The Doll

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Nowhere to Hide, Nowhere to Run

Nowhere to Hide, Nowhere to Run

We all stood or sat where we were listening to the house get quieter and quieter.

“This is nonsense … children, go to bed.” Dad pronounced.

I walked over and took Cat’s hand. She understood that I didn’t want to sleep in the same room with that doll.

Nothing happened that night, though I doubt anyone slept well. Cat and I were huddled together like spoons but by her breathing I know she didn’t fall asleep until it was nearly dawn and I did not sleep at all. I lay in bed listening … all night. To say I was exhausted in the morning was an understatement but I got dressed for school because school was normal and home most certainly wasn’t. Besides it was Friday … test day and I hated having to take make up tests. They were always harder than regular tests.

I don’t know how long I stood outside our wall and stared at the gate, not wanting to go on the property but at length Harry was home and honked at me to get moving. He usually didn’t get home until almost two hours after I did.

“Afraid to go in?” He asked as he got out of his prized 1974 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible.

“Truthfully … yes. I have no idea what we’ll be facing. Mom and Dad were supposed to talk to Chrissie today and explain to her why she is so different from the rest of the family, but I don’t know how she would take that. I can’t tell you if she still has any respect for their authority or not. Her respect for my authority has always been based on pain.”

“What do you mean based on pain?” Harry was puzzled.

“She listens to me because I threaten her with bodily harm.”

“Have you ever hurt her?”

“Slightly, many times. The things I threaten to do, never.”

“Well, I’m here now and I hope I can help to protect you and the other younger kids.” Harry said as he took me under his arm and we walked in the front door.

The house smelled weird. If you asked me, then, to tell you what was wrong I would not have been able to tell you, but later, much later, I realized that it was the smell of distant spilled blood. And the house was too quiet. It was an hour before dinner and the house should have been filled with shouts of discovery and laughter and conversation from the kitchen.

Harry and I walked into the kitchen and it was cold and dark. No lights, no food in the process of being prepared, no Cat and Mom and sometimes even Chrissie. The four of us ladies bonded over cooking, even Chrissie liked helping in the kitchen. No one was here, nothing was started. Harry and I looked to each other, both surprised and concerned. Where was Mom?

I went to the foot of the stairs and yelled for the younger twins. “Fred … Teddy … where is Mom?”

Nothing.

Harry came out of the kitchen after I yelled. I turned to him and put my hands up in a questioning gesture because there was total silence. Harry turned to the basement stairs and called for Robert who would be working on his ham radio, usually, at this hour. I wandered through the downstairs rooms. In the Solarium, a room with a rounded outer wall of only glass that faced south, I found one of our sofa’s looked way too lumpy. I went over to it and found Cat, tied hand and foot, a gag in her mouth struggling to breathe through her obviously broken nose, under the cushions!

First I pulled the rag out of her mouth. She coughed for a few minutes trying to suck in air too fast and once her hands were free she took the rag from me and “straightened” her own nose, which made me grimace. I couldn’t have done that.

“How did you get tied up?” I asked her very softly.

“The doll; I was asleep on the couch after I got home from school. It was a trying day on top of no sleep. When I woke up I was in here, on the couch with the rag in my mouth and my hands and feet tied. Chrissie was going on and on about her lack of freedom and something about always being bossed around by everyone. She was pacing back and forth from the door to the windows then she came over to me, accused me of not listening to her and she broke my nose. Then she pulled the cushions out of the couch and stuffed me in the crack. She put the cushions back on and jumped on me!”

“Other than the nose, are you alright?”

“I’ll tell you later when the circulation is fully back in my extremities but I think I can walk.”

We continued to look for my family. I was passing the downstairs bathroom when I heard a moan. I opened the door slowly but there was no one in the room then I realized the sound was coming from the wall.

“Freddy?” I said and tapped on the wall.

“Get me out Elizabeth. I’m stuck … and I can’t feel my legs.”

“Stuck where?”

“In the laundry chute.”

I looked at Cat and she looked at me in horror. Fred and Ted were nine and way too big to fit in the laundry chute, though they used to ride it to the basement when they were four.

We ran upstairs to their room and I could see the laundry chute had scuff marks all around it. However Fred ended up in the chute it wasn’t voluntary. I ran to my room and got my flashlight and shined it down the chute, but it turned and we couldn’t see past the elbow.

“His voice didn’t sound like he was stuck on the first floor, it sounded like he was stuck in between there and the basement. It was coming from below us.” Cat reasoned.

We ran to the basement to the laundry room and cleared most of the clothes from directly under the chute and Cat found a ladder.

