Bill felt uneasy as he walked up the steps
to Lucas and Adelaide's house. They had decorated
for Halloween, and a skeleton grinned at him as it flopped in a violent wind, dancing
to the dissonant symphony of myriad wind chimes. Strings of novelty lights bobbed about, casting
shadows like playful spirits. A black cat
swirled about his feet, trilling and mewing, as Bill fumbled for the right key.
He pushed the door open and walked inside
to the foyer. The house hummed with the comforting
waterfall of an aquarium pump. He hadn't
been there since last Christmas, that fated day that resulted in the near death
of his daughter, and the imprisonment of his deranged wife, Elise. He almost said no, but after all Lucas and Adelaide
had done for him, he felt obligated to house sit while they visited Lucas's father
on his deathbed.
The cat stood at the threshold. "Hey, Morpheus, are you coming inside?"
The cat looked up at him and meowed, but made no effort to join him. "Well fuck you, then." He shut the door in the cat's face. He locked both the knob and the dead bolt, and
then he flipped the light switch. The foyer
lit up but for a moment before the bulb popped off.
Fiery eyes peered from the blackness above. Elise loomed like a banshee at the top of the
Bill gasped. "How'd you get here? You're supposed to be in jail!"
Elise stared through him in silence.
"Answer me!" As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he exhaled
with a sigh of relief. Adelaide had used
the old mannequin that Bill had gotten dumpster diving for a Halloween decoration,
and its eyes were reflecting moonlight from the window.
He felt drawn to it, as if it awaited
his return home with a tender kiss for him, like the loving bride his ex-wife never
was. He climbed the stairs and stood before
it. He gazed into its orange eyes and remembered
the day that Elise had created it.
* * * * *
It was Christmas Eve.
EEENK EEENK EEENK! The alarm clock had violated Bill's sweet dreams
with 7 am.
"Get up!" Elise had said, shaking him, the flab of fat on
her arm jiggling like Jell-O. "Turn
that damn thing off!"
Several months earlier, Elise had been
fired from Corners, a chain bookstore, where she had worked as a cashier. Unable to pay the rent, they now lived in the
guest bedroom at Lucas and Adelaide's house, and Bill felt their welcome wearing
thin. He felt depressed and didn't want to
get out of bed, but he did anyway.
He drove to work in a 1978 Toyota Tercel. As he reached the machine's top speed of fifty
miles per hour, he prayed the band stickers would hold the rusty body together. Just one more day of shopping left, and the
mall promised to be a madhouse of last minute gift grabbing filled with
stressed out customers and frazzled employees.
Bumper to bumper traffic and nowhere to park, Bill arrived five minutes late,
and the manager, a very tall woman who wore too much perfume, told him he was skating
on thin ice. He was an assistant manager
at Zaftig Apparel, a chain clothing store selling yesterday's hot fashions to plus
size women at bargain prices. He had no problem
telling old fatties how fantastic they looked, and thus he made a small fortune
for someone he didn't know.
After Bill left for work, Elise went back
to sleep and didn't wake again until noon.
She read a book until dusk and then went downstairs to take a shower and
dye her blond roots black and red to match the rest of her hair. After she finished showering, putting on her
make-up and getting dressed, she walked into the kitchen to get a soda.
"Hey, Elise," Lucas asked, "do
you think you could help me with the dishes?
Christmas is tomorrow, and the house is a mess."
"I just did the dishes last night."
"I washed the bowl and spoon I used,
the rest is Bill's. Get him to wash them." She went into the living room, plopped down
on the loveseat, and flipped on the TV.
Lucas wondered why he kept helping his
ungrateful friends. He still hadn't finished
the dishes when his wife, Adelaide, arrived home from work.
"There is no hell like working retail
during Christmas," Adelaide said, and she fell like Goliath onto the couch. She kicked her shoes off with her feet.
Lucas leaned down and kissed her cheek. "I fixed you some chicken, if you're hungry."
"Thanks, doll," she
replied. Lucas went to the kitchen to get
Adelaide some food. Adelaide turned to
Elise and asked, “How are you today, Elise?"
Elise rolled her eyes. "Bored.
I wish Bill would take me somewhere.
