Lucy walks over to her collection of dolls. All encased in glass cases. She tenderly runs her feather duster over each case. She pauses when she comes to one case. This case is not like the others. It has been specially designed. It has a padlock on the door. Lucy inspects the lock carefully.
Her mind begins to replay a memory from her childhood. The night her father brought home the China doll that is now locked inside the case.
In 1975, Lucy was 10 years old. Her mother had died when she was 8 in a car accident. Lucy was the oldest of three children. Her brother David was 8 and Jackson was 6 at the time. They had everything they ever needed. Their father saw to that. They lived in a nice cottage in upstate New York on several acres of land. They had two nannies that cared for them and loved them. With their father being gone a lot for business and their mother gone, their nannies were their family. They did not want for anything. Except to have their mother back and more time with their father.
Their father, Charles worked for a large pharmaceutical company and was busy traveling to other countries to set up more plants. Though his work kept him away much of the time, it did afford him and his kids the best of everything. When Charles was home, he spent quality time with his kids. He didn’t waste a moment he had with them. He always brought gifts for them after each trip.
This particular trip was to China. Charles has been away for four weeks. The longest he had ever been away. So this time the gifts he brought home were a bit more extravagant. Both of his sons got Jade elephant lamps for their bedrooms and Lucy got a beautiful China doll.
It was the most beautiful doll Lucy had ever seen. Lucy leans over closer to her fireplace. A tear falls down her cheek. She turns and looks over at her dolls. Focusing on her China doll. She walks over and checks the lock again.
That night it was storming. Charles ticked each one of the kids into bed and kissed them good night. Lucy sat staring at her doll in its glass case. She smiled and it wasn’t long before she was fast asleep.
Lucy awakens and it’s just after midnight. She pushes her blankets off and heads down the hallway towards the kitchen. She sees two cups of tea freshly made on the counter. But nobody was there. Just then something moves in the corner of the room. She turns quickly but sees nothing. A tap on her shoulder. Lucy turns and there in the counter is her China Doll. Smiling at her. Lucy stands frozen. She rubs her eyes thinking she is still asleep. But she is not asleep. Then the doll speaks. Lucy is sure she is dreaming. They sit and drink tea and after some time Lucy is comfortable with her doll being alive. She has a new friend. One that promises adventures and companionship. The doll makes Lucy swear that it is just their little secret. Lucy does so and both head back to bed.
The next day Lucy stands and stares at her doll for hours. Nothing. Not a word, not a movement. She has convinced herself that it was indeed nothing more than a dream.
That night just after midnight, Lucy hears a crash. She runs towards the kitchen. Pots and pans are scattered about the floor and flour is everywhere. Lucy sees her doll standing in the corner smiling and then she disappears. Lucy’s nanny and her father run into the kitchen and see the mess and are taken back. Lucy’s father picks her up and carries her to her bed. Grounding her from attending the local dance tomorrow night. Lucy tried to tell her dad that it wasn’t her but he wasn’t having it. She couldn’t tell him about her doll. He’d think she had snapped. Lucy looks up on her shelf and sure enough her doll is in its case. She thinks that maybe she has snapped.
Her father tucks her in and leaves. Lucy lays there staring at the case. She gets up and heads to her sock drawer. Takes a few socks and ties them together. She wraps the socks around her case and double knots it. She stands back feeling triumphant.
The next day the family spent a few hours out by their lake fishing. It was a beautiful day. How they lived time with their father. That night, her brothers and father bid Lucy a good night and headed to the dance. Lucy wasn’t really too sad about not being able to go. As she really didn’t sleep well after the previous night’s events. She cleaned up and decided to head to bed early.
At midnight Lucy awakens to the sound of thunder. She always loved how the lightning illuminated her room. She started counting after each rumble awaiting the arrival of the lightning. “Thousand one, thousand two, thousand three and…” there it was. Beautiful. “Thousand one, thousand two, thousand three, thousand four, thousand…..” the light filled the room. Lucy notices her China doll was not in its case. “But how?” Lucy jumps to her feet, grabs her flashlight and scurries down the hall. She peaks into the kitchen. Another cup of tea on the counter. The cup was empty. Something catches her eye. A knife is missing from the block.
Lucy is in a panic. She runs to David’s room and runs inside to check on him. Waking him in the process. She grabbed his hand and pulled him with her to go check on Jackson. Both rush into Jackson’s room and standing over the boy was the China doll. Brandishing the sharp steak knife. Smiling that devilish smile. David’s reaction was just like Lucy’s the first night. Lucy stepped toward her baby brother. ” Ah ah ah little Lucy. You better stop right there.” Now David was sure he was losing his mind. Lucy screams out, “What do you want? Let my brother alone!”
