This story follows on from my previous poem The Tragedy of Gina the Jolly Fawn and also features Patty the Demon and The Mad Hatter; you can see the stories they’ve previously been featured in at the Recurring Character Index.
This story also contains some death, violence and references to alcohol.
‘I’m a Fawn!’ it cried out in a voice of delight, ‘and, dear me! you’re a human child!’ A sudden look of alarm came into its beautiful brown eyes, and in another moment it had darted away at full speed.
-Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
The first time I was happy in ages, and it was because I remembered something that doesn’t exist anymore.
That was my first thought of the day. That was what ran through my brain as I crawled out of bed towards the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Though I tried to shut it out, it kept repeating, louder and louder, until I took my first sip of the morning. Then it was replaced by another thought:
What am I?
I was supposed to be Gina the Jolly Fawn. That was how I was known for so many years. A carefree little sprite, running and laughing and playing through the forest. I sighed, shaking my head before I went to take a shower, even hoping such a thing would wash these problems away.
What am I? came the little voice in my head again. Who am I? I’m not Gina the Jolly Fawn, I inwardly said to myself, because I’m an adult doe. I’m not Gina the Jolly Fawn because I’m rarely jolly these days.
So I thought, am I just Gina then? Gina the deer? No, I’m not. Gina the deer hated humans. Gina hated how they hunted her, how they took away her home and parents, how they ruined her idyllic life.
I looked up at the shower head and couldn’t help but stare at it. A human thing. I hated humans yet I loved human things. I took showers like a human, drank coffee like a human, lived in a flat and held a job like a human.
I lived like a human back when I was Gina the Jolly Fawn. Then, I spoke like a human, played human games and heard human nursery rhymes.
So, I asked myself, was I still Gina the Jolly Fawn then, or at least Gina the Jolly Deer? Especially since I had made a human friend?
As I got out of my shower, got dressed and made my way towards my work, I then remembered that my human lifestyle was because of someone who wasn’t human at all. Not one of the other forest animals; they were too busy trying to help themselves to try and help me.
It was the Devil.
That was what I thought when I saw her at first. All I could do when I saw that figure with horns and a forked tail approach me was cover my face with my hooves, fall into the dirt and just cry. First the world takes away my home, I thought, then has people trying to turn me into veal, then sends Satan after me.
I only looked up when the demon put her hand on my shoulder.
When I looked up, she explained she wasn’t the Devil, just a devil, as if that would make it any better. The only reason I paid her any attention was because she said, ‘I want to help’ and I hadn’t heard anyone say that phrase to me in years.
‘Look,’ she said to me, ‘you don’t deserve to live like this. I watched your cartoon when I was young, in fact, still do from time to time.’ When I asked her what she meant about “cartoon”, she explained that my world sprung from the creation of an animated television show, and when the show ended, it, in her words, ‘began to rot’. That was apparently why most of my forest was torn down, that was why I lost my home and my parents, that was why I spent years hiding from humanity.
The demon, whose name was Patty, then told me she knew of a place where I could be safe, where talking animals could live a peaceful life. ‘I mean, look at me,’ she said, ‘I work in this supermarket, right, but no-one cares I’m a demon. I remember this one time I got into an argument with a customer; she said “You’re being very rude”, I said “Well, I am a demon” and she said “I don’t care if you’re the Archangel Gabriel, I want to see the manager!”’
When she said that, I felt a chill run down my spine. I remembered my friends, none of whom I had seen for so long. They would never talk about another person like that; whenever someone was sad or angry, they’d try to cheer up that someone with a song or a game. They wouldn’t argue.
Nonetheless, I accepted Patty’s offer; I suppose only because I had had enough of the alternative. Through her, I found a flat to live in, and she even helped me get a job at the supermarket she worked at. The people who shopped there never noticed me, which I admitted was a mercy.
That was the way it was on the day I remembered how I got there. I stocked the shelves quietly, no-one talking to me or acknowledging that there was a cartoon character in the place where they shopped.
Except for one person. Rachel, the woman I met at the pub. Who let me come to her own flat so I could relive the good old days. The only human who ever really spoke to me or asked about my feelings.
