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Strings

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The park was abandoned, except for her. Dawn Westgate sat motionless on an olive colored bench, her pale head looking up. The sky was dark, with a lone, ashen cloud floating slowly across the heavens. She liked days like this, when the world was recovering from the aftershock of a storm.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, he was there. The dark figure stood wearing a charcoal waistcoat that stretched down to his leather boots. He wore similar colored shades and had a long thick mop of ugly blond hair. Dawn casually reached into her jeans pocket and felt around, fingering her 6’’ long pocketknife.
“None of that, I’m not going to hurt you” the man soothed, his voice high pitched and with a slight Russian accent. He was staring at the outline of the shank in her pocket. The girl eyed him hard before replying “What do you want?” Her voice was monotonous, but soft from the fear that was growing since the man appeared. Strangers just don’t talk to you Dawn thought, not unless they’re saying, “Give me all your money.” The man sighed and reached into his jacket pocket. What was he going to pull out? Was it a gun, or, possibly a knife?
Startled, Dawn stood up and backed away. Her legs almost buckled from fright. But the man in the black waistcoat didn’t pull out a dagger or any weapon. He retrieved a doll. No, it was more like a marionette puppet. It had silky chocolate hair and beautiful azure eyes, and hung from thin strings that rooted at the chestnut crossbars. The detail was incredible; the crafter who made it must have been a master. Dawn exhaled, and felt a little jealous of the wooden girl. The puppet was so pretty and wonderful, but the sophomore was a polar opposite. She was tall with long bleached hair (which she happily dyed black) and had pale, colorless skin. Plus the doll was smiling, which was an almost impossible feat for Dawn.

“Charming, isn’t she?” the man sighed. “It was my daughters but she recently passed away from cancer, and now I don’t know what to do with it.”
Dawn got his point “So you want me to have your… puppet?”
“She can be yours for ten bucks.”
Ten was an okay price, but if there was one thing Dawn’s unloving mother taught her, it was to lower the price at least a little bit. “Five.”
The man looked hurt, as if someone just punched him in the gut. The wind started to howl around them, and trees started to sway somewhat violently in the gust. Worriedly, the man in the inky colored waistcoat agreed suddenly. “Fine, just take her.”
Dawn pulled out a crisp five dollar bill from her back pocket and approached the stranger, glaring at him before finally giving him the money. In return, the man handed her the marionette. As soon as the cute little figurine was in the sophomores hands, a great burden seemed to be lifted from the man’s shoulders, and he stood a little taller, malice hiding inside his teal eyes as a child hides from his friends in a game of hide-n-go seek. Lackadaisically Dawn looked down at the tangled mess of strings she just purchased. In a meager scrawl someone had scratched a word into the glazed, wooden forearm of the marionette. A-L-I-C-E, she read. Confused, the girl looked up and exclaimed, “Hey, who the heck is Alice? Is that her name or,” but she stopped midsentence.
The man was gone.

*
*
*
Dawn reached home just as the first drops of another storm came raining down to earth. She walked over to her delicate porcelain counter and dumped the doll onto it, sighing cheerlessly. Almost instantly after the man in the jacket disappeared, she regretted buying Alice, (The name Dawn chose for her because of the inscription on her arm) and felt the burden the man in black had. The doll was so heavy and was it became annoying with all those silk like cords that caught and tangled into the sophomore’s hands. I don’t need the strings Dawn thought bitterly, boiling over in frustration. She would look a lot better without them.
So she swiftly discovered some scissors in a drawer and, hesitating for the slightest moment, began the trim. Snip, Snip, Snip went the shears. Surprisingly the strings gave away fast and seemed to have no delay in being separated from Alice. As soon as the last fiber was cut, Dawn held up her modified marionette, focusing intently on the puppet’s deep cerulean eyes.
That’s when Alice blinked.
Startled, Dawn dropped the puppet edging quickly away and slamming against the front door. “Was I hallucinating?” Dawn thought, or did that doll’s eyes just flicker? Laughing a little, she assured herself that she was crazy and advanced towards the little girl. Her eyes stared blissfully ahead. Reluctantly, Dawn picked Alice up and set her carefully on her counter, licking her arid, cracked lips. She was thirsty and hadn’t had a sip of anything since breakfast.
Swiftly, the sophomore glided to her refrigerator and opened it up, inspecting its insides. No milk or orange juice. Frowning, Dawn got out a pen and a piece of stark white paper from a drawer and hastily wrote ‘Need milk and orange juice, -Dawn’. She set the note by the string less marionette and turned back to her fridge, looking at the photos that were scattered there.
Pictures of her mom littered here and there, each one with a different guy or with someone famous. No signs of Dawn. Baring her teeth, she ripped one of the photos off and violently tore it into two pieces and made her way to the trash, which was located next to the counter. As she moved toward the trashcan, something caught her off guard and made her stop abruptly. “The note,” she thought.
Written in cursive print underneath her note to her mom read ‘3435 Keswick Dr. NE.’
What did that mean?? Dawn thought. It’s an address but who could have written it? Her mother was at work and her dad, well... No one knew where he was.
Sudden realization washed over her like a flood as she gazed at a shiny pen that was gripped between Alice’s little fingers. But Alice stared on straight ahead with those blue eyes. Her ecstatic smile was starting to creep Dawn out. She couldn’t believe this was happening, and she felt a wave of complete confusion, and then her vision was quickly consumed by a murky darkness.











