The Watching, by Lizzie Rush

The town of Cinderville, Connecticut had seven different murders occur between 1980 and 1987. For seven years, on November 1, at two in the morning, the Cinderville police department would get a call reporting the murders.

A man by the name John Keildforn was soon arrested after the seventh murder. All the evidence pointed towards Keildforn, but the one thing the detectives could never figure out was the large amounts of toy stuffing left at every crime scene. 

Every day at four o’clock in the afternoon, Veronica Beck, felt as if someone or something was watching her. Veronica’s suspicion started when she joined the backstage crew for her school’s musical. Her therapist suggested that she needed to get out and do something to keep herself busy, and when Veronica saw that the musical was looking for a replacement in the set designs, she thought it seemed like it would be an easy activity to please her therapist. Having been struggling with social anxiety, it was hard for Veronica to be around this new group of people, and the feeling of constantly being watched wasn’t helping her anxiety. 

After months of working on the musical, it was now October 30, the day before the opening of the musical. Cinderville High was doing a production of Phantom of the Opera. At four o’clock in the afternoon, Veronica was meant to be putting the sets together for the final rehearsal, but she was distracted by the feeling of eyes burning into the back of her head. 

“Do you ever feel like you’re being watched?” Veronica asked her best friend, Fiona.

“Maybe it’s the school ghost,” Fiona replied. 

Fiona had been Veronica’s best friend since the third grade. They were both working backstage of the musical together, as Veronica was too scared to do it by herself, however, Fiona’s reply to Veronica’s comment, wasn’t helping Veronica’s paranoia. 

“Are you guys done with the sets yet?” asked Theo.

Theo was Veronica’s other best friend. The two met in their seventh grade math class, and he was soon introduced to Fiona. The three have been inseparable since. Theo had been cast as the lead role in the Phantom of the Opera, and was happy that his two friends would be backstage to help support him. Theo’s parents had never been supportive of his acting career, so it felt nice knowing that his two best friends would be there every day to support him. 

“No, Veronica’s been getting distracted, and has been barely any help,” Fiona sarcastically replied to Theo’s question. 

“I’m sorry guys, but the backstage of this theater has been giving me a weird feeling, like I always feel like something is watching me,” said Veronica. 

Veronica had spent a lot of her time in the backstage area of the Cinderville High auditorium. Every so often she would feel a rush of cold air, that’s gone as soon as it comes. Veronica turned to the small, brown, teddy bear that was held in a trophy case in the left wing. She had always been confused about why the bear was in there, or what purpose it held. Theo had broken the original Phantom mask, but weirdly enough, this stuffed bear was wearing a similar one, so Veronica borrowed it for the remainder of the musical, thinking nothing of it. 

“Maybe it’s the teddy bear that is watching you, Veronica,” Theo jokingly said.

“Ha-ha, great joke. I’m serious though, every day, I come backstage, and I am instantly met with the feeling of something staring at me,” Veronica replied back to her friend.

“Have you guys never heard of the story behind that bear?” questioned Fiona. 

Fiona had always been into weird haunted stories and myths. From the day Veronica met her, a day hadn’t passed that Fiona didn’t have a new scary story to tell her friends. Theo and Veronica never understood where their friend was hearing all of these new ideas. They assumed that Fiona heard them from the true crime podcast that she listened to everyday. As much as Veronica and Theo loved their friend, sometimes the stories she told them could get unsettling.

“No, and I don’t think I want to know it either,” Veronica uttered back to Fiona. 

“Oh, okay, I get it. It’s totally fine, I’ll just keep it to myself, and we will never know the true reason as to why you have been getting weird vibes back here. I totally and completely understand,” Fiona had stated back to her friends.

The two could instantly tell that Fiona desperately wanted to tell the story of the teddy bear, and the two could tell that they would not be able to stop her from doing so either. 

Knowing that his friend needed to tell this story, Theo spoke, “How is it possible that you have something new to tell us, every second, of everyday,” 

“Do you want me to tell you or not,” Fiona bitterly said to the two.

“Not really,” Veronica quietly replied back.

