In the night when moonlight is dim, the alley was full of shadows and scary, pointed things.
He wanted to hold her hand, but when he turned to reach for it, she happened to move aside, her white dress fluttering slightly.
Blushing, he pulls back his hand and smiles awkwardly at her.
‘We'd better hurry up, this alley is dangerous.’
‘But why?’ asked the girl, her voice as soft and sweet as sugar.
The boy knew he shouldn’t tell her, as time was of the essence, but his love for her made him indulge in her curiosity.
Lowering his voice, he answered. ‘There are ghosts that inhabit this alley. They lurk in the shadows where the moonlight cannot reach, and eat all passers-by.’
‘Really?’ she asked as she followed him. ‘Do you truly believe in this ghost story?’
The boy turned to her and, with a solemn look, only said, ‘I'm willing to fight off any ghosts that come our way.’
Hearing this valiant oath, the girl couldn't help but giggle sweetly, her face obscured by her open parasol.
‘Adora...why is your parasol open so late at night?’
The girl realized this, and replied,
‘Oh, I must have forgotten to fold it.’ Her voice crooned like a nightingale's. She folded her lace umbrella and let the moon shine upon her body and dress, giving off an eerie luminescence.
She's now but a pale skeleton in a girl's dress. She reached out to touch the boy's face with her bony hand.
‘You don't have to fight off any ghosts for little ol' me,’ said the pleasant voice emanating from the rattling skeleton's jaw.
‘Just close your eyes and be nice as I devour you where you stand!’
The city is still rife with stories of people being devoured by ghosts.
Adora's eyelids fluttered like a butterfly poised to take off.
The officers could only send more men to protect her, as suitors of all kinds approached her. Young men displayed their weapons and martial prowess before her, while wealthy businessmen offered her expensive gifts of rose bouquets and jewelry. Poets and other scholars penned long and beautiful poems in her name, day and night, waxing lyrical of her beauty and their affection for her.
‘Don't be afraid. Even without weapons or armor, I will protect you with my body.’
A timid smile appeared on her face.
‘I trust you.’
Adora didn't know how to refuse any of them, so they all believed themselves to be the closest to winning her heart.
She was like a beautiful, dew-covered gardenia in bloom, one that needed tender and constant care. Everyone was so enamored by her beauty; they chased her like chasing the only ray of moonlight in the dark.
Everyone has a girl of their dreams, she was that girl for them.
Slender and delicate, but unbendingly strong-willed even in the face of unknown terrors.
Once, when a young man was escorting her home, he disappeared in an alley and was never seen again.
All that was left of him to bury were his clothes, mysteriously left behind.
As she laid some lilies upon his tomb, she clasped her hands in prayer.
‘I will find the murderer,’ she silently promised him.
A frail flower like her, looking into the darkness for the culprit;it was a heart-wrenching sight for any to behold. The exorcists came to her, one by one, assuring her of her safety so long as they were allowed to guard her.
A kind, young man brought her a stack of information; upon holding it up, a fragrant love letter addressed to Adora fell out of the stack.
Unfurrowing her brow, she smiled shyly.
Late at night, Adora picked up a pen and drew a gardenia on the map she was given, marking the largest house in the city: the famous Yoo's Mansion.
The young lady of Yoo’s Mansion was a well-known philanthropist. She ran a charitable institution to house orphans and the poor. Everyone praised her kindness, but no one knew what really happened to the large number of people living inside its walls.
Adora rotated her parasol in her hands as she sang a song on her way home, leaving the boy who brought her information in the shadow behind.
The fresh, living blood flowing through her veins was full of love, putting her in a pleasant mood she hadn't felt before.
She may just meet her soon...the real lord of this city
One is not living nor dead, one doesn't age nor die. A master of all the underworld creatures...
Miss Stitch, lady of Yoo's Mansion.
The full moon in the sky moves slowly, gradually changing the angle of the moonlight.
Her parasol could not completely shield her from the light, and half of her face was exposed to the moon. It revealed original, skeletal form just beneath her fresh, youthful skin.
Adora had suddenly decided to make friends with Lady Stitch.
She found a shabby ragdoll on the street and set herself to mending it.
Sewing the bones, injecting it with blood, and sealing its soul...
After the final stitch, the doll's mouth moved and began to sing a soundless tune.
Adora kissed the doll on its delicate cheek and carefully wrap it up.
I pray that this gift allows us to meet in a dream-like wonderland.
For this is the only way I know to end your being.
Adora was so happy and excited that the doll, apparently sensing it, began to wink playfully at her.
I'm a prisoner.
I live in a square box, without doors or windows, and I don't know why. I have nothing but a sewing kit in my possession.
My role in this bleak world is to mend dolls.
I know what kinds of silk are the lightest, and which calico fabrics are the best, and my skill at embroidery is top-notch. When I take in these ragged, patched-up dolls and make them into exquisite work or art, the corners of their mouths curl into smiles.
