Disclaimer: I don't own Edward, the poor dear. I don't own anything to do with Tim Burton, the genius. So, please, from the bottom, the middle, and the top of my heart—don't sue me.
Not Even Human
Reds, purples, greens, and a whole family of other colors glowed in their small egg-shaped bulbs, while covering the sides of the neighborhood roofs like bright gumdrops on the starchy icing of a gingerbread house.
Suburbia was always at its prime in December, while the rest of the year glided monotonously along—like a little kid whistling a song again and again until you wonder how he himself can stand it; but never in the month of December. December was the special month.
The warm, gooey smells of hot chocolate lingered in the icy air. Christmas trees stank of sweet pine needles, red ribbons and plastic candy canes hung entwined together on door after door. Stores were packed with parents dashing here and there for gifts, cards, and wrapping paper. Metal shopping carts clicked and clanked down toy aisles, while counter cashiers worked their fingers to the bone to serve the long lines of people. Lights blinked cold blues, cinnamon reds, and mint greens. Counterfeit Santa Clauses "ho, ho, ho!"-ed while ringing bells and gathering their donation money.
But the snow was the best thing about Christmas.
Snow didn't have bright lights, presents, or even candy. It was quiet, lovely… slowly falling downward from the heavy steely gray clouds at its own good pace. And not one thing caused more happiness or excitement, for that matter. Imagine waking up after a pleasant night's sleep to see your very own front lawn caked in fresh snow! Imagine all the lovely snowflakes twirling and whirling past your little window!
It was so very wonderful in December.
There was one slight problem. Just one little, little problem—that was, you see, that the snow itself did not belong there. No, indeed. Grandparents told stories about how not so much as a snowflake had fallen in this town, until one Christmas Eve a time very long ago… and, then the stories stopped. Old folks particularly hated going into detail about the mysterious 'one day long ago'.
All this cold cheer and fluffy white-wonderland snow reminded the old folks of him. No one talked much about him anymore; most of the old codgers that knew the whole story had actually long since died.
So the story gradually sank deeper and deeper, lower and lower from a drama worthy of news headlines to a silly bedtime story. This solemn-silly tale became an urban legend—simply an alligator in a sewer, an absurd tall tale made up by adults to frighten unruly kids. Nothing more than a speck of truth layered in a thick clay of thrilling lies.
Some stories say he killed himself, some say he was murdered in a brawl with a neighborhood boy, and some even say he roams the streets of Suburbia to this very day, craving blood and slashing car tires. But that weird urban legend was indeed still up there on the Old Hill, in the Old House, chipping away at the ice and living as decently as one could manage in such a solitary condition.
The Old Hill was a solitary, grey, cloudy place, which was left unscathed and unexplored, and it remained perfectly unbothered though the many years. The colossal topiaries and outlandish ice sculptures and dandelion arrangements varied from time to time, but, of course, no one had dared to venture close enough to observe these changes for themselves.
As though an invisible curtain had been pulled over the House, the good people forgot and ignored it, as if it were wallpaper to their fantastically normal little lives.
Snow itself was the proof that the monster was still around, still watching everyone live their smoothly bland lives from his rotting and rickety castle window. Even still, there always would be a curious little boy or girl who'd ask, "Where does all this snow come from?" Normally, the parents wouldn't answer (they wouldn't know themselves), but if a Grandma or Grandpa happened to be around, the they would glance towards the House, mumble about their poor aching back, and meander away.
"My goodness, Jake, get yourself out of that dreadful cold!" said the old woman, whose short height barely met up with her son's shoulder. Quickly, the granny gave a cordial glance over to a lady standing next to her son in the doorway, "Come in! Oh, Molly, nice to see you, dear!"
Jake and Molly Walters stepped into the warm, dry den of an elderly Kimberly Walters (or Boggs, her maiden name…and, besides, K.B. were the initials on her luggage; she had never bothered to switch them to K.W.). Jake hugged his mother, quite gently, because anything else might've broken something or made one of her intestines burst. Molly, his wife, kissed Grandma Kim's warm and wrinkled cheek.
