The Rabbit Skull

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Bug's success as a thief is all due to one special object in his possession; a rabbit skull imbued with black magic. Already long embittered with the island he calls home for treating him so callously as a child, one final straw pushes him over the edge and he decides to curse the island and everyone in it. He is, however, thwarted in his attempt and dies in the process. He ends up reanimated years later in a plush toy. Together, with the granddaughter of one of his enemies, he seeks to finish what he'd started.

Submitted: April 21, 2019

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Submitted: April 21, 2019

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Bug, having felt so big just a few days before on his tenth birthday, looked so little now beside his father's bedside. The man underneath the angel's cloak of white sheets was so pale he nearly matched them in color.

"Dad..." Bug said, voice quavering. The dark circles under his eyes were wet with tears. "If- if you die- what am I gonna do without you?"

The man's skeletal, weak hand slowly reached up and covered the boy's smaller one, rested on his chest. He'd been sick for such a long time. It was hard for Bug to imagine him getting any better. Tonight, he was weaker than he'd ever been before.

"Open the drawer next to my bed," the weak man instructed his son. "There's something in there I want to show you."

Bug did as he was told. He reluctantly pulled his hand away from his father and stood up- old decaying floorboards creaking like dying flies under his bare feet- and pulled open the drawer.

The only thing inside of it was a rabbit skull, connected to a string meant to be pulled over the head and rested around one's neck.

"Put it on, and I'll tell you about it."

He pulled it over his dark, scruffy, tangled hair. It didn't fit perfectly on him, it was rather loose on his shoulders and the skull hung down to his waist.

"You know about magic?" the father asked, voice like dead leaves as he stared at the small boy.

"Yes," he said softly. He gazed down at the small, cold skull held his fingers. "Is this... magical...?"

The father made a muted, slow nod. "Very."

"What can it do?"

The older man was quiet for a moment, then said, "You know how we're not here in this basement... legally." As if on cue, they were interrupted by the sound of creaking footsteps and voices from the house above, and they both went silent, waiting for them to pass. When they were quiet again, the man went on, "That means the police don't want us in here."

"I know, Dad," Bug reminded him quietly.

"You also know how... our family has always had to steal in order to survive."

"Yeah..." the child said, running his thumb over the cranium of the skull- a strange insignia was engraved, barely visible, on its surface. It had always been a fact of life to him that his family were thieves. When he was just five, he had learned how to pickpocket in crowded places, and by the time he was seven, he had lost track of all the treats and jewelry and toys he'd shoplifted from stores or nicked from kids at school (the few times he went). To him, it was just as natural as breathing.

"Well... this magic skull has helped us with that," his father went on. "It channels very incredible magic. Let's say that if... we're in a store, and you've taken some food, and a security guard stops you because he thinks you're suspicious."

Bug nodded, silent.

"If you will it to, it'll remove the suspicion from the guard's mind. He'll forget why he stopped you, and you can get away. But that's not all it can do. It can make people do what you want them to. That's terribly powerful, and extremely dangerous. You could potentially make bank employees happily give you money without any need of coercion."

Bug's eyes widened. This idea made his mind run wild with the possibilities such magic could bring him.

"However, as with all magic, these effects will wear off eventually. They'll realize what they're doing. In most cases, all it does is bide us enough time to escape. And someone who's already been targeted by it's spell will be very unlikely to fall victim again. Understand?"

"Yes, I'm listening very closely," Bug said softly, holding the skull carefully close, like it was the most precious jewel he'd ever held.

"And there are a few last things they can do. But they are very intense. They involve life and death, son. Do you think you can handle it?"

He nodded again, eagerly, listening with rapt attention.

"It is able to curse people. Terrible curses. I don't know the specifics- we've never used it for such a purpose, because, see... in order to give it the power it needs to put those curses on others, it needs to... to claim souls. Two, in fact, at the very least."

"Souls, Dad? Does taking a soul... kill people?"

"Yes. Yes... very quickly and painlessly, but it still kills people, and that is not something we've ever wanted. Now there is one more thing- perhaps the most powerful thing it can do. If you choose an item- an inanimate item- to possess, it will transfer your soul into it after you die. This also takes soul power, but I believe only one soul will do."

Like a lightning bolt, hearing this gave Bug an idea, one that he couldn't help but exclaim. "Dad, Dad, if we claim a soul, and if you don't get better, then-"

"No," the father interrupted as firmly as he could in his weak voice, fixing a stare onto Bug that could've halted a charging bull. Bug flinched back. "Killing someone, that's something that the powers that be will never forgive you for. I fear the punishment."

Bug was quiet, turning his head down, his shocks of dark brown hair falling over his eyes. When his father heard him start to sniffle, he said sympathetically, "Don't worry, son. I'll be fine, I promise. Why don't you go and play? And... keep the skull with you. You can tuck it under the neck of your shirt, yes, just like that. It'll bond with you, in time. It'll become like a good friend."

The boy got up, but didn't dare open his mouth to say goodbye, fearing it would come out cracked and broken, and he would only sob more. Instead, he waved, then headed off.

"Wait- Bug?"

The child looked up.

"Whatever you do, don't break it."

The firmness in his father's voice made a cold shiver run through Bug.

"What happens if it breaks?" he asked.

"If it's cracked, the magic will start to break out and malfunction. If it's shattered- well, only what's above knows. But with black magic, the consequences are most likely unimaginable."

All Bug could do was just nod.

His father watched as his skinny, trembling legs and bare dirty feet brought him through the door and away into the dark, cold basement.

Just two weeks later, his father was found dead. He had died peacefully in his sleep. The boy held on tight to that rabbit skull; the last remaining piece of his dad, and the only friend he had left.

- 10 Years Later -

The toy store was simply the best place on the island. A train track with toy cars that were actually rideable wrapped through the building's brightly colored interior, whizzing through tunnels and puffing heart-shaped smoke. The halls were stocked to the brim with all the toys a kid could want. Children played, chased each other, and they were all watched over by the kindly and well-loved boss, Major.

