“Can we go play outside today Daddy?”
“Haha. Of course not, Alicia. You know better than to ask that.”
“But why not? I saw a group of birds playing in the trees! It looked like so much fun! And it’s such a beautiful-”
“Ahhh, the natural curiosity of youth! Sweetie, there are bad things and bad men out there. I wouldn’t want to expose you to them. You realize that right?”
“I’ve taught you well, my darling. Ahhh, have I ever told you how much you remind of your mother? Your long golden hair, your bright blue eyes, your big strong bones, your pure white skin…”
“Dad, what happened to Mommy?”
“…Your natural curiosity. Heh. I told you darling, she passed away right after your birth. Never left the house; just as yourself! You were her parting gift to the world. Well, it’s around that time again; I’ve got to leave for work. Have a good day Alicia!”
He held up his finger, “Ah. What else do you say Alicia?”
“I love you Dad! I’ll stay put, stay safe, and stay out of the basement!”
“That’s my girl!”
Alicia watched her father walk out the front door and turn the many locks to keep her inside, safe and secure from the outside world. She ran up to the front windows and peeked through the cracks in the boards, spying her father as he walked to his car and headed off for work. She smiled happily, knowing that she was protected from the many horrors of the world in her home.
She knew very little about her home, despite never leaving it once in the six years she had lived there. “You were even born in this very basement!” Her father had told her weeks before. From what little she could gather from the outside surroundings, Alicia knew that her house was located in a very secluded area of an enormous forest. Her home was in an obvious state of disrepair, old, decrepit, and peeling walls kept her contained. The only connection with the outside world she had was her father’s car, which carried him off to work every morning. However, she was never in that car with him.
How she longed for a chance to see the world outside these walls! She soon learned that such a move was impossible. The doors were all locked, the windows boarded up, and neither phone lines nor televisions existed throughout the home. This isn’t to say she was treated poorly. In fact, Alicia lived quite well; her father would constantly bring her new toys to play with, her sole source of entertainment.
While new gifts and toys were always welcome, what Alicia really longed for was the exotic foods that her father would regularly bring home. He told her he worked as a chef of sorts, and that he always wanted his daughter’s opinion before trying something new at work. So he would constantly bring her new sugary treats to taste and enjoy.
And Alicia loved her father very much.
Her natural curiosity however, could not always be overcome by her father’s generosity. For one, she always wanted to see inside the cellar, the one forbidden area of the house. The cellar was locked of course, but Alicia quickly learned where her father kept the key; the third drawer of his dresser. She knew better than to retrieve it and explore, after all, she would never even think of disobeying her father. The fantasy still remained in her mind nonetheless.
The other thing that always bothered Alicia was her lack of a mother. It was a topic that, when brought up, would stir a mix of emotions inside her father. He would get a distant look to his eyes and a loving grin would spread across his face. They were quickly shaken away and replaced with a look of remorse. He would then remind her not to bring up the subject, as it pained him greatly.
Alicia went on through the years, unwilling and unable to leave the house. She was of course interested of the outside world, but never enough to attempt escape or disobey her father. She was moderately content inside, leading her sheltered life. She knew not the joys of playing and interacting with other children, nor the taste of fresh air. All she knew was that there were bad things outside, and her father was protecting her from them.
And she was immensely grateful.
Her curiosity could not always be stunted, however. On the morning of her eighth birthday, Alicia decided to do the unthinkable: question why she was stuck inside. Her father sighed slowly, “Alicia, I… I suppose you’re old enough to know. Look, there’s a reason I haven’t let you leave the house in eight years. There’s… a creature that roams these woods.”
Alicia’s eyes widened, “A creature? A bad one? What’s it doing here?”
“Yes. It’s like-” he glanced around the room rapidly, “It’s like a man, except… he has the legs of a horse and a skull for a head! It’s… it’s what killed your mother.”
“What? Are you sure?” Her voice cracked, full of sadness and fear.
“I-I’m afraid so. It roams around this area, hunting young women such as yourself. If it sees you, it snatches you up with its claws and eats you!” Alicia’s eyes widened further, “Our house is the only safe place from such a terrible beast.”
“How did it get Mom if she never left the house?”
“Well… she uh, she actually did leave the house. Once. Right after you were born. She… ran outside to share her gift with the rest of the world. And that’s when the creature found her. I… was too late to save your mother.” He stopped and thought for a moment before quickly adding, “But I did manage to save you from the horrible creature. Your mother died loving you, Alicia. Do you understand why you can’t leave? You’re too much like your mother; I can’t let that creature get both of you.”
