Chapter 4:

In the Aluminum Courtyard

The Gift That Keeps On Grieving


Colleen held the scalpel above her own head, before quickly thrusting it downward towards her self-made opening in Merry’s top. Merry quickly shut her eyes, tears and sweat running down both sides of her face like an uncontrollable waterfall. Her life flashed before her very eyes, she was certain that she was done for! And then…!

…Nothing?

Merry hesitantly opened her eyes, only to see that the scalpel was just barely touching her skin.

“Y’know, roomie, it’s getting kinda late,” Colleen beamed nonchalantly. “So I think we should just call it a day for now. Sleep well, Marisa! I promise we’ll have lots of fun tomorrow, OK?”

And just like that, Colleen stripped down right in-front of her helpless prisoner and climbed into bed. Merry lay there in silence as she stared across at her cellmate from Hell, all the while shaking her body in an attempt to break free from Colleen’s clutches. Why is this happening to me? Merry wondered. I don’t deserve this! I just want to go home!


***


December 3rd, second full day at Aluminum Pigeon Penitentiary…

After hours of pulling and struggling, Merry had finally managed to set herself free from the makeshift rope. By the time that she had managed to untie herself, it was already 5:10 AM, the time perfectly matching her cell number. A mere coincidence perhaps, or possibly a cruel joke from some twisted divine power? No, that’d be ridiculous, Merry told herself. If there was really such a thing as gods or deities, what reason would they have to make me suffer like this?

As she sat up on the bed, she examined her body – Her top had a large hole going down its center, her ‘one size fits all’ skirt was two sizes too small for her and her wrists were badly swollen and bloodied. In this state, some twisted individual could easily take advantage of poor Merry, and she’d be absolutely powerless to stop them. She turned her attention to Colleen, who was still fast-asleep in the bed adjacent to hers. Merry clenched her damaged hands as she stared daggers at the other woman, a mixture of fear and anger filling her mind. Even after everything that she had put Merry through, that sadomasochist still had the audacity to sleep so peacefully next to her helpless victim.

Merry couldn’t hold it in any longer. All of the pain and suffering that she had experienced since arriving in Aluminum Pigeon had gathered in the girl’s throat and was promptly thrown-up all over the cell floor.

“It’d be so easy to kill her while she sleeps,” Merry muttered to herself, “I could just wrap my scarf around Colleen’s pathetic neck, and pull it until she suffocates…”

Merry’s hands trembled as she held her scarf out in front of her. Like her wrists, Merry’s precious scarf –a gift from her mother– was covered in blood and badly damaged. She briefly considered doing the deed, but quickly perished the thought.

“…I can’t do it,” Merry sighed, wiping the remains of vomit away from her mouth. “I’m not a killer. I just… I just have to get away from this room.”


Chapter 4: In the Aluminum Courtyard


Merry slowly stepped towards the cell door, keeping her eyes fixated on Colleen the entire time. Once she was positive that her cellmate hadn’t heard her, she quietly opened the door and snuck out of the room.

“Phew.” Merry breathed a sigh of relief as she closed the door behind her, but that relief didn’t last long. “In about 4 hours from now, a warden will bang on the door to tell us that breakfast is ready. The second that Colleen notices that I’m not in there, she’ll probably search the entire prison looking for my sorry ass! If she catches me, I may as well be dead!”


Merry began walking away in search of a damn good place to hide. All the while she was constantly looking over her shoulder to make sure that Colleen wasn’t following her. Unfortunately, that meant that Merry wasn’t looking in front of her and—

BAM!

Merry fell to the ground. She could tell immediately that she had bumped into someone, and she was now in a very vulnerable position.

“Pl-please don’t hurt me,” Merry begged, her eyes shut and body shaking. “It was an a-accident, I swear! I’m really s-s-sorry!”

“Hey, hey! It’s OK,” a soft feminine voice assured her.

Merry slowly opened her eyes and saw an outstretched arm in front of her. The arm’s owner was a bespectacled girl who was wearing the prisoners’ uniform (although it looked much better on her than it did on Merry). She appeared to be of roughly the same age and height as Merry.

“Need a hand?” the other girl asked as she pulled Merry up to her feet.

“Agh,” Merry yelped as the mysterious noirette grabbed her broken wrists. “P-please let me go! M-my hands are…”

“Eek! I’m so sorry,” the girl apologized, taking a deep bow. “What happened? You look awful!”

“I-it’s nothing,” Merry tried to reassure her as she began to run off. “A-anyway, I have to go now! Don’t tell anyone that you s-saw me!”


***


8:15 AM. An hour from now, and Colleen would be wide awake and ready to tear Merry’s guts out. Merry sat on the cold, wet ground of the penitentiary’s courtyard, thoughts of her mortality invading her mind. Sooner or later, she’d find herself lying dead in a ditch. If Colleen didn’t end up killing her, it was only a matter of time before another inmate would. As the girl sat there absorbed in her dark thoughts, a voice echoed throughout the courtyard, snapping her back into reality.

“…Merry.”

A faint whisper in the distance. It almost sounded as if someone was calling out to her.

“…Merry,” the voice repeated, a little bit louder than before.

“Wh-who’s there?” Merry asked, slowly sitting up as she cautiously looked around for the origin of the voice. “I-is that you, Colleen? I’ve got a scarf, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

“Over here, Merry.” It sounded as if the voice was coming from the center of the courtyard, although Merry couldn’t see anyone nearby. “Look underneath the tree.”

Just like yesterday, there was nothing under the tree, save for a single lone Christmas gift, wrapped in blue and white and topped with a pink ribbon. As Merry walked over to the tree, something caught her attention.

To Marisa Christmas. From Dora. x

The tag on the present, it was addressed to Merry. But she didn’t know anybody named Dora. Curiously, she untied the ribbon, opening the lid slowly. Without warning, a bright light shined from inside the present, causing Merry to fall backwards, dropping the box in front of her.

“What was that?” she asked aloud. “Some kind of flashbang or something?”

Suddenly an ominous laughter surrounded the area as the sky darkened. Much to Merry’s disbelief, a clawed hand reached out from the present and grabbed her leg.

“Wh-what the… What the Hell‽”

“Well done, Merry,” a silhouetted figure cackled, emerging from the inexplainable gift box, “you opened Pandora’s Box!”

“P-Pandora’s Box‽” Merry exclaimed, the fear blatantly apparent in her voice. “There’s no freaking way‽”