April 11th, 1962
Dawn heard a strange whispering at the foot of her bed. Thinking her little girls were playing tricks on her, she carefully slipped her camera out from her purse, turned the flash on, and snapped a picture. She expected to surprise her two daughters giggling as quietly as possible by her bedroom door. They loved to put on sheets and play “Ghosties” at 2am sometimes.
Her daughters, Mathilde and Cecily, were jolted awake in their own beds by sudden strange, impossibly deep and monstrous voices roaring in a language they didn’t understand, and violent, thunderous banging coming from their mother’s bedroom. Their mother’s desperate, frenzied screams terrified the girls and they ran to a neighbour’s house. From there the elderly residents called 911 and also managed to get a hold the the girls’ father, working at a mine about 200km to the north.
The police found this picture on Dawn Megorra’s last film roll after they had their forensic lab develop it to see if anything on the roll coincided with the time stamp to coincide with the noises and screams coming from Dawn’s bedroom. Going by the little neon lettering on the bottom right, this is the only picture that did. It was also the only picture of the entire roll to develop. According to Mr. Megorra, Dawn told him earlier in the day during a phone call that she had taken the girls on a short trail hike and thought she got some pretty good shots. The negatives were carefully examined and found that the image had not been tampered with. The developing machine was also found to be working perfectly. Mr. Megorra was adamant his wife had no such dolls, not were they in the house. At least not anymore.
Dawn’s body was found in her own bed, and though she lay prone, her head was twisted around completely. Her face frozen in a horrifying silent scream. Her orbital sockets empty; as if she’d never had eyes in the first place. Strangely, all her teeth and been removed. The Coroner would later find them in shards in her stomach; shattered, as if under tremendous pressure. The experience would have been nothing short of excruciating. An unfathomable agony he couldn’t even begin to describe as he made his notes during Dawn’s autopsy.
Unbeknownst to Dawn, or her husband Lochlin, she was just 3 weeks pregnant. Not even late for her period. Lochlin’s heart broke twice in those days, and when her unborn child died with her. For a single heartbeat he was thrilled, a single heartbeat, that they were going to have another baby. In that same heartbeat he realized his wife was dead, and he’d had a vasectomy 4 years ago.
Lochlin Megorra brought his girls to his mother’s house and took care of moving their belongings into a different home, a different city. The dolls in the picture were never found and this unnerved him, but also enraged him because he wanted the chance to burn them. The police said this was a violent home invasion gone horribly wrong. Nothing more. Dawn Megorra was targeted and they were all fortunate that her little girls were not a target too. Lochlin didn’t believe a word of that. He’d never seen those dolls in his life, and if his girls had been given them as a gift, they would have called him, excited with their new gifts.
As the weeks went by, the girls eventually began to emerge from the walls they built hastily to protect them against fear and grief. They even laughed occasionally. Grandma Sue was always their favourite grandparent. She made “oven fried chicken,” roasted corn on the cob, brown sugar and maple glazed squash with freshly picked blueberries for her famous blueberry cobbler. She took them to the park and they had picnics with cream soda and fairy cakes. Often they cried themselves to sleep, Grandma Sue inviting them to sleep in her king-sized bed. Her beloved and kind husband, Gunnard, had bought the biggest bed he could find about 15 years ago to accommodate their now long dead Irish Wolfhound, Jimmy, who fancied himself something of a large, snuggly cat. Jimmy had passed away 5 years before. Aortic aneurysm. Dead before he hit the floor. They kept the huge bed just for when the girls were over for a weekend.
Sue was grateful to have the girls snuggled up next to her as she too grieved deeply for Dawn’s horrific death. She told Lochlin she would always take them whenever he needed her to. Whether it was working out of town or spending the odd weekend getting drunk to numb his pain. Dawn and the girls were his entire universe. He was a broken man now, and Sue worried whether or not he could be fixed.
While their father tended to his wife’s estate, sold the house and took a $98 000 bath on the loss due to the grisly history; he finally found a small bungalow close to his mother in-law’s house. The girls would have to change schools, but the rumour mill in their old neighbourhood was churning them out as fast as people could make them up (the reasons are plentiful and too many to list here, however suffice it to say the gossip and scandalous lies became so grotesque and savage that the girls would no longer be safe or nurtured at their old school). And so they left behind the house with horrible memories, still grieving deeply for the loss of their beloved, compassionate mother and wife.
