The Laughing Game (warning: potentially sensitive material)
This story has already been up on my deviant art account, but I've edited it a little to put on here. It's 4,092 words, which seems a little long for stuff on here, but, erm, I don't have anything else I feel like sharing and I really like how it turned out. So thanks.
The Laughing Game
Sofia sat on the edge of her bed and stared at herself in the mirror. Stringy straw blond hair hung around her slender, pale face. There were dark circles under her empty blue eyes. She rested a hand atop her flat stomach. She closed her eyes, then started to cry. The hot tears streamed down her cheeks, dripping off her chin onto the soft, flowered top her boyfriend had bought her. It covered her thin body, had a high waist line. So that when her stomach got bigger and filled it out, no one would see.
She turned away from the mirror, and turned to her bed and hid her face in the pillow, sobbing so loud she was sure her brother heard her down the hall. Please, don't let him come in here. No such luck.
"Sofie, you okay?"
"Go away, Ricky!" She cried.
"Sofie," He said. He pushed the door open, looking in. "Sofie, what's wrong?"
"Go away, Ricky!" She said, throwing one of the blue converses she had been wearing at him. He ducked away and shut the door, sitting on the edge of her bed.
"Sofie, you can tell me anything, you know that."
She sniffled and sat up, looking over at her older brother. He was nineteen, he was smart. He would know what to do, right? "It's Danny," She said.
He frowned. "Danny? Has that boy hurt you, Sofie?"
"No, no," She said quickly. "Ricky..." She swallowed hard. "I'm pregnant."
"Pregnant!" He repeated loudly.
"Shh!" She said. "I don't want Mom and Dad to know!"
"What are you going to do, Sofie?"
"I don't know," Sofia said, starting to cry.
He hugged her close, stroking her hair. "Shh, it's okay, Sofie. I'm gonna help you, okay? Do you want to have the baby?"
She swallowed hard. "I- I dunno."
"Sofie, if you have it, you have to tell Mom and Dad."
The sixteen-year-old nodded slightly to show she understood. "I don't want them to know."
"Alright, Sofie," Ricky said. "Then you know what you have to do."
She bit her lower lip and nodded. "I know, Ricky, but I-"
"I'll come with you, Sofie."
She sighed and looked down at her stomach. "I can't believe I'm gonna do this. I can't just... kill my baby."
"Do you want to keep your baby?" Ricky asked.
She shook her head. "No."
"Do you want to put it up for adoption?" Ricky asked.
She shook her head. "No."
"Then Sofie," Ricky said. "You have to get an abortion."
She nodded slowly.
"I'll take you, Sofie, I'll hold your hand. And I'll talk some sense into your boyfriend, too."
"No, don't," She said quickly. "He's fine, Ricky. Danny's fine."
"Does he want you to get an abortion?" Ricky asked.
"No," She said. "He wants to get married and raise our family."
"Is that what you want?"
"Then you have to talk to him, Sofia."
"I know," She said. "I know, but-"
"But what, Sofie?"
"But I'm scared he's going to leave me."
"Do you love him?" Ricky asked.
She nodded. "Yes."
"Does he love you?" Ricky asked.
She nodded. "Yes."
"Then Sofie," Ricky said. "You have to talk to him."
She sighed. "Alright, Ricky. I'll talk to him."
Ricky kissed her hair and held her close. "Shh... Sofie, you're okay. You're going to be okay. One day this will all be a bad memory."
"I know you're right, Ricky, but my baby-"
"You can't give this baby a good life," Ricky said.
"You don't want to tell Mom and Dad, do you? Do you think they'll let you stay with Danny if they know you've been having sex?"
"No, they won't," Sofie said. "But I love him. And they can't stop me!"
"They can, I'm afraid," Ricky said. "You're a minor."
"I'll get emancipated!" She said.
"You really want to cut off all ties with them?"
"No," She said with a sigh.
"Wait two years, Sofie, you and Danny just wait two years. Then you can move in together and start a family."
She looked up at Ricky. "You promise not to tell them?"
"I promise, Sofie."
"Swear on your life?"
"Yes, Sofie, I swear, I won't tell them anything you don't want me to tell them. You can trust me. Tell me anything."
She managed a smile, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. "Thank you, Ricky. You can tell me anything, too."
