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Where The Spirits Dwell

daddy’s girl’s a fucking monster - prompt: lost

My dad comes to see me, every day.  Sometimes we read, sometimes I’ll play the piano for him, sometimes he’ll let me put on a record.  He even humours me and lets me serve him invisible tea in too-small cups and always says “please” when he asks the pinned Goliathus regius to pass the sugar.  Every week, we take flowers to my mom’s crypt and tell her about our days.  I don’t get to play outside, but I still have plenty of stories to tell her.  I might be sick, but at least I’m happy.

When it’s my dad’s turn to talk to my mom, I like to watch the cemetery through the window.  Sometimes, a man who looks like a ghost waves to me.  Dad tells me not to talk to strangers, but I can make an exception.

My dad is busy.  I see him some days, but never at night.  Sometimes he smiles, but he looks tired and like he doesn’t mean it.  He doesn’t have time for manners towards bugs or tea parties and he won’t listen to records, but I still have to play the piano.  We stopped going to the cemetery a month ago, but when he’s not home, I go by myself and still talk to Mom.  I’m running out of stories to tell her.  She knows I’m sick and I think she might know that I’m sad, sometimes, too.

The ghost isn’t a ghost and he tells me to call him GraveRobber, since that’s what he is.  He has better stories than I do and, sometimes, he brings me treats.  If I listened to my dad, I would have no one else to talk to.  This was a good exception.

My dad hardly visits with me, anymore.  The only books he brings me are for homework and he doesn’t want to hear me play the piano, but he wants to know that I’m still practicing.  He yells at me to keep my gramaphone down.  My bedroom door is always locked from the outside.  Sometimes, I have the courage to ask him why and he tells me to take my medicine.  I miss my mom and I miss my friend and I miss the cemetery.  The only story I have, now, is about a sick, little girl locked in a tower and there isn’t a happy ending in sight.

GraveRobber reminds me that my door might be locked, but my windows aren’t.  When Daddy’s at work, he sneaks in and always brings cake for tea parties even though the bugs that come are dead and we’re both too old for pretend.  Sometimes we dance.  He gave me my first kiss.  I’m not always sad.

There’s a man who came to see me last night.  He might have been my father, but I barely recognized him.  The only music I have, now, comes from heart monitors and air filters and machines I don’t understand.  I couldn’t play it on the piano or dance to it, even if I had the strength to get out of bed.  I just want to get better and the man - my father - tells me the medicine is as strong as it’s ever been.  So I must keep taking it or I will die like my mother did.  My story is almost over.

The last time I saw GraveRobber, he sang to me and dried my eyes and held me through an attack.  I’m still pretty without a wig, he tells me.  And he tells me I can beat this.  He is the only person I’ve ever loved and I’m about to lose him.

There’s a man who lives in this house who doesn’t bother to touch my body, after the life goes out of it.  I don’t hear music, only his voice.  Sometimes he cries, sometimes he talks about guilt, but never to me.  The door to my room is still locked.  I will never get better and I will never leave, not even to tell my mother the end of my story.

My grave-robber broke my window open.  He cleaned up the messes I couldn’t help but make and put a wig back on my head.  ”You can still beat this,” he tells the dead, little girl on the bed.  ”He’s the one who lost.”  He leaves before I can find the strength to move.  Right now, it’s just a twitch of a finger, but he’s right. 

I won’t let it end this way.

necromerchant’s debt - prompt: closet

Shilo awoke to the sounds of a monster in her closet.

"Psst," it said.  "Shilo," it beckoned.  How it knew her name, she couldn’t connect, but it only had to call her twice before she found the nerve (or the nerve found her) to pull the covers back and approach the door.

Whether or not it had been open before she fell asleep, she couldn’t remember.  The dark crevice never bothered her.  Being afraid of any dark spaces, in this house, was a challenge, really.  Regarless of its previous state, the door was cracked now, and she had few qualms about nudging it open, the rest of the way.  ”Hello?” she asked, but didn’t reach for the light.

A pale, mishapen hand reached out of the abyss.  Shilo kept her tiny, pink lips pressed together, holding back any squeals she might otherwise have made, but took a step back as the monster in her closet pulled itself out, into the dim light that shone through her window from the moon.  On its hands and knees, it heaved and bled onto her floor.  She thought, momentarily, that it might collapse and die, right there, or at least go to sleep for a very long time, but it did neither.  It looked at her, vibrant blue piercing through the smudged, dark paint around its eyes.  …And smiled something that looked, to Shilo, the way a Big Bad Wolf might, if he was pretending to be a person instead of a wolf.

