Eliza grew up with dolls.
Marian, her mother (who, in her opinion, was a living porcelain doll herself), was an avid collector of antique dolls. She always went with her father, Eduardo, whenever he left for business trips abroad just to buy a doll, which she would add to her growing collection.
Their Victorian mansion was full of them.
Two-feet China dolls lined the left side of the East Wing’s first floor hallway, their porcelain skin always glistening at every shine of light, whether from a humble candlelight or from the sun’s harsh rays. French bisque dolls decorated the right side, their matte finish giving them a more humanlike glow than the China ones. Kokeshi vintage dolls, those wooden cylindrical dolls that came all the way from Japan, were placed in stacks at every antique table in the mansion.
In Eduardo’s study, there was a set of Daruma dolls (a red, a black, a white, a purple, and a gold), which scared the hell out of Eliza. Their eyes had been filled with two bold dots indicating that the goals or wishes had been fulfilled within a year after they were made. Five Daruma dolls. Five wishes. Five years. It always gave Eliza the shivers whenever she remembered that these dolls used to be eyeless, their blank stares making her feel as if she was always being watched.
Aside from the wooden antique dolls and the Daruma dolls, all other fragile vintage dolls were placed on a foot-tall wooden platform and covered with glass tubes. They lined the hallway like gleaming giant chess figures.
Contrary to what most expected, not one among the people in the household feared the dolls. The dolls were beautiful. They were huge pieces of lifeless beauty, creating a vibrant, lighter atmosphere inside the huge house. They brought joy and warmth to the dull hues of the walls, breathing warmth to the chilly air that usually surrounded the intimidating home.
Everyone loved the dolls. Even the servants took pleasure in caring for them.
No one could resist their charms.
For ordinary little girls, being surrounded by such a fragile collection of masterpieces was a dream come true.
But not for Eliza.
Eliza loathed the dolls. She hated their hard, flawless faces that looked so real yet felt so reel. She loathed their unblinking, probing stares that made her uncomfortable, making her feel as if they were always looking at her, observing her every move, and judging her even though their eyes remained blank.
She never shared her mother’s fascination with them.
Marian was unusually obsessed with her dolls. She was very gentle with them, treating them with utter delicateness and with such warm, loving touches. Every day, she could be seen attending to one or two of her dolls. She would either be seen combing a doll’s hair, polishing its hard, flawless skin, or changing its clothes.
Eliza had never gotten such attention from her mother, hence the bitter taste in her mouth every time she witnessed the older woman fuss over her dolls.. And while it’s true that she could feel how much Marian loved her, it wasn’t the same gentle love the woman has for her collection.
Eliza wanted care. And it was obvious that Marian didn’t care for her as much as she cared for her dolls.
Love wasn’t enough. Not for Eliza.
But Marian never noticed. Her thoughts had always been on the dolls. Even when she had the time to at least be in Eliza’s presence, she always talked about her dolls.
Dolls. Dolls. Dolls. Eliza tolerated all of it. While she didn’t care, listening to her mother talk about dolls brought her mother closer to her, even if for a moment.
Still, if only she could get away with it, she would throw them all away.
But not before smashing them to pieces.
Eliza was given her first antique doll at the age of 5. Her name was Lola.
Lola was a kewpie doll, which her mother had brought home from Australia. She was similar to most antique dolls except she wore no synthetic hair because that’s how most kewpie dolls were.
Marian handed Lola to her, a smile on her lovely face, and gently asked her to take care of the doll. Eliza, who always loved to drown herself in her mother’s short burst of affection, simply nodded and embraced her mother.
That same night, before she went to bed, Eliza took one, good, long look at the kewpie doll, before dismembering its limbs and throwing the pieces to her garbage can.
Eliza slept with a smile on her face, a peaceful smile that revealed nothing about the brutal act she just did to Lola.
The maid, who took out the trash the day after, was the one who saw the dismembered pieces. She glanced at Eliza, who was innocently staring at her as if waiting for her to ask the question she wanted to ask. The child was expressionless, but the mischievous glint in her eyes caused the maid to shiver involuntarily. She hastily went out of the room, her footsteps in a haste.
