Copyright © 2012 by Monique Paul
Maryanne had her nose pressed against the store’s display window like a girl watching her Christmas Gift. She felt as if the doll had called her. She took her husband’s hand and pulled him inside the antique store to the doll in the window. The doorbell brought the store owner out from the back room.
“May I help you?” she asked, waving them into the store with his hand. “I’m Joan Campbell, welcome to my little antique store.”
Mary smiled back at her. “Maryanne and Karl Eberstark,” she said. “You have a great little shop here.”
Joan shook hands with Maryanne and Karl. “German?” she asked.
“Yes, but I relocated with my parents still being a kid, Maryanne was born in Masachussets,” Karl answered.
Karl looked at his wife. He had never seen her mesmerized with anything as she was with the doll. He didn’t quite understand why she was so fascinated by it.
Joan took the doll out of the showcase and handed it to Maryanne.” Are you sure this is the one you’d like?
“Yes, I’m positive,” Maryanne answered, holding the doll with both hands. “This is the one I want.”
Joan looked at Maryanne. She recalled looking at the expression on her face before, many years ago, in the face of a newly married young woman called Alice. She remembered her father bringing the doll back several weeks after he bought it. Alice’s father never mentioned a word about his daughter, just gave Joan the doll back in a wooden box sealed with nails. He just left the doll back at the store and left, never bothered to ask for his money back.
Maryanne looked at Karl. “Please, sweetie… I want this doll.”
Karl felt something was strange about the doll, almost like his DNA rejected it. “Don’t you think you’re too grown up to be playing with dolls, Maryanne?”
“Karl, this is a collection antique, not a toy… I want it. I have the perfect place at home for it,” she said, with a wide smile.
“It’s just a doll… why am I feeling this way about a doll? It’s just a toy, a piece of porcelain and some fabric, nothing more. How can a toy make me feel so nervous? This is nonsense”, Karl thought as they walked to the car.
Driving home, he watched the way Maryanne admired the doll.
“It’s just a doll. There’s nothing to fear from a doll. It really is one ugly doll, though, scary,” he thought.
Maryanne picked up on her husband’s silence. Holding the doll carefully by the arms she asked. “What are you thinking about, honey?”
“Nothing, Maryanne, well, just that it’s… ugly, yes, very ugly, and creepy.”
“Ugly? Honey, it’s an antique. Her porcelain face is hand painted–no doubt it’s a work of art. In a few years, it’ll double its worth. Think of it as an investment, an art investment.”
“Yes, all right, maybe it is an investment. Do you think we can put our investment in its box until we get home?” Karl asked.
Maryanne laughed and placed the doll inside its box and closed the lid. Then she put it in the back. “Feel better now?” she asked, laughing.
“Thank you,” Karl answered.
When they got home, Karl went straight to the fridge to get a beer. Maryanne placed the doll inside a fine crystal showcase in the living room by the chimney.
“It looks beautiful here, and inside the showcase, it’ll be protected,” Maryanne said. She stepped back to admire it from a different perspective.
“Yes, it looks so beautiful,” Karl said, getting up from the couch. “I’m going to the family room, are you coming?”
“Yes, in a few minutes.”
Karl felt a strange feeling, he left as if he was being observed. He turned to look at the doll as he left the room. He could feel its eyes on him, inquisitive, with a creepy shine. A chill ran thru his body. He hurried out of the room.
Karl sat down on a couch in the family room that was next to the living room and in front of a long balcony in the large 15th-floor apartment where they lived. A beautiful view of the city could be seen from the couch.
“Why am I feeling this way? It’s just a doll. It wasn’t really looking at me… it must have been just an optic effect, nothing else,” Karl thought.
Maryanne came into the room. She’d never seen Karl behave like this before. “Is the doll that disgusting to you?”
“I said it didn’t look like a cute ornament to me. Yes, I find it disgusting. But, we’ll keep it, if you like it.”
“I always wanted one of these dolls. But if you hate it so much I’ll take it back. Or I’ll keep it at my parent’s house. My mother can keep it for me.”
After all, Maryanne’s marriage was more important than a doll, and she didn’t want Karl uncomfortable in his own house.
Maryanne called her mother. She explained the problem with the doll.
“Thank you, Mom, can I bring it over tonight?
“No, not tonight, your father and I were just on our way out.”
“Would you like to come here for breakfast tomorrow morning, and I’ll give you the doll.”
“Yes, your father and I’ll come over in the morning.”
Maryanne hung up the phone and turned to Karl. “Will be all right? They’ll come and get the doll in the morning?”
Karl took Maryanne in his arms. “Yes, that would be okay. And thank you for thinking of me in this. I love you.”
“Love you, too,” Maryanne said, and they kissed sweetly.
That evening they didn’t go into the living room again. They had dinner in the family room watching a movie and then turned in for the night.
Karl curled up with Maryanne and tried to forget about the doll. But the bad feeling he got from the doll stayed with him.
“Tomorrow you’ll be gone,” He managed to fall asleep with Maryanne close beside him.
