Lucille May's Doll

Submitted into Contest #101 in response to: Write a story that involves a reflection in a mirror.... view prompt


Fiction Suspense Horror

The tales of Lucille May and her doll had been legendary within the family. The story ranged from the old, secluded woman needing the doll in place of children to the outrageous ideas that the doll had massacred an entire village a hundred years ago. Malakia first heard about the family’s intrigue when she was in her teens. Her Aunt Claudia spread the rumor that Malakia’s grandmother had sold her soul to a traveling hobo for the toy. The story felt far fetched to the young girl. The idea that an unconfirmed tale existed had been enough to plant Malakia’s goal to get to the bottom of the story.

Stories leaked out about Lucille May having a room dedicated to housing a doll. Every household had their own story’s version. Some said the doll stood six feet tall filled with gold chunks. Others believed the doll had been kept as a placebo against the local Klan group. Most of the family thought that the doll could be nothing more than a product of Lucille May’s lifelong insanity. Malakia’s older relatives said that her grandmother had been obsessed with the doll since the toy came into her possession when she was a young woman. Family would spread their own speculation on how that happened. Malakia had once overheard that her grandmother had once been engaged to a rising young professional out of Black Wall Street. She had nullified their engagement to care for the doll and used her life savings to buy the farmland.

The young girl spent her teen years interviewing as many family members as possible. She kept a reporter’s journal of her transactions. She had communicated with most members of her family. The significant exceptions were of her uncle, Shai, and Lucille May. Malakia knew they both lived near each other downstate in farm country. She able to piece together were that either her grandmother had untreated mental health issues surrounding the doll or the toy had some undefined supernatural powers. She wanted to think like a reporter, like the veteran professional that she hoped to become one day.

Malakia decided that she would the visit with her grandmother before beginning her journalism major at Howard University in the fall. She hoped to find out what the real story consisted of. Malakia sent a letter to her grandmother asking to come out and stay on the farm in exchange for helping out with whatever the family matriarch needed. A return letter affirmed that a short stay during the summer would be most welcome. A flutter of joy passed through Malakia’s heart. She knew that her uncle lived close to where she would be staying, allowing for the final pieces of the puzzle.

The old, country home stood as a monolith among the open tracks of land. A two story, white painted home in the middle of farm country, surrounded by a ring of old trees that acted as a windbreak. Each farm grew its own variety of plants as they had for generations. Rural living moved at a slower life than Malakia had been used to. Four cars at an intersection might be considered traffic. Most businesses opened late on Sunday so the proprietors could hear the weekly sermon of guilt and hell. The modern conveniences that most people took for granted elsewhere were not to be assumed in the country lifestyle. Internet access could be spotty, cell phone reception wasn’t guaranteed and traveling anywhere took off a chunk of the day.

Her first several days with her grandmother were full of laughter, chores and down home cooking she knew that could never be replicated outside of the home’s kitchen. The two bonded quickly and with ease. Malakia did her best to relate to her hostess. The generational gap seemed like a smaller issue than she had worried herself over. Malakia learned about her grandmother’s life with little mention of the doll.

Malakia decided to wait before addressing her pressing questions. When the time felt most conducive, she approached the topic with ease.

“Well, hun, I was wondering when you’re going to get around to asking about Ediva.”

“Ediva? That’s a pretty name. Did you name her?”

“In a way I did and in a way that’s been her name for a long, long time.”

Malakia’s expression registered her confusion. Her grandmother smiled with sympathy.

“Some things we just know, sweetie. As for the doll, I call her the name that she’d been given by all of her past owners as far as I can tell, though I guess any new owner could assign whatever they want to her.”

Malakia decided to let the answer go. She knew that the point would have been expressed if that had been her grandmother’s intent. Her grandmother shared that the doll consisted of a simple, straw filled, cloth toy from the 1500’s, made in a town close to Dover, England. Reports of the doll moving on it’s own didn’t begin to make any notice until two hundred and fifty years later. When the doll did move the last time, the toy had been blamed in the killing of an entire village of roughly 300 people and all the creatures they had cared for. Her grandmother didn’t have answers for basic questions, such as how it traveled to America, who owned it last, what caused it to animate. Her grandmother would push off the questions as “drivel” and remind Malakia that the doll’s actions were more important than its ownership history.

“Why hadn’t someone just thrown the doll in a fireplace or something?” Malakia asked as they shared pie in the lamplight.

