Chapter 58

He was planning on bringing home ice cream, but he wasn’t sure that any of them could stand the stuff. He was driving through the downtown, he saw something better. He stopped and he purchased it.

When he got home he sat down in the living room with his wife and their two children. “I have always tried to be a good dad to you, and I’m so sorry my last present turned out to be so awful. I was thinking, if there is any way I could make it up to you guys. But I can’t. But maybe I can make you feel a little safer.”

Carefully he let the girls tear open the little cardboard box. Out stepped a ferocious looking little black puppy. “Here’s Tank, he’s our new guard dog. He will help keep us safe.”

Coralina squealed with excitement, and immediately start tackling the puppy, wrestling it, petting it. Kelly rolled her eyes. But before she could say anything, Beth finally spoke.

“The witch was bad. You, you are a good dad. Anything else is a lie.” Said the little girl standing up with her fists clenched. Her lips started to tremble as she said, “and I am a good girl, even though I killed her.” Tears started to trickle down her cheeks.

Kelly looked nervously at Mark, tears welling up in her own eyes. They had come out alive, but damaged. “You are a good girl.”

Mark picked up his little, nearly mute child and held her tightly. He realized, they had more in common than he had ever recognized before. She was just as terrified that he would not love her, just as much as he was terrified to be a bad dad. In the realization, that Beth could never do anything to make him love her less, he realized that he was a good dad. “Beth, I love you. You are so special. I’m sorry we had to fight her, but I’m glad she lost, and we won.”

She relaxed in his arms and whispered, “Okay.”

Kelly smiled for the first time in ages. Mark realized that maybe they’d never have a picket fence, and maybe they’d just be a regular, damaged family. But they could still be a good family. And that was enough.

Chapter 57

Three days had passed. Mark was drumming his fingers on the steering wheel of his truck. His creaking and groaning, and he kept glancing in the rearview mirror as the music played. He could see the perfect little shingles on the perfect little dollhouse sitting in the bed of his truck. He continued to drum his fingers, trying to sing to the radio louder. He pulled up to the dump, and he went to throw it off the truck, when the man working at the dump said, “hang on! I’ll take that dollhouse.”

Mark frowned and lied. “It’s covered in cat piss.”

The man wrinkled his nose. Mark threw the dollhouse with as much might as he could, so the man would see it shatter in the pile of junk. He looked visibly discouraged, and trudged off.

But even as Mark saw it shatter, the dollhouse slowly started to repair itself. Surely would take a few hours, but eventually that dollhouse would stand sturdy and strong inside the dump. But Mark had a plan for this to, and he ripped opened his garbage bags and dumped them on top of the dollhouse. Rotting food, old papers, anything else he could dump on top of that he did. For anyone to find it, they’d have to dig through shit to get there. Maybe that would be enough of a deterrent.

He climbed back in the car and he thought to himself that he still wasn’t sure that his little family was going to be okay. Beth hadn’t spoken since they’d gotten back home. Coralina seem to make up for it, by being extra bubbly.

And Kelly was in a foul mood. Her throat was still covered in bruises from his big hands. Gratefully she was keeping it covered, because it broke his heart to see.

But he still felt like a shitty father.

Chapter 56

“Put the gun down.” Hissed the witch, staring at the little girl.

“She made dad kill mom!” Screamed Coralina, her body was shuddering in terrible sobs, as she was tied to the chair. The tears were running down like waterfalls. Her sobs were so painfully strong that the cabin seemed to wince.

“Put the gun down.” Hissed the witch again. She took a few steps toward Beth, but Mark suddenly slammed past her.

“You are next.” Said Mark and he turned, slamming into the witch. He shoved her to the floor and leapt on Coralina. He looked massive compared to the tiny girl, his hands nearly wrapped around her throat ten times.

Coralina let out a scream, is her father’s hands pressed to her face. Beth was screaming. Her dad was slowly suffocating her sister. Coralina’s eyes were wide with fear, as she frantically stared at her sister then the witch, back and forth. Begging with her eyes.

The witch stood slowly, cracking her spine loudly as she pulled herself off the floor. She cocked her head to the side, and smiled her terrible teeth at Beth She took one step forward.

