A/N: I wrote this for the Shockfest 2007 challenge (very late) on SFMB. It's very dark and absolutely rated M for a reason-just so you know what you're in for.
"We're having so much fun, aren't we Quinn?" little Tad Gupty asked with a twinkle in his eye.
"Yes! Don't you wish you could babysit us forever and ever?" added his big sister Tricia.
Quinn didn't respond. She was rooted to the living room couch, staring blankly at the wall.
Tad sighed and shook his head. "I don't think she's having much fun, Tricia."
"I don't think so either, Tad. It's too bad. Having a sad babysitter makes us sad."
"Maybe she'll do better next time."
There was always a next time, Quinn thought. She never thought that saying would bring her so much grief…
The Second Night
Everything was the same.
She thought it was just deja vu then. The Guptys rarely needed her to sit two nights in a row, but it wasn't unheard of. Nor was it uncommon for their kids to say and do the exact same things from one day to the next. But the repetition still freaked her out, especially because her whole day had seemed so much like the last one.
"Should I bring her a pillow, Tad? She looks awfully tired."
"Yes. That's the polite thing to do, Tricia." Tad nodded. His eerie smile never wavered. "Would you like some carrot sticks too, Quinn? We want you to be comfortable."
Quinn shook her head slowly, staring down at her hands. She hadn't said a word since Mr. and Mrs. Gupty left. Nothing she did ever made any difference, so what was the point? She would still be here tomorrow night. And the one after that.
The Third Night
She thought she must be going crazy now. Quinn didn't pay much attention to class assignments-that was really more of a brain thing. But by now, even she noticed that every assigned book chapter and every word the other kids said was exactly the same.
Once again, Mr. Gupty called her up that evening desperate for a babysitter. And once again she found herself saying yes, even when she tried to say "no." It was like she had no control over it-no control over anything. And that wasn't far from the truth.
"Here's your pillow, Quinn," Tricia was back. "I hope you feel better."
Quinn made no move to take it. She swallowed hard and finally looked up. As usual her clothes were perfect, her makeup expertly applied, but nothing could hide the weariness in her eyes. First she had been scared, then angry, then desperate, and now exhausted.
"You can't keep doing this to me." she whispered, wringing her hands. She knew it was their fault. She had known that much for a long time.
"Sure we can, Quinn." Tricia said cheerfully.
Tad nodded with the same unflinching smile. "I like you, Quinn. So does Tricia. We want you to come back every night."
"You're our favorite babysitter. You don't try to give us sugar."
"And you're so nice and pretty," Tad said. He looked at the clock on the wall. "It's 6:30, Quinn. Time for our snack."
They didn't have to tell her. She had every minute memorized.
The Eighteenth Night
She stood outside and wept as she watched the house burn.
It seemed so simple. If there were no Gupty house, there would be no place for her to come back and babysit. Then she would be free.
"Thanks for helping us get out, Quinn." Tad said as sirens wailed in the distance.
"We know you did it on purpose," Tricia added. "But we forgive you. We still want you back tomorrow."
As Quinn looked down at them and watched the flames dance in their eyes, she finally started to understand.
The house was back the next day, and the calendar still said August 9th.
The kids sat at the kitchen table and munched on their celery sticks and peanut butter. Quinn sat across from them, not trusting herself to say anything. She had begged them to let her go so many times. It did no good. They enjoyed watching her suffer. They never seemed to tire of it.
"So how many nights has it been now?" Tricia asked her brother as she wiped her mouth primly with a napkin. "Forty-six?"
"That's right, Tricia. This is the forty-seventh." Tad said cheerfully.
They said that every night too, just to taunt her.
The Twenty-Ninth Night
She'd been taking summer school to improve her grades-unbeknownst to the Fashion Club, of course. Today's history class was all about the decline of the Roman Empire, from the Gothic Wars to Charlemagne. Quinn could recite the whole chapter from memory now. She would do so many times, just to calm herself down.
She didn't read just her textbooks, either. She snuck other books out of Daria's room, knowing exactly when she would be gone. It wasn't like her sister would ever find out.
If she could control nothing else, she at least could read something new every day. It was insanity by her standards, but it was all she had left.
"So what kind of game should we play with her tonight?" asked Tad. "I think we should call 911 and tell them she's abusing us."
"No, we did that already. Let's order a bunch of pizzas and make her pay for them. Except she won't have enough money. Then she'll have to do the pizza man a favor…" Tricia finished in a sing-song voice.
"I don't like pizza!" Tad's smile was still plastered on his face. "Cheese is stolen from poor, innocent cows who never asked for humans to milk them."
Just like her, they were aware of the loop; they remembered. After the fire they had stopped feigning innocence and started to torment her. Sometimes they went out of their heads, crying and screaming no matter what she did. Other nights they chased her around and threw things at her. Still other nights they made her do things—terrible things, knowing she wouldn't fight back against children. Even though they weren't children.
Quinn wasn't ready to think about what they really were. She supposed it didn't matter.
"Real cheese is evil."
"Humans are evil."
"That means Quinn is evil. We have to punish her, Tad."
Tad leaned forward. "Let's make her take her clothes off again, Tricia."
That was too much. Quinn recoiled, cringing at the end of the couch. "NO!"
"Why not, Quinn? You did it before."
"In front of little children. You're really disgusting, Quinn."
"It was one time," Quinn croaked. She was starting to cry. "You said you'd let me go if I did it."
Tad shrugged. "You didn't have to believe us."
Tricia nodded. "Yeah. That was really silly."
