1901

Louise could hear the murmurs through her bedroom door. It did not faze her. She continued to play with the dolls in her dollhouse. Her dollhouse was a three story with a spiral staircase, two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, and a play room. Lace curtains hung on the windows and miniature works of art were framed beside them. Most of the wallpaper was made of gold and all the furniture hand carved. A doll with blonde hair tied in a low pony tail and green eyes that wore a pink blouse with a high collar and a long white skirt was clenched tight in Louise’s hand as she walked up the staircase.

Often times, Louise grew bored of her dollhouse and left her room to investigate her home. She left her doll sitting in a comfy blue chair in the living room of it’s house and stood up to approach the door. As she turned the knob and pushed it open, the murmuring stopped. In front of her door was the hallway. It stretched in two directions: one straight ahead and one to the left. Both hallways had chandeliers hanging on the center that were lit, but not much light seemed to come from them. Tapestries decorated the walls, gorgeous imported runner rugs lined both halls. Portraits of people that looked similar to Louise hung beside the tapestries in carved frames. Louise usually explored the hallway straight ahead, but this time, she decided to learn what was behind the door at the end of the hallway on the left.

Louise stepped out of her room and shut the door behind her as something might assume it had permission to enter her bedroom and touch her toys. She straightened her long white dress and started down the left hall, peering into each room she passed. Most were empty, nothing but black could be seen behind half open doors. A few held dim light and a piece of furniture or a toy in the center. Louise never entered the black rooms, fearing what might really be in there. She once entered a dimly lit room and found that there was nothing but the item. If she picked it up, nothing happened. If she tried to create shadow puppets in the light, nothing happened. Not even a sound could be made if she stomped her black flats with the white bows against the floorboards. Nothing seemed to be able to exist in a room like this.

A bright light could be seen from under the door of the room at the end of the hall. Cautiously, Louise walked up to the door and got down on her knees to peek underneath. None of the doors in the house were shut except for this one. All she could see were different colors, yellow and pink and white, all blending together and moving throughout the air. Louise stood up and quickly opened the door, shutting it behind her. She could see more colors now. Blue and red and green were all twirling around the other colors, flying above her head. Louise laughed and chased the colors as they chased her back.

She soon noticed another door on the other side of the room. It was not attached to a wall, as there were no walls or even a ceiling in this room. Louise approached it, walking around the entire door that could somehow stand on it’s own. She was not sure if it had been there before, but when she turned in the direction she came from, the first door was gone. Maybe she was turned around, she thought, but this could not be as the door she came in from was a white door and this new door was a light pink door. As the colors continued to dance in streams above her head, Louise opened the new door and stepped inside.

The walls had carved images of birds and flowers along the edges and were painted a light shade of pink. Her dollhouse sat at the foot of her bed which had two wooden end tables on either side. A small cup of tea that Louise had forgot to finish drinking sat on one table. Her white sheets with pink flowers were still in a mess from the night before. She straightened her sheets and sat down on the floor to play with her dollhouse. She could hear the murmurs from the other side of her door. It did not faze her.

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Video Games

Something about the way he sat in front of the television day in and day out turned her stomach. Her little boy, nine years old, hadn’t spent more than three hours away from his games when you don’t include sleep. If he slept. He was so good at turning down the volume to just the right notch that his mother couldn’t hear the heads of bad guys being blown off or the constant cursing of the protagonist. Sometimes, though, she would stand in the doorway when he accidentally left it cracked and peak in at his game. Everything about it terrified her. His character, whom she could not see as the game was in first person, used a shotgun and spat swears every other word. Her little boy, on the floor, controller in hand, repeating them. “I’m gonna blow your mother fucking head off!” He’d whisper at the TV. What could she do? She tried to take his games away. He always found the place she hid them and took them back when she wasn’t around.

On his twelvth birthday, Daddy bought him four video games along with a new gaming system. It wasn’t the one that he wanted. “What the hell, Dad? I told you I wanted an XBox 1, not a damn PlayStation 4!”

“Don’t use those words,” he tells his son, who doesn’t listen. Everything mom and dad say goes in one ear and out the other. There’s no point scolding him anymore. No amount of trips to the psychologist or the guidance counselor will work. “He’ll grow out of it,” Mom tries to console her husband. “It’s just a phase.” She knows what has always been going on behind their son’s door, and what always will, but she keeps her hope. He storms upstairs to his room and hooks up his new system anyways. The old system stopped working two days ago, and he was starting to feel withdrawal. His hands shook when he went to bed at night and he experienced anxiety over every little thing. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t want anyone to know.

Christmas day, four years later, he locks himself in his room. His wireless controller has died five times. He plugs it in until it’s charged but he never stops playing. Nobody even knows what he’s playing anymore. “Honey,” his mother hesitates to try and speak to him. “We’re leaving your gift in front of your door. We think you’ll really love it. Goodnight.”

Most of the time his parents pretend to walk away so they can see his face again. This time they didn’t. He still waits until sometime around 3:00 A.M. the next day to open his door. A shoebox sized gift wrapped in blue paper with smiling snowmen on it sits in front of him. He looks around, picks it up, and shuts his door. He doesn’t expect to find what it’s contents are. An instructional packet, a small black earpiece, an adjustable headband, some strange circular pads with wires connected to them, and a long rectangular bar with cushion on one side all sit in the box. He picks up the instructional packet and thumbs though it, half reading the whole thing. By 6:00 A.M. he has it all set up. At 9:00 A.M. he is playing his video games while eating breakfast with his parents. There is no screen in front of him, except for the black bar across his eyes. “So, you like your gift?” Dad asks. “We figured it would be fun to have at lunch when you go back to school,” His son says nothing. He quickly eats his eggs and returns to his room. The next morning, his mother pours salt on his cereal. He doesn’t notice and scarfs it down. He even drinks all the milk.

It isn’t a holiday and a holiday neither has come or will come. Not because the calendar says so, but because he has been lying in bed in three days straight and they didn’t know until now. It wasn’t unusual for him to skip breakfast and dinner as they always kept snacks in the house and assumed he’d eat when he was hungry. He didn’t this time. But the starvation didn’t cause his death. He never even felt the tightness in his chest. His mother blames herself for convincing her husband to buy him that game and all the games before it. Her husband is relieved. They no longer carry the burden that was their son.