But Beth, against all odds, did the one thing she was most terrified of doing. She pulled the trigger.

Chapter 55

Kelly climbed up the ladder quickly, while Mark was still untying his feet. Even in a state of utter bliss, hunting for ice cream she accidentally saved herself. If she had stayed down there a moment longer, Mark would’ve killed her. But as it stood she climbed out from the cellar.

“Do you have any ice cream?” Kelly asked.

In the witch let out a terrible laugh. “You are in the middle of the bliss. You won’t care at all if I kill your daughter, her husband, or yourself. Is that right?”

Kelly shook her head and said, “I don’t care, it’s just that I really want some ice cream. It’s delicious. And… I don’t like death, because life is so beautiful. I’m not sure I would be mad at you over it, for after all I’m sure you had your reasons.”

Kelly strode confidently towards the freezer, clearly planning on ice cream. “Coralina do you want some ice cream?”

The little girl burst into tears. “Mama you have to kill her.”

Then the real trouble started as Mark climbed up the ladder and he smiled. Not one moment later he was charging Kelly. He knocked her to the ground his hands pressed tightly to her throat.

“Don’t hurt mommy!” Screamed Coralina. Her tiny throat aching from the effort. The scream was big and sharp, like a child who is properly terrified, and she watched her mother slowly turned red. Then Kelly made a garbled sound, as her lips started turning blue.

“Mommy! Daddy please stop!” Coralina was crying, her screams with terrible hiccups of fear.

The witch was laughing.

“Beth! He’s going to kill her! He’s going to kill mom!” Coralina screamed at the top of her lungs, fear completely consumed her. Her ears were ringing, her throat was burning from her effort to make her sister hear her. As she helplessly watched as her mother went limp in her father’s hands. His eyes were wild, and out of control. She wondered, if her mother was already dead.

She let out a wail, so loud and sharp and piercing that the entire woods would hear it.

The front door swung open. There stood a trembling five-year-old Beth, her hands shaking violently as she lifted the shotgun to her shoulder.

Chapter 54

Beth cowered in the woods. She had buried herself even further into the bush. Her tiny hands gripped the rifle.

Could she shoot a witch?

She tried to imagine her daddy, and his advice for how to hold the gun. How to aim. What it felt like to pull the trigger. She had already gotten pretty good at target shooting. Every shot hit the target, and one time she even hit the red part in the middle. She closed her eyes and swallowed. Shooting an animal was good, it gave them food. But a person? Even a witch?

It was illegal. Beth didn’t want the cops to hunt her. But also, it was scary and bad. She didn’t like to be bad. Tears trickled down her cheeks. She didn’t want to be bad. Couldn ‘t they just go home?

But then she imagined the witch, hurting her dad, and her mom, and her sister. She’d fight to keep them safe. She could pull the trigger, couldn’t she? They needed her.

She saw a light go on in the cabin, and drew back even further. Maybe she could just wave the gun around?

Chapter 53

Kelly bound his wrists together with the belt, before she started to feel this intense overwhelming pleasure. “Ice cream does sound amazing.” She murmured.

“Not as good as your blood will taste.” Said Mark, and he was grinning with a coldness.

Kelly finished tying him down. Just as the light from above grew bright. It took a while for their eyes to adjust before they finally saw the ladder sliding down. Kelly grinned, “Hey! It looks like we can get out of here. Doesn’t that sound great? I wouldn’t have minded staying down here longer. There’s something about the dark that’s just… Beautiful.” She said with a grin, and started to climb the ladder.

Mark coughed, “Untie me so I can go up the ladder too.”

Kelly grinned at her beautiful husband, “okay-dokay, just let me to see if there’s ice cream upstairs first.” She said and then she winked at her husband.

“No. Do it now.” He ordered. His eyes were staring at her throat. Kelly smiled and stepped towards him and he turned around to offer her the belts tied tightly around his wrists.

“Why did I tie you up?” Kelly asked, calmly. He could feel her fingers starting to work on the binding. “Oh I remember! Do you still want to kill us?” Asked Kelly with her eyes sparkling.

“Yes.” Said Mark, with a big grin towards his wife. “That’s why need you to let me out.”

“Okay.” Said Kelly. Then she started to undo the knot.

