Chapter 35-5: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 15, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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doll1

~~~

After the strangest class she’d ever attended, Meredith was required to visit the house clinic before she could hide away in her temporary bedroom and collapse beneath the blankets. She was emotionally exhausted… and extremely embarrassed by her public breakdown.

The clinic looked like any other clinic. Various posters displaying the human anatomy lined the walls. There was a standard ‘eye’ chart, weight and height scale, and a long uncomfortable bed surrounded by various medical gizmos. The small room gave off a faint latex/bleach aroma.

A small woman wearing a lab coat introduced herself as Dr. Candice Forrester, resident physician and psychologist. She wore glasses, had a tightly braided brown ponytail, and the typical demeanor of a school nurse who was just polite enough to make you feel a little better than a lab rat.

Doctor Forrester had conducted a routine physical, completing Meredith’s uncomfortable day. After getting dressed, Forrester had told her to take a seat in her much larger office while the good doctor cleaned up.

Meredith sat in a chair before a large oak desk, which seemed much too big for the room. There was a file cabinet in one corner and various certificates decorated the walls.

Forrester entered with a clipboard in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. The small woman moved behind the large desk and sat down, completing the absurdness of the goliath desk, making the woman look comical. She took a sip from her cup and set it down, along with the clipboard. Then she started looking through a file on her cluttered desk, appearing to forget that Meredith was there.

“Well, young lady,” she finally said. “Everything checks out. I have nothing to report. You’re a healthy girl.”

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

Forrester removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes, and then replaced them. She then laughed and said, “All you girls are so well-behaved. None of that ‘Ma’am’ stuff with me, alright? You can call me Candice.”

“Alright… Candice.”

Candice folded her hands and looked her in the eyes. “So, Meredith, let’s get right down to it. How are you adjusting so far? Any concerns? Questions?”

Meredith had a millions questions, but now that she was put on the spot, she struggled to think of just one. Finally she asked, “I’m told this isn’t an orphanage. I don’t know what to call this place. Does it have a name?”

Candice smirked as if her question were an old one. “To answer that, Meredith, I need to ask you a question first. Did your previous foster home have a name… and I’m very sorry for your loss, by the way?”

“Thank you… and… no.”

“So what did you call it?”

Meredith found the question strange. She’d never really thought about it. “I guess… home?”

“Precisely,” Candice said. “Miss Evans took great care in not giving this house a name for the very same reason. She wanted to create a ‘home’ for her girls that was defined by what was inside of it… the people. If you asked any of the girls who have been with us for a while, they’d call this place their home, too.”

Meredith shook her head. “Makes sense. I guess I never thought of it that way. I’ve just never been in a place quite like this one before.”

“Yes… I feel very much the same, Meredith. This… home… is unique. Maybe in time, you’ll come to feel the same way as many of the girls do.”

Meredith nodded, as the questions started flooding her mind. “Are all the girls… well… like me?” She winced at the last part, expecting Forrester to give her that strange ‘you are a freak’ look she’d grown accustomed to when addressing her own abnormalities.

Candice leaned back in her chair, smiled, and nodded. “Now that is a very astute question, Meredith. I’m afraid the answer is much more complicated. But I will tell you that you’re not the only girl here who has ever shared a difficult and unusual story in Miss Evan’s class before.”

“Oh, you know about that?”

Candice kept going. “It’s not by chance that you’re here, Meredith. In time, you’ll discover that for yourself.”

Meredith laughed. “You sound like Clem. She won’t tell me anything either.”

“Let’s just say that some things are best answered through… self-discovery. What else do you have for me?”

Meredith treaded carefully. “What’s with the lions?”

Candice laughed. “Ah… the pictures in your room.”

“That’s not what I-”

“I assure you, Meredith. Everything here has a purpose… like those pictures in the guest room. They’re not hanging on the wall to frighten you… more to stimulate the creative process.”

Meredith considered her words and then raised her eyebrows. “You’re responsible for the pictures! You wanted me to dream about them?”

Candice looked please. “You are a very intelligent young lady,” she said. “Part of what I do here involves what I can retrieve from your… dreams. We process new experiences in different ways. Sometimes dreams unlock doors that we otherwise couldn’t or simply don’t know how to open when awake. That’s why we put new arrivals in the guest room for their first couple of nights. Have you had any dreams, Meredith?”

Meredith shut down. “Nothing I can remember clearly,” she lied, and then wondered what else Forrester knew. Did Clem tell her about my dream? In truth, she didn’t know why she was holding back other than a feeling which made her believe that speaking about Toby might be a bad idea. Besides, if they wanted to keep secrets, she could keep a few, as well.

Candice waited with a look of expectation. When Meredith had nothing else to add, she sighed. “Okay, we’ll talk about that another time… maybe when you feel more comfortable-”

“What’s in the basement?” Meredith blurted out.

Candice pretended not to hear the question. She started shuffling paperwork on her desk. “Well, that’s enough for one day, Meredith. I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know that my door is always open. Whenever you wish to talk, please feel free to come speak with me.”

Meredith thought she sensed a little attitude, as if the good doctor was saying, If you won’t talk about what I want to know… then I won’t talk about what you want to know. She decided to let the basement matter go, remembering what Miss Evans said about knowing when to ask a question.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Meredith.” The doctor got up, putting on her professional mask again.

Meredith got up and put her own mask back on. “Thank you, Ma’am… I mean… Candice.”

“I’ll check in on you in a little bit,” Candice concluded. “Get some rest and enjoy your first weekend. I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to talk about later.” The doctor winked with a smile and walked her out of the clinic.

What was that wink all about? Meredith thought after Candice left her in the hallway. For a moment she believed the doctor had somehow read her mind, but then dismissed her suspicions as just her own guilt manifesting itself.

She hadn’t told anyone that she planned to sneak a peek into the basement that night.

