Ever considered the possibility that there is a prison-like regime being run in your attic? Ever wondered what it might look like if a humble cuddly toy was objectively assassinated? If so, then please seek help. If not then may I draw your attention to the short macabre yarn below?
In a moment of sheer disturbed madness I have created a short piece about my take on the secret life of toys. For a while now I have been fascinated with the concepts laid down by films like the "Toy Story" trilogy and "Small Soldiers" and books including "The Indian In The Cupboard", and always had a gritty realistic perspective in mind. If toys lived then surely they would be akin to the ways of civilisation and therefore adhere to strict systems, wouldn't they? After years of creative excitation then (pretty much) immediate scrapping, this tale came out.
So without further ado, here is "Neglected". Please don't judge me too harshly - especially you, Teddy!
His first mistake was running. His second mistake was running from me.
He made a good choice on where to hide though. This territory is devoid of inhabitants, unfamiliar. It's rare that the door is open here; he saw his chance and he took it. The only downside is that he doesn't know this area either, he's just as lost as me. Equal ground. Stalemate.
This place isn't wholly unknown to me though; I've been in here before. Hell, we've all been in here before. It's just things have been modified. The organiser had a drastic change of mind (like they all eventually do) and she decided that everything else had to go with it. Within weeks the entire population had been transported elsewhere. It was fortunate that the second younger organiser had taken an interest or else we'd have all been out on our asses. However some of us weren't so lucky.
Running into this area, I see nothing's the same. The colours gone in a big way (from cream to violet) and the terrains completely different. It's still a mess but a new kind of mess. More intended.
As I stumble over the strange mound of cloth beneath my feet I realise that even the smell's all wrong. The air's thicker, more rancid. The windows are closed and covered, that's probably made it worse.
I hear shuffled footsteps. It seems my not-so-little runaway is having trouble with his footing too. I hear heavy breathing and muttering. He's scared. I have a chance to wear him down. Maybe he'll come quietly, stop playing chase. I check my gun anyway.
I'm proud of her. It took damn near months to punch and prod a hole through the rigid barrel, even longer to alter the firing mechanism. She may not look much like a gun but she sure as hell fires like one. I throw in an extra pin-shard. I may not want a casualty on my hands but I sure wouldn't mind some firing practice.
As I meet with the corner I gradually lift the trim. He isn't hiding under here. Or maybe he found a shadowy corner and got lucky? I knew I'd need a light for the belt; the fugitives always go into the dark spots.
I feel myself physically lose patience as I move on. I'm really not a thrill-of-the-chase guy. Of course he sure as hell isn't going to jump out now and hand himself over. I don't expect him to.
I lean against a tall length of wood and peel some gum-like material from my boot. I look up at its long rectangular top. This certainly wasn't here before the change: it's far too big and spilling with junk. Maybe if I climb up it I can get a good vantage point, pick him off as he makes a move. Nah. It's too far up.
I don't hate the guy much either. It's just a job. He made a break for it before and me and a couple of others caught him in the lower portion of the building. He was trying to climb on top of the sofa, trying to get noticed. He doesn't realise that there was a reason why they took him up and hid him away. He isn't right anymore. If he'd just stayed in his box, none of this would've had to happen.
I mean I'm up there too and I'll admit that it ain't pretty but that's where we're supposed to be now. We're done, we've served our purpose; the organisers don't need us anymore. Sure, I may have a little more value in their eyes (I've still got all functioning limbs and I'm ready for action) but otherwise we're no different. Life isn't great where we are, but that doesn't mean we need to run. He'll see me as a traitor of course, a figure who should sympathise with him rather than follow orders from the other side, but I'm really not. I'm just one of the able-bodied who still understands the way of things. I'm no traitor.
He's made a mistake. He's checked to see where I am. I recognise that blue furry paw, that big green glassy eye. I fire. The pin-shard embeds itself on the corner where his ear poked out. He's startled, he knows I'm sick of waiting.
I break out into a run. His leg brushes a pile of glossy magazines. The pin slices through a curving page. I'm getting closer.
"Stop!" I shout, though there's really no point in saying it.