‘Hey, Gina,’ she said, waving as she came in.
‘Do you come here often?’ I asked, for I could think of nothing else to say.
‘Well, no, actually,’ she said in a quieter voice, before gesturing to Patty, organising the Sale items.
‘Yeah,’ I replied, ‘she can be a bit of a meanie.’ Once again, I used the first word that came into my mind. I swore I then heard ‘Well, screw you too.’
Rachel chuckled. ‘Now there’s the Gina I saw on telly!’
‘Yeah,’ I replied, forcing a laugh, ‘that’s me! You know…’ I swallowed. ‘We should hang out again some time. Like I don’t know…maybe see a movie.’
‘You know,’ Rachel replied, ‘there is a movie currently showing that I think you’ll love. Squirrelly Sally in Acorn Acres. I don’t mind going to a kids’ movie.’
‘Okay, we’ll go this Friday then.’
‘I’ll let you get on with your work then,’ she said before walking away, ‘See you.’
‘Hey!’ Patty walked away from her shelf towards me – well, walk wasn’t exactly the right word. It seemed more like gliding. ‘Don’t I get to come too?’ she asked, ‘I mean, I did bring you here.’
‘I don’t know…’ Before Patty could retort, I instantly answered, ‘Okay!’ and I felt like I only did it because Patty would send me back to my ruined world or something worse if I refused.
All throughout my shift, my brain debated with itself as to whether or not it was a good idea to invite Patty, and whether or not to tell Rachel I invited her. Rachel didn’t know it was Patty that brought me here, and I doubted that she wanted someone who drove her away from the supermarket sitting near her, especially when it was a literal demon. Even I inwardly called myself “a silly-willy billy” for accepting a demon’s proposal.
After my shift was finished, I walked by the local cinema, which proudly displayed a poster of Squirrelly Sally, smiling with her mouth wide open while holding an acorn. As I looked at that poster, I felt my stomach sink. What if Sally was real in another world as well? I looked at that warm, sunlit forest in the background, and imagined what it might look like if it “rotted” like my world did. Those lush, green trees, gone. Her idyll infected with buildings and hunters.
For a second, I swore I saw the poster change to a picture of Sally’s corpse.
I shuddered, and not just because of the sudden cold breeze. As I held myself, I looked around and found that I was all alone. I took a peek into the cinema, letting the stench of popcorn waft into my nostrils, and didn’t even see an employee.
‘Neither Rachel nor Patty can bring your happy little world back.’
A sentence I seemed to think and hear at the same time.
As I pulled my head away from the cinema’s interior, I saw a man that looked like he had been transported from Victorian London. A formal suit with a cravat and pinstriped trousers, as well as a large top hat.
The top hat had a price tag: In This Style 10/6.
The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, one of my favourite books.
He lifted up his head, revealing that he had no face except for a pair of yellow eyes, and the rest of his head looked like a gigantic parsnip made of flesh.
‘How could you? Have you forgotten who you are?’ He scowled at me, or at least what looked like scowling.
‘Leave me alone!’ I cried.
‘No!’ snapped the Mad Hatter, ‘You’re supposed to be a bastion of morality! You’re supposed to teach children manners and politeness! Yet you befriend a woman who drinks alcohol and a demon! What would the children who viewed your programme think of you now?’
‘Rachel watched my show,’ I said, forcing myself to turn to him, ‘and she…’
‘Forget her,’ snarled the Hatter, ‘Forget Patty too! I’ve been trying so hard to bring happiness to the downtrodden, and all she does is foil my plans! She’s sadistic! Why else would she bring you to this hell-hole?’
‘And…’ I bit my lip tightly. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘Why, I’m going to change your world back to the way it was.’
I could only stare in silence.
‘Wouldn’t you like that?’
I attempted to think of how to respond to that, but my mind was a complete blank.
‘Just imagine if all those pesky motorways and construction vanished and you had your pretty little forest back. Imagine if you woke up, found your way back to your childhood home and your mother and father were there waiting for you with open arms instead of their heads being decorations on some human’s wall.’