I'm sick of being in this house."
"Didn’t Lucas offer to teach you
how to drive? Maybe you should learn how,
Elise, you know? Then you could get a job,"
Elise retorted, "If we didn't live
out in bum fuck, I could get a job I could walk to."
Bill looked exhausted as he walked in
with his and Elise’s two-year-old daughter, Ava, on his back. She had been staying with his mother since they
had lost their apartment. He sat the
little girl down on the carpet.
Elise ignored her daughter. She had never wanted to be mother. However, she had gotten pregnant by accident,
and Bill was thrilled by the news. He
had threatened to divorce her a few days before she had found out, and the baby
changed all that. The pregnancy was
hard, and Elise had gained more weight than most. After the baby came, Elise hated the way she
looked. She had tried to lose the weight
back off, but postpartum depression kept her hands in the cookie jar. Now, she resented her daughter. She tried to love her daughter, but there was
no bond there. She thought Ava smelled
funny, and she hated changing diapers.
She was glad Bill’s mom had agreed to take care of Ava.
"Did today suck or what?" Adelaide sighed.
“Yeah. We were so busy,” Bill agreed. He sat down on the loveseat next to his wife.
Lucas brought Adelaide the plate of chicken
and a glass of milk. She sat upright so she
could eat, and he sat down on the couch beside her.
"Are you looking forward to Santa
Claus coming tomorrow, Ava?" Lucas asked.
Ava's eyes widened as her face lit up
with delight. She bounced with excitement. "Santa!
Santa bwings toys!" she exclaimed.
"Awww, that's so cute!" Adelaide said as she tore into the chicken. A horrible screeching noise like nails on a chalkboard
came from the window, the cat’s version of knocking at the door. "Somebody let the cat in."
Lucas went to the front door and let Morpheus
Morpheus raced him to the couch, nearly
tripping him, and jumped up beside Adelaide.
He begged for chicken, and, failing that, he rubbed his head against her.
"Stop being a nuisance," Lucas
said. He picked up the cat and sat down with
him in his lap. He scratched him under
his chin, engendering a purr and kneading paws.
"Sweetheart," Bill requested
in his pretty please voice, "would you get me a candy cane off the tree?"
"God, Bill, you're so lazy,"
Elise told him. "It's just across the
room. Get up and get it yourself."
Bill puffed his cheeks out like a frog
about to croak.
Lucas looked at Bill as if to say, ‘Where's
your balls, man?’
Bill made a poof noise with his lips as
the air escaped them. "I'm sick of you
treating me this way," he murmured, his voice almost a whisper. "I bust my ass for this family, and all you
do is belittle me and ridicule me. You insult
the music I write, and you won't even get a fucking job."
Elise contorted her face into a ridiculous
gesture of affliction. She crossed her arms
and whined, "You don't love me."
"Elise, just look at yourself, not
only are you a lazy bitch, you're fat," he berated, his voice still but a
"Take it back!" she yelled.
Her heartache poured from her in waves like water, and those around her could
feel it crashing in to them. Such
sorrow, such desiderium! Right now, even
though she could feel that her marriage was over, even though she already
mourned the deprivation of her relationship and the loss of her onetime best
friend, she couldn’t believe it. She
couldn’t let it go. She was haunted by
the end of her marriage, even while it yet lingered.
She resented him. Her emotions overwhelmed her. She pulled back her fist and punched Bill hard
in the stomach. He crumpled over. She hit him again in his face and head, pounding
on him like a raving lunatic, until Lucas and Adelaide pulled her off him.
"You're a fucking psycho!" Bill yelled as his tears streaked through the
blood on his face. "In front of Ava!"
"I hate you!" Elise screamed
and ran upstairs. She slammed the door shut
behind her and locked it.
She put on The Electric Hellfire Club's
Satan's Little Helpers and cranked the volume. She ran her fingers through the mannequin's luxurious
blond hair. Bill had salvaged it to use as
a stage prop if he ever got his act together enough to play live. When he first brought it home, he had gushed over
the piece of trash as if it were his new bride.