He's already rolled behind cover: a big red shoe. I'm not going to waste more ammo. He's moving across to the bed; probably making his way towards the bedside table. There's so much stuff there I doubt I'd ever find him, not from down here. I need to get some height.
I leap and start climbing up the covers. After some flailing and slipping I'm on the bed. I hurry towards the table and look down. He's still trying to get his paws around the etches and marks in the corner. I could just pick him off here. He realises and turns to run for the door again.
I slide down to the floor. He's scrabbling through the doorway, clinging onto the side with both paws. Little bastard's trying to shut me in. I fire a pin-shard - it misses him but scratches off a flake of black paint. Both paws disappear; he's just going to run. Like hell he will...
I rush across threshold and I'm back in the hallway: neutral territory. He's stopped, bent over and panting. I've finally tired him out. I'm near to collapsing myself. I aim the gun at him carefully.
"No more running, Hugo." I tell him.
He turns. His big blue furry button-nosed face looks at me pleadingly. The crack across his left eye glints in the light. "P-please. There's nothing for me up there. I've-I've still got so much to..." He starts crying. Aw jeez...
I bite my lip. "You know that's not an option any more, Hugo. You broke out and you broke regulation." I hate saying that. 'Regulation' - it makes it all sound like a goddamn dictatorship.
Hugo's still crying. He just wanted to return to the good old days, there should be nothing wrong with that. But there is.
"Are you going to come back? Quietly?"
He speaks. "I want to...I want to...NO!"
"Are you sure?" Please say no.
"Y-yes..." He whimpers, "I'm not going back up there! 'The Attic'! They should call it 'The Dust Room'....'The Forgotten Room'!"
"What's your name?"
"What's your name?!"
I gulp. "Henry."
"What's stopping you, Henry? What's stopping you from 'following orders'? Do it! Keep things the way they are! Keep things the way you think they should be! DO IT!"
"DO IT NOW!"
I shoot but I daren't look. It's soundless but somehow I know it's done.
I look back. All I see is white fluff. Stuffing. It's over. It's done. It doesn't feel right.
I take out my communications device. It's hard to believe but it used to be an earphone. It's amazing what the tech-guys can make out of the junk laying around. I flick a hidden switch at the side.
"The fugitive has been neutralised." That doesn't sound like me. "He's gone."
A scratching of static then a familiar voice.
"Good job. Where is he?"
"A clean-up crew will be down in a few minutes. Just sit tight." Click.
It's true, the clean-up crew are that quick. Thorough too. They'll probably pick up all the stuffing and lay it out beside some pins and thumbtacks, along with his body. They'll make it seem like he'd simply fallen out of his box and got himself caught. They're good when it comes to 'accidents'.
I daren't look at the body. It's not my first, only one in a line of countless other 'accidents'. Still, it doesn't feel any better. It never does.
I find a doorstop and sit down on it, laying my gun down carefully on the carpeted floor. I wonder why it is that they do it, why they feel the need to run. Nostalgia, I guess. At some time they were all used, all loved, until loved to death. I guess that that need to be loved, to be used, just doesn't go away; particularly for the bears. It's sad but I can relate to it.
I remember the play-house. I remember the family. I remember the happy, care-free life we lived within those bright, plastic walls. We weren't just a family, we were the perfect model of a family, like the sort you'd find in a little girl's fantasies about growing up. But then the dust got thicker and thicker and pretty soon we were alone. The only attention we got was when Barbara fell from the window and snapped off her leg. They took her away, declared her 'broken'. Then they took the kids, because a single-parent family doesn't make the cut for 'perfect'. Then it was just me. The Attic beckoned soon after.
And now here I am. Henry Happylife no more. Just Henry. Henry the truancy officer, Henry the catcher. Henry the killer. Henry.
Maybe Hugo had the right idea - get out and get found. Get out before you become the problem. Either way it's too late for me now.
The door in the ceiling has opened up and the steps are descending. I hear them coming. Time to act the professional.
I pick up my gun and put it back on my belt. They may need a hand.
I apologise. I really do...
Thanks for reading,