The cobblestone streets are bustling with the midday crowd. With women in silhouette dresses and tricorn hats and men dressed with tights and knee coats, Little Marlow is covered in tattered rags and sacks. At just the age of ten, she is keeping her distance from the orphanage that is run by an evil, cruel couple who just don’t care as long as they get paid for their “street-life cleanings” by the royalty. With little words she knows besides common talk in the streets with batterers and traders, Marlow doesn’t know much or talk a lot as she lives in a wooden crate down in a cold, wet, back alley.
With brown matted hair and her face flushed, she is desperate for food as hunger grows. Creeping along the stone building edges, she rides along the walls away from the busy crowd and makes her way down to the town’s market.
A man's voice rang out in the crowd with people gathered around. As pale little Marlow walks in between the crowd, the man calls in a sound like a circus announcer, “come one, come all, gather in flocks, for I have to tell you about my storybox.”
Little Marlow made her way to the front to see the peddling man who is quite strange. Suited up very tall with toothpick legs, his face grey in color and eyes black with a top hat covering hair thin and sparse. His long fingers hold a small wooden box in his hands. He looks around as he “sells” his storybox.
“Here in my hand is what is called a storybox. It tells a story like never before and shows scenery unlike any other. Give it a name, it’ll play it’s game. A story name is all it needs and it will be.”
He shouts out a story name above the bumbling crowd, “Little Red Riding Hood!”
The storybox started to open and he placed it on the ground sliding away from it. Little pieces came out of it and started to move around as the top of the box flopped up and showed a forest.
People started shouting, “It’s Little Red Riding Hood” and “there’s the Wolf”.
The peddling man shouted again, “close the box” and the crowd went hush as the box began to fold back in.
He called out many more stories after. Cinderella, Jack and The Beanstalk, Hansel and Grettle anything you could think of, it was there.
The tall, grey man then asked, “after all that you have seen and witnessed, who is willing to pay just a biscuit?”
The crowd just swarmed him holding up bags and wads of paper and coins. Little Marlow just sat there looking at the story box as people passed by. The peddling man saw Marlow and picked up his storybox as people were still crowding around him. He called out to Marlow.
“Little girl, little girl, little girl who looks low on glories. Do you want this box for free filled with fairy tale stories?”
His long open smile and rotting teeth grew as he stared just feet from her face holding the storybox a short distance away. Marlow gave a smile and said, “mister, mister, I’d be glad to have your box free. Never once did anyone else do such a thing for me.”
“Ah” said the peddling man, “is that so?...”
He said to her one thing and Marlow listened carefully as the crowd started to cry in agony to him giving the box away, “don’t use it at night past ten or bad things just might happen.” He gave an odd smile for some unknown reason.
“Like what?” Marlow asked.
“Oh young naive child,” the peddling man said, patting her brown haired head, “I never tried such a thing that would be so wild.”
The peddling man then slithered away from the crowd as the people entrapped Marlow and he walked away with a tip of the hat.
Little Marlow watches seven dwarves with delight, she then decides it’s time to sleep for the night. The town crier called out, “nine o’clock, nine o’clock!” making his rounds through the night one last time. Marlow closed the box and placed it inside her crate as she held it tight, having just old papers she stitched together to blanket her and the storybox.
Awoken by a stray cat licking her face, Marlow gets out of her crate and uncovers her storybox showing it to the stray cat she seemed to already befriend. Placing it atop of the crate, she holds onto the weather-roughed cat and says, “storybox, show me and my new kitty the story…” she thought for a bit, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.”
The box opened and a little figurine of a man with a tall hat and a flute came about and small little notes played. Marlow thought the cat would enjoy it when it saw the “rats” following the Piper to the “river”. The cat and Marlow listened to the flutes notes and the Piper went back and forth playing the same sound for a bit, but no rats followed. Marlow, confused by it, refocused her attention to more characters coming out of the box. Little children circled around the Piper and followed him instead.
“That’s not how the story goes,” Marlow said to the cat. She watched as the scenery from a city turned to forest with a river. The notes from the flute started to get whiny. High pitched and ringing, she covered her ears as the cat began to run away from the deafening pitch. Her eyes still watching, Piper stopped playing and held the flute in one hand. Few kids ran back and disappeared in the box, but the others stayed near the Piper.
With a raise of his flute-handed fist, he whacked a kid on the head and the other children ran away, but few escaped. The Piper’s arms extended at extreme lengths and grabbed the heads of children, lifted them up as they screamed and whipped them to the ground repeatedly until they stopped screaming. Marlow disturbed and without a peep during the brutal killings she finally gave a scream.
It did not though.
She said it again, but the Pied Piper was still chucking the kids around as a maniacal laugh was coming from the box. The Piper broke the children off the box and tossed them out towards Marlow. Still laughing, Marlow reached over to the box pressed against the top of it and pushed it down.
It wouldn’t budge.
She then picked it up and chucked it against the stone wall trying to break it, but the wooden box would not suffer a scratch.
She pleaded many times in stress, fear and agony with tears, “please storybox, close. Just close.”
The maniacal laughing stopped and it was quiet. Silence filled the air as Marlow’s tears started to dry up. The box was still open with little wooden children figurines broken and snapped in and out of the box with the Piper holding a child’s torn head next to his open mouth.
In the midst of her staring. Fast ringing sounds came about. In real life though. It didn’t come from the storybox. She looked down the alley to see a man in a tall hat and dark suit playing a flute walking by.
Not even a pin drop could make a sound. Marlow waited with big eyes wondering who it was and why they looked like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The ringing came back from the flute and the man went back passing down the alley entrance again vigorously playing his flute as he carried a dead cat, the same one that Marlow met just a few minutes ago, on top of his tall hat.
The flute stopped playing.
She couldn’t hear anything else, not even her breath. She just stared down the alley opening to see if the man would pass by again. It’s been long seconds for her, but she saw and heard nothing.
Still on edge, she stayed in a place where she was safe.
In attention, she was greeted from silence with a whirlwind of flute notes next to her ear. She screamed bloody murder as her screeches, cries and wails soared through the city streets and they stopped in a heartbeat.
The entire town was awoken and prowling around as the city guards ready with swords scavenged around. It took awhile, but one of the guards shouted and the townspeople dressed in night gowns and robes came running with candles and lanterns.
The body of Marlow was found in a pile of torn flesh and guts. With Marlow's bones broken and shattered, her blood was warm and steaming in the cool night air and the guards pushed the crowds back and told them to get back to bed. One of the guardsmen was poking around crates and boxes and he just stared up at the other guards confused by his finding. They asked the staring guard,
“What’s the matter?”
“Her…” he stuttered the words out disheartenedly, “her head is missing.”
Looking around, the guards were still corralling the people back as they looked for her head. A shorter guard scoured the ground to see broken wooden pieces and it led him to a box. The storybox that Marlow had. Another guard picked it up,
“He came back.”
Author Notes: It's been awhile since I last wrote something close to a horror story. I hope this was something different for you fine readers.