Reading Up Next: Skip This One

 Fantasy Fiction posted April 15, 2021

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
A young girl finds a teddy bear in an alley

Stitched Together

by Patrick Borosky

It was cold.

However, it wasn’t the same type of cold that one normally encounters. It was a merciless cold that started from the left side of his body. As time passed, it slowly crept from his side until it reached what would normally be his kidney, and then by midday, it had edged its way slightly past his belly button. He lay there silently – unable to stop the inevitable fate of when the chill would soon consume him.

He could hear the clattering footsteps of people walking by and ignoring his existence. He felt their lifeless shadows robbing him of the little warmth that remained. At first, he had hope that one person would spare a second of their time to help him, but one by one, person by person, he eventually discovered how dreadfully naïve that dream was.

Of course, he tried to move himself, but with the relentless cold, his limbs became heavy, and any means to help himself simply disappeared.

The feeling had become his existence.

This was his life, one he had long grown accustomed to.
“Hello, there. Are you all alone too?”

He didn’t know where the voice came from, not to mention that it took him a while to realize that it was even addressing him, as no one had ever bothered to say a single word to him before. This newcomer’s shadow covered him like the rest, but unlike the others, it dawdled and continued to blanket him. He felt a warmth come over him as if it was meant to find him since the very beginning. He attempted to turn his head to discover its source but found that he couldn’t.

Luckily, the darkness shifted, and soon, the shadow had an owner. A small girl who couldn’t have been older than eight stared at him with a single shockingly deep-brown eye that bordered on black. It almost didn’t seem human. It was more akin to the eye of a doll that a girl her age would normally be playing with at this time of the day. The other eye was cloaked by unkempt dirty-blonde hair, though he wondered if it was truly “dirty” or simply covered in filth.

She continued to stare at him as if she were expecting an answer from him, but when she didn’t get one, she continued talking like he had. “Me too. If you can believe it, I’ve been alone most of my life.”

I’ve always been alone, he thought.

She gave him a small smile that was slightly shy but, at the same time, bright. “Don’t worry. Now that I’ve found you, you won’t have to be alone anymore. I promise that I’ll take good care of you.”

A promise is a heavy thing. Don’t regret it later.

With little effort, she grabbed him by his arm and lifted him out of the icy puddle where she found him. The water fled from his body and flowed freely into the puddle that he had finally escaped. Any shyness that her smile once had disappeared, and now it widened as she brought him closer to get a better look at him.

“What’s your name, little guy?” she asked.

It is… Honestly, I can’t remember. He scrambled his brain trying to remember his name.

She turned him upside down and then backward, twisting him all about to see every nook and cranny that his being offered. It was almost as if she were expecting to find his name written somewhere on his body. Eventually, she returned him upright so that he faced her, and she contorted her face as if she were thinking of something dreadfully important.

“Let’s see… Normally, you’d call a fine bear like yourself ‘Teddy,’ but you’re mine now, so I couldn’t possibly give you a boring name like that.”
She bit her lip and twisted her face even more until it began to turn a deep red as she continued to ponder. All at once, the shade vanished, and her mouth shifted easily back to her smile, which fit her face ever so perfectly.

“I’ve got it!” she proclaimed so loudly that some of the people around her turned to see what all the fuss was about. “Your name is Stitch on account of your missing left eye and because someone stitched you right back up.”

It’s not like I want to be missing an eye, he thought. I don’t even remember how I lost it. I had completely forgotten about it until you had to dredge it back up.

“Don’t worry about it. I know it isn’t you fault,” she said as if she’d read his mind. She then leaned her face a bit closer to his and whispered, “Besides, if anything, it gives you a little more character, like it does mine.”

Before he could even wonder what she meant by that, the young girl took one of her hands and moved the hair that covered her left eye to reveal a deep scar that ran vertically across it. Although the eye itself wasn’t damaged, instead of the near-black color of her right, this eye was a cloudy white – completely lifeless.

She let go of her hair, and it effortlessly hid the eye so that no one else could see it. “Oh, come on now, don’t give me that look. It’s not every day that I let a complete stranger look at it.”