Elise pulled a plastic tub of art supplies from the closet. She took a pair of scissors and chopped off its
locks down to its plastic scalp. Then she
whacked off her own hair and glued it to the head. It matted down against the scalp in some places,
and frizzed and tangled in others. Her own
hair, now short, jagged, and uneven, made her look insane. Then, she gouged out its eyes with a utility knife
and glued tiger's eye stones in their places.
She painted its face up in the exact same way that she did her own
makeup. She cut a slit in its mouth. She wrote something on a piece of paper and
slipped it inside. Then she inserted Halloween
vampire fangs inside its mouth and glued them in place. She clipped her own black fingernails and toenails
and glued them in place on the mannequin's body.
She took off her clothes, a stereotypical
goth dress and a poorly made corset bought from the chain store at the mall. She lit incense and black candles on her altar
to Satan, and then she returned her attention to the life size doll lying on the
floor before her. With the utility knife,
she carved a Pentagrammaton into its chest.
Then, she cut the palm of her hand.
She muttered an incantation, invoking Yehowashah (YHVShH), the intrinsic
Spirit within corporeal matter that symbolically enthrones the letter Shin upon
the final Heh, opening an artery for the transferal of the spiritual power into
manifestation on Earth.
She squeezed her hand and dripped blood
into the doll's mouth, and she called out to her god, "In the name of Satan,
I give you life!" Then, she leaned over
her creation and put her mouth over its mouth, smearing her own lips with blood
as she exhaled her breath into it. "In
the name of Satan, I command you to vivify!" She didn’t really expect it to come to
life. She was mostly just expressing
herself through art, giving her rage a place to live, but she was a Satanist
and occultist, and as she spoke it, she really did wish that it would come to
life and do her will against Bill. Her
intent was pure and strong; her command was filled with fervor.
The door shook as someone tried to enter. "Elise, I'm sorry! Come on, open up!" Bill pleaded.
Elise rose from the floor, walked over
to the door, and flung it open. She stood
naked before Bill. She licked her bloody
mouth as if to seduce him. Her nipples, large
and splotchy, stood erect. Her blond pubic
hair betrayed the dye job of her now butchered hair. Her pale skin looked to have never seen the sun. She had always been fat, but she had gained so
much weight while pregnant, if he wanted to fuck her now, he'd have to fold the
flabs of fat until he smelled shit and then fold back one, or maybe he could just
dip her in flour and aim for the wet spot.
"My God! What have you done?" he said with his mouth
"I made something for you,"
she said. "You can use it on stage when
you're a big rock-and-roll star." She
laughed at him.
"Cut it out! For Ava's sake, let's try to get along while she's
here. Adelaide said she'd watch Ava, let's
go out for a beer and talk."
"Fuck you, Bill!" she
snarled at him. As much as she wanted to
go out, she was too upset and angry with him to do so.
"Whatever,” he dismissed her, “I'm
going out." He stomped down the stairs
and out the front door. He didn't come back
until he smelled like cheap perfume and sex.
* * * * *
The memory left Bill feeling jittery
and alone. Damn, that thing is creepy,
he thought, looking at the mannequin. He
wished he didn’t have to turn his back on the thing to go back downstairs. As he descended, he felt as if someone, or something,
He grabbed a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
from the candy dish by the front door. Lucas
and Adelaide never had trick-or-treaters there anyway, so why bother saving it? He stuffed the candy into his mouth, walked to
the kitchen, and put a kettle of water on to boil.
His heart sank when he saw the photograph
of his daughter hanging in a magnetic frame on the refrigerator. He remembered the day of her accident in vivid
* * * * *
It was Christmas day.
The air had smelled delicious as
Adelaide and her sister, Molly, had whizzed about the kitchen whipping up
mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits, and pumpkin pies. Their mother, Leena, had cooked the ham at
her house and then brought it over.
Bill’s mom would be arriving soon with the eggnog.
Elise awoke and poured herself a
glass of wine. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot,
and it was obvious that she had been crying all night.
“Elise, are you okay?” Adelaide asked
“I’m fine,” she lied. Then she went to take a shower. She played Tori Amos at full volume, belting
out the lyrics in an inharmonious duet, crooning her pain and anguish into her
singing, draining the merriment from all who heard her as surely as she emptied
the hot water heater.
