Part 7 – Fear

Chapter 36

As the sun rose that morning, Coralina was delighted. She was doing summersaults, her broken arm spinning around with her body, and singing. It seemed like nothing could damper a child’s mood. Her sister Beth was quietly watching her.

“Daddy? Coralina seems way too happy.” Beth said, looking nervously at her dad.

He still had a frightened look in his eye, and he nearly jumped when she spoke. “I know.” He said, with a soft breathiness. It was like that hum, that static electricity sound had never left. He was terrorized. He was frightened, he was terror itself. His hands were literally trembling as he was trying to turn on the stove to make food.

But he had this sudden thought, what if he turned the switch on their electric stove and something caught on fire. What if he was trying to cook the eggs, a towel caught on fire, then the house?

He reached for the knob on the stove and then hesitated and put his hand back by his side and he turned to stare at his two daughters. Coralina did another summersault. His whole body shuddered with fright.

“Coralina quit horsing around. It’s dangerous.” He said, his voice cracking with terror. He turned back to turn on the stove again, but his hand he couldn’t seem to will to do it. How could he turn on the stove, when he wasn’t sure if it would kill them? Finally he told everyone to come eat cereal. That was the best he could do, feed them cereal. It was too terrifying to do anything else. Kelly was on the phone, and he could hear her frantically speaking, “Can’t you please take the girls today? Please mama?”

There was a long pause, while he carefully and gingerly got out a bowl. He was worried it might shatter, and he longed to have a plastic bowl instead of one of the sharp, dangerous ceramic ones. He carried it to the table delicately.

“Mom, please.” Said Kelly, her voice sounded anxious and frantic.

He carefully set the bowl on the table, and then he went and got another one. Carefully he carried it also to the table. He imagined he would trip, and the bowl would shatter and impale his jugular. Or worse… His children.

“Hi, Karen? Is there any chance you can take my girls today. We’ve had a bit of an emergency situation come up… And I know we are very close but… Oh. Okay I understand. No… I’m sure will be fine. Thanks.” Kelly hung up the phone. She sat scrolling through contracts.

He went to the drawer and he got two spoons out, one for each daughter. The more he looked at them the more uncomfortable he felt. They seemed dangerous, inherently so. As if they were the perfect kind of weapon to torture someone for a very long time.

Maybe he could find one of those toddler’s spoons… The plastic ones with the oddly long handle.

He realized he was starting to sweat.

“Hi Molly I know we haven’t spoke in… Okay.” And Kelly hung up. “Fuck. I can’t find anyone to take the girls. I don’t know what to do with them.”

“We can’t leave them with someone! They’ll get killed.” Mark said his eyes narrowing on his wife. “Why did we never baby proof this house! Coralina is doing summersaults, and we have the stupid ceramic bowls. It’s ridiculous.” And he took the milk jug and he thumped it on the table.

The loud thump of the milk jug made all of the silverware and bowls rattle. Mark instinctively ducked under the table. He wasn’t going to let it get his jugular.

“You are in the middle of the fear stage. It’s not as real as it seems.” Said Kelly. As she scrolled her contacts again. But the truth was they didn’t have very many friends. It was slowly becoming evident to Kelly that she was going to have to take the girls with them… Take them with. Hey girls, want to go kill a witch.

What a family outing.

She wished desperately Mark was himself, but he was clearly starting to lose his mind. He would chicken out even starting the car at this point. Her fingertips pressed into her skull as she tried to get the panic to settle.

Chapter 37

Kelly spent the rest of the morning packing the car, she packed it with everything that she thought she might need in the next few days. Food, guns, ropes. Activities for the girls. Even though, in her head it sounded ridiculous. “Hey why don’t you color me a cute picture while I put this bullet through that witch’s head.”

Mark seem to be cowering in fear the entire time the car was being packed. He protested, repeatedly until Kelly threatened to punch his face if he continued. And that there was enough, for all he could imagine was her fist going straight through his skull and into his brain matter. She was a feisty little woman, and who knew how much power she had in that little arm. So he stopped protesting and instead he nervously sat with the two girls, reading to them very carefully lest they get a paper cut.

When Kelly finally announced she was ready, everyone got in the truck. Kelly drove straight to the witch’s house.

“The girls you will have to stay in the minivan. Keep the car locked. Do not come inside, no matter what. I repeat do not come inside.” Kelly repeated this mantra every few miles as she drove. Every time she said it Mark seem to cower in his seat. But Coralina just looked happy as ever, grinning like a fool.

Beth was silent her lips drawn tight, staring out the window.

Kelly did not park close to the witches cabin. Instead choosing to park down the road, hidden in the woods. She pulled the truck deep into the woods so would be hard to be seen.

She handed her husband his rifle. “We are going to hunt her.”

