"You know I had a doll almost exactly like that one when I was a girl," Gran smiled softly as she lifted her knitting, her arthritic hands moving with a constant speed as she worked the needles. "She smells weird though," Tammara muttered under her breath, attempting to hold the doll further away. "It's just from age I suppose, my dear, and from sitting in the back of a musty antique store," Gran explained without glancing up from her knitting. "Maybe if you're a good girl today we can go and buy some fabric and make her a pretty new dress."
"Okay!" Tammara said gleefully.
"I don't know yet," Tammara murmured, mesmerized by the stark blue eyes which contrasted oddly with the cherubic features of the doll's face.
"How about Eleanor?" Gran said with a slight smile, as if she had recalled a long ago memory. "That's what I named the very first doll that my mother bought me when I was your age.
"Eleanor," Tammara said to the doll, its blue eyes holding a strange glow in the muted light of the den. “Her name shall be Eleanor then.”
"Go on now, dear. Go play with Eleanor." Gran said after switching on the old television set which sat in the corner. "My favorite show is on.”
Tammara had to admit that the doll was pretty, with angelic features and tumbling blonde curls which framed its pale face. The lacy white dress that it wore was moth eaten and faded, and its little white patent leather shoes were cracked beyond. Tammara imagined that she could grow to love the doll, but its eyes were so unsettling that she felt like she didn't even want it in her room somehow. The eyes were cold emotionless pits of blue, which followed her every move.
Deciding that she was being over-imaginative, Tammara went to her study desk to put on some finishing touches on a near to completion picture that she had been working on for Gran. But despite her efforts, she couldn't ignore the doll which she could see out of the corner of her eye, seeming to move its tiny hands back and forth at its sides.
Tammara squeezed her eyes shut, trying to reign in her imagination. "Don't be such a baby," Tammara muttered aloud. "It's just a stupid old doll."
"Mommy," the doll replied tonelessly.
"Mommy," it said again.
"You gave me a fright, Eleanor." Tammara stuttered a bit, but hoping that they could be friends.
"Mommy," the doll said slowly, without moving its eyes.
"You must be broken, Eleanor. Something’s not right about you," Tammara said, lifting the doll and examining it's back in search of a Velcro opening where she could put batteries, similar to the one's in her other talking dolls. From what she could tell, the doll was stitched up tight. She squeezed the doll’s torso, down its little stuffed legs and all the way up to where its tiny porcelain hands where sewn on, but she didn't find any sort of device.
"Mommy," The doll said in that slow voice again.
Tammara stood stock still for several minutes, so petrified that she began to hear the strange mama even in her imagination. She was in real trouble, because she had to go to the bathroom, and the only way to do that was to walk past her bed to get to the door, which meant getting near where the doll lay sprawled under her bed, waiting for the opportunity to grab one of her ankles.
After several minutes of staring down at the dark gap beneath her bed, Tammara couldn't stop herself from bouncing side to side in what Gran had dubbed "Tammara's potty dance." Her fear and pounding heart only added to her increasing need to go to the bathroom, and she grabbed herself in a way that Gran would have called unladylike. What if she tried to run past her bed but wasn't quite fast enough, and tiny porcelain hands dragged her away into the abyss? Tammara would rather stand there and wet herself than be dragged into the world of demons and ghouls that she was certain existed under her kiddie bed.
"What would you like for lunch today, dearie?" Gran called from the living room. Somehow the sound of her voice calmed and brought Tammara back to reality, and the horrors she was beginning to imagine were pushed aside suddenly, giving her the courage that she needed to sprint past her bed and into the hallway.
With a final glance over her shoulder to make sure that the doll wasn't crawling out from its hiding place, Tammara bounded down the hallway and into the bathroom.
"Bacon and eggs, please!" Tammara yelled as she fumbled with the button on the front of her jean shorts.
