Ever since that night I’ve had a million people ask me exactly what happened. I’m not sure why they do, no one ever seems to believe me. I’ve finally given up on telling anyone, but maybe if I write it down someone will find it and understand. So here it is- the first ever written account of the Halloween I lost Malka and possibly my mind.
I always thought she was beautiful, but that night? She was… indescribable. Malka was always more than a little bit of a “Goth princess”. Halloween was her favorite time to really let loose and pull out all of the stops. This Halloween she had gone for less of a punk princess look and decided to be more of a punk queen.
Normally her hair was done up in a cliché scene pouf that changed colors almost weekly. For this occasion though she had died it back to her natural color, a brown so dark most people mistook it for black, just like her amazingly large eyes. Sleek and dark and luscious she had curled it into a ridiculous amount of ringlets and then piled it artfully on top of her head with curls dropping around her face to frame it. The smoky eyed mess of makeup that we were all used to had been replaced with simple eyeliner to make her large dark eyes look even larger. Her lips were painted to match her hair and eyes and she had drawn stitches that curved up her cheeks to create a creepy and whimsical smile no matter if she was smiling or not.
With her plaid skirts and unknown band t-shirts Malka always looked younger than she was, but just like the rest of her “usual” look she discarded these. Combat boots were replaced with platformed purple heels. Continuing up her legs she had tights designed to look like they were stitched together from different pieces of black hosiery. On top of these were ragged black petticoats. She had bought multiple sets and layered them to create an almost cartoon like version of hips. To emphasize the effect even further a skirted purple brocade corset was laced tightly around her waist. Her enhanced hips and even tinier than usual waist both served to make her normally modest bosom look less prepubescent, and more nymph like. Tied around her delicate pale neck with a strip of soft purple velvet was an old and tarnished silver locket. When I asked her about it she laughed and trailed her dark nails across my cheek, “It’s just an old trinket I found in my jewelry box. It completes the look don’t you think?”
It definitely did. I was her current favorite out of our group of friends, but she basked in the adoration of all equally. She had been with each of us at one point or another. She had gone back and forth and repeated favorites sometimes, but mostly she just supplemented herself with fringe followers. I was part of the group from the beginning, all the way since she had moved to town in middle school. She had never chosen me before this school year, but my time had finally come.
Tonight was the first time I was happy she had waited. I was the favorite on her night of queendom. Something no one could take from me. Malka had of course prepared my outfit, nothing near as nice as hers… but I still felt special. My ragged hair was slicked back, and my eyes were lined. My clothes were simple, but complemented hers nicely. A pair of plain dark dress pants and a vintage deep purple button up shirt she had found somewhere. Proving the power Malka had over our group she had forbidden anyone else from wearing anything purple, so it was clear that I was her escort for the evening.
As with most of our group events we were starting the evening at her house and then heading out from there. The group wasn’t entirely sure what all was planned for the night, but we knew we would be with her so no one minded. Looking back? I don’t see why our parents were so OK with it… We got in trouble with her all the time. I guess I should say we got in trouble for her all the time. She always seemed to make it through every scrape with no blame, even though all of our mishaps were always entirely instigated by her. That night wasn’t any different. It actually turned out much worse than usual…
Her parents were out for some sort of charity event, so we were able to do some pre-party work while we waited to find out what else we would be doing. The whole procedure felt a bit like an odd mockery of a Catholic mass. All of the devotees lined up, just waiting. Malka would go to each in turn and make minor adjustments in their costumes and then give her nod of approval. As her current second in command it was my duty to hand out the “body and blood”- this week’s brand of hallucinogens in small wafer form followed by a swig of absinthe. Now I know what you’re thinking, how can my account be worth anything if I was under the influence of who knows what? The truth is that I didn’t partake. I was really hoping that that night would be the night that I would finally get lucky with our lovely queen and I didn’t want to mess it up or not remember it because I wasn’t all there. Not the noblest of motives, but it probably saved my life.