Major- who had his own children, two sisters, aged 6 and 14- was a compassionate man who was willing to look past anyone's flaws to see what was underneath. He adored children and he adored making toys. He was beloved by all on the small island- the toy store had been around long enough that he had helped raise a good portion of the population.

Recently, however, he'd fallen on hard times due to an employee shortage. Major didn't just hire anyone, after all- he needed people who were just as passionate about toys and were as good to children as he was. And people like that were few and far between.

Major was working in his office one day, when something occurred that would change his life and the fate of the toy store, forever.

The old door was thrown back on it's creaky hinges, revealing a scruffy, thin man, who had dark brown hair that curled and stuck up all over past the brim of his hat. His eyes were wide, nervous and twitchy, and had large sleepless circles under them. There were several broken patches in his coat that had been hastily stitched up with new fabric. But perhaps the oddest of all was the rabbit skull hung on the necklace over his chest.

"Er- good afternoon!" Major greeted, blinking twice in surprise. He set his pen down to focus his attention on this odd stranger.

"I-I saw the hiring sign- I'd like a job," the man said, sitting down with a wide grin. Usually, smiles like that were a good sign for Major, but there was something about that grin, and indeed, the man in general, that reminded him vividly of a twitching rat.

"And what's your name?" Major asked, with some caution. He was always willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, but there was something wild and unpredictable and hungry in those eyes.

"Er- Bug, sir! Bug Glire." He took his hat off his head and rotated it in his hands nervously.

"Bug, huh? I like it," Major said with a nervous chuckle. He pushed off his desk, his swivel chair gliding backwards to his file cabinets. He opened a drawer, and took out a paper form. Bug watched with nervous eyes, continuing to fiddle with his hat. "Now, which job position were you looking for, Bug? We have a few openings- toymakers, cashiers, janitor, daycare provider..."

Bug's lip curled a little bit. As unappealing as all the options were to him, daycare provider sounded like the one he'd hate doing the least. As much as he had come to despise children, he certainly couldn't make toys, and he would never stoop to what he saw as such an unsophisticated low as a cashier or a janitor. He may have been a thief and a criminal, but he still had some dignity!

"I think I'll take that last one," he said, grin not leaving, leaning forward nervously on the desk. He never seemed to stop fidgeting, Major noted internally. That was a bad sign.

"Er- great! Have you ever babysat, or have had any other notable experience caring for children?"

Well, I was a child, once, Bug thought to himself sarcastically. Does that count? "Oh, yes, loads," he lied.

"Good, good," Major jotted something down. "Do you have a criminal record?"

"Er- no! Not really!" Bug said quickly. Major blinked in surprise.

"Uh... why do you feel like you'd be right for this job?" he asked. He'd at least try to see this interview out to the end, even though he'd already made up his mind.

"Well, you see- I'll be honest with you, sir." He scooted his chair in and leaned across the desk. Major straightened up, slightly, a little alarmed. "I had a bit of a run-in with the law recently- nothing too big, but we made an agreement. If I got a job, they'd let me off the hook. If I didn't, I'd be thrown in jail."

"I... see." Major took in a deep breath. This was always the hard part, but he absolutely couldn't hire this man. "Well, Mr. Glire, I sympathize with your plight, I really do. But I'm very sorry, I don't think we can hire you, sir. It's not anything personal at all, it's just that we have quite strict hiring standards- again, I'm really sorry- I'm sure someplace else will be very happy to hire you, if you keep looking." He tried to make an encouraging smile, standing up to escort Bug to the door (after all, it was only polite).

Bug, however, did not stand. In fact, he leaned back into his chair with an aura of confidence. In a quick motion, he'd snapped open the jaw of the rabbit skull around his neck. "I think I can change your mind."

Major froze. He stared into nothingness for a moment, as though under a trance, before swiftly turning around and happily snatching Bug's hand in both of his own, shaking it rapidly. "You're hired!!!" he cried suddenly. "I'll see you at 8:00 AM on Monday!"

Bug smirked knowingly, shutting the rabbit skull's jaw. "Thank you, sir. It means a lot to me. See you then!"

"Goodbye!" Major cried in a tone that was much too jovial, even for him. "I can't wait to work with you, Mr. Glire!"

--

Being a daycare professional was even more tiring than Bug thought it would be.

The newest toy that all the children wanted to play with- and hence, fought over valiantly- was a large mobile plush bull. The tiny ones would get on, and it would become animated by magic, walking on it's own in circles. It was the hottest toy of the season- and in the daycare/playtime area, every one of the little brats were hissing and fighting over it.

Luckily, Bug had a co-worker who would do most of the dirty work (the sucker), but yet, alas, he was expected to step in, even though he would've much rather laid on the rocking chair in the corner and relaxed his aching bones, the bones that were bruised from a lifetime of being on the run. That was why he'd taken this job, anyway. Under the hope it'd be easy. And, well, relative to the other opportunities on the market, it was.

Yet still, after a long day of breaking up fights and forcing a pleasant voice and encouraging the shrieking gremlins to share, Bug was completely exhausted. He flopped next to the bull toy, staring at the ceiling.

"Must be hard," he muttered to the plush, feeling a bit sorry for it. "Having to be around those things all day."

He rested his head back, trying to enjoy the peace and quiet while he had it, but then Bug felt a tug on the too-big sleeve of his uniform. With a sharp intake of breath and a concealed eye roll, he turned his head. "What?" he grunted.

There was a stocky and stout teenage girl standing there, strong arms folded as she looked up at him. She wore a pink flower clip in her brunette hair. "I'm Mary. I'm Major's daughter. Can I look at your rabbit skull?" she asked. She gave an animated point at the object on his chest. "It's pretty cool."

"I'd rather you not touch it," Bug said curtly, harsher than he'd meant it to sound. It was a struggle to keep the disdain out of his voice at the thought of absolutely anyone getting their filthy little fingerprints all over his precious possession. "My late father gave it to me."

