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"THOMAS, I have a surprise for you."

Tommy sprinted down the stairs as fast as his little legs could take him, his heart throbbing with excitement. His father hadn't talked to him at all since his mother had passed away just a month before, so he was beyond elated to hear his father address him again.

"Hi, daddy," Tommy smiled big.

His father was leaning against the kitchen wall, his body tall in comparison to Tommy's short, seven-year old frame.

It was evident that his father had grown a black, wispy beard since he had last saw him. His once caring parent had spent all of his time isolated in their basement when he wasn't working, making it known that it would be a bad choice for his child to disturb him while he was down there. This left Tommy to fend for himself, which of course, resulted in a rather malnourished and lonely child.

His father pushed a wrapped box out to his son, and Tommy didn't hesitate to rip the colourful paper off. When a white box was revealed, he slowly took the top off.

"What's that?" he asked quietly, staring inside.

His father's eyes were hard and observant.

"Why, it's a friend for you. Take it out."

Tommy's eyebrows furrowed as he reached in and pulled a puppet out. It was a wooden doll with a clown face painted onto it, clad in a vibrant pantsuit. Circles of red were painted beneath its beady eyes, making the seven year old laugh.

"Daddy, this is a doll! I don't play with dolls," Tommy squealed in amusement.

He heard the sound of something cracking. He looked over to find that his father had cracked the top of the poorly-made wooden chair he was leaning on, all as he let out a bout of mock-laughter.

"What did you just say?"

Tommy giggled nervously with him, throwing his hands in the air. "It's... It's just a stupid doll! I don't play with-"

Tommy yelped when his father's strong fingers unexpectedly locked around his skinny wrist, and he looked up to see a hateful glare lacing through eyes that were once filled with love and warmth. He began to shake rapidly, his vision fixing on the cracked chair again.

"It's not a doll," his father spat through gritted teeth, and Tommy continued to quiver. He wasn't at all used to this sort of behaviour from his parent.

"Daddy-"

"It's not a doll!" he repeated, tightening his grip.

"I'm sorry-"

"Get downstairs!" his father screamed so loud, the small house practically trembled.

Tommy shook his head desperately. "Daddy, please," he whined, but his father grabbed him and shoved him in the direction of the basement, dropping the clown puppet to the ground accidentally.

"Oh, I am so sorry, are you alright?" Tommy heard his father apologize to the doll before gently picking it up and sitting it back on the table.

Tommy knew for sure puppets weren't real, so he didn't understand why his daddy was talking to it.

The seven year old took advantage of his father's distraction. He tried to run, but it was too late, as the grip on his arm tightened and he was yanked harshly onto the ground.

"Daddy, I'm sorry! I'll play with the puppet!" he cried hopelessly.

His father swung the basement door open and dragged his son down the stairs.

Tommy glanced around the basement through bleary, tear-filled eyes, noticing how much it had changed since the last time he was down there. It was once a room where his mommy had gone when she would do laundry - he knew because he would always sit on the dryer and help her fold the warm clothes.

He noticed that his father had made it smell dirty, and there were props ranging from all different colours and sizes pressed against the walls and laying on the washing machine. On the long table set up in the center, just below a flickering light, paint trays and brushes were scattered around. There were also piles of wood logs stacked beside it and there were sharp saws as well.

"You are bad, Thomas. Your mother would be quite disappointed," his father taunted while sitting him roughly in a wobbly chair. "Do you want to know what will happen if you try to stand up?"

Tommy shook his head in response to the threat, his little fingers flying up to wipe the tears from his flushed cheeks.

His father walked over to a darker side of the basement and his figure disappeared. Tommy trusted his parent; he knew there was no way he would do anything bad to him. He was only in a bad mood, he would surely get over it soon.

Tommy's heart raced in his throat, it was all he could hear when he noticed his father holding a rope. Tears began to fly from his eyes. "Daddy, please... I love you so much.. please!" he begged.

His father chuckled, a dark glint in his eyes. "Relax, boy. I'm not going to hurt you."

He wrapped the rope around his son's body, and tying him securely to the chair. Tommy closed his eyes and sniffled, feeling his father's fingers tremble against his skin as he tightened the knot.

"Daddy?"

"They are going to love you," his father praised from behind him.

"Who's going to love me?"

"Oh, they're just going to adore you!"

Tommy hung his head low, wondering what his father was planning to do. He wasn't all that scared, he really trusted that his dad wouldn't hurt him purposely. Memories of his mommy and daddy pulling him into a tight hug flooded his mind, and his lips tilted into a smile. His chest felt warm and fuzzy.

Tommy's eyes began to tear when a terrible odor suddenly invaded his senses. He slowly looked up, finding a puppet that looked exactly like a human being, hanging by ropes. Tommy knew it couldn't have been an actual human; its skin was discoloured and its cloudy eyes never blinked. There was also makeup painted on its face, so it was definitely a puppet.

But what was that God awful smell that came from it?

"You did a good job on that one, daddy! It looks real!" Tommy complimented, trying not to gag from the nauseating stench.

"Why, thank you, Thomas," his father smiled a genuine smile as he knelt in front of his young son.

Tommy jolted when a cold substance touched his face, and he strained his eyes to find that his father had been painting his face.

"What are you doing, Daddy?" he asked innocently, but his father did not answer.

Instead he grinned, his yellowing teeth noticeable even in the weak lighting of the basement as he focused on nimbly gliding the brush along his child's face.

"You are going to be a beautiful puppet."

_

A.N

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