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One Win is Enough
I had never once in my life won at the game "Rock, Paper, Scissors.” No surprise. Tonight, I lost one last time against my brother.
"Billy, you're up," said Mike, curling his mouth so much I wanted to knock his teeth in. "And no use whining little bro. You lost, fair n’ square, and all that useless shit."
"Yeah, little Billy Willy, get a fuckin' move on," said Frank Costello, snickering, cracking his knuckles. "Oooff!"
Frank, a short and skinny Italian, bent over, clutching his stomach. He dry-heaved several seconds. I watched, grinning, forgetting for a moment the task which I had been assigned.
Frank eventually caught his breath, wiped the spit from his mouth with a sleeve, and stood straight. I immediately relaxed my mouth.
"Why you fuckin' hit me, Mikey?" said Frank, squinting, attempting to intimidate my brother.
Despite his short, thin stature, Frank was known for three things: a hot temper, a knack for fighting, and sharing the same name with the former Luciano crime boss. Fortunately for me, my brother could kick the shit out of anyone, including the young mobster-want-a-be.
"No one talks to my little brother like that," said Mike, shrugging, turning his attention to the house in front of us.
"Except you," said Frank, chuckling, nudging me aside to stand next to Mike.
Meanwhile, Mike had already forgotten about Frank.
"Time to get a move on, Billy," said Mike. "No sense in wasting time."
I stepped to the other side of my brother and surveyed the house. I began shivering. It wasn't cold.
"Why are we going inside the old Marsen house?" I asked.
"To get an artifact from the room," said Mike, his voice monotone, his eyes on an upstairs window.
I followed his gaze. White sheets blew out of the opened window.
"Why?" I asked.
Mike's eyes grew as though possessed with a thought.
"Because it's there, Billy," said Mike.
Frank leaned forward and grinned at me.
"It's a test of our manhood," he said.
"I'm 8," I said indignantly. "And you guys are only 12."
"No matter, Billy," said Mike, finally turning his head toward me, his eyes cool and somehow cruel. "We were dared."
"One does not back down from a dare," I said, nodding.
I said nothing else. Exhaled. And put a foot on the staircase. Mike put a hand on my shoulder. I nearly screamed.
"Billy, you forget something?" asked Mike.
He held my red scooter out in front of him. I grabbed it, catching my breath.
"The sacrificial swap," he said. "Don't want to forget it."
Frank snickered. "Yeah, Billy, don't want to lose your soul forever."
"Shove it, Frank," said Mike.
"Whatever, Mikey,” said Frank. “Are we doing this sometime this century?"
Mike laughed, giving me a nod forward.
With my scooter in hand, I inhaled and walked up the staircase. The wood creaked and settled with each step. My heart as well. When I reached the porch, I hesitated. Something moved in front of the door. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my flashlight. I clicked it. Something scurried at my feet. I followed the legs with the light as they disappeared beneath the door.
“Only a mouse, little man!” cried Mike from below. “Keep going!”
I stared at the door ahead of me. I swiped the light over a sign. It read, “Abandoned Building. No Trespassing. Do Not Enter.”
My eyes then fell to a large hole beneath the sign. The doorknob had been knocked in a long time ago. A cheap hook had replaced it since—a hindrance for squatters or fools such as us.
“Only a mouse, only a mouse,” I repeated under my breath.
I crept forward, unhooked the lock, and pushed the door. It swung hard inward, scratching against the floor, and slammed into the wall. I flinched, dropping the flashlight.
Behind me, Frank guffawed. He then immediately grunted and gasped for air, receiving another gut check from my brother.
I feigned a smile and stepped inside, holding the flashlight ahead of me as a shield, pointing it everywhere and giving me a tunneled, dusty view of the home. Sheets draped furniture and picture frames in a room to my right. The wind from the door jingled the chandelier above me. Ahead, I had two choices to walk. The first, a dark hallway, likely leading to the kitchen. The second, a divided staircase leading to the second floor.
The door slammed shut behind me. I jumped, dropping my scooter, and then swung around. Eyes wide and holding my breath, I shined the light in front of me.
“Only the wind, only the wind,” I muttered, shivering, shuffling toward my scooter.