Altogether, it was a rather sweet scene. Almost something you might expect to see in one of Norman Rockwell's paintings; happy, rosy-cheeked, bundled-up family kissing and hugging and fussing over each other.
"I hope you haven't been spoiling them, Ma…" said Jake, taking off a slightly hokey knitted jacket.
By 'them', Mr. Walters meant his two children—Bobby and Lucy.
"Oh, now. That is not fair." The old lady gave a thin smile. "You can't honestly expect a Granny to leave her grandchildren unspoiled? That's simply ridiculous. Besides, like I've always said, you can only spoil vegetables, not children."
"They haven't been any trouble, have they, Kim?" asked Molly.
Granny Kim squinted past her large, twinkling bottle glass glasses. "Oh, no, not at all, honey!" Her glasses glittered again, "They've been absolute angels the whole time, dear."
"Oh, thank God. I've been fretting for the whole trip back on how'd they'd be—It's just that I hope you didn't mind taking them on such short notice. I'm sorry, I would have given you—"
"Not to worry, dear." Said Kim, in a very motherly way, "They've been so good. And they keep me young, don't they, Jacob?"
"Well…dunno 'bout that..." Jake gave a grin.
Grandma sent funny look at him and shook her head, jokingly. Little strands of silver hair glimmered as she did. "You be quiet, you. I could throw you out, you know, and then what, mister? Hmm?" She chuckled a bit at herself, and quickly led them along inside. "You're both as cold as death! Oh, I know just the thing for it…How about I fix the both of you some nice hot chocolate, hmm?"
Lucy couldn't go to sleep, no matter how hard she shut her eyes. She closed them so tight; it hurt, and still no sleep. She resolved to counting sheep, but even that didn't work right.
Was Grandma telling the truth? Lucy had seen Grandma tell lies before, but Granny had always been a horrible liar, which, as Mommy always told Lucy, was a very good thing to be bad at. Plus, Lucy was pretty sure that Grandma was telling the truth about this one...it seemed, after Lucy had mulled it over, like it could be perfectly possible. Yes, yes, perfectly possible. After all, Granny was rather old and she knew just about everything there was to know in the world.
Lucy dug her face deeper into her frilly pillow, drowning herself under the cozy thermal blankets. And the little girl thought, very hard, about how Granny's bedtime story could be perfectly possible. There was the Castle, up there, and old people sometimes grumbled about the 'day long ago' and… as always, there was the snow. It seemed so strange but so utterly, perfectly possible.
Lucy felt a big tremor slithered down her back as she thought of a man with scissors for hands, a man dressed in black leather, wild hair, and pale, waxy skin. She never could think of him as a hero, not like Robin Hood or King Arthur, but she seemed partial to put him in the villain category.
He's like the Boogeyman…! I guess, only…a bit nicer and sweeter, like Grandma said.
At the thought of the Boogeyman, Lucy held on tighter to her teddy bear, and shooed the scary, dark thoughts out of her head. Suddenly, her ponderings were interrupted by her big brother's snoring in the next room. Lucy grouched as she covered her ears, and coiled herself up and snuggled up beneath the large covers.
Bobby was eleven, and he, like any respectable boy his age, considered bedtime stories beneath him. He often scolded Lucy for listening to Grandma's stories. And Lucy was fast approaching the ripe, old age of eight.
The wind sang spookily against the windowpane, like an ally cat wailing to the stars at night. It was a quite unnerving, and Lucy clutched tighter to her red teddy bear, and slid deeper and deeper into the bed until she thought she would surely submerge into the mattress.
Lucy peeked out her head from her coverlet, after the wind stopped wailing and groaning…and the little girl stared out the long window, her eyes drifting to the monstrous, shadowy, fortress-like House on the Hill.
The House was gigantic and looming above the bright, cheery town. It wasn't a house, actually—it was more like a medieval castle or a haunted mansion in ghost stories. An icy pit opened up in the bottom of her stomach, and a zillion tiny shivers tap-danced up and down her spine.
The little girl shivered from the cold, and buried herself under a soft tomb of blankets.0O0o0O0o0o0oO
Pretty soon, the day started all over again. The same kind of day that everyone had, everyday, every year.