“Mama! Don’t let daddy out, come help me.” Coralina screamed.

Chapter 52

Coralina let out a muffled cry as the witch’s hand slammed over her mouth. Her hand felt cold and bony, and the skin seemed so thin. The flesh on the witch was crinkling like a ruined teddybear. Coralina shuddered in her grip, a scream trying to creep between the bony fingers.

But she couldn’t do it, it was like the scream had been sucked out of her lungs and into the witches hand. She felt muffled, and frightened. The witch started to grow in size, and Coralina felt weak. Her body went limp in the witch’s hands she could hear her voice outside of herself saying, “mommy, daddy, let’s play.” Coralina was terrified to hear herself talking. She had said that? Or had she? It didn’t make any sense. That was the part that; scared her the most, was that things that were happening were no longer making sense to her.

“The witch pinned her in a chair and wrapped a long strand of hair around her. The hair was one of her own hairs, a long white one from her head. When it seemed to be getting too short she kissed it twice and it grew longer. She continued to wrap it around and around Coralina in the chair until she was spun like a fly in a web. Only her head sticking out of the cocoon of white hair, one singular long thread zipped around her thousands of times.

Coralina was so frightened, that she immediately peed herself. The witch frowned, but did not even attempt to conversation or scolding with her and instead set about starting a pot of tea.

Coralina tried to speak again, but the only words that came out were, “Mommy! Daddy! Please save me.” It was like she had been preprogrammed with words, like a videogame where she only had as few voice selections for her character. She couldn’t make any other phrases come out of her mouth, try as she might.

She wanted to say Can I have some tea? Why are you doing this? But she couldn’t get any of those words outside of her throat, they caught like cotton.

“Don’t worry darling, I only need to borrow it for a moment.” The witch said, calmly. They heard a loud clattering noise for a second and then tiny footsteps running away. The witche’s neck cried pop pop pop, as she twisted her face in a circle staring towards the back door. “It seems your sister has found the gun.” The witch smiled with a big gaping smile with sharp teeth dangling down. “It’s a shame she’ll be too afraid to use it.”

“Are you scared little girl?” Said the witch as she leaned forwards and smelled Coralina’s hair.

Coralina tried to scream, but all that came out was, “Mommy! Daddy! Come save me!”

Chapter 51

Mark was pounding on the walls, loudly with the clattering fists. “I’m sure this is how we get out of here. There is a false wall, I just don’t remember which one it is. But one of these four…” He said pointing around the dark room, and his hand nearly smacking his wife in the face.

Kelly couldn’t see him, but she could feel his frantic voice. “I’ve already tried the walls, there is nothing loose, nothing rattled. We can’t be in the dollhouse anyways, what kind of craziness would that be?”

“I had a giant needle sticking out of my eye. It ended up smacking stuff and then finally I got a false wall opened… This is exactly like the dollhouse. The witch put us in the dollhouse, that’s the only explanation. She didn’t want us to finally get rid of her wretched curse. I’m absolutely certain if we press in the right spot, or if someone would tip that little book over then the wall will move. Then we can get out of here.” He said confidently, but mostly with the terror laden confidence, as if he knew he was losing it, but he didn’t know what to do about it.

“But then what? If we are in the dollhouse, how can we save the girls? How can we stop you from killing everyone? I know you are still in the fear stage, but isn’t next slaughter?” Her question was innocent enough, but immediately before she was on top of her in the dark, his hands wrapped tight around her throat.

“I will kill you if I want to kill you. Don’t test me!” He snarled. And then, as if he had been slapped he let go of her. “Tie me up. That way I don’t kill you. Please hurry.”

“How?” She said, frantically looking for something in the room to tie inbound her husband with. What if he was changing right now? He’d go crazy and slaughter her right down here, in the midst of the darkness.

“My belt, are you wearing a belt? Or anything else, anything at all. You better hurry. I’m already thinking about choking you again.” He said, the fear fading from his voice.

Chapter 50

Beth was silently waiting out side of the cabin. She had been trying to psych herself up to go check the door, but she couldn’t do it. As soon as Coralina was swallowed by the darkness, she found herself too afraid to continue. So instead, she tucked herself further into the bush and covered her hands over her eyes.

