In my house, there is a collection of porcelain dolls that have been painted to appear grotesque, terrifying, or simply creepy. The following stories are inspired by each of these dolls.
Alice was always such a good girl. Ask anyone, and they'd tell you. She was the light of her mother's life - from the very moment that she slithered from her womb, her mother had decided that Alice was the most beautiful, sweet, intelligent girl that there ever was.
"Have you ever seen a child so perfect?" Her mother would ask as she adjusted Alice's little, white bonnet, pinching her chubby, pink cheeks.
"Never, my dear. Never," Alice's father would say, and he truly did agree completely. She was a wonderful child in his eyes - so quiet and obedient and respectful, just the way that a young girl should be. He liked so much to talk about Alice with his friends - all of whom had sons, yes, but they didn't have Alice.
"Alice will make herself a fine wife someday," he'd say proudly whenever the topic of children came up. "You've never seen a girl so beautiful - she could marry anyone she wants. She'll be a rich man's wife, I'm telling you. Never have to work a day in her life."
And for the first fourteen years of Alice's life, she never did. She played with the other kids (never too roughly, of course), she learned her sewing and her catechisms from her governess with nothing but quiet respect, and she did all of this without getting her stockings dirty or her hands darkened. She was such a lovely, well-spoken, beautiful child. Just ask anyone.
Ask Auntie May who lived down the street. She wasn't really Alice's aunt, of course, but you'd never know that from the way that Alice spoke to her. She always had a kind word and a wave to pay to her as she passed, and when Auntie May went away, from the age of eight, Alice was already offering to watch over her cats for her.
Ask the boys who played with Alice. Not all of them were as nice or well-behaved as Alice was. Some of them would try to steal a kiss or peek up her skirts, but Alice would always politely and respectfully ask them not to, holding her skirts tight around her legs like the good little girl that she was. Good little girls don't let boys get away with that. Good little girls always save themselves for marriage.
Ask anyone at all, really, but whatever you do, don't ask the boy down the dark alley in the back of the carnival, and don't ask the people who were there that night. They don't know. That wasn't Alice.
Because, you see, there was one night when Alice went to the carnival all alone. Nobody really knows why - perhaps her mother and father were busy that evening, and perhaps her friends were all gone too. Or perhaps, at fourteen years old, she just figured that she was old enough to handle herself - young girls are often stupid like that. It was very uncharacteristic of Alice anyway, for she knew that good little girls don't go anywhere alone at night. Only bad girls do that, girls who put their very life in their hands, and who know what to expect if the wolves catch them alone.
And that's exactly what happened to Alice that night - walking through the carnival in her bright, scarlet hood, she was caught by a wolf in a dark alley.
"Hello, little girl," the wolf said, giving her a smile so wide that it nearly split his face in two. His teeth were so sharp, and his eyes were so wild, and Alice must have known that this wasn't someone she could speak to, but, polite little girl as she was, she smiled back anyway.
"Hello," she said in her small, sweet, singsong voice.
"You look lonesome," the wolf said, "here at the carnival all alone."
"Not really. I often find my own company very rewarding," Alice said.
"Well, I suppose it is better than the company of others. Wouldn't you agree?"
Alice said nothing. She did agree, but like a good little girl, she would never speak ill of the people closest to her.
"Other people can be so tiring," the wolf continued. "All of their ideas. All of their expectations. It gets exhausting trying to live up to them, doesn't it? Trying to be what they want you to be, rather than what you truly are."
"I don't try to be anything," Alice said, which was true. Alice was a good little girl. That was simply what she was, heart, body, and soul.
The wolf, however, laughed at Alice's truth, his cruel, sharp fangs glistening bright in the moonlight. They looked like diamonds, Alice thought, and for a brief moment, she wanted them like diamonds. She wanted their beauty, their shine, their life. But then Alice remembered who she was, and she stopped wanting them immediately.
"Why don't you come here for a moment, little girl?" the wolf asked, shuffling aside to make room for her in the shadows.
"No, thank you," Alice said.
"And why not?"
Because I don't want to, is what Alice should have said, but for whatever reason, she didn't. Maybe she figured it would be impolite. Maybe - and I shudder even to say it - maybe she knew that it would be a lie. Either way, she remained silent, standing there transfixed by the wolf.
"I won't hurt you, little girl, I promise. I'll be good," said the wolf. "Just... just come in here, just for a moment. Just this one time, do what you want to do - not what you should."
Now this is the part of the story where Alice stops being Alice, because try as I might, I can't give you a reason for what she did next. It was so unlike her, so wrong, but as true as the moon is large, Alice stepped into the shadows with the wolf, hesitating only a moment before she joined him.
"You see?" the wolf said with a pleased little growl in his throat. "It isn't so bad here, is it?"
The wolf loomed large over Alice, the poor, trembling creature caught in his presence and his stench. But she didn't try to fight him as he sunk those shining fangs deep into her neck, and for whatever reason, she allowed her blood to fill his mouth. The wolf lifted his arm next, and with one sharp, ugly, crooked claw, he opened a vein, and then it was Alice's turn to loom over him, pressing her sweet, pink lips to his skin and drinking deep. It was a messy business, all of it, and by the time that it was through, Alice's nice, white dress had been stained for the very first time.
This was a sad, cruel day, my friends, and I wish that I could say that it ended there. After all, the wolf was pleased - he had gotten all he wanted, and nothing more needed to happen from them on. It was Alice, sweet, good, pure Alice, who was dissatisfied. She continued to drink from the wolf's arm until he started to protest, until he tried to pry her off of him, until he grew weak and could no longer bear to move. She was still trying to lap blood from his veins, even after he was already dead.
Then Mr. Tory - poor, curious Mr. Tory - recognized the shine of Alice's scarlet hood in the shadows, and just as any kind-hearted, concerned man might do, he decided to investigate. He shined his lamp-light on the shadows, and there Alice was, curled over the wolf's body, her white face turned red with his blood, and at the sight of Mr. Tory, she snarled at him. He had not even the chance to scream before Alice was on him, sinking her new shining, diamond-hard fangs into any patch of flesh she could find until blood came squirting into her mouth.
There was a panic then - people running and screaming, trying to shield their good, innocent children from the horror before them, trying to pry Alice off of him but to no avail. When she grew tired of Mr. Tory, she turned upon the next person who was just trying to help, biting into his throat with such vigour that she nearly tore it right out.
Nobody could stop Alice. Her hunger was insatiable, and as small and slight as she was, she was stronger than any brave man who tried to stop her. She lunged from victim to victim, hunting them out when warm blood grew sparse, snarling and spiting and biting like a rabid dog - not like a child. Not like good, sweet Alice.
The terror only ended when the sun emerged from the horizon, and Alice burned away to nothing more than thin, black ash, scattered by the soft breeze. It was a horrible sight to behold, and people would speak about it long afterward in whispered tones, only half-believing what they said themselves. When they spoke about it, nobody used Alice's name, maybe because nobody truly believed that it was Alice. Maybe it was too difficult to reconcile the image of the sweet, innocent girl with that of the monster who had killed so many that night. And that was what they called her too - the monster. The beast who gobbled down life like wine.
"Do you know what the worst part is?" some would say, whispering it only in private, only in the light of the white moon, only when they were far from church and all of its teachings. "When the sun rose, in the brief moment before she caught fire, I don't think she regretted any of it. In fact, I saw her there, looking not at her own death, but at the deaths she had caused, and she didn't cry or moan. No, when the sun rose, she laughed."
Published by Ciara Hall