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Dolls In The Dark

‘The dolls!’ was Emma’s first conscious thought.

‘The dolls!’ was Emma’s first conscious thought. She was sure she heard the delicate sounds of pitter-patter across her hardwood floors. 

With a shaking hand, she grabbed her phone and prayed to God that nothing had touched her. Emma’s fingers slid silently along the now lit screen and unlocked it. Every movement was stiff and deliberate. Fear and panic had seized her muscles. 

She pressed the flashlight button and shined it around the room; moving quickly, trying to see it all at once. Upon seeing nothing, she did a slower, more deliberate sweep. Nothing had changed, nothing was out of place. Her heart began to slow and she took a deep breath. 

Emma’s frightened mind didn’t trust the beam of light coming from the phone and reached for the lamp. 

The small porcelain Victorian lady held up what was supposed to be her torch illuminated the large bedroom the best it could. 

‘Why do people insist on having these decorative pieces that do nothing?’ Emma thought angrily and then out loud she scolded it. “You’re not cute enough to be so useless.” 

She felt a little better after taking her anger out on the lamp. The Victorian woman’s vivid green eyes stared back with contempt, seeming to judge her. As if even in porcelain this woman was her better. 

“God, are you judging me too? Like I need that from you. My grandmother did it enough for the both of you,” Emma grumbled and slipped out of bed. 

The hardwood floor was cold on her toes and she made a mental note to get slippers. She stood and stretched and then turned the light on her phone off. 

“3:15? Ugh, I’ll never get back to sleep.”  

Emma walked out into the moonlit hallway towards the restroom when her mind decided to remind her of a few things. Unfortunately, it had a way of doing that. 

The little voice inside her head that sounded like her, but with a bit of a hysterical edge to it whispered, ‘3:15? The witching hour. What happened at 3:15? Oh, the Amityville Murders. That’s the time that George Lutz kept waking up in The Amityville Horror. It’s also the time when scary things are at its strongest.’

“Shut up,” Emma hissed. It was too late though, she was frozen in the mostly dark hallway, halfway between her bedroom and the bathroom. Her bladder urged her forward, but fear froze her to the spot. 

‘You know,’ the voice continued, ‘I bet it was the dolls. They are in that room right behind you. It’s so dark in there, is it always that dark?’

Emma made a small whimpering sound and spun on the spot trying to look into the doll room. ‘God, is it always this dark? Why is it so dark?’ Her mind raced to sort her thoughts.

Grandma Louise insisted on collecting dolls; displaying them around the lower level of the house. Once the doll reached a certain maturity as her grandmother would say, they would move to the shelves of the upstairs room for safekeeping. There had to be hundreds of them and all were old and scary to Emma. 

‘Scary and looking at you. You know with their little shiny glass eyes they can see you far better than you can.’

“Shut up,” Emma snapped. She unlocked her phone and hovered over the little flashlight icon. What if when she pressed that button and someone or something was standing there?

‘And what if you don’t and the monster JUMPS out at you?’ the spiteful voice giggled as she emphasized the word jumps.

“Oh, shut up,” Emma hissed again and pressed the button. 

It lit the room and there seemed to be nothing out of place. She stepped forward and every doll was in it’s home, sleeping for the night.

Emma took a deep breath and turned the bedroom light on. She instantly began to relax and started feeling foolish again. 

The light of the room lit the hallway and the door to the bathroom so she decided to leave it on and go take care of her business. 

She washed her hands and splashed a little cold water on her face. Emma hesitated for a second before looking in the mirror. The briefest of thoughts that someone would be behind her standing in the shower flitted through her mind, but she brushed it aside and assessed the dark circles under her eyes.

The last few months had been hard on her, mostly self-inflicted. A series of bad choices had forced her to move in with her grandmother again. At least until she got on her feet. 

She yawned and opened the bathroom door, turned the light off, and stepped into the once again darkened hallway. 

At first, she didn’t think anything of it then the oh so helpful voice was back. ‘Who turned off the light?”

“Oh shit.” Emma was less than a foot from the doll room door and the light had been turned off.

‘Before, why did you say sleeping for the night? Do you believe they need sleep? That would mean you believe they are alive and technically if they were alive they wouldn’t be up during the day.’ 

“Stop it,” Emma’s voice was tiny with fear. 