“I… yes Dad.”
“Good. Now I have to leave to leave for work. What do you say?”
“I love you Dad. I’ll stay put, stay safe, and stay out of the basement.”
“That’s a good girl! I’ll bring you home one of those cakes you like so much! Would that make you happy?”
With this new knowledge obtained, Alicia never once felt the desire to leave the house, lest she suffer the same fate as her mother. For a few months, Alicia lived in perpetual fear of this creature, sometimes peering out the windows to catch a glimpse of it before it saw her. A few times she swore she saw it, and when she told her father, he would panic and they would hide together under the covers. Her father almost seemed to enjoy these little excursions.
After a good while though, Alicia realized that she was safe from such a terrible thing, and her natural curiosity returned once again. As she had already found answers about her mother and the reason for being cooped up inside, she turned her attention towards the basement. Sure, she had sworn every morning to stay out of the basement, but there was no way her father would ever know she had been in there. Her father had never lied to her, but he would not know that she had betrayed his trust.
So she waited, completed her morning routine with her father, and watched him drive away to work, promising her a new kind of tart when he returned home. She slowly moved her pudgy body to her father’s room, retrieved the basement key with great care (She was afraid her father could return home any minute; he never had before, but there was a first time for everything), and returned to the basement door. Turning the key, the door creaked open, revealing a musty odor mixed with an unpleasant aroma she had never experienced before.
She trudged down the stairs with great care, careful not to make too much of a disturbance. The smell entered her nostrils at a greater frequency, growing stronger as she descended into the darkness. It almost made her turn back, but her curiosity drove her forward; what was the source of the smell? A terrible thought hit her: What if it was the creature? Waiting in the darkness to snatch her away. Her skin turned cold; that had to be it. She quickly turned to escape up the stairs, but tripped over herself and instead tumbled down into the depths.
She smacked into the ground; thankfully, her fat cushioned most of the fall. She got up quickly, eyes darting around the room; she could make out the outlines of a table and something in the corner. Something terrible. It crouched in the corner, waiting for her to stumble near it, the awful smell emanating from its body. Alicia let out a squeal and dove against the wall, trying to find her way up the stairs. She hit a light switch and was nearly blinded by the sudden white that filled the room.
Alicia was perplexed at the sight before her. In the corner, lay not a creature, but a pile of chains and bones. Alicia examined a bit further; the chains were attached to the wall and the bones were attached to the chains, shackles, holding up the skeleton before her. Alicia screamed as the realization of the slumped figure hit her. Why was it in her basement? Was it the creature’s doing? She turned to flee and her eyes caught the table.
The table itself was rather ordinary. What lay on top however, filled Alicia with dread. Shears, scissors, knives, tongs, skewers, and strangely, power drills, littered about, caked in dried and cracked blood. This must have been the creature’s lair she thought, before sprinting back up the stairs and towards the front door. Locked. As it always was. Her eyes were red, her lungs out of breath, Alicia ran to her room and hid under the covers, as she had done with her father so many times before; the creature would not find her.
Oh, how she wished that her father would come home and save her from this mess!
After several agonizing hours in which every sound may have been the creature crawling its way out of the basement, Alicia heard the locks on the front door began to click away. She leapt up from under the covers and ran to her returning father. He caught her in his arms before she could make it outside.
“Sweetie; what’s wrong?” His eyes peered over to the open basement door. His eyes narrowed and his tone deepened. Slowly he said, “Did you go into the basement?”
“Yes! Yes!” Alicia was in tears, “I saw the creature’s lair! I’ll never go again! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
“So you didn’t see-” He stopped, relief flooding over his face, “Ahhh… yes. That’s what I’ve been trying to keep locked away. That’s where the creature hides. That’s why we have to keep it locked.” He walked over and shut the door. “It’s okay Alicia, you're safe now.”
“Is that where it ate mom? Were those her bones?”
“I- yes. It chained her up and…” His eyes took on a distant glow, “…That’s where she was his last true meal. Every inch of flesh picked apart and…” He stopped, “Nevermind; all that matters is that you’re okay sweetie!”
“Is the creature going to get me Dad?”
“No, no of course not! You’re too innocent and pure, Alicia! Untainted by the outside world! Hey, come on; let’s go eat some of these sweets I brought home.”
“I love you Dad. From now on I will stay put, stay safe and stay out of the basement!”
“That’s my little girl. You’re always a treat to come home to Alicia.”
This pasta has received a rating of 6/10 or higher and has moved on to the finals of the 2015 freestyle pasta challenge.