A Bedtime Story

We had just finished a late dinner and my mom was putting up the dishes. Her husband gave her a look that was obviously meant to convey some silent message before rubbing his hands together and declaring, “Okay kiddos, time for bed!”
    I knew what this meant (sex) and I let my eyes roll a little. Not out of annoying or disgust, but rather because I’m just getting to that age when I can usually pick up on their “adult” signals to each other and it’s kind of awkward. I actually liked my mom’s new husband Todd. He seemed really nice, treated her well, and didn’t try to pass himself off as anything other than my new stepdad. He didn’t even try to buy my support with over the top gifts even though he was obviously very well off. Even his little daughter―my new stepsister―seemed nice enough. A bit shy for even a six year old, but still nice. Overall, he seemed good for our family. Especially when I thought of how bad things had been for my mom after my dad died. Even if you had remarried a monster, it still would have been better than seeing her go back to those dark places.
    “Tuck me in Daddy,” said little Marcia.
    My stepdad looked at my mom, obviously torn.
    “I have an idea,” said my mom as she turned towards me. “Why don’t you tuck her in? You can tell her a bedtime story. It would a great chance for you two to bond a little.”
    “Are you okay with your new big brother tucking you in, Sweetie?” asked Todd.
    Marcia nodded. I shrugged.
    Before we had even finished climbing the stairs I heard my parents’ door shut and the lock click. I rolled my eyes again. There were worse things that could be happening to my mom. Worse things had happened.
    Marcia jumped onto her bed, bouncing up and down a bit as the box-springs settled. She quickly scrambled to the far end of the bed from me and wrapped herself in her favorite pink blanket. I sat at the foot of the bed, feeling somewhat uncomfortable as a fourteen year tucking in my little stepsister. Everything in her room was just so pink and girly. She looked at me suspiciously; her eyes expectant. She was waiting for me to begin.
    I had never been known for my creativity and I soon realized that I didn’t even know where to begin in telling a bedtime story. I mumbled a few words about a princess and a dragon, but a dramatic sigh of boredom from Marcia cut me off. I was caught a bit off guard. I had never seen her act dramatically. I scrambled to think of something else when I got an idea. I might not be creative, but I could be mischievous.
    “Okay, enough with the boring bedtime stories. How would you like to hear a scary story?” I asked.
    To my surprise, Marcia begin nodding excitedly. She even began making those weird little grunting noises that kids make when they want something.
    “Okay,” I warned, “but you can’t tell mom or Todd―I mean, your dad.”
    “I promise,” she whispered.
    I decided to start off with something easy for her. Kid stuff. I knew how shy she was and didn’t want to risk giving her nightmares. That sure would piss my mom off. So I told her the lamest scary story I knew―the one about the hitchhiker and the skeleton. When I got to the part where the hitchhiker opens the door and the skeleton pops out, Marcia burst out in a fit a high-pitched laughter that I was sure would be heard by our parents. Or maybe not…
    “So you didn’t think that was very scary?” I asked.
    She shook her head, still giggling.
    “Do you want to hear some stories that are actually scary?”
    Her head nodded violently and the little grunts returned.
    “Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
    I began telling her all of the creepy stories that my friends and I would share at school. We got most of them off the internet and even though I knew they were fake, some of them still managed to keep me awake a little longer than usual at night. But every story I told only ended with Marcia laughing even louder. Each time I would respond with an even scarier story, but the result never changed. Finally, frustrated and somewhat annoyed by this small girl who appeared to have sense of fear, I did something I probably shouldn’t have. I told her the scariest story I had ever heard: The Russian Sleep Experiment.
    This time Marcia was silent. As I began to detail the horror of that tragic experiment, her eyes grew wider. As I told her of the blood and terrible screaming, her breathing to accelerate. I began to think that I should probably stop. Just end the story and say, “Good night.” But she had challenged me with her undaunted laughter and there was no turning back now. When I reached the final, haunting speech of the last dying patient Marcia appeared to be shaking.
    “So…nearly…free…” I whispered in a choking voice, ending the story and hoping to really drive home the same terror that had kept me awake for almost a week. I glanced at my stepsister. She had shrunk so far back into her blanket that I could only see her tiny eyes peering out. I was about to ask if she was scared now when she suddenly threw the blanket back and screamed with laughter so loud that I had to cover my ears. It was so high-pitched that it almost sounded more like a shriek of pain than the laughter of a child. I was sure that my mom and Todd would hear and coming running.
    But no one came and now I was angry.
    “Okay, fine. Do you think you can do any better?” I asked once the screaming had died down. The question came out in pouty way and only made me even angrier when I realized it. I was acting her age while she was the one laughing at ghost stories.
    Marcia nodded her head excitedly. The grunts were back.
    “Whatever. What’s your scary story called?”
    She looked at me and then the door before whispering, “What Daddy Does To Mommy.”
    I nearly lost it. Now it was my turn to laugh, though I tried hard to stifle it. Marcia looked at me confused. I had agreed to tell her a bedtime story, not give her “The Talk,” so I let it go and asked her to tell me the story.
    “Okay,” she said in a calm, even voice that I had never heard her use before, “but it’s really scary.”