And Bobby was at it again. Eating with his mouth full, letting the whole world see what was getting stuck in his braces. Grandma Kim was looking at Bobby with a glint of disapproval in her eyes. She slapped his hand, told him to behave like a gentleman at the table, and Bobby cowered and obeyed. Five minutes later, he was showing his food all over again.
Lucy stared down bemusedly at her Christmas-themed breakfast cereal and played with the marshmallows in the creamy milk. After a little while doing this, Lucy sighed quietly.
Bobby finished his breakfast before everyone else, as usual. He was acquiring quite the appetite lately—but this had something to do with growth hormones, which Lucy's father had gone into strenuous lengths to frighten her with. Dropping his spoon in his cereal bowl, Bobby announced, "I'm going to Andy's place."
"Get dressed and then you can," Jake's voice was muffled because he was biting into a raisin bagel.
Bobby gave his father a sulky, this-is-obvious look. "Dad! I am already dressed!" Bobby pointed to his jacket and jeans, to further illustrate his adequate winter uniform.
Molly looked vicious, for she was uncommonly strict when it came down to snow-clothes "You go put some warm clothes on. I don't want a frozen kid on my hands."
Bobby glared at his mother, and she glared back. And he eventually gave up and went to his room to change.
Lucy felt happy that she had dressed properly, and a small spark of confidence burned in her young soul. Little things, like dressing properly, made Lucy pleased with herself; which is rather ridiculous, but all the same, she was a very particular little girl. Her brother shuffled out of his room minutes later, dressed and layered for severe cold. Bobby had a frown on his face and an extremely twitchy eye.
"I'm off!" yelled Bobby, while bounding for the glass door.
"Wait up, there!" Jake called out, half of the raisin bagel in his mouth, "Take Lucy along with you too, Bobby."
The boy stopped dead in his tracks, and suddenly looked totally defeated. "What?" Bobby gave out a mortified little moan, "No, Dad, c'mon…please, don't make me do that…"
Molly looked at Bobby, angrily, "And why not, young man?" Molly put down her green and red coffee mug. She
looked softly over her daughter across the table. "Lucy, don't you think having a nice walk with your brother would be nice?"
"No, that's okay," Lucy said, rather casually, but not feeling casual at all inside.
"Are you sure, honey?" said Grandma Kim, concerned, "Looks like fun out there. Are you sure you don't want to?"
"Yes," Lucy said, mumbling absurdly, "I'm sure…"
Bobby pounced on his chance of freedom, "I guess that's fine with everyone, right? Right. See you later!"
And with that, Bobby sprung from the floor and threw the kitchen's sliding glass door open. In the wink of an eye Bobby was out of sight.0O0o0O0o0o0oO
Andy and Bobby's hands were cherry red from holding the cold snow. They stuffed the white ice in their mouths, chewed it and let the ice shards trickle down their throats… and they sat back, in cat-like readiness, eyes wide, senses ready, and their muscles rigid with anticipation.
The child's version of war was the snowball fight. The amount of craftiness and ruthlessness involved was simply unbelievable.
The two of them quickly sculpted arsenal and hid behind a car. Bobby had seven or eight small snowballs in his hands, cradling them like a baby, and Andy was doing exactly the same. The other boys in the fight were artfully hidden as well, and each one was waiting for someone to throw the first.
The tension was breath taking. The peril was freakishly real.
A tiny whispery voice creeped up behind the crouching boys, "…Bobby?"
Bobby gave a little whimper and jolted, making all his "weapons" fall back to the ground. He looked around, pallid and pale as the snow beneath him.
Quite soon, though, his complexion discolored from a frightened pale to an angry lobster-red. "Lucy!" Bobby bellowed, "Oh, man…What…" He lowered his voice down, before he gave their station away," What are you doing here?"
Lucy was going to apologize, but, all of a sudden, a rain of snowballs hit the two children. They tried to fend them off, but all in vain. Bobby's pride was shattered, and his reputation hurt. Lucy just looked confused and shocked, as she fell on her back.