~~~

Meredith lay in her bed watching the moonlit shadows of a large tree dancing upon the wall opposite her small window. She stared at her watch: 1:15am. She was positive that everyone was asleep by now. She’d made occasional trips down to the large community bathroom at the end of the hall, listening for silence coming from the other bedrooms where the girls slept. One by one, the voices had went away and lights were reduced to provide only what was necessary to keep someone from stumbling in the darkness.

She was still trying to work up the nerve to wander the large house, rehearsing in her mind what she would say if anyone caught her sneaking around, and then started to panic when she considered it. Finally, she ignored the excuses and the fear, took a deep breath, and got out of bed.

Stop acting like such a baby, she thought. You’re just taking a walk to the basement, not robbing a bank. Relax!

She started to feel silly as she opened her door a crack to peek out into the hallway again.

No one said there was a bed curfew, she tried to rationalize, although she suspected there was one but they just hadn’t told the new girl about it yet. They probably think you’re just a frightened little girl in a strange new place, and that you’d never think twice about sneaking around in the dark.

“I’ll show them,” she whispered. “If they didn’t want people to be so darn curious, they should never have made such a big deal about the basement in the first place.”

With that, her resolve was set. Meredith stepped out into the hall, slowly closed her door, and then crept toward the second floor landing. She quickly descended the stairs and tried to ignore the loud pounding of her heart in her chest.

Relax… they’re all asleep. You just came down to get a drink of water if anyone finds you. What’s the harm in that?

The house looked so different at night. She was used to it being filled with activity, but now, the large old home took on a life of its own.

What are you doing down here, little girl? her over-active imagination asked.

Her shoulders tensed up when she reached the dark kitchen. She was close.

You shouldn’t be down here all by yourself, little girl, the house warned. Bad things happen to little girls who sneak out of their beds… very bad things…

By the time she saw the basement door near the laundry room, Meredith had to stop and breathe after successfully giving herself the creeps.

“Meredith Montgomery,” she scolded herself. “You are being ridiculous!”

She pushed the fear out and focused on the basement door. Just a quick look and then we head back to bed. No one will ever know I was down there.

Meredith started toward the door and felt every hair on her body stand up by the time she was half-way to it. She shook involuntarily from a chill that seized her and crossed her arms across her chest.

What is this? She felt that same strange, unidentifiable feeling she’d felt earlier. Whatever it was made her want to crawl out of her own skin.

You’re doing it again, chicken. Stop being so afraid of nothing!

She dismissed her discomfort and slowly reached for the door knob. For a moment she imagined the knob changing into a large monstrous hand, reaching out to grab her extended arm just before she could turn and run.

Meredith quickly tapped the door knob and rolled her eyes when nothing ‘scary’ happened. And then a thought struck her: What if it’s locked?

She’d never even considered that until now. She turned the knob and the door opened inward toward the dark stairs. She retracted her hand quickly and took a step back.

Nothing happened as she stared at the partially opened door, but the strange unknown sensation that crawled over her body intensified. She could only compare the feeling to an electrical charge one might experience just before a bolt of lightning struck nearby.

She almost turned around right then… almost.

Oh not you don’t! You’ve come this far now get this over with! She frowned and stepped back to the door and pushed it all the way open. Again, nothing happened.

The stairs looked like any other set of old wooden basement steps. There were no monsters charging, no alarms going off… nothing.