About three in the morning. Karl woke up feeling restless. He got out of bed and went to the family room to read for a while.
“Maybe reading will calm me down, get me tired enough to sleep,” he thought. He picked ‘Children of the Enemy’ from the bookshelf. “Maybe a good thriller will distract me from that damn doll. And tomorrow it’ll be gone.”
Karl snuggled on the couch to read. He was immersed in the book when he heard a noise from outside the room, it sounded like tiny little steps. He turned to the balcony and then to the opened door. But saw nothing. He went back to his reading, but couldn’t get as immersed in the story as earlier. He read but listened carefully for any sound. A small shadow crossed the balcony’s door, very fast. Maybe it was just a bird — pigeons often land on the balcony. Karl was restless. Something was wrong — he felt it in his gut.
He went to check on Maryanne. She was asleep. He stood by her as she slept peacefully.
“You are so beautiful, my angel. And you are an angel, getting rid of your doll for me. I will make it up to you,” Karl thought; then he kissed her forehead and returned to the studio.
Everything looked fine, but he had a sense that he needed to be on guard. He decided to check on the doll. I’m not going to go in the room with it, just take a look from the doorway. Standing in the living room door, he could see the doll in the showcase.
“What a creepy ugly thing you are. Stay in your cage,” he whispered at the doll.
As he turned his back to the doll to walk away, the doll’s eyes moved following him. It was not an optic effect.
Karl went back to his reading. After a few minutes, he heard the footsteps again. But this time they sounded heavier, and as if there was more than one person.
“Maryanne, is that you?” he asked. “Don’t fool around. That doll gives me the creeps. And you know it.”
There was no answer. Karl got up and walked back to the bedroom. Maryanne wasn’t there.
“Maryanne, where are you?” he asked out loud. He could hear noises in the living room. He walked to the balcony, where he could see into the living room, and check on most of the apartment at the same time.
There was no one out on the balcony, but when he looked through the door into the living room he saw Maryanne sitting there with someone else. He hadn’t heard anyone coming into the house. He looked for the doll in the showcase, it was empty.
He opened the door into the living room, “Maryanne?”
Maryanne stood up. A girl stood next to her. The two of them walked towards him. It was dark, but as they got closer to the open door, the moonlight illuminated their faces. Karl gasped and stepped back. Maryanne and the doll looked like twins, giant dolls in green dresses, porcelain heads with crystal eyes and a demonic smile. They walked towards him baring their teeth.
Karl stepped back against the balcony railing. Maryanne and the doll continued to get closer.
“We are her family, now,” Maryanne said in an eerie tone.
Karl felt his throat close, left him unable to speak.
“You are my Daddy,” said the doll.
Maryanne took Karl’s hand. He flinched, and it banged her hand against the railing. Her porcelain fingers fell in pieces to the floor.
The doll became angry. “Why did you break my Mommy?”
Karl tried to push the doll away with his hand. She bit his hand, severing two of his fingers. The doll tried to grab Karl. He dodged away from her, but lost his equilibrium and tumbled over the railing, falling fifteen floors to the pavement below.
The doll turned to Maryanne. “I want Daddy, you’re a bad Mommy,” she said and began hitting Maryanne in the face.
Maryanne crumpled to the floor and remained motionless. The doll walked back inside.
The doorman called the police. He rushed over to Karl’s body. When he recognized it was Maryanne’s husband he called her parents.
When the police arrived, as the medics attended to Karl, they had the doorman take them up to the apartment. They found Maryanne on the balcony floor. She was alive, but her face was completely disfigured, literally broken. She looked monstrous, three fingers on her right hand were missing; the fingers were scattered across the balcony floor along with Karl’s. She was wearing the green dress like the doll and babbling insane.
Maryanne’s father tried to shield her mother, but before he could stop her, she ran to her daughter. When she saw Maryanne, she fainted.
The Detective walked out onto the balcony with her father.
“Get the paramedics up here, and quick,” he radioed to the dispatcher. “Don’t touch anything,” he instructed her father, then knelt down by her mother.”
Maryanne’s father stepped back as they waited for the medics. He saw the doll in the showcase.
“What happened here? This doll gives creeps. Whatever happened here, this doll is involved,” he thought.
As the medics took Maryanne and her mother, and the Detective looked around on the balcony, Maryanne’s father put the doll back in its box and looked at the receipt.
“You’re going back where you came from,” he said.
As he followed the ambulance to the hospital, Maryanne’s father stopped at the store. He didn’t want to wait another minute to get rid of the doll.
“May I help you,” Joan asked. She spotted the doll’s box, and she knew why the man was there.
“Just take the doll,” Maryanne’s father said.
“I’ll get you a refund,” Joan said, walking towards the cash register.
“I don’t care about the money. I just want to get rid of this, and right now,” Maryanne’s father said, dropping the box on the counter and quickly went off the store.
Joan opened the box. She smiled to the doll.
“Welcome home young lady.”
Then she placed it back in the store’s front window with a small sign next to it: “Looking for a loving mom and dad.”