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Natalie absentmindedly fiddled with her old porcelain dolls.
“It’s spring break, and I’m spending it here. Fantastic,” she thought wistfully.
She “accidentally” ripped an arm off the schoolgirl doll. Natalie hadn’t touched those musty dolls for ten years when her mother first placed the dollhouse in the corner of her old bedroom. She took a deep breath. Instead of inhaling fresh air from a nearby open window, she choked on the dust that thickly coated the roof of the dollhouse. Her cough was deep and raspy, and the overall stench of the dolls didn’t help. Natalie rushed to the window and gasped for fresh air. The odor of dirt and dust lingered in her nose. Her mom appeared in the doorway, completely out of breath.
“What-happened?” her mother choked out in between deep breaths. “Are you-having an-attack?”
“Mom, I haven’t had an asthma attack in years,” Natalie said, turning to face her mother.
“I’m just worried about you, that’s all,” she panted. “So what were you choking on?”
“The dust on this dollhouse,” Natalie replied quietly. “You really need to chuck this old thing out.”
“But you’ve had this since you were a little girl!” her mother protested.
“Don’t you think I’m too old for dolls?” Natalie inquired.
“You’re only in college!” her mother exclaimed. Suddenly, the fire alarm resounded through the house.
“Is Dad cooking again?” Natalie asked.
“It would seem so,” her mother shouted over her shoulder as she exited the room.
Natalie chuckled and turned to face the dollhouse. Her eyebrows crinkled in confusion. Just before her mother arrived, the schoolgirl doll’s arm had broken off.
But the doll’s arm wasn’t broken anymore. It was smoothly grafted to the schoolgirl doll’s shoulder, as if it had just been taken out of the box. Natalie was about to pick up the little schoolgirl when her phone vibrated. She slid one of her leather boots off her foot and dumped the contents on the stained carpet. Natalie tossed her boot aside and dug through the pile for her phone. Her hand closed around it, and she lifted it out of the pile. Her phone’s screensaver was extremely bright, and she made a mental note to change it later. Natalie directed her attention to the message flashing on the screen:
Natalie knew the text was from her friends, Annie and May. She sighed with relief.
“Now there will be someone here to tone down the insanity,” Natalie mumbled aloud, the corners of her mouth lifting to form a smile. Suddenly, the sound of pounding footsteps filled her ears. Annie and May raucously burst through the door. They jogged in circles, whooping and fist-pumping.
“HEY!” Natalie’s mom screeched from across the house. “QUIET DOWN UP THERE!” Her mother obviously despised any sort of noise. Annie and May paid no attention to the older woman’s raspy voice. May extended her hand to Natalie, who accepted and joined in the mini celebration. The festivities stopped abruptly when a banging sound resonated through the whole house. Natalie’s mother must’ve been clanging two pans together.
“Mom! What the heck?” Natalie shouted at her mother, who was leaning nonchalantly on the doorframe. She had two pans in her hands, her face without expression.
“Sorry, but your father’s ears are very sensitive. I hate to see him upset,” her mother apologized.
“No, I’m sorry. I forgot about that,” Natalie muttered.
“Just keep it down, okay?” her mother asked politely.
“Alright, Mom,” Natalie confirmed. Her mother left the room, closing the door gently behind her.
“We should go. C’mon Natalie,” May said quietly, beckoning her to follow.
“I’ll catch up. I need to clean this,” she gestured to the pile of miscellaneous objects on the floor.
“Okay, we’ll keep the car running.” May grabbed Annie’s shoulder and steered her out the door. Natalie bent down and gathered her belongings. Once she took inventory, she reached for her leather boot. Natalie shoved it on her foot and began stuffing items from the little pile into it, when a creaking sound caught her attention. Natalie finished filling her shoe and slowly turned around. The noise she’d heard was the unmistakable sound of a lock turning. Natalie rushed to the door and yanked on the handle, but it wouldn’t budge. She tried to turn the lock, but it wouldn’t budge. Natalie panicked and was about to kick the door down when another sound sent a shiver down her back. She pivoted on her feet and widened her eyes in both amazement and horror. Her window slowly closed and latched itself. Natalie’s jaw dropped, and the full realization of this crashed on her shoulders. She was trapped.
Natalie’s body was shaking with unexplainable quakes of emotion. She felt a sudden anger towards the dolls.
“They did this to me,” she thought. “I will destroy them!” Natalie whirled around to face the dollhouse. She pulled her leg back, poised to strike, but she stopped herself. None of the dolls were in the house. Something tickled her leg. Natalie lowered her gaze and let out a bloodcurdling scream. The schoolgirl doll hung on her ankle. Natalie frantically attempted to shake off the doll, to no avail.
