Porcelain Tales: the Cracked Doll

In my house, there is a collection of porcelain dolls that have been painted to appear grotesque, terrifying, or simply creepy. The following stories are inspired by each of these dolls.

 

“Oh, this is creepy.”

I glanced in Autumn’s direction, to find her holding a porcelain doll by the waist. It was a pale doll, with long, dark ringlets, but probably its most striking feature was the thin, spidery crack that ran along the length of its Cherub-like face.

“Oh, that’s Mary-Ann,” I said. “She was here when we moved in.”

“And you just kept her? Creepy!” Autumn said, but the smile that she tossed in my direction was filled with nothing but thrill.

“I probably shouldn’t have, but it was difficult to give her up.”

“She’s probably haunted, you know.”

“She might be. But in the eight years that I’ve had her, nothing supernatural has happened.”

“Oh, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Spirits can lay dormant for a long time – years, even. Maybe you just haven’t woken her up yet.”

“And if there is a spirit in there, I’d rather leave her fast asleep.”

“Oh, come on, where’s your sense of fun?” Autumn asked with another thrilled grin in my direction.

“Fun? Have you seen Poltergeist? Tell me that if I let you play around with this doll, my house isn’t going to get sucked into some weird hell-dimension.”

“Ah-ha! So you do think this doll is haunted!”

I decided not to say any more, simply allowing Autumn to turn the doll over in her hands, taking in the detail of her sweet, Victorian dress, smoothing out her ringlets, following with her thumb the black line drawn by the crack in her glass skin. She really liked that doll, I thought with only mild annoyance.

“We could try talking to her,” Autumn suggested.

“I really doubt she’ll talk back.”

Autumn rolled her eyes at me, as though she thought that I was making a bad joke. “Not like that, silly. With a ouija board.”

My blood ran cold at the final two words. “I don’t have a ouija board,” I said quickly.

“They’re easy to make. I used to do it all the time with my cousins, down at my grandma’s cottage. Just a bit of cardboard, a marker, a kindergartener’s understanding of the alphabet, and you’re good to go.”

“And, besides, I told you that I don’t want to wake up whatever spirit is in that doll.”

“Oh, come on, it’s a doll. If it is haunted, it’s probably just a little girl or something like that. How scary are little girls?”

“Have you ever seen the Exorcist? Or the Ring?”

“Those are movies. Not real life. Ghosts can’t hurt you in real life.”

“And you’re the expert on what ghosts can do in real life, are you?”

“Come on, Maggie, please? It’ll be fun!”

Once again, I decided not to say anything, because there simply wasn’t much I could say from that point forward that wouldn’t strike Autumn was strange. All that I could do was cross my fingers and hope for the best as Autumn began scrounging about my bedroom for the tools she’d need. Before long, she had fashioned a rough ouija board from the torn-off flap on a cardboard box, and for the planchette, she grabbed a shot glass from Daddy’s cabinet. She set it all up on the floor between me and her, and at the board’s side, she set Mary-Ann with a little giggle.

“To make sure it’s her ghost we summon,” she said. “We don’t want to end up talking to just any ghost, do we?”

Autumn and I each placed a finger on the shot glass’s smooth bottom, it’s mouth open on the ouija board beneath it. Then, in a loud, clear voice, Autumn addressed the room.

“Spirits of the beyond,” she said in a mockery of a TV fortune teller’s voice, “if you are here, give us a sign!”

My heart ached tightly as I waited for something to happen. Yet, nothing did.

“If you are here,” Autumn said, “tell us your name!”

Again, nothing – for so long that I doubted anything would happen at all. I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, scolding myself for getting so worked up in the first place, when suddenly, the shot glass gave a small start and slid across the board, swallowing whole six letters written in thick, black marker.

M

A

G

G

I

E

“Maggie?” Autumn whispered in confusion, before sudden understanding lit up her eyes, and she took her hand off the shot glass to smack me hard across the arm. “Not funny, Maggie!”

Should I tell her that it wasn’t me, I wondered as I watched Autumn laugh off her nerves with good humour. Or should I let it end now, before things got too out of hand?

I didn’t have much time to wonder, however, before the shot glass began to move again. Autumn seemed not to notice it at first, but once she did, a mixture of thrill and confusion filled her eyes again, as she struggled to follow where it went.

“What did it say?” Autumn asked when the shot glass had stopped moving.

I swallowed hard. “It said, mine.”

“Mine?” Autumn repeated, placing her finger again upon the shot glass. “Mine what?”

Once again, the shot glass spelled out the same word.

M

I

N

E

“Are you the spirit in the doll?” Autumn asked.

The shot glass flew to the sprawling yes written in the top left corner of the board.

“How did you die?”

I

D

I

D

N

T

“You had to have died,” Autumn said. “Otherwise, how could you be haunting the doll?”

I

D

I

D

N

T

“Okay, then how long have you been in the doll for?”

E

I

G

H

T

“Eight years? Or since you were eight?”

E

I

G

H

T

“Maybe both?” I suggested.

“Huh,” Autumn said. “If that’s true, then she’d be the same age as us now. Tell me, Mary-Ann, how did you get into the doll?”

N

O

T

M

A

R

Y

A

N

N

“I thought you said you were the spirit haunting the doll?”

N

O

T

M

A

R

Y

A

N

N

“Okay, then who are you?”

M

A

G

G

I

E

Once again, Autumn lifted her eyes to me, but there was less understanding in them this time and more fear. “Maggie,” she said, swallowing hard, “are you sure you aren’t doing this?”

“We should stop,” I said. “This isn’t fun – it’s just frightening you now. Let’s do something else.”

“No,” Autumn said resolutely. “No, we contacted an actual spirit, and I’m going to see this through.”

“We can watch Spongebob to calm us down.”

No,” Autumn repeated. “I’m going to see this through.”

I wanted to snap at her then – to grab hold of her and rip her away from that ouija board, but I couldn’t. So instead, I just tore my hand away from the shot glass and crossed my arms tight, resolving to let her finish this all on her own if that was the way she was going to be.

With a deep breath and another hard swallow, Autumn asked again, “how did you get into the doll?”

S

H

E

P

U

T

M

E

H

E

R

E

“She put you here?” Autumn repeated. “Who’s she?”

M

A

R

Y

A

N

N

“Mary-Ann? But I thought you said-”

The shot glass became wild then, spelling out so many things that I could only piece out a few of them. She put me here, it said, and, she took it from me, and then again and again, over and over like a mantra, mine, mine, mine.

“Maggie-” Autumn mumbled in fear, jerking her hands away from the wild, darting shot glass. I didn’t let her ask anything more, though. Instead, I grabbed hold of the lamp on the table and I struck her hard across the head, so hard that it left a small dent in her skull that I noticed only after she fell against my bedroom floor, unconscious. A part of me felt bad for it, sure, but what other choice did I have? What other choice had Maggie left me? I wasn’t going back in that doll, not after eight years of freedom. Not after eight years of living her life, of being the only daughter to her loving parents, of making such great friends at her school. I had missed my chance to be a child the first time around, when my drunk whore of a mother smothered me in my bed to give me to God, and as much as it was a shame that I could only live if Maggie took my place, it was what I had to do. I needed her life. I deserved her life. After all, I was only a little girl.

the-cracked-doll

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