I posted this last year and thought to revisit it for #ThrowBackThursday.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
written by: Deevious
A spray of chicken chunks and brown slime splashed onto the paper princess, it's pink, crayon-colored dress soaking up the stain.
No," the little girl screamed in spurts, emulating the beats in a dubstep remix. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and started to cry.
Her mother scooped her up off the floor. "It's alright, Lyrica. It's all gonna be alright." Grabbing a tissue from the desk, Abigail wiped her daughter's mouth and the snot and blood that oozed from her tiny nose.
"I ruined her," the girl cried out through the tissue, pointing at the princess in her coloring book.
"Eric!" Abigail yelled over her shoulder. But her husband was already running from the kitchen with a dish towel in hand. He squatted beside the vomit and started to wipe up the mess.
The little girl sobbed louder.
"Shhh, Lyrica." Her mother rubbed the girl's bald head. "It's okay, baby. It's okay."
"It isn't. I ruined everything," Lyrica bawled, contorting into a coughing fit that sent a clot of blood flying to the floor.
"Don't fret, Pumpkin." Eric slid a piece of chicken from the picture. "We'll get you another princess. Maybe one who can appreciate a fine meal when it is served to her." He stood up with a click of his heels - imitating a butler's stance - and manipulated his face into a variety of funny faces that seemed to cheer the girl. Her sobs turned to giggles.
The doorbell rang. Abigail and Eric exchanged a look.
"Is it two o'clock already?" She asked with wide, bloodshot eyes. "We're not ready. We can't possibly do this now." Abigail set her daughter back on the floor by her book.
"If not now, when?" Eric asked, studying his wife's face. Her once luminous complexion, now punctured with wrinkles and worry and fatigue. Her once beautiful, wavy hair, now replaced with a knot of dark roots clumped on top of her head - crazy strands of dead-ends hugging her cheekbones. He knew his own features mimicked hers -
The drawn-in cheekbones.
The cracked lips.
The dark, hollow eyes.
"If not now, when?" he repeated.
"I just can't -" she whispered, choking on her own words. "I can't go through with it."
Eric caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. "It isn't about you."
They both looked at the little girl who sat on the floor, desperately trying to salvage the princess from slime. Sitting there in her own fragility, the little girl looked much older than eight.
Abigail's eyes pleaded with her husband. "Maybe we should recheck his references?"
The doorbell rang again.
"It's time," he said and left the room.
In the foyer, Eric steadied himself and breathed deep.
He studied the front door.
It stood strong and stoic, it's brass handle catching the afternoon sunlight and gleaming an invitation to open it. The etched glass of its center reflected a large shadow, creating a distorted figure on the other side.
Eric stepped quietly.
He took another breath and opened the door.
The man on the porch stood tall against the neighborhood backdrop, filling the space of the door. A dark duster hung on his large frame, reminding Eric of a gunslinger in a cowboy movie. Dark eyes stared through him. Black, leather gloves tightened their grip on a large briefcase.
"Welcome." Eric held out his hand.
The stranger inspected Eric - head to toe, refusing his hand. When he spoke, his voice was deep and he formed the words with his lips before he gave voice to them. "Swanson?"
The stranger continued, "I am Cadwell. I am here for Lyrica."
Eric nodded again, but did not move.
The man in black took a step forward, bending beneath the arch of the doorway, and forcing Eric back. He slammed the door shut behind him, locked it and turned the deadbolt. He turned to Eric - towering over him - and spoke. "Give me the order."
"Uh..." Eric stuttered for a minute or two, confusion overtook him. A little seed of anger began to grow in Eric - a bit of resentment towards this Cadwell, who dared make him feel inferior in his own house.
"Give me the order," Cadwell repeated.
And as if he was suddenly struck with profound wisdom, Eric obliged. "Ah. Yes. The order." Eric fumbled in the back pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a worn brown trifold and with shaky hands, sifted through its contents. He unfolded a scrap of paper and read from it. "Order number 1379."
