by Destiny Rosales
When I was 6 years old, my older brother convinced me to join him in watching what he described as “a funny movie about a girl who finds a magic doll.” In actuality, the ”funny movie” was an old horror film about a demonically possessed baby doll tormenting a family. Unsurprisingly, I ended up with quite an intense fear of dolls to the point of actively avoiding toy stores throughout my childhood. Even to this day I suffer recurring nightmares about the possessed one that started it all. You can imagine the miniature heart attack I had when, nearly twenty years later, that same older brother gifted me an almost identical antique baby doll at our family’s annual Christmas party. A real stand-up guy, am I right?
Initially I had planned to ditch it in a dumpster somewhere; but knowing how much money antique toys went for online, I decided to use the opportunity to make a bit of chump change. I found a forum site dedicated to people who collect vintage toys and made a post advertising the doll at “name-your-price” value. Since it was still in decent quality for its old age, I imagined a few of the grandmas and collectors who frequented this site would be interested. I got an email about it not even a full six hours later from a potential buyer.
I noticed the listing you’ve posted. Beyond the price you listed, I am currently willing to pay $500 for it, on the sole condition you hand deliver the doll to my place of residence. According to the location that you have listed in your biography, you should have no trouble getting here as long as you have ready access to a car. If you agree to this condition then we will set a meeting date, if not then I will be taking my business elsewhere.
Reply at your earliest convenience,
His insistence that I had to go to his house set off an alarm in my brain: but seeing as $500 was quite the pretty penny to make for an old doll, I agreed.
That’s how I ended up here: driving for three and a half unbroken hours across the county to try and get to this person’s house with that damn doll’s glassy violet eyes staring right at me in the rearview mirror the entire damn time.
After nearly another hour had passed I finally made it to his neighborhood. It was an endless sea of affluence: every house a mansion, and every car either a luxury sports car or a priceless vintage model.
I was so overwhelmed by it all I nearly rear-ended a Bugatti Divo — if this was actually the guy’s neighborhood then his willingness to pay half a thousand dollars for some random doll made a lot more sense.
My jaw nearly dropped when I reached his address. It was the biggest mansion on the street, possibly even the whole neighborhood, and styled to look a bit like a medieval castle: with miniature towers adorning each corner of the roof, tall stained-glass windows, and thick ivy growing up the sides of the walls. I wondered to myself if I should’ve haggled for a higher price.
The walkway looked like it was made of solid marble and it wrapped around one of the largest and most beautiful fountains I’d ever seen. The entire yard seemed to be decorated with marble statues that you’d expect in a museum rather than in some rando’s yard.
While I strolled up the walkway and began admiring the smaller details, I couldn’t help but notice how overgrown the garden looked.The grass seemed nearly three inches tall in some areas, the tree branches were tangling together, and rotting flower petals covered the ground almost everywhere. It was like whoever owned this garden had completely stopped caring about it altogether and just left it to be overtaken by nature.
The “front door” was actually a pair of huge double doors that were painted a rich midnight blue. But even that seemed to be starting to fade and chip away. I took a breath and pressed the doorbell; I could vaguely hear the faint chimes of a classical melody echoing against the walls inside.
Minutes passed yet still no one answered. I swore under my breath at the realization that I had been pranked and drove for hours to an empty house! I was about to turn and start angrily walking back down to my car — until I heard the doors start unlocking. As they opened I was immediately hit by the overpowering scent of bleach. Through burning eyes I attempted to get a look at who was standing inside.
She was extremely tall, at an easy 7 feet, and wore an ankle-length black dress with a low-cut collar that revealed a shocking amount of her ample chest. Tied around her lithe waist was a lacy apron covered with numerous odd-colored stains; I figured she must be the maid.
Despite her oddly formal outfit the maid looked disheveled. Her mousy brown hair was so tousled that she looked as if she had just gotten out of bed: her black lipstick smudged against her small lips and bucked teeth so much that she looked like she had put it on in the dark.
Her eyes were what really caught my attention. For starters they looked like they took up practically half of her head and had deep black rings beneath them, as if she hadn’t had a full night of rest in years. That was nothing compared to her pupils. Her left eye had a normal, if not slightly enlarged, pupil with a turquoise iris that glittered a bit under the light of the sun. But her right eye–her right eye had no iris at all! Having a pupil that was so dilated in comparison to the other, I wondered if she could even see properly in either of them.
Minutes passed as she stared at me in silence. The gaze of her strange pupils felt almost hypnotic. Realizing she wasn’t going to say anything, I finally broke the ice.
