Occasionally, there was quiet.
And when there was, in those sudden, rare instances, the quiet spread through the ancient house like melted butter. No feline screams resonated from the kitchen, and the mansion was completely devoid of button-eyed suitors. The sun shone during the hot August days, heating up the dusty windowpanes, and during the cool nights a gentle breeze stirred the moonlight-dappled aspen leaves of the nearby forest.
No zombie soldiers hissed at the door, and they were free of threatening morticians longing to finish their duties. Just a girl, her strange doll, and her bucket-headed companion curled up on the red couch in front of the TV, sipping sodas and giggling at the antics of the characters on the shows.
Daytime was for tea parties, making muffins and giving poor Ragamuffin "baths" in the kitchen sink, and annoying the hell out of both him and Pooty. Nights were chasing gingerbread men-or terrified victims-down alleyways in Dreamland.
These were the days that Ragamuffin, Lenore, and Pooty loved the most. The quiet ones.
But the serenity was soon broken with a visit. Lenore awoke in the early morning, entangled in her sheets, Ragamuffin lost somewhere in the quilts. It was not the doll's soft snoring that woke her. Unseen eyes pried at her from the velvet darkness, and she shot up, her breathing labored out of mere habit. Ragamuffin sighed and rolled over, but ceased to wake up.
"Hello?" she whispered. "Pooty? Is…. Is that you?"
There was no answer.
Things like this had happened before. This person in her room was either Mr. Gosh, or...
This thought sent a chill down Lenore's spine, and she snatched Ragamuffin up into her arms, pressing her face against the top of his head. This woke him up immediately, and he shrugged away from her with an embarrassed shout. He stared at her. If dolls could blush, his face would have been bright red.
Instead of answering, she placed a finger to her lips, and pointed into the corner of the room, where a dark presence hovered like a cloud.
"What," he said again, peering into the gloom. "Is it Gosh again?"
Frightened by her silence, Ragamuffin clung to her arm. If Lenore was afraid of the thing in the corner, it had to be bad. She shook herself from his grasp and crawled to the edge of the bed.
For what seemed like forever, she gazed at the shadows, filled with uneasiness and curiosity.
Suddenly, she gasped and lurched backwards, flying into the headboard, dragging Ragamuffin with her.
The woman who emerged from the shadows was a fright. Her hair was a matted dirty blonde tangle framing her head. Two haunted blue eyes gazed solemnly out from a bony, pale face. She wore a long black veil, and a torn, dirty black dress. Lenore squeaked as the corpse-lady extended her hand. It was pure snowy white, and every bone was visible through the skin. She shifted the large bouquet of dead roses to her left hip, and lazily swung her head towards Ragamuffin, who was so close to Lenore that he might as well be part of her.
"Mom?" Lenore breathed, and Ragamuffin jolted.
"Lenore. My baby girl. I came back for you." she had a gravelly, hollow voice. Like she was being suffocated. Ragamuffin glanced at her neck, and sure enough, she wore a necklace of rope. A noose, in fact. A grisly price of deadly jewelry. So THIS is what Lenore's mother looked like... an older version of her….
As if in a trance, Lenore rose from the bed, the dollpire still holding tight to her arm. She was at least a head shorter than the woman, and had to strain her neck to look her in the eye.
"Mama... You left me. When you saw me... You ran away."
The corpse-lady reached out her bony hand and traced her daughter's face softly. "I know. And Lenore, I am so, so sorry. But I'm here now. I came to take you away. Back to my house."
"Oh." Lenore took a step back. "Mom, I live with Ragamuffin and Pooty now. I don't-"
Lenore's mother turned sharply to the dollpire. "What? Lenore, are you telling me you live with a rat and someone named Pooty? Unacceptable."
"A RAT?" Ragamuffin puffed out his chest. "Lady, I'm the eternal vampire scourge. I'm not a rat. Watch it. The only reason I look like this is cause I brutally killed and ate some witch's sister."
Corpse-lady scoffed. "The point being," she said, hastily raking her fingers through Lenore's hair, "Lenore is coming to live with me. I don't care if you're her boyfriend, her adoptive brother, dammit, I don't care if you're the president of the United States! You are obviously very unfit to be her guardian. Come, darling, gather your things. We're leaving."
Lenore's mother grabbed the braid she had just made in her hair and dragged her harshly towards the hallway.
"No buts. When we get home, you're getting a spanking for arguing with mommy."
Lenore met her mother's icy stare with one equally intimidating. "I'm not a little girl, mom. I really don't think-"
"ENOUGH!" hissed Corpse-Lady. "Say goodbye to the rat creature and PACK! We are LEAVING!"
Frightened now, Lenore ducked her head with a "yes ma'am" and scooped her few belongings into a stained white leather suitcase. When everything was packed, she whirled around and gathered a stunned Ragamuffin into a suffocating bear hug. They stayed that way for a few minutes, until Corpse-Lady began impatiently tapping her stilettoed foot and clearing her throat, which really was just a wheezing noise, but the effect was the same.
"I'm waiting, Lenore. And I'm sure you remember what happens when you make mommy wait," she said through gritted teeth.
Lenore remembered the sting of the paddle on her backside, and briskly pulled away after planting a kiss on the dollpire's nose. "I'll miss you, Ragamuffin." she whispered.
But Corpse-Lady had already taken her away from him.
"I'll get you back," he muttered. "Even… even if it kills me."