"Alright. It's nice to meet you, anyway. My dad is super picky with hiring, you know, so you must be pretty cool for him to consider you!"

"Right," Bug said. It would have been a fine sentiment that he wouldn't have thought anything more of, had it not been for that squinting, distrustful look in her piggy little eyes...

"So you must be pretty good with kids? I babysit my little sister all the time. She's really cute. Wanna see her?"

He couldn't think of anything he wanted to do less, but before he could answer, she called, "Hey, Gwen!"

A little girl hobbled as fast as she could from behind the tall toy shelves. Mary lovingly scooped her up and held her, the gentlest of smiles on her face as she regarded her sister. Bug had been an only child, and had loved nor taken care of anything or anyone besides himself, his rabbit skull, and at one point, his father. He couldn't relate to or understand that love in Mary's eyes.

Mary seemed to take notice of this. "Isn't she cute?" she said, holding Gwen up higher when Bug didn't react. "Don't you love kids?"

Now that was a loaded question if he had ever heard one. "I sure do- she's very adorable," Bug said, trying to sound as convincing as possible but just ending up feeling awkward. When it came to deceit, he was an expert at looking like he wasn't up to trouble while walking out a store with pockets loaded with stolen merchandise- but when it came to feigning emotion, well, he just had no clue.

And at the look in Mary's eyes- that dreadful, knowing look- he knew she suspected something. "Well, we've got to go home, soon. See you later!" Mary said, throwing him an innocent smile, that to his eyes, was that of a cruel and taunting faerie over her shoulder.

--

A whole week of pretending to care about little annoying kids really wore a man out, it seemed- it was getting late into the evening and Bug was even more exhausted than he'd been before.

His eyes were heavy and dreary as he watched the last few children that remained in the establishment before closing time. They were fighting over that poor bull toy again. He couldn't even be bothered to raise his head and say "Stop fighting", much less go in and break up the fight. Damn, he needed a consolation prize, a thrill, something to wake him up. There was no way he was driving home like this!

Suddenly, he sat upright as a devious thought crossed his criminal, thieving mind. The toy store had such a limited stock of that oh-so-popular bull toy, and he'd already decided he would steal one. It was instinct; he'd been stealing things since he learned how to walk, he was a kleptomaniac by nature. How could he resist? And even though he had no real need for it- he just liked the thought of taking something that could've belonged to a spoiled brat instead. Besides, it was the only item of any value in this godforsaken store!

He alighted from his post and slipped into the towering isles of toys. He was already formulating an excuse if Major or anyone else caught him; he'd simply lie fluently and say that a customer asked him about a toy that they had in the back. They couldn't deny him that, now could they?

Finally, he arrived at the door to the back room- and with one quick look over his shoulder, just to make sure no one was watching- he whipped out his employee key and in he sneaked like a shadow.

In the darkness, he crept silently through the rows of boxes, eyes gleaning over each of them, quickly searching to find the one labelled with the toy's name. Soon, he saw it- Riding Bull. He pushed it open and dug into it. But before he could hoist up his heavy prize and somehow figure out a way to haul it back home-

"What are you doing with that, Bug?"

Bug made a rather embarrassing scream, practically jumping out of his skin.

There was Mary! Standing behind him, those strong arms folded with that evil little impish knowing smile of hers. God, he'd barely known her for a week and it already fired him up beyond reason. "So, guess what? I asked Dad about what he knew about you, and get this- he told me you had a criminal history, mostly for stealing things! And when I asked him why he hired you- and this is the craziest part- he said he couldn't remember! Do you have any idea why that could be?"

"Alzheimer's must be getting to him early," Bug growled, his lip curled. He didn't care if it sounded impolite anymore. "Now excuse me, missy-" with a hefty grunt, he hoisted up one of the bulls in the box. "I've got a customer waiting at the front who very much wants one of these toys and will even pay extra if she can get it as soon as possible-"

"Now hold it right there!" Mary leaped in front of him, getting as much in the way as a small stocky teenager could. "My dad would ALWAYS remember who he hired! This store is my dad's pride and joy, he would never let it be put into jeopardy by some gross criminal who hates kids!"

"Oh yeah?! And if all of this is true, how am I supposed to have convinced Mr. Major to hire me, anyway?! Your argument is critically flawed, sister. Now leave me be!" Again, he tried to walk past her, but she leapt in front of him again.

"You have black magic on your hands! You know that's REALLY illegal, right?!" She had a big grin, as if she thought she'd caught him red-handed.

"Alright- I've had enough of you!" Bug snarled. His hands flew to the rabbit skull, popping its jaw open. It's eyes glowed purple, and Mary looked ahead at nothing. Just like her father did, she looked as though she were in a vague, spellbinding trance. But before Bug's spell could finish, the door to the back room was thrown open with a loud bang.

"What's going on in here?" Major asked, sounding confused.

Mary shook her head rapidly, clearing away the cobwebs the spell was building around her brain, and cried before Bug could stop her, "Bug's trying to steal that toy!"

"No!" Bug practically shrieked, dropping the toy and extending his hands out to Major and shaking his head rapidly. "I'm not! I was just trying to help a customer who asked to see one from the b-back, is all!"

Major, however, did not look swayed in the slightest. His expression hardened and he marched toward Mary's side, his hand resting on his daughter's shoulder. "Do you think he's telling the truth, Mary?"

"I highly doubt it!" She crossed her arms and scowled daggers at Bug. "He used black magic to convince you to hire him! It's got something to do with that ugly rabbit skull around his neck!'

"Tch- ugly?!" Bug cried, cupping his hands over the rabbit skull, protecting it from such harsh words as though it were his baby.

"Is that so?!" He scowled at Bug. "I've heard enough. Get out."

"N-no, sir, please," Bug begged, practically whimpering. "I need this job!"

"Out!" Major said, doing something he rarely did- he raised his voice.

"I... I... please, i-if I lose this job, I'll be thrown in jail," Bug said, wringing his hands nervously.