After a few minutes of fire, the children stopped, I suppose out of mercy, and came over to investigate. They looked at Lucy, almost untrustingly, and then they turned towards Bobby for an explanation of the newcomer.
Bobby jerked his gloved thumb in his little sister's direction, "My little sis." Bobby explained and brushed off the snow from his coat. "—Lucy."
Andy, who was a tall, lanky, tough-looking sort of boy with ruffled reddish-brown hair stepped out of the mob. His voice was that of an eleven-year-old, but his mood was that of someone much older.
Andy snapped out that Lucy had completely ruined the game, but he wasn't upset. He snapped when he was happy or amused—and this whole situation interested him very much, especially since Lucy was young and looked a little stupid—because a crafty idea for some terrible fun was rattling inside Andy's head. Finally, he snorted, finding the little girl's embarrassment rather tickling. So, Andy appraised Lucy, and asked, "How old are you?"
"Eight," Lucy's voice shook, while she slightly lowered her head, "Almost eight, anyways..."
"So you're really only seven? Oh, really?" said Andy, a little darkly, as he looked over to Bobby, "Hey, why did you bring a snot-nosed little turd along with you?"
The rest of the crowd muttered out a unhappy 'Yeah?' while they nodded their beanie-covered heads.
"I didn't." Bobby stood up for himself, a little too defensively, "My parents wanted her to come, and she said she didn't want to come. I thought she wasn't coming anyway! I mean, she creeped right up to be—you saw her, Andy, didn't you? Yeah, you did see her do that! I don't know what the heck is wrong with her."
Andy grinned, his eyes glittered with shadowy, malicious schemes. This was great stuff. He could probably have some good fun with this!
Shuffling uncomfortably in her puffy marshmellow-like snow jacket, Lucy explained herself. "I only wanted to play with you guys."
This came as a shock to everyone, and they began to whisper and mutter.
"Okay, Lucy," said Andy, in a somewhat kind voice, but something hurtful lurked beneath its sweetness, "Let's play a really fun game."
Andy slapped his hands together and rubbed them excitedly. His grin was stretching to bigger and bigger sizes. The children all shot Andy a look that said, What game? Don't leave us out. We want to play, too!
"Is it a snowball fight?" asked Lucy, eagerly, and quite happy that she had been offered.
Andy's grinned like a maniac—the only thing that assured everyone that he hadn't gone completely loony was his dark, very sober eyes. "No, it's better than that!" His bright smile continued, "This game is called 'Haunted House', and it's a billion times better than any snowball fight."
Lucy smiled back to the grinning Andy, and the both of them stood smiling crazily at each other for a long time.
"Really?" Lucy squeaked, finally, "How do we play it?"
"Well, Lucy..." said Andy, in mock hesitation, "I don't really know, come to think of it, if you'd really be able to play this game..."
Immediately, Lucy's spirits sank, and she asked "Why not?"
"Nothing...That's okay, Lucy, you know, I shouldn't have asked you anyway."
Andy sighed a deep, sad sigh and shook his head, pretending to reprimand himself for being so totally thoughtless. He started to walk away, kicking the soft snow, dejectedly.
Lucy found the courage to follow Andy, and she scrambled to get by his side, "I...want to play 'Haunted House'! Please!"
"No.…c'mon, Luce, you really don't wanna—" And now Andy flashed a very crafty, devilish smile, "—do you?"
"Please!" Jumping up and down, going completely batty from the curiosity of it all, Lucy begged for him to tell her.
"Pretty, pretty please with a cherry and whip cream on top!"
Some of the kids became rather annoyed with waiting, spat in the snow, and yelled out "Just tell her, Andy!"
"Well...I dunno..." Andy said, slowly, as if thinking about it, and then, in an instant change of character he said,
"Sssure… why not, right? Lucy can take it, right?"
The boys and girls leaned forward, knowing mischief was brewing.
Bending his long, thin legs down to Lucy's diminutive height, Andy spoke up. "Here's the deal. You ever heard of the House on the Hill, Lucy?"