The schoolgirl glanced up at Natalie and said, “Come play with me!” The doll’s eyes turned red, the color of blood. They showed Natalie images she never wanted to see: possessed people killing their families. And those dolls, those horrible dolls!
Natalie gasped and came back to reality, trying to erase those images from her brain. She glanced down at her foot and sure enough, the doll was still there.
“We will destroy you who resist!” it hissed, clinging tightly to Natalie’s ankle.
“Whatever.” Natalie lifted her leg and hopped over to the wall. She threw her foot against the plaster wall as hard as she could, shattering the doll’s fragile face. Natalie breathed hard, as if she had just sprinted a mile. She heard someone knocking on the door. Natalie rose to her feet and gave the knob a twist. The door swung open, and in walked Annie, May, and both of her parents.
“Hey, sorry I took so long. I’m coming.” Natalie started towards the open door, but her family and friends blocked her path.
“You will not escape us again.” Annie’s voice was raspy, almost like the schoolgirl’s voice. This was already weird, because Annie never uttered a single syllable unless she was absolutely infuriated.
“Okay, guys. Joke’s over.” Natalie tried to laugh off her growing suspicion, but her family and friends didn’t move a muscle.
“We will destroy you who resist!” May croaked. Natalie’s face was white as a sheet. The dolls had possessed those closest to her.
“How am I going to escape this?” she thought.
“We will give you a ten second head start,” everyone hissed in unison; all their voices were high-pitched, almost child-like, “then the hunt begins!” Natalie stood frozen for a moment, then snapped to attention and sprinted out the door.
Right, left, left, left, right. The only exit was through a maze of halls which Natalie could never navigate. The halls were filled with pictures of Natalie as a little girl and many tables. There were plenty of items to shatter; Natalie broke nearly everything due to her complete lack of balance. Too many thoughts were racing through her brain at once. There wasn’t enough time to evade her obstacles. She heard thundering footsteps from behind her. Natalie’s ten seconds were up. Finally, she reached the front door and threw it open. She was about to make a mad dash to her car, when a knife whizzed past her head and buried itself deep in the wall. Natalie jerked her head away, grabbed the knife, and sprinted towards the street without hesitation. She was poised to hop in her car and drive away, but she just remembered her car was parked in the garage. She could’ve broken through the window on Annie’s car and drove away, but that would waste precious time. Natalie whipped her head around as another knife flew out the door and caught her leg. She groaned in pain.
“Keep it together! You don’t have time for this!” she thought. Natalie gritted her teeth, closed her fingers around the hilt, and yanked it out. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from screaming, and painfully took off down the street. Natalie didn’t know where she was going, but an idea popped into her head. She used to explore an old abandoned house a few blocks away. There was a maze of hallways in there; they would get lost and never find her. But what if Natalie got lost? She hadn’t been to that house in ten years. She pushed all negative thoughts out of her head as the house came into view. She sprinted harder until the doorknob was three feet away. Natalie lunged, threw open the door, and plunged into darkness.
Slamming the door shut behind her, she dashed blindly through the halls, leaving a trail of debris behind her from objects she had plowed through. When Natalie felt she had put enough distance between herself and the monsters that used to be her family, she stopped to catch her breath. Natalie hoped and prayed they were nowhere near her, that they would get lost. But what would happen to her family? She pulled her phone out of her boot and turned on the flashlight app. Directly in front of her was a staircase leading to the attic. Natalie quickly ascended the stairs, careful not to make her footfalls too heavy. The last thing she needed was monsters on her tail in this house.
The “attic” was actually a plank six feet wide that stretched over a chasm of broken wood. Natalie cautiously made her way across, in fear of the flimsy board shattering. Her escape plan was to exit through the tiny window on the other side of the chasm. She was standing right next to the little round window when footsteps reverberated through the empty room. Natalie spun around and was staring at her friends and family. They stared daggers at her, their irises now blood-red. May smiled.
“Well, well. Fancy meeting you here,” she said casually, as if she was talking about the weather.
“What do you want?” Natalie back-sassed.
“We want to shatter you.” Annie had a devilish grin plastered across her face. Her eyebrows tilted down, shading her eyes sinisterly. They looked blood-thirsty and carnivorous, like they could rip Natalie apart with their teeth.
