Writing Prompt: You unknowingly buy an evil doll for your child that tries to kill your whole family, but you soon discover that the rest of the toys in the house are also alive and try to defend you.
Wade was a single father, a factory worker called to service during the time of the Great War. After five long years he was finally coming home, to take care of his daughter, his little baby girl, Hailie.
Hailie had spent those years her father was at war in a foster home. They were, the years, mostly uneventful, with time raging ever on and on. And with each fleeting day Hailie felt she’d never see her father’s face again. She had been three when her father left for the War. She was eight, now, going on nine.
Wade knew he wouldn’t recognise his little girl. She had sent him photographs, of course, but Hailie herself never knew whether her father received them.
Eight years old.
Wade scarcely knew how he was to supposed to feel about it that, about it all.
To be alive.
To be home.
To be free.
Hearsay House was the name imprinted above the foster home’s dull, green-oak door. It was four stories tall, with eighteen windows encompassing the front face of the building. There were two boys, twins, playing ball in the street out the front of the house, watched by a maid in her apron strings who stood disconcertingly in one of the ill-lit windows.
It must have been half an hour at least that Wade stood staring at the house, second guessing what he might say, how he might act.
Even if I recognise her, will she recognise me? Will she be happy to see me? Will she want to leave this place? She’ll have made friends, she’ll have a new family, a family of her own.
He held underarm a cardboard box wrapped in packing paper and tape. The letters G. P. T. were marked in pen on the head of the box. Gulliver’s Premium Toys.
Stuck in a trance it was the sound of a ball lightly bouncing toward him that broke Wade free.
“Hey, mister?” one of the twins shouted, waving an arm, “Give us back our ball, would ya?”
Wade gave a short laugh.
What the hell am I doing?
“Sure thing, kid.” he gave the ball a kick and sent it travelling back toward the twins just a little too fast. One of them dove to catch it, landing face first on the gravel paved ground. The other chased the ball some short space down the street, jumping from the path of a wayward horse and cart, only to see the ball crushed under-hoof.
“Sorry.” Wade shrugged, one twin on the ground in tears, the other nursing two grazed knees.
“It’s no worry, mister.” the grazed twin remarked with an ugly smile, such a strong contrast to the twin that was crying, “It was just a ball.”
Wade gave the green-oak door a heavy handed knock, cleared his throat, and waited patiently for an answer.
The answer came in the form of the home’s master and butler, Henry Joseph Jones.
“Yes,” Henry gazed down the thin shaft of his nose, lips pressed tight together in a necessary smile, not at all warm, not at all welcoming, “may I help you?” he kept his hands folded behind his back, rocking gently on the heels of his brightly polished dress shoes, carefully eyeing the man in the ragged shirt and torn trousers on the doorstep, “We are not, I’m afraid, a hostel. If that is what you’re after.”
“It’s not.” Wade said, with some embarrassment, “I’m here for my daughter.” he extended his hand in greeting, “I’m Hailie’s father.”
Henry took one look at the dirtied hand before him and turned immediately back into the home, “Ah, yes, I can see the family resemblance. Follow me, if you would.”
Wade took his hand away, and followed Henry into the home.
Hailie was in the playroom on the third floor. She was alone, and frankly that’s how she preferred it. The toys were her true friends, her guardian angels, the only source of joy she could find in so bleak a world. A world of war. A world without a mother or a father.
Her mother, you should know, died at childbirth. A tragedy, but it was a greater loss that played on Hailie’s mind. Her father. She had known him for four long years. He had cared for her, bathed her, fed her and read to her bedtime stories. When first he’d left she’d held out hope. But after the third year, and the fourth, and now five years later on?
Hailie had her favourites. Toys, that is. There was the Jack-in-the-box, a toy she’d only recently come to liking. In her younger years the frightful thing had been the source of many a nightmare. Now? It was no more than a clown stuck in a box that felt like popping up to say hello every once in a while. Sure the clown was battered, bruised and sorely beaten, but at least it had both of its eyes.
