“If ever a day comes,” Sofia had said to Olivia on the first day, her voice low and pleasant as she held a knife to little Eve’s throat, “when we summon you, and you do not come running, we will start with this one.”
Eve grinned and stretched her neck back further, seeming to lean into the blade. The trickle that ran down her white throat was a brilliant red against her skin. “They will, ‘livia,” said the girl, as she gouged her neck against the knife. “I like it.”
“Stop it!” Olivia cried, her voice shrill. “I won’t run!” Tears flowed down her cheeks as she fought to restrain herself from grabbing the child away from the knife, from this foul thing inside Sofia who was licking Eve’s blood from the knife and grinning at her. “Let her go!”
“We’re glad to hear you say that,” Sofia said. “But as you can see, we’re not holding her here.” It was true. Sofia was holding the knife immobile as Eve rubbed herself against it, digging the blade deeper into her neck and giggling as the keen point forged deeper into her neck, the blood running from the wound now down to stain Eve’s light blue dress.
“You know what I mean, you fucking TOYS!” Olivia screamed, turning from Sofia and directing the force of her anger at the dolls, Junie and Janie, who were sitting on top of the TV, watching over all. “QUIT TORTURING A LITTLE GIRL!” She rushed at them.
As one the children were upon her, bearing her once again to the floor with practiced ease. The dolls smirked down on her as Eve left off gouging herself and skipped over to lend her weight to holding one of Olivia’s legs down.
Sofia pulled the rag from Olivia’s hand and Beth knelt on her forearm, pinning it to the ground. Beth looked at the gap where her finger had once lived, and giggled. Olivia couldn’t help but flush with embarrassment.
“You don’t learn very quickly,” Sofia hissed, and began sawing at the joint which joined Olivia’s middle finger to her hand. “Are we going to have to take all of your digits before you figure it out?”
Sam had given his brother a bloody nose in a vicious fight over the finger and claimed possession of it as Robert lay sobbing in a puddle of his own tears and snot. Grinning, Sam raised it like a turkey leg to his mouth and gnawed it down to the bone, never breaking eye contact with Olivia who could not look away. Beth, Eve and Lisa cheered. Sam took a bow. Robert wiped his nose with vacant eyes.
The sound of Disney’s The Fox and the Hound filled the basement, bringing Olivia back to the present. Since the deaths of Joe Sutton and his sister, life at the Sutton home for cast-off children had become one large slumber party. This party came with its own dedicated servant, who now trudged up the stairs, laden with the dirty dishes the children accumulated over the course of the day. Her hair was torn out in places, leaving bald patches. Blood dripped down her scalp from where a particularly well-rooted piece of hair had been snatched. She had been administered another punishment for not being good, this time for not coming downstairs quickly enough.
Sofia, with an ethereal smirk, had paused the animated fox in mid-leap, and called to them.
“All of you, come over here.”
She hadn’t needed to speak; they were gathered at the base of the stairs as soon as she had stopped the film. Beth snapped her gum and stared at Olivia with the blank expressionless eyes all the children wore, unless Sofia was tormenting one of them. Right now, though, Olivia was the target.
“How long ago did we summon Olivia?” asked Sofia in a lilting singsong voice.
“Too long, too long,” chorused the children. Their harmony of their voices made Olivia want to scream.
“It was two minutes! I was in the bathroom!” Olivia cried, knowing it was hopeless but unable to save her breath. “I’m sorry!”
“Janie says we have to punish you,” said Beth, and smiled.
“Puuu-niiiish…” sang five year-old Eve.
“Punish,” echoed the twins Robert and Sam.
“Junie says you were bad,” said Lisa, matching Beth’s smile.
“Well get it over with!” screamed Olivia, her nerves on edge. All the creepy singing children, it was like a fucking horror movie. “Just kill me!”
“Kill you?” Sofia asked, her face a mock expression of shock. “Goodness, why would we do such a thing for a little tardiness? Let’s just give you something to look at in the bathroom mirror while you’re in there.”
Ten eager little hands went to work.
Back upstairs, Olivia dumped the dishes in the overflowing sink and wiped the blood from her face. Tears mixed with the blood, and she sniffed them back. Her scalp ached as she rewound the dirty rag around her severed fingers, which thankfully only gave occasional throbs to remind her they were there. Going to the bathroom as Sofia said she would, she looked at herself in the mirror. She stifled a sob. Just days ago she had been sure of her life and her purpose. Now she was trapped in a house with two unholy things which were using all of them, even Sofia, for their own entertainment.
“Hey, girl!” Sofia’s voice drifted up the hallway and Olivia’s severed fingers gave a great THROB of recognition.
Hastening downstairs, she stopped at the bottom step, as a mouse will peek out of its burrow before committing itself fully to the danger zone. “Yes?”
The hound and the fox were all grown up now. Sofia took Jenny Sutton’s cell phone from Beth and tossed it to Olivia. “Get the kids some pizza. They don’t like your cooking.”
Olivia fumbled the phone with her eight fingers and nearly dropped it. She caught it by her fingernails and wrapped her hands around it before they could betray her further. “What kind of pizza?”
“They don’t care.” Sofia favored Olivia with a condescending smile. “They’ll eat what we tell them to eat.”
“Of course,” Olivia mumbled, retreating back up the stairs. Once she had called the nearest delivery place and ordered three large cheese pizzas, she sat slumped in a corner of the kitchen, staring at the wall and making as little noise as possible. She found that if she didn’t move or call attention to her presence upstairs, Sofia left her alone for longer. Sometimes.
“Hey, girl!” came Sofia’s all purpose call. Olivia dragged herself upright again, wondering if this would be her life, and drug herself downstairs.
“Where’s the pizzas? They’re hungry.” Sofia stared at Olivia, who stared back, trying to stay calm.
“They’re coming. They said it could be an hour,” Olivia said, pulling the phone out of her pocket and looking at it. “I only ordered it–”
“We know,” Sofia snarled, snatching the phone out of Olivia’s hand. “If pizza doesn’t get here soon, they’ll have to eat something else. Like you.”
Olivia felt a familiar thud of horror, but now it was coupled with a sick kind of hope. An end to suffering. “Let me go see if they’re coming,” she stammered, turning to retreat. Halfway up the stairs, the doorbell rang.
She screamed with relief and hurried to the door, flinging it open wide and digging in her pocket for cash. “How much is it?” she asked, looking from the bills in her hand to the delivery man’s face.
“Let me check your receipt, ma’am,” said Detective Eric Hoffman.