The Forty-First Night
She had resigned herself to this, or tried to. Refusing to babysit them didn't work; the words wouldn't come out of her mouth. Destroying the Gupty home didn't work. Stealing Mom's minivan and driving out of the state didn't work. Even killing herself didn't work. She always woke up in Lawndale the next morning, drawn like a magnet to that terrible house.
Quinn realized on this day that only one option was left to her. If it didn't work, nothing would. Like the barbarians who suffered so much under the Romans before they finally rose up…she just had to gather her courage.
With no future in sight, the only weapon left to her was the past. And she would use it.
"We can't ever let you go, Quinn. You're our favorite."
"Quinn and the Gupty kids, together forever."
A well-lit family room had never seemed so dark. Quinn stood up from the couch. "You're not the Gupty kids," she said, not bothering to dry her eyes.
"To you we are," Tad said. "There's nothing you can do about it, you know."
"You're right, little brother," Tricia looked at the clock. "Wow. It's time for your bath already!"
He brightened. "Yay! I'll go get ready. Don't forget to bring me my favorite ducky, Quinn. Not that you would."
She shook her head, slowly. She caught a glint of red in his eye as he turned and ran upstairs.
"Meanwhile," said Tricia, "I think I'm still a little hungry! You have to get me some carrots now."
Quinn let the girl lead her into the kitchen.
"You're so pathetic, Quinn. Have we broken you yet? I'm pretty sure we have. It took a while, but we're new at this."
"Uh-huh." Quinn was barely listening. She pulled the carrots out of the fridge and washed one in the sink. She could hear the water running upstairs.
"We should have tried this a long time ago. We can do anything to people, but they can't do anything to kids. It's so much fun!"
"Uh-huh." She picked up a cleaver and began slicing one of the carrots for Tricia to eat.
"How about this? You have to let us touch you tonight," Tricia smiled hungrily as she sat down at the kitchen table. "That will be really fun."
She didn't see the light fading from Quinn's eyes, didn't see her soft hands tighten around the knife.
"We've wanted to do that all along. It's your fault, you know, for being so cute."
"Uh-huh." Said Quinn. She stood very still, hunched over the counter.
"You're such a bad influence on us," Tricia giggled. Her feet swung idly back and forth under the table. "You little slut."
They were the last words she ever said.
"Late in the fourth century A.D., the Romans allowed the displaced Visigoths to settle in Thrace," Quinn recited in a numb voice as she headed for the stairs.
The first step creaked. It always did.
"However, repeated abuses and exploitation by the Roman authorities sparked a revolt of the Germanic tribes."
Her grandmother said she could trace Morgendorffer family history back to Antiquity. True or not, it seemed fitting.
The carpet on the eighth step had a small coffee stain. Now a drop of red fell and obscured it.
"In retribution, the Goths looted and pillaged through the Balkans. On August 9th, 378, their rebellion culminated near Adrianople in a battle with the Roman army."
She was near the top now. The light in the hallway flickered, as it did every six minutes and twenty-five seconds. Before it happened again, this would all be over.
"But the Emperor misjudged the strength of the Gothic force, and he and his army were killed in the ensuing slaughter. It was the beginning of the end for the Romans' legendary empire, and altered the fate of their world."
Quinn was about to do the same.
Tad shut off the hot water and climbed into the tub. Without having to look, he grabbed the bubble bath and squeezed out most of the bottle. It didn't matter if he used it all up; it would be back the very next day. What a great idea he and his sister had. They could go on forever like this.
He heard footsteps coming slowly upstairs.
Tad didn't bother to look. He knew exactly where she would be, coming in with his rubber duck. Their fixed routine was rubbing off on her. Not completely, yet, but these things took time.
The bathroom door closed. Wait—that never happened before. He leaned over the side of the tub to look.
Quinn stood there with the blank, eerie smile of one who had completely snapped. Her hands, neck and the front of her shirt were soaked with red. It dribbled obscenely down her midriff and into her jeans. Large drops of it fell from the knife she was holding to spatter on the tile floor.
A real child would have screamed, would have thought there was something wrong with her. Tad did not. He knew the blood wasn't Quinn's.
" 'So now, with rage flashing in their eyes, the barbarians pursued our men, who were in a state of torpor, the warmth of their veins having deserted them,' " she said dreamily as he gaped in horror. " 'The barbarians spared neither those who yielded, nor those who resisted.' "
She dropped the blade and turned out the lights, plunging the room into darkness.
She was upon him before he could get out of the tub. He fought back hard, much harder than a real kid would. He scratched and bit and screamed. She grabbed fistfuls of his blonde hair and held him under the water. He struggled desperately, splashing water everywhere, but years of Waif-approved exercises and power yoga had not been wasted. Her muscles were like steel cables beneath that perfect skin.
All the helplessness, all the torture they'd put her through. All over with now. He was getting weaker, the water churning more slowly. It didn't take long.
"Die," Quinn whispered into the dark.
She let go of him and knelt beside the tub. The blackness seemed to fill the inside of her as well as the outside. All her senses faded out, and she slept.
When Quinn woke up in her bedroom, it was raining outside.
It had never rained before.
Quinn didn't bother going to school. She just lay there and hugged the stuffed dinosaur a boy had given her, so happy she cried into her smiley-face pillow.
No sirens wailed down the street on the way to the Gupty house. No police broke down the door to arrest her for murder. Nor did the Guptys call on her to babysit as they had the last fifty nights. But her mother mentioned seeing them and their kids walk out of the co-op that day.
She knew then that everything was back to normal. It was all over, whatever "it" had been that possessed Tad and Tricia. But she never babysat them again. You couldn't change history. You could only learn from it and move on.
Quinn had learned her heritage, and how good she looked in red.