“Sugar, sometimes the devil you know is easier to deal with than the devil you don’t know.” Malakia nodded at the reasonable response. “We don’t know what happens when the doll is destroyed. Possibly, another item is ‘infected’ and we can’t know that until people start dying.”

“Why don’t we put the doll in a box with mirrors glued to the inside?”

“We tried that, once. Your uncle Ezekial…” Her grandmother looked away. “It didn’t work. The current setup of one doll facing one mirror has worked all this time, now, so this is what we do.”

“Sugar, I’ve been in that room several times. That doll is never in the exact spot on the chair when I check on her.”

“How do you know?”

“Her chair, which remains in the original place I put it in, never has a spot of dust. Everything in the room, the mirror, the floor, the chair the mirror rests on, all of it has a thick layer of dust. That chair is clean enough to enjoy dinner off of.”

Malakia’s eyes widened. A shiver splashed across her skin.

“No one besides me goes in there. The chair which has been in one place since I was a young woman. It never has any dust on its seat.”

“What if the mirror fails?”

“I’m dead, my neighbors are dead, the town is dead.”

Malakia sat in her chair terrified with her fork held between the plate and her open mouth. 

“We can install mirrors all around the room and -”

“Child, we’ve tried that and more. One doll, one mirror. It needs to look at itself to stay calm. When that mirror fails, the others would as well. All we have is that simple mirror and the locked door. I check on Ediva through the observation slot several times a day.”

Her grandmother looked exhausted in the lamplight. Malakia decided to hold off on more questions.

“Hun, it’s late and these old bones are tired. We can continue when the sun brings in the day.”

Malakia had thought that the story of a murderous doll consisted of being an urban legend. She fought through the spotty internet connection and researched what had been coined “The Fogtown Massacre.” Local officials were baffled at the wholesale murder of an entire village. Men, women, children, livestock, horses, pets had all been killed. Not a single survivor managed to escape, which didn’t help the investigators. Panic set in around the local communities. Rumors of ghosts, demons, witches and every local fear came to fruition. Some of the more logical minded townsfolk began nighttime patrols to combat the possibility of raiders, hostile Native Americans or bandits.

Malakia felt that she needed answers from the last unspoken relative. Her Uncle Shai, lived a couple towns over as the owner of a thriving fishing store. She tracked him down while out on a shopping run. He appeared all too happy for the discussion over his business counter. Her older uncle took directly to the point when Malakia asked her question.

“I’m sorry, but your grandma is a kook. That doll ain’t movin’ any.” He waked his arms to drive the point home.

“But what about the massacre? I know that happened.” She smiled with premature satisfaction.

“An’ did your research tell you a doll done killed all them people?”

“No.” Her confidence deflated like an old balloon.

“Right, who killed all them people?”

“No one knows.”

“Hun, there were lots of people killed by someone unknown throughout this world’s history. Do you think this doll did all them too?” He looked at her kindly.

“No, but -”

“What makes that one town so special?”

“The articles reported that there were no fresh horse tracks in or out of town, no bloody trails, no evidence that anyone came in from outside, nothing of value was taken.”

“And?” He shrugged.

“No one in town had a beef with anyone else. It was known to be a quiet and peaceful town.” She heard the absurdity as the words came out of her mouth.

“How were the people killed?”

“All sorts of ways. The children were strangled, the adults stabbed, mostly. No one reported on the animals’ deaths.”

“So how did the doll become the leading suspect?”

“Grandma said so.”

“Ah, yes. Your grandmother said so.”

“How is that a bad indicator?”

“Who told her that the doll was the murderer?”

“She didn’t say.”

“Has anyone else seen the doll up close?”

“No, she said she is the only person that goes into the room.”

“Have you seen the doll?”

“Grandma told me what it looks like. It’s about a foot in length, light orange cloth over straw. It wears a peach toned dress and an orange hat.”

“So a small doll killed all those people. Seems like an odd murder suspect.”

Malakia looked at him without a good response. Her defense looked for a vine in the conversational quicksand.

“Well, maybe don’t go lookin’ so hard for ghost stories. Your grandma is likely sick with a mind illness. One where she thinks things have happened that actually haven’t. I imagine this won’t be the only logical barbed wire you run into. I’m sorry to cut this short, but I’ve gotta go back to checking the storeroom.”

“Thanks, Uncle Shai. Have a good day.”

“You too, sweetie. Don’t be takin’ in too much of your grandma’s tall tales.”

