Dolls

I've always wondered about my neighbor. She's kind of weird. She never talks and never smiles, but every Christmas she leaves a handmade doll on the porches of all of the little girls between ages 2 to 6 in the neighborhood. No one has ever had the guts to ask why she does it. She's creepy and old. I guess she is probably in her 80s, long gray hair and beady blue eyes. She is almost devoid of pigment in her skin except for a few spots that look like age spots.

No one ever dared ask, but when she left one for my little sister, I had to ask. The doll was beautiful, obviously hand made, and a magnificant piece of art. She must have taken a lot of time to make it yet no one ever thanked her. I had to do it, yet now I wonder if I should have.

I knocked on her door twice and while waiting for her, I looked into the window. It looked dark inside. There was no electricity on, just candles. There were a few cobwebs up near the vaulted ceiling, but the place was clean. I knocked again, and when I was just about to go the door opened.

She looked at me with her bloodshot eyes and beady blue irises. A smile blossomed across her thin, pale lips. "Yes?"

"I...I just wanted to thank you for the doll. It's beautiful." I managed to say between my trembling words.

"You're welcome, my dear. But it wasn't meant for you. It was meant for your little sister."

"I know. She is too young to come and thank you herself. I'm just wondering why you do this when people are so rude?"

"Come on, I will tell you a story." She opened the door and grabbed my hand.

I took a deep breath. My mother always told me to be kind to the elderly and since they knew where I was going I guess it was okay. She didn't look to dangerous, just weak and a little helpless. I stepped inside and she offered me a seat on an old couch.

With the door shut, the room darkened considerably. The old woman lit a few more candles and a wick on a cerosene lamp. She disappared for a moment and my heart raced. When she came back, she had a tea set. It rattled as she put it down.

"Let the tea steep for a moment. Do you like sugar?"

"Um yeah, I do. Thanks."

The old woman took a deep breath and became very serious. "Back when I was your age, my parents owned this house. It was years and years ago. The houses you live in were the only houses around. There was a small market and a butcher where the house on the big corner is now. My sister and I would go and get candy there every day.

"One day, a girl went missing. She was about my sister's age and no one ever found her. We figured she must have been lost in the forest for we all knew each other and no one had seen her. A few months later, another girl went missing and then another. They were around 6 years old. People started locking their homes every night, which is something we never did. No one would come out anymore. All of the parents kept their children inside.

"It was weeks before any children went missing again. The police could find no clues about the kids disappearing, but we were all so scared. The school almost shut down because parents no longer allowed their children to go to school and started home schooling their kids.

"Then one night, I heard a rattle at our bedroom window. My sister was sleeping across the room in her bed and I was still awake, thinking about a school project. At first I thought it might be the tree branch scraping above the window, but it wasn't windy. I was frozen, scared. I didn't want to move. I couldn't move. Gloved hands pushed the window up and a woman with long black hair and black clothes crawled through. She covered my face with her hand while sitting on my chest and quietly sang a lullaby. I tried to kick at her and scream, but she was really strong.

"Within a few minutes of not being able to breathe, I passed out. When I awoke, my sister was gone. I rushed out of bed into the kitchen then the living room. My sister wasn't anywhere. I ran into my parents' room, crying. My dad was gone and mom was still asleep. I shook her.

"'Mother, mother,' I cried out. It was still really early in the morning. When she woke up I told her what had happened. We went down to the Sheriff's office and filed a report.

"My description of the woman helped them find the old hag who took my sister. She lived in an old shack up on the hill. Some people claim that she was crazy and some said she was just old kin. I knew that night that she was crazy. We didn't have the FBI and the police you have now. We only had our Sheriff. He put together a posse which included my father who had come home from work to help and they went up to the old woman's house. My father later told me she was there, sitting in her living room making something out of leather. As she stitched and watched the men enter her home, she just smiled at them with his snarled lips and rotten teeth. They searched the whole house and found nothing except for a garbage can full of leather straps. One of the men emptied it on the floor.

"Oh my God!" he cried out as he fell to his knees. The leather buried inside the bucket wasn't just leather strips, there were leather masks made from the faces of children. Too many to even fathom. He vomited in the kitchen sink as the Sheriff handcuffed her. Before even making it out to his car, there was a gun shot and then the old hag crumpled to the ground with a blood curdling screech. Some say justice was served. They didn't even bury her, they just let the coyotes have her body.

"Except for the leather masks and some bone meal by her rose garden, there was no other trace of bodies anywhere. People don't talk about what happened in fear of the old hag's ghost coming around. I know I've heard screeches from the old cave, so every year I remember the children by giving replica dolls to all of the little ones. Maybe it will comfort them in the dark when the old hag screams.

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