He smiled gently and ruffled her hair. "Gotta take care of my little sister."
"I'm going to be fine," Sofie said. "Thanks to you."
"That's the spirit," Ricky said. He got up and headed for the door. "I'll take you down when you're ready, okay?"
"Yeah, okay, thanks," She said. Then, when Ricky was almost out the door, she spoke again. "Hey Ricky?"
"Yeah, Sofie?" He asked as he turned to look at his little sister sitting on her bed, sinking into the rose colored covers.
"Have you ever gotten your girlfriend pregnant?"
Sofie squeezed her brother's hand as they walked out of the clinic. "I can't believe we did that," She gasped.
"Shush, Sofie, it's okay," He murmured. "You're going to be okay."
The teen nodded slightly. "I guess so," She breathed.
"You're going to be okay," He said again.
"I'm going to be okay," She repeated. Then she let go of his hand. "Hey, uh, Ricky, there's this party I wanted to go to with Danny..."
"Go," He said.
"Thank you!" Sofie said.
"If you're sure it's a good idea."
"It's a good idea," She said.
"He's not going to-"
"No, we're not going to have sex," She said.
"Are you sure?" He asked.
"Yes," She said. "I really don't want to after-"
"Okay. If he tries anything-"
"Don't worry," She said. "He's a good kid. I love him."
"I'm your brother," Ricky said. "That's my job."
"Well I can take care of myself!" She insisted.
He frowned. "You didn't this time."
Sofie looked away. "I know."
"Promise me you'll use protection next time," He said.
Sofie looked up at Ricky. "I promise," She said.
Ricky smiled gently at her and nodded. "Alright." He took her hand. "Come on, Sofie, lets get you home and dressed for that party."
Sofie pulled at her baby doll dress. She wore deep blue jeans, a baby blue dress and a long sleeved white shirt. Her shoes were the light blue converses she'd thrown at Ricky earlier today. He helped her put her hair into two braids that reached her shoulder blades, tied with thin strands of ribbon.
She looked over at Danny, then up at the warehouse. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" She asked.
"I'm sure," Danny said. He took her hand and led her inside. The music was pumping and pounding, the lights pulsing. People were jumping, light colors everywhere. This wasn't the kind of party she was used to.
"Danny?" She asked.
"Take this," He said, offering her the pill.
"What is it?" She asked.
"Does it matter?"
She looked into his dreamy green eyes. What if her baby had those eyes? "No," She said. Sofia took the pill, swallowing quickly.
He smiled and kissed her lips gently; tasting the strawberry lip gloss she wore just for him. "I must be the luckiest guy in the world."
"Listen, Danny, about the baby, maybe we could-"
"Less talking," He said, grabbing her hands and pulling her into the crowd. "More dancing!"
She let herself be carried away by the music and the lights and the crowd, jumping and spinning and she was laughing and it felt so good. She forgot all about everything, about Danny and the baby and having to- to-
Oh God! Where was Danny? She couldn't find Danny! Here she was thinking about abortions and Danny wasn't there.
Sofie started to push through the crowd, shoving them away. "Danny? Danny?" She called. She shoved people out of the way, searching for him, but he was nowhere to be found.
"Danny?" The crowd was thinning out, but the room seemed to go on forever. She kept walking, venturing away from the group. Then he turned away and looked back at the group. They looked so far away. The music was so quiet. She looked back into the darkness. Where was Danny?
Slowly she ventured further. "Danny?" Her foot stepped in something wet. It soaked her entire shoe in a few seconds.
"Ew!" Sofie squeaked, wiping her foot off on… that was odd. Why was there a towel rack hanging off that tree? Why was there a tree?
She looked around. When had the music gotten too quiet for her to hear? Sofie looked up at the tall branches, stretching into the black sky. "Where am I?" She asked.
"Wonderland," A voice said.
She turned, gasping. "What are you?"
"Me?" The creature laughed. "I'm a friend." It was nearly twice as tall as any person she'd seen, but thinner than one of her arms. Its limbs were long and spindly, its fingers – all twelve of its fingers, six to each hand – curled around one of her arms. The eyes… they were twice as big as its head, wide and dark and staring right into her soul.
"A friend?" She asked with a gasp, mouth agape. "Is this really Wonderland?"