The last sound she heard before she closed the door were the mocking giggles of the child.
Eliza was extremely happy that day. That’s one nuisance gone.
Or maybe two.
The maid handed in her resignation letter the next day.
Eliza’s second doll was given to her when she was 8. Her name was Belle.
Marian didn’t ask about Lola, but every time she looked at Eliza, there was something in her eyes that made Eliza want to claw them out. Her mother looked so all-knowing and it was annoying. Marian’s too curious for her own good.
Belle was an 1894 German Armand Marseille antique doll. She was a rare beauty and she was expensive. She has curly, blonde hair and the roundest brown eyes. When she was handed to Eliza, she was wearing the cutest lace dress with matching yellow bonnet.
Eliza stared at Belle’s eyes, unblinking. Marian and Eduardo stared at their daughter, awaiting her reaction. There was concern and love in there–two things that Eliza had always wanted to see from them. A huge love directed only to her and not to the dolls or to work.
Unfortunately, Eliza was too busy staring at the doll to pay them attention. If she had seen the look in their eyes, it might have made a difference.
“I don’t like her,” Eliza finally declared with a straight face. Marian and Eduardo automatically sought each other’s eyes. But before one of them could utter a word, Eliza continued. “But I will keep her.” Her grip on the doll tightened. “She’s better than that ugly Lola. At least she’s pretty. When she starts to bore me, I will get rid of her. Thank you, Mom, Dad.”
Eliza ran to hug Marian and Eduardo, and then walked away with the doll on her hand. Once she was out of earshot, Marian turned towards her husband.
“Hon, I don’t like this,” she whispered as she clutched at her husband’s arm. Eduardo wrapped an arm around his trembling wife’s shoulder and kissed the top of her head.
“It’s just a phase. Don’t worry, Love.”
Marian shook her head and looked up at her husband, fisting the front of his shirt. Her expression was that of burdened pain. “You haven’t seen Lola. You didn’t see how she looked like. The maid who saw it—she was so scared she had to leave. This isn’t normal. Let’s bring her to a specialist.”
Eduardo’s heart was conflicted. He hadn’t seen Lola, but the maid’s reaction had been enough. Still, half of him didn’t want to believe that his daughter has a disturbed mind. He was still hoping that this was nothing but a phase. It wasn’t uncommon for children to have extraordinary imagination.
He pulled his wife closer until her face rested on his chest. “I will do everything I can.”
“Eliza—” he hesitated for a while before continuing. “Eliza needs someone of the same age to be with. She has been alone all this time. She never had a chance to—”
Eliza was home-schooled. They tried putting her to school, but she ended up learning how to use her fists instead of her brain. She was always bullied despite her family’s social status. Eliza loved being inside her own world, making her different from the rest of the class. Her classmates thought she deserved to be the center of ridicule because of this.
When, one day, Eliza finally came home with bruises on her arms and a bloodied lower lip, she was pulled out of school.
“Just trust me,” Eduardo whispered.
He left the next day and was gone for a week.
When he came back, he wasn’t alone.
He brought Nicky with him.
Nicky was a quiet little boy.
He stood in front of Eliza when Eduardo introduced them. He had a staring contest with her, something which she didn’t seem to appreciate.
“Eliza, sweetheart, this is Nicky,” Eduardo said with a smile. “Nicky, this is Eliza, my daughter, the one I told you about.”
Nicky didn’t say anything. He just continued to stare. Eliza on the other hand narrowed her eyes into slits, her gaze enough to burn the boy standing in front of her.
“Who are you?” she demanded in such a bratty tone. “Why did you come with Dad?”
Nicky kept mum.
But, just like how a child’s mind always worked, nothing seemed to matter minutes later. Eliza pulled Nicky with her after waiting for a reply that didn’t come, and asked, more like forced him, to play with her.
