“Oh for goodness sake, stop whining! DO something about it!”
Andrea’s tear-streaked face froze: she scrambled backwards on her bed, brown eyes wide, pressed herself into the corner and scanned the toy-strewn floor and sock-fountain drawers for the voice‘s owner.
“I shouted,” the voice said. “Sorry. But it’s so unfair. I get mad. Pam looks at you, so you pinch her. But who gets into trouble, eh? Does SHE? Ever?”
“Who are you?”
“I think your mother loves her more than you.”
Andrea reverted to weeping.
“There, there! Thing is, let’s do something about it.”
“Can I see you, please?”
The voice shifted to her giraffe. “No, silly, here!”
The cat at her feet chuckled.
She shrieked and jumped.
“I can move around,” said the monkey, “But the one I like most is — ”
Andrea knew before she heard:
She’d always found that doll creepy, with his bee-sting lips, long lashes and dimpled elbows. Even his blue eyes disgusted her.
“So, what do you think?”
“I hate her!”
“Your mum’s watching TV now, probably cuddling Pam. She won’t want to be disturbed. Here’s what we’ll do…”
“Mo-om!” Andrea called, thirty seconds later, “I want a drink of water.”
“Okay, quickly. And straight back to bed.”
Andrea ran the kitchen tap, and, under cover of the noise, retrieved a bottle of chocolate syrup.
Back upstairs, she got into her pyjamas, then sat Pete on her lap. “We had no honey. Who are you?”
“I live here, silly. Only I can’t go to school right now. I have pneumonia.”
“Why do I need chocolate sauce?”
“It’s what I did with my Pam. But only you can know.”
“You had a sister called Pam?”
“When she goes asleep, pour the sauce on her. I’ll get starving cockroaches to come. They’ll crawl inside her mouth and eat her alive.”
Andrea thought a moment; her brown eyes hardened. “Good!”
“I’ll go find the cockroaches.”
Pete fell silent.
Eventually, Mum brought Pam to bed.
Feigning sleep, Andrea watched through half-closed eyes.
Mum tucked Pam in, then came and stroked Andrea‘s hair.
“Andrea, darling,” she whispered, “You must realise: your sister’s only a baby.”
She kissed Andrea’s forehead.
“We love you both. Very much.”
Andrea lay still.
I’m six, she thought. I was first. You should love me most.
Mum turned on the night-light, then left. The door clicked, and the light immediately burned sickly green.
“The sauce ready?” asked Pete.
Andrea tiptoed out of bed and dribbled syrup onto Pam’s face. Pam flinched, but stayed asleep.
“Quick! Make a trail to the wardrobe.”
She could hear them now, inside, scurrying like crispy skin crackling. Suddenly, a river of fat bronze insects spewed out of the wardrobe.
“Yeah! Get her!” said Pete.
Andrea’s flesh crawled. And like a hammer blow, she suddenly realised what would happen to her sister. She gasped.
There was no response.
Her flesh clotted into goosebumps; she dropped the bottle and ran across the seething insects. They crunched horribly; her feet felt gluey, wet. Trying not to shriek, she picked up her sister.
“What’re you doing?” asked Pete.
Shivering, Andrea brushed five insects off her sister’s face and clothing. Pam woke, started to cry, but ceased on discovering the chocolate.
“It’s okay, Pammie, it’s okay!”
“She’s a nuisance. Get rid of her!”
Holding Pam, Andrea leaped towards the door, grabbed and turned the handle.
It wouldn’t budge.
Mummy had locked it? That wasn’t possible! The lock only worked THIS side!
“MUMMY!” She hammered the door.
The response came from four separate toys:
“She — ”
” — can’t — ”
” — hear — ”
” — you!”
Pete’s blue eyes gleamed contempt. The cockroaches gathered, leaving a semicircular clearing around her and Pete.
“Or this! BOO!”
She jumped. Pete giggled, then switched toys.
Andrea removed the chocolate-covered sleepsuit from her sister. The cockroaches clacked a little nearer.
“What’s the matter with you?” Pete said while she did this. “We won’t get caught. The adults just call it choking. Why should our sister be loved more than us?”
She blinked to show she was ignoring him, and tossed the garment into the corner opposite.
The insects immediately turned and scrambled onto it, devouring everything. Andrea watched, disgusted but fascinated, then spied the abandoned bottle of syrup.
Suddenly, she knew what to do. She placed Pam on her own bed, then bounded over and snatched the bottle.
“So you’ve seen sense?” asked Pete. “Good! Kill her!”
She gathered every toy, including Pete, together and squirted chocolate onto their mouths.
“What are you doing?”
She drew a line back to the writhing heap in the corner. Some cockroaches, she noticed, gagging, were devouring each other.
“Don’t do that!”
The cockroaches ran down the line like fire along a gunpowder trail; they consumed the toys’ faces, including Pete’s.
“Think this’ll stop me?” He giggled murderously.
With that, several of the cockroaches turned, and shot toward her.
“I told them you have the chocolate!”
Suddenly, they were crawling over her feet, up her legs.
She brushed frantically, and leaped onto her sister’s bed to give herself some respite. Some scuttled up her back, found the hand with the bottle, and bit.
Pain turned revulsion to hatred. She crushed them.
“Laugh at this!” she said.
She trampolined over to the feeding swarm, only to find — he’d gone.
He was somehow lying beside Pam. And cockroaches were approaching.
Not caring how he’d done it, Andrea snatched him, ripped off what remained of his head, squirted chocolate inside, and then into his body. The cockroaches swerved away from Pam, towards her.
“No!” he yelled.
She hurled Pete’s remains into the wardrobe, followed by the bottle.
“I live here!”
The cockroaches swooped in.
The wardrobe vibrated. Strange noises ensued, then silence.
“Not any more!” Andrea said. She picked Pam up, rocked her. “Me and my sister live here now, not you!”
“Really?” said her Winnie-the-Pooh slippers.
Roger, Lord Zeck writes speculative fiction. His work has appeared in, among other places, Alien Skin, 52Stitches, and will feature in a 2009 Shroud Magazine anthology.