“Okay so, let’s get started. You guys are going to want to sit down for this one, because it gets insane. In 1872, the town of Cinderville was established in the state of Connecticut,” spoke a dramatic Fiona. 

“Yeah, we are aware of the history, we live here” responded Theo.

Fiona ignored the rude interruption and carried on with her story, “Cinderville was going to need a high school for all of its new incoming students. They spent a year and a half building Cinderville High, and on opening night of the new school, the mayor had gifted them a stuffed teddy bear, as the mascot of the school were the bears. The bear had sat in a trophy case in the cafeteria for many years. During these years, strange things would happen. Students reported seeing the bear move, feeling cold air whooshed by when they stood near the case, and many have said that they watched the bear walk around the hallways. 

“After all of these strange sightings and being too scared to throw the bear away, the staff decided to move the trophy case to a dark area that no one used, and up until recently, that room was the school’s theater.

“It is said that even after the bear was moved, even more horrifying events occurred. In 1907, a girl had fallen off the balcony of the theater, and many believe that it was the bear that pushed her. Some people that I have talked to, have said that they think he was in charge of the murders on Witches Bridge-”

            “That’s insane, John Keildforn was arrested for those, almost thirty years ago,” a shaken response came from Veronica. 

            “I’m not done yet. The people I talked to think that Keildforn was innocent, because it has been said that stuffing, from something such as an evil stuffed teddy bear was seen at the site of the murders,” Fiona continued. 

            “You can’t be serious. The murders stopped once John Keildforn was arrested. There is no way that a stupid ‘haunted’ teddy bear, is responsible for the seven lives that were lost,” argued Theo. 

            “Look, I’m not trying to say that Keildforn didn’t do it. It’s just a theory,” argued back Fiona. 

            As Veronica looked back at the teddy bear sitting in the abandoned trophy case, she didn’t doubt for a second that it was the thing responsible for those murders. She usually thought that Fiona’s conspiracy theories were pointless and a waste of time, but something about this specific one, made sense to Veronica. She still wasn’t aware of what was watching her, but she felt like she was getting closer to figuring it out. 

            It was now October 31st, Halloween, and opening night of the Phantom of the Opera. Today had been the first day throughout the entire process of the musical, where Veronica didn’t feel like she was being watched. Although Veronica wasn’t one of the actors, she still felt nervous about the opening night of the musical. It was thirty minutes until the curtains were to open, and she went to find Theo to wish him luck. As she went looking for her friend, she passed the same abandoned trophy case with the same brown teddy bear. She stopped to stare at it for a second, wondering how it was possible that this thing could have been the cause of so many terrible events. Something about the stuffed animal drew Veronica closer to it, close enough to where she was face to face with the bear. 

            “Hey, there you are. We’ve been looking for you everywhere,” said the voice of her best friend Theo, startling her in the process. 

            “Sorry, I went to go find you, but I got distracted on the way,” replied Veronica. 

            “Oh come on. Don’t tell me that Fiona’s story actually scared you,” spoke Theo. 

            Veronica thought for a moment, knowing very well that Fiona’s story did in fact scare her, but she didn’t need Theo to know that.

            “No, of course not. I just wanted to take a better look at the bear. It’s really old, I’m surprised it hasn’t decayed yet,”

            “Good, I was getting worried,” Theo laughed, “There’s going to be an after party at Witches Bridge tonight. Are you in?”

            “Yeah, sure. You better get going though, they’ll be wondering where you are,” Veronica told her friend.

            She wished her friend good luck, and sat back to watch the show go on. After months of hard work, it was nice to see the finished project come full circle. Although she won’t want to admit this to her therapist, having the musical had started to mean a lot to Veronica. She was scared of what would happen when it was over. She had no idea what she would do now. Veronica watched as Theo did amazing in the musical, wondering why his parents couldn’t support him, when he was so good at this. She was deep in thought before she heard a voice behind her.

            “Are you going to the party after this?” She recognized the voice as Fiona’s. 

            Veronica thought for a second, wondering why people thought it would be a good idea for a party to be held at that bridge, when people knew the history about what had gone down there. Of course the murders happened years ago, and people threw parties there all the time without any problems, but something still didn’t feel right. She wanted to trust her gut, but she also felt like maybe she needed to go to this party. 