“Where did you find him?” Marian asked as she watched their daughter play with the new boy. There was still wariness on her face, but she looked more curious than suspicious.
Eduardo smiled at his wife. “In an orphanage at the South. It was fate that I saw him. It was hard to convince his guardian to release him.”
“And he’ll stay?” Marian asked. She was only concerned about the separation anxiety this would cause her daughter if Nicky couldn’t stay.
Eduardo kissed her lovingly.
“He will stay. He promised he would. A child’s promise is always pure and sincere.”
Nicky did stay.
He easily became a part of Eliza’s strange life.
Surprisingly, she was accepting, far from the attitude she had shown when he was first introduced to her. He also seemed to be good for her. She was less aggressive and more pleasant.
As the days passed, Eliza’s longing for her parents’ attention faded away. She was content to be with just Nicky. She never even fought the dolls for her mother’s attention anymore.
Nicky was enough.
He was always with Eliza. Everywhere. Anywhere. Any time.
He ate with her. He played with her. He studied with her. He fought with her. He made up with her.
But there’s one thing that made Eliza like him more—Nicky didn’t like the dolls.
“What’s supposed to be in that thing?” Nicky asked as they passed by the hallway, his eyes on that one vacant glass tube. Eliza remembered the doll she had beheaded. Ugly Lola never deserved that spot.
“It’s for nothing significant.”
Nicky didn’t prod for any more answers. But since that moment, his eyes always, always found their way to that one empty glass tube.
He always shivered. It always felt as if it was inviting him in.
Nicky decided that he would never ever come near it no matter how tempting it would be.
The atmosphere in the household had changed a lot over the years.
“I am glad you brought Nicky home,” Marian said, smiling at the sight of their daughter reading a book with Nicky and bantering with him. “She opened up a lot since he came into her life.”
“I told you it was just a phase. She just needed the right friend. When I saw Nicky, I knew he’s perfect for her. He looked so innocent and quiet and alone. Watching the two of them right now, I feel like I have two children. I feel happy.”
“That’s one thing I don’t approve of though,” Marian said, her expression suddenly changing. Eduardo laughed upon seeing where her eyes were.
Nicky’s and Eliza’s hands were intertwined. It’s been happening a lot lately. And while Marian was all accepting towards the friendship and was obviously happy at the changes Nicky had brought to Eliza’s life, she didn’t seem to approve at the thought of something romantic happening between them.
“You don’t like Nicky for her?” Eduardo asked, teasing her wife even though he already knew the answer. Nicky was a nice boy, and he didn’t have problems with him. “I kind of expected that when I brought him home.”
Marian’s face was fierce. “No. Not him, never him.”
The smile dropped from Eduardo’s face as he took in his wife’s expression. He has never seen Marian so angry before. She looked… almost possessed. Feral, even.
“Hon, where is this anger coming from?” He was used to his wife’s sudden outbursts and mood changes, but this was something that he didn’t expect.
“I am just worried,” Marian confessed when she finally answered him, her tone of voice causing him to look at her. “Nicky had brought out Eliza’s true self, but he is—”
“He’s similar to you.”
Marian shook her head. “I’m different from him.”
“Of course you are,” he pacified her, instantly soothing her with his touch and tone.
Marian looked at him suspiciously. “You are not worried.”
“No, I am not.”
“But why? She is your daughter and she’s falling in love with a—”
Eduardo smiled. It was a tender smile that only an indulgent father could possess. “It’s a miracle,” was all he said.
Marian simply watched as Nicky lifted their entwined hands to his lips. She knew her anger was irrational, but it still escalated.
From then on, Marian watched.
She always watched.
She witnessed as Eliza became Nicky’s world and Nicky became Eliza’s world. Their lives now only revolved around each other, their feelings growing along with their bodies.
They fell in love.
“Your mother seemed to hate me,” Nicky said as he pulled Eliza closer to his chest. They were seated at the window seat inside the study room, taking a break from their lectures.
“Hmm…” was all Eliza could answer. She noticed the change in her mother’s behavior years ago, but her hostility towards Nicky seemed to have been really more obvious lately.