When she got out of the shower, she
poured herself another glass of wine.
After the third glass, she started drinking straight from the
Lucas built a fire while Leena played
Christmas carols on the piano. Ava had
sung along, "Away in a mangor no cwib foor a bed, da wittle word Jesus way
down his tweet head." Numerous beautifully
wrapped packages were piled beneath the twinkling tree.
Bill got up late enough to miss the musical
stylings of his melodramatic wife. He had
prayed in vain that Elise wouldn't make a scene.
"How could you!" Elise spat
at him as soon as he came down the stairs.
Her eyes were little slits filled with daggers. "And with a stripper! My husband fucked a stripper!" She pointed at him as she said this,
announcing it to the entire household, as if Adelaide and Lucas hadn’t heard
them fighting about it when he came home.
She retreated, darting outside, her wine bottle still clutched in her hand.
A light snow fell, and the world was
already dusted in white, as all color faded away. The grey clouds hung low, mirroring Elise’s
Lucas followed her outside, calling her
name, “Elise! Elise, just stop!”
She ran from him, around the house, screaming
at the top of her lungs, "I'll kill him!
I’m going to fucking kill him!”
Lucas finally caught up to her, and he
took ahold of her by the shoulders as if to shake some sense into her. He looked into her eyes. "Elise, you have got to calm down, or someone
is going to call the cops. I’m sorry
Bill hurt you, but you need..."
"Fuck you! Leave me alone!"" she yelled. Her face was beet red. Her red eyes bugged out from their sockets
and looked wild.
Elise’s flippancy infuriated Lucas. "Fuck me? What the fuck have I done but be nice to you? You can just find yourself another place to live!"
She jerked away from him and ran back
inside the house through the back door. She
darted through the crowded kitchen and into the living room.
Lucas shook his head in disbelief as
he chased after her. Suddenly, she
turned. She charged at Bill. She swung her bottle of wine at him, spilling
wine all over the Christmas gifts.
Bill’s eyes widened with fear. "Shit!" He cried out and ducked just
She wasn’t angry; she was destroyed. He had hurt her. On purpose.
He had betrayed her for the sole purpose of torturing her. It was his way of ending things, and it was
cruel. He was done with her, and now she
couldn’t deny it. She felt worthless,
used, like a piece of trash, and she had to show him how it felt. She screamed, "You son of a bitch!" Like a professional wrestler, she threw him across
the coffee table, sending remote controls, magazines, and drinks flying. "I hate you! I hate you!"
Bill landed on the floor with a hard
thunk. Blood trickled from a cut on his
"Uh-oh! Daddy's got a boo-boo," Ava called out as
she ran to her father.
"Get away from him!" Elise
hollered. In a blind rage, she flung Ava
off her father. Her adrenaline was high,
her mind drunk, and she used much more force than she had intended.
Ava flew back. She tripped over the hearth and fell into the
fire. The toddler shrieked, sounding like
a squealing pig, as her hair caught ablaze and her flesh melted. Bill ran to her, pulled her out, and
smothered the flames with a throw rug, but she already looked like a cheap wiener
cooked on an open flame.
Morpheus scratched frantically at the
window, with those chalkboard nails scraping on the glass.
"Call 911," someone yelled.
Bill stroked his daughter's good cheek. "Please angel, don't die," he said. "I'm lost without the sanctuary I find in
your eyes. Each breath I take without you
is a thousand years in hell." He lost
himself in her good eye, so big and beautiful.
There were no sufficient words to describe what he felt. He felt as if his own image had been burned, as
if his own soul sizzled with guilt.
Elise felt the same jealousy towards Ava
she'd felt towards the stripper. She burst
into tears. "Why don't you love me?" she cried.
* * * * *
As the memory washed over Bill, tears
trickled down his face.
Bill had once loved Elise. He remembered how beautiful and funny she was
when they first started dating, how they seemed to click and be right together,
complimentary parts to a whole. She used
to be thoughtful and kind. Bill thought
back to that one birthday. It was right
after they had moved in with Lucas and Adelaide. Lucas and Adelaide had gone out on an
overnight trip. Elise had no money, but
she wanted to do something nice for Bill.
