I was five years old when I received the doll for Christmas. She had pink pajamas sewed solidly to her plastic head and limbs. Her molded face was forced into a permanently smug grin. Her eyes were parenthesis that couldn’t open.
I was the type of girl who preferred Match Box cars and train sets over baby dolls. But, this was a gift from my brother and his wife and I loved them. I wasn’t capable of hurting anyone’s feelings.
So I gave a hearty thank you, accompanied by a hug and toothy grin. They were so happy I appreciated their carefully chosen gift. My brother explained there was a string attached to a plastic loop on the baby doll’s bottom. It was encased in the pink jammies that wouldn’t come off. I pulled the string.
An artificial voice, cackled in a sick imitation of a child.
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
I had been born a poor sleeper. My mind raced as soon as my head hit a pillow. Each family member has a story about my inability to give in. To simply sleep.
I had heard the words the doll spoke when her string was pulled before. I went to Baptist church every Sunday. When the preacher scared me with stories of Hell and sin, my imagination took over and replaced his voice with stories I wrote in my mind about the litle mouse I named Furry. He often darted from the pulpit to hide under the piano or organ. No one else seemed to notice.
To a born insomniac, this doll sent chills through my scrawny body. While my family looked at me with love, I realized I could actually die in my sleep. I didn’t want any Lord to take my soul before morning. I wanted to get up early and play with my cats. Maybe watch cartoons if it was Saturday and eat Cocoa Pebbles. Or maybe a dish of ice cream with Magic Shell and sprinkles.
I am grown up now and jaded a bit by life, but the little girl buried deep still remembers that terror from long ago. I hid the doll underneath the couch and refused to let it near me when I slept.
My daughter, Maya never liked dolls either. One Christmas I gave her a doll she begged for after watching the commercial. The doll moved its’ limbs when it was placed in the tub and swam awkwardly. She was excited to take her bath. When I put the doll in the bath, she screamed and begged me to take it away. She followed with profuse toddler apologies and asked if I could take it out of the house and back to the store.
Four days each week, we have a long commute to her dance classes. Our conversations the past few weeks have been about Halloween and the things we find most frightening. Instead of being a super-hero, Maya decided she wanted to be the most frightening thing she could think of. We shared our dislike and fear of clowns, zombies, but mostly dolls. She described the dress she needed for her costume. It needed to be white. Innocent looking, yet torn and blood stained. Maya wanted a doll as the scary accessory. I found her a stuffed doll body without a face. She glued on scraggly black hair made of yarn and button eyes. She drew a mouth smiling too widely and gruesomely stiched into a permament smile.
We spent a few days trading ideas about the Halloween doll. She took some of my thoughts and many of hers and wrote an amazing and horrifying story about the character she will porttay this Halloween night.
If you see her trick-or-treating this year, she will have a deathly pale face. Black eyes and lipstick. She will be carring the doll she made named Patty Death. Maya and the doll will have fake blood smeared on their bodies.
If you ask what she is for Halloween, be prepared to be frightened.
I am hoping she will let me use her story as a guest post. Maya is becoming my favorite writer.