“She didn’t seem to approve of this,” he said. He didn’t need to define what this was.
“She’d get over it.”
Eliza was wrong.
Marian didn’t get over it. Not even when the relationship became too obvious.
Marian didn’t try to force Eliza to go out, explore, and meet people. Instead, she forced Nicky to do that. She enrolled Nicky to a local university so that he could meet other people, explore other opportunities.
Forget about her daughter.
Nicky couldn’t do anything other than accept what was being forced on him. He didn’t have the right to say No. He never had the right to say No.
Eliza hadn’t been happy. She was extremely lonely when Nicky left. She became lonelier when he became too busy even to talk to her. But as much as she wanted to attend the university with him, she couldn’t. She knew how it would end.
Nicky’s lack of time for her gave Marian the opportunity she had all her life and just never took until now—to be closer to her daughter. She tried to spoil Eliza. She brought her clothes, cooked her food, and now even tried to always engage her in conversations.
If Eliza was still a child who longed for her mother’s care, it would have worked. Her thirst for Marian’s attention had been grave once, to the point of accepting the dolls, the things she loathed the most, just so she could feel closer to her.
But she wasn’t a kid anymore. And none of Marian’s efforts worked. She was years too late.
Eliza now only smiled for Nicky. She only smiled with Nicky.
Marian couldn’t accept it.
It was finally Nicky’s summer vacation.
Now he had all the time in the world for Eliza. As a result, she started smiling again, started laughing again—it was obvious how happy she was.
Eduardo was content. He had seen the effect of the separation to his daughter, and he’s just pleased that Eliza would be happy for two months before Nicky got dragged to university again.
Marian’s reaction was different. Seeing the smile on Eliza’s face while she’s in Nicky’s arms caused her to stand from her seat just to tear Eliza away from the young man.
And that tiny action immediately caused hell to break loose.
Harsh words were delivered. Hard slaps were given.
“What you have—it is not real. It will never be real!”
Eliza didn’t cry. Her mother’s words just awakened the dormant anger she felt for her years ago. Anger that was buried by her love for her. Her connection to Marian had been lost since Nicky came into her life. Now, she’s just angry. Love wasn’t enough to disguise it anymore.
Nicky held Eliza in his arms as Eduardo pulled Marian away from the room.
He would talk to the kids later, but he needed to pacify his wife first.
Eduardo came back an hour later.
“I want you to know that I support you,” Eduardo said as he looked at them.
It did nothing to appease Eliza. There was so much anger in her eyes. Nicky looked afraid as he continued to hold her.
“Marian will too,” Eduardo added. “She would understand the pull soon. She would be okay with this soon.”
Nicky just nodded. Eliza remained quiet.
Her eyes told Eduardo everything.
Eduardo felt helpless.
Nicky was awakened by a warm body beside him.
“Eliza?” he asked sleepily when his eyes adjusted to the dark. “What—”
His words were cut by a loud moan. A moan that he immediately realized belonged to him.
It was only then that he felt the hand that was cupping his clothed member, awakening every nerve in his body.
“E-Eliza?” he asked, his voice already hoarse, as he stared at the young woman. Eliza was only wearing a robe, which was open at the front, revealing that she had nothing underneath.
He watched as she released her hold on his member and straddled him, the action surprising and pleasuring him at the same time. She was so tight, so warm.
She slowly moved her hips, causing her to rub against him.
Nicky moaned again, his voice now painfully strained. His hands flew to her waist, touching the softness of her blazing skin. “Eliza…”
Eliza smiled and leaned towards him, her lips touching his lobe as she whispered: “Let’s prove my mother wrong, Nicky.”
Nicky shook his head, his breath coming out in puffs as Eliza continued to grind on him.
Eliza giggled. And then she started rocking her hips… slowly at first… then faster.
Her aching flesh started screaming against his.
Nicky’s hands on her waist tightened. Eliza completely let the robes fall down, revealing the whole of her supple body underneath. Nicky knew then that he didn’t need to be convinced further. After all, he was just a man.