So she wrapped herself up in wrapping paper and put a bow in her
hair. She snuck outside while Bill was
in the kitchen and she scratched on the window, so he would think it was the
cat. He opened the door to find Elise
standing there, her self was his gift.
She held a cupcake in her hand, complete with a lit candle. She sang “Happy Birthday” to him as she
walked across the threshold. He
unwrapped her right there in the foyer, and they made love on the floor.
But then she changed; she got weird,
withdrawn, mean. In retrospect, Bill
could see that she had developed severe depression, but at the time, he was
blind to it. He was overwhelmed with his
own bullshit and couldn’t empathize with her.
Struggling with postpartum depression was bad enough, but being fired
had shattered her confidence and sent her over the edge. She had become miserable, struggling with the
rejection and failure, and she had developed crippling anxiety. Bill had failed to understand her growing
madness. Instead, he had judged
her. He had neglected to help her. Now he could see that. It was all his fault. He had let her spiral when he should’ve
caught her. In sickness and in
health. He had promised her.
He mumbled to himself, “I love the
memory of you, of who you once were. I
still love the ghost of you. But you’re
lost in darkness now, and I can’t recognize you anymore.”
He looked at the photograph of Ava. Even with half her face charred off, Ava had smiled
for the camera. She didn't yet understand
the extent of her injuries. Being blind in
one eye seemed bad enough, but the disfigurement would haunt her for life. Just yesterday, Bill had taken her out to eat
at McDonald's. As they were leaving, he'd
overheard a teenage boy say, "Thank God vomit face is leaving. I don't think I could look at that while I eat." His group of friends had cackled at the comment. Bill wanted to walk over and punch him, but he
pretended he didn't hear them instead.
Bill went into the living room, plopped
down on the sofa, and flipped on the news.
The wind flapped the news lady's coat
about violently, but her plastic hair stayed perfect. "Three women escaped from High County Women's
Correctional Facility today, killing six guards and starting a riot that is yet
to be brought under control. One of the women,
Betty Dooglebee, was shot dead in a confrontation with a police officer shortly
after the escape. As most of you will remember,
she was the infamous registered nurse serving a life sentence for running into a
homeless man while high on marijuana and ecstasy. She then drove home with the man, Toby Fletcher,
still hanging from her windshield. She let
him bleed to death in her garage, and then she and two accomplices dumped his body
in Goose Creek Park. Isabella Donna, a convicted
pedophile, has been recaptured and is being questioned at this time. One, as of yet unidentified prisoner, did escape. High County Police advise all to lock their doors
and windows and not answer the door for strangers.
The hair rose on the back of Bill's neck. He felt as if someone trampled across his grave. That unease he had felt as he arrived, he had
smelled the faint scent of Manic Panic hair dye. Only Elise would make sure she had hair dye
in jail, he thought, and she's here now, hiding.
He muted the television, then went to
the kitchen and took a butcher knife from the block. He held the knife up high like Laurie Strode as
he tiptoed through the house. He checked
the back door. Locked. He checked the bathroom. Nothing.
He checked the coat closet. Nothing. He checked Lucas and Adelaide's bedroom. Nothing.
She would hide in our old room, he thought with certitude.
As he crept up the stairs, the scent of
Manic Panic seemed to grow stronger. At the
top, the mannequin eyeballed him like a vigilant sentinel, and he half expected
it to call out a warning to Elise. As he
snuck to the door of his old room, the floorboard in front of the door squeaked. Shit! he thought.
He stood motionless for a moment and listened for movement, but he heard
nothing. He threw open the door, convinced
that she would lunge for him, but she didn't.
He checked everywhere, but no monster lurked in the closet or under the bed.
He had to walk past the creepy mannequin
again to check the library, but he found it empty, too. Satisfied that Elise wasn't hiding in the shadows,
he breathed a sigh of relief. As he returned
to the stairwell, he again felt as if he were being watched, as if he were not alone,
but he foolishly wrote it off to an overactive imagination, and he made a fatal
mistake; he turned his back to the mannequin and began to descend the stairs.
As he took his first step, the mannequin
took its own.