She shook her head at her own cowardice and saw the light bulb with the chain attached to it. She reached across the basement landing, and pulled the chain until the bulb came to life.

Before she had second thoughts, Meredith forced herself down the creaky steps until her bare feet met the carpeted basement floor. To her immediate left, she could see a large open space full of boxes neatly stacked along the walls. Some larger objects, such as covered furniture, a couple of bicycles, and several long racks of old clothes were scattered about the center of the space. There was an old furnace toward the back… just your typical basement full of junk with a strong aroma of mothballs and what she could only describe as an ‘old’ smell.

Some secret basement this is, she thought with both relief and a hint of disappointment.

She looked to her right and saw another storage room across a hall that ran back behind the stairs. Meredith peeked inside the room, found a light switch, and turned it on revealing shelves full of paint supplies, tools, cleaning supplies, etc.

Meredith turned toward the dark hallway and immediately felt that strange creepy-crawly sensation again. Whatever it was had to be coming from back there. She saw another hanging light bulb further down the hall. Meredith crept toward it and quickly pulled the chain. The light revealed an open door to her right. She looked inside and found a small half bathroom. She looked dead ahead and saw another large open space at the end of the hall. Meredith moved toward the space, found a light switch along the closest wall, and turned it on.

Meredith’s eyes went wide with surprise. Before her was a large room full of discarded toys lying in a large half-circle across a padded floor with letters of the alphabet imprinted on it. There were numerous stuffed animals of various sizes and colors, toy cars, a train set, puzzles, building blocks for toddlers, old board games, and a jack-in-the-box. But what caught Meredith’s attention immediately were four large glass cabinets lined up along a paneled back wall with four porcelain dolls standing inside them. The dolls appeared to be the centerpiece of this strange basement playroom that looked long neglected… abandoned.

She smiled as a funny thought struck her. “I’ve discovered the big secret,” she whispered. “I’ve uncovered the Island of Misfit Toys… or the basement they ended up in.”

Her jovial mood did not last long as she felt that intense feeling again, making her squirm uncomfortably. She felt suddenly anxious for no reason. She rubbed her forearms and took a cautious step forward toward the toys. When she stepped upon the padded mat, she stopped abruptly. The air felt suddenly heavy, making her feel like a giant hand had just come down on top of her head and was trying to crush her. Another thing she noticed was how quiet it became. She could hear her own labored breaths due to the overwhelming silence that surrounded her.

What is this? It’s like all my senses are… confused.

She finally had words to describe the strange sensation wreaking havoc on her emotions. Meredith felt like she was being pulled further into the playroom, but not in the physical sense… something was strongly pulling at her mind. She understood now that it wasn’t her curiosity that drove her to come down here… she was being compelled on a mental level that was completely foreign to her.

She stood before the doll cabinets and knew right away that they were the reason she was drawn here.

Meredith took a closer look at the dolls and shuddered. The one on the far left was of a girl in a blue and white dress. She had long blond curls and penetrating blue eyes. Meredith quickly turned away, intimidated by the intensity captured in its stony expression. The next one was a young boy clown with red straw-like hair beneath a colorful hat and matching coveralls. Its painted clown face captured a pouty frown and deep sad eyes that made the doll look as though it were on the verge of tears. Was the intent to make its owner feel sorry for it or was it simply showing her the expression of a long-time prisoner, locked within that case? Meredith didn’t care much for it either way. The next one was a child dressed up in a cat outfit with brown, black and red face paint, whiskers, and large inquisitive eyes.

Meredith turned to the last doll and stared at it as though it were an old friend. It was the smallest and least intimidating of the group. She had wild long brown hair and a baby’s head that seemed much too small for its body. Its eyes were gentle with black rings around them, giving it a tired expression. The longer Meredith stared at her the more it seemed as if that child’s face had captured the many years it had been in existence, easily the oldest doll of the lot. She immediately felt a connection to the doll, a connection that couldn’t be described in words. In a way, Meredith felt like she was looking into a mirror.

She heard it speak within her mind… not with words… but with images that Meredith was easily able to interpret.

Meredith smiled after a long moment and said, “Well, it’s finally nice to meet you, too.” She laughed at a joke only she could hear. “No… I’m not making fun of you… it’s just… well… for a girl doll, that’s a very funny name… Toby.”

Toby continued to speak to the human girl.

“You want to show me something?” Meredith asked. “Something important?’

Toby did not so much as bat an eye, but continued to stare back at Meredith, somehow inviting her to move closer to the case.

Meredith moved closer…

~~~

Next Episode 35-6

Previous Episode 35-4

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-5: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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