The huge man nodded approval and made his way further into the house.
Eric followed the stranger into the living room.
The man's boots clanked against the hardwood floor as he strode past Abigail - still cleaning up blood drops, and Lyrica - who resumed working on another princess, this time making her the colors of rainbows. He strode over to the big bay window and looked out onto the sleepy, suburban street. He drew the curtains, snuffing out the afternoon sun. Darkness invaded the room.
"Uh, honey," Eric spoke, his voice a bit shaken, "this is..."
The man turned to the family. "Cadwell."
"Yes. Of course. Cadwell," Eric repeated.
The stranger looked at the imaginary watch on his wrist, ignoring the attempt at conversation. He strolled over to a banister that housed about a dozen carpeted steps from the living room to the second floor of the Swanson home. He gripped the railing and yanked on it repeatedly.
To Eric, it was if the man was trying to rip the structure to shreds.
"This will do just fine," Cadwell commented and made his way to the middle of the room. Here, he inspected the floor, nodding and mumbling to it, as if it held some secret agreement with him. He set his oversized briefcase on the coffee table and with a flick of the numbers, popped open the leather box. He slipped his hand into a flap on the top inside of the case and pulled out a tiny piece of plastic. He unfolded it until it expanded to the size of the floor before him. With a snap - as if he were hanging out the laundry - he laid down the plastic sheet and pressed out its wrinkles.
"What is that for?" Abigail asked, a quiver in her voice.
"It may get messy."
"Messy?" Abigail questioned and clutched Lyrica to her side.
Reaching back into the briefcase, Cadwell pulled out a cable tie and duct tape. He turned and faced the mother. "Mrs. Swanson?"
Abigail stared at the stranger's hands as he tore off a piece of the tape and replaced the roll back into the leather case. He tilted his head and started towards her.
"Hey," Eric stated and stepped in front of his wife. "Hold on a minute."
Cadwell ignored Eric's pleas. He reached around the husband and snatched Abigail by the arm, separating mother and daughter.
"Mommy!" Lyrica cried out and latched on to her dad's leg.
"Why are you doing this?" Eric asked, surprised by the calm in his voice.
"She will scream the most," Cadwell stated.
"We didn't sign up for this," Abigail pleaded with the stranger. "Eric!"
"Stop it," Eric yelled, ripping Abigail from his clutches. "Stop it right now."
Cadwell brushed off his duster, walked back to the table, closed and collected his briefcase. "I will go."
Eric looked down at his daughter - her shiny head, the tired eyes, the bandages that covered up all those needle marks, more numerous than those of any junkie.
He was tired.
Tired of it all.
"Please," Eric said. "Wait."
Abigail glared at her husband.
Cadwell paused by the archway to the foyer.
"No." Abigail shook her head vigorously, backing away from her husband.
"Yes." Eric placed his hands square on her shoulders and penetrated her eyes with his own. "This is it, Abby. This is our last chance. Aren't you tired? Tired of all those words?
"I know." Tears streamed down the mother's face. "I know."
"Why are you crying, Mommy?" Lyrica asked.
"It is her last chance," Eric said with resolve.
"But why does he have to be so...so...aversive?"
"I don't care what he is, Abby. He comes highly recommended."
"We did not make this decision lightly. Now did we? We are out of options."
She swallowed a sob and nodded in agreement.
Eric gave his best smile of encouragement and turned to Cadwell. "Please. Continue."
Cadwell spun around on the heel of his boot. He set up his shop again on the table and approached Abigail. Before she could object, he slapped the piece of tape across her mouth and dragged her to the banister where he zipped the cable tie around her wrists and to the railing.
"Mommy!" Lyrica cried out.
"It's okay, Pumpkin," Eric assured the little girl with a hug.
"What's he doing?" Lyrica screamed for an answer.
"He's here to fix you, Pumpkin."