It turned out that our queen didn’t have a firm plan yet, or at least not one she was willing to share with the rest of us yet. There were a few of our regular haunts within walking distance and it was decided that we would be starting with a quick stop in to show off our costumes to our friends and acquaintances. Knowing her the way I thought I did, I assumed that we would end up trying to tag along with some of our older friends to some more exciting college parties. Or possibly even make some new friends and tag along with them if they seemed worthy of Her Majesties presence.
We made it through all of our usual spots with no excitement. Everyone that had something to do had pretty much already filtered away to their own activities. The few people that had been left in the various bars and clubs, the skate park, and the “teen center” were the ones who would be staying in those areas all night.
Our Lady of Fun and Games was getting very clearly frustrated. At that point of the evening I was starting to get pretty nervous. I was positive that if we didn’t find a suitably fun way to spend the evening pretty quick my hopes and dreams of losing my virginity to the girl of my dreams was going to be ruined.
Now remember how I told you I hadn’t taken anything or even had a drink? Keep that in mind while I tell you this next part. I know it sounds crazy, if it didn’t it wouldn’t have taken the last three years to convince all of the doctors as the institute that I wasn’t a danger to myself or others and could be trusted with the crayon I’m using to write this. I was completely sober, and I’m not exaggerating any of it. I wish I was.
When they first showed up I thought that the night was saved, and so did everyone else. They seemed like they would be fun with an edge of danger. There was part of me that wondered if they might be too dangerous, but I didn’t listen to that part. One of the reasons I had never been Chosen was because I was always the one to suggest we look before we leap. I was the wet blanket that usually ruined the fun. Thinking more with my libido than my brain I made up my mind that we had to hang out with these people, if only so we could once again have our benevolent smiling queen back and I could try to get it in with her.
It’s hard to describe them without sounding a little crazy, so bear with me. At first glance they looked completely normal. Just regular people out dressed up for Halloween… but then you realized there was just something a little bit off about them. If I had drank anything I would have chalked what I saw up to imagination and confusion, but like I said before. I was completely sober.
The one that seemed to be in charge was the smallest; he couldn’t have been more than 5’2″ at the most. His head seemed not screwed on right. I don’t mean in metaphorical sense although he was more than a couple of fries short of a happy meal. It was more literal. It seemed like his whole head was screwed on a little bit too much. He didn’t seem able to turn his head at all. To look from left to right he had to move his whole body. His entire face seemed slightly lop sided. The features on the left side were oddly smaller than those on the right side. He was the most normal looking out of the group though. Among the others there were those who seemed to only be able to move at the joints with very little flexibility even there, and then some who were almost too flexible. They seemed to flop more than they actually walked- like rag dolls. The thing that I wished I had noticed then was their eyes. Their eyes were all the same deep dark pools of black of the girl they were so interested in.
I was too caught up in my own plans to realize exactly how interested in Malka they were. Our own little group revolved around her so much it seemed natural for others to do the same. We almost literally ran into them as they came out of an alley in front of us. Thinking back now, their interest was odd. Groups that knew us knew that we were all just extensions of her, but strangers always had to adjust to that way of thinking. They saw her and laughed. Bowing they called her their queen. We all assumed that it was a joke because of her costume, but we came to find that these people didn’t quite understand normal humor.
Their leader didn’t offer a name, but he did offer a “fun time with some different folk”. I could tell that the others in the group were slightly anxious and our Queen was wavering, potentially thinking of refusing their offer. For my own selfish needs I couldn’t afford for her to not have a good time though, so I loudly voiced my opinion that we should go. I wish to God I had actually been drunk instead of just drunk off of the idea of finally getting what I wanted. The night might have ended much differently…
As we walked their leader talked to our Queen casually as if they had known each other for years.