Eliza and Nicky had proved Marian wrong that night.
What they have—it was real. And they just sealed it.
They became one.
Entangled in the sheets and both sleeping contentedly–that’s what Marian saw when she came to surprise Eliza with a new doll named Sebastian. He was supposed to be the peace offering. She still didn’t understand that Eliza never liked dolls.
The plan to make peace with her daughter immediately flew out of the window as Marian took in the sight before her.
Sebastian was dropped to the floor.
Surprisingly, he didn’t break.
His unblinking eyes continue to stare at the ceiling.
Marian’s screams filled the room and the hallway, waking the owners of the two naked bodies. There was a strange gleam in her eyes as she walked towards them.
Eliza hid behind Nicky while he stood in front of her protectively, not minding his nudity.
When Marian grabbed Nicky’s arms, it was Eliza’s screams that filled the hallway, her voice full of loathing for her own mother.
Eduardo held Eliza as she cried and begged for her Marian to bring Nicky back.
Her tears fell on deaf ears.
Nicky’s laugh reverberated inside the tiny hole that served as his prison. It was a bitter laugh, a cold one that slipped under the skin.
“Why are you laughing?” Eliza asked as she sat beside him, her head on his still-bare shoulder. Marian didn’t even clothe him. He looked dirty and exhausted.
Eliza actually got worse. She was hit hard on the cheeks. Marian’s palm was heavy, heavy with hatred and something else Eliza couldn’t decipher.
“Your mother would find out and she would tear you away from me come morning light,” he said with a sneer, which, usually, would have surprised Eliza. Nicky never sneered. He had always been this sweet boy with a huge heart.
But she didn’t mind. She just moved closer towards him. Marian could never tear her away from him again.
“I will come back. I always will. I don’t know why she’s so against us. You didn’t see her, Nicky, she looked mad,” Eliza whispered. “Dad is okay with us. He told me… he told me he’ll do everything he could to make Mom see reason.”
Nicky laughed. Again.
“What’s the matter with you?” Eliza asked, sounding hurt. “You don’t want that? You don’t want to be with me?”
Nicky leaned in to plant a kiss on her forehead.
“Your Mom and I talked when she brought me here,” Nicky said. “She was against us, but she wasn’t as against us as we thought she was.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was the dolls.”
“It was the dolls. She felt jealous for the dolls.”
“Yes, for. “You were paying too much attention to me. And you never paid that much attention to the dolls.”
“But… but she looked so happy before…”
“She was. She still is. But she never wanted you to give your heart to me. You were never
supposed to give your heart to me. She said—” Nicky met her eyes. “You were supposed to love all the dolls. How would you give them love when all of your love was for me?”
It took Eliza seconds to realize what he meant.
“It’s always about those fucking freaks!”
Nicky tried to shush her.
“NO!” Eliza said, her eyes frenzied with years of suppressed anger. “I’ve had enough! Those dolls had been causing me grief since I was a kid and you know that!”
She wouldn’t forget how these human-like statues had stolen her mother from her. They were the reasons she was never around for her. Marian was always at home, but she was never ever there for her.
It’s time to finally stop this.
Eliza walked towards Nicky and forcefully pulled him up.
Eliza smiled at him as she put a finger to her lips, indicating that he should be quiet.
“We can end this, Nicky. We can end this.”
Nicky was confused. He refused to budge from where he was standing. “I don’t understand. Eliza, what are you planning? Are we running away? I don’t think that’s the best—”
His words were cut off by a pair of soft, sweet lips. And despite the situation, Nicky could only answer the ferocity of the heated kiss. Her lips had always been his ambrosia.
“I love you,” she said earnestly, the depth of her feelings shining through her orbs. “I will not let something as pathetic as dolls come between us. We will settle this. You’re going to do everything for me too, right?”
“What are you planning, Eliza?” he asked, holding the hands that were holding his face. “Tell me—”
Eliza stood on tiptoe and kissed him softly. “It’s the simplest solution—we’re going to destroy the core of this predicament.”
