Glass blue eyes stared out at the world, unblinking.
I stared back, my reflection rested over the doll’s face, the glass of the display cabinet catching the light. It was a pretty little thing, pale porcelain skin and honey blonde locks. Plaited and neat, I longed for such hair, so different to my unruly black mop. She wore a cornflower blue dress and white pinafore, little black shoes polished to shine.
“What are you doing, ma cherie?”
I snapped away from the cabinet quickly, heart pulsing at the familiar, husky voice of my great-aunt. A wiry old woman stood there draped in a silken robe, her bony arms crossed over her chest. Maman sat on the couch behind her, looking worried. I waited with breath abated for her judgement. Everyone was afraid of Aunt Marie.
My grandmother’s sister did not like children, or noise or mess or animals or anything I did really. She never had visitors and this was the first time I had been in her home. A towering mansion with more rooms than I could imagine, paintings hanging on every wall and gold framed photographs from Aunt Marie’s theatre days displayed with pride. Maman said she had been a great success in her youth, a beauty like no other. Looking at the blonde woman in the photographs, I was inclined to agree. A toy like woman herself, with big eyes and a tiny mouth, lips painted red.
I had been drawn to the doll in the cabinet because she was like nothing else in Aunt Marie’s home. I was surprised to find such a treasure in a house filled with adult things.
Aunt Marie came up to me, crouching down to my level and giving me an assessing look. She reached out and cupped my chin, turning my face this way and that. I shrank back, but was surprised when she smiled at me.
“You like her?” she asked, “She has been in our family for many years.”
“She’s beautiful!” I couldn’t help but exclaim.
“Then she will be yours,” Aunt Marie said, caressing my cheek with her wizened hand, “I think you will suit her quite well, non?”
“I’ll look after her,” I swore, “Thank you!”
“Oh, I know you will,” Aunt Marie looked to my mother, “I think I will retire early tonight.”
Before she could depart, I asked;
“What is she called?”
“Sophie! Don’t be rude!” Maman scolded me, “Your aunt is tired.”
I flushed with embarrassment.
Aunt Marie smiled wider though and I wondered why I had ever been scared of her.
“It is funny, you know,” she said in her deep voice as something hungry came into her expression, “Her name is Sophie too.”
I couldn’t sleep that night. Aunt Marie’s house moaned like a dying man. Every sound startled me into wakefulness and I lay with my pillow clamped tight over my head. The creak of floor boards made me start up, the sound too close for comfort. I whimpered, looking around in terror but seeing nothing in the dark.
I wanted Maman.
Slowly, I drew the covers away, my ears pricked for more of the creaking. I slipped onto the wooden floors, trying hard to walk lightly. It was dark, but the light from the burning moon outside was just enough to see by. Still, I kept my arms outstretched, fully prepared to knock into something.
The passage outside my room was deserted. The moonlight was brighter here, flooding in from a high, round window at one end. The photographs were shadowed darkly, barely visible in the night. What I could see scared me, my Aunt’s face twisted up into something else.
Shaking myself, I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, my hand running lightly over the wall as I crept to Maman’s room.
I stopped in my tracks, foot hovering in the air as I strained to listen. The tiniest whisper had carried the words to me. I looked around.
“Hello?” I called anxiously.
No answer came.
My shoulders relaxed and I was about to carry on my way, when the sound reached me again.
‘No! Let me go!’
I moved, this time towards the voice, away from Maman’s door. Quickly I stepped, being pulled along by some unknown force, the shadows in the moonlight my only witness. The voice, first a breath in my ear, grew louder and louder with every step.
‘HELP! LET ME OUT! LET ME GO!’
Urgency hurried my steps, I fell and fumbled back up, determined to find the voice. It was so scared. So alone. So desperate for help. It drew me forward like a sirens call.
Ba-bump! Ba-bump! BA-BUMP!
My heart drummed; cold sweat clamped my skin. I was breathing hard without realising it and I wanted to stop. I so desperately wanted to stop and call out for Maman, but I didn’t.
Down the stairs and through the mansion I raced until my feet took me to a familiar door. Here I slowed, pushing it open with a heavy rasp. There was a light on in the room, yellow and low. It illuminated the outline of the display cabinet, but still hid the Sophie-doll within from sight.
“You are up late, ma cherie.’
I nearly jumped at the husky voice, my eyes darting for its source. Aunt Marie sat on the couch, hidden in shades and shadows. She was dressed for bed, her silken robe hanging open to reveal a lacy white nightdress. The yellow light made her sallow skin sickly and I could have sworn her eyes shone out in the darkness, like a cat’s.
“Did you hear it?” I asked, straining to find the sound once more.
“Hear what?” she asked.
“Someone’s calling for help!” I cried.
She looked around her, making a great show of twisting her neck about and peering into corners. When she turned back to me, she was laughing.
“I hear nothing,” she said.
‘Let me out! Please!’
“There it is!” I exclaimed, frantically trying to trace it. The sickly yellow light showed little of the room. There were so few places to hide. Behind the couch? The door?
I pointed to the cabinet, sure that was where the voice was coming from.
Aunt Marie didn’t even look where I pointed. Her penetrating stare was on me again. She licked her painted red lips, mouth stretching into a predatory smile. I felt a shiver run down my spine.
“So, open it and see,” she suggested.
I hesitated, unsure. Logic told me there couldn’t possibly be a person in the cabinet, but the pull was still there. It twisted up in my gut, demanding appeasement.
Slowly, I made my way to the cabinet and as I drew closer, I could just make out the shiny black shoes of the Sophie-doll. My face reflected back in the dark mirror of glass, yellow light distorting it to something different. Something not human.
I reached up for the handle to the cabinet and pulled. Aunt Marie laughed, her voice clanging in my ears as the world faded away.
I looked out, unblinking. A little black-haired girl stared back with lips twisted up in a cruel smirk that didn’t belong on a child’s face. On my face.
No sound came out.
‘Please,’ I begged, ‘let me out! Let me out! LET ME OUT!’
The words echoed only in my own head.
The girl opened the display case, tiny hands caressing over me. I felt nothing. Porcelain skin clinked under her fingernails. She picked me up, stroked my hair and gave my cold forehead a motherly kiss. I was cradled close to her body, my head able to peak over her shoulder.
Aunt Marie lay on the couch, motionless and pale.
The Thing in my body, the Thing that had been in Aunt Marie’s body, lifted me up and laughed. I had never laughed like that, so harsh and satisfied. I wished I could shut my eyes against it. I wished I could cry.
But glass eyes can only watch and It would make me watch forever.
“Come, ma cherie!” It said, “Don’t feel so sad, we shall be together for a long time, non?”