I’m sorry. This is the face I was born with. It wasn’t like a teddy bear could change his face on demand. That’s right…I’m a teddy bear. How could I have forgotten that? Have I always been one? How’d I even get here?

“I told you, didn’t I? I’m fine with it,” she said with an uncomfortable grin that told him otherwise. She paused for a second before saying another word and then shot up with excitement. “I never gave you my name! I’m Rory! It’s nice to meet you, Stitch!”

He stared at her without blinking, which was the only thing that he could do because he couldn’t blink to begin with. Now that I think about it, I think Stitch is a rather nice name. It’s not like I had a name before I met you anyway. Or if I did, I’ve long forgotten it already.

After that, he became Stitch, and for the first time that he could remember, he felt the cold slowly receding from his belly button and down his paws as Rory carried him away from his puddle. After thinking about it a bit more, though, he decided that it was most likely because he had lost most of the water that had built up within his body over time.

“Let’s see, what should we do now?” said Rory as she wandered down a crowded street. She kept on glancing nervously behind her as if she were expecting someone to be there, but every time she would only see faceless onlookers who walked by her while paying her no mind.
She held Stitch gingerly against her chest as if she were afraid that he would suddenly jump from her arms. After a while, the crowd dispersed, and Stitch noticed that she had a rather disgruntled look on her face. She lifted him up, bringing his stomach inches away from her nose, and gave him a hearty sniff.

“Oh my gosh, Stitch! What was in that alleyway? You smell like you were dragged through a pile of cow pies, found a skunk, got sprayed for kicks just to see what it was like, and then nestled under a nice pile of hot garbage for an afternoon nap!”

She tore him away from her nose and made a gagging motion. “This can’t do… I like you, Stitch, but if we’re going to be friends, you’ll have to start taking better care of yourself.”

I think you should look at yourself in the mirror, Stitch thought. You don’t look that much better yourself. You’re lucky that I can’t smell you because I’m guessing you don’t smell like a freshly picked rose yourself.

“There’s no way around it, then,” she said, nodding her head. “We’ll just have to give you a bath and wash off some of this grime that you’ve become so fond of.”

Rory picked up her feet and began jogging down the street, artfully and effortlessly dipping and dodging past the people around her. The crowd grew thinner and thinner until she cut a hard right turn down an alley that led her to a flight of steep steps. As she neared the bottom, she jumped the last two and landed on a poorly paved path with a loud thud. Stitch now faced an area flush with green and a small creek that he could hear cascading against rocks as they approached.

Rory bent over the creek and gave him a mournful expression. “I’m sorry, Stitch, but you’re going to have to bear with it for a moment.”

Ah, I see what you did there.

Then, without any warning, Rory dipped Stitch right into the creek’s water. The brief feeling of finally being dry escaped him, and his entire body felt about three times heavier as water flooded into him. However, as the water poured through him, Stitch could see the dirt and grime that he’d accumulated over time wash away. Rory gripped a portion of her shirt sleeve and began scrubbing him with all her might. Stitch was quite lucky that he was a teddy bear; otherwise, he was sure that he’d be rather uncomfortable, if not in a good deal of pain, as Rory’s face was quickly turning beet red from all the effort she was putting into cleaning him.

She’s also lucky that I don’t have to breathe, thought Stitch, who’d been underwater for at least five minutes now.

After Rory was satisfied that Stitch had become somewhat clean, she lifted him out of the water and gave him a hard, appraising look. She gave him a rather cute grin, which was rather misleading as she suddenly started twisting his entire body to get him dry again. He was pretty sure that a bear’s back wasn’t supposed to bend that way – let alone his neck.

“There we go,” said Rory breathily. It seemed like she had tuckered herself out after all the work. She put him next to her nose again, gave him one good sniff, and said triumphantly, “You don’t smell good, but at least I can stand being near you now!”

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a compliment, thought Stitch, but he couldn’t stay angry at Rory for long. Even though the entire ordeal was rather hectic, she had done it with the best of intentions, and he couldn’t fault her for that. Plus, with the way she was smiling at him and with how proud she looked, he couldn’t hate her even if he tried.