            “I think I might,” she replied to her friend. She still wasn’t completely sure about this, but there would be no risk in trying it out, right?

            The musical began to wrap up, and the cast was doing their bows. Fiona and Veronica stood up and cheered for Theo as loud as their lungs would let them. As soon as he ran off the stage, they engulfed their friend into a giant hug, letting him know how proud they were of him. 

            “That was amazing,” Veronica expressed. 

            “Yes it was, now get changed because there is a party that we have to go to,” Fiona said. 

            As he walked away in his mask and cloak, Fiona couldn’t help but express how excited she was for the party. Veronica couldn’t help but still feel skeptical about the party at Witches Bridge. This day had been one of the best ones that she’s had in a while, and she didn’t want to let anything ruin it for her. 

            “Who told you guys that there was a party here tonight,” asked Veronica, as the three friends stood on the empty, dark, and cold bridge. 

            “I was given a note saying that the student directors were going to have the after party here,” Theo expressed while digging in his pocket to find the note. 

            Veronica looked at the note that read “Meet at Witches Bridge at 10pm.” It looked like it had been written by a five year old.

            Fiona looked at the note and said “I got the same one,”

Veronica could feel her heart drop. She knew that she should have trusted her instincts and not shown up. She was starting to panic, wanting to know who, or what, was up to this. The three started to turn back to their car, ready to leave the empty bridge, but were soon stopped by the sound of maniacal laughter. 

“What was that?” Fiona was the first one to speak. 

No one replied to Fiona’s comment, as the other two were too stunned to speak. It was quiet for another minute, before they heard the crinkling of leaves in the distance. 

“Nope. Nope. No. We are leaving right now. I am not about to be murdered,” yelled a scared Theo.

Veronica turned around, ready to run to the car, until something stopped her. She saw a shadow coming from the woods that the bridge leads into. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She was scared for her life, but most importantly, she was relieved. Veronica was relieved to know that she wasn’t insane and that those months of being watched weren’t just in her imagination.

“Is that what I think it is?” She heard Fiona whisper from behind her. 

“There is absolutely no way,” said Theo.

The three friends were too frozen in fear to even move. The teddy bear. The same teddy bear from the school’s trophy case was slowly walking towards them. No one dared to move, knowing how dangerous this stuffed teddy bear could potentially be, after hearing Fiona’s dumb story that turns out wasn’t so dumb. 

            The bear began to walk faster, and faster, until it was running at full speed, towards the teenagers. Without even hesitating, the three began to run in the opposite direction like their life depended on it, because it did. Hearing the patterning of the bears’ small footsteps behind them, they ran to the nearby parking lot that Theo’s car was parked in. 

            “Theo. Unlock the car. Why aren’t you unlocking it,” yelled Fiona.

            “M-m-my keys,” Theo stuttered, “They aren’t in my pocket.”

            They heard a jingling, coming from no other than the teddy bear, that was getting closer to them by the second. They could see the small bear holding Theo’s car keys. With no time to waste, they all started running into the woods that were next to the bridge. 

            “There is absolutely no way that we are about to get murdered by a teddy bear right now,” yelled Theo as they were all running.

            Veronica had been too shocked to speak this entire time. She couldn’t believe that the teddy bear in the abandoned trophy case that was put in the back of the school’s theater was what had been watching her for months. And now it was trying to kill her. She didn’t understand what she had done to this bear, to cause it to hate her this much. She continued running throughout the woods, looking for a safe space to hide. They came across a large climbable tree, and started making their way up it, hoping that they would lose the dangerous toy animal behind. 

            “I have so many concerns right now,” Theo was the first to speak. 

            “I know that now probably isn’t the best time to say this, but…I told you so,” said Fiona.

            Veronica was still not able to speak. She connected it all together, the feeling of being watched, the missing set supplies, the note that placed them at Witches Bridge tonight. It all connected back to the bear. And so did the murders back in the 80’s. 