The creature grinned. "It's wherever you want it to be."
"I want it to be with Danny," She said with a pout.
"Danny," The creature's smile widened. It looked like its head was about was going to fall off at the jaw. "I know where Danny is." It turned away and started to walk through the trees. "Follow me."
"Where is Danny?" Sofie asked as they ventured further into the woods.
"Far away, far away," The creature told her.
"Where are we going?"
"To find Danny," The creature said.
"How do you know where Danny is?"
The creature looked down at her. "Do you know who Danny is?"
"Do you really know who he is?"
They came upon a door and the creature bowed. "Take a look, Sofie."
"How do you know my name?"
"Take a look," The creature said again.
Sofie approached the door and slowly opened it. A bright yellow light flooded her face and slowly she stepped inside. The door clanged shut behind her.
"Hey!" She flung herself against the door. "Let me out!" She turned around. The woods were gone. It was dark and empty.
"Hello?" Sofia called into the darkness. "Hello?"
As she walked in further she noticed a pool of water, a pond, with long reeds growing out of it and dangling trees. She cautiously stepped up onto a rock, looking into the water. It was clear, and very deep.
"Wow," Sofie breathed.
"Want to play a game?" A voice asked. She looked up to see a blue bird landing on the tree nearby.
"What kind of game?" She asked.
"It's called the laughing game!"
"How do you play?" Sofie asked curiously.
"It's easy," The bird said. "Just climb into the water and close your eyes, then open your mouth real wide and laugh!"
Sofie looked down at the water. She cautiously sat down, and started to lower herself in the water. When she did a sharp, cold pain spread over her. "Ah!" She gasped. "I don't like that! Stop it!" She tried to pull herself up onto the shore, but the water was sucking her down, down, down. Her head plunged under the water and Sofie opened her mouth to scream. Water flooded her mouth and she choked, coughing.
"Laugh, Sofie, laugh," The bird said.
The more she tried to laugh the more water filled her lungs. She coughed and choked and sputtered until a hand grabbed her wrist and dragged her up into the warm sunlight. She flopped against a warm, dark rock. Her eyes opened to stare up at the light blue sky.
Who had pulled her out of the water? She looked around. The pain was gone.
"Who?" She asked the warm spring day.
"Would you like a cookie?" A voice asked.
Sofie looked at the voice. "Mom!" She gasped. She flung her arms around the woman hard enough to fling the cookies from her hands. "Mom, I'm sorry," She said.
"It's alright sweetie," Her mother said. "Just spread your wings and fly."
Sofie pulled back. "I don't have any wings," She said, laughing. Then she saw what was stretching from her mother's back. "Mom," She breathed. "You have…"
Her mother laughed. "Look in the water. So do you."
Sofie looked down into the water. There they were: two big butterfly wings stretching from her back. She flapped them experimentally then looked up to see her mother rising above her.
"Come on, Sofie," She was saying. "Lets get going."
Sofie smiled and flapped her wings, following her mother into the rich blue sky.
"Where are we going?" Sofie asked. Her mother laughed, long hair flowing in the wind as they flew higher and higher.
"Away," Her mother said. "Far away."
Sofie was so busy laughing that she didn't notice the giant until it had grabbed her mother, nearly crushing her wings.
"Mom!" Sofie yelled.
The giant was an ugly thing, as big as a tree and four times as large around. His face was ruddy, his eyes small and beady, and his nose too long. He looked like a great rat to her. His face lightened as he saw what he had in his hand.
"I can make you go to heaven," He told her mother. "Paradise." His voice made the ground shake and Sofie nearly fell to the ground from the wind coming out of his mouth.
"No, Mom, don't," Sofie begged, but she wasn't listening.
"Paradise?" The woman breathed. "Take me there."
"Mom!" Sofie screamed as she watched the giant fling her mother into the sky. She watched helplessly as her mother stretched her wings to fly but they melted off her back and she went crashing down. She watched her mother fall into the sea. Sofie tried to dive after her, but the giant grabbed her.
"I can make you go to heaven," He told her. "Paradise." Something about his words was strangely alluring, and she almost agreed before she saw the sea bellow and shoved back against him, kicking and screaming.
"No!" Sofie yelled. "Let go! You killed her!"