Sadly, their moment of happiness didn’t last long as, from the corner of his eye, Stitch saw an object fly out of nowhere and hit Rory right in the side of the head. The shock of it made her let go of Stitch, and as he fell, he saw the object that had hit her, a rather large rock, falling to the ground with him.
Stitch was facing the sky, and he could see Rory clasping the side of her face where the rock had hit her. A small trickle of blood slowly dripped down the side of her face as another rock flew past her – barely missing her.

“Come on, now! You can do better than that!” yelled a boy. “She wasn’t moving or nothing!”

Rory didn’t say anything, but her expression that had once been so bright had become almost lifeless. She took her hands from where the rock had struck her, revealing a nasty gash on the side of her face, and picked up Stitch. She held him tightly to her chest, as if doing so would protect her, and faced her assaulters.

Stitch could now see a group of three children who were at least a couple of years older than Rory. Each had a nasty smirk on their face.
With each step the three took toward Rory, she took a step back. She had forgotten her surroundings, and in her panic to separate herself from this group that obviously meant to do her harm, she took an awkward step into the creek and fell with a loud splash.

It was now the third time in one day that Stitch had become drenched in water, and once the water settled, he could hear the loud maniacal laughter of the three children. They made their way to the side of the creek and pointed their nasty fingers at Rory as they continued to laugh.

“You better watch where you step! We don’t want you to hurt yourself. After all, that’s our job!” said one of the boys, the tallest of the bunch.

“Yeah, that’s right,” chimed in the girl, who had bent over to get a better look at Rory. “We don’t want your face to be marked up more than it already is, do we?”

Stitch felt a flame burning in the pit of his gut. He had experienced so much in one day that he had never experienced before.

He’d felt his normal bit of despair as he’d lain in his puddle, powerless to even move; however, he had also felt pure bliss from this small girl who had expanded his world.

But now…now he felt nothing but hatred for these three children who stood over him. Honestly, he couldn’t even call them children. To Stitch, they were nothing but little monsters who enjoyed the suffering of those who were weaker than them.

He wanted to stop them.

He wanted to give them the same torment that they had given to Rory and to see their frightened faces as they got their just deserts.

The rude girl flung her arm forward, grabbed the hair that covered Rory’s scarred eye, and then yanked it hard so they could all gawk at it. She scrunched up her face acting sick and said, “I don’t know how you can live with something like this. I wouldn’t be able to stand looking in the mirror if I had a face like yours.”

The three roared with laughter. Rory lifted her arm and smacked the girl’s hand from her hair. Then she stumbled back onto her feet and put some distance between them once again. The rude girl cradled her hand and looked at it as if something dirty had just touched her.

“Oi, what do you think you're doing?” said the last boy, who had remained rather quiet aside from joining in the laughter with his friends. He was rather bulkier than the other two, and when he decided to speak, the other two immediately stopped their laughter. In fact, they looked like they’d have preferred to run away from him. “Don’t you remember the last time when you tried to fight back?”

The boy jumped into the water with a loud splash. Stitch felt his body shake. At first, he thought it was from his own anger, but soon, he realized that it was because Rory had begun trembling uncontrollably at the emergence of the new child. He towered over her, motioned toward the girl of the group, and demanded, “Apologize to her…now.”

Rory faced the ground and turned her head from him. She said in an awkward, frightful voice, “I’m…I’m…sorry.”

The other girl didn’t say anything in response but only watched with bated breath wondering what her friend would do next.

The boy scoffed and pushed Rory back into the creek. The other two laughed, but he just looked at her with disgust. He seemed like he’d be more than satisfied if he never saw her face again. “Next time, you take what you deserve. You’re lucky that we have to be somewhere, or you’d be getting a lot worse right now. You stay there where you belong and don’t let me see you getting back to your feet until we’re gone.”

The boy raised his hand, and Rory instinctively flinched. He let out a single hearty bellow and made his way out of the creek. His friends didn’t laugh, but as the bulky boy walked down the path leading back to the city, they followed him without a single word. He took one last look at Rory to make sure that she stayed where she was told.