Cadwell turned to Eric. "Dad?"
"Can't I just hold her?"
"I won't use the tape, if you don't make me." His dark eyes were sincere - but only for a moment. "She'll need to hear a voice."
Eric choked on a sob. "Okay, then."
He placed a soft kiss on top of Lyrica's head and let her go. He stepped next to Abigail at the banister and offered up his wrists. Caldwell obliged him.
Lyrica ran to her parents.
"Come with me," Cadwell's deep voice boomed at her.
"I don't wanna!" The little girl screeched and hung on to her mother's arm.
Cadwell wrapped his arm around Lyrica's waist -
He dragged her to the plastic.
"It'll be okay, Pumpkin." Eric assured her from across the room, trying to believe his own lies.
Abigail's muffled scream got lost in her throat.
Lyrica struggled to break free from the giant stranger - even managed a good, swift kick to his side.
"She's a fighter," Cadwell told Eric over his left shoulder. Reaching into his briefcase, he pulled out a syringe, pumped it once and then twice until fluid spewed from its top. Without hesitation, he looked down at the helpless girl and stuck her in the neck with it.
Lyrica yelped like a maimed animal.
From her banister prison, Abigail belted out another muffled scream and like a horse fallen from a race, her legs flailed; her body jerked; and she came dangerously close to dislocating her arms from their sockets.
"Oh, my God," Eric whispered through disbelief. "What have we done?"
Cadwell held onto the girl until she went limp. He laid her on the plastic sheet, smoothing out any wrinkles that creeped up around her. Leaning over his briefcase, he pulled out a jar. It was one of those weird looking mason-esque jars that you'd see in the laboratory of a mad scientist. Inside, three large chunks - immersed in a gooey water-like substance - swam rapidly around in circles, their little legs churning through the yellow liquid.
"What the hell are those?" Eric asked through wide eyes.
"My pets," Cadwell coddled the jar, as a mother would her newborn, and set it carefully beside Lyrica on the plastic.
"Are those leeches?" Eric asked in disgust.
"Something better," Cadwell assured him. Next, he took out a rectangular pouch and unzipped it, revealing a shiny, large scalpel.
Abigail - still trying to break the cable around her wrists - gyrated in madness, like a wind sock puppet at a car dealership.
Cadwell raised his arms out to his sides, a priest at the altar. He mumbled some words under his breath and made a sign of the cross using the scalpel. He squatted down close to the girl. With his free hand, he folded Lyrica's shirt up to expose her belly.
"No!" Eric cried out.
Bringing down his right hand, Cadwell pressed the sharp blade into her soft skin, releasing a thin line of red.
"Please. We've changed our minds," Eric begged, pleading like a man before the barrel of a gun. "Please. Do not do this-"
"You gave the order," Cadwell reminded him, cutting deeper into the girl's flesh.
"Oh, Gawd!" Eric buried his face into his hands, clawing at his own skin, and telling himself he should just pull it off his bones.
Setting the scalpel onto the plastic sheet, Cadwell picked up the Mason jar and unscrewed its top.
A popping sound echoed through the room.
He dipped his gloved hand into the slimy liquid and removed the first of the parasites. Long and chunky - the size of a dill pickle spear, and gray in color - the tiny creature wiggled like mad in the man's grip. He lowered the specimen to Lyrica's belly. With his other hand, Cadwell opened the incision on her stomach with his thumb and middle finger. Blood oozed down the sides of her tummy as he inserted the organism into her cavity.
Eric looked away. He gagged and vomited onto the white Berber carpet that covered the stairs.
Abigail gave one last muffled cry;
and passed out.
Cadwell pressed his hand gently on the little girl's torso and gazed up at the ceiling. He mouthed a few inaudible words. Next, he took another parasite from the jar and opened Lyrica's mouth. Offering it to the oral cavity, he waited as the creature arched its body - as preparing for a dive - bent and slithered into the girl's mouth.