"That's not my problem!" Major said coldly, colder than he could ever remember being in his life. Black magic was not something he took lightly. "You've lost any chance you could have had working at this establishment! Now don't make me call the cops on you!"

Bug felt a festering, seething anger building up like a fire inside of his chest. How dare he. How dare Mary. He had done nothing wrong to them! All he'd done was convince them to give him a job when he desperately needed one. Where was the harm in that?!

But, nevertheless, he gave in- for now. "I'll go," he said, staring at the ground and blinking back tears.

Poor old compassionate Major couldn't help but feel a stab of pity. He did for everyone, no matter what, it seemed. "Look... you can take the toy, if you want. More are coming in tomorrow morning, anyway. Just... think of it as a condolence gift."

And with that, his contempt, and the toy, Bug left.

But, oh, he did not forget.

His father may have been foolish enough to not use the rabbit skull to its full potential, but Bug would not make the same mistake. Why, he was feeling very much like a good old-fashioned curse over that stupid little toy store and everyone involved with it. Alas, that would take two souls.

Although his father may have been above taking lives, Bug had been on the short end of the stick for far too long to be concerned with such moral standards. He had nothing but contempt for the world. He had been living in poverty on the streets since he was born. His family, who'd been the kindest people Bug'd ever known, had been forced to squat illegally wherever they could get away with it and often had to sleep on frozen concrete. He had been kicked, jeered at, had bottles and rocks thrown at him like he was a street dog- like he was nothing but the world's entertainment- and his parents had both died when he was so young, leaving him with absolutely no one but his instinct and the skull.

And now this. And now, when he was at the very bottom of all his luck, when the one friend he could count on, the only ally he had in this world- the magical rabbit skull- could barely do anything more to keep him free, Major had kicked him out over such a minor little mistake. It was the straw that broke the camel's back.

It would be a vengeful curse, yes. Vengeful against Major, but also at the island at large, for treating him so carelessly, like he didn't even matter, for as long as he could remember.

Two souls. That's what he needed.

Everything had been taken from Bug, all because of the situation he was born into. And now, it was time to take everything from someone else- let THEM know what it felt like.

Two souls. That was very convenient.

After all, Major only had two daughters.

--

Bedtime that night meant being curled up on a cold, wet bundle of discarded newspapers, under an awning in the rain. Bug spent his time in the darkness staring into the brick wall opposite him, shivering, shivering with hatred and anger and anticipation for his revenge. By tomorrow, he reassured himself, it would all be over. He wouldn't sleep on discarded papers anymore. People would, in the very least, give him their roll-out couches, once they knew what he was capable of.

Society was always, always, always going to see him as a worthless outlaw. It was always going to reject him, even if he became the purest saint in the world. Well, if he was going to be an outlaw, he was going to at least game it to his advantage.

All you have to do is open my jaw and will me to eat their souls. I will do so happily, and they will be afraid of you.

He didn't sleep that night. He wondered if he'd even shut his eyes at all, even to blink.

--

It was a simple procedure, really.

The next evening, he infiltrated the store through the secretive back entrance (he'd made off with a key) and, like the dirty criminal, the shadow of a human he was, he crept through the isles. A predator stalking his prey.

Gwen was sitting in the game area, playing with a blue octopus plushy. Bug hands flew to the skull dangling from his neck- his sweating, trembling hands missed it twice before he got a solid hold on it. He didn't even think about how nervous he was, how his heart viciously pumped adrenaline, fear, anger, hatred throughout his veins, throughout his whole body, his whole system. He could feel nothing else.

His fingertips pushed the jaw of the skull down, snapping it open. It's eyes glowed faintly purple- Gwen froze and swayed- and then, she fell straight over, flopping like a limp rag doll.

His breathing quickened. Was it really that easy?! The eyes of the skull were a blinding, pulsating purple now. Keeping the jaw open, there was a flickering visage of a diminutively proportioned soul beginning to drift over the body on the ground. Closing it, it vanished from his eyes. He opened it again. The little figure was turning to look at him with confusion and fear. Closed- gone.

He tentatively dragged the body and hid it behind an isle, and then, stumbled up and ran as fast as he could away from it, flew through the exit, and dived behind a dumpster in the alleyway beside the toy store.

Revenge. Sweet, sweet revenge, the thrill, the anger, the satisfaction! Oh, how he wished he could see Major's face when he saw Gwen's body! Bug knew it was morbid, and some part of him- some very old, very small part of him- felt a pang of regret and sympathy. But he quashed it as soon as it was detected. Remorse had no place in a thief, hardened and cruel from a lifetime of being on the streets. Why should he feel remorse? Major, and all the rest of the world, should be the ones feeling remorse, for letting a father waste away in a stranger's basement, for letting a mother die in the county jail, for torturing and torturing and torturing their child until his heart was broken and he was trapped with the only option being the cycle of crime that got his family into that in the first place.

Maybe this, and this alone, would show the world. Show what happens when it creates a monster for the fun of it.

And now that monster was going to lie in wait for another opportunity to strike and grab the remaining victim.

--

"I'll be back in a second, Dad," Mary said, fiddling with the flower clip in her hair as she headed out the door. "I just gotta find Gwen- maybe she's gone outside again, she likes to hide out here sometimes."

"Alright, pumpkin- I'll be in here," Major said pleasantly behind her while signing some documents, just before the glass door of the establishment shut behind Mary.

An instant mid-autumn chill met her. Mary rubbed her arms and exhaled a cold breath. She looked out of place, with that pink flower clip, in that grimy, black alleyway. "Gweeeen?" she called. "Gwenniiiie? Come on, it's time to go home!"

The darkness seemed to writhe and breathe and loom threateningly over her. It could've been a noise she heard, it could've been a smell, it could've been anything- but something made her stop, and slowly back up towards the shadows.

It was the faintest sound of a creaking footstep behind her that alerted her. She whirled around and knocked the rabbit skull from her attacker's hands. Bug cried out and quickly grabbed it before it hit the ground. He looked at her with the fiercest glare she had ever seen from anything- it sent a shockwave of terror and chills down her spine.