Her stomach churned like spoiled, chunky milk. House on the Hill, the place were a ghoul lived in a cold, mysterious home, the monster who cut ladies' hairstyles, the phantom who did gardening free-of-charge for the neighborhood, and the great cookie inventor who died before completing his final masterpiece, and the all the glorious snow, and the boy with scissors for hands — scissorhands!
"I guess you have heard of it. Great! So...what you have to do is go up there, go in the house, stay there for a couple of minutes, get something from inside, and come out. See, Lucy? Piece of cake, right? Then you can play with us all you want, that is—if you're not too chicken, of course."
The kids all giggled in excitement (except Lucy, of course), and they sneered at each other knowingly, like they all were in on some absolutely fantastic joke.
"A double Devil's dog dare. But, y'know…Lucy's not a chicken, so she'll do it just fine. Right, Lucy?" Said Andy, coolly.
That sealed Lucy's fate. No child besides cowards and weaklings, ever, ever chickened out on a double Devil's dog dare. The little girl's heart was pounding like an Indian war drum—oh, gosh, Lucy didn't want to be seen as a coward or a weakling. She stared up at the congregation of children, especially Bobby and Andy, and then to the snowy ground. She shivered. Oh, gosh…oh…!
"…Okay." Lucy felt her heart skip a few little beats.
A great wave of commotion went over the crowd and, naturally, gossip spread like wildfire. The kids even started betting money on if she would last less than one single minute up there in the old Haunted House before she'd come tumbling back, crying her eyes out. The gossips started spreading the word that a "psycho killer" lived in the House, and he had claws and Gillette razorblades for hands, seven legs, laser vision, and teeth sharpened to a point. Lucy felt her spindly legs begin to tremble violently—and she wished desperately that she could swallow all her words back in her mouth.
Andy took up and air of generalship and commanded in a loud, almost manly voice, "Let's go!"
A terrible, blood-curling cheer came from the children, as if they were jungle cannibals sacrificing a sheep to the tropical volcano gods.0O0o0O0o0o0oO
A white grin beamed out of the TV, nearly blinding its viewers. A wavy, carefree voice happily informed the world of murders, kidnappings, gangsters, and all things generally shocking and enticing. The TV anchorwoman was trim,
clean, and sparkling today in her classy blue dress and white coat
"And now to our local weather forecast, Timmy!"
She beamed, and the screen switched to a young man handsomely attired in grey and red. He smiled as widely and as brightly as the anchorwoman.
"Hello, everyone!" Timmy the Weatherman said, chuckling, "Christmas spirit is enough to ward off the Grinch but, unfortunately, not bad weather!" Behind him appeared a weather chart, "Looks like we have baaaad weather coming our way, folks. Tell your kids to wear scarves and mittens… cause we're gonna have one heck of a snowstorm!"
Molly, Jake, and Grandma Kim were still gathered in the kitchen, sipping coffee and hot chocolate.
"Jake," Molly said, as a frown bent a few wrinkles on her face. "Maybe we should go out and get the kids?" And already, she was getting up and going to the door.
The husband waved his hands, dismissively, "C'mon, please, the kids'll be fine, honey. Trust me, I grew up with snow my whole life—and this is nothing to be worried about."
"A snow storm sounds pretty serious, though, doesn't it? I mean, this is a snow storm, Jake. Plus, I'm not so keen
"Honey," said Jake, "Bobby's probably having a blast with his friends—Lucy's probably even making friends—and just think how embarrassed they'd both be if we dragged them off? Plus, think of Lucy. Lucy wanted to make some friends, honey, and I think it's best we leave them alone to…y'know, play and act like little runts and monsters, just like normal youngins do." Jake made a strong argument, but he never even glanced up from his newspaper, "… Besides, those TV anchors always screw up weather reports anyway."
With that, Jake dug his long nose further into the daily paper.
Molly looked at Grandma Kim for a second opinion, but Grandma looked like she was steadily dosing off. Mid-morning exhaustion; some drool was even starting to collect around the corners of her old mouth.
Molly couldn't put her finger on it but something made her uneasy about Lucy and Bobby being out in the snow.0O0o0O0o0o0oO