Nicky still looked confused. “You are going to destroy your mother’s dolls? All of them?”
Eliza smiled sweetly. “No, silly,” she answered playfully, nipping at his nose. “We are going to destroy my mother.”
Nicky’s eyes went wide. He gripped the hands holding his face and pulled them in front of him. “Eliza—”
Eliza’s smile didn’t falter. “She started all of this—her and her obsession with dolls. The only way we can stop this and bring everything back to normal is to kill her.”
“No, Eliza,” Nicky said, loosening his grip on her and speaking more gently. “You know that is not the best solution. You love your mother, remember? You’re jealous of the dolls because they took her away from you. We can hurt the dolls, Eliza. I hate them too. We can smash them to pieces so you’ll have your mother’s attention all to yourself… okay?” he asked too sweetly.
Eliza gazed at his eyes for a few seconds. She smiled. Nicky smiled back.
Nicky’s smile faltered. Eliza’s didn’t.
“She’d kill us both if we do that,” Eliza replied softly. “And she could do it too. Did you know… did you know she killed the maid who saw Lola’s dismembered pieces?”
Nicky froze. “W-what?”
Eliza nodded somberly. “Yes. She did. Because I lied to her. I told her it was the maid who had done it.”
“But… how did you even know it?”
“I saw it. I saw her.”
“You… saw her?” Nicky paled.
“Yes, I did. And you don’t want to ask how she killed her. But let me tell you this—she killed her because she killed one of her children.”
“So she… lied to your dad about the maid running away because… because of what you supposedly did?” Nicky asked, his voice breaking a little.
Eliza nodded happily. “Yes! See? She’ll do everything for those blasted dolls!”
“Yes…” Nicky nodded. “I guess… I guess she would.” His voice was soft, but there was something in his tone that made Eliza’s eyes get that extra glint.
“So… it would be nice to get to her before she gets to either you or me…right?”
Nicky nodded slowly, wordlessly. His hold on her hands tightened.
“Then it’s settled!” Eliza said, planting another kiss in those soft lips. “I already have a plan. Do you want to hear it?”
“Yes…. Yes, I do.”
Eliza’s smile widened.
“You, my love… you are going to kill her,” she whispered against his lips.
“And you?” Nicky whispered back, as if entranced.
“I am going to watch,” she said casually as she released her hands from his hold to sling them around his neck. “You want to know why?”
“Because I want to see the end of my biggest pain.”
It wasn’t supposed to be bloody.
It was supposed to be effortless—an easy escape from the enslaved pain that has accumulated in years.
But the presence of the dolls ignited the desire to rip and shred, to kill and spill. A red curtain, thin as a veil, covered the vision of the one intended to harm. The curtain flowed, like a wave brought about by the breath of the unseen wind.
A pair of scissors.
Two pairs of eyes—one, red; the other brown. Two pairs of hands—one stained with red; the other pure as ivory.
As the red curtain was lifted, a picture was revealed. It was beautiful. Bloody, but beautiful.
Two pairs of eyes—one, accusing; one, cold.
And then Eliza screamed.
Belle and Sebastian watched.
Caridad Asylum was not one for hope. It’s an institution where the hopeless minds were brought to rot and die, a fact that didn’t need to be advertised. It was a known, secret thing in the world of the mentally ill that once you are brought to the House of the Insane Sisters, it was the end.
The House of the Insane Sisters—Gregoria, Alfreda, Teresita.
It was named after them. The mansion used to be the home of the Caridad sisters. A home filled with nothing but the laughter of the three sisters who loved each other more than they loved themselves.
And then came love. A romantic one. In the form of a gardener called Antonio.
Gregoria fell first, but she retreated and just watched him from afar.
Alfreda was the second one to fall, and she tried to use the beauty that she was given at birth to get what she wanted. She succeeded with the body, but not with the heart.
And there’s Teresita. The last one to fall. The last one who ended everything.
With the manic laughter of a heartbroken woman, she killed all three before killing herself.