“Well little bubbala, you are certainly farpitzs on this All Hallows Eve.” The rest of us stared wondering what on earth this man was talking about but the lady of the hour just smiled, “It’s been a long time since anyone has called me bubbala… I think my zeyde was the last one who did before he passed away.” We were even more confused now. Still in the frame of mind that I might be considered special I risked a question. “Um… Malka? What are you guys talking about? Those words don’t make any sense.” I knew that there was a good chance that questioning anything she said or did would not just ruin my chances for the night, but could also easily push me out of the favored position. I had a little bit of luck on my side apparently. She was distracted by the strange man and didn’t have the time or energy to be upset at me at all. “It’s Yiddish, silly. My parents don’t practice but my zeyda, my grandfather, taught me some things before he passed away.” None of us really ever remembered that she was Jewish, but this was certainly a reminder and surprise.
They continued talking quietly about various things with the occasional Yiddish phrase thrown in. Our group trailed after Malka like a group of ducklings. We were surrounded by the rest of the odd group who didn’t respond to any of our overtures. Finally we arrived at our destination. It appeared to be an old abandoned warehouse. Looking around I was surprised to see that we had wandered into a part of town that didn’t have a great reputation without noticing. It was this moment where my doubts and hesitations about what I had done solidified into a cold lump of fear in the bottom of my stomach. All I could think was that I had officially messed up big time and now we were all going to have our organs removed and sold on the black market.
The tiny lopsided man led us in through the doors though and we were surprised once again. In this shady section of town, masked by an exterior of commonplace shabbiness, was an incredibly chic and modern club. The clientele seemed to be mostly college age or a little bit older, but scattered throughout were those who could have been in middle school and a few who could have been over 50. A few came and greeted our party, all similar to our escort- dark sparkling eyes and something slightly off about their bodies- but the rest of the club was incredibly varied.
The patrons ranged from tiny little devious looking men in dirty ragged clothes to tall disdainful women with sharp unreal features and clothes that could be only described as “ethereal”. There were also those that seemed very hairy and feral, some incredibly gaunt people with piercing red eyes, and here and there a few people who looked at least slightly normal. It was intimidating and intoxicating all at the same time.
Following Malka’s lead we plunged into the fray, dancing like maniacs to some kind of EDM that you could feel in your rib cage. A couple in our group also followed Malka’s lead in trying various glasses and tubes of different kinds of drinks. I was the only one who didn’t have any. Our Queen’s mood had improved with the new source of excitement and my fear was overcome by new hope that I might still get lucky.
The other patrons ignored us for the most part, but a few came and introduced themselves to Malka, complimenting her costume. Knowing how much Malka disliked jealousy in her favorites I had to contain myself every time it felt like they were attempting to compete with me. The hardest moment was when one of the tall ethereal women came over and kissed my Queen full on the mouth. Malka, of course, laughed delightedly and had no problems. As you might imagine I had problems. Quite a few of them, in fact. Luck was once again with me in this. She saw my face before I could wipe the jealousy off of it. I expected her to be upset at me, but she just laughed.
“It’s just a little Halloween fun! Don’t be upset about something so silly. Here you come kiss me just to prove to everyone that we’re actually together, not just matching clothes.” As always, her kisses were incredibly intoxicating and drove all thoughts of jealousy out of my head. She was right, everyone in here could kiss her, but she would still be mine for at least that moment. Or so I thought then.
I don’t know if it was minutes or hours later, but the fellow who had brought us in came over and had a whispered conversation with Malka. She gestured imperiously to us, her subjects, and we followed. The music was loud and she was walking away but we caught the phrase “…VIP room…”. My fear was back with a vengeance at this point. They had let us have an evening of fun, but now they really were going to take our organs. I knew I couldn’t let Malka go alone, and they’d have more trouble getting all of us at once. Hanging on to this thought I trailed along uncertainly.
As we stepped through the doors into the much quieter room I realized that I was the only one who could be called anything close to sober. The others had all had their “pregame” as well as various drinks throughout the night before the club, but the odd drinks here had done them in entirely. This worried me, I knew you couldn’t exactly trust drunk people in a fight or flight situation.