"I sent her to heaven," The giant said. "Would you like to join her?" That sounded so nice. So very nice.
"No!" Sofie screamed. "Let me go! I have to save her!"
"If you're not going," The giant said. "You can stay with me. We could play a game." Yes, a game sounded nice. So nice.
"What kind of game?" She asked suspiciously. She was trying so hard to resist, but his hand was so much bigger than her she couldn't push back.
"The laughing game," The giant said.
Sofie went limp in his big hand. "Yes," She breathed. "That sounds nice."
"First you gotta go underwater with your mommy," The giant said.
"Okay," Sofie said. She laughed as the giant threw her in the air. Her wings ached, she could feel them melting off her back. The more that melted the more it hurt. She screamed, trying to flap her wings and fly but the more she did the more it hurt and the more of her wings fell off. When it was all gone she started to fall. Screaming, screaming, Sofie crashed into the sea.
Everything was blue-green and dark, the murky depths deep beneath her. She twisted, trying to break her head out of the water, but somehow she could never get high enough. She was sinking, sinking into the darkness.
"Laugh, Sofie," A voice said nearby. She looked to see a little fish swimming around her. "If you laugh it won't hurt any more."
Sofie shook her head no.
"Laugh, Sofie," The fish said again.
Sofie shook her head again.
"Your mother laughed," The fish said. "She was good at the laughing game."
Sofie felt her eyes burn with tears. Laughing, she realized, would drown her. She shook her head a third time. She couldn't laugh, she wanted to live.
"Your mother was a good laugher," The fish said.
"Go away!" Sofie screamed.
Screaming didn't hurt under water, only laughing did. She sank deeper, deeper, deeper into the cold water until it was all black. She was starting to grow bored of this when she saw a light in the deep darkness. She started to swim toward the light. It was a door. Sofie swam around the glowing door. There was nothing on either side. She looked at it curiously then pulled it open. Inside was a cozy living room, so she stepped inside and shut the door behind her.
Sofie was standing in a Victorian room, decorated and cleaned very particularly, every last thread was so clean. She was just trying to shake herself off and get a little dry when a young woman about her age came in.
"Oh, oh Miss Sofia! My dear! You are a mess!" The maid said. She grabbed her hands, pulling her to the door. "Oh come, come, let us get you all cleaned up before your grandmother sees."
"Oh, no, I'm afraid you've gotten me mistaken for someone else," Sofie said as she was dragged into a bedroom and the maid started to undress her.
"Don't be silly," The maid said. She pulled off Sofie's clothes before she could finish protesting and dressed her just as quickly. She forced her into a white shift dress and a corset and so many layers of petticoats that Sofie felt she would die of the heat. Finally the last layer went on, a deep burgundy dress that ballooned around her skirts and covered up the rest of her quite modestly.
"Is all this really necessary?" Sofie asked.
"Well of course Miss Sofia," The maid said. "Come on, then, wouldn't want to keep your grandmother waiting, would we?"
"Uh… no, I suppose not," Sofie said.
"I suppose not, I suppose not, indeed," The maid chirped.
Sofie sat at the table and waited nervously for something to happen. She tried to leave, but every time she did the maid returned her to the table. Finally the double doors opened and an older Victorian woman walked in. She wore a green dress similar to Sofie's, her brown hair pulled up, graying slightly. Her face seemed to belong to her grandmother, but her body was taller and thinner and much more elegant than the short pudgy woman Sofie had known.
"Sofia," The woman said as she sat down.
"Hello," Sofie said.
"Tea?" Her grandmother asked, pouring a cup for Sofie.
"Yes please," She said. She watched her grandmother pour the amber colored tea in her cup, then her own.
Sofie glanced at her then took a sip. "Grandmother," Sofie started.
"Yes?" Her grandmother asked.
"You're dead," Sofie said.
"Am not," Her grandmother said.
"Am not, am not, indeed," The maid echoed.
"You are," Sofie said. "You are, I saw your funeral."
"Am not," Her grandmother said.
"Am not, am not, indeed," The maid said again.
Sofie looked at her grandmother, then at the maid. Her eyes widened. "You're dead too!" She said. "I saw you on the news; you're the girl they found in the sewer!"
"I am not!" The maid protested.
"Am not, am not, indeed," Her grandmother said.
