As he moved his flashlight across the disgusting living room, Robert could see that the porcelain doll was positioned on the couch as though it were watching television.
It wasn’t of course. Aside from the fact that its eyes were painted on, there was no television near it. Still, one could picture a tiny remote in its chalk white fingers, and perhaps a bag of Doritos sitting next to that. What would the Victorian era equivalent of Doritos be?
Probably cucumbers, thought Robert. He imagined that cucumbers were probably really expensive back then.
He stared at the doll a little while longer. Robert wasn’t sure what he was hoping to find at this mobile home. The former tenant had died in a pile of old newspapers and her own filth. Her kids didn’t bother to check on her until two days later. It wasn’t a terribly long time in a situation like this, but long enough such that her cats had already eaten enough of her body to necessitate a closed casket funeral. Robert had heard that a dog will wait a few days before eating its deceased master. Cats afford you no such luxury. Animal Control took the pets, the family took the corpse. Bluff Gardens, who owned the trailer and the property, left the doors unlocked in the hopes that somebody would take the rest of the junk in order to mitigate their cleaning costs.
Unofficially, of course. This place was a biohazard of trash, and they didn’t want to be held liable.
So strange, that in this hoarder’s nest of a house that there would be nothing on the couch aside from this one doll. Even just in front of the couch was a mess. There was a box of eyeglasses on one end, cheaters his mom would call them. On the other end was a box of glasses a different type, McDonald’s drinking glasses from a promotional offer for The Great Muppet Caper.
Robert had just started to walk away from the scene, when out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw the doll move. He shook his head, forcing himself to dismiss the possibility of ghosts. This was a shitty trailer, not a spooky old mansion. Haunted houses aren’t covered in garage sale rejects. They aren’t covered in cat pee.
Goddamned this place reeked of cat pee.
Robert left the living room and headed towards the bedroom. He could barely squeeze down the hall. Boxes upon boxes filled up every space imaginable. Some of the boxes were rotting; others were covered in cat feces. None that he peered into held anything more valuable than a rusty colander, a yellowed Tupperware lids, a broken Precious Moments figurine, or half of a vinyl model of the Six Million Dollar Man.
Nope, not doing this, not worth it.
Robert decided that every second here doubled his risk of hepatitis or toxoplasmosis or feline leukemia or super herpes. He went to leave out the nearest exit, but found that the back door was blocked by a rusty washing machine and boxes of Hardy Boys paperbacks mixed Danielle Steele hardcovers.
No big deal; he’d just leave the way he came, and try to hold his breath.
Robert shined the flashlight across the living room, again, this time noting the faded spot on the wall where there had been a television, and a fairly large one at that. Well, somebody got something out of this, and just maybe the doll was watching TV.
Robert shined the flashlight over the couch, wondering if it was worth saving. Scaredy Cat Robert wanted to leave, but greedy as fuck Robert didn’t want to leave empty handed. Those two fought a lot.
Still, he might get some money for the couch. The fabric was ruined, but the scrappers might give his some money for it, if it had a metal frame. He assessed the couch for half a minute before realizing that something about it was different.
He had a moment of panic: it was the doll.
The doll was missing.
No, that was silly. It probably just fell off the couch. Why panic? It’s just a doll.
Wait. “It’s just a doll” is what they say in all the killer doll movies.
But those are movies. This is just a doll.
“Those are movies” is what they say in all the movies!
Robert went back and forth with himself like that for a while, before he decided to actually check the area around the couch. He was relieved when he moved the flashlight and revealed that the doll had fallen into a box full of McDonald’s glasses. The relief was short lived as the glasses started to clink together.
It looked as though the doll was having a seizure.
It was at that point that Robert did the thing he swore he would never do every time he watched a scary movie. He betrayed every horror film heckle he had ever heckled.
He picked up the doll.
Robert stared at its dead black eyes and blank porcelain face. He could hear something like a scratching sound. The doll’s body was surprisingly warm, and it started to squirm underneath his fingers. The scratching sounds grew louder and were accompanied by a chorus of squeaks.
Naturally, Robert threw the doll across the room. It smashed into a wall of wood paneling and fell to the ground. Robert looked at the broken face of the doll and saw three mice crawl out of where its mouth had been.
Robert shuddered. He would have preferred a ghost.
Fuckit, he thought. I’m taking those Muppets glasses.