Rory stayed there without saying a word, still trembling. She remained there a good minute even after the three terrors had disappeared. Eventually, she stood up and made her way out of the stream.

She wrung Stitch dry once again and placed him softly on the ground. Then she started doing the same to her own clothes in an attempt to make herself dry, but she couldn’t stop the tears that had formed in her eyes, and she started to cry without making a sound.

This hurts so much, thought Stitch as he felt his chest tightening. I want to say something – anything to make her feel better. I wish I could’ve done something to stop that, but I could only sit and stare while it all happened. Am I even better than those people who just walked by while I lay in the street?Pfft, are you kidding? You already know the answer. I’m not. I did nothing. I can do nothing.

The flames remained in his stomach.

His hatred couldn’t be quelled after what he’d just witnessed.

Rory sniffed loudly and then bent over and picked Stitch back up from the ground. She wore a forced smile that was still riddled with tears, and a bit of snot hung from her nose. “Get ready, Stitch, because I’m about to show you something out of this world.”

Before they went on their way, Rory had dug something out of her pocket: a decent-sized pink ribbon that she had squirreled away. She looped it around Stitch’s stomach and fastened it to the worn belt that held up her skirt that was obviously too big for her. She looked back down at Stitch and said merrily, “There, I think you’ll be able to see just fine from there. Plus, I don’t want to go losing you, now, do I?”

Rory started off in a sprint as if she wanted to put the painful memory of what just happened far behind her. The sun had begun to set, and it hid behind some of the taller buildings. For such a large city, it seemed like Rory knew every inch and crevasse. She ran with nearly a skip, darted blindly over walls where she barely missed falling into thorn bushes, and showed amazing balance while traversing from one fence post to the next. As expected, the greater the distance from the creek, the larger the smile on her face became, and eventually, she became the same girl who had picked him up from his puddle.

She made her way to an old abandoned warehouse that looked like it had at one time been a successful business. The fence that she was balancing on led directly to a wall that gave her just enough height so she could hop over the wall without any problems. Once on the other side, she scrambled over to an old wooden ladder, which she wasted no effort in climbing. The ladder took her to a window of the highest floor, which she barreled through. Stitch now saw why she had decided to tie him to her side. It would have been a tall feat for her to clutch onto a teddy bear while traversing a building in this manner. In fact, Stitch wondered why Rory just didn’t run away from her bullies, and even though he wanted to ask her, he knew that she couldn’t hear him even if he did.

To Rory’s right was a doorway that exposed a stairwell that obviously led to the roof. She took a moment to catch her breath and continued her journey up the stairs. As she made her way to the top, the sun’s dying orange light illuminated the last of the steps. A light touch of wind met them as they exited the staircase, welcoming them to their destination.

Rory sprinted to the center of the building and did a sort of odd twirl showing Stitch the entire world around them – and he was glad that she had done so.
He saw the painfully tall buildings that surrounded them casting shadows to the streets below, which now had a handful of lit street lamps. They looked like tiny stars flickering beneath their feet. This was an odd contrast to the quiet moon that had just peeked over the coastline, signaling the end of day and accompanied by the few stars brave enough to fight off the sun’s light. Speaking of the coastline, it had been set ablaze in the sun’s final moments, the final act before the curtain was drawn for the prologue of the night that would soon consume the day.

This was obviously Rory’s favorite spot in the entire city and one she visited often. She made her way to the edge of the building and sat facing the coast. Its wind scattered her hair, which uncovered her scar that she tried so desperately to hide. At this moment, though, and only at this moment, it seemed like she could have cared less about it.

“Isn’t it beautiful, Stitch?” she said with a hearty smile.

Yes, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my entire life, he thought, wishing that he could’ve told her instead.

“I’m the only one who knows about this spot,” she said, a strict look in her eye. “Make sure you don’t spill the beans to anyone else, alright?”

I promise, he thought. It’s not like I could blab about it to anyone anyway given that I’m a teddy bear – but I still promise.

