunk of hair.
Go, Sarah! Now!
The door peeled apart further.
“Sarah!” Stitch Mouth screamed. “Now!”
I dashed across the room and threw myself through the door Stitch Mouth had made. “It’s too small,” I said, pressing myself back out, “It’s only big enough for me.”
Stitch Mouth thrust her body against me, knocking me all the way in. Then she shut the door. The walls were tight, congested against me. I had to shimmy around to face the door. The door was clear. When I went to open it, my hand slid over the smooth surface. There was no knob.
I banged on my prison. “Stitch Mouth! Let me out!”
Stitch Mouth knelt down to face me. “I’m sorry, Sarah.”
“You promised! You promised we’d all go through!”
Across the room, the door split in half. The filthy faces and wide eager mouths of the children shoved against each other to be the first one through.
Balloon Girl and the last balloon girl stepped back from the plastic door and turned towards the children.
Come, you rotten children of that whore witch. Come to me.
The children smiled, separating to circle Balloon Girl and the other girl. Balloon Girl lunged at the first child, a boy, knocking him to the floor. Balloon Girl dug a hooked finger behind his eye and ripped it out. The boy writhed and screamed, grasping at his wound, and Balloon Girl did the same to his other eye. The other balloon girl was at the next child. She grabbed the boy’s hair in her hands and took a great step backwards, slinging the boy head-first into the floor where his face crunched, breaking his nose.
The blind boy remained where he was, crying about his missing eyes. The boy with the broken nose held his face in both hands while the balloon girl kicked the back of his head. Only the girl was left. Her face and neck were streaked in dark filth. Her fingernails were black with dirt and her hair was plastered to one side of her head. She backed away as Balloon Girl and the other girl cornered her.
I gave the door a thump of victory. Balloon Girl had done it.
The witch stepped through. She kicked Balloon Girl to the floor and batted the other balloon girl away. The children of the witch rose at her appearing, even the blind boy, who cried out, “Mother!”
Balloon Girl scrambled to her feet. The other balloon girl tried to as well, but was driven to the floor by the girl and the other boy. They beat her to death.
“Let me out!” I screamed. “Let me out!”
Balloon Girl stood in defiance before the witch.
“Go to her!” I screamed to Stitch Mouth. “Help her!”
“You don’t think I want to?” Tears of pain and anger streamed down her face.
Stitch Mouth remained silent, watching the end of her friend.
Balloon Girl became a torrent of nasty rage, clawing and biting at whoever was closest. But there were too many. Balloon Girl was tripped, tackled, and pinned to the floor. The witch bent over Balloon Girl and took up one of her wrists, examining it.
My father should have killed you when he had the chance.
The witch ripped the arm free. Balloon Girl grunted in pain, breathing fast and doing everything she could to make sure the witch would not have the satisfaction of hearing her cry.
You killed me once. So, I’m sort of used to it. But I know something you don’t know. Sarah is still going to kill you. Too bad you can’t hear me say that, or I’d scream it into your stupid face!
“I can hear you,” the witch said casually.
“I can hear you.”
The witch tore the other arm away. “Won’t cry, will you? Naughty girl. Always so naughty.”
Balloon Girl was gasping. I wanted to be the one to kill you. For everything you did. To us. To all the others. But that’s okay. My last regret is that I won’t be there to watch you die.
“We both have regrets. No more flesh. Bones will do. Pain will do. Pain for you.”
The witch reached down and ripped Balloon Girl’s leg away.
Argh! Balloon Girl let out a cry of pain. I hate you! I hate you!
“Never nice. So naughty. Always lying. Lying about me. Your voice. So beautiful. Came back alive. I could hear you again. Hear you through the walls. Led me. Followed your voice.”
Stitch Mouth whispered, “No.”
“Heard you. Your plans. Such a grand plan. Stab me to death. No. Never. You told me. Maybe you’re not so naughty after all.”
Balloon Girl turned her head towards us. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.
Stitch Mouth blew her a kiss.
The witch grabbed Balloon Girl by the skull. “All done. Over now. Your parents couldn’t keep you safe. And not your friends. You wanted me to die. Six or seven times. I get to kill you twice. Two times.”
Balloon Girl sang.
She’s ugly, oh so ugly, our mommy dear,
Ugly as a donkey’s rear.
She wants to be our mommy,
But she’s nothing but a witch.
With a shriek, the witch snapped Balloon Girl’s skull from her body. The song ended.
“No!” I managed through my sobs. “No!” I held my face in my hands.
Stitch Mouth whispered so only I could hear, “I have loved this, more than you know. And I am so very thankful for everything. Being with Balloon Girl. Returning to my home. Becoming your friend. Stop looking at the witch, Sarah. I know she’s coming. It’s okay. Look at me. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. You can do this.” Stitch Mouth pressed a kiss to the door. “These have been some of the best times of my life. No regrets. Say it, Sarah. For me.”
“No regrets,” I whispered.
She smiled sadly at me. “I have one last request.”
“Will you say something that will strengthen me one last time?”
“I love you,” I said.
Fresh tears came to her red eyes. “I love you, too.”
Stitch Mouth turned just as the witch drew near. The children were behind her. The witch hissed. The children laughed. I cried. A song rose above it all. Stitch Mouth lifted her voice higher than I had ever heard.
She’s ugly, oh so ugly, our mommy dear,
Ugly as a donkey’s rear,
She wants to be our mommy,
But she’s just a mangy –
The witch clutched Stitch Mouth by the throat. Stitch Mouth’s voice was stopped, but her lips moved with the silent words as she continued to sing. Soon, her body convulsed. Before she died, Stitch Mouth slapped the last fragment of chalk against the wall. Everything disappeared.