The Caridad parents grieved for a long time before selling the mansion and leaving the country to forget.
A pair of philanthropists, who were touched instead of scared by the story, built a hospital for the poor—a hospital for the damaged minds. Thus, Caridad Asylum was born. It has been housing deranged minds for the past century.
Doctor Alice has been working at the asylum for years. She was one of the few doctors who stayed because they all felt this was their calling. There’s just something peaceful in watching disturbed minds finding serenity when they finally caught their last breaths. She has never seen such a beautiful death until she has seen the peaceful face of a once hysterical patient.
Doctor Alice didn’t play favorites. Her patients were all the same in her eyes. They were all dead souls imprisoned inside breathing bodies.
Until Eliza was brought to the asylum.
Eliza had seen death. She supposedly witnessed the death of her parents in the arms of the one she loved and trusted.
“But it was impossible…” Doctor Alice had declared when she saw the reports. “Because Nicky couldn’t have done it. And only one body?”
“Yes. Only one body was found at the crime scene. Her father’s.”
Doctor Alice turned towards the one who handed her the detailed information. “Where’s Nicky now?”
“Imprisoned in that mansion.”
“Tell me about Nicky,” Doctor Alice asked sweetly, distracting Eliza while she was injecting her arm with a serum. She was truly a different one. She was never wild, just quiet.
Eliza’s eyes were closed, but she was smiling as she started telling Doctor Alice their story. The doctor heard it several times already.
Eliza would always act the same way. She would start with a smile. Then there would be pain… and then finally, anger.
Her hands were already in shackles when they got to that part where she started to look murderous.
“Nicky killed my parents! I would never forgive him! Never!”
They’re the last words the doctor heard when she closed the door behind her.
As she passed by the hallway leading to her office, she stopped by one of the frames hanging there—that of the three sisters smiling all happily.
“Love really destroys you, doesn’t it? It starts with your heart, then it proceeds to eat your brain.”
Her statement was met with nothing but silence and three frozen smiles acting as a happy front to such a tragic story.
It’s been one full year when Eliza’s behavior started to change.
She started to act and sound normal. They didn’t need shackles anymore. They didn’t need serum anymore. She was on surveillance 24/7, and she had done nothing in her room but read books, which she requested.
Sometimes, she started one-sided talks with the monitor, letting everyone know that she’s doing it because she knew someone’s watching her in a room and not because she’s talking to someone invisible.
Still, not all were convinced.
Until that day when she stopped reacting harshly to Nicky’s name.
Eliza used to scream and go wild whenever she heard the name. But the anger finally turned into indifference, and then finally, it had turned into tears.
Tears of clarity. Tears of guilt. Tears of… a forthcoming atonement. In a painful realization, she admitted to herself that Nicky didn’t do it. He couldn’t have murdered her parents.
One, Nicky would never do anything that he knew would hurt her in the end. And two, because she has no mother. Her mother has been dead for years. Eliza only had her father with her since she was a kid.
It was… her.
She was the one who killed her father while Nicky just watched.
So Eliza cried. Cried for her parents. Cried for Nicky. Cried for herself. The impact of her crimes was finally holding the whole of her in a painful grasp.
“I have to see him,” she whispered when Doctor Alice found her crying in her room. “I have to see him Alice,” she said, gripping the Doctor’s arms hard. “I have to say sorry! I have to apologize. I hurt him. All he did was to love me and be there for me. Let me see him, please.”
She was begging. The longing and gripping pain in her voice moved the doctor. Alice cradled her as Eliza trembled in her arms, her tears spilling all over her coat.
“Help me, Alice,” she whispered. “Help me get away from here.”
Alice didn’t react, but she did ask: “You understand now, right? Everything?”
Eliza nodded. “Yes… yes, I do. But I still want to see him. I still want to apologize. Nicky… Nicky had kept me sane inside that hell. And I will never be fully cured until I am able to apologize. Give me peace, Alice. Give me peace.”
Alice knew she would.