“Today has been fun, do you know that?” she said as the sun’s light had become so dim that she could now stare directly into it. “It’s been so long since I’ve had a friend that I could take here. It’s embarrassing to say something like that, but it’s true, and we’ll be able to come here as many times as you want.”

I’d like that. I bet it’s even better during the night.

Sure enough, once the sun had finally gone to sleep and the full expanse of the night’s sky appeared above them, the stars glittered magnificently against the water.

The two sat staring at the night sky for what seemed like hours, but as time passed, Stitch noticed Rory becoming more timid by the minute. He wondered if she was getting cold.

She took in a deep sigh, shivered slightly as a sliver of wind passed them, and muttered so softly that he could barely hear her, “He has to be asleep by now.”

Stitch wanted to ask Rory what she meant by that, but before he could even ponder about it, she jumped to her feet with a short hop and dusted off the back of her skirt. She then made her way back down the building, taking her time while doing so. She didn’t even walk down the street with her usual energy. In fact, she watched her feet with every step carefully deliberating the distance of each one.

Stitch wondered if she were purposely making sure that this someone, whoever it might be, was indeed asleep. It must have been at least two hours until she finally stopped in front of a small cabin surrounded by buildings at least five times its size. The house was so completely unimpressive that if it hadn’t been for the flickering street lamps that allowed a glimpse of it or the almost dead candles in the window sills, a normal person would have been oblivious to its existence.

Rory slowly walked up the small set of stairs leading to its front door. She opened the door to reveal a room littered with trash that was mainly comprised of empty ale bottles. She looked to the right and surveyed the man currently passed out on a small dining table.

The man had obviously passed out from drinking too much. The ale bottle that he had been drinking was tightly grasped in his hand, but sadly, it had still tipped over. What contents had remained had spilled across the table, coating the man’s sleeping face. He snored loudly. It was the sound of a man deep in sleep who was put there by his own means – a hazed curtain designed to protect him from the horrors of the real world.

Rory closed the door behind her as quietly as she could and proceeded to walk across the living room, taking care with each step she took. She had no desire to accidently kick an empty bottle that could possibly wake up this man. She eyed the room across the hall, which was clearly her own.

However, fate wasn’t on Rory’s side that night. Even though she took every precaution to make no noise while making her way to her room, she couldn’t have prepared for the sloppiness and clumsiness of an old drunk.

He turned over as if he were in his bed and fell hard to the ground. He let loose a grunt that was half pain and half anger and then opened his eyes to see the small girl, who was still standing on her tiptoes.

Rory stood horrorstruck for a moment. Then, with all the determination she could muster, she said shakily, “Hello, Pop. How was your day?”
The man belched loudly and sat up while scratching his head. Stitch would have never guessed that this man was Rory’s father from the way that he was looking at her.

Stitch couldn’t exactly call it hatred.

If anything, it was the look of a man staring at an insect whose existence was nothing but an inconvenience to him. As if a cockroach had scurried across his path and dirtying his floor.

Shockingly, the man smiled at her and staggered to his feet. “Aurora, I’ve been waiting for you all night. Don’t you know how worried I was?”
“I’m sorry, I lost track of time,” said Rory, watching her father cautiously.

Rory’s father made his way to her side and placed the back of his hand gently across her cheek. “We’ve been over this before. You can’t stay out that late. There’s dangerous people about.”

I’m pretty sure there aren’t that many people that are that much more dangerous than you, thought Stitch sizing the man up.

Her father continued to slide his hand up and down the side of her cheek while looking her up and down. He stopped his hand when he saw Stitch sitting tightly against her hip. He gestured at him with an oddly disturbing grabbing motion. “Oh? And what do we have here?”

“It’s nothing!” Rory exclaimed as she moved her hands to shield Stitch, but she let out a yelp as her father smacked her hands aside and harshly grabbed at the teddy bear. He yanked against the ribbon with such force that he tugged Rory to the ground while ripping the ribbon that was securing Stitch to her hip.