I closed my eyes and heard the voice of my mother. I felt the warmth of her hugs and a kiss on my forehead. I heard my father sing me a lullaby like he did when he tucked me into bed. I again felt a chill, but one less harsh than the others.
‘I’m certain they’ll be very proud of you if you kill what killed them.’
I swallowed. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I think you know very well what I mean. You’ve become friends with the enemy. You’ve become friends with a human.’
The Mad Hatter nodded.
At that moment, I wanted to scream. I wanted to run back to my flat and lie there until I died. All I did, however, was stand there. Stand there and continually replay the happy memories of Mum and Dad in my head.
‘Do away with Rachel,’ continued the Mad Hatter, ‘or any other human. Then your world will return to how it should be.’
He seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye. As soon as he vanished, the world’s population reappeared. Humans walking to the cinema, leaving the cinema, carrying shopping….
Just kill one of them and everything would be alright.
In my mind’s eye, I saw myself leaping towards one of the passers-by and wrapping my hooves around their neck. I saw myself grinning widely as they fell to the ground, dead.
That was when I ran. That was when I screamed.
I didn’t get any sleep that night. My brain was engaged in another fierce debate with itself, this time pounding against my skull, and I was sure that any minute it would burst right out of my forehead. I lay in bed all night, attempting to soothe myself by turning my bedside lamp on and reading a few books, but no matter how hard I tried, the image of Rachel’s carcass refused to leave my mind.
When the sun rose, I considered phoning up the supermarket and telling them I couldn’t come in that day. I did have a splitting headache, and I felt like I was going to vomit. Yet I went through my morning routine. Coffee, shower, clothes, breakfast, walk to store…
…where Rachel might be.
I arrived at the store before it opened, and so had Patty, leaning on the wall near the staff entrance, scowling at me.
As soon as she saw me, she walked up and slapped me across the face.
‘You’re seriously considering it, aren’t you?’
‘Considering what?’ I spat as I rubbed my face.
‘The Mad Hatter. He told you to kill Rachel or some other human, and you’re going to do it!’
‘My Dad’s been keeping a close…’
‘At least you have a Dad!’ I yelled, certain I was almost going to slap her myself.
‘Do you know why I brought you here?’ growled Patty, slowly pushing my face away from hers, ‘It was out of the goodness of my heart. I couldn’t bear to see someone whose cartoon I liked suffer. I didn’t ask for you to kill anyone, I didn’t ask you to sacrifice a goat or help bring about the apocalypse. I did it because I like you.
‘The Mad Hatter is a sadist. He offers people things not to help them, but so he could laugh and laugh at good people doing his evil bidding.’
‘You’re one to talk about evil!’
‘But I’m not a cute…’ Patty sighed. ‘You know, my parents really didn’t like me watching your show. They said I needed to focus my mind towards the dark and macabre. I like dark and macabre, but not all the time. Your show was just the thing I needed after learning how to slowly roast a damned soul over ever-burning fire pits.
‘It gave me reassurance that not everyone’s going to end up in Hell.
‘I’m a demon. I’m a monster. I’m messed-up and I can’t do anything to change that. You’re not like that. You’ve entertained and educated children. Don’t become a monster, don’t become a demon. Be Gina the Jolly Fawn or Doe or whatever.’
With that, she gave me a hug. A hug as warm and soothing as those Mum used to give me.
Another thought entered my mind. If demons exist, Hell exists. If Hell exists, Heaven exists.
Mum and Dad are still out there.
As I hugged Patty, I saw them in my mind’s eye again, but this time I knew I wasn’t just imaging. Mum whispered, ‘We are proud of you, my little fawn.’
‘You know,’ said Patty as she released me from her grasp, ‘I’ve been binging on slasher flicks all week. Squirrelly Sally will make a nice change of pace.’
Next time I see Rachel, I said to myself, I would tell her about the Mad Hatter and what he said to me. I’ll also, I added, tell her that I invited Patty.
She may be a torturous monster from Hell, but at least she’s honest.
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