“H-Hello there um, Does a Mister uh, A.C.E live here? We, uh- Met on a toy collecting forum… I’m here to sell him this doll?” I held it up high for her to see.
That explanation was good enough for her as she moved aside and gestured for me to come in: again without saying a single word.
I walked in and looked around at the alcove of the house. It was what you’d probably expect the inside of an old-fashioned mansion to appear. A large, double-sided marble staircase twisted around the entrance with velvet carpets draped down from both sides of the stairs, blending together at the bottom to make a single pathway from the front doors. The solid gold banisters twinkled under the starry light of the large crystal chandelier that hung heavily from the high ceiling. I stared in awe until I heard a small cough and turned to see the maid gesturing for me to follow her up one of the large staircases and around a corner.
The following walk felt like it lasted for hours due to the maid’s almost painful silence. I tried to ask questions about whatever I could think of — the Mansion, who owned it, the neighborhood — to try and coax some conversation out of her. Every response was a brief inaudible muttering of a few words in a voice that sounded more like a faint whistle before going back to silence. Soon the only sounds were our footsteps hitting the hardwood floor.
I tried to find some solace in looking at the many oil paintings lining the wall. Most featured generic landscapes and biblical scenes, but the largest one featured the family I assumed owned the house. The husband was slender and tall, with slicked back ginger hair that had a single lock drooping against his face. The wife was shorter and round with pale blonde hair held up in a large bun by a bejeweled golden comb. Standing between them was a portly young boy with pale orange hair that had the same rebellious lock sticking out as his father. They were all very well-dressed, with the father and son wearing matching dark red tuxedos with black accents and the mother wearing a dark red dinner gown with a black fur trim. The son clutched a very expensive-looking porcelain doll in his arm and a noticeable frown on his face. His father leaned against a golden walking cane and wore a scowl, and despite his mother having a black fan blocking her mouth, the cruel glint in her eyes made it clear she was grimacing too. As I felt the figures of the portrait looking down at me I suddenly found myself feeling very small.
I continued to look around at the details of the hallways and soon noticed that the closer I looked at the wall the more I saw the mansions’ true state. Small cracks of various lengths crisscrossed faintly across the wall and old water stains dripped down from the high ceiling nearly down to the floor. Even small spiders were making their home in the corners of picture frames and hallway candelabras.
I wondered if the Maid had any co-workers; If so, then they were definitely slacking off on their job. But if there weren’t others, then why would such a large house only have one servant?
The previous awkward silence was finally broken by the sound of the maid knocking a short rhythm against a large white door with silver floral designs painted on it. A heavily muffled voice could be heard through the heavy wood.
“Come in Mehitty!”
‘Mehitty’ opened the door and we entered what I could only describe as my worst nightmare — nearly every surface in the room was covered in dolls.
As I slowly walked into the room I felt hundreds of eyes watching me. Hundreds of Unblinking Soulless Lifeless eyes watching my every–
I was jolted out of my near-anxiety attack by the sound of an elegant voice from the other side of the room. In my panic I hadn’t noticed the dining table in the middle of the room where a lone man sat at the far end. Judging by his beefy physique and pale orange hair with a single lock sticking out, there was the boy from the portrait all grown up.
I cleared my throat a bit and adjusted the doll in my arm. “Hello, I’m here about the–”
“The Doll! Of Course, of course! Why don’t you take a seat?” he said, as he wiggled his plump fingers a bit in excitement.
I walked closer and I began noticing a few oddities. For starters the seats around the table I had thought were empty actually sat more dolls: each with their own small plate and tiny china glass, as if we were at the pretend tea party of a young girl.
Then there was the man’s interesting appearance. His skin was unnaturally pale to the point of being as white as paper. The overly vibrant pink blush of his nose and cheeks made it clear that he had caked his entire face in old-school theatre make-up, which just made the thick layer of sweat gleaming across his face all the more prominent.
As I took my seat at the other end of the table I noticed that Mehitty was whispering something into the man’s ear.
“The cookies are finished, Mehitty? Wonderful! Why don’t you bring them here along with some tea for our guest?”
Mehitty gave him a dutiful nod and with a curtsy and a smile rushed out of the room.
“I do hope Mehitabel didn’t startle you,” he said once she left the room. “She’s a darling but a bit of a recluse and can get just so meek when company comes over!”