He brought Stitch closer to his face and gave him a good looking over. Stitch noticed that his eyes went in and out of focus as he stared and that they had an odd glaze about them that could only belong to a man who’d had one drink too many.

“Why, this thing is broken,” chortled her father while looking at Stitch’s stitched eye. “Why’d you bother to pick up something useless like this?”
I’m not the only thing that’s broken here, thought back Stitch as he stared at the old drunk.

Rory had sprung back to her feet, and she moved to grab Stitch from her father. “Give him back!”

“Him?” her father said with amusement as he placed his other hand over Rory’s face to keep her at bay. His hand was so big that it covered her face entirely. “When are you going to grow up and learn you don’t need things like this?”

Rory’s hands continued to reach for Stitch. They flailed about wildly against her father’s arm, and he looked at her with a disturbingly satisfied grin on his face. “C’mon, you almost have it. You’re almost there…ouch!”

Rory, in her desperation to get Stitch back from her father, had accidentally scratched her father’s arm. Any joy he was having while toying with his daughter disappeared from his face, and he released Stitch from his grasp.

As the bear fell, he saw the drunk’s hand fly across and smack Rory across the cheek, forcing her to the ground without any effort.

“You dare! You dare raise your hand against me!” roared Rory’s father as the look of disgust he held turned into pure hatred. “You’re nothing but a rat who lives in my house and eats my food, and you still have the gall to say something against me?”

Stitch lay on the ground, facing Rory. Her entire body was trembling again, and she was making awful gagging noises as if she were trying to gather the courage to apologize to her father.

Run! Stitch screamed in his mind. Rory’s eyes darted over to him just for a moment. Run far away from this monster and never look back! Forget about me! Run!

Rory’s father began tumbling toward her, each step more staggered then the next, and to Stitch’s great surprise, she leaped toward him, shoveled him in her arms, and darted to the back exit of the house. She swung the door open with all her might, but before she could even reach the stairs that led her to the freedom of the outside world, her father had already closed the distance between them.

He grabbed a handful of hair, yanking her back to him.

The shock and the pain from her father’s actions caused her to let go of Stitch. He once again found himself falling to the ground, and he watched helplessly as Rory started to claw at her father’s hands to get free. Her father’s face was cold and uncaring as his daughter struggled to get away from him. Much to her and Stitch’s surprise, he let go of her and in one quick movement pushed her hard down the stairs. Rory twisted and contorted as she crashed down them, and she landed face to face with Stitch on the ground.

Her eyes were closed.

A small trickle of blood started to come out of her nose.

And she wasn’t moving a single muscle.

No, Stitch thought. Please don’t be dead. Anything but that.

He watched as Rory’s chest contracted slightly and she let out a small weakened cough telling him that she was still alive. However, she still wasn’t moving, and her father began making his way down the stairs, clearly not finished with his daughter. He had lost all sense of reason.

Stitch felt that same flame that had appeared when those children had tortured Rory. He felt it grow and expand uncontrollably within him. He felt something beat within his chest. It grew stronger with his anger, while it continued to drum louder and harder with every second that passed.

I have to do something, his mind screamed. I can’t just sit here and watch her get hurt again. Why won’t my legs move? Why won’t you move? Move, dammit!

“What is this?” said Rory’s father as he stopped his stride. He raised his hands and then rubbed his eyes furiously. Once he was done, he looked down at the small teddy bear that his daughter had brought home with her. He raised an eyebrow and a half smile rose to his face.

“I must have had one too many,” he chortled as he looked at once lifeless body of Stitch stand and look him squarely in the eye.

“I think that’s an understatement,” said Stitch. His voice was much deeper than he imagined. It grated slightly as if he had a cold. He didn’t know what he expected his voice to sound like but he expected one a tad livelier.

“I’m dreaming,” said her father. His eyes trailed from the bear to his daughter, who still lay motionless on the ground. “Good. I was worried I’d killed her for a second. I’d go straight to jail, I would. She’d be an inconvenience even after she died, the useless little brat.”
The fire burned brighter in Stitch’s stomach, and it spread throughout his entire being.


“What was that?” said her father as he stared at the bear. “Did you just say something?”