He stopped. Was that a footstep behind me? he thought. His heartbeat quickened. He spun around to look. The mannequin seemed a bit closer than it should
be, but his mind wouldn't accept what his eyes could see. He dismissed the internal warning, and continued
his descent, with each step he took towards the bottom mirrored by the golem.
At the bottom of the stairs, he went straight
to the front door to check the locks again.
The golem used the opportunity to slip into the shadows of the master bedroom.
The silence of the house weighed heavily
upon Bill, and when the teakettle whistled, he nearly jumped from his skin. He made himself a cup of Chamomile, sat down on
the sofa, and used the remote to unmute the news.
"This just in," the news lady
said, "the third escapee from the High County Women's Correctional Facility
has been caught at the Greyhound bus depot.
She has been identified as Kay Myrium Young, the woman who, three years ago
to this day, woke her children in the middle of the night, drove them to Wal-Mart
and made them pick out the baseball bat that she then used to beat them to death."
Morpheus scratched frantically at the
window; that screeching sound of his nails raking across the window pierced
Bill’s ears. “Hang on, Buddy, I’m
coming!” Bill said.
He went to the front door to let the cat
inside. He didn't notice that the locks
on the door had been undone. He flung the
door open. "Come on, Morpheus; it's
cold outside," he beckoned.
All the color drained from Bill’s
face, leaving him pale as a ghost. The thing
on the doorstep could not be. His mind cried
out in terror, but his voice betrayed him.
He stood there in silence, mouth agape as if screaming, breathless and
The golem had slipped out the front
door, mimicked the cat to lure him out, and now stood before him. Elise's hate bore through the golem's glowing
Bill tried to run, but his legs
turned to jelly. Petrified, he couldn’t
move. Hot piss soaked his pants.
The golem lunged at him, sank its fangs
into his neck, and ripped out a scream.
They both fell to the ground, with the mannequin atop him, feasting on
his blood. He fought against the
mannequin, tried to push it off, but it had supernatural strength. As he struggled against it, he could feel its
unholy power. Its jaws were locked upon
Eyes closed and darting rapidly as if
dreaming, Elise lay on her cot in her prison cell. She blamed Bill for her predicament, blamed
him for everything.
After months of feeling trapped in a
cage and helpless, her dark lord had finally answered her prayers. One day, while out in the prison yard, she
had spotted a devil’s thorn-apple growing against the outside of the
fence. She watched it bloom and waited
all summer for the seedpods to appear.
Then, had reached her hands through the fence and snatched them. She had used them to mix herself up a potion.
Elise still had one friend on the
outside who took her calls, a mutual friend, and she knew that Bill was going
to be house-sitting for Lucas and Adelaide on Devil’s Night. This friend had mentioned that they were
using a creepy mannequin for a Halloween decoration. Elise remembered that she had bespelled the
thing, imbued it with her own life force, and she knew just what to do.
Now, her plan in play, Elise watched
through the eyes of her golem as Bill bled out. Vengeance was finally hers!
As Bill lay dying, his thoughts
turned to Ava, who was now more than just a grotesquery; she was also
orphaned. Her precious vomit face faded
from his mind as the golem emptied his veins.
He should have left Elise the first time she hit him. Now, he was hers, forever.
As the golem released its unholy
bite, that slip of paper fell out of its mouth.
It read, “Let our hurts be equal.
As he hurts me, so too shall he be hurt.” Elise lost control of the mannequin. All she could do was stare at Bill’s corpse
through those tiger eye stones.
Elise, in her seething, blind quest
for revenge, she had forgotten what she had written on that slip of paper. “Let our hurts be equal.” She had forgotten that the magick flowed both
Elise had thought that she would feel
vindicated, but all she felt was alone.
Less than human. Animated and
fake, like a mannequin. The taste of
Bill’s blood hung thick in her throat; the coppery smell of death filled her
nostrils. She didn’t want to be there
Elise attempted to wake up. She tried to open her eyes, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t move, not even her pinkie. She couldn’t scream. Her consciousness was stuck inside the damned
Elise’s mind fought to leave the
hellish reality that she had made for herself, struggling against the plastic
confines of her new prison. Meanwhile, back
in the penitentiary, Elise’s body overdosed on tropane alkaloids and died.