Someone bent up my fingers, my arms, unwrapped me from Amy’s little broken body. The doctor talked to me. I saw his mouth move. Never heard a sound though.
His rubber gloved hand unwrapped the quilt. I saw what I had wrapped up, what I held in my arms.
That wasn’t my Amy any more.
No… It was…
A bloody rag doll. I couldn’t peel off my eyes from the deformed head, the blue eyes staring to the left and the right, at the same time. Not my Amy!
They told me that I screamed and howled. They made me stop, by sticking a needle into my arm, sending me spiraling into unconsciousness.
My arms flew up. Must’ve dozed off.
What was that?
Something hit the window. I blinked. A bird? A snowball? My tongue felt fuzzy, stuck to my palate. It was much darker now.
I should have a look. If it was a bear going through my trash can, or a puma? I had to deal with that. Where did I put the shotgun? Was it even loaded? Ammo was somewhere in the kitchen.
The hard labor of standing up started, and the quilt slit down to the carpet. I put the empty bottle on the table.
The dim light shining in, outlined the furniture. It was enough so I wouldn’t bump into them on my way to the window. I stood there for a while, had to steady my spinning head, or was it my racing heart. I couldn’t tell the difference anymore?
As the world stopped moving, I hobbled towards the window. I took me some time to reach the curtains.
Nobody outside, just the pale blueish gray cover over everything I knew. No tracks visible.
From somewhere on the left a snowball slammed against the glass. „Whoa!“ It spooked me.
Caught myself on a fistful of the fabric hanging near me, nearly keeled backwards. The curtain tore. A heatwave rolled over me, from scalp to toe. My knees wobbled a bit more, but I stood again, fairly secure. I peeked out. Something moved. Then I saw it.
And what I saw, made me sober the instant. I held my breath.
„Daadddy!“ Amy’s voice rang clearly in my ears. „Come outside, daaady!“ She danced around in the snow, her blanky around her shoulders, her pink beanie on top of her head. „Let’s play!“ My tongue hurt. I wanted to scream, but the words were glued somewhere in the back of my dry throat. How was this possible?
Everything was right. Was that really my baby? Her blonde piggy tails swooped up and down as she hopped around.
„I wuv you!“ She pulled my heart strings. It stung and burnt. As if she knew, what I longed for, she blew me kisses. Then she started to sing the princess in the woods. The window was cold to my touch. It fogged up around my fingertips.
She was still there, dancing and singing. „Snowman, daddy. Snowman!“ She cheered and beamed up to me.
„I’m coming!“ I wanted to scream. Amy! My little darling is back! Ugly noises left my throat instead. The backyard blurred and swam. Something warm ran down my cheeks. She started to form a big snowball, stretching out her little tongue, like she used to, when she was concentrating really hard. I sobbed. „AMY!“ She giggled and waved for me to come outside. „I’m coming,“ I gestured her. „I’m coming!“ As fast as I could, I hobbled towards the entrance door.
„Please be there, please be there. Please…“ I begged and closed my eyes. My hand tore the door open, felt snowflakes landing on my hand, my face, my toe. Bone chilling cold greeted me, but I didn’t care. My eyes flew open.
„Oh, Amy!“ She stood there, waiting for me, only a few steps distance between us. „Amy! Baby! Where have you been? I was looking for you all over.“ She shrugged, like little children do, with all of her body. Embarrassed she pointed behind her, then to herself. „You were in the woods?“ I asked, barely believing it. She nodded happily.
Have I been looking on the wrong place? Was she there all along waiting for me?
Amy cocked her little head, as if catching to my thought. „Yes, daddy.“ She pulled her shoulders up. „I was waiting for you. But you didn’t come. And I was really tired and you had a piece of wooden doll in your arms, and you and mommy… You cried a lot. And I was scared, that you be mad, if I come out now.“ How could I be angry at my little baby?
I threw my legs out. Long eager steps took me towards my little darling. I closed the distance between us, arms stretched out for a hug. The snow melted under my feet, my socks were wet and I fell to my knees before Amy, but this time it didn’t hurt. I could move without effort. Snowflakes landed on my neck.
I embraced Amy, sucked in the air around her. She smelled like children ought to. She smelled of cookies, crayons and strawberry shampoo. And smoke? My arms remembered her body and welcomed it with force. I couldn’t hold back, I tugged her close and squeezed. „Oh, Amy. Amyamyamy. I worried sick, baby.“ Those words disappeared in her blanky, in her piggy tails and mittens.
„Shhh, daddy.“ Her voice was dripping in my ear. „It’s okay. Don’t cry.“ Her tiny hand petted the back of my skull. It felt like heaven. I had her back, back in my arms. I’d never let go again. Never!
„It’s okay, daddy.“ Her voice buzzed with distortion for a moment. „I stay.“ No, that was only my imagination. „Forever.“ That voice!
I yanked my head back to look at Amy’s perfect little face. Everything was like I remembered. Big brown eyes, little nose and a small mouth with full soft lips, pink cheeks. Where did that voice come from, then? „Was that you, baby?“ I asked her. She stared into my face. I couldn’t read anything in it. Something was different, though. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Her eyes! I remembered them clearly. Why did I notice just now?
They have been blue two years ago, but they were dark now. How was that possible? Eye colors did not… Change?
Her tiny mouth twitched and stretched into a sick grin. Her eyes glistened. Like the eyes of a rat. They went all black, tuned to some otherworldly channel. I swallowed. „Amy? Baby?“ I didn’t sound like me. „Are you okay?“ Her eyes bulged. „AMY?“ No!
The distorted voice answered with my daughter’s mouth. „Amy isn’t here, daddy.“ The grin widened to full teeth. There were too many teeth in that mouth! „What’s wrong, daddy?“ Oh, God! „Don’t you wuv me?“ No! I pulled back, but lost my balance. The icy sensation burned on my back. The snow was powdery, slipping into every wrinkle of my pullover and pants. „You wuv’ me now, daddy?“ I gasped.
The wind picked up. Its force bent the firs. They squealed and groaned. The gust swept over the roof, whooshed ice crystals into my face, into my eyes. It stung, like pins and needles. I couldn’t see.
My legs numbed, didn’t move at all. My hands trembled towards my baby. That was impossible! That mouth stretched beyond its anatomical possibilities. I saw so much more than her pink gum and the too many teeth. I saw bone and working muscles. „NO!“ She chuckled, as I scurried towards the house on an all four. The wind stuffed my mouth with tiny ice shards. She danced around me, singing the princess in the wood, with my Amy’s voice.
That thing wasn’t my daughter! It was something… else. I saw something pink reach into the furious white gusts, she giggled. Oh, God! „You are not my Amy!“ I screamed into the howling sound around me. It wiped all silhouettes away, replaced it with a wall of white. Sick laughter reached me, the kind of psycho laughter you don’t want to hear from a four year old. Never from your own four year old. „Are you scared, daddy?“ She buzzed, „let’s play!“
The way she said, „daddy,“ chilled my blood. The voice was deep and guttural. The hair on my neck stood on end. Where was the gun? I had to get the gun.
The thing, that looked like Amy, screeched. I caught a whiff of smoke and strawberries. Somewhere ahead, only a few steps away, there had to be my house, entrance door still open. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t see it.
„Come on, old man. Keep moving!“ I cheered on. „Get back to the house.“ More laughter drifted to me, over the wind gusts. The ice whooshing past my face glistened, reflecting some soft light. I stopped. There was something bright behind me.