She wasn’t scared.

"I think my dad’s looking for you," she warned it, not quite defensively.

"I think you’d be right about that, kid," it responded, sounding remarkably like a man and not like a monster at at all.  "You gonna rat me out?"

Shilo shook her head and the monster smiled again.  ”Wouldn’t have asked if I thought you would,” it…he said.  ”Just wanted to know it, from you.  In that case, you wanna help me with something?”

Compulsively, Shilo looked over her shoulder to the bedroom door.  Half-expecting Daddy to come bursting through, at any moment.  If she could have put words to the concept, she would have felt a little like bait.  ”Okay,” she answered.

Instead of telling her what, just yet, he reached forward and pinched a strand of her wig between his index and middle finger, tugging it so it sat straight on her head again.  She flinched, but allowed him to do it.  He then presented the same hand to her.  His thumb hung limp, looked dead compared to the rest.  ”Grab that,” he instructed, “and hang on as tight as you can.  Okay?”

She clutched his thumb with both hands.

"Real tight?"

She nodded, he pulled and strangled a cry that sounded all too close to the one that had woken her up, earlier, but the digit popped back into its socket.  He didn’t move, so neither did she, and it felt like minutes had passed by the time he stopped breathing so heavily and showed her his face again.  ”Thank you, princess,” the monster said.  ”Can you help me…with one more thing?”

Not only could she, but she would and he allowed her to keep holding onto his thumb, painful though it must have been, while he continued.  ”You got a sewing kit in here?”

She shook her head.

"No?"

She shook her head again.

"…Glue?"

The action had become so familiar that he almost got another silent no except that the answer, as it turned out, was yes.  She gave him back his hand so she could root around in the drawer full of crayons and pins and blocks of wood and, ah.  Superglue.

Even in the dark, she could see where he needed it.  A thick, dark line cut down his pale, bare chest.  And it was leaking.  Without thinking too hard about it, she also brought him the crumpled nightgown that Daddy had gotten messy when he carried her away.

The monster chuckled and pressed the fabric to the gash.  ”Sorry,” he apologized and she knew he meant for her nightgown, but she couldn’t figure out why.  He took the glue to save her from doing his dirty work and used what Shilo thought might be half the bottle to patch up the hole in his chest.

"I got bandaids, too," she offered, once he was done.

"Think I could get one of those?"  For someone who had just un-broken a finger and patched himself closed, the monster looked very calm.  Pleased.  Human.

He didn’t need to ask, though, as Shilo went to a different drawer and produced a package of purple bandages, covered in butterflies.  That, he did allow her to put on for him.  Since the cut was so long, he even let her give him a second one.

"…Better?" she asked, but wouldn’t look at him.  Did you ask monsters things like that?  Daddy probably wouldn’t say.  She might never know.

"Much," the monster confirmed.  Not without struggle, he pulled himself to his feet and, after a brief steadying on one of her bed posts, took in her room.  Seemed to be particularly taken by the window.  "Lock it behind me, will you, princess?"

When she nodded, he bent down to kiss her through the top of her wig.  Then, he disappeared and she did as told.

Hours later, her father did return to check on her.  ”Are you awake, precious?”

"The monster was in my closet," she told him.

He scoffed, but hurried to check.  Not for her, she could tell.  For himself.  He found nothing, not even a drop of blood.  Nor would he, since she cleaned that up, too.  ”Just a nightmare, Shilo,” he tried to assure her.

No, she thought, rolling over so he couldn’t see her face anymore and leave her alone to sleep.  A good dream

necromerchant’s debt - prompt: tool shed

The basement was one of the first places to become “off limits”.  Daddy keeps his equipment in down there, Nathan had explained, and Shilo tried to understand, as best as she could.  The basement was like a doctor’s bag, except a room and under their house.  Daddy’s tools lived in the basement, so she could not because people who tried to use doctor tools without being a doctor could get hurt.  Shilo sometimes called herself a scientist, but bug pins couldn’t cut like Daddy’s tools could.  And so, she obeyed.  Daddy’s word was enough.

Usually.

Shilo learned to ignore most of the noises her house made.  The machines and monitors in the room ought to have drowned out the sounds, but sometimes, floors still creaked and doors still groaned.  Did they have ghosts?  She never knew, Daddy wouldn’t say.  If they did, none of them ever bothered her and so she slept easily.

