Oh hi! Happy Friday!
The kids' school had a professional day today so there were no classes. This means I'm getting a bonus long weekend this month! Yay! My hubby works nights and usually goes to bed around the same time I'm taking the kids for school, so I got up at my usual time for getting out the door for school, left the kids sleeping and him awake, and got to go shopping by myself! Without a time limit! Because once the kiddos are up and fed he can leave them with a movie and go to sleep. He texted me when he was going to bed, and they watched a movie until I get home.
In case you're worried, I'm not a jerk who sprang this on him last minute, I asked if this would be possible last night during his first break and he said sure. He ended up staying awake later than usual due to hating the feeling that the kids are 'alone' (even if he's there to wake up if something goes wrong for them), but he wasn't up a lot later. And I got to leave the house for Alone Time Shopping without needing to clock watch. There's also a happy ending to this story: we have groceries again, I could hit four stores easily in one shopping trip, and Canadian Tire had indoor / outdoor strings of 100 purple – PURPLE! – Halloween twinkle lights. (This last thing may not be a big deal in your house, but I just scored tree lights in the favorite color of both kids and we can use them for Halloween through to New Years. WIN!)
My creativity died this week under doctor appointments, school volunteering, weather-change pain, and the general, failure-feeling anxiety which, for me, rears up whenever I don't get much writing done. That only means it was an editing week. :) Hope you have a great weekend!
4. Fluffy, Safe... Toys
Felix thought Luis was growling, but then Luis stopped advancing and glared around the clearing for the source. The growl didn’t sound like anything from the normal night noises. The bear that had carried the shoe box to Felix had collapsed to its back when all the toys had stopped. Now, its arms dangled and its legs jerked stiffly as it rolled to its belly. Then to its back. Then to its belly. It ended the jolting movements in the empty space between Felix and Luis.
Felix’s vision flickered and… he had to be having another breakdown episode. That bear was a pink toy with loose stitching and fluff coming out where one ear used to be. That’s what it had been when it delivered the music box. Felix closed his eyes and shook his head quickly. When he looked again, the toy was wobbling upright to stand in the fluffy, clumsy way it moved since however long Felix had been here, its belly rising from a patch of tall weeds hiding its legs.
But it was still growling. And when his vision flickered again its back legs were shifting in steps that kept the bear’s feet high above the tops of the tallest grass as the toy’s arms swayed, hanging loosely from its sides. The front legs of the walking thing protruded from the remnants of the bear’s chest. Felix blinked again and saw only the bear wobbling toward Luis on its back legs. The tracks it was leaving between the patches of weeds were clearly made by something walking on four feet. Every new scar showed four claws scraping the earth for each footprint.
The flickering way things looked made everything around him confusing to see. Felix knew the toys didn’t have antlers, they had soft ears. They were slightly worn but still fuzzy pastel colors, not fabrics long rotted into earthy hues. They had stumpy, round, soft paws, not long, sinewy arms ending in claws and hands with only fingers and no thumbs. Every time he blinked, the flickering cleared and they were what he knew them to be: every day, soft toys that people put in cribs with babies when they were new and didn’t get that forgotten look until after a first camping trip where they got left out in the rain. They didn’t have pointed teeth and gleaming eyes that stared out from the wrong places in the last of the stitching. These weren’t nightmare things, they were just old, forgotten toys.
They were silly, soft, safe toys.
He squished his eyes shut and curled tighter. The unicorn with the glitter frozen in its scratched up eyes thumped a sequined front hoof to his chest and then wiggled out of his arms to flump beside the fallen music box. Felix’s gaze dropped to watch it, the sounds of Luis’s feet stumbling backwards fading quieter in his ears. The unicorn bounced to peep out one squeak and then hugged the music box. The adorable way it cuddled the cube enchanted Felix’s lips into a smile. He picked up the music box in one hand and the unicorn in the other and then folded his legs criss-cross applesauce so he could set both of them down, one balanced on each of his legs.
“What the hell is…?” Luis’s voice tightened and strangled off the last part of the question.
Felix looked over at where Luis was backing away from the toy-wearing things jerkily rolling and lurching to collect between where Felix sat with the unicorn and Luis. Except Felix knew the toys weren’t things, they were only a bit worn out. He blinked. They were fluffy toys. Blind rage was slowly turning to blind panic on Luis’s face. The soft toys flickered as Felix watched, revealing impossibly long limbs suspending the toys and Luis staring in slack-jawed terror. Felix blinked.
The unicorn bounce-squeaked and patted Felix’s hand; pulling his attention back to the items in his lap and then nuzzling against his forearm. The unicorn looked so much nicer since he’d gotten it tidied up, and its plastic fur was soft against his skin. Felix twisted the peg on the side of the music box, leaving the lid up to listen to the song start when he finished. A rush of small animal noises hurried away, the quiet peeps of squeakers fading out of the clearing behind him as the first notes tinked and plinked up from his lap.
There was something that sounded like distant roars, maybe far away screaming, but the tune from the box was louder. The little unicorn snuggled against his wrist and he petted it gently. After a moment, the penguin he’d retied the flipper arm for came and sat with them, swaying to slowing pace of the song. Felix quietly sang words he hadn’t remembered until seeing the little unicorn bobbing its head along with the beat:
“If you come into the woods tonight, you’re in for a big surprise.
If you come into the woods tonight, their truth will be in disguise.
Fey wear the cloak of any old toy and gather here in the clearing.
To play is fun, but the hunt’s begun, and the Teddy Bears want their picnic.”
Felix wound up the box again, smiling at the antics of the unicorn that had been – for lack of a better description to fit the shuffling, dipping and popping – dancing on his knee while he sang, the little penguin clapping its flippers. As when he’d first gotten to the clearing and the toys had shuffled out to see him, he realized this breakdown wasn’t too bad. He turned a bit and set the unicorn on a patch of clear grass, smiling as it danced with the penguin, the rest of the toys forgotten.
This breakdown was safe, soft and friendly. Not at all like the bloody ones that Mom said his real dad had.
The unicorn was warm when he snuggled to sleep with it, blanketed under stars. The music box played along with his dreams, all the toys returning and becoming lovely, person-sized versions of their forgotten selves in his imagination. He dreamed of dancing, and slept with a smile on his face.
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!