Behind These Eyes - Part Three

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As the tide rose and the heat started to seep from the air, they gathered their towels and walked back to the house. They picked at the leftovers of Christmas lunch, still too full to want much more than that, and Belle challenged everyone to a game of Monopoly. Alyssa declined, and retired to her room to call her friends and catch up on gossip, but Mandy joined in. Belle went easy on them, but won anyway. Belle, especially, went to bed happy, and slept late.

Alyssa was dancing, watching her reflection in the big mirrors that lined the dance studio. It was the same dance school that she had gone to as a young girl -still in preschool - but Alyssa wasn't that preschooler anymore. She was wearing a pink leotard and soft shoes with ribbons. She had loved those ribbons as a little girl, loved watching her feet in the mirrors as she spun. Now, in this dream, she spun, watching her feet, but as she did so she noticed a reflection in the mirror behind the spinning ribbons. A hand, sliding along the floor, the fingers skeletal, the nails pointed and long, reaching for her ankles. Alyssa knew it was only a reflection, but a reflection of what? She spun faster, pirouetting out of reach of the hand, but still it came, and with no body to follow, just a long endless snaking arm. Alyssa shrieked, wanting to run. Run and run away from these clutching fingers and their snake-like arm. But she found that the harder she tried to stop turning, the faster she spun. Before long, she was spinning so fast the world became a blur, and she could no longer see the arm. Suddenly, her vision exploded into a sea of red, and she saw the hand grasping for her eyes instead of her ankles. She screamed, in real life as well as in her dream, and woke up with a start. She sat up in bed, her eyes wide with fright, her brow sweaty and her hands trembling, and a funny, creepy little rhyme the only solid thing in her mind:
I had a pretty little dolly
I told it my little worry
But then it went red
And now they're all dead
I am so terribly sorry
Alyssa trembled, the rhyme running through her mind over and over again. Eventually, sleep far away, she got out of bed and went for a walk in the dawn light, trying to clear not the nightmare so much as the rhyme from her head.

In the morning, when Belle eventually stumbled out of bed, the house was silent. She went into the kitchen, still feeling her way around the strange house, getting used to where the corners and walls were. She found the fridge, opened it, and found the ham in its damp bag by smell more than touch. She pulled it out, and carefully cut a few slices with a knife from the block on the bench. She was making toast when she heard laughing from outside, then the slamming of the door. Her mother and Jamie were outside on the verandah, and Alyssa had just arrived from somewhere, Belle surmised. When her toast was ready, she put the ham on top, and holding breakfast with one hand and feeling her way with the other, made her way out to the front of the house.

Alyssa had been down to the beach, and was washing her feet under the tap. Belle could smell the salt as she did it.
"Morning Sleepy head," Mandy said as Belle sat down at the table, "did you find everything in the kitchen OK?"
"Yeah, I'm getting used to it already." Belle responded. Alyssa climbed up on to the verandah and made to snatch a piece of Belle's toast. Belle moved the plate and smacked at her hand before she had a chance, and Alyssa laughed, "I have no idea how you do that, Belle."
"I can smell your evil intentions," she retorted.
Alyssa gave a playful pout as she dropped into the only empty chair. She quickly jumped up again to grab something out of her jeans pocket. She sat again and handed it to Belle, using her other hand to guide Belle's to the tiny item.
"What is it?" Belle asked. Before Alyssa could respond, Belle yelped and jumped out of her seat. She barely noticed as the chair fell back on the ground with a bang. When the little trinket had hit her palm, she had felt as though someone had poured hot fluid over her head. She could smell, even taste, the copper of blood and now she scrubbed at her face to get rid of the sensation. Almost as soon as it had came, it was gone, although she could still feel the rush of adrenaline through her veins.
Alyssa, Mandy and Jamie had all jumped up when Belle did, and Mandy had grabbed Belle, as though to protect her from whatever it was that Alyssa had given her. Now, the fear turned to anger, and she rounded on Alyssa, yelling for her to tell her what had just happened. Alyssa, shocked, just shook her head and stammered. She picked the trinket up off the table, gingerly, as though she thought it might bite - after all, it seemed to have bitten Belle - and held it out to her mother with a trembling hand. Mandy peered at it, not willing to touch it. It was very small, a tiny little piece of twig lying in Alyssa's hand, with a scrap of cloth wrapped around one end. Mandy frowned, "it's a little doll," she said, questioning. She looked from the doll to Alyssa's shocked face, then to Belle, who was still standing, but who seemed to have mostly recovered, then to Jaime, who just looked confused and a bit bewildered.
"It's a worry doll, I think. I found it on the beach this morning, someone must have dropped it. I ... I thought Belle would like it."
Belle felt strange. Her heart rate had returned to normal now, but the experience still lingered. Alyssa and her mother were saying it was a little doll. She'd heard about worry dolls - a friend of hers had had a set back when they were in primary school. Little dolls made out of twigs or cardboard, with colourful outfits made from scraps of fabric. They came from Guatemala, and the legend was that if you told your worries to the doll. and left it under your pillow, the doll would worry for you, so you didn't have to do it yourself. She had played with those dolls all those years ago, and never experienced anything like this before. Alyssa seemed to have no trouble holding it, she had picked it up and carried it in her pocket, held it in her hand when she gave it to Belle. What was different about this doll, that it had given her such a scare?

The doll sat in the middle of the table now, no one quite willing to pick it up, although all - with the exception of Belle - leaned in towards to get a better look. Alyssa picked up Belle's chair, and Belle thanked her quietly, and plopped herself back down. An awkward silence had descended.

Eventually, Jaime picked up the newspaper, folded it, and stood, "I'm going to go and get started on the mowing". He leant down close to Alyssa as he walked behind her and said softly, "it might be a good idea to take the doll back where you found it, huh?". Alyssa nodded mutely.


Alyssa had intended to take it back to the beach. She thought she'd build a little sandcastle and poke the doll down into the top. Eventually the wind or the sea would claim it, take it back to wherever it had come from. For now though, she took it and propped it on the top of the bookshelf in her little unit, leaning against a textbook. Why had the doll had that strange effect on Belle? It didn't matter which way she turned the events, she couldn't get them to make sense. It was like one of those logic puzzles, with an answer filled out wrong. Every time she thought she'd figured something out, it invalidated an answer she already had. And that rhyme - but then it went red, and now they're all dead - was still spinning, spinning in her mind. Alyssa turned the television on, hoping to drown it out but still - and now they're all dead, now they're all dead - she couldn't shake the rhyme, or the cold chill that had persisted since she woke up in the early hours.


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