The group of strange people was the only ones in there, which seemed odd to me. The leader came up to Malka and asked “Well bubbala, do you recognize us?” A faint frown crossed her face as she looked at him. “What do you mean? Of course I do, you brought us here this evening, don’t be silly.” He shook his head sadly, “No sweet girl, I mean from before. Please tell me you have at least some memory of your mishpocha. It would break our hearts if you had no clue at all.”
I moved up silently to stand at her side, hoping that nothing serious was about to happen. Malka had her head tilted and her frown was more than faint now. Her hand reached up to grasp the locket around her neck and she seemed to be thinking very hard. “Mishpocha… family?” Her tone was puzzled, but also seemed as if she might be halfway remembering something she had forgotten a long time ago.
“There’s no way! You can’t be!?” She exclaimed in a slightly panicky voice, “That was all make believe, we had to move because of all of that. Mom and Dad thought I was going crazy. You’re lying!” This last part was said in an angry and unbelieving tone.
“What is going on? Malka, I think we should take everyone and leave.” What I thought was a great idea was completely ignored by both the girl I thought of as my queen and the man who was upsetting her. It was as if I wasn’t even there.
“Why is it so hard to believe bubbala? It was your belief so long ago that made us real. Long ago it took so much time and effort to make any sort of golem, and they had no life or true personalities such as we do. Every once in a long while someone like you would come along, though, someone who could give us true life. It took us so long to find you, please don’t leave now. We may have life, but it has no meaning without our Queen.” The way he said Queen left no doubts that he meant it in a much more literal sense than any of our friends ever did. “Even your name means Queen, Malka. You know that you are meant for this, as did your zeyda. He taught you the old ways for a reason. Don’t turn your back on him, and us, again.” The man’s eyes were almost hypnotic, his tone low and calm. I found his argument so compelling that I almost wanted to agree with him myself, but I also found that I couldn’t intrude on this moment.
Maybe I was drunk on Malka, or maybe my lust was more powerful than whatever was going on. I found that my desire to look at Malka and tell her what I, her current favorite, thought about the situation overcame the drowsy pull of the lop-sided man’s words. As soon as I was looking at her face the spell was broken for me. Her face seemed calm and she was very still, but her hand was clasped tightly enough around her locket to turn white. I didn’t know what to do or even if I should do anything until I saw a tear slowly ran down her face.
I had never seen Malka cry, or even seen any evidence that she had the ability to cry. My love as her longtime friend and loyal subject spurred me into anger that anyone would hurt her in any way. I grabbed Malka by the arm and spun her towards me. Shaking her slightly I looked deep into her eyes and called her name. I had to get us out of there. I slid my hand down to hers and started pulling her towards the door, trying to herd our group of friends as well.
I felt her stop and pull against my arm and spun around, worried that I was going to have to fight the people for her. They hadn’t moved- she had stopped all on her own.
“I can’t leave them,” she told me in the gentlest voice I had ever heard come out of her mouth. My jaw dropped “WHAT? What are you talking about Malka? They are crazy we have to leave.”
“No. They’re mishpocha. I MADE them. They love me. I love them.” Her voice now had the same quality as the lopsided man- Low and hypnotic. I pulled at my hand in hers futilely and started to panic. I wasn’t trying to bring her anymore, I was just trying to make her let go of my hand but her grip just kept tightening. Now I swear I was still completely sober still- possibly even more sober thanks to the adrenaline rush- but this is where things get weirder.
Malka’s eyes got even darker and assumed all of the qualities I imagine black holes to have. Inexplicably dark and impossible to escape I couldn’t move my eyes from hers. Her drawn on smile started looking more real. Her face actually split along the seams she had drawn. I screamed louder than I had ever known I could and with all of my strength ripped my hand away from hers. The force was enough to break a few of my fingers. Turning around I found that while I had been transfixed by her eyes the group of odd people had circled around and taken hold of my friends.
