Abigail loved the Doll House the moment she saw it when her family moved in down the street. She called it the Doll House because that was precisely what it looked like. An old, historic house painted pink with white trim. It had high, pointed ceiling, wide windows, and a large yard surrounded by trees, everything that made it seem like the most perfect play place, a child’s fantasy.
Her parents laughed along with Abigail when she spoke of the Doll house. As adults, they could see everything wrong with the building. They couldn’t see the whimsical aura of the place that Abigail saw. All they could see was a tacky old building with chipped paint, dead grass, and a For Sale sign that looked like it had been there for many years. All they thought was that Abigail’s imagination was running away with her and allowed her to dream whatever little dreams the house inspired in her.
Almost at once, Abigail wanted to see what was inside the house, but her parent’s didn’t want her playing near there. They said that the house wasn’t “their property” and she might get in trouble for going where she wasn’t supposed to. Also, the house was so old there was a definite possibility that she might hurt herself. So her parents kindly reminded her to stay away from that place unless they came with her.
Still, Abigail couldn’t help but dream of the Doll House. She’d draw pictures of it, she’d lie awake at night and try to imagine what it was like inside, and when she played with her toys she would forego her own toy doll houses in favor of imagining the Doll House down the street.
One night, as Abigail slept she thought she heard something outside her window. At first she thought it was only the wind, since her mother had told her that sometimes the wind could sound scary at night, but that it was nothing to worry about. But as she lay there in bed, trying to fall back to sleep, she thought she could hear the wind speak her name.
Startled, Abigail sat up in her bed and approached her window. She was scared, but oddly interested. She listened to the wind, but she couldn’t hear any words this time. Abigail reached her window and tried to open it, but couldn’t. Abigail’s bedroom was on the second floor and her father had her window closed tight so she couldn’t open it too far and fall out. Struggling, Abigail pushed and pushed at the window and managed to open it just a little bit.The wind picked up again. It was speaking to her.
Come to the Doll House, Abigail.
Abigail looked out towards the Doll House, which she could just barely see through her window. Behind the tangled, bare branches of trees that surrounded the House, Abigail could see one of the top-most windows of the house.
A tiny light flickered from within.
Her heart pounding with a strange, electric excitement, Abigail hurried downstairs, put on her coat and shoes all by herself and, quiet and careful as a mouse, she opened the back door, slipped out, and closed the door again as noiselessly as she could so as not to wake her mother and father.
Abigail stood in her backyard, suddenly full of doubt and guilt. She'd never been outside without her mother or father to keep an eye on her and a part of her wanted to go back inside to the safety of her bed. Just as she looked back at the door, teetering on the decision to go back inside, she heard it again.
Come to the Doll House, Abigail.
Her mind made up, Abigail walked around the block in the darkness of night, aided only by the dim, orange light of street lights buzzing above her. She hugged her coat tight to her as she made her way down the street. Things were a whole lot spookier in the dark then it was during the day. Still, not a car drove by, not a soul was seen as the little girl made her way towards her destination.
She finally rounded the corner and there it was, the Doll House she had so dreamed of. In the darkness, the pink paint had turned grey and the once pretty, swirling white trim now resembled twisted, cruel black ivy coiling its way around the massive house. Undeterred, Abigail walked along the old, worn out pebble path that cut through the dead yard and up to the rickety porch. Her arms were still clinging tightly to herself, yet she pried one arm away from her body and knocked timidly on the wide, old, oak door.
There was a click of metal on metal and very, very slowly with long, wailing, creaking groan that would surely wake up the entire neighborhood, the door opened just enough for a small person to go in. Heart hammering, Abigail peeked inside but saw only darkness. Who had opened the door?
"Hello?" called Abigail, her voice so timid it was barely more than a whisper. She stepped over the threshold and into a dark, barren living room.
"Hello!" Abigail cried again. She crept across the room, glancing around at the room, her eyes adjusting to the dark slowly. She could make out the outline of a staircase at the far end of the room. She wandered over to it and glanced up. There was nothing there but she could make out the outline of something white against the wall at the top most landing.
A light switch.
Emboldened, Abigail made her way up the stairs, little clouds of dust erupting from her feet as she made her way up each step. Her heart was pounding as her every instinct told her that she ought to be home in bed, but still she climbed on. As she finally reached the landing, she glanced around but still couldn't see anything, for no moonlight made it through any of the dirty windows. Abigail looked and saw the light switch she'd been looking for. She flicked it on. The whole floor flooded with flickering light.
Abigail barely kept herself from screaming, for in the room, which she had anticipated to be as empty as everything else, turned out to be full of people. No...not people...children! At least twenty children all around her own age were crammed into a narrow hallway at the top of the stairs, each of the staring at her with polite interest.
A little red-haired boy stepped forward from the rest of the crowd. He was the kind of dirty you would expect most boys to be at his age with his old, dirty overalls and a raggedy white shirt. Most of the kids looked a bit disheveled as well, but none looked unhealthy or unhappy in the least.