“I said unforgivable,” repeated Stitch. “Your entire existence is fowl. You don’t deserve a daughter like Rory. Does it feel good to raise your hand against someone who can’t even raise one back to you?”

The man frowned and shrugged. “I’ve never seen her as a daughter from the start. If it wasn’t for her mother, I’d abandon her long ago. Forced upon me, she was. Taking up space. Eating my food. Now that I think about it, she’d be better off dead. Since this is a dream and all, there’s nothing wrong in trying, is there?”

The man looked at Rory and then, with a grimace, reached his hand toward her.

“Don’t you touch her!” yelled Stitch.

The fire in stitch had grown too strong and he could no longer keep it under control.

Rory’s father watched in utter bewilderment as Stitch began to convulse. The light-brown dyed cotton that had once been his fur molted as long strands of hair took their place. He heard loud, horrible cracking as his limbs extended and contorted into proper place. Stitch grew to such a height that he now easily towered over Rory’s father on his hind legs, which allowed the man to watch in horror as the small stitches that had once been his mouth ripped horribly apart to display dangerously jagged teeth. The black bead was now only an eye, and he stared at the man that was more than a beast than himself with a hatred that he had never felt in all his life.

“It’s a dream,” said the man in a ghostly manner as he stumbled backward. “It’s alright. I’ll wake up any moment now.”

“It’s not,” said Stitch coldly.

He reached his claw forward.

He took his time, tracing it along the man’s flesh, starting from the shoulder and leading it down to his hand. He put just enough pressure to convince the man that this was now reality and he would have to face the consequences. His face became paler the farther the claw traveled. Stitch could tell he wanted to scream, but he couldn’t even manage the courage to do so.

He was so pathetic now.

How paper-thin his strength was when facing something stronger than himself.

Stitch’s mouth warped into a smile that showed the full arrangement of his teeth. “I have to say, I’m feeling awfully hungry. I was hoping that my first meal would be a delicacy, but I guess you’ll do just fine for now.”

He surveyed the man, who was trying to crawl away from him. “What’s the matter? I thought you said this was only a dream? I mean…if this is a dream then why do you seem so scared? You were so open to new experiences before. Don’t you want to know how it feels like to be eaten alive?”

“Forgive me,” the man begged.

“Forgive you?” Stitch snorted. He stomped over to the man. He hovered right over the man’s face, and the man started to cry. “I thought I told you. What you’ve done can’t be forgiven.”

He opened his mouth and inched his teeth closer to the man’s throat.

“Stop! I swear it! I’ll never raise my hand against her again,” the man pleaded.

Stitch’s tongue was now close enough to where he could taste the man’s skin. It tasted putrid.

“I’ll stop drinking! I’ll throw it all out!” the man screamed as his eyes darted about, waiting for anyone to save him.

A small bead of blood streamed out of his neck as Stitch’s fang pierced the skin.

“Save me, someone! Anyone!” pleaded the man. Stitch caught a rancid stench coming from just below the trembling coward. “I’m not ready to die! I’ll do anything!”

A wretched smile crept onto Stitch’s face, which made his fangs sink slightly deeper into the man’s throat.

“You said it,” said Stitch, his voice muffled, and then he released his jaw from the man’s neck. “You said you’ll do anything?”

“What?” said the man, who was just barely managing to breathe in between his sobs.

Stitch growled at him. “I asked if you meant that. If you are really willing to do anything.”

“Wha…no, I mean, yes! I’ll do anything!” the man said, a look of renewed hope dawning on his face.

Stitch grunted. He sat down in front of the man while towering over him and watched carefully just in case he tried to run for it. “Trust me, I’d like nothing better than to end your life right now, but I have to be realistic here. This isn’t a town where Rory would be safe without a parent or someplace to call home.”

Stitch sighed and shook his head. “Although I can hardly call you a parent, you are her father. You give her a roof to sleep under, and though I haven’t seen it, I imagine that you give her food on occasion. So, here’s the deal. You’ll do what you said before I was about to bite your head off like a cherry. You will never touch her again. You will never put your hand on an ale bottle again. And finally, you will take care of her until she’s old enough to take care of herself. Understand?”