"Where's my sister?!" The cry that escaped her throat was strangled and furious.

very soon."

The jaw of the rabbit skull opened on it's own, this time, it's purple eyes glowing bright as though channeling Bug's infinite rage.

Mary rubbed her eyes frantically, backing away on shaking legs that might as well have been jello. The feeling- it was much stronger than it had been in the storage unit- her knees buckled and she fell down, but the numbness was taking her over and she could hardly feel it, all she could feel was the SCREAMING ringing in her head and-

"Mary!" a frantic voice cried. The skull's mouth was slammed shut, and the dark predator turned and fled, hurrying away to hide. The spell worked slower on a larger body. Bug wouldn't have time. He had to escape.

Two warm arms wrapped around Mary, holding her against a strong soft chest. "Oh, Mary, oh..." Major sobbed. "Something terrible has happened..."

The ringing, the pressure, the weakness had been vaporized with the click of a skull's jaw- but the painful numbness... the agonizing numbness... Mary had a feeling, would last forever.

--

 of waiting near the toy store for Major and his remaining little brat of a daughter to return under his belt.

Although he only had one soul and a fourth, the power it provided came in handy. He binded his own soul to the bull. Unlike his foolish father, he knew death would be coming and he didn't care what the heavens thought of him; if the worst came and there was a fatal shootout between he and the police, he didn't want that to be the end- after all, he still had a curse to complete, a world to teach a lesson to. A lifetime of suffering he had to make up to himself.

Still, a more dignified reanimation object would have been preferable, but, alas, the toy was the only viable option he had in his possession.

All he had to talk to was his trusty skull, the trapped glittering visage of Gwen (and the flickering, barely visible outline of her big sister), and the bull toy. Dreary company, really. Gwen was forced to follow him everywhere due to the bindings of the talisman's dark magic, and goodness, she was such a buzzkill- sobbing constantly, whining that she wanted to go home...

Bug was happy to let her wheel around on the bull, hoping it would stop that dreadful whining. It did not.

It was raining out, early morning, so not many people were out and about. He was sitting on the sidewalk beneath the awning of a vacant store's roof. Said vacant store neighbored Major's toy store, so Bug could still keep a close eye out for any arrival of his vengeance target.

Bug was watching the ghostly version of Gwen (who was occupied enough with the bull to keep from whining and sobbing and was only letting out some frequent sniffles) when he heard a noise- footsteps- approaching the toy store from the sidewalk.

Bug crept to the end of the decaying brick wall and peered around the corner.

It was Mary! And she was walking all alone, into the toy store! When she went into the building, Bug grinned devilishly and followed her in. Why, it was like Christmas had came early. He couldn't have asked for a more perfect opportunity.

He didn't notice that behind him, Gwen was wearing a smile full of intent.

He crept after Mary, like a cat after a wounded mouse, into the dark closed toy store. He followed her all the way into the back room, to the most decrepit section. If he wasn't so excited, if he hadn't been so hellbent on his revenge, he might've noticed something weird about that. What business would Mary have back here? And yet, he was so dead-set on inflicting the pain he felt onto her and Major and the community at large, that it blinded him.

This would lead to his downfall.

He made no hesitation following after Mary through an archway into a dark room. The moment his shoe touched the floorboards, Mary leaped out from behind him and snatched the talisman from around his neck.

The little impish brat leaped up onto a dirty old table, twirling the skull in the air with reckless abandon! Bug almost couldn't believe his eyes- the flying, hell-red FURY that set off inside of him at once was uncontrollable

he cried.

"Not a chance!" she snapped back.

She kept leaping just out of his reach as he kept clawing for her only to come up with a handful of air with every lunge. Brat was quick, far too quick. She kept scrambling up the shelves like a filthy thieving rat, even though they creaked under her weight, and Bug helplessly lagged behind on the ground, jumping up towards her in vain.

"YOU STUPID BRAT! I swear to what's above if you break that I will tear you apart piece by piece and then set fire to everything you ever loved!"

"You already did that!" Mary called down at him. The pain and anger in her voice was matched only by Bug's.

The demonlet clambered with great fluency onto the beams and rafters. At this point, he stood no chance of even grazing her shoe with his hand. She had his precious little skull in her wretched grip, dangling it tauntingly far above his head with a disgusting grin that Bug desperately wanted to brutally claw off of her face.

," Gwen said softly, reassuringly. "Then we can kill him!"

With all her strength and body power she held it high over her shoulder, getting prepared to throw it down with every ounce of her might.

"Don't you dare! I PROMISE you if you drop it-! I will make your death so agonizingly slow and insanely painful you'll wish you had never been born- NOOOO!"

The skull smashed on the desk and bounced off, threatening to plummet again to the ground and surely be completely shattered. With a great dive, Bug caught it in his hands before it could be hurt again. He ran his quivering fingers over a stark crack lining the top of his precious friend, caressing it. His entire body was shaking with rage.

He looked up at Mary, who was looking down nervously now, seeing that the skull hadn't completely shattered into pieces like she'd hoped.

"Do you have any idea what you've just done?!" Bug wailed, getting up. He threw the necklace back over his head and clambered onto the desk, ready to do any and all it would take to snatch her and throw her to the floor, just like she had done to his only friend.

Just as he had climbed all the way up the creaking shelves to get to her, she dropped down from the crossbeams and stuck the landing on the stone floor. Furious, he leapt down- with a lot less grace- and ran to snatch her.

She ducked just out of his reach- he skidded right past her- she sprang up behind him just as he was spinning around to try and grab her again. Her strong hands coiled around and snapped back the necklace. It didn't break- instead, it only tightened around his neck. He gasped and whirled his arms frantically. The string strangled away his vital air flow. He was left gasping for life.

There was no way a human teenager could be this strong! Unless... unless she had back up...