I grabbed and rushed to the staircase. Heart pounding, thoughts held to my mission.
“Find the room, get it, and run like hell outta here!”
As I mounted the stairs, my heart slowed. A couple of windows here allowed the moonlight to penetrate the abandoned house. The trees outside rustled. Through the leaves, I glimpsed a neighboring home. I recognized it. The sight grounded my senses, but only for a moment. When I turned, the top of the staircase, nothing but black, loomed above me.
“Fuck,” I muttered, unaware I had sworn for the first time in my life.
I glanced down at the front door. I nearly dashed down the staircase for my freedom from this terror, but something squeaked at my feet.
“Ahhh!” I screamed, shining the light on the carpet.
A mouse crawled up the steps ahead of me, making it to the second floor and soon vanishing into the black abyss.
My knees rattled against each other. I rolled my head around my neck and moaned.
“I won’t live this down,” I said, urging my feet forward one step at a time, imagining Frank’s voice in my head. “Oh, little sissy, wissy, Billy-willy. Did you pee-pee in your pants?”
At length, I reached the second floor. My eyes readjusted to the lack of light. With the aid of the flashlight, I made out four closed doors down the hallway. I only needed to enter the first room on the right.
“Walk, damn you, Billy,” I thought to myself, realizing I had not moved for several seconds.
I stepped forward, cringing. Each step creaked.
“Just keep walking. Almost there.”
I stopped in front of the door.
“Do it. Just open it.”
I reached for the doorknob and twisted it.
I flung the door open. It swung inward away from me. Wincing, I gripped both the scooter and the flashlight close to my chest, half expecting something to jump out at me.
Nothing came at me, though, other than the wind from the open window.
I crept into the room. Like downstairs, everything here was covered in bedsheets. Everything except a full bookcase and a ragged sofa chair. It stood in the corner beneath the window.
My eyes blinked. I held my breath one second; I then rushed over to the chair the next. My prize awaited me. It sat alone on the chair.
“Yes!” I whispered.
I glanced around the area. I set my scooter against the wall beneath the window. I leaned out and waved a hand down to my brother and Frank.
“Nice work, bro!” said Mike, waving back with a smile.
“Geez, hurry up!” shouted Frank. “I gotta wiz!”
As I watched my brother shoulder-bump Frank, I bent myself back in the room and set the flashlight on the chair. I squinted and scrunched my face, leaning closer to a lifeless doll. Its nightgown grey with years of dust, its plastic skin almost appeared to have been melted, warped in some areas. I reached with a hand and picked it up.
Face to face, we exchanged glances.
“You’re definitely a creepy fucker,” I whispered.
At that moment, the door slammed shut. Having had enough of this house, I rushed over and twisted the knob. It would not turn.
Abruptly lightheaded and short of breath, I tugged on the door. Nothing.
I ran back to the window and leaned out.
“Do you have it, Billy?” asked Mike.
I ignored his question. “The door just shut! I’m locked in!”
The opened window next to mine abruptly fell with a loud thud.
Frank’s eyes widened. Mike pointed at me. “Look out, Billy!”
My window rattled. I glanced upward and saw the glass shake.
“Lean back, Billy!” cried Mike.
I did, just in time. The window caught and pulled out some of my hair.
I then pounded on the window, glaring down at my brother. “Help me, Mike! Help me!”
Mike shoved an open-mouthed, shocked Frank. They then rushed toward the front door and out of my view. Thuds soon came from downstairs as they struggled against the door. After several seconds, it banged open. Footsteps pounded up the stairs and then down the hall. I rushed to the bedroom door.
“Billy!” shouted Mike. “You alright!”
“I’m trapped!” I yelled, my eyes rolling around the room.
The knob rattled, but the door remained closed.
“I can’t open the door, Billy,” said Mike, concern clear in his voice. “Try it again.”
I twisted on the knob, pulling with all my strength. Nothing.
“I can’t, Mikey, I can’t. I’m trapped!” Tears swelled in my eyes. My words were then hushed. “Please, help me, Mikey. I’m scared.”
“I know, little brother, I know.”
He went quiet. My eyes examined the door. I put an ear against it. Frank and Mike spoke to one another, but their voices were muffled.