There was a teddy bear with which Hailie was fascinated. Cotton, she called it. And Cotton had had the stuffing torn out of him by a rather nasty dog, leaving him an ear, an eye, and half a leg short. It was the home’s Mistress, Natalia (a refugee from Russia), who repaired the withered bear, yet she never did get around to replacing that eye.
Among others there was the horse-head on stick, the bowling pins carved in likeness to penguins, the little wooden animals that belonged on Noah’s ark, a statue of a solider (British, Queen’s Guard, but it still reminded Hailie of her father), and a pull-along-train.
Though never, not once in her life, had Hailie had a doll.
“Miss Hailie,” Henry Joseph Jones knocked routinely on the playroom door, he stepped inside unnoticed, Hailie was busy helping the little wooden animals onto the ark, “may I have your attention please.”
“Is it about my dad?” this wasn’t foresight, just a simple question that Hailie asked time and time over. The answer was always the same. No, I’m afraid not.
“Yes, as a matter of fact…”
Hailie had stopped listening. She was staring up at the peeling tulip wallpaper that dressed the room, a sodden patch of damp lingering in the corner. Yes? Had she heard Henry right? Or was it wishful thinking…
Then, in the reflection of the playroom’s window pane, there rose a figure in clothing far too slack to be Henry’s. A figure with a smile on their face, a tear in their eye, and a box tucked safely under their arm.
“Hailie, honey, it’s me. I’m home.”
Hailie wheeled round in her seat, and sat jaw dropped as her eyes met her father’s, “Is it really you?” a gentle river rolled over one cheek, “Daddy?”
Wade nodded, setting the box aside, kneeling down before his daughter, arms wide open.
She ran to him, her stomach aching with a sick sense of fear and a flurry of hope. Throwing her arms around her father, and he throwing his own around her, she knew it couldn’t be a dream. She knew that he was here, that all was right and real and as it should have been for so many years gone by.
“I’ve missed you.” she quivered from beneath her tears and shaking.
“I love you.” he whispered back.
“What is it?” Hailie asked, finally freeing herself from her father to settle on the cardboard box, wiping her eyes.
“I assume all is well then?” Henry had remained by the door thus far, but felt his time was better served elsewhere. After all, the girl had her father to look after her now. He awaited an answer, and when none came decided to leave anyway, shutting the door briskly behind him.
“A present.” Wade grinned, “What? You didn’t think your father would come home empty handed?”
Hailie’s smile wavered, “Stop saying that. Home. This isn’t our home.”
“True.” Wade shrugged off the coldness of his daughter’s claim and handed her the gift, “Go on then, open it.”
She did. Prying off the tape and tearing apart the brown paper packaging Hailie revealed the box beneath it all. Again the letters G. P. T. could be seen proudly marked across the top, only this was finer than poor penmanship, these letters were engraved into the wood.
“You didn’t?” Hailie could feel her heart thrumming from excitement as she popped open the box and took out from within… “It’s beautiful!” she felt like crying all over again, so buried her head back into her father’s warmth, “Thank you, really Daddy, thank you.”
The present was a doll, the first that Hailie would ever own. Perhaps the last.
Hailie had left the doll sat upon the windowsill of the third floor playroom, basking in the moonlight. The doll’s porcelain skin gleamed a pale blue before the night, its glass eyes shining with a life that shouldn’t be there. It wore a dress of pleated yellow with white daisies on the hem, a pink ribbon in its hair and a bow of like around its waist. A permanent smile had been painted on the face, unnerving in its own right.
It’s safe to say the doll, affectionately know as Little Lucy Lou, had a reputation for its somewhat quaint and eerie appearance. No other doll looked quite as lively, nor quite as happy, in the most sadistic way.
Much later that night, when dinner was done and bedtime had come, Hearsay House would learn just how lively Little Lucy Lou could be. As would Wade, who had been invited to stay for as long as was necessary. Never had Wade ever expected such things as toys to compare to the terrors of war. But then a body that falls on the battlefield rarely gets back up…
Copyright © K R Perry 2019