“What do I want? I want to be able to run and do like everyone else! What do I want?! I want to live!” She points the knife at Lucy, “you locked me up. Like an animal in a cage!”
Lucy crying, “You got me into trouble tearing up the kitchen and leaving me holding the bag! What was I supposed to do?”
“Not that. Not ever that. So you thought you’d punish me? Is that it? I am already serving a punishment. I am alive but I’m not human. I’m forever cursed to live my life in this body. A body of a doll. You thought you’d curse me too huh? Just like Jon Su Kim. Two can play this game!”
Right then Jackson woke up but was frozen in terror. The China doll raked the knife across his face laughing and then she was gone. David and Lucy rushed to their brother’s side. Lucy grabbed a handkerchief and placed it on the wound. David, ran to the bathroom and brought back cotton and alcohol. Jackson was crying and asking lots of questions. Questions that neither one had answers to. They got Jackson doctored up and began discussing what had just happened. Lucy quickly shut down the conversation. “She could be listening right now. Morning. We will talk in the morning.”
Though none of them fancied the idea of sleeping in Lucy’s room with the doll, they agreed it was the safest bet. The two oldest could take turns standing watch and keep their baby brother safe.
When the sun came up all the kids headed back to their own rooms. They knew that none of the adults would ever believe them. Lucy laid there staring at her doll.
“Could you grab the phone Lucy?” Charles calls out from the bathroom. Lucy barely got the hello out, “did you or someone you know purchase a China doll from our store?” Lucy feels faint, “yes, my father.” The man introduces himself, ” I am Jon Su Kim and what I’m about to tell you is going to sound crazy.”
Lucy interrupts, “she’s alive and evil and you cursed her and now she’s cursing us. Sound about right?”
“I’m sorry little one. I was away and my son never believed me about the doll and he should not have sold it. I want to help you. You’re all in great danger.”
Lucy, “you don’t say?”
“She has weaknesses. You need to find your local hardware store. Get some chain and a padlock. Lock her in her case. Don’t let anyone have the key. Adults, most adults will never believe you. ”
“I already locked her in and she somehow broke through that. What else ya got?” Lucy says feeling justifiably sarcastic.
“Only metal locks will hold her. She has the power to disintegrate fabric. Got it? You go and get chain and a lock. This is my number. Call me if you need anything. Please.”
Lucy jots down his number and they say their good byes. She runs to her brothers and fills them in. They decide to ride their bikes into town. Lucy is able to convince their father to let them have a little adventure. They head off. Town was a about 5 miles away. It would take them the better part of the day. They had no choice. The nannies had the day off since their father was home and they couldn’t leave Jackson alone.
It took them a bit but they finally made it to the local hardware store. They found the perfect length of chain and a padlock. They sat at the diner for a bite to eat before heading back. Lucy grabs some change and heads to the payphone to let their father know they’d be heading back soon. They sat and hatched a plan A and a plan B just in case.
The sun was just about to set when the kids pulled up to their home. Their father greeted each one with a hug and a kiss. Jackson had a scarf wrapped around his cheeks which kept his battle would hidden. Charles wanted to hear all about their little adventure. Lucy took over the conversation which gave David time to hide the chain and lock. Jackson faked a tummy ache and headed to bed early. Lucy licked him in and put the key in her pocket. Everyone seemed weary from the day so everyone headed to bed. When Lucy got to her room, the doll was secure. Once she was sure her father was asleep she went to get David. He followed her to her room carrying the chains. But when they got there, the doll was gone. They look around bewildered. It was dark out yes but she’d never ventured out before midnight. They fetch Jackson and all sit huddled in Lucy’s room and wait.
Shortly after midnight, they hear their father screaming. They run into the kitchen and he’s standing there seemingly in shock. He has scratch marks across his face and looks like he just saw the devil. There on the counter is an empty tea cup and on the floor was the China doll. They lead their father to a chair and try to calm him. Lucy runs to her room grabbing the glass case. She returns and shoves the doll back into the case. She begins wrapping the chain around it and filling her father in on everything that had happened up to that point.
“She likes tea. It’s her Achilles’ heel. I got in your sample bag from work. I found the new one you’re trying to promote for the overseas market. What’s it called, Xanax? Anyways, I ground them up and put it in the teapot. Now boom here we are.”
Her father sat there in silence. Lucy told him everything in greater detail once the shock wore off. From that day forward, their family was the guardians of the China doll. Always watching. Always.
-LA Vent 2019