But now I have a new friend, aside from my sewing kit.
The roof of my prison cracks open, and light pours in.
I look up and see strings of broken limbs and entrails falling into my cell, splattering my face with icy-cold blood.
That's what the voice tells me to do.
I want to run away, but the cold walls reign me in. Even if I cried out until my voice went hoarse, no one would come to take these things away.
I grab a doll and curl up in a corner of my prison, exhausted from crying.
I hear a sound, a slight movement.
It sounds like something is crawling on the ground, gathering it together. It makes wet, slopping noises as it does so.
I'm too scared to open my eyes, but I do and I look in the direction of the sound.
A creeping shadow, with a disfigured shape; parts of it resemble human limbs. It seems to have noticed that I'm looking at it; it convulses and begins crawling towards me.
The pieces that resemble limbs...they are making those sounds.
I cover my ears, and try to shrink into the corner as far as I can, but I can still hear it crawling towards me, closer now.
As the monster crawls towards me, some ‘limbs’ fall off, and land on the floor with a dull sound.
They craved for what to hold them together...my needlework.
‘Stay away! Don’t come any closer!’ I scream as its sounds draw even closer, and it stops.
A long silence ensues.
I pull my hands from my ears and open my eyes.
It's right here, right in front of me, reaching out for my sewing kit.
Deep despair engulfs me, and I can't even make a sound. The doll in my arms suddenly moves, and gently hugs me.
The monster, my prison, the darkness…all of them are one.
I find myself huddled in the corner of a corridor. Outside is a tree in a silent courtyard, its dark leaves blocking the sun and only allowing small rays to filter through. The leaves rustle slightly in the wind.
‘You're having nightmares again, Stitch.’
But it wasn't a dream; that doll just saved me!
It's still in my arms. I look down at her; she is a little girl, dressed in a snow-white dress. She blinks her eyes playfully as she smiles at me.
But no one believes me, and think I just want more dolls.
They hand me a new doll, as well as some old, broken bolts of cloth, and tell me to mend them, to embroider them with flowers and turn them into fine clothes.
I like bright colors, but they bring me nothing but rags and old cloth.
I want to play with moving dolls, but they only give me dolls with fake, unmoving smiles.
I go to play quietly with my doll in the hallway, out of everyone's way as well as their disgust.
Later, they just locked me up in a room full of cloth and fabric.
I keep working, but the fabrics don't seem to end. It becomes more and more gloomy in the room, and the smell of dust weighs heavily on everything.
As I work, my doll dances around me noisily. She can't talk, but she can smile and laugh. When her laughter is heard outside of the room, they yell at me to stop.
But it's not me, just my little doll. I stroke my doll's long hair.
Then they scold me for no reason, and say that I'm crazy...that I'm a monster.
Eventually, there is only one voice left. It only tells me one thing.
I don't want to go back to that nightmare. I weep day and night, begging them to let me out. They remain silent, and even send exorcists to come cure me.
They keep saying that I'm a monster, that the room was full of corpses...but aren't they just dolls that they gave me?
The room is becoming crowded, I can't even roll over inside.
I suddenly realize that this isn't a room...it's a coffin.
I'm alive, but they put me in a coffin and nailed it shut. I curl up as best as I can and close my eyes, holding my doll tightly in my arms.
I hear them talking, sighing...weeping. They talk about sending me away.
I hear the sound of a horse-drawn carriage, the roar of thunder, and then a loud bang.
Then, everything went quiet except for the sound of rain.
It takes me a long time to muster up the courage to try and lift the lid.
A soft, white hand appears on my shoulder.
‘Don't be afraid...you are free now.’
I don't know when the doll disappeared from my hands.
The sky booms and crackles, as if the world is falling to pieces.
All of my memories, all of my visions… they crack like the sky and fell apart like the raindrops.
I open my eyes; the world outside my dream is raining, too.
Right...I remember now.
The Stitch in the coffin, the me trapped by obsession.
I lost my memories from before I died; I only kept seeking the way to extricate myself.
My return, people who were turned to monsters, and the mountain of corpses in that inescapable mansion...all of these are memories from after I died.
But now, it's all over.
I catch the scent of life, surprisingly, from my body which should have long decayed.
My power is washed away by the rain, and the ghosts no longer obey me. They are all ready to devour every last bit of flesh and blood of my body.
But then, I see a girl in white. She casts off her delicate disguise, and shows her true might for the first time. The ghosts cower and shrink into the shadows before her. Embraced by the rain and the dim moonlight, she holds a parasol woven together with bones, and steps towards me.
I recognize her; she is the doll who rescued me from the coffin, and breathed life back into me.
That was the one and only way to stop me.
She will become the new master of this city, my death through resurrection acting as a stepping-stone for her ascent to power.
But her eyes are hazy, bewildered… Somehow, she looks like a real human being.
I want to hug her; I don't notice that my hands had unconsciously gone to wipe the beads of rain from her cheek.
|The Gift of The Magi|