Cheer up and dry your eyes
Come join the happy games
Come join the happy games
We can laugh' till we cry.
"Mary, Mary come and play!"
A childish, sing-song voice echoes from the base of the staircase, accompanied by frenzied murmurs from above. The only light in the room comes from outside, through the front door's window, giving the old house an eerie atmosphere. The wooden floors are dusty and without carpets and they squeak at every step. But Mary was never bothered by the sound, not like her Momma was. She walks with purpose towards the staircase, speaking softly to the clay doll clinging with small arms to one rafter.
"I'm looking for my marbles, One. Have you seen them?"
The doll called One was the first to show up when Mary went up to the attic, ages ago. She has green, beady eyes that never blink, a dirty, frilly dress with a grey apron, mismatched shoes and a pink topper. The hole in her cheek remindes Mary of the abyss. Dark and deep and full of nothingness.
"Did you lose them again, Mary? Come and play with us and you'll find them for sure!"
Mary has since long ago surpassed the age of playing with dolls. The thin, transparent shift she is wearing barely hides her round breasts and rear. The scars on her neck however are shielded by thick, brown hair which cascades in straight tresses to her shoulders; same locks fall in her eyes, a vivid shade of blue and always wide with something akin to shock.
"Alright, I'll come." Just like always, after her consent, scurrying noises could be heard above, followed by giddy whispers and hushed voices.
To get to the attic, one has to pass through the ceiling door, a heavy piece of wood which left Mary breathless and dizzy every time after pushing it open. She often came up, when she got bored downstairs- she didn't have anything to do there, apart from laying on the dirty floor, and staring off into space. One wonders why she doesn't stay only in the attic. Mary tells her it's because when she falls asleep there, she wakes up downstairs and it takes her hours of hardwork to push open the heavy door.
They start laughing gleefully the moment they see her; tens of toys, broken and dirty, of all kinds. The rocking horse neighs and starts swaying, the jack-in-the-box laughs madly and leers at her with his big, purple eyes, puppets drag their strings and twist them around her toes, the stuffed, rabid rabbit jumps and clings to her right arm with plastic claws, stuffed kittens meowl at her feet, clay dolls roll an old carpet for her to sit on.
A chorus of voices welcome her. "Mary, Mary welcome back!"
She smiles, sits down and looks around. Her happy place was a large and dusty room, full of cobwebs, shadows and tainted things. And she loved it.
One approaches her with a box filled with phonograph discs and motions for her to pick one. A song called "Dancing Mad" soon fills the space and the toys start swinging and jumping around, laughing in all kinds of ways. Mary rises to her feet, loops her arms with Thirteen's and sways back and forth with him. He is a colorful piece, made from patterned patches of cloth and stuffed with cotton and lead; his eyes are black buttons and his mouth is sewn shut but when he moves it, Mary can peak between stitches to see the same abyss present in One's hole. Taller than her but also thinner, he twirls her and they almost topple over but the shadows seeping down like hanging ropes from the ceiling expertly catch them. She giggles a thank you and feels the cold slither of darkness around her bare shoulders. They end the dance by bowing before each other and she returns to her carpet.
" Have you seen my marbles around here? I know for sure that if I find them, something good will happen."
" Oh i don't know" a squeaky chirp falls from a clockwork nightingale's beak.
" Rabid was eating round candies earlier" the words come out like a sigh from above her where a fairy with a missing leg is floating.
" He must've swallowed Mary's marbles!" Jack-in-the-box shouts accusatory.
" I have not!" The rabid rabbit mumbles resentful, his whole body convulsing uncontrollably.
" Yes, you did! Yes, you did!" A trio of chipped piggy bangs oink with indignation.
" Oh I know! Mary, Mary let's play a game with the rabbit. It's been so long since we enjoyed some Knife Knife Stab!" One claps her clay hands and chuckles.
Four, a doll resembling One but of the male variety, dressed in a butler outfit and missing an eye, puts in Mary's hand the only knife they have in the attic, old and with a rugged blade, crusted in dried blood and fabric threads. She grips the handle with purpose and her grin widens.
"No no no, I don't wanna play this game! I don't like this game!" The rabid rabbit protests as puppets pin him to the floor with their strings. He struggles and struggles but no one pays him any heed.
Leaning over him on her knees, Mary raises the knife above the stuffed toy and the others start singing "Knife Knife Stab", the tempo getting faster with every "Stab" shouted and the chances of getting pierced also rising. She recalls her previous games; sometimes she used too much force and accidentally stabbed when they were chanting "Knife", other times she'd only hit the floor but most of the times, she stabbed stabbed stabbed the toy, stuffing and gore gushing out of every wound. And the latter happens this round, the toy's belly bearing no resemblance to how it looked minutes ago.