“I won’t.” Malakia slowly walked down the wooden steps to her grandmother’s ancient pickup truck lost in thought.

Malakia felt a strong urge to close the gap on what might be real and what could be false. Either her uncle or her grandmother held dominion over the truth. In either case, something about her life would be forced to change. Malakia spent the rest of the long drive home thinking about the holes in her grandmother’s story. She thought about what her uncle had said. Could it be possible that the whole story was a fabrication, she considered. Malakia felt the need to get into the room to see for herself. She needed to see if there could be no dust on the chair. She needed to know the way she thought an addict needed a drug fix. She felt terrified by either proposition. She thought about the investigative journalists who moved beyond their fear to report for their audience. If the doll served as a plot point of her grandmother’s mental illness, what recourse would she follow? If the doll was real… Malakia was unable to finish the absurdity of the thought.

Her grandmother had let information slip out that she only took Ediva’s room key chain off her neck when she was in the shower or at night in bed. The thought of checking on the doll in the dark seemed to far for her courage to journey. Malakia took her quiet time to plan her escapade. She began to time her grandmother’s showers to estimate how long to get the key, get to the room, open the door, look at the doll and return the key without being found out.

Malakia estimated that she had roughly eleven minutes and 45 seconds. Malakia studied her plan over and over again. Her dry run attempts clocked in at seven minutes for most runs, nine minutes when faced with some difficulties. Her grandmother was a creature of habit. She preferred to shower every other day after her morning coffee before breakfast.

Her grandmother began her shower on schedule. Malakia slipped into the bathroom without notice. She stepped silently across the tiled floor to the toilet tank. She picked up the small classic key and chain and quietly eased them into her pocket. Malakia could hear her grandmother hum quietly as she bathed behind the plastic curtain, indicating that she was none the wiser about what had happened. Malakia gently closed the door behind her. She moved down the hall to the room that would answer all the questions.

Malakia quietly slid the observation door to the right. She could see the sides of the mirror and doll directly perpendicular to her line of sight. The doll sat directly in front of the small, rectangular mirror. She noiselessly slid the thin door shut. The future reported removed the key and turned it within the lock. She could hear a subtle click. Her heart raced. Malakia checked her watch. Three minutes, fourteen seconds. She quietly opened the oak door, leaving the entrance ajar in case she needed to hastily exit. Her body trembled with fear.

She stepped through the wooden doorway into the forbidden room. The smell was of rotted wood and mold. Malakia started at twelve feet away from the facing chairs. The air held stagnant of a room that had been idle for decades. Dust particles lingered in the air, barely inconvenienced by her presence. She moved in behind the doll, her shoes leaving mild tracks on the accumulated dust. She hoped to have all of her questions answered from afar. The lore surrounding the doll was enough to make her approach as if the little toy was a sleeping dragon. Malakia closed the distance ready to run back through the open doorway. She was torn on what to do after she made her final conclusion. Her final steps to the back of the doll’s chair allowed her to catch the mirror’s image. She worked to gain the necessary courage for the final viewing.

Malakia hoped the reflection could ease the process of looking upon something thought to be so evil. The reflection showed a worn doll without a splotch or stain. A simple smile held stitched upon the fabric head under it’s baby blue, button eyes. The young woman took the moment to breathe. Her heart sank at the idea that her grandmother had wasted a lifetime on a delusion. She hoped to get her sick grandmother all the help available. Malakia thought about the life that her grandmother might be able to live free from the confines of supervising an old doll. She felt reserved with enough strength to look upon the doll directly.

She moved closer to the chairs. Malakia felt a feeling of unease as she approached which she believed to be the remnants of her grandmother’s indoctrination. She stepped next to the mirror, facing the doll. Her heart sank. A cold feeling ran across her back. The doll sat on a dust free chair with its cloth covered in a random pattern of dark, crimson splotches. The door closed and locked.

Malakia turned with a sense of panic towards the noise. Her grandmother slid the small observation door open. The slot allowed for her eyes and a section of her wrinkled face to become visible.

“Sweetie, you shouldn’t have come in here. Now, there’s nothing I can do for you except give you a proper burial when its done.”

The observation door closed. The doll turned to face her. Malakia mumbled to herself in terror. The toy stood up on the chair. Malakia screamed for the rest of her short life until her lungs lost the ability for breath. Lucille May leaned against the door waiting for Ediva to take her seat once more.

July 09, 2021 23:29

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