The Gift: The Terror of Dolls

Last week it was announced that I won the Writing Times Halloween themed Short Story competition with my story ‘The Gift’ (available online here) – much celebrating ensued.  This is the first horror story I’ve ever had published and the first time I’ve written in the epistolary style, and as stories go, was one I very much enjoyed writing.   ‘The Gift’ is about a seemingly innocent birthday present – a rag doll that holds some nasty surprises.

So what is it about dolls? They give me the creeps. When I was very young I preferred teddy bears, nice, safe, cuddly and soft. Dolls were hard, with those glass eyes that seemed to follow you around the room. They were cold and uncompromising whereas teddies were soft and accepting and would make any child a lovely best friend.   Dolls just sit there looking at you, wherever you are, they are mini humans, frozen and timeless. Dolls won’t get wrinkles, they will just stare at you like a scolding aunt, watching everything you do with those evil little eyes. I often wondered who or what was trapped inside that plastic skin.

When I was young my teddy family were always welcome in my bed to keep me company every night but dolls always stayed safely tucked in their own little cot the other side of the bedroom, or preferably, in a room downstairs (or locked in the shed at the bottom of the garden?) People gave me dolls but I just couldn’t take to them. They quite frankly gave me the creeps. I had a long skinny doll with flaxen hair – a prehistoric Barbie type – made of hard plastic.  It had a moving head, arms and legs; the trouble was the hair kept falling out in clumps along with one of her eyes, not a good look. Or did one of the other dolls do it out of jealousy?  I had little doll triplets, with moulded plastic hair and blinking eyes with long eyelashes. My mum used to make clothes for them all which only made it worse. Teddy on the other hand looked lovely in his hand made pyjamas, the same material as my own at the time. In fact he is sitting on top of the bookcase in the spare room still wearing them today, it’s probably the only thing keeping him together at his great age. The dolls are long gone, thank goodness.

Where-ever the dolls were, when the lights went out, I would have to listen for signs of movement. Dolls always had the potential to jump up from their cot and start doing things in the night – or day. Doing what, I have no idea, but my fertile imagination could see them dancing around and getting up to no good.

When I was about ten years old I saw an old black and white horror movie which involved a rag doll. The little girl kept it on the end of her bed but every night it jumped up and caused all manner of evils. I won’t dignify the thing by calling it ‘she,’ that would only make it worse, ‘it’ tore at the bedspread, threw toys around, ripped the curtains and did more serious things like leave things at the top of the stairs ready for someone to trip and break their neck.

I think this probably finished me off in the end as far as dolls were concerned. I fail to understand why adults actually collect the things and fill their houses with them. I cannot look at just one of the evil little midgets without shivering and imagining all the evil that these little frozen people can do!  Which is why there was no question about what was going to star in my Halloween story.

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