The Paper Menagerie

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A collection of short ranging from one to a few chapters containing their own narrative. More stories will be added periodically.

Pseudo Ink
Age Rating:

Birthday present

It was early morning on a summer day. Joy gets up from her bed and checks the calendar. The current day is encircled in a bright red marker and beside it is the word "Birthday" with large exclamations. She jumps with glee as she hopes that this year her friends would come to her party like they did years before. She recalls all the fond memories she had back then, but before she got lost in her own memories she hears three knock on her bedroom door. She turns to see her mother behind the door peeking in to the room. Her mother then enters the room and greets Joy.

"Good morning my beautiful birthday girl. Are you excited for today?" Her mother exclaims.

Joy gives a big nod along with a hug and a smile.

"Well, breakfast is ready how about we get down there and afterwards you can help me with the decorations?"

They both head to the kitchen where they enjoy a lovely breakfast together where after-which Joy helped with preparing for the party. Joy went around the house decorating, and she couldn't help but feel excited all day.

When all the preparations were complete, Joy sat by the window waiting for the guests to arrive. An hour passed and no one has arrived. Maybe they we're just getting ready, she told herself. Another hour passed and another and another. Joy sat by the window staring at the now setting sun and feeling down. She then hears three knocks behind her, her mother is standing by the door. She looks at her daughter, kneels down and gives her a hug.

"How about we go and get some cake?" Her mother says in a soft tone.

Joy sat on the dinner table with a slice of cake sitting in front of her, but she did not feel like eating any. It was dead silent at the dinner table until Joy's mother broke the silence.

"Tell you what. I still have a present for you, but it's hidden somewhere in the house. Why don't you go look for it?"

Joy's mood got lifted somewhat slightly on the prospect of a gift waiting for her. So she stands up from her seat and begins searching throughout the house. She went from the pantry to the laundry room to her bedroom and her mother's room. She searched high and low for her gift but couldn't find it. She thought of more places where she could search but all that was left was the attic.

She never liked the attic, something always made her feel uncomfortable just thinking about it. But she musters enough courage and pulls down the ladder to the attic. She climbs its rickety steps and enters the dusty room.

Joy looks around the room but it is too dark to see. She sees a small window at one end of the room covered by drapes. Creeping closer to it she is careful not to break anything. She pulls the drapes to the side letting the last bit of sunlight to come inside. She turns around and begins inspecting the area and sees boxes of various sizes piled up on one side, some are filled with toys and some with books. She pushes them around and sees a ribbon tied box on the corner. It looked dustier and older than she expected but it was still a present. She checks the tag attached on the box and it was addressed to her. But the gift wasn't from her mother but her father. Joy sat in the attic puzzled for a minute because whenever the topic about her father came up her mother would always ignore the question or change the topic.

Joy sat there staring at the box, wondering what is inside. She pulls the ribbon aside and opens the box. Inside were three video tapes and a small video recorder. She inspects the tapes finding each of them labeled as 1, 2, 3. She then picks up the recorder and flips open the display screen and runs her finger over a crack across it. She fiddles with it a bit looking for a power button until one turns it on. The screen says it is on low power with a blinking icon on the top. Joy takes one of the tapes labelled 1 and inserts it on the tape deck. The device whirs to life and a video promptly plays on the screen.

The scene depicts Joy on one of her birthday parties. She is playing along with all her friends and running around. The camera points towards her and a voice in the background tells her to say hi to the camera. The camera then turns to her mother who looks a bit younger. The video then ends after the camera is dropped by the one holding it. Joy removes the tape from the deck while trying to remember the voice of the one holding the camera, it feels somewhat familiar. She then grabs the tape labelled 2 and places it in the deck. The device whirs once more and the video plays. This time it depicts Joy and a bunch of kids at the dinner table. Everyone is singing her a birthday song while a cake is being brought to her. On top of the cake is a candle in the shape of a number fourteen. The Joy in the video blows out the candle and everyone else applauds. The cake is the cut and served to everyone. The video ends when Joy's mother approaches the man holding the camera and offers him a slice of cake. Joy pulls out the tape from the deck only this time she tries and process the content of the video. For in it the cake depicts it's her fourteenth birthday, but this day was her fourteenth birthday as well. She ponders on it as she places the last tape labelled 3 into the deck. The video plays this time displaying a black screen and her voice in the background.

"Daddy is taking me to the ice cream parlor today." She hears herself talking.

"Sweetie you're holding the camera wrong." A voice says, the same voice that was behind the camera before.

The camera shuffles a bit and is now pointed to a man currently driving a car. Joy rears back a bit after seeing the person on the screen.

"There you go. Isn't that better?" The man says while looking at the camera. The Joy in the video giggles a bit before turning the camera towards her.

"How do I stop it now daddy?"

The man then tries to take the camera before a light shines on Joy's face followed by the loud horn. The video then stops there and Joy promptly closes the screen.

Joy is now sat on the attic floor with the room around her now completely dark. She thinks back to what she just saw and tries processing it all.

She then hears three knocks behind her.
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