I climbed the ladder and shone my flashlight up the chute. I could see Fred’s sneakers but not past them.

“Hang on, Fred; I’ll try to pull you out.”

Cat found some rope and we thought liquid laundry soap might ease the passage but how to squirt it up there.

We looked around and at one point I spied the boys’ “Super Soaker®” water rifles laying on the table in the game room. I ran and got one of them and filled it with the laundry soap. Back up the ladder I gave Cat the flashlight and she tried to keep it in the hole so I could see where I was squirting the soap. Getting the lasso of the rope around his legs was really hard but I finally got it secured. By then Harry had found us and the three of us pulled with all our might. I was so intent on my labor that it didn’t occur to me that Fred should have been screaming bloody murder but all that came to an end when we got slack on the rope … and only from the hips down did Fred’s legs drop out of the chute and a ton of blood splashed everywhere! We never heard a sound from Fred, ever again!

Cat, Harry and I were sprayed well with the blood from the chute. I didn’t have to ask if Fred was still alive no one could lose that much blood and live. Cat was almost catatonic but I got hysterical. I was screaming incoherently and tried to fit my way too big body up the chute to get the rest of my baby brother out of there. Harry had all he could do to try to keep me on the floor. Finally I subsided into wracking sobs in his arms.

“We need to call the police.” HE said when I calmed a little.

“They’re not going to believe this.” I murmured as he pulled out his cell phone.

Dead. No reception. No bars.

“That’s odd, I charged it in the car on the way home and I’ve never had a problem with reception here.” He murmured.

I got towels out of the dirty laundry that weren’t soaked in blood and wet them down so the three of us could wipe the stickiness off our skin so we could function. I went into Dad’s office and tried his business phone. It was dead, too.

“What the hell?” I said to myself, but out loud as I came back to the laundry room to try to get Cat out of the mess on the floor. Harry had her on the sorting table trying to wipe the blood off her skin. She was still almost catatonic.

“Harry, you have to leave and take Cat with you. Go get help.”

“Are you sure, Bess? You can deal with looking for the boys and our parents alone?”

“As long as I know you two are safe.”

Then we heard the scurrying of tiny plastic feet in the duct work.

“That fucker is in the ac system!” I swore with my teeth gritted and I picked up the super soaker with a half load of laundry detergent and went hunting following the sound while Harry tried to coax Cat up the stairs.

It knew I was tracking it. I could hear it laughing at me.

“Why don’t you stop running and face me little monster?” I taunted it.

It just laughed a maniacal laugh and kept running.

Eventually I ended up at the door to my dad’s workroom. Dad did a lot of the beautiful scroll work for these old houses himself on a home wood working shop. I opened the door to the shop and turned on the light. Looking slowly from left to right, I dropped the toy with my soap ammunition when I saw Teddy. He was tangled in an unbelievable amount of wire and half leaning backward over my father’s lathe.

“Help, Beth … I’m wound so tight.” He pleaded in short gasps. I looked around for wire cutters and found them in Dad’s tool box. I approached slowly and looked at how the wire was tangled around a table leg Dad had in the lathe. I started cutting wires between Teddy and the wood. I had him almost able to stand up straight. The wire around his neck was twisted into other wires and the combination of them was very hard to cut through with these clippers so I was tracing wires and cutting them from Ted’s body. Two more other wires and I’d be able to try to clip the one around his throat.

Motor noise, the lathe started running and I was out of time, Teddy leaned over backwards as the lathe took up what little slack there was of the wire and my brother’s head popped off and rolled across the floor with the arterial spray of his blood bathing the far wall of the work shop. Eventually even his feet were raised up off the floor by the powerful lathe, which never stopped running but Ted’s weight on the table leg made it slip in the bonds and the smoke of burning wood began to rise from the machine. I came to my senses out of my horror, and kicked the wire to the outlet out of the plug. The lathe stopped with Teddy’s headless body suspended over it.

I turned and lost my lunch and maybe breakfast as well. Then I heard that maniacal laughter again.

“I’m going to kill you if it’s the last thing I do.” I swore under my breath.

“It will be.” An unearthly but distinctly male voice that seemed to come from everywhere answered me.

I stormed out of the room screaming Robert’s name, hoping I’d hear his voice but I didn’t. I stalked every room in the basement, even the old root cellar but there was no sign of my twin. I went back into the house. Harry and Cat were still in the receiving room.

“Why haven’t you guys gone for help?” I cried to them.

“We can’t get out of the house, Elizabeth. She let us in but she won’t let us out. I’ve even tried smashing the windows but there’s something in the way.” Harry answered me.