With a satisfied tummy, Tammara walked down the hall humming a song she had learnt on the school playground the week before. It wasn't until she reached her bedroom door that she remembered the doll. Her heart sank, and she considered running and asking Gran to get the doll for her. But, she was afraid that it might hurt Gran's feelings if she told her that she didn't like that old doll, but she was also afraid that she might get in trouble and have to go to bed with no television if granny got the doll for her and it was broken or messed up from being thrown.
Taking a deep breath, Tammara got down on her hands and knees, carefully lifting the edge of the floral bed skirt. The light from her room slanted across the contents beneath her bed--several board games, a few boxes… but no doll.
She frowned into the dark space, and began stretching her tiny arm into the space to move things around. But there was no sign of the doll. She let the bed sheets drop and climbed up onto her knees. She let out a small cry when she saw that the doll was sitting in the center of her bed. It was facing straight ahead, but those horrible eyes stared right at her.
"Why did you hurt me, Mommy?" It said in that monotone voice.
"Bless the heavens! What is going on, child?!" Gran panted when she came around the corner into Tammara's room. She was still holding her knitting, her hand resting on the doorknob as she tried to catch her breath.
"It's the doll, Granny!" Tammara broke down, throwing her arms around Granny's waist. "She was talking to me and her eyes are scary! She's scary! Granny, I don't want her!"
Tammara wept harder against Gran's apron, peeking out only once to find that the doll was still sitting on her bed.
Gran stroked Tammara's head gently, shushing her and rocking back and forth.
"Alright dearie, alright," Gran said as she patted the back of Tammara's head. "I'll put her somewhere else. It’s alright now. Perhaps it was just a wild imagination of yours."
Gran reached out for the doll and Tammara cringed, half expecting it to open its mouth to reveal a row of razor sharp teeth, biting her poor granny on the arm. But it didn't, it just glared down at her with those horrible eyes as granny held it in one arm and left the room.
Tammara sat down on the bed and sighed, relief washing through her. Maybe Gran was right. Maybe she had been imagining the whole thing. Ms. McKurry, her teacher, always said that she had the most vivid imagination of any student she had ever had. Tammara thought it was a good thing, until granny was called to the school because of the tell tales that Tammara was telling her classmates on the playground.
"Oh dear God!" Gran cried from the kitchen. Tammara jumped up off the bed and looked out into the hallway.
"Gran?" Tammara called hesitantly. She waited a few moments but received no response. "Granny, are you okay?"
The sound of the pots and pans which hung over the kitchen stove crashing to the linoleum floor made Tammara jump, and was followed by a louder thud. Then there was only silence.
"Granny?" Tammara cried.
"Granny, what happened?" Tammara called with a trembling voice.
Do you want to get killed by the doll or eaten by a creature in the darkness? Those are the choices, so quit being such a whinny pants.
Tammara decided to take her chances with the creature in the dark, so she leaned into the shadows and flicked the switch, the hallway instantly illuminated in yellowish light.
She let out a shaky breath when she saw that the hallway was empty, but felt panic seep through her once again when she realized that her grandmother could be really hurt.
"Gran?" Tammara said whispered, inching her way along the wall to her right. "Gra—"
"Why did you hurt me, mommy?"
Tammara stopped in her tracks, and carefully began to inch her way back towards her bedroom. Tears filled into her eyes as she watched the doll's tiny frame step around the corner, looking particularly horrifying in her blurred vision.
"Why would you do that, Mommy?”
The doll’s little shoes made a soft tapping on the hardwood floor, its little arms outstretched towards Tammara, its mouth still frozen in a sweet smile framed with dimples. Only the eyes were different—pure black which glowed from within.
The doll stopped just a few feet away from Tammara so that it had to stare up at her to meet her eyes. Its outstretched arms lowered slowly to its sides, its left arm slowly disappearing behind its back.
"You don’t love me, Mommy? But I love you, Mommy," the doll said, its voice sounding sickly sweet. "Don't you love me as much as I love you?"
"I'm scared of you," Tammara finally sobbed.
The doll looked down at the floor, shaking its head slowly back and forth. Its left arm reappeared from behind its back, its porcelain fingers wrapped around a razorblade.
"Poor Mommy," It snickered.