    I only nodded. I was still trying not laugh and didn’t want to risk trying to speak. She paused to look around the room one more time before beginning.
    “One night when I was just a little kid, Daddy and Mommy―my real mommy―tucked me in, but I wasn’t sleepy. I tried really hard to fall asleep, but I couldn’t. So I very quietly got out of bed and walked down the hall. I just wanted to give Mommy and Daddy a hug. I heard them downstairs. It sounded like they were bumping into the walls.”
    I snorted. Oh please don’t let her go into details, I thought to myself.
    “Then I went down the stairs. Their door was open and the light was on so I went in, but they weren’t in there. There were clothes all over the floor and it looked very messy. The rest of the lights in the house were off and it was very dark. I went in the kitchen, but they weren’t there either.”
    Her voice had fallen back to a whisper.
    “So I stood very very still in the dark and listened. That’s when I heard Mommy making noises. They sounded like this.”
    She began to make a kind of whimpering that sounded more like a hurt puppy, but I knew exactly what she meant. If it hadn’t been so funny, I would have felt really uncomfortable at that moment. She continued in a whisper.
    “I tiptoed out of the kitchen and followed Mommy’s noises. They were coming from the basement. The door was cracked open a little and they had the light on. I opened the door just enough to squeeze inside. I had to be very careful because the basement stairs were very creaky and I didn’t want Mommy and Daddy to be mad at me for getting out of bed. When I got near the bottom of the stairs, I saw that Daddy had tied Mommy to a chair.”
    “What the fuck?!” I almost said out loud. “That kinky son of a bitch!” I thought to myself. Then I remembered the look on his face after dinner and the thought of him and my mom…. I almost asked Marcia to stop, but then she said, “Mommy was crying.”
    I listened closer as she continued.
    “She was crying a lot and Daddy looked sad too. He looked like he had done something he wasn’t supposed to and had hurt Mommy’s feelings. He told her he was sorry. I think he was sorry for hurting her because there was red stuff all over her legs. I don’t know if Mommy accepted his apology because there was something in her mouth, like a rag, that made it hard for her to talk.”
    This wasn’t so funny anymore. Her father obviously had some very depraved fetishes and her creepy, monotone whisper was only making it worse.
    “Daddy said he was sorry a couple more times. Then he turned around and went over to his toolbox. I don’t think he or Mommy could see me. I saw him pull out his saw and some of those metal clamp things that pinch really tight. When Mommy saw them she started breathing really fast and tried to say something, but the rag was stuck in her mouth.”
    This was getting really weird…
    “Then he started whispering and got really close to her, like he was telling her a secret. She began to shake her head and she cried even harder. Daddy stood back up and asked her to sing the bedtime song that she always sang to me. But she couldn’t with the thing in her mouth, so he asked her to just hum it. He said she should do it because he didn’t want her to get hurt anymore. So she started to hum it and he sang along with her. Real softly. Like they were afraid they might wake me up, even though I was right there on the stairs.”
    Marcia giggled at that thought and continued in her dreaded whisper.
    “When the song was over, Daddy got his saw and cut Mommy’s head off.”
    My mind went blank. I was sweating now.
    “Daddy held Mommy’s head and said he was sorry one more time. That’s when the stairs creaked and Daddy saw me. I thought he would be mad at me, but he ran over and gave me a big hug. He told me that I wasn’t supposed to have seen that. He said it was supposed to be a surprise. I asked him what the surprise was and he said he was making me a doll. The prettiest doll in the world. He said that mommy was the most beautiful girl in the world and that was why he needed her skin. He told me to go back upstairs and go to bed. He said that if I did this, I could have the doll in the morning.”
    She started to giggle again and when I looked at her I realized that she was holding a strange looking doll. She had been hiding it all along under the blanket, but now she held it tenderly. It’s skin had the appearance of waxy leather. Crude stitches held it together. She was stroking its long hair.
    “I really think it’s past your bedtime,” I said. I felt sick.
    “Good night, brother,” she whispered.
    I closed her door and stood in the hallway, unsure of what to do. I moved down the stairs and saw that their door was slightly open. A light was still on. I knocked and swung the door open, startling both of them. They had been lying in bed watching late night television.
    “Is something wrong?” asked my mom when she saw the look on my face.
    “No,” I said, relieved. “Nothing is wrong. Just wanted to let you know that I tucked her in.”
    “Thank you so much, dear. I’m glad to see you two getting along.”
    Todd was looking at me with a puzzled expression.
    “Yeah, sure. Good night you guys,” I mumbled as I shut the door behind me. I went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.

    Now nothing unusual has happened since that night, and you might wonder why I even brought this up at all, but I still can’t shake the feeling that there’s something different about my stepsister. I feel as if, since that night, she’s been watching me and my mom, like a cat watches a mouse or something. Like there’s something going on in her mind that doesn’t go on in other kids’ minds. It’s been almost three months since I tucked her in and I haven’t seen the doll again. It’s almost as if I imagined it. I even searched her room one day while she was at school. No doll.
    The reason I wrote all this is because her birthday day is coming up soon. I asked her what she wants, but all she said was that she already knew what present she was getting from me. I asked how she could know that. She just smiled at me and whispered, “Daddy already told me. He said I’m getting a new doll.”

by Ward Hocut