The rabid rabbit's screams of agony, the madly laughing Jack-in-the-box, the mechanical twitters, the clay dolls' cheering, Mary's own tight-lipped chuckles make for a disturbing, loud cacophony of sounds. The game ends with the woman falling back on her rear, her head raised up to the ceiling and panting heavily. Sadly, they find no marble in the toy's twitching, shredded belly.
"Tea for the Lady? You must be thirsty after all that frolicking." Four is by her side, holding a fancy steel tray occupied by a steaming teapot, a chipped porcelain cup which had Rubick cubes painted on it, and cookies made of clay.
"Yes, thank you Four." Mary takes the cup and the butler pours reverently from the teapot; a murky, thick liquid fills the porcelain. It smells like gore, she thinks. Sipping on it, she almost chokes from the horrible taste.
Four cocks his head to the side and asks with an inquisitive tone "Not to your licking?"
"It is certainly most delicious, thank you." Mary grimaces and takes another gulp of the foul beverage.
The butler nods knowingly, adding "Indeed. It is, after all, made from your mind." And then he leaves, passing through a cobweb and into the shadows.
For a moment, the woman sits still, looking at the spot previously occupied by Toy Four, her mouth filled with another sip of "tea". She gulps it down and turns her attention back to the other toys which didn't seem to have taken any notice of the exchange; they either clean up the mess formerly known as the rabid rabbit or play with each other. Six, a Red Riding Hood look-alike, life size and ball-jointed, is setting up the cracked mirror. Mary springs from her spot on the carpet immediately, joy radiating from her.
"You'll finally let me through?"
Six turns her black orbs towards the woman clinging to her shoulder and speaks softly, but without emotion. "Maybe. Depends on how much you want to go out there."
"Very very very very much!"
"One, Mary wants to leave for the trees. Do we let her?"
"Mary, Mary why do you want the trees? They are cruel and will do bad things to you."
"No, they won't. What are you saying, silly One, you know the trees can't do anything."
"But they can and they will."
Six pulls the sheet, revealing the glass which by no means is reflecting the interior of the attic, but a very green and very luminous clearing. Laughter is coming from the other side, causing ripples to form on the transparent surface. Mary watches transfixed at the pixie like ball-jointed dolls swinging from tree branches, smiling faces with golden skin and thick horns poking from their cheekbones. Their gleaming, amber eyes speak to her: Come swim with us, come swim with us under the trees and you'll never be alone again.
"Mary, Mary, oh sweet Mary" Six puts her cold hand on the woman's cheek, turning it towards her. "The trees play rough games. The dolls on that side of the attic aren't as nice as us."
"I have to look for my marbles. What if they fell in the lake? I'm coming back, Six, just like always, hehehe." And with those words spoken, through the looking glass goes Mary.
"But there's no lake in the forest, Mary."
The laughter is amplified on that side. It's everywhere, covering any other sound . Mary waves her hand at the pixies and they circle her at once. They aren't particularly small, reaching her mid thigh, and they resemble small devils torn from the sun.
"Have you seen my marbles?"
"Your marbles?" They look at each other confused then shrug. "Let's play first and look for them later!" They speak in unison.
"We'll swim beneath the trees! Take your shift off, Mary, it will only hinder your movements." And the woman does as told.
"Come under the trees now, Mary." And she goes with them.
But when they stop at the base of a very large oak, she looks around suspiciously and asks "Where is the lake?"
"What lake?" The pixies' synchronized voices echo in the clearing. They cling to her, binding her arms, legs and middle with their skinny hands. Underneath her feet, the earth becomes moist and, rumbling, it cracks open. They begin dragging her down and she realizes that with horror in her heart. Screaming, Mary struggles to get the little devils off, but their grip is strong and so is the earth's embrace which soon is hugging her bare thighs. Their snickers come from both above and below the ground. Panic chokes her; soon enough, the earth is squeezing her neck and before it swallows her whole, she closes her eyes.
Back in the attic, Six and One shake their head disappointed. "Mary, Mary why didn't you listen? Now you're going back downstairs and you lost another marble."
The syringe was cleared of the liquid then stored away in the doctor's coat. He pressed a piece of cotton to the pierced spot and waited calmly for the medicine to kick in. Another patient awaited their daily dose, but he had some unfinished business to take care of first. He looked down at the sleeping woman and started to unfasten the binding of her white jacket. She wore nothing underneath.
He never questioned his integrity. Humans use each other all the time; it has been like that since the beginning of time. Why waste when there's no harm in benefiting from something? It was that simple.
Mary opened her eyes. Her lips stretched in a wide grin and her gaze focused on the pristine white ceiling. The doctor undressed himself and climbed over the still woman. Like every other day, he screwed her until the medicine wore off and she went back to sleep. Sometimes, she would laugh silently and tears would leak from her eyes. Other times, she would just smile and tremble. But every time, she asked the same question.
"Where are my marbles, doc?"