            Gaining the courage to speak again, Veronica said in a shaky voice, “I know that this is kind of funny, but we really need to figure out a plan.”

            Theo began speaking, “We are going to be okay. Everything will be okay. There are three of us and one of them,” spoke Theo, “I think I may have an idea. Veronica is clearly the one that this thing wants.”

            Hearing her best friend say that, put Veronica back into reality. She will never understand why this bear was so interested in her. She felt like it was her fault that her best friends were now in danger. She will never forgive herself for causing this. 

Theo continued explaining his plan, “We can use her as bait to get it back to the bridge. Once it is there, I will distract the bear, as Fiona comes up behind it. We can throw it off the bridge. There is no way that it can survive the river. It will float away and we will never have to deal with it ever again.”

            “How is Veronica supposed to be the bait? This is too dangerous, we can’t.” Said Fiona.

            “No, it’s fine. I’ll do it. I started this somehow, and I am not going to let you guys get killed because of me,” replied Veronica. 

            “Let’s do this then,” Theo said.

            Veronica was now standing in the middle of the woods on the edge of Cinderville. Theo and Fiona were able to make it to the bridge safely, according to Fiona’s text message. Veronica had to wait for the bear to show up, before she could start running towards the bridge. It had been ten minutes, and with each minute, more anxiety filled Veronica. She paced back and forth, waiting for something to happen.

            A noise of rustling leaves were heard in the distance, then followed the sound of maniacal laughter. This was Veronica’s sign to start running as if she were competing in the Olympics. She had to run a mile to the bridge, without the bear catching up. She could hear its footsteps getting faster as she ran. Many thoughts began to race through her mind. She had been searching her mind to figure out what she had done to anger this teddy bear, and then it hit her. She had taken the mask that was on his face to use as Theo’s mask in the Phantom of the Opera. The staff had been on a budget, and she was given permission by the directors to use it, after Theo broke the first one. She never thought that simply borrowing this bear’s mask would cause such a huge disaster.

            After ten long minutes, she had made it to the bridge, severely out of breath. She saw Theo waiting on the edge of the bridge to distract the bear. He was using a large stick as a weapon. She ran past Theo, and the bear had stopped about ten feet away from the two. She could see Fiona getting ready behind the bear.

            Theo made the wise decision to ask the teddy bear a question, “What do you want?”

            In a low demonic voice, the toy said two words, “My mask,” and he started charging at the friends.

            Fiona was quicker than the bear. She swooped up behind it. Picked it up. And threw it over the bridge, into the river. 

            “I will come back. I always come back,” the bear could be heard as it drifted down the stream.

            “Oh my god,” huffed Fiona. 

            “We did it,” said Theo. 

            “This is all my fault. I caused this to happen by taking his mask to use for the musical. I never in a million years thought that it would come after me for using it.”

            “Hey, you cannot blame yourself for this. There is no way that you could have prepared yourself for this to happen,” said Theo.

            “We will always be here for you Veronica. If a psychotic stuffed animal goes after you, then it goes after all of us,” spoke Fiona. 

            Veronica realized then, how much her friends truly cared about her. She pulled them into a hug to thank them for their help. If she had been alone tonight, she would have been the bear’s next victim. 

            “What do we do now,” asked Veronica. She knew that there was no way that their lives would ever be normal after this incident, especially after the bear’s threat of coming back.

            After checking the time, Theo said, “It is two in the morning that is something that we can figure out tomorrow.”

            They walked back to his car, stumbling along his keys on the way there that the bear had most likely dropped at some point. They all went back to their homes, though none of them could sleep after the night’s events. 

            Joey Spencer lived in Cinderville and was a member of the backstage crew of the school musical.

            It was the day after closing night, and everything needed to be torn down and cleaned up. The second he arrived backstage, he had a weird feeling, as if he was being watched.

            Joey stopped what he was doing and looked around. He was alone, besides the stuffed teddy bear that had always been in the trophy case.

            Seeing that no one was near him, he shrugged the feeling off, and continued to clean up the remains of the musical. 

Published by gishislander

Journalism/Communications instructor at Grand Island Senior High School in Grand Island, Nebraska

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