He swallowed nervously and nodded. But his hands were shaking so hard that Kelly wondered if he’d be able to hit the broad side of the barn.

“Girls, you must stay in the truck. Do not get out. Do not follow us.” Kelly said. Then she gestured to the cooler full of snacks and food, and her cell phone. Plus the large pile of games and coloring books. “All of this should be able to keep you busy. But if we are gone more than three hours I want you to call 911.”

“Okay mama! Is there any chance we could have ice cream?” Coralina, with a big bright smile. She was making faces at Beth, and giggling hysterically.

Beth was deadpan, her face tight and stressed looking.

Mark was trembling as he climbed out of the car with his rifle. Kelly had her own gun, and she grabbed a backpack with the ropes and other assorted restraint devices. “All right, Mark. Let’s go.” She gestured for him to follow her, she hadn’t parked super far, because her broken foot was a huge hindrance to moving through the woods. She was limping.She lifted her rifle and used the scope to scan the terrain in front of her. She’s hoping this would be quick.

Find the witch, shoot her. And then the all be free. Then Mark won’t go crazy and kill them. Or herself… Or Coralina.

Mark was so afraid next to her. She could feel the fear thick in the air. It was giving her goosebumps as they walked forwards, pressing towards the cabin.

She peered in the windows using the scope to magnify her sight, but she saw nothing.

“Kelly I’m frightened.” Said Mark, and she turned and saw him trembling beside her. He was a few steps back, and his gun wasn’t raised, it hang hung limply next to his side. As though he was afraid to lift it, lest he shoot someone.

The annoyance was clear on Kelly’s face. “You should fear me. Because if you harm our little girls in the next stage I will get destroy you.” Kelly said, spinning her rifle to aim it at her husband. If she could do nothing for him, but spur him into action it would be enough.

But it was too effective, and he burst into tears and started to run. “God damn it. Mark! You fucking shit head.” She couldn’t follow him, not only did she not run, but she needed to finish this.

And hope… With all her heart that he didn’t kill the children while she hunted the witch.

She pushed forwards through the woods, her movements slow and loud, her foot refusing to be any quieter. It was aching, as she moved. And she wished she had brought the crutches.

Finally she got to the front door. She tested the handle and it moved easily. She went into the witch’s house.

Chapter 38

Mark didn’t run very far, before he immediately regretted running away from his wife. It was terrifying to be alone in the woods, even more so than her pointing the gun at him. Although… That was terrifying too. What had she said? She said that she would kill him if he hurt those girls. The idea of him being killed by his beautiful wife scared him so much he nearly pissed himself. So he decided to help her.

Quietly he moved through the woods, his gun trembling in his hand. He tried not to make any noise, stopping repeatedly and listening for any animals, or anything. But it was fairly silent. Just the slight breeze rustling leaves on the trees. But he didn’t hear another human, or another animal. Finally he got close enough to the cabin that he could peek in the windows. He had to make a small break from the edge of the woods all the way to the front of the cabin. He ran panting, covered in sweat, terrified. His heart was thumping in his chest so hard that he couldn’t see straight. His eyes felt bloodshot from the immense power of his terrorized heart. Sweat was running down his back and he pressed it himself against the side of the building. His chest was rising and falling in big, tight, short breaths.

Slowly he turned and peeked into the window. He saw nothing, not a woman not the witch not his wife. Nobody.

So he ducked under the window and quickly slid along the wall and peeked in the next one. It was also clear. No humans.

He crouched and went under the window, sliding on the wall as tightly and quickly as he could until he got to the front door. He reached forwards and tried to turn the handle.

It was locked.

Chapter 39

Beth and Coralina were snarfing down fruit roll ups. Coralina was in the middle of telling yet another joke. Beth looked somber, staring at her sister. “Do you understand what is going on?” Said Beth.

“Of course!” Said Coralina, with a big grin. “The dollhouse has a curse. And me, and mom and dad all have it!” She smiled at Beth.

Beth did not smile back. Coralina stuck a piece of the fruit roll up to her face and grinned. “Look I’ve got a tasty beard…”

“Stop trying to be funny. Why are you so happy?” Said Beth, with a very somber serious stare at her sister.

“I feel like, you missed the memo.” Coralina said, “first the nightmares. Then you break a bone, then blood pours out your nose. I already did those. Next is super anger – do you remember when I jumped out of the car?”

Beth stared at her sister and nodded.

“That was anger. It felt really big, like a water balloon was inside me and it was exploding over and over again. Or maybe… Maybe like a volcano? I don’t know. More like a water balloon I think because I like to think of the tiny bits of rubber just popping apart in a violent attack.” She smiled at her sister and pulled out the box of crayons. “Want to color?”

“No.” Said Beth. She swallowed. “How do you know this?”