“I have to go back to him. Because I love him. No matter what, I have to go back and be with him even if he sends me away.”
At midnight, the door to her cell was opened.
Eliza used to hate the dolls. And now, she didn’t.
The home of the dolls was home for her. Has always been.
With unshed tears threatening to spill from her eyes, she walked towards the dreaded hallway—the hallway, which, once upon a time, she loathed more than anything.
The sight of the familiar bisque dolls brought an unwanted clench in her heart. But the anger was gone. She finally accepted that these dolls were insignificant. They were nothing but human-like, lifeless pieces of smooth plastic and porcelain.
She passed by Belle’s and Sebastian’s cylinders, offering them silent smiles of longing, guilt, and apology, until she reached that one lone doll that she owed most of her apology. The doll with the familiar sweet smile that rendered her father insane, forcing him to live with the lies inside his head and not being able to move on even after her death.
Marian’s doll. The doll which her father made. A doll that was the only thing, other than the pictures, that reminded her of her mother.
Eliza touched the cylinder and smiled back at her.
“I love you, Mom. And I’m so sorry. Tell Dad I am sorry too, okay? That I didn’t mean to hurt him. Tell him I’ll see you both soon, okay?”
She was only met by the same, hard, beautiful smile.
Finally, Eliza walked towards the last cylinder. The one that was always unoccupied whenever she was young because she wanted the doll beside her at all times.
“Hello, Nicky,” she whispered.
Nicky smiled down at her, his eyes unusually sparkling, giving life to an otherwise lifeless aura.
“Did you miss me?” she asked, her heart beating like how it had always beat for him. “Because I miss you. I truly do.”
Nicky didn’t respond. He just looked at her. His eyes were the same—the same shiny, dark brown, almost black eyes that only ever saw her.
The tears that she’d been holding back fell right down her cheeks. They fell along with her heart.
“Forgive me, Nicky, please. You have to forgive me. I didn’t mean to blame it on you. I was… I was scared. Dad was taking you away from me. And I can’t take it. And I love you… I want you to know that I really really love you. Even when my mind had told me to hate you, my heart can never deny that I love you.”
Nicky just stood, unblinking.
“But how can I be with you now?” she asked bitterly. “I can’t hear you talk anymore. Is this the price I had to pay for being sane?”
She was sane. She was sane now. But if this was the consequence of having found clarity, she wanted to go back to that dark, confusing world where he was real. Where he was alive.
“Will you… forgive me if I…” if I lose myself again? “Because Nicky… that’s the only way I can hear you again. That’s the only way I can feel your arms around me again. Because that’s the only way you can love me again.”
Eliza sat against the platform, under Nicky’s still figure.
She smiled at the silence she received. She would wait then. She would wait for the familiar darkness to consume her. If it’s only in the darkness where she could be happy with him, then she would surrender willingly.
She knew it would come. It has always been easy for her to surrender to the whispers inside her mind. They were her constant companions that she only silenced whenever she needed time for herself.
Nicky just stared ahead, his smooth face glinting even with the shadows caused by the retiring sun.
Eliza started humming a tune. She was tired. She traveled far and long just to be with him.
She closed her eyes.
“Hello, my love.”
And then a hand was offered to her. A familiar hand that fit tightly against hers.
Eliza took it, allowing the warm feeling to envelop her whole being.
“I missed you.”
“I miss you too.”
Inside a secret asylum in the city, everyone was panicking over the escape of one of their patients.
Except for Dr. Alice, who was calmly sipping her tea inside her office. She wasn’t surprised upon hearing the news. In fact, a smile played on her face upon hearing the commotion right outside her door.
“Be happy, Eliza. However that will work out.”
The Victorian mansion stood alone, away from the other mansions inside the elite village. The vacant lots surrounding it remained vacant.
Outside, it was quiet. Only the gentle hum of the wind and the delightful chirping of the birds could be heard.
But inside, there was a party. A celebration of incarcerated souls.
They were once again, complete.
The souls rejoiced from inside their hollow shells.