“Billy,” blurted Mike.
“Yeah…” I said, beginning to hyperventilate.
“Back away from the door,” said Mike.
As Mike and Frank began to take turns banging their shoulders on the door, I stepped back and eventually bumped into the bed. Instinctively, I sat on it and focused on my breathing. While the thuds continued, it dawned on me-I still clutched the doll. I laid it next to me on the sheet cover and returned to my breathing, keeping the flashlight shining ahead on the door.
The thuds stopped.
“Billy!” said Mike. “Hold on! We’ll be back. We need something to break the door down.”
I said nothing. Their footsteps faded down the stairs.
Alone. In the silence. The room darkened. My heart slowed; my thoughts cleared.
Then, something next to me moved. At first, I flinched. Then, I managed a weak laugh.
“Only the mouse, only the mouse,” I thought.
I moved my hand away, but then it touched me again. I grunted and swung the flashlight around.
The doll now sat up. Its head turned at me. Its eyes shined in the light.
“Ahhhh!” I screamed and scurried off the bed as fast as I could, hitting the back of the door and dropping the flashlight. “Noooo!”
I bent to the floor, picked up the flashlight, and stood, pointing it back at the bed. It was empty. There was no sign of the doll on the sheets.
Breathing out of my mouth, unable to escape the room, I searched for the doll with the light. Along either side of the bed. In each corner. Then, I finally returned to the chair.
My hairs standing on end, I lost my ability to scream. I only shook, gripping the flashlight again as a shield.
The doll stood on the chair. At first still, it soon began to move its right arm, up and down, slowly. Next, a little faster. As its pace quickened, its right hand closed into a fist, next, an open hand, then two fingers opened.
Slowly, I twisted my head, squinting in disbelief.
In response, the other three doors on the floor began to slam shut and reopen, moving in unison with the doll's arm. The clamor loud, the house soon shook.
The door to this bedroom began to rattle.
“Billy! You okay in there!” shouted Mike, struggling, pounding fists on the door.
His voice was drowned by the doors slamming and the house shaking.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
The house shook. The ceiling above cracked. The floorboards beneath broke.
I covered my ears.
“I’ll play!!!!” I screamed.
And with my acceptance to play the game, the doors all ceased their banging. The house no longer threatened to implode.
At length, I uncovered my ears and focused the flashlight on the doll. It continued to move its right arm and hand. Its eyes continued to shine in the light, staring into my soul.
I approached the doll and knelt on the floor in front of it. I studied its arm and hand movements, timing it. I inhaled deeply.
As I exhaled, I began the game.
The doll stopped. Its two fingers opened into scissors.
My fist had closed into a rock.
At length, I grinned and shouted, “I won!”
I swiveled my head around the room. Other than playing an insane game with a possessed doll, the room had not changed. The windows were down, the door was closed, and I was one second away from missing my sanity.
I gritted my teeth and turned back to the doll. I moved closer, coming within an inch of its face.
“What do you want?” I whispered. “I won the game.”
The doll now swiveled its own head. I leaned back, shuddering, observing, awareness dawning. It hovered its eyes on the scooter and then the door. It then continued to repeat this pattern.
“You want me to choose…don’t you?” I asked the doll. “Finish the swap…or take my scooter back.”
The doll then rotated its head and eyes directly at me. I flinched. I tried to swallow but had no spit.
“I just want out of here,” I said, laughing, shaking. “No swap. No scooter. You can keep it.”
For a moment, I thought the doors would resume their banging, and the doll would insist on another sinister game. I opened my mouth to scream.
Then, the bedroom door opened. My brother and Frank came falling in, flopping down on one another like dominos.
I snickered but did not hesitate. I stormed out of the room.
When I reached the doorway, Frank called after me.
“Hey, sissy, if you aren’t going to take the damn doll after all this shit, I will.”
I immediately turned, walked up to him, and punched him hard in the face. He flopped on the ground, falling on his ass, and gaping wide-eyed back at me.
I stood over him. I gave him one warning. “If you do, you die.”
I turned, left the room, and then the house.
Once outside, I stopped and looked directly at the now opened window.
The doll’s head peered down at me. The curtains blew across its face.
Without flinching, I swore I would never again play another game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”