“She seems…very hardworking.” I rubbed my neck and looked down at my hands while I thought over my answer. “You’ve got a really nice home here, Mr.–”
“Oh yes, I couldn’t get through a single day without her! She’s such a doll.” He chuckled a bit which caused the rolls of his chin to jiggle slightly. “You may call me Aloysius and thank you. This particular estate has been in my family for just about three generations now. My mother was Dame Imogen Churchnut and my father was Thurston Elon so as you can imagine–I come from two very long lines of wealth and privilege.”
He placed a prideful hand theatrically against his chest. I nodded politely and tried not to laugh at his over-the-top mannerisms. The Elons are a very wealthy, old-money family who seem to have spread their influence across the globe. Thurston Elon in particular I recognized as having been the original owner of the uranium mill that practically employed our entire town when he was alive. His mother’s name didn’t ring any bells for me but I already knew from the “Dame” title that she must’ve been someone important.
Suddenly the door swung upon again and Mehitty came gliding into the room with a tray of delicious smelling cookies piled high in one hand and a shining silver tea tray in the other, balancing both trays in hand with ease and experienced grace.
“Oh good, the cookies are ready! My, I’m positively famished. Oh Mehitty, they smell absolutely exquisite.” Aloysius rubbed his hands together excitedly. She gave him a modest smile while the faintest blush spread across her pale cheeks. She placed both trays on the table and immediately began piling cookies onto his silver tea plate. Aloysius beamed at her from the sidelines.
The cookies did look and smell scrumptious and since Aloysius was already helping himself I took it as a sign that I could take my share. I leaned over a bit to grab my first one and–WHACK
I pulled myself back into my seat as I held my now red and throbbing hand. I looked up to see Mehitty glaring down at me with a look of such accusing malice that I started down into my chair in fear.
Aloysius reached over to take her hand in his and rubbed the top of her knuckle gently with his plump thumb. “Now, now, it’s quite alright Mehitty. Our new friend can have a cookie or two if they wish.”
Mehitabel eased up a bit, but still looked like she wanted me dead as she placed exactly two cookies onto my plate. I decided that trying to ask for any more would probably be a bad idea.
I slowly nibbled on my first cookie as I watched Aloysius enjoy his share. Mehitabel stood at his side and proudly filled his plate with more whenever it started looking empty. She sent me a glare from across the table every few cookies or so.
Once Aloysius had finished–meaning once the platter was completely cookieless–he pushed his plate aside with a gentle hiccup. Mehitabel softly smiled as she dutifully wiped the crumbs off his mouth with her worn apron.
“Do forgive Mehitabel’s earlier outburst. She can be a bit protective. Isn’t that right Mehitty?”
Mehitabel bashfully nodded and Aloysius smiled up at her. I took another small bite of my second cookie and tried to come up with a response that wouldn’t spark anymore of Mehitabel’s wrath.
“Mehitabel seems very…devoted to her job. Has she worked for you awhile?”
Aloysius chuckled softly and continued to rub her knuckle as the two shared an affectionate glance.
“Longer than you’d imagine. She was my Nanny’s child and lived alongside her here in the manor. We’ve practically known each other our whole lives.” Aloysius gazed at her lovingly for a second before turning and clearing his throat. “Now then. Back to the task at hand. Let me see the doll.”
I placed the doll on the table and watched as he tediously spent the next few minutes thoroughly inspecting every inch of it.
“Yes..good…good…everything seems to be in acceptable condition.” He said as he flipped the doll over. When he finished the inspection, he looked at me with an expectant smile. “She’s such a beautiful work of art. Isn’t she?”
I awkwardly laughed and rubbed the back of my neck. “I’ll take your word for it. I’m honestly not exactly a fan of dolls.”
He raised a confused eyebrow. “You don’t like dolls?”
“To be honest I think I kind of.. hate them?”
The following silence was so thick you’d need a pickaxe to cut through it. Aloysius stared at me in utter shock while Mehitabel’s glaring sank me deeper into my chair.
“How could you possibly find anything about dolls worthy of hate?” Aloysius finally said. He slicked his long hair back, only for it to instantly spring back against his face.
My throat went dry as I once again tried to find the safest response. “I-I just find them uh, strange-looking?”
“Strange looking?” Aloysius said with a forced smile that caused his vividly pink upper lip to twitch slightly.
“Well it’s just…their faces always look so blank and emotionless. And their eyes look like they’re following you around the room.”
His forced smile grew in size and his entire face was now twitching a bit. Mehitabel’s asymmetrical eyes were even more hateful. The room seemed darker and I knew immediately that our little tea party was over.
“If you don’t mind, Mr. Aloysius, I would like my payment now so I can just be on my way,” I said in a slight panic, rising from my chair.