Sofie got up quickly. "I have to get out of here!"
"Sit down," Her grandmother said.
Sofie ran, bursting through the doors and into a hallway. She looked around then picked a direction, running away from the dining room.
"Get back here!" Her grandmother yelled.
Sofie ran past the living room, past a molding bathroom, and through the kitchen. In the kitchen, on the counter, lay the body of an unmistakable man: her father. She screamed and ran through the doors on the other side, into a nursery. The wood of everything was dark, the fabrics all pink and white. In the cradle there was an infant swaddled in cloth. Sofie leaned over and looked down at the baby girl. She was small, with pale blond hair and light blue eyes. Sofie backed up suddenly, gasping. This little girl, this baby, it was hers.
"No!" She screamed, turning to run, but her father was standing in the doorway.
"Don't go, Sofie, don't go. Take care of your baby," He said.
"Dad," She sobbed. "Please let me go. I don't want this baby, please, I don't want this baby."
"You had this baby, you had this baby, indeed," He said.
Sofie looked back at the crib and sobbed, shaking her head and crossing her arms over her chest. "No," She said. "It can't be, I-"
"You killed this baby," He said. "You killed her."
"Indeed, indeed," The maid said from behind him. When Sofie looked at her she saw the cuts and scrapes she remembered from this woman's body spreading all over her face.
"I didn't kill her," Sofie said. "I never wanted her!"
"She'll never grow up into a little girl. She'll never become a teenager," Her father said.
Sofie screamed and dove out the window and into the garden. As she fell she seemed to get smaller and smaller, shrinking down until the flowers seemed to be a great forest of trees. Sofie flung herself down into the dirt and cried and cried and cried until a voice interrupted her.
"Don't cry, Sofie," The voice said.
Sofie looked up and rubbed her eyes. "Who are you?"
"Take a look," The voice said.
Sofie looked. It was the creature she had met in the forest. "You," She gasped.
"You learned something?" The creature asked.
"I want to get out of here," Sofie said.
"Alright," The creature said. It started walking, and she got up quickly and chased after it into the forest. "What did you learn, Sofie?"
"I don't want to play any more games," Sofie said. "I want to go home."
"I thought you wanted to find Danny," The creature said bitingly.
"Danny," Sofie repeated. She'd forgotten about Danny. "Do you know where Danny is?"
The creature nodded. "I do," It said.
"Take me to Danny," She begged.
"Alright," The creature said. It led her through the woods until they finally reached a wide, clear river.
"Where's Danny?" Sofie asked, looking around.
One of the long, slender fingers pointed into the water. Sofie looked down and gasped when she saw Danny standing on the bottom and looking up. He grinned and waved at her.
"Danny," Sofie said. She got down on her hands and knees, leaning over the water. "Danny, come up here, I miss you."
"Come down here," Danny said. "It's warm."
Sofie touched the water with her finger. It was ice cold. "The water's cold," She said.
"The water's warm!" Danny said, and it was. "Come down here, Sofie," He said. "Let's play a game."
"What game?" She asked suspiciously.
"Do you know the laughing game?"
"I don't want to play that game!" Sofie said.
"Yes you do," Danny said. "Come down here and play with me, it won't hurt."
Sofie looked down at him. "You promise?"
"I would never lie to you," He said.
Sofie smiled and climbed into the water.
"You go first," He said. "Laugh, Sofie, laugh."
She opened her mouth and laughed and laughed and laughed. Sofie laughed until the water filled her mouth, laughed until it filled her lungs and there was no air left. She laughed until the world went dark and her body, filled with water, sank down to the bottom of the river.
They found it when the waves washed her to the edge of the stream. The entire family arrived to see if it was her. And Danny came too.
"How could you do this?" Ricky accused Danny.
"What?" Danny asked, shocked by his accusation. "What are you talking about?"
"You gave her drugs or something! You killed her!" Ricky snapped.
"No," Danny said. "It wasn't really drugs. I- I wanted to see if she'd do anything I said so I offered her mints to see if she'd take 'em, thinking they're drugs."
"You what?" Ricky asked.
"I didn't give her more than a breath mint," Danny said. "Swear to God." He showed him the pills he'd offered her. "See?" Danny looked at the body they'd found. "Whatever made Sofie do that… it wasn't me."