I didn’t mention where I was taking them I just pulled the both of them up the stairs to the third floor, to the “rookery”, Dad called it, and out onto the roof. The roof of our Victorian home was slate and the stones were slick as ice even when they were dry, but there were snow guards in the roof that gave us footholds until we could reach the eves and even Harry wasn’t so heavy that he couldn’t walk in the rain gutters along the edge until he got to the ladder to the second floor. Once we were on the balcony of Mom and Dad’s room on the second floor we had a bit of a trial to get to the Chestnut tree outside their window. Harry lifted me across to the tree, being the smallest of us and I climbed to the main trunk and stayed there waiting for Cat.

I prayed and prayed that Cat would be OK. She was afraid of heights and getting her twenty six feet off the ground into a tree was going to be the accomplishment of the century. She managed to step across to the right branch with Harry’s help but she collapsed to the branch and hugged it like it was Momma.

“OK, Cat. Close your eyes and don’t look down. Creep along the branch to my voice. Don’t look at anything just use your ears and your fingers, inch toward me.” I encouraged her.

It seemed like forever but she was finally close enough for me to grab her shirt as she inched to my feet. I put her hands on the trunk behind me and I moved to the branch on the other side.

“Cat, I’m going to go down first and lead you to the next branch.” I told her.

I wasn’t concerned for Harry. He was the monkey in the family and had been climbing this old Chestnut since he was five. He waited until we were about eight feet below him and he leaped from the balcony rail almost all the way to the main trunk. As I gently guided Cat out of the tree, Harry “Tarzaned” his way down so he was on the ground to catch Cat as she missed the last branch and fell the six feet to his waiting arms.

By the time she got her feet under her on the ground, she seemed back in our world.

“Harry, go get help, I’ll stay with Elizabeth and find our parents and Robert.” She told our brother. They hugged then Harry hugged me and got in his car. A moment after he started the engine, it exploded and the car was a ball of flames.

“No!” I screamed and Cat had to hold me back, there was nothing we could do for Harry.

We held to each other and just cried for what seemed like hours but the fireball was still very hot and now the tree was catching fire so we left the front yard and went around the back of the house toward the Chapel. The acrid smell of a car fire hid the fact that the chapel was on fire as well. We didn’t know that until we got to the back of the house and saw the flames brightening the stained glass windows.

“Just great!” I said as we raced for the side door which was never, ever locked and I wrenched my shoulder when I tried to pull it open and it wouldn’t budge.

“Her wards keep us in but I wonder if we can break in from the outside?” Cat reasoned. We went back to the patio and got one of the large picnic benches and went as far from the fire in the chapel as we could and broke in one of the stained glass windows. We pushed all the glass out of the frame and set the bench under the window so we could climb on it and onto the windowsill hoping we could get back in the house that way.

Cat had guessed correctly, there was nothing stopping us from getting in but the horror of what we saw inside was something I will never forget.

The narthex of the chapel was what was in flames. Two of the pews were leaning against the back wall propped up by the lectern and the pulpit. Mom and Dad were nailed to the pews through their shins and wrists and tied there … upside down! But that wasn’t the worst of the horror. Their bodies had been mutilated and from the blood ... before they died!

Cat dropped into my arms and wailed but I was numb.

No, I wasn’t numb; I was getting angrier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I had one brother yet to find then that little fucking bitch and her stupid doll were going to die!

I was just short of vicious when I pushed Cat away from me.

“Either stay here and try to put the fire out or come with me but I need to find Robert and Chrissie and end this.” I hissed.

Cat saw the set of my jaw and just moved behind me. We went back in the house through the door that joined them.

“Where are you Chrissie? You can’t hide from me!” I yelled as I stormed into the house like a runaway freight train. I practically ran up the stairs to the second floor and checked every room, every closet, under all the beds and then to the third floor. Robert wasn’t anywhere up here. I went back to the main floor and checked most of the rooms I had searched before, one more time, then the two rooms I hadn’t checked yet. His radio was in the basement but Dad had an “observatory” in the north end of the house. I found Robert there. Robert might have been the only one in the family Chrissie liked. When she was little he would spend hours playing with her, any game she wanted but once she started school and started getting strange he ignored her completely. Of all the deaths in this house, Robert’s was the least gruesome, if a slit throat can be considered less gruesome than some other death. He was sitting at the table looking over one of the astronomy books and she must have come up behind him because he was still sitting and the book under him was washed in his blood. The only thing I could do for him now was close his eyes.

Then I heard Cat scream.

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