I won’t lie, I screamed. At first I didn’t realize it was me; it sounded so high pitched and not at all like any noise I had ever made. More like some kind of computer generated scream than a real one. The people were… absorbing our friends. It was as if all of the life and realness of the people I had known for years was being sucked into the terrifying doll-folks.
I turned away from Malka but her hand shot out and grabbed mine again, crunching the already broken fingers painfully. Her grip was inhumanly tight. Her face was also becoming more inhuman by the second. I struggled, but I got weaker and weaker the longer I started into her eyes. “Don’t you want to stay with me? You know I am loyal in my own way. I wouldn’t forsake any of you. You might not be true mishpocha, but I could make you part of my family. You have always been happy to serve before, so now shouldn’t be any different.” There was something wrong with her logic, but my befuddled brain didn’t know what. Her fingernails had turned claw like and were digging into my skin hard enough that in a deep dark corner of my mind I knew I was bleeding but I couldn’t make myself care anymore. The world turned slowly gray as I gazed into her eyes. That same part of my mind that knew I was bleeding also noted with a clinical detachment that My Malka was no longer the slightly cruel but completely lovable young woman who had run my life for so many years now. She was something out of a video game or nightmare. Everything was getting darker and darker. I was slowly losing consciousness.
The doors suddenly burst open. The woman who had kissed Malka earlier swept in as if she owned the room. Then she saw Malka as she was now. Malka’s life sucking gaze shifted to her and I was able to also turn and see the slight surprise on the sylvan woman’s face. She bowed slightly. “I just thought all of you would like to know the mortal police are on their way here. It might not be advisable to burden yourself with unnecessary baggage.” This last was said with a hand gesture at me and my friends. As the woman bowed herself out Malka’s gaze turned to the lop-sided man. Apparently their relationship was already much deeper than anything I could imagine because she just nodded at him and he bowed and began to organize the other odd people. The black holes that had taken residence where her eyes used to be sucked my gaze back to her face. She tilted her head. “I had really hoped you might come with me. I had planned to keep you as my toy for quite a bit longer. Oh well. There will be others.” She kissed my forehead and I could feel my skin burning. Her hand released mine and I slowly sank to the ground, blackness again descending.
“Don’t forget about me, k?” Her voice was distant and unreal. I tried to tell her I wouldn’t-I couldn’t ever forget her, but I was already gone.
I came to myself weeks later. I had been restrained in a hospital for the entire time apparently raving like a madman. It was another week and a half before I was brought to this place for “the safety of myself and others”. The cops wouldn’t believe me that I hadn’t taken anything. They thought that my friends and I had been experimenting with some new kind of drug. It turns out I was the only one who survived and I had only barely survived.
The worst part about the week and a half before my transfer was when Malka’s parents came. She still hadn’t been found. I told them the same story I had told everyone. Their reaction was different than the cops, doctors, or the parents of the other kids, or my own parents. Malka’s mother had turned white as the sheets I was laying on and her father’s face seemed like it had turned to stone. I had never noticed how much Malka’s eyes were like his but I saw it now. All he said when I was done was “I see.” I never saw them again, and neither did anyone else. Apparently they packed all of their things and left the next day.
Lately I’ve been dreaming of Malka and the lopsided man. I haven’t told anyone yet because I know it will just put me back under 24 hour surveillance. I’m writing this in the hopes that when I’m found dead or missing someone might finally believe me.
Don’t trust the doll people. Don’t trust the doll people. Don’t trust the doll people. Don’t trust the doll people. Don’t trust the doll people. Don’t trust
Bio: Cleo Holmes lives in the southeast desert of New Mexico with her husband and an already out of womb child as well as one still baking. When she isn’t battling scorpions, or chasing down her toddler and his dog, she is attempting to fit in a writing career.