“I am, I read some of the stuff that mom had. And I was listening to mom and dad talking about it in the night. And…” Coralina paused, clearly thinking hard. “Well let’s just say I kinda just feel it in the air to. Like right now I’m very happy. And next… I think I’ll get scared like dad. And then I’ll kill everyone.” Coralina grinned and flipped to a page in the coloring book with a little tic-tac-toe board.

“Kill everyone?” Asked Beth. Her face grew pale with worry. The skin was muted and shiny with sweat. “Does that mean dad is about to kill everyone?”

“I don’t know. Probably.” Said Coralina. “I’ll go first okay?” And she drew an X in the upper right corner.

Beth stared at the tic-tac-toe game, then back up at her smiling sister, and back down at the game. “Is there any way to stop it? Can we stop dad?”

“I think mom is going to try to kill the witch, and I don’t think it’s gonna work. But she really wants to try so I think that’s what mom and dad are doing right now. Did you hear her trying to get us a sitter? And now she’s just gonna leave us here with snacks and crayons.” Coralina put a crayon in her sister’s hand and tried to get her to draw circles somewhere on the board.

With a bit of numb denial Beth put a circle in the middle square.

“You are gonna lose now.” Said Cora line, as she puts an X in the lower left corner.

Beth swallowed. “I think we should go help them.”

“Okay, but dad might kill us. I’m not just saying that.” Said Coralina with a big bright smile to Beth.

Beth stood up and open the side door. Coralina and her stepped into the woods.

Chapter 40

Kelly limped forwards in the dark cabin. her foot was throbbing, and the pain was increasing to the point of her almost being unable to bear it. As soon as she had stepped inside the cabin the door slid shut behind her, the darkness was overwhelming.

She wasn’t sure anyone was in the cabin with her. Slowly she shuffled forwards, “hello?”

Anger was throbbing through her stomach pounding out her eyeballs. The only relief she felt was the quiet relief of darkness. She turned back around and reached for the doorknob, but she couldn’t find it. She had the intention of opening the door letting some moonlight in, a tiny bit of light would help. But she couldn’t find the door.

She couldn’t find anything. She continued to shuffle around the room, and didn’t find any furniture, she didn’t find anything at all. Eventually she made it to another wall and this time she kept her right hand on the wall with her limping foot next to it and she slowly circled the room. It was solid, no doors. Nothing. It was as if she had somehow entered into a cardboard box. It was completely pitch black.

She was angry, furious even. “Let me out. Where am I? Let me out of here!”

In her angry little fist pounded the perfectly smooth walls.

But not even her husband, standing right outside the cabin could hear her screams.

Chapter 41

“Kelly?” Mark whispered, but his whisper was so slight, that it would’ve been a shock if she had heard him, even if his lips were pressed to her ear. Fear was choking the words in his throat.

Fear. The nearly final stage.

The final stage was slaughtering everyone he loved. He didn’t want to think about that stage. Would he relish their murders? He certainly hoped not. He hoped he wouldn’t kill anyone.

He was nervously holding on to the rifle. It was a security blanket. He tapped on the door gently but to no avail. Kelly did not respond, and neither did the witch. Panting, with his heart pounding bitterly in his chest, he slid along the outside of the cabin peeking in the windows. Nothing, just curtains. In fact the inside of the cabin seemed so dark that he wondered if the witch had left entirely.

But then where was Kelly?

Had the witch stolen her?

The fear that had been building threatened to squeak out of his throat in a tiny piercing screams. It took all his effort to keep his mouth shut. Because he was afraid if he opened it again, and they would never stop pouring out of him. The unearthly, ungodly screams of a terrorized man.

He said he slid around the cabin even further. At the back of the cabin he found the door. Carefully, he turn the handle.

This door opened.

Chapter 42

Coralina and Beth slowly wandered through the woods.

“Is the most fun you have ever had?” Said Carolina with a big grin. “I’m having a blast”

“Be quiet.” Said Beth. She swallowed and her tiny fists were clenched. “We are hunting.”

“I love hunting with dad. I already killed a buck. You still have your first kill to make.” Said Coralina.

“We have to be quiet when you are hunting.” Said Beth.

Coralina skipped forwards crunching sticks and leaves under her feet. She made no effort to silence her footsteps. Unlike Beth, who was carefully moving, and cautiously looking around as she walked.

“Why haven’t you killed a deer? Last summer you had that one in your site, and wouldn’t pull the trigger. I remember, because you are the best target shooter out of all of us. So I want to know why you didn’t kill that buck.” Said Carolina, she turned and grabbed some leaves and threw them in the air so they would flutter down around her. “Wanna play princesses?”

“Be quiet.” Said Beth, and she took Carolina’s hand.

It didn’t take long for them to be helplessly lost.