With all of Gwen's force, she helped Mary- she raised her up, raised her feet up from the very ground she stood on, floating her up to the rafters and setting her down there, her legs dangling.

Mary hung the necklace around one of the rafters, and let go.

There was a terrible crack, and then, Bug was dangling, suspended from the necklace, his neck at an odd angle. The skull was digging into his skin, the blood seeping down completing the macabre image. Despite this, he didn't move. He didn't even twitch.

"Did we do it?" Mary asked softly.

" Gwen whispered. "Let's go home. I wanna see Daddy before I go to Heaven."

And with that, the two reunited, though broken, sisters turned and walked back through the archway- leaving behind both the corpse and it's bloodied and slightly cracked rabbit skull, hanging.

--

The afterlife wasn't so bad.

Gwen remembered Daddy teaching her all about Heaven and Hell. He taught her that one's afterlife was personal to them- meaning, it was different for everybody, and the Powers That Be only real judgment in the matter was whether you go to your own personal Heaven or Hell.

The overwhelming majority of people went to their own little Heavens, and Gwen was one of them.

Her Heaven was very nice, as nice as a murdered child's could be. It was like a big version of her playsets and toys, big enough for her to go around in and have the adventures she always dreamed of having.

Still, she couldn't help but feel something pulling her back to the earthly world. The dark magic of the rabbit skull- although it had been broken, and although it's master was dead, and although it's powers were waning, it was still trying to drag her back to it.

But over the years, she stopped caring. After all, she had a big sister to look after. She watched her big sister grow up from up high, watched her graduate high school, get her first boyfriend, bear her first daughter, reach all the milestones she never had the opportunity to reach.

And for twenty years, that was all that mattered to her.

Until, one terrible night, the pull of the skull suddenly surged in power, and became too strong for her to fight against.

--

Darkness. Bug woke up to nothing but darkness- and a strange soft plush feeling surrounding his corporeal existence like a thick warm blanket.

He rose his head, only for it to be squished against the top of a box. Yes, that was right, squished- not forehead first, however. Two plush points took the pressure before the rest of his head. His... horns.

He raised his hand up to feel around his head, except it wasn't a hand at all, it was a plush hoof. He felt nothing but squish.

"... It worked." An odd, deep but calming sort of voice came from him instead of his own. He could feel the buzzing of a voicebox from inside of his plush neck full of stuffing and wireframe. "The skull kept me alive after death. In a... strange form, but a form nonetheless!"

Speaking of, where was his precious skull? With as much force as he could muster, he pushed up against the top of the box, and burst out, packing peanuts flying everywhere.

He could feel it calling to him, calling to him from somewhere around this hall of boxes. The only trouble was learning how to walk on four plush legs with wheels inside of them. It was a bit like balancing on extremely slippery ice, but with all four limbs.

With a lot of tripping and falling in between, he dug around in the boxes with soft fluffy hooves, throwing open lids and tossing those pink peanuts and bubble wrap around before he finally found it- it was stashed in with some random other odds and ends in a box on the top shelf. With a humf at it's careless storage, he draped it over his horned head and around his neck.

Reunited with his old friend, a contented calm fell over him. He looked around the room, realizing it was the old back room of the toy store, only with a lot more dust. That was odd... come to think of it, how long had he been dead for? And why was he only waking up now?

!" Gwen cried.

Bug smugly smirked. Ah, yes, Mary- he had nearly forgotten about her, and for that matter, the curse.

"Well, you see, Gwennie, until this here skull is completely shattered, I'll never die," Bug said. "And as for your big sister- well, I guess I would've forgiven and forgotten the curse, had she not gone and killed me and broken my precious rabbit skull!" He took a moment to laugh sardonically. "Either way, I don't want you to have to had died in vain. That would be too cruel, even for me."

"B-b-but it's been twenty years! She's all grown up, now! Th-the toy store is closed!" Gwen wailed.

"Wait- twenty years, you say?" Bug said in surprise, blinking. Why, with the rabbit skull being slightly broken, he was expecting there to be a little delay in his reanimation, but twenty years!

"Yeah! Mary even has a husband and a child now! Why would you want to complete the curse, still, after all these years?!"

"Well, what can I say? The need for vengeance is rather powerful!" Bug said, holding his head high. "I'll tell you what- I'll go and suck out Mary's soul, and then, I'll find Major, and I'll curse him and his grandchild and her dad and all of the future generations to come, just out of pure spite! And you can't even hope to stop me-!"

Just then, the door opened, and two people walked into the room. Quickly thinking, he went stiff and still and assumed the form of a regular old stuffed plush.

"Wow! There's so many boxes!" a little girl's voice exclaimed.

"Yes, honey," a beleaguered man's voice- whom Bug assumed belonged to the girl's father- "Your grandfather had lots of toys when this old store closed. You can look through the boxes, and-"

"Wow! Look at this one!" The girl ran up to Bug, with a gap-toothed grin, dark hair flowing behind her.

Oh God no.

She picked him right up, with a lot of straining, and set him down on the floor, posing him up. "Look at this guy, Dad! It's a giant bull! I bet I could ride him!"

Please, dear God, nooo...

"Yeah." The dad tilted his head, squinting at the rabbit skull draped around Bug's neck, but said nothing about it. "Do you want that one?"

"For sure!" the girl cried, getting onto Bug's back. She mimed riding him like cowboys do in movies. "Yeeee-hawww!" she giggled.

You know what, I think I'd rather be dead.

For the next hour or so, Bug was forced to sit, motionless, and watch as this annoying little girl ran around rifling through the boxes like a deranged honey badger. Turns out he was only the first in an over-growing pile of toys- each being thrown on him carelessly. He risked being seen by hunkering down to protect his rabbit skull from the seemingly endless barrage of action figures, stuffed animals, and play sets.

Finally, however, it ended, and the girl ceased fire. "I think that's all I want!" she chirped annoyingly, dancing over to her father. He chuckled and ruffled her hair.

"Alright, kiddo. Let's put all this in the box and take it home."

