For Atlanta Napier
Funny enough, it didn’t start how you would think.
“What?” She trembles on the spot in front of me. “What are you saying? You’re not attacking me?”
I notice that my gun hand was slacking a little. I’ve been holding the heavy thing up for a full fifteen minutes now. “Of course I am. But it didn’t start as a plan to attack you. I just wanted the doll. And you said no and you said no. You wouldn’t change your mind.”
“Well I still haven’t. You can’t have her.”
“But, why not? I wondered. Why not? This woman,” I gesture with the gun, “25 years of hunting for the head of a very specific doll, I finally find it, and it’s lost its whammy. Not only has it lost its whammy, but you yourself will NOT part with it.” I’m yelling now, and I cannot keep myself from it. I’ve focused on that damn doll since the day it walked away from me. From my wrecked home. I need to chill out, or the doll would win. Again.
“Go to hell,” the woman across from me says, eyes squinting in hate. I recognize that hate.
“I don’t know how you did it, but you got into this woman. What did you do to the woman you stole the body from? Where the hell is she?”
Her eyes glint across from me, a moment’s pride in her act. And I know I’ll have to kill her. But not with the gun. It hadn’t worked on the doll years ago, and I know deep down it won’t work now. The demon within her will just flit into the nearest thing, probably me. Damned if I’ll host that wicked creature.
“I guess it doesn’t matter how you transferred yourself into the woman, but refusing to give me the doll head means you need that stupid ceramic home with its plastic eyelashes. You need it for some reason. Why do you need it?”
“You’re talking like a crazy person, you know that.” This stings, since I’ve spent ten years in a psych ward after they found me in the ashes.
My radio crackles to life, “Found it. There’s got to be dozens of doll heads here.”
I bark back across the phone, “Smash them and then torch it.”
Screaming, the woman across from me lunges toward my hands, toward the gun. The sound of something glass-like smashing to bits comes in tinny through the speaker. “No!” She falls to the ground mid-lunge, like a marionette that has lost its strings.
“Oh yes. You’ll never hurt another child. Never destroy another home, Betsy.” I grow stronger, my trembling stopped. She can’t hurt me any more.
“You know nothing. You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know the damage you’ll do!” Desperation in her eyes. Fear.
It is a trick. At least I hope so. “Keep going,” I bark into the two-way.
As the crash and tinkle of breaking dolls continued, the voice got lower and less sweet, and then it turned into a bare whisper, “I wasn’t Betsy, I wasn’t Molly, I wasn’t Dolly Dee, I wasn’t even Poc. Even Poc is gone. Oh!” The moan turned whisper made my skin crawl.
The sound of tinkling and breaking china ends finally a few seconds later, and then Stone’s voice comes back through the two-way, “I’ve got kerosene on everything in this room, now, kid. The whole house will go up once I start this up. We need to get out of here.”
I walk backwards out of the room the woman is in and down the hall backwards. She doesn’t move, just sobs in a heap on the floor. I keep the gun trained in the direction she’s in, and walk outside. Smoke is just starting to flood out of the basement window.
“Stone? You make it out, too?” I speak into the two-way again.
“Yup.” He stands beside me. Startled me, but I am so glad we succeeded, I hoot and jump in his arms. Then we run.
It’s been three weeks since the fire. I’m back in the psych ward, as a second offender. Stone says he’ll keep tabs on whether she shows up anywhere else. But I really think we got her. I may never get out, but at least that damned doll will never be able to hurt anyone else.
Republished from Stories My Friends Started, where someone else provides the first line, and us authors build it into a story.