********




Reality came slowly upon her, calmly shifting her mind from an eerie, yet somewhat soothing dream. A small headache tugged at her mind as she rubbed her skull sorely. Did I faint? The question kept returning to her head like a loyal Dalmatian, never even thinking to leave her presence.
Finally, she assumed that she had passed out and sat up, grunting in pain. It was quiet, maybe too quiet. Getting up she realized that Alice was not resting on the counter as she previously was. A shiver went through her spine, and Dawn looked around, agitation slowly creeping into her heart and draining her energy. Someone was watching her, or something. Spinning around, Dawn’s eyes rested on a little marionette puppet that sat happily on her soft pink colored couch; The doll’s eyes glazed over in a sort of unreal happiness that animated her face in the dim light that Dawn was in. Questions flooded the sophomore, but one stood out as the she beheld what the little doll was holding. It was the notebook that Dawn had written groceries on earlier. The same address stood dauntingly: 35 34 Keswick Dr. NE. But under that, in a more crude scribble “HELP ME “
Breathing heavily, Dawn recalled something from her dream. In it was a beautiful girl, her age, which sat in Dawn’s house with an uplifting smile, yet it seemed so fake, maybe unreal. The unknown girl also had the same blue eyes and amber hair As Alice. But, it was just a dream, an illusion. No more.
Looking sideways she glanced at her family’s antique grandfather clock.
The small hand was on the 6 and the longer one on the 11. Almost 7 o’clock. Biting her lip Dawn returned her gaze to Alice and her stomach dropped. There was another inscription on the paper.
PLEASE HELP 3435 KESWICK DR. Ne
The sophomore had an idea, and before long, she and the marionette were out the door.
30 minutes later…
An old factory stood ahead. Dawn was dripping wet from the steady downpour and in her hands was a puppet. Thunder crackled in the distance, and lightning flashed, creating an eerie landscape. Shadows danced beyond Dawn’s vision, and she took a step towards the building. There was a luminescent glow radiating from one of the windows, signaling someone was inside. The sky was growing even darker, absorbing the remaining light. As she walked closer, she noticed two things: A metallic door that had rust clinging to it and an alloy sign that read ‘3435 Keswick’. This was the right place.
With a hard budge she shoved the door open with her shoulder and stepped inside, looking around. There was another door, from which light poured out. Slowly, she walked steadily over to the entry and grabbed a copper colored handle. Surprisingly, it was unlocked and Dawn opened it, soaking in the scene while gasping with horror.
In a chair, was a tied girl. She had bronze hair that cascaded down her back, and she was wearing a lilac Aeropostale sweatshirt on her body with ripped jeans. But the oddest feature was her navy blue eyes that seemed to penetrate Dawn’s soul. They were glazed over with a sort of dusty colored film. Walking over to her, she realized an important piece of information.
It was Alice.
But,… she was human. Was it coincidental?
Suddenly, the door slammed shut. Spinning around, she saw a man. He was dressed in a waistcoat and had an ugly mop of blond hair. It all clicked for Dawn; it was the man who sold her the puppet.
Grinning, he walked slowly over to Dawn, who backed away into the corner of the small room, dropping her marionette puppet. The puppet met the copper colored tile with a sickening thud. Dawn noticed the girl in the chair tensed, with what looked like pain.
“You cut the strings,” his voice rang, slicing the thin air. The man reached into his coat pocket, which reminded Dawn of her own objects found in her pocket. Skillfully, she pulled out her pocket-knife and flicked it open, careful not to cut herself. However, the man surprised Dawn again by pulling out a weapon that she could not combat.
It was a shotgun, one with a stunted end. Sighing sadly, the man brought it down to the floor, aiming it at the helpless doll who sat staring ahead with an emotion of happiness but was soon shattered as the pulled back on the trigger of the weapon and an array of bullets sprang from it like an eager baby bird taking its first flight from its own home. The noise was terrible and Dawn’s ears screamed for aid. A sour taste filled her mouth as she looked at the shattered remains of the marionette. At the same moment Dawn saw the tied up girl’s head drop lazily, as if life was taken harshly away. Blood squirted from Alice and clung to Dawns shoes, giving a stained imperfect look to them. She could do nothing as the man in the waistcoat moved slowly towards her, with a crazy smile that showed his true ambitions. Dawn gasped and cried for her life; for she knew it was over.










*****
The sky was dark as James Harper sat on a bench in rural Philadelphia. He knew no one; even his own parents had dropped him on the streets like trash. The troubled teen had anger, a rage deep inside him that was burning to control him. He had scavenged for food, too ashamed too show his face to a homeless shelter. When he was young he would punch his pillows until they were limp and he would rip the heads off of his sister’s Barbie dolls. That seemed to satisfy his temper. And he knew what he was: An ill-tempered teen that might hurt his dad’s reputation as C.E.O at a large corporation. As soon as he was out of his house he could never release his sour bitterness in a physical blow. Suddenly, a man in a waistcoat was by his side, and began to comfort him, and gave him a doll that would be his friend, for free. James smiled greedily as he looked at his new prize. The marionette was feminine looking, with murky black hair and a somewhat ugly looking appearance that resembled a high- schooler. He now knew who to deal punishment to.
“Thank you,” the boy told the man. The man never heard this, for he was gone, like a thief in the night.



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