All By Myself
Originally published in Twisted Tongue, Issue 8.
I suppose you’re expecting a story full of ghosts and goblins. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not what you’re going to get. This is my story. So who am I and what do I do? The first question is easy enough. My name is Jodie. As for the second question, the answer right now is very little. In fact, I’ve been sitting in exactly the same spot on the floor for weeks - ever since mummy and daddy left me.
At first I thought it was an accident, that they’d be coming back for me at any moment, but as the days dragged on, I came to the conclusion it must have been deliberate. What other explanation can there be?
I think Carla's behind it. Carla's my big sister. She’s hasn't liked me since I fell down the stairs and broke my arm - which, by the way, was her fault. There I was sitting on the landing, minding my own business, when she comes rushing out of the bedroom, not looking where she’s going, and crashes straight into me. She’s an awful lot bigger than me, so she knocked me flying. I don’t blame her for it - she’s always been clumsy - but in a funny sort of way, she seems to blame me. At least, that’s the impression she gave just afterwards. I remember what she said distinctly, because it hurt so much - "Great! Now she’s even more useless than she was before!"
Since then, she’s made no end of snide remarks about me. I’m betting it was this that poisoned mummy and daddy’s minds against me and convinced them they don’t need me anymore. Why else would they have left me here?
Strange how a place that was once so warm and inviting can feel so empty. It’s the same building with only the furniture missing, so why does it feel so different?
I can’t begin to tell you how terrified I am. I’ve never been truly alone before, not like I am now. My very first memory is of being surrounded by others just like me. How could my family do this to me? How could they leave me like this?
I’m not just scared, mind you. I’m also angry. It makes me so mad to think of them leaving me here to rot. What they don’t know is that wherever they have gone, I can find them. I don’t mean physically, but mentally. I can cast my mind out and home in on their thoughts. I’ve considered doing it a lot, but I’ve always stopped myself, because of how painful it can be. It feels like someone's set your head on fire. Now, though, it seems I’ve got no choice. It’s time to stop fooling myself into thinking they’re coming back and start taking positive action.
So, I settle back and start to concentrate. My awareness goes soaring out of the window into the cool night air. Then it starts - the searing pain - like dozens of knives stabbing me in the head, and the further I scry, the worse it gets. It makes it hard to concentrate, but through it all, I can distinctly hear their thoughts. They call out to me across the miles. It’s faint, but quite unmistakable, like the rumble of thunder in the distance.
Slowly, I force myself closer to the source. Each movement is a lesson in pain. If I was able, I would scream, but I am not, so I remain quiet.
Like the wind itself, my consciousness races across the heavy sky - over silent rooftops and rolling countryside. Finally, I feel myself nearing my objective, and less than a minute later, I am looking at my family’s new home.
It’s a pretty little cottage in a village by a river - just the kind of place I would like to live. The cottage is cream coloured, with a thatched roof and honeysuckle growing up the walls. Mummy, daddy and Carla are asleep upstairs. A heavy front door stands between us, but such things are no barrier to the power of thought and I continue on my way. Up the dark staircase I struggle, still besieged by the searing pain, until at last, I find myself at the foot of Carla’s bed.
"What happens now?" I hear you ask. Well, now I’ve found them, I’m going to teach them a lesson about the dangers of leaving me. Did I mention that there’s something else I can do over great distances? I can inflict pain! As they are about to discover.
Compared to travelling without moving, it’s easy. Just a question of focus. I stare at Carla’s unmoving body and concentrate on the desired effect. Under the strength of my will, a tiny flame flickers into life in the centre of her forehead. In the next instant, it has become a raging inferno, spreading across the bed and devouring everything in its path. Carla sits bolt upright and screams for help, but it’s too late. Before anyone can get to her, she has burnt to death.
My mind shifts and I see mummy and daddy running into the room to find out what’s happening. Mummy cries out in horror at the sight of Carla’s blackened body and buries her head in daddy’s chest. Daddy simply stands there, staring into space, unable to accept what has happened. I fasten my thoughts onto them, and watch in satisfaction as two thick jets of flame arc across from the burning bed and blast down onto their heads. The flames widen into two fiery columns that completely envelop them, reducing them to heaps of ash.
My work is done and I allow my mind to withdraw. The journey back is easy, the miles flying past in the blink of an eye. I feel my body shudder slightly as my consciousness crashes back into place.
Now, as I sit here alone in the darkness, I find myself thinking back over what I have done. No doubt there are those who would think it extreme, but I only did what my maker would have wanted me to do.
I can still remember what he said to me as he placed me on the shelf with the other dolls, "Jodie, you were a child once; now, you’re a doll. Find yourself a good home and stay there. To hell with anyone who mistreats you."
I don't know how many homes I've been to or how many times I've been mistreated. What I do know is that I have burnt up an awful lot of people. How many more do I have to send to hell before I find the family I’m looking for?
The right of C. J. Carter-Stephenson to be identified as the author of this story has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author, or a license permitting restricted copying.