This is a regular column featuring original fiction by and for high school students, provided by Figment.com, an online community writing site for young people.
New York, 1935.
The old lights on the ceiling cast the dressing room in a dusky glow. The only sound was the dripping of the faucet from one of the rust-stained sinks. Dust drifted down from the lights on the ceiling.
Daisy sat in her chair putting her make-up away. Her costume hung in the wardrobe. She was back in her everyday clothes. She had draped her coat across her chair while removing her make-up. She hummed an old tune from her childhood. Her mother used to sing that song in a low voice on nights when Daisy's father was working late. Daisy could still hear the notes hovering in the dimness of the kitchen, could smell the grease on the frying pan.
A small, wooden music box sat by the sink. Hand carved and breathtakingly beautiful, the box was the only heirloom she had, the thing that reminded her of home the most. The lid of the box had a painting of the beach in the center. The artist had etched gray, foaming ocean waves on the side of the box. Looking at it, Daisy could almost hear the waves lapping gently against the shore. She twisted the knob on the side of the box and lifted the lid.
Inside was a music-making mechanism made up of wheels and knobs and a large gold cylinder, a miniature triumph of mankind's mechanical ingenuity. But the sound that came out was too otherworldly to be scientific. The key was minor, the melody soft and slow. It was an old song, something about lost love and a storm on the sea, but what Daisy remembered most was the tune she heard now. She relaxed as the sound washed over her.
The music slowed and finished with one last, hesitant note, as if unsure whether to end. Then there was silence.
"Are you always the last to leave?"
Daisy jumped and nearly fell out of her chair. The voice belonged to her understudy who leaned casually against the doorframe with her arms crossed. Daisy relaxed. "Carla, you scared me to death."
Carla shook her head. "Not yet."
Daisy scooped up her make-up kit, stuffed it in her bag, and got to her feet. "I didn't know anyone else was here."
Carla shrugged and strode into the dressing room, pulled out her own chair, and sat. She pulled a pack of cigarettes from her coat pocket and offered one to Daisy who shook her head. Carla shrugged again and lit her own cigarette. She let her coat slide off her shoulders and crossed her legs. "Do you mind?"
Daisy gestured to the door. "Well, I was just about to go, I haven't had much sleep since dress rehearsals started, and--"
"It will only take a minute," Carla interrupted.
Daisy's shoulders slumped and she sat across from the other woman. Carla nodded toward the music box. "Yours?"
"Oh, yeah. Where is she, some farm somewhere, right?"
"Oh." Carla puffed on her cigarette. "Well, it's a pretty box."
"Thanks," Daisy said, twisting her fingers together.
Carla leaned back. "How do you do it?"
Carla gestured at her. "This. I mean, you're a farm girl from Indiana. Your parents milk cows for a living. How did you get to be New York's It girl?"
Daisy's mouth fell open. She clasped the sides of her chair so hard it hurt her fingers. "I beg your pardon?"
"How did you go from farm girl to--" Carla waved her cigarette around, leaving a trail of gray smoke hanging in the air. The smell was sickeningly sweet and Daisy fought the urge to sneeze.
"Don't get me wrong," Carla went on. "I think it's amazing. Inspiring, in fact. You're an inspiration to farm girls everywhere."
Daisy sat up and glared at her. "It's not about who you are," she said coldly. "It's about how far you're willing to go to get what you want."
Carla stared at her for a long moment, her cigarette immobile between her fingers. She nodded slowly. "Yes," she said. "I agree."
Goosebumps broke out on Daisy's arms and she swallowed.
Carla stood up. "Well, you're an inspiration to us all." There was a hint of sarcasm behind her words. Daisy wiped her sweaty palms on her dress.
"I really do like that music box," Carla said.
It was odd. There was a tingling sensation in Daisy's fingers and toes and along her arms. Funny, it was in her stomach too and now her chest and neck and head. She felt dizzy. The walls were getting higher, and Carla was getting taller, and her smile was becoming more maniacal, and her eyes were glinting in the dim light.
And now there were wooden walls around her, and instead of make-up tables and sinks she saw a strange contraption of wheels and knobs and a golden cylinder. She saw Carla, impossibly huge, dropping a wooden ceiling down on top of the box so that Daisy was enclosed in a casket. Daisy backed into the wooden wall, whimpering, "No...no..."
She was buried alive, trapped, in the music box.
- Ora Tooke