“Off so soon? But you haven’t even had a taste of Mehitabel’s tea yet. She made it especially for your visit.” The aggression in Aloysius’ voice slipped through the cracks of his calm facade. He tried to slick his long strand of hair back once more. “Why don’t you just sit back down and have a cup of her delicious tea, hm?”
The scent of bleach returned to my nose and I looked up to see Mehitabel was now towering over my seat. She grabbed my shoulders with a shockingly strong grip and lowered me back down with a look of barely restrained rage. Leaning over my chair with her heavy chest weighing down against my head, she grabbed the kettle and poured some tea into my cup.
“It’s her special rose and herb flavor. Mehitty grows all of the ingredients right here in our garden, Now go on then. Have a sip.”
Through the bleachy scent that surrounded me I could pick up the strong scent of the tea. It smelled edible at the very least; sweet to be completely honest but from the dark red color and the people serving it, I wasn’t sure what it’s true nature was.
At this point I had completely forgotten the money and was just desperate to get out of there: not having many other options I tried to lie my way to safety.
“Thank you Mehitabel but I’m actually horribly allergic to–” was all I could get out before Mehitabel shoved the contents of the cup into my mouth. I held the piping hot liquid in my cheeks, trying not let any of it get past my tongue.
“Drink. The. Fucking. Tea.” Aloysius screamed and any semblance of patience or mercy seemed to vanish. He slammed his fists hard against the table and rose from his chair.
I realized just how large he truly was—- easily eclipsing me in both height and weight. I could now feel the eyes of the dolls I had blocked out at full force, staring down and mocking me. Almost instinctively I pulled my knees up to my chest and sank even lower into my chair.
The tea was now burning the inside of my mouth and I knew I couldn’t dare spit it out. I silently prayed that whatever this tea did to me, it would all be over quickly. The tea felt like lava in my throat and stomach as I swallowed it all down in one hard gulp; but the sensation wasn’t something I had to endure for long because within seconds everything went dark.
I woke up with a pounding head on a hard cot inside a dark cell that smelled of stale piss and rotten meat. I tried to adjust my eyes to the dim lanterns that illuminated this dark chamber with little avail. I tried to get up and realized that my hands were shackled together and chained to the stone wall by heavy metal cuffs. My legs were left free but thanks to my shackles I could only get a few feet before the chains pulled me back.
I tried to react to my situation but I realized something — my mouth wouldn’t open, and my lips were numb with pain.
Suddenly I heard a heavy door open and two sets of feet walking towards me. I didn’t have to guess who it was. The lantern he carried brightened our surroundings only a slight bit better than any of the other lanterns did.
“Oh good! You’re finally awake.” They wore the ugliest smiles.
I looked behind him to see that Mehitabel held that fucking baby doll in her arms. It was wrapped up in a pastel pink blanket and was wearing a matching bonnet. When Aloysius caught me staring, he wrapped his arms around her waist, and they both gazed at it with loving eyes. They could have been mistaken for a pair of proud parents holding their newborn. The thought made my insides churn.
“I’m sorry things had to end this way friend, I truly am. But you needed to learn your lesson. Don’t take this personally of course. You’re not the first guest I’ve had to throw down here and you certainly won’t be the last…”
His massive form approached the cell and grabbed one of the metal bars in his free hand not breaking eye contact with me.
“It’s so rare that we meet someone who appreciates my treasures: truly appreciates them.”
He walked back to Mehitabel and softly stroked the doll’s plastic cheek with his palm. Mehitabel pouted a bit in sympathy and ran her fingers through his hair.
“It seems every guest we have visit us only ever sees my collection as some superficial novelty, or as something even worse.” They both turned back towards me with matching faces of hatred.
Driven by what little adrenaline I had left, I began to charge at the bastards — but as you’d expect the chains pulled me back before I could even get my nose through the gaps between the bars.
“Now, My Friend. Trying to fight won’t do you any good. But don’t you worry too hard. It won’t last much longer.”
Mehitabel let out a quiet giggle that echoed throughout the vast and empty chamber. Aloysius stuck his thick arm between the bars and used his fat finger to stroke the side of my chin; the vile grin on his pale painted lips twisted my already sore stomach into an even tighter knot.
“After all, no one can live very long with a sewn up mouth.”
Destiny Rosales is an 18-year-old Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, New York. She’s currently a first-year Creative Writing major at LaGuardia Community College. She aspires to become a professional novelist and hopes to one day work in film and television as a screenwriter. In addition to writing, her hobbies include drawing, watching movies, and reading.