Chapter 43

Eventually Kelly settled and sat down quietly. Her foot was throbbing and she laid back on the floor with the cast raised into the air leaning against the wall. She had her hands crossed across her stomach, and her eyes were shut.

She didn’t think that getting out was really feasible at this point. She wasn’t sure how she had gotten in.

She tried to play it over and had again she was the amount of the cabin, alone. She turned the handle, the door swung open. It was dark inside the cabin. She shouted “Hello?”

Then she heard the wind blow. She took one step forwards and then… this place.

It had to be a cellar that was the only explanation for what was happening. She had been knocked out, somehow. Then dumped inside the cellar of the cabin. It made sense, it meant that her husband was going to have a hell of a time finding her. He was so afraid.

She tried to remember the layers of the curse. Nightmares is how it started, and then, broken bone. Bloody noses.

What was next?

Anger. She remembered her husband’s constant fear it. And how little Caroline acting like a maniac inside the car. While Caroline was angry, her husband was… Happy? He wanted ice cream.

What was after that?

Being afraid. And that is the one that Mark is feeling right now. He was scared in those woods. He was so afraid.

She counted them up in her head, six stages.

Her husband was going to murder someone next.

The anger she had been feeling boiled to her head and she should just as she was about to stand and try to break her way out, she had a soft drowsy feeling of happiness watch over her.

Chapter 44

The door let out a unearthly squeal, as Mark pushed it open. He stepped inside. The first thing he noticed was how dark it was. There was an odd, earthy smell. “Hello?” He said, quietly. Fear still rumbled through his body. He was grateful for it meant that he was still in the fear stage, and he knew what would happen next.

He did give anything to make it stop so, stop being afraid, stop having the curse. His hands tightly gripped the rifle. He wished he could sniper the witch, from outside of the cabin. The inside was so dark he couldn’t see her.

And he was pretty sure his wife is already inside, but he didn’t hear her anywhere either. He fumbled on the wall, plying at it in nervous long swiping gropes. Finally his hand felt the familiar switch and he flipped on the light.

The room brightened, and his eyes took a moment to adjust. The witch was sitting in a rocking chair, her hair sticking out wildly. Just then, the bulb burst, and they were plunged back into darkness.

He raised the rifle and fired.

He was in a cold sweat, and he had never fired into the dark before. It was against all of the rules of gun safety. Never shoot a target you can’t fully see. Don’t shoot when scared. Don’t shoot at people.

He was breaking every single one of the safety rules, but he didn’t hear anything except for the ringing of the shot in the small cabin. His ears were throbbing from the achingly close bullet. He closed his eyes tightly and opened them again trying to adjust to the darkness.

Then he felt a soft breath in his ear. “I’ll take that.”

The witch grasped the rifle and gently pulled it from him. He was so afraid he didn’t even try to stop her. She set it outside on the back porch.

Mark found that he couldn’t move. He was frozen. He tried to turn his head and look at her, but he couldn’t. He tried desperately to say something, to lunge for the rifle, but he did nothing. Instead she shut the door and locked it. The rifle still sitting on the porch.

Chapter 45

Caroline and Beth continued to move through the woods, although neither of them were sure where they were headed anymore. “Do you think I’m going to have it too?”

“Have what?” Said Caroline enthusiastically.

“The curse.” Said Beth, her voice was trembling.

“I can’t imagine that you won’t enjoy it, it’s really quite pleasant.” Said Caroline, and then she turned and grabbed her sister and kissed her on the forehead. She was skipping and dancing around.

“Are you connected to the witch? I think mom and dad are trying to find the witch. Can you feel her, because the curse is hers?” Said Beth, her little mind was whirring. They were so lost.

Caroline frowned. “I don’t know.” She leaned on a thin tree, and took off her right shoe shaking some debris from it.

“Do you remember her cabin? She had ice cream.” Said Beth, hoping that the sweet promise of ice cream would motivate her sister enough to help her find the cabin.

Caroline instantly grinned, and said, “well now I’m definitely going to find that cabin!” She carefully put her shoe back on, grinning the whole way. “Do you think it’s strawberry? I like strawberry ice cream. I mean chocolate is pretty good, but strawberry is my favorite. What you like Beth?”

“Strawberry sounds good to me too.” Said Beth, grabbing her sister’s hand. She swallowed, and felt none of her sister’s exuberance. She was terrified, because she understood that this curse was bad, dad had a broken finger, mom had a broken foot, and Caroline had her broken bone her arm. Beth didn’t want to break.

Beth had this sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that the only way out was to kill the witch. Once she had thought it, it was like a drum beat in the background of her mind. Kill the witch. The witch must die. Her hair was on end, but Caroline was just grinning and laughing, as if they weren’t in danger.

Caroline grabbed her hand and led the way confidently, “this way.”