Shades of black and purple and the faint sounds of joyful laughter welcomed Mary back into the world. She blinked lazily as her surroundings sharpened before her.
Initially, that sound makes her more inclined to drift back to sleep. Then she remembers the last things that happened before she fell unconscious.
Her feelings of anger and betrayal after being killed, her rushed and hostile reunion with one friend, only to be hunted by the other and the ever present feeling of dread that existed throughout it all.
While looking around, her attention got caught on a clump of lavender hair resting against the arm of the sofa. She blinked drowsily at the vibrant color...
Then remembered who the hair belonged to, and pulled her legs back, curling into a ball as though he had tried to chop them off.
Mary closed her eyes again to fake being asleep, but felt something gently shake her shoulder. She slowly opened her eyes to find herself face to face with a bright pink rabbit which sniffed at her harmlessly and rose as it hopped forward.
“Oh good! You're awake! I've been waiting forever to show her to you!” Ib proclaimed with a big smile on her face.
Casting a startled glance at her friend, the scarlet eyes fixed on her cause her stomach to drop. There’s a glazed emptiness in them that hints that the girl in front of her isn’t all there.
Just like Garry had been.
Shuddering slightly while petting the small, squirming creature, Ib chatters on, practically bouncing with excitement like a five year old surrounded by mountains of gifts while Mary feels increasingly disturbed.
This is not Ib. She’s supposed to be reserved and nice, with a soft smile and a thoughtful look in her eyes. Its almost as if she’s acting exactly the same as he had when-
“She had been waiting so patiently for you to wake up. Its good to see that you’ve finally decided to join us.” He says lightly, though it felt more like he was scolding her for not being awake quickly enough.
Biting back a retort, she rolled her eyes to the ground and muttered an apology, thinking over and over that she hated being here with every fiber of her being.
Ib cuddled the rabbit, rubbing her cheek against its soft fur. “You really love bunnies, don’t you?” Garry asked sweetly. “Yes I do! Ib cried energetically. “I love them sooo much! I’ve always wanted a pet bunny!” She giggled as the creature nibbled on a lock of her hair. “Oh Garry! She thinks my hair is food!” She cried while beaming as brightly as the sun. "Isn't it cute, Mary?"
"...Yeah, it is."
Ib beamed at her and continued to chatter on. In response, Mary seemed to vanish into the background, as time passed for her as it often does for people in stressful situations, unbearably slow.
At least Ib and Garry were enjoying themselves, chatting idly with each other while playing with the painting rabbit. Occasionally Ib invited her into their conversation, though Mary contributed very little and was left to herself fairly often.
Not that she minded. It was comforting to watch them, that way, she could almost forget the reality of the situation. They were just two friends who were happy to be in each others company. Even Garry looked happy, the darkness present in his eyes was gone, and he seemed calm, approachable, nice.
Until he looked at her, and smiled in that falsely innocent way, as if he hadn't caused the events that transpired, and the reality of the situation rushes back.
Every time, Mary would stare back blankly to hide her fear. This time however, as he locked eyes with her, he asked a question that nearly stopped her heart.
“Have you two seen my rose?”
Her mouth went dry but she still managed to say no, her mind focused on the withered flower in her possession. Ib, on the other hand, reached into her own pocket for the flower and wept upon discovering its absence.
But he smiled, and hugged her.
“Its ok, its gone and we don’t have to worry about anything anymore.”
And Ib sighed, smiled and hugged him back, as if all she needed was his affirmation that everything was ok.
After a seemingly endless parade of sly glances from Garry, complimented by Ib’s cheerful ramblings, a sudden yawn from her friend signaled to Mary that their “play time” was finally over.
She practically burrowed into the couch and hid underneath his coat, which again was used as a makeshift blanket. Slowly, she slipped the flower from her dress pocket and slid it deep between the cushions while they chattered on about the fun they were going to have after her rest.
A few seconds later, their conversation drew to a close, and Mary felt a large hand press gently against her back and froze as he drew near.
“Be good now. We wouldn’t want any more... accidents to happen, now would we?”
After what seemed like an eternity, she felt him withdraw his hand, heard his footsteps retreat into the darkness, and finally, she was alone with Ib.
Mary slowly peeked out from his tattered coat, eyes roaming the darkness for a silhouette of a picture frame or some sign that he could see inside the room. Surprisingly, there seemed to be nothing standing in her way... which was unnerving in itself.
He could be patiently waiting within the shadows or outside the door for her to try and destroy the illusion he had created. Maybe he thought that she wouldn’t be stupid enough to do something in the place where he clearly had the most control.
She stared at the older girl who was already drifting off to sleep, slid off the couch and walked over to her. She still had to try. Even if failure meant death.
