Sunday, February 3, 2008

Meeting of the Minds

It was a long walk for poor Mister Flailie. Life was hard for a stuffed animal, especially one owned by Stay. Or, as they probably called her in Toy Hell, Stay the Plush Slayer.

It wasn't through malice or direct action, of course. She loved her animals, even if she did think Matt gave her too many. She wasn't a fool even if she was young. Stay knew he brought her these cooshy things because he felt guilty about the way they lived. The way he lived, mostly. Matt was so silly. Didn't he know she was happy? He took care of her and she always had Oreos. Life was good.

Good, that is, unless you were a two foot wide neon stuffed octopus. Then life was terrible. It seemed the blonde moppet-marauder was incapable, or at the very least unwilling, to actually carry Mister Flailie. Instead, all the way across the back yard to the fishing creek, she dragged it. Over every bump, every rock, through every puddle and ant hill. The doll was covered in grass and dirt before they had even gotten halfway. By the time Stay reached the bank of the little river in Mercy's backyard, the octoplush was almost unrecognizable.

If it could speak, Mister Flailie would have been screaming, "Kill me!" As it was, its little button eyes were extremely bright and emphatic... except for the one plastered over with mud.

"Isn't the water pretty at night, Mister Flailie?" Stay sat down on her favorite rock and looked out over the moon ripples, laughing at the sight of flowing silver. The plush was conspicuously silent on the matter.

Mister Flailie was not in a talkative mood but, as the voice that actually did answer Stay was about to reveal, she was not enjoying the river front alone.

"It certainly is."

Stay picked up her octopus and held it in front of her like a shield, frantically looking around to find the speaker. She was not so much scared as she was startled. She'd some here for several night now; the place was always private. Someone else here meant someone else in Mercy's yard, not something she figured the red-haired lady or Matt would really appreciate. "Who's there?"

"No one important." The voice was right beside her, coming from a man standing within arm's reach directly to her left. Stay scrambled, wide eyed, away from him and off her sitting rock. He was not been there just a second ago. No way!

"This is private property, mister!" She said it as authoritatively as she could but now she was scared. Who was that? What was this?

The man looked down at her, a gentle smile on his older looking face. "Don't worry. I won't be here long, Stay."

"How! How did you know my name?!" She stood up, knees shaking, Mister Flailie held in front of her like a weapon. A sad, limp weapon direly in need of a good scrub.

"I was there when you were given it, child." The man turned to face her, half-lit by the shimmering reflections off the stream. His eyes, completely black, focused on her almost painfully intense. "How are you?"

Stay was now very close to what the people on TV called 'freaking out'. Matt gave her that name the night he rescued her from that hospital, the one where they were trying to arrest him. He had called her his "stay of execution", Stay for short. But everyone at the hospital had ended up dead. The only people to leave that horrid place had been him and her.

Well, him, her and... the angel.



Stay turned around and tried to run but a calm hand settled on her shoulder and she froze in place. She was trying to run. She wanted to run. But she couldn't. Her legs just refused. Her whole body went limp. Mister Flailie fell to the ground as she sagged, held up only by the shadowy man's grasp.

He slowly lowered her to the ground, watching impassively as her eyes closed and her breathing calmed. Kneeling beside Stay as she slipped into unconsciousness, he stared at her face, his leather-covered hand moving to stroke her cheek. "Easy now," he murmured. "Easy now."

Once she was deeply asleep, the man sat cross-legged on the grass beside her. Taking off his gloves, the angel placed his fingertips to Stay's temples. He closed his eyes, pale lids concealing his white-less eyes behind them.

He sat there, completely still, touching the little blond girl's brow with a look of deep concentration on his face. The water rippled, the heavens twinkled and the clouds rolled past for more than an hour. Aside from the slow rise and fall of their chests and the occasionally dream whimper from Stay, they remained completely motionless. Frozen in place, the world spun on around them.

Finally, he stood, replacing his gloves one at a time. He picked her up and carried her back to the house, her travesty of a stuffed tentacle-horror on her chest. Once they reached Mercy's dark back porch, he settled her into a deck chair and took a small black note pad out of his coat pocket...

When Matt found her there asleep, just before morning, he also found a piece of paper cradled in Mister Flailie's grimy tentacles.

"Consider your stay extended for the time being.
Keep taking care of this little one as well as you have
and you might just earn a second chance, hellborne."

And at the bottom of the page, a small post script.

"Maybe you should cut back on the Oreos."