Before Bug knew it, he had been thrown carelessly into a large box (that, according to it's labeling, had once contained a rather fancy fridge) along with some other toys, and then it's lid was shut. With a lot of careless shuffling and bouncing, the box was dragged off. Bug internally scowled as he hugged his precious rabbit skull close to his chest, protecting it from the bouncing flow. He didn't want to risk it cracking any more.

Soon, he was thrown into what he guessed was the trunk of a car, and was driven off, far away from the toy store, staring into nothing but a dark box with only shuffling fabric and plastic bodies for company.

--

It was about an hour before the jostling around finally stopped. The trunk door opened and Bug, along with the rest of the toys, were carried out and away. Bug couldn't see where he was going, but that didn't mean he couldn't hear that stupid little girl's voice.

It was all "Daddy" this and "Daddy" that as they walked up sets of stairs and through doors. Bug would've spent more time being annoyed if it hadn't reminded him of his youth. He remembered trailing behind his father wherever he went when he was little, even when expressly told to stay put. He couldn't help it; his father had always been the only source of warmth and comfort in the cold, harsh world he could remember, besides his mom, who had died when he was little.

Bug absentmindedly ran his plush hoof over his rabbit skull.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, light was thrown into the box as the lid was shoved open. And there she was, the dumb little girl from earlier. He'd expected her to dive in and start throwing things around again, but instead, she took a few toys at a time and began carefully putting them away into their proper places. He noticed her room was very neat. Bug inwardly chuckled- if he'd had a normal child's bedroom of his very own when he was little, it would have been a complete mess.

When it was Bug's turn to be put away, he expected/hoped he'd be put into the closet or a toybox, but instead, the child gently set him down on her bed (the covers of which were rainbow with a butterfly print), propping him up with care on the pillow, as if trying to make him comfortable.

Bug was a bit annoyed at this. It'd be a lot harder to sneak off into the night unnoticed when she would be right next to him, snoring away. How was he meant to get to Mary now?!

Then it hit him. Hadn't Gwen said that Mary was all grown up now and even had a kid? And, this kid's dad had mentioned her grandpa owning the toy store he was just in.

And furthermore, that flower clip in her hair was looking really familiar.

In the span of twenty years- assuming Mary had her kid early on in her adulthood- then this child, whoever she was, could certainly be hers!

And if that were true, Bug was now many steps closer to finding Mary!

All he had to do was reveal his sentience to her, then ask a few choice questions about her mom to determine if she really was Mary, and then ask where said mom was.

Revealing that he was alive, however, would be easier said than done. He figured he had to do it in a way that wouldn't scare her and alert the adult(s) in the house. He had to be real nice and gentle with it... which, really, did not come easy to Bug at all.

The girl had her back turned to him, taking the flower clip out of her hair and setting it on her girly dresser.

"Hey, where'd you get that flower clip from?"

She leaped about three feet, eyes going as wide as saucers as she whipped around at the now openly animate bull toy on her bed. Bug tried to give her a reassuring grin.

"Now, now, don't scream, don't scream, I-I-I didn't want to alarm you," Bug said with a nervous laugh. There must've been something calming to the bull's voice, because she seemed to relax, if ever so slightly. He raised up a soft plush hoof for her to shake. "Er, uh, it's very nice to meet you! I-"

"Ohmygoshh!!! Hi!!!! I'm Winnifred, but you can call me Winnie!!! Ohmygoshhh I can't believe you can talk!!! What's your name?!" She enthusiastically- almost aggressively- shook his offered limb.

"Oh, my name's Bug," Bug said with a slightly nervous laugh. "Nice to meet you, now about that flower clip-"

"Bug, that's such a funny name!!! So you're like, a living plushy?! Ohmygosh that's so freaking cool! Want to be best friends?! I don't have any friends, since none of the people at my school like me very much, I don't know why I guess they're all just super shy, are you shy?! Well don't be, I'm a really nice girl!"

"No, I'm not shy, b-"

"Great! We're best friends now!" she declared, while grinning and hopping up and down. "We're going to have so much fun!"

"Yes, yes, I'm sure we are, but first, can you please stop jumping up and down and tell me where you got that flower clip from?" Bug said exasperatedly, lifting a hoof to gesture at it.

"Oh, this?" Winnie picked the flower clip back up from the dresser. She showed no sign she'd noticed the rudeness of Bug's tone. "It's my mom's! She's had it ever since she was a kid. She didn't wear it very often, but she told me she kept it because she was wearing it when her... her little sister died, so she's sorta gotten attached to it 'cause it's a piece of her sister! She gave it to me 'cause- well, I dunno. She wanted me to have it!"

"Oh, I'm so sorry for the loss of your aunt," Bug said, putting his squishy plush hoof to his chest to feign sympathy- and for all that it was worth, he did feel somewhat sympathetic. After all, he hadn't really been intending to curse this little girl, only her terrible mother and grandfather! And the entire rest of the mean world, really... but Winnie didn't seem to be a part of that.

Internally, however, he was grinning. This confirmed his theory- this girl was his ticket to Mary and Major!

"Oh, don't worry, it's not so bad- I never met her, anyway, she died waaay before I was born! My mom was only fourteen, can you believe that?"

Speaking of Gwen, where was that little brat? Weren't captured spirits supposed to follow the skull wherever it went? Bug made a secrete motion to open up the jaw of his rabbit skull, and found that Gwen was nowhere to be seen. Must've been it's fading powers...

"Anyway," Winnie went on, turning around with the hair clip in her hands, "my parents are kindaaa separated now... my mom just wanted to be alone, I guess, I mean, that's what she said." Her shoulders and head sunk for a moment- but soon, she perked up as she said, "But, every month, I go to see her! She lives on the smaller island off the coast, you know the one. She's super far away, but the journey is always a whole lot of fun, 'specially since I got old enough to go by myself!"

"Really?" Bug said, immediately interested. He sidled up to her, leaning in with intrigue. "And do you happen to be going on this monthly journey any time soon?"