She could feel her heart thump, thump in her wrists, and in her ear is, it was so loud she was afraid that everyone could hear it. Her right foot twinge slightly, and she felt the crackle of a stick and some leaves rustling as she moved. The fear was too big. It was a like a balloon that had blown up too big. Could little girls pop? At five years old, this was the biggest fear she had ever felt. She longed for the moments when she was just home being a regular girl. When that she didn’t have to do anything to protect her mother, or her father, or even worse Coralina who seemed completely wackadoodle.

What could she, a tiny little five-year-old girl do? She wasn’t even sure she was capable of finding help, if she knew how to get a police man she would go get a police man. If she knew how to call 911, she would. But she had no phone, she had nothing. Not even a weapon.

Finally she decided that the front door was too risky. So she carefully started creeping out from her brush and going around the cabin, intending on examining it from all sides. It was then that she saw it.

At the back of the cabin, on the porch laying propped against the building was a rifle.

Beth knew how to use a rifle, she had almost shot a deer. But she hesitated too long, and her father took over. He said this summer she would make her first kill, to make up for last summer when she was too chicken. He didn’t really mind that she was too chicken, it wasn’t a memory full of anger and fighting. He just calmly looked at her and said, “Beth, today is not your day. Next year.”

But when he fired his rifle, her whole body was covered in so much adrenaline that she feels herself trembling, even though she wasn’t even a tiny bit cold. It was so exciting, so glorious to be out with her father, filling the freezer with delicious venison. Later she had helped her mother cook venison steaks, and it felt… It felt normal and real, to follow her meal from slaughter to plate. She knew some of the other kids at school thought it was creepy, and only two had also been hunting. They said the same things that she felt, and she thought; Killing an animal was perfectly acceptable. It wasn’t a big deal.

And yet, all she could think about was that she hesitated when push came to shove. She would rather go hungry than shoot that buck. But she knew how to use a rifle. So she ran, her tiny little feet pounding across the dirt grabbed the rifle and ran like hell back into the woods. Now with her weapon, she huddled back in another little bush. She carefully opened up the gun and checked – there were two bullets. She carefully closed the gun back up as she could feel the sweat trickling down her back.

She couldn’t shoot a buck, with her dad. How could she shoot a witch, all alone?

Chapter 49

Coralina stepped into the cabin, and peered around in the dark. She couldn’t see much of anything, for the lights were off. She turned around and fumbled at the wall. She quickly found a switch and flipped it on. When she turned back, she saw that she was in a little one room cabin. There was a kitchen along the back wall, a bed to the right, the couch to the left. There was a large fireplace on the far left. And sitting in front of the fireplace was rocking chair, inside the rocking chair with an old lady. Her hair looked electric, and spiky. Her nose was long and twisted, as if someone slammed it in a door a long time ago.

Her eyes were solid white, with no iris, and no pupil. Coralina wasn’t sure if she was looking at her or away from her. “Do you have any ice cream?” Asked Coralina, walking calling over to the witch.

The witch turned her head slowly with a long cracking pop in her spine, that protested the change in direction.

Coralina skipped forwards and sat on the ground. “Or could you tell me a story? I love stories. Stories are my favorite. Besides ice cream, if you have ice cream I want that first.”

Coralina went criss-cross applesauce on the floor. Carefully tucking one leg under the other until she felt like a pretzel. She clasped her hands together and set them in her lap and smiled up expectantly at the white eyed witch.

The witch was now looking the wrong direction, and Coralina coughed loudly. Slowly she clicked her spine loudly as she turned her skull back pointed at the small child. It was then, that Coralina felt a flicker of fear crawling past her elation. The intense, overwhelming happiness that was pouring through every bit of her for the last few hours was suddenly waning. As she stared at the witch, she recognized at her white eyes for something to be afraid of, as she heard the clicking of the spine, she felt the trigger of fear running up her own spine. Something was wrong here, the witch was not friendly, she probably didn’t even have ice cream.

In fact, she couldn’t remember why she wanted ice cream in the first place. Where was her mother? Where was her father?

What had happened to Beth?

These questions started to rattle back and forth in Coralina’s brain and she wondered, with intense terror, how she could fight a witch all alone.

And then with terrifying speed the witch stood up and lunged for her.