The cruel voice continued, ‘They would be sleeping during the day and roaming your room at night. Possibly even watching you sleep.

“They don’t watch me sleep.”

‘But do you know that for sure? Do you, Emma?’

Her hands were shaking with terror as she once again unlocked her phone and pressed the flashlight icon. 

The room was just a room. No boogeyman, no wandering dolls, nothing scary to hurt her. She stepped into the room and turned on the overhead light. 

A shrill voice ripped through the silent house, “Turn off that light!”

Emma jumped and screamed. Her grandmother stood in her bedroom doorway wearing her long white nightgown. The moonlight backlit her giving her an eerie glow. 

“Sorry, grandma. I thought I heard something.” 

“Chasing shadows as always. It’s just the house settling. It’s old, it settles like your old gran.” 

Emma smiled at her and the fears of the moment vanished. 

“Now cut that light out, I’ve already done it once.”

“Sorry, grandma.” She turned the light off and stepped fully out of the room. 

“They never liked you.” 

“What?” Had her grandmother really said that they never liked her?

“You’ve never liked them so why are you messing around in there?”

The unease was threatening to return. “As I said, I thought I heard something.” 

“Well, go on now, get to bed. You’ve got a busy day tomorrow. Job hunting and fixing things around here. You won’t be lazing about, you’ll earn your keep.

“Yes, grandma. Goodnight.” 

Her grandmother nodded and went back to her room. With a small sigh, Emma made her way back to her room. She felt annoyed and foolish. 

She hated that she had to be here. This house and her grandmother had scared her most of her life. When she turned seventeen she ran off and married the first boy to give her attention. That ended six months later and Emma had been bouncing from one meaningless relationship to another. The last one left her homeless and with nothing to her name. 

It forced her hand and fifteen years after she left home she came crawling back despite her fears. 

“Oh well, what’s done is done,” she lamented and crawled in the bed, slipping her phone under her pillow. Her hand was on the lamp's cord when she did one last sweep of the room. The closet door was cracked and she didn’t normally ever leave that open. 

She hesitated for a moment, but exhaustion was trying to pull her under, and in the end, she shrugged and turned the light off. 

Emma was almost asleep when the snarky voice whispered through her mind. ‘Hey, Emma? When you were in the doll room did you notice the shadow slipping into the closet when you turned the light on?’

‘No, now stop it.” She closed her eyes tighter. 

‘Oh, you saw it. It slipped into the closet and it must have come through yours. That’s why it’s open now.’

‘No, I left that open when I changed my clothes.’

‘Did you?’

“Yes,” Emma mumbled into the silent dark room. 

‘What about the cold spot on your leg? You feel that don’t you? It’s one of them.’

Emma whimpered with fear. She did feel the slight cold moving gently up her bare leg. It had to be her imagination. The same one that had taunted her most of her life.

The bed shuddered as if something bumped it and she felt another cold spot on the side.

“No, it’s just my imagination running away again.”

Not wanting to take that chance she leaned over and reached for the porcelain lamp. It wasn’t there. She felt around frantically, but it wasn’t there. The bottle of water toppled and fell to the floor. 

“Where the hell are you?” The lamp had been there only moments ago.

‘It left you, Emma. It wants to keep you in the dark. Such terrible things in the dark.’

Her hand slid under her pillow and she pulled out her phone, unlocking and pressing the icon. The lamp was not on the nightstand, it was sitting on the floor moved as far as the cord would allow. 

There was another cold sensation under her blanket. It was hard and slid along her upper thigh.

‘It’s the dolls, Emma,’ that cruel voice crooned. 

Emma slowly lifted the blanket and shone the light under the blanket 

To her complete and utter horror, there were four porcelain dolls underneath looking at her with their soulless eyes and shiny smiles. The one closest to her stomach, leaned forward the tiniest bit and slowly began to smile. Her cold glossy red lips parted to expose razor-sharp teeth. There was something clasped in her little fist.

“Oh dear God no,” Emma cried just as the doll lunged for her. 

*

‘The dolls!’ was Emma’s first conscious thought. 

Her hand shook as she reached for the cellphone. A sense of deja-vu swept over her and she paused. 

‘It’s the dolls, Emma,’ the cruel soft voice inside her head whispered.

 

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