“Hey...” Ib whispered, her voice slurring slightly at the sight of the blonde, “Whats wrong? Are you having trouble sleeping? Should I get Garry?” Mary cringed at the brightness in her tone at the latter question, but nodded and the older girl slowly rose from her position.
The second that Ib sat up fully, Mary smacked the older girl in the face, and sent her crashing back onto the leather couch.
The little girl waited, trembling, praying that she had been successful in snapping her out of her trance, hoping that-
“What-” Bleary red eyes adjusted to the darkness before focusing on the girl standing in front of her. Her confusion swiftly turned to terror as she realized that she did not recognize her surroundings.
“What- what happened?” Ib asked in a fearful whisper.
“Where are we?”
Garry laid on yet another sleek couch of his own creation, tired but very happy.
Because Ib wanted to be here, where he could keep her safe.
She wouldn’t die to one of the twisted creations that lurked within the shadows. Of course, they had to be locked away where they wouldn’t escape.
Honestly, he had taken great joy in removing all those wretched mannequin heads and headless bodies, as well as any other nasty creature that had the ambition to kill all that wandered into their path.
As for the ones he couldn’t easily remove, well... he had ways of keeping them compliant...
Besides, this was done only in her best interest.
Things could happen... twelve year olds were more complex, more rebellious. He couldn’t see the soft spoken child of the past acting in the manner she did now. Not listening, sneaking off when he wasn’t watching, arguing with him. She was much more melancholy, until just recently, he hadn’t seen a fairly genuine smile-
His thoughts were interrupted as a sharp pain burned throughout his mind. Slumping over, he clutched at his head in agony.
Two or three minutes passed and then the pain subsided, leaving a dull throbbing in its place.
Ever since that dream, since he had awoken to find that she had gone to that disheveled wreck of a world, someone had woken up inside him...
He sighed and tried to brush the thought off. Soon he’d have the solution to his little problem, soon, he’d be free from random bursts of pain...
He sighed as a memory he didn’t particularly like came to the front of his mind.
Appearing from within the shadows of the gallery moments after she had passed by. The only thing he knew was that he needed her to stay with him. He remembered rushing after her right as she got to the portal back to her world, trying to assuage her fears and prove that yes, he was still here to protect her. That he had been trying in vain to catch up before she could get hurt, to tell her that she should come with him because no, this wasn’t the right place to escape from. But he knew where to go if she’d just let him guide her there...
Somehow, he hadn’t been convincing enough.
He watched that sweet, hope-filled look on her face cloud with fear, and had been helpless once she had vanished back into an uncertain future.
But he didn’t let it upset him for too long...
Certain events leave imprints in the mind, even if one doesn’t consciously remember them.
Besides, he had something that would anchor him to this place for a very long time.
A fresh body that he could inhabit so he wouldn’t have to fade.
A chance to be real.
Eventually, he was rewarded with his patience.
And only one thing could spoil his happiness...
When he had been created from her companions, he was certain that he would have been there for good. Sure the reappearance of the girl had surprised him, but as long as he was fine, and she didn't become too troublesome, he could deal with her.
However, nothing had indicated that the soul itself still lingered in this realm after death. And he had a very good guess about what was keeping it there. If he had known, he would have burned that damn stem and all of the cobalt petals a very long time ago.
When she escaped and began to piece the flower back together, little by little, he had awoken.
With that revelation, combined with their failed escape attempt, he had behaved in a sort of - another sharp pain - a very rash manner, he admitted as the pain subsided once more.
But it was all done for her happiness. Not one person could argue that she wasn’t happier now. That she wasn’t safer here than she would be out there, in the hands of god knows what kind of people.
Here, she was sweet, energetic and very talkative. One topic, her love for rabbits, had popped up frequently enough for him to literally pick one out for her.
She actually was his friend now. Everything that happened was worth it, just so he could see her look at him with all the affection that he had gotten. He was loved, she was safe and that made everything worth it.
Garry was practically lost in his daydreams, replaying their conversations over and over in his mind, so focused that he almost missed the sharp creak of a door.
In surprise, he sat up and strained to hear more noise to accompany the first. After a few failed attempts to quiet the anxious feeling in his chest, he groaned in frustration and stood, heading for the door.
Nothing wrong with checking in on her, she could be having a nightmare.
The walk down the hall did nothing to put him at ease and he was thankful by the time he had gotten to her door.
He grasped the knob and pulled the door open.
He could almost feel his heart stop for a single second as he fell to his knees.
Nothing was in there except for a tattered dark blue coat...
Further down the blackened corridor, two small figures crept away as silently as possible.