"Oh, yeah! Tomorrow morning, actually!" Winnie said excitedly, grinning. "Would you like to come with me?! Aw man, it'd be so cool to have a friend come with!"

"YES!" Bug replied enthusiastically- perhaps much too enthusiastically, in fact, but luckily that was lost on Winnie- hopping up from his spot. "I'd love to!"

"Yeah, but for now, I'm really tired." Winnie collapsed on the pink cushioned bed dramatically, sprawling out. "Goodnight."

And just like that, she was out like a light.

Bug sighed in relief. She was so energetic and annoying- what an exhausting child to talk to. Goodness, he felt he needed a rest as well, and he had just come out of a 20 year long nap!

He went to settle down on a soft blanket settled in the corner of the room. There was a sleeping cat already occupying the space, who didn't look too pleased with Bug's intrusion; it got up, tail raised in Bug's face, and walked away haughtily. Bug settled down as comfortably as he could, an activity which was surprisingly easy in his new plush, soft, and relatively uncomplicated body. The human body was such a flimsy spindly spaghetti noodle of bony limbs and weird sensations, but as a little plush, his world was already one of comfort.

Bug decided, even though his new body wasn't the most dignified in the world, it wasn't that bad. In fact, a part of him even liked being cute and huggable for once. Now that was something new.

As he was settling down, he took a look at the rabbit skull, and made a frown at the long, sinister crack in it's cranium.

--

The next morning saw tiny Winnie dragging Bug out from her house with some effort. He was hanging limply behind her, letting himself flop around inanimately.

"Goodbye, Win-Win!" her dad called from the porch, waving merrily. "Have a great trip!" He was entirely unsuspicious of her decision to bring the bull toy. It wasn't the first time Winnie had brought a special toy along, even if it had been a while since then.

As Bug was hauled around to the train station, as he was bumped against rocks, he watched the town go by. Twenty years ago, it had been a dark, cruel place, of cracked streets and ditch puddles, of broken windows and buildings in disrepair. But now, there were couples giggling and running down the sidewalks, business owners with cheery faces turned over their signs from "CLOSED" to "OPEN", and trees and flowers were in full bloom wherever he looked.

He was interrupted in his observations when Winnie made a detour into a small cute pancake shop at the end of the strip, one that certainly hadn't been there twenty years ago. If Bug wasn't forced to remain still and unassuming, he'd demand why they weren't continuing on their path.

"Winnie!" a woman behind the counter exclaimed when the bell above the door made a happy jingle. "It's nice to see you, honey! How are you?"

"I'm great, Mrs. Hall!" Winnie chirped, skipping over to the counter with Bug limply in tow. Mrs. Hall tilted her head to get a better look at the bull toy.

"What's that you've got there, dear?" she asked.

"This is Bug, he's my new stuffed animal!" Winnie said with a proud grin, holding him up limply. Bug remained as motionless as possible, though wanted so badly to express himself with an eye roll.

"Aww! He sure is a cutie!"

I'll have you know, ma'am, that I am three-and-a-half feet of plush of pure stuffed TOUGHNESS.

Mrs. Hall clapped her hands together. "So, what'll it be? Your usual double stack with blueberries and cream, darling?"

"You know me!" Winnie said with a grin, slapping a five dollar bill onto the counter.

Winnie took a seat by the window, smiling and waving at a few certain other customers in the store. When she set Bug in the chair beside her, she felt three rapid taps on her side. With some effort, she pulled the bull up near her ear to listen. "What is it?" she asked in a whisper.

"Why are we doing this?" Bug asked in a quiet grumble.

"Because I need a good breakfast if I'm gonna walk so far," Winnie said with a good-natured roll of her eyes and a grin. "Duh!"

Bug decided it would be easier if he let her eat her pancakes in peace. As discreetly as he could, he looked around the pancake shop, starting to get rather bored. Absentmindedly, he flicked the jaw of the rabbit skull up and down.

But then, something caught his eye that frightened him.

Gwen was floating outside down the street, and she appeared to be searching for something.

"Hide me under the table," Bug whispered.

"Huh?"

"Just do it!"

Winnie pushed Bug under the table, hiding him partially behind her feet, whilst trying to see what had made Bug so nervous.

Bug remained still and quiet well after Gwen had visibly passed by the shop.

"What was that all about?" Winnie asked later as they were leaving.

"Uh- I just saw something that frightened me, is all," Bug said, not wanting to elaborate.

"Er. Oh. Okay." Luckily, Winnie didn't push the subject any more.

Eventually they arrived at sleek train station, bells ringing and people bustling around it. The streamlined train itself was a nice yellow, had a curved head. It glinted in the cheerful warm sun.

Winnie fished in her pocket and then held up a ticket stub to the conductor by the door with a big pleasant smile, which he returned gracefully. "Good morning, Winnie! Welcome aboard! Heh, nice bull toy, kiddo!"

"Thanks, sir!"

"You have cabin number four. Have a good trip!"

Winnie climbed aboard, Bug in tow, and headed down the train till finding the private little cabin they would be staying in.

"Does everyone know you or something?" Bug asked with a bit of a scoff. Everyone in town knew him when he was little, as well, but only as the 'evil dirty urchin boy'. He couldn't help but be a little jealous.

"Oh, yeah. This whole town practically helped raise me!" Winnie exclaimed.

"Hmf." Bug fiddled with his rabbit skull habitually again, deciding to be bitter about her luck in life compared to his.

He and Winnie both gazed out the window, as the train began to move. They watched the city go by, slowly at first, then faster and faster, building up speed.

After a while, the train came to the outskirts of the island, to the sparse trees and waving green meadow, to the sight of the choppy, gently swaying ocean beyond. Winnie yawned and settled down, resting her head in the crook between the seat and the window, cuddling Bug like a teddy bear. He wasn't fully comfortable with this, but couldn't bring himself to protest when he saw how happy it made her.


© Copyright 2019 GraWolfQuinn. All rights reserved.

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