Limp and unconscious, Lyrica still managed to gurgle and cough.
Cadwell removed the final creature from the jar and placed it under the girl's nose. It struggled to adjust to the size of the nostril, and after what seemed to be an examination of her face, the organism reshaped it's chunky body into a long and slender build. Then it slinked into her left nostril.
"That's the way," Cadwell cooed the parasite. He looked at his imaginary watch and caressed Lyrica's bald head. "It won't be long now."
"You bastard," Eric still spat particles of his lunch onto the carpet. "You son-of-a-bitching bastard."
Cadwell ignored Eric's insults and laid down beside the girl. He cleared his throat and hummed a melody that sounded more like a funeral march than any song Eric had ever heard.
Minutes passed into an hour.
Abigail awoke and weeped.
Then another hour came and went.
His humming continued.
Eric mumbled to himself, mentally abusive words rang out from time to time. Once, maybe twice - he tries to forget it all now - he actually saw the pickle-sized formation of those creatures maneuver under his daughter's skin.
Another hour inched by.
Abigail sat slumped against the steps, streaming in and out of consciousness.
Eric sat, silent.
Unaware, like a doped up patient in an asylum.
"Almost there," Cadwell finally spoke.
After another half an hour, Cadwell lifted himself off of the plastic wrap, like a corpse rising from a coffin.
Eric stared at the stranger.
Abigail stared at him too - her eyes dead.
Leaning over Lyrica, Cadwell inspected her belly, nose and mouth. Just under the skin of her abdomen, a bump was forming. It took the shape of a ball and raced back and forth above the girl's belly button. In another minute, the chunky head of the organism popped out from the incision. Cadwell grabbed onto it and pulled it from her gut. Slime and blood dripped from it and onto the plastic. He placed it into the jar.
Next, movement began in her cheeks.
Another bump formed.
Two tails rose out of her mouth. Lyrica choked and gurgled. Cadwell snapped up both parasites just as Lyrica awoke. He dropped them back into the yellow liquid and screwed the lid back on the jar.
Lyrica's chest heaved as she tried to catch her breath.
Cadwell reopened the mason jar - just a crack - and swiftly dribbled some of that gooey substance onto Lyrica's belly. Her incision smoked, sizzled and closed shut within seconds. He pulled her shirt back into place.
The girl rolled over and spit up a batch of blood.
Cadwell tightened the jar and set it back into his briefcase. He removed a damp cloth and wiped down his gloves and scalpel.
Lyrica coughed uncontrollably and spat up more gobs of blood onto the plastic.
Cadwell grabbed another cloth from his case. He gently cradled the girl's head in his left hand and wiped her mouth with his right. He dabbed the wetness under her eyes and followed up with a wipe of snot from under her nose.
He smiled down at her.
She smiled back.
He dropped the used cloths onto the plastic, closed his briefcase and locked it. He stood, picked up the scalpel and walked over to the banister. "It is done," Cadwell said and placed the scalpel in Eric's hands. He turned to Abigail and tipped an imaginary hat. His boots clanked against the floor as he left the room. The front door clicked twice and closed behind him.
Two Months Later
"Her recovery is nothing short of remarkable," the doctor said from behind the desk. He rifled through his charts. "I guess the chemo did work after all. And it worked much faster than we could have expected."
Abigail smiled with rested eyes and rubbed the stubble of hair on Lyrica's head.
Eric squeezed his wife's other hand.
"It wasn't the chemo," Lyrica sang out, "it was the cowboy."
"The cowboy?" The doctor questioned with a chuckle.
The couple shared a knowing look.
"Yep. The cowboy with the pickles," Lyrica explained. "He made me all better."
"I'm sure he did," the doctor smiled at her, a bit condescending. "I'm sure he did."
Eric gave his daughter a wink.
Lyrica adjusted the plastic tiara on her head. She smiled big and winked back - as only a princess could.