The bedroom’s darkness felt soft, almost tangible, seemingly capable of dampening even the loudest of noises. Child’s toys were strewn about the carpet in carelessness, the floor nothing more than a plastic junkyard. A clock mounted on the wall ticked away, the second hand pursuing the skyward-facing number “twelve.” It soon reached it, landing juxtaposed to its time-telling brethren. The clock whirred and lit up, producing a musical flurry that, as far as its owner knew, it wasn’t designed to.
A warm, forgiving summer breeze softly blew through the open window, rustling the dark brown curls of the small girl, asleep in her bed. The world was completely still, and deathly quiet.
“Hello, Tina,” a voice whispered.
Tina’s eyes snapped open, and she sat upright in her bed, searching for the source of the noise. Her eyes widened further as she discovered it. On the windowsill, backlit by the moon and stars, sat a ventriloquist’s dummy.
Nearly three feet in length, the figure sported a miniature black-and-white tuxedo, with a black bow to match. Its head, though slightly pale, sported brown curls identical to Tina’s. It possessed no irises, though; only coal-black spots embedded in its face. The lips, painted a faint pink, curled upward into a smile, which split disturbingly as its mouth flapped open.
“Who . . . who are you?” Tina softly asked.
Silence, for a moment, before the dummy spoke. “My name is Trina. It’s nice to meet you!”
Its voice maintained a low whisper, but it held an excitement, an underlying anticipation, as if it knew a secret that Tina was yet to discover.
Tina leaned to the side, trying to see beyond Trina. “Who’s outside the window? Who’s controlling you?”
Not waiting for an answering, the girl moved to climb out of her bed.
Trina’s voice quickly dropped several octaves. “Don’t you dare move from that spot.”
Shuddering, Tina obliged.
“No one controls me,” Trina continued, her voice returning to its soft whisper. “No one.”
Tina looked at her closed bedroom door.
“You won’t make it if you run,” Trina warned in a sing-song voice.
“What do you want?” Tina asked the dummy, her voice trembling.
Trina tilted her head to the left, then to the right, seeming to survey the room. “I just came to chat.”
Sitting against bed’s headboard, Tina pulled her blanket up to her chin. “What do you want to talk about?”
The dummy’s head lolled to one side as it said, “Well, I wanted to get to know you. I have a feeling we’re going to be best friends soon. Wouldn’t you like to be best friends?”
“Um . . . I don’t know,” Tina responded. “I don’t know you.”
“That’s rude,” Trina hissed. “I’m trying to do that right now, aren’t I?”
Tina curled into a ball. “Yeah, I guess.”
“So, Tina,” the dummy spat, the name leaving its mouth almost threateningly, “what do you do for fun?”
Pointing at a nearby desk, Tina said, “I like to make things. Especially out of paper.”
Trina leaned forward, further into the room, but didn’t leave the windowsill. Her head swiveled to the side, absorbing the flat surface covered in coloring books, construction paper, pens, pencils, and glue. Suddenly, the dummy straightened up, as if intrigued.
“Say, what’s that shiny thing?”
“Oh, that?” Tina glanced at her crafting desk. “It’s a utility knife. It’s kind of like scissors, but I find it easier to cut up little things.”
Trina laughed in a soft, steady tone, like air leaking from a tire. “Who doesn’t like to cut up little things?”
The dummy’s hands lifted, landing palms-up in its lap. “Give it to me.”
Tina opened her mouth to object. “But . . . it’s mine–”
“I said give it to me,” Trina interrupted.
Leaning over the edge of the bed, Tina picked up the utility knife with shaking hands. The object was mostly silver handle, with a small, triangular blade at the end, no more than an inch long. She moved to leave the bed.
“No, no,” Trina objected. “Just toss it over here. Don’t let it go out the window.”
Tina raised up on her knees and tossed the knife to the dummy. It sailed through the air, almost floating, and landed perfectly into Trina’s lap. Trina’s head drooped for a moment, like a puppet with cut strings, before straightening back up, the knife clenched in her small, wooden hand. The dummy examined the knife, then released it onto its lap.
Sighing, Trina whispered, “Why do such little girls have such deadly toys?”
“I mean, I am eight and half,” Tina replied indignantly. “I can take care of myself.”
“Can you?” the dummy asked. “Tell me, where you do go to school?”
Tina sat back again. “Chadwell Elementary.”
“And your parents? What do they do?”
Tina thought for a moment. “My dad is a chef. My mom is always on the TV, talking about boring things. I’m not sure what she does, honestly.”
“She sounds important,” Trina whispered. “So, I’ll ask again, do you think you can take care of yourself?”
Tina’s blood ran cold. “What do you mean?”
“Well, important people make enemies,” Trina explained. “Enemies who might want to use you to get to them.”
“Oh . . .” Trina lowered her gaze. “I didn’t know that.”
“It’s okay!” the dummy exclaimed, its voice quiet, but harsh. “That’s why I want to be your friend! We can learn so much from each other. Don’t you think?”
Tina offered a half-smile, nodding.
Outside the isolated bedroom, footsteps sounded, muffled by the carpet. Trina turned to the door, and Tina followed suit. Over her shoulder, the girl heard the dummy whisper, “He’s here for you.”
“Who?” Tina squeaked.
The door gently swung open, revealing a tall, muscular man in a black ski mask. Tina tried to run, to scream, but she was paralyzed. He looked at her, leveling a knife.
“Come with me, kid.”
Trina began to vibrate, her head spinning around repeatedly. “Don’t play rough with my friends.”
The masked intruder stepped forward, mouth opening as he registered the dummy. “What the hell . . .”
Tina’s wits returned, and she sprung from the bed, dashing past the man and into the hallway. He turned to give chase, but the bedroom door slammed shut, separating them and sealing him inside the room. The man banged on the barrier.
“Hey! What is this?”
Then, a snap, like a bent twig. The man screamed, his voice now shrill and feminine. Another snap, and then a third, in quick succession now. The crunching continued, reminding Tina of the sound of chewing on breakfast cereal. His screams petered out into a pathetic whimper, finally falling silent.
A loud thump resounded behind Tina, and she spun around, running straight into her mother’s open arms.
“Sweetie, what happened?” her mother asked, pulling Tina close.
Tina began to sob. “There’s– there’s– there’s someone in my room.”
Her father appeared, brandishing a baseball bat. “Honey, open the door.”
“No!” Tina screamed, but her mother ignored her cries, twisting the knob.
The door drifted open, revealing a dark room, a carpet covered in toys, a ticking wall clock.
But no man. And no dummy.
The family wandered inside, Tina’s heart pounding in her tiny chest, and searched the bedroom.
Nothing. No signs of life.
Hesitantly, Tina walked to the window, peeking beyond the sill. Just past the edge, caught on the brick outside, fluttered a torn piece of black cloth. Far below, her utility knife lay on the grass, red and wet.
Tina gasped, backing away. Her parents rushed to the window, but she continued to distance herself. After several steps, she collided with her crafting desk. Her hand brushed against the wood to steady herself, and she felt sharp splinters prick her skin. Shivering, she faced the desk, revealing a small heart carved into the surface. Scratched within the heart were six words.
Tina and Trina: Best Friends Forever!
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