Natalie replayed Annie’s comment over and over until it clicked. Shatter. The schoolgirl doll’s powers stopped when Natalie smashed it! But the dolls were at her house, and she was surrounded. Her escape plan now seemed foolish. She couldn’t leap out that window now. They’d catch up to her before she could hit the pavement. Natalie knew she had to distract them, then escape. She had the two knives that had been previously thrown at her, but there were four targets. Apparently she was taking too much time, because May rolled her eyes and charged.
Natalie drew the shorter blade and stepped in to greet her. May swung her dagger in an arc designed to chop off someone’s head.
“I really wish she didn’t carry that around with her all the time,” Natalie thought. Natalie ducked the attack and sliced May’s leg open. May collapsed within safe distance of the edge, but Natalie still felt uneasy. Her dad leapt gracefully over May, but Natalie pushed his shoulders just as he landed. He was thrown off balance, tripped over May’s body, and tumbled backwards. His head smacked the plank, and his eyes closed. Natalie’s mother was easier to defeat, since she lost her balance while trying to hop over the bodies and added herself to the pile. Annie didn’t fall for the trick, though. She pulled out five throwing stars and attempted to pin Natalie against the wall.
“Just because you’ve gotten robbed before, doesn’t mean you have to carry those with you everywhere!” Natalie shouted indignantly. Natalie dodged the first star, but the second she missed by a slim margin. In a split second, she made the worst decision possible.
Natalie threw her long blade, and it buried itself in Annie’s stomach. Blood splattered across the plank. Annie keeled over, dead. Natalie gasped in horror. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and a strangled cry escaped her lips. She was about to rush towards the body, but May began to stir. Natalie jogged over to the little round window, her body racked with sobs. She opened the window and plunged into the night air.
“I can’t worry about that now. There’s nothing I can do,” Natalie choked aloud. She needed to focus on the task she came to do. Her feet uprooted shingles as she slid along the roof. The little pebbles that coated the roof kicked up and lodged themselves in her face. Her cheek felt warm and sticky. Those pebbles must’ve drawn blood. She rubbed them from her face, smearing her hands with blood. Natalie hit the gutter, and used it like a spring-board to leap to the ground. She scrunched up into a ball, and hit the ground rolling. She scrambled to her feet and sprinted towards her house. Natalie glanced behind her and saw May climbing out the window with a curved blade in her hand. Natalie sprinted harder, and tried to pace herself. May wasn’t going to catch up with an injured leg.
Natalie reached her house, and barreled through the door. She knocked over tables, picture frames, and vases as she rushed towards her room, but she didn’t really care. All that really mattered was those dolls. The door to her room was closed, but Natalie plowed her foot straight through the middle. She cleared the splinters and started hacking away at the dolls. She ripped out a delivery man’s face. She plunged her knife through a business woman’s stomach. She mercilessly threw doll after doll against the wall. She stomped on some. After every doll was in shards, Natalie tipped over the house and pummeled it until all that was left was wood chips. She sagged against the wall, thinking she was safe.
“Guess who?” came a voice from behind her. May was standing in the doorframe, one last doll in her hand. Natalie lunged at her, remembering her leg wound. Her foot caught May right where she was stabbed. May cried out in pain, and sank to her knees. Natalie ripped the doll from May’s hand. May lifted a knife. Natalie threw the doll towards the wall just as the knife came down on her shoulder.
The doll shattered, and the knife was hilt deep. May’s eyes returned to their normal shade of green, and they widened when they landed on Natalie. She clawed at the knife, which May slowly removed. Natalie’s eyes closed, and she fell face first on the carpet.
Natalie heard jumbled conversation around her at the hospital. She was the only one who remembered exactly what had happened. She’d killed Annie, and every detail was fresh in her brain.
As Natalie gradually recovered, the story was only recounted once. May was silent at first.
“I don’t want to believe you, but I do. So, you killed her?” she whispered.
“I’m sorry,” was all Natalie could bear to say. Just then, the police appeared in the doorway of the hospital room.
“I’ll throw some sob story together. Just relax,” May murmured, standing to greet the officers. As she spoke, a fake tear glistened in her eye and her voice became more fragile. The police officers patted her shoulder and left the room. May quickly wiped the tear from her eye and turned around to face me.
“Nice. What did you tell them?” Natalie asked.
“A masked man attacked us, killed Annie, and nearly killed us,” she said shortly. “Are you going to tell your parents?”
“No, of course not,” Natalie replied. “They would go to the police.”
“So, just you and me?” May questioned.
“Yes. If no one knows, no one else gets hurt,” Natalie said. May nodded and sat next to her hospital bed.
And no one else ever did know, or ever will. The danger comes at too high a price. If you resist them, what would you do?