She sits in the attic, in the old rocking chair, creaking slowly back and forth. Pale, sallow hands clutch an old teddy bear, missing an eye. Her lank colorless hair is curled in ringlets; some twisted imitation of beauty, but no amount of paint can bring color to her lifeless face. She sits in the old rocking chair, and smiles her thin-lipped smile.

Urgent whispers in the dead of night—please, our daughter is very ill, please help us—bring doctors, and the sound of coins exchanging hands is followed by the creaking of old wood as the steps to the attic are mounted. She clutches the teddy bear in one hand; the fingers of the other curl expectantly around the polished arm of the rocking chair, and she smiles her thin-lipped smile.

Another doctor—Mr. Carroll. She drums her fingers against the wood, waiting. He is the same as all the others. He checks her eyes, mouth, heart, asks her questions. She answers, innocently, watching the fear in his eyes grow as he hurriedly scribbles on a notepad, then backs out of the room, slamming the door behind him. She leans back in her chair, satisfied, and smiles her thin-lipped smile.

She picks up the bear and looks at it dispassionately. It is a child’s toy, it is not worthy of her. Slowly, she traces the seam that connects its head to its body. There is a stitch loose. She picks at it, carelessly at first, then she grasps the bear’s ears with her frail hands and pulls with what little strength her wasted limbs have to offer. With a sound of tearing fabric, the bear’s head pulls free of its body, bleeding stuffing. “Off with their heads!” she shrieks in her high, childish voice, tearing at the stuffing. “Off with their filthy, stinking heads!”

Then she folds her hands in her lap and smiles her thin-lipped smile.

The End

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