Usually.

The house had never screamed before.  Shilo sat up, in bed, so quickly that the dizziness almost made her throw up.  ”Daddy?” she shouted back.  No answer.  Another scream.  She couldn’t wait.

If Nathan heard his daughter during her frantic search, he made no indication of it.  In the shed, retrieving a sharper blade, he missed the stone-grinding sound of the fireplace pulling back and the padding of small, bare feet on concrete steps.  But he emerged in time to see his seven year old daughter, wig askew, conclude her search for her father, the screaming, and voices she had never heard before.

For a split second, she didn’t recognize him in a shiny, dark coat and that look on his face, neither of which she had ever seen before.  At the same time she called for him, he dropped his blade and called for her, too.  He moved towards her, but she took a step back.

"Shilo -" he tried again, but immediately lost all sense of fatherly concern when the long-overdue job on the rack - who, moments ago, had been growling, snarling in pain - let out a weak, low snicker.

"What’s that?" Shilo demanded, pointing to the restrained body, and preventing her father from taking any further action against it.

Distracted, torn between two halves of his life, Nathan fumbled to put himself between his daughter and work.  ”Precious, it’s nothing, it’s -”  Her wide, fearful eyes were wandering.  He had to keep her attention.  ”A monster,” he blurted out, too fast for comfort.  ”From the cemetery.  It was sneaking around the house, I had to…look, it’s all right, precious, I’ve -“

Daddy’s words, which he could barely find, were not enough.  No matter what it was, she didn’t like what she saw.  And he kept getting closer, ready to grab her.  Through teary eyes, she couldn’t decide whether to watch him or…

The pale monster winked at her before slipping his other hand free.  Without so much as a sound, until he disappeared through a doorway, it was gone.  

Shilo didn’t see her father’s face slip into something unrecognizable again, but she still screamed when his arms - clothed in rubber, soaked in blood - wrapped around her and lifted her off the cold, stone floor.  They rushed up the steps and he refused to put her down until they were on the landing of the staircase inside.  Which was fine.  She was too scared to move, anyway.

"You are going -" Nathan stopped, both of them startled by the harshness in his tone.  He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and rooted around an inside pocket for his glasses.  He never took off his glasses, Shilo thought.  Usually.  Replaced on his face, she knew him immediately and threw her arms around his neck, which only softened him further.  "Shilo, precious.  Please.  Go to your room and sleep.  Daddy has work to do.”  

Work always called, but, no matter what, Daddy made the time to tuck her in.  …Usually.  He left her there, on the landing, and disappeared, again, through the fireplace.  Tears still stinging her eyes, she sat down on the landing and watched him go, watched him forget her.

Eventually, she found the courage to move, to retreat to her sanctuary, her safe haven, her room.  Daddy’s word was enough, usually, but that of the man who wore his face would stick in her brain forever.

Monster.

Shilo learned to ignore all the noises her house made.  Screams or not, she promised herself she would never go into Daddy’s basement again.

daddy’s girl’s a fucking monster - prompt: revenge

I’ve been standing over his bed for three nights.  His sleep has been fitful and hard to come by, as it is, and I would like to think that I have something to do with that.  I didn’t sleep, either, in the end, and he had everything to do with that.  My fingers twitch with want of motion, but I know it will be better if I wait.  If I stand here and wait.

I’ve been standing over his bed for five weeks.  He stares at the ceilings, most nights, but never at me.  His watch beeps and he jumps a mile.  The heart monitors and the air stabilizers and all the other wretched machines in my room beeped and creaked and turned and whirred.  The plastic curtains crinkled in the manufactured breeze.  How would I have slept, even if my pulse slowed down and the breath came easily?  I am growing impatient.

I’ve been standing over his bed for seven months.  It’s my birthday, today, and he can’t even make himself lie down.  From my room, across the hall, an alarm goes off: medicine reminder! and he bursts into tears.  I tried to cry, once, after he broke my cheek, but fainted from all the effort it took.  His guilt overwhelms him and my watch won’t stop medicine reminding until someone turns it off.  It reminds us both of pill bottle after pill bottle of false hope and lies.  Of poison.  My whole body quakes.  I won’t wait any longer.

He means to remove the reminder.  One more thing he thinks he can control.  And, maybe, destroy.  Before he stands, he double-takes over his shoulder.  This time, the breath hitches in his throat and, just maybe, he feels like he’s going to die.

"Hello, Daddy," I tell him.  "I’ve been waiting a long time for this."