The house they bought was semi-rural and the girls were thrilled after such a long car ride that they bolted to the back yard and an instant later were happily climbing all over a solid wood swing set, a slide, and various other obstacles perfect for 2 imaginative little girls. The best part though was a small, 2 horse barn and already Mathilde and Cecily had their respective names picked out for their future horses. Champion and Serise, just because.
Lochlin checked his watch. The movers wouldn’t be here for another 2 hours, at least. He popped open the tailgate on the pickup truck removed the cooler and, struggling to fish the house keys out of his pocket and into the door of his new home. He slipped the key into the lock and turned it, pushing the door open to reveal a quaint entrance way.
And two dolls, propped up on the bottom stairs, the same ones from the picture, were staring right at him. He dropped the cooler and it made a tremendous crash. Without their faces really changing, they grinned. The insides of their horrible mouths a glistening black, like swirling crude oil. And then they rose up and began towards him in unison.
From the backyard, the girls heard the crash of the cooler, and then they heard their father and his blood curdling shrieks of pure, animalistic wailing of pain and sheer panic. Mathilde grabbed her younger sister’s hand and told her to run. Run and don’t stop. And they did.
The police never found out who the killer was, but if he, or she, was still killing, they had changed their MO and too soon Dawn and Lochlin Megorra became just two more files in a warehouse of banker boxes containing tens of thousands of dead end, cold cases. Years later, Mathilde still kept the local newspaper article that quoted Lochlin’s killing as, “The most horrific, grisly crime scene in the history of this town.”
Christmas Eve, 1963
“Mathilde and Cecily, come with me please.” Sister Dunsmore, Headmistress at the Slate River Residential School, called to them away sharply right in the middle of lunch time. Warily, and well aware of the stares of the entire cafeteria upon them, approached her cautiously, as one might an enraged gorilla. With a loaded tranq dart gun and an iron fence between them and The Beast.
“Hurry up! Or your meal will be cold when you get back. And the rest of you,” she addressed the crowded mess hall, “If there is a single bite of food missing from either of their plates, NO ONE gets any breakfast tomorrow.” And with that, she frog-marched the girls through the open doors and down the hallway. Sister Dunsmore’s clocking heels seemed not to fade until suddenly there was a far off bang, echoing the hallway as her office door closed. Instantly the room was filled with whispers. Had someone adopted them? Were they in trouble? Were they going to get expelled? What did they do? Are family members taking them?
These kinds of questions, and similar ones, ran through their minds. This place was drafty and creepy and the sisters would have traded their very souls to have their Grandma Sue again. The poor woman went out one evening, quite late, to pick up some groceries at the all night store. She was out of bread and meat for the girl’s lunches and was T-boned by a drunk driver doing almost 75 miles an hour as he blew through the stop sign. Grandma Sue, in her little Chevette, didn’t stand a chance. At least she didn’t suffer. Mathilde in particular wondered at the funeral just what kind of mangled mess of meat and bone and blood lay inside that ominous casket. At any second she expected someone to start screaming because a rivulet of blood was spattering the well worn carpet beneath.
The fearful girls were led into a sort of antechamber which opened up to the Headmaster’s office. He was smiling cheerfully at them already.
“Mathilde, Cecily. How are you today, girls?”
“We’re well, Father Marchande. How are you?” Mathilde answered.
“I’m just fine, thank you for asking.”
“Are we being adopted?” Cecily, the younger one blurted out. Mathilde kicked her sister’s leg and hissed a Sssh!
“Unfortunately no, girls,” Father Marchande said with genuine sadness. “I hope you feel safe and loved here for now though, because you are. However, I’ve called you here today because a parcel was dropped off for you this afternoon. There’s no return address. The postal service is attempting to track the parcel’s origins. But it appears to be simply a Christmas gift.” He bent down from his chair and pulled out two rectangular boxes, perfectly wrapped with pretty Christmas paper and lovely ribbons.
“What are they?” Mathilde asked suspiciously.
“Perhaps a gift from Santa?” He smiled.
“If Santa was real, every child in this school would get Christmas gifts. Do not patronize me, please.” Mathilde said flatly.
“My apologies. You girls have been through a lot. Here,” he handed them each a box, “tell the other children the gifts are from an uncle or something to that effect. Yes, lying is a sin and I expect to hear about it during your confession, but in this case a small white lie will spare a lot of hurt feelings among the others. Okay?”
“Okay, Father,” Mathilde said.
“May we open them now?” Cecily asked excitedly.
“I don’t see why not. Go ahead. I’m curious too.”
The girls tore off the pretty paper and bows and excitedly lifted off the lids. Their faces paled and a film of sweat appeared on their foreheads.
“Oh what lovely dolls, girls!” Headmistress Dunsmore exclaimed.
The girls looked at each other in trepidation and more than a little bit of horror.
After a cuppa, a few cookies, and some cucumber sandwiches, Father Marchande went back to his work, grading papers, while Headmistress Dunsmore led the girls to the cafeteria, which was now empty; the other children already in their next class. She approached the counter and explained the girls had been called away and thus had missed their hot lunch. The kitchen staff gave the girls a chunk of fresh bread and bowl of warm beef stew.
Neither Mathilde or Cecily felt like eating, and pushed their bowls to the side. The dolls, still in their boxes, beside them.
Later on that night, the girls took the dolls down to the boiler room and opened the door to bunker that sifted coal into the boiler.
“Well,” Mathilde said, dusting her hands off, “that should be the last we see of them.”
No sooner had they crept into the girls’ bunk beds room than their blood turned to ice and they gripped their blankets, starring at the slightly sooted dolls perched at the ends of their beds. Grinning that awful grin.
“Mathilde said, “What do you want from us?”
In that strange, deep, unsettling voice the dolls said in unison, “We want to be real children. Like you. All we need is a soul for each of us.”
“Oh it’s not just you,” one of them replied.
Just then both doors at each end of the room closed softly. There was a quiet, yet ear shattering sound as someone closed the deadbolts.
“Would you two shut…” one of the older girls sat up, looking around groggily, “…up. What the fuck are those?”
Mathilde and Cecily heard whispering and turned to see dozens of the damned things. Some giggled. Some growled. All their eyes glistened horribly in the moonlit room. Then the dolls started spreading through the bunk beds, finding a sleeping child and opening its mouth impossibly wide and closing it over the mouth and nose of a sleeping child. That’s when the child’s eyes would open in sheer panic and she’d buck underneath an impossibly strong doll. Several others began to scream as they saw the dolls coming toward them.
The cacophony must have awoken Sister Dunsmore, a notorious light sleeper. She ran to the girls’ barracks clad in only a night dress and a house coat. She tried the door and found it locked. Cursing, she thanked God she remembered to put the keys in her pocket. Fumbling, it took several tries to open the lock. Finally it clicked home and she yanked open the door.
“My God in Heaven,” she croaked, clutching the silver cross around her neck. Then she saw Mathilde and Cecily running full tilt toward her. RUN! RUN MISS DUNSMORE RUN! they screamed.
A doll appeared at her leg and started climbing her, like a tree. Instinctually, and having a black belt in karate (something she acquired during her career in the armed forces many years ago), she hauled off and punched it in the face. The porcelain shattered and split open and the doll fell to the ground and was lifeless…well, sort of. Thickish black-red, foul-smelling liquid oozed out onto the floor. Dunsmore grabbed the girls by the hands and they bolted down the stairs.
“I killed the one that attacked me. Can’t we take the fire axes and kill them all?” Dunsmore asked as they darted down a long corridor on the main floor.
“There’s too many. Did you see them all? And now we don’t know which is which, human or doll or doll in human. They’ll hit the boys’ barracks next. And then they’ll spread. Like a disease.” Mathilde replied.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Miss Dunsmore said. She grabbed 2 coats off the hallway rack and yelled at the girls to take pair of boots.
“I don’t understand how any of this is happening.” She said. Hurriedly pulling on her coat.
“Those are the dolls that killed our parents,” Mathilde said.
They came to a locked concrete door and Dunsmore struggled to find the right key while Mathilde picked her sister up and held onto her. They looked down the hallway and saw several dolls, all grinning, walking toward them.
“Headmistress Dunsmore?” said Cecily softly. “Look.” She tugged at the woman’s long, silver pony tail and pointed.
“Fuck me…” whispered Dunsmore, and shocking the girls. She got the door open and ushered the girls through. “Come on, move quickly, stay together. Go for the garage.”
They ran fast and hard, even with Mathilde holding her sister who was beginning to cry. Mathilde did her best to comfort her, but she also kept her focus on Miss Dunsmore, lest they become lost in the maze of the school basement.
Inside the garage was an old pickup truck they used mostly on the property for snow removal. They’d be lucky to get 50 miles out of it. The other was Father Marchande’s wood panelled station wagon. Miss Dunsmore snatched the keys from the rack and pushed the button to open the garage door. There were 5 or 6 dolls standing just outside and Dunsmore practically threw the girls into the car. Just as she got in a doll appeared at her side. She turned and kicked it hard enough to send it sprawling