The man nodded feverishly. “I understand. I swear it. I’ll do all of it.”

“Fine,” said Stitch, and as he muttered those words, his body shook and then contorted back to its normal teddy bear size. His hair molted, and new brown cotton sprouted all over his body. “I’ll be here to keep an eye on you. If I ever see you raise a hand against her, it’ll be the end of your life. When she comes of age, and if I feel like you did a decent job of it, there’s a slight possibility that I won’t kill you.”
He paused, nodded his head as if he had just mulled over something, and repeated, “Very slight.”

“You mean you might still kill me?” Rory’s father asked with exasperation.

“I’ll say this one last time you rotting pile of flesh,” Stitch said with a sneer. “What you did was unforgivable. I will never forget it nor forgive you, and if I decide to kill you at the end of all this, you will still deserve it. Now, tend to Rory and put her to bed and pray to whatever god you believe in that I don’t change my mind.”

The man opened his mouth to try to rebuke Stitch, but with one glare from the bear, he stumbled back to his feet, picked up Rory, and carefully, as if she were the most fragile thing in existence, brought her back into the house.

Rory woke up the next day with her head throbbing. Her hand reflexively went to her head to discover bandages wrapped around it tightly. Her vision blurred slightly, but she could still see the small teddy bear sitting next to her as if he were on guard.

“Stitch!” she said, beaming. She grabbed him and hugged him tightly against her chest. “I thought I’d never see you again! What happened?”
Nothing much, thought Stitch. Nothing you have to worry about at least.

Although Stitch didn’t say these words and continued to act like a normal teddy bear, she still stared at him like she expected an answer.
She eventually nodded. “That old bugger must have given up halfway and decided to pass out somewhere. Maybe it’d be better for me to leave my window open and stop using the front door. Sorry you had to see that. He gets like that sometimes.”

Sometimes? asked Stitch while staring at her with his normal blank expression.

“Okay, it happens a lot,” admitted Rory as if she understood him. Her nose twitched and poked into the air. “What’s that smell? It smells wonderful.”
It was at that moment that’s Rory’s father opened the door and carefully peered inside. He glanced at Rory, and then his eyes flickered to the bear at her side. “Hello, darling. I’m glad to see that you’re up. Are you hungry? I’ve made bacon and eggs. Come down and get some when you’re ready.”

Rory’s expression went to one of utter bewilderment. “You made breakfast?”

“Sure enough,” he answered. Rory tried to get up but winced with the effort. Her father frowned and stretched out his arm, palm up, telling her to stop. “Don’t hurt yourself, now. I’ll tell you what. I’ll bring it up to you. Take it easy today, alright? You had a nasty fall, after all.”

With that, he closed the door, and Stitch could hear the clanking of plates from the dining room as he readied her breakfast.

“I think he’s gone mental,” said Rory in a hushed tone, but her stomach growled demandingly, and she sighed. “Might as well take advantage of it before he gets back to normal.”

Rory flopped back onto the pillow and held up Stitch so she could get a better look at him. “You must be some kind of good luck charm, Stitch. Do you think he’ll stay like this?”

He better if he knows what’s good for him, thought Stitch while imagining what he would do to the old man if he ever raised a hand to her again.
“I don’t believe it either,” Rory said with a nod while bringing Stitch close again. “Promise me that you won’t leave me, Stitch.”

I promise that I’ll stay with you as long as you need me. Don’t worry about you father…he’ll only be here until you don’t need him anymore. After all, I’m here now. A few more years and then you’ll never see him again. Count on that.

The fool’s fate had been set in stone.

Stitch grinned, feeling his stitched mouth tug ever so tightly. Don’t worry. I have a feeling your life is going to get much better. After all, I also plan on making a trip to three naughty little children later tonight…

So, funny thing is that this is my only work that has been professionally published after being one of ten finalists in a contest. However, they made me change thoroughly change the ending to match their theme for the contest. I wanted to post the original ending someone so I hope you enjoy it!
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