Abigail swallowed her fear and looked into the eyes of this boy. "Hello," she said, timidly.
"What's your name?" the boy asked.
"Um...I'm Abigail," Abigail replied.
"What are you doing here, Abigail?" the boy asked, though he continued to sound friendly.
"Um, somebody told me to come," said Abigail, feeling a little silly.
"Did you come to play?" cried another boy in the crowd.
"I'll bet she did!" said a girl with pigtails.
"Yeah, let's have Abigail play with us!" yelled another boy while the other children cheered in agreement.
"Really?" said Abigail, brightening.
"Well, not yet," said the red-haired boy, shuffling his feet. "You see, this is our club house. And if you want to play in our club house, you've gotta pass the test."
"This is a club!" cried Abigail, excitedly. She'd always wanted to be in a club. They'd had clubs in her old neighborhood before her family had moved, but she'd never been allowed in because she was too young or a girl.
"Yup, but you've gotta pass a test before we can let you in," said the boy.
"Give her the test!" another child cheered. "Show her the test, Erik!"
The other children made collective noises of agreement.
The red-haired boy, who must have been Erik, took Abigail's hand. His grip was soft, but his hands were very cold. "Come on, Abigail," he said. "I'll show you the test."
They made their way back down the stairs, the rest of the children following behind them in a thundering wave. Erik gently tugged Abigail down the stairs, through the empty living room and through a doorway into a small kitchen.
The kitchen was just as empty, dark, and dirty as the rest of the house. There was no fridge, no oven, and no table and Abigail wondered what these children did for food. She didn't have much time to glance around at the dirty place before Erik was pulling at her hand again.
"This way," he said.
Abigail followed him as he headed towards a small door in the back of the kitchen. Inside it was just a small space, like a pantry, but hidden up against the narrow wall was another, hidden door. It was this door that Erik opened next. Inside was the darkest room yet. All she could see was three of four rickety steps leading downward into a pool of shadows so deep that she couldn't even see where the stairs ended.
Abigail swallowed again. "What's down there?" she asked.
"The basement," said Erik. "All you have to do to be in the club is walk all the way down the stairs, get to the bottom, and come back up. Simple as that."
"Simple as that," chorused the rest of the kids, who had followed them and crowded into the kitchen.
"I just have to...climb down the stairs and come back up?" Abigail asked, uncertainly.
"Yup," said Erik. "Don't worry, it'll be easy. You do this and you'll be in the club for life."
Abigail didn't want to hesitate. This was her chance. To be in a club with all these cool friends and she'd get to play in her beloved Doll House forever. She turned her nervousness into excitement. She stepped through the doorway and onto the first step. The wood groaned under her weight like the belly of a hungry beast.
As Abigail took her next, gingery step down, the door behind her swung shut, leaving her in complete and total darkness. Panicked, Abigail turned and pounded on the door.
"Hey! Open the door! It's dark in here. Please open the door back up!"
She could hear the laughter of the other children's voices and Erik calling to her beyond the door.
"It's part of the test. You have to climb down the stairs in the dark. Don't worry, you can do it. You want to be one of us, don't you?"
Abigail groaned in fear. The dark was so thick there was no difference between having her eyes open or shut. With a miserable moan, she used her feet to feel the steps as she crept slowly down the groaning, oddly soft wooden stairs.
Her other senses heightened with her vision blacked out, though she wished it hadn't. The roaring protests of the creaking wood sounded even more terrible as she proceeded slowly downward, as though her every step was causing the stairs pain. Her nose was filled with a terrible, sour, sickening sweet smell. What on earth was down there. She grew more determined to simply finish the task and get back into the kitchen. She'd get done faster if she ran. Abigail took a deep breath and made herself hurry down toward the next step.
But there was no next step.
Her foot sank through air and her whole body pitched forward. She let out a wail of dark surprise as she fell through musty air, falling hard, falling fast before her eyesight went from black to red....
Abigail opened her eyes. She was laying on her back with a circle of smiling children gazing down at her. Sunlight was streaming into the living room of the Doll House. No longer was it empty and black, but full of bright colors and plush furniture. Abigail sat up and her nose picked up the smell of something sweet and delicious wafting in from the kitchen.
"What happened?" she asked, looking around and seeing Erik's face among the crowd. "Where am I?"
"You're in the Doll House, silly," Erik reminded her. "You passed the test! Now you're in the club."
The kids cheered and clapped, each of them exclaiming her victory.
"She did it!"
"Abigail did it!"
"She's one of us now!"
"One of us! One of us!"
"You did it," said Erik, holding out his hand again. "Now you're one of us...forever."
And so Abigail played in the Doll House she so loved with all of her wonderful new friends. She played and played always smiles, always games, the fun never ending. Never did she mind that her parents had woken up to find that she was gone. Never did she see the Missing Person's posters with her own smiling face on them or the televised pleas for her return.
Never did she know that, behind the hidden door in the kitchen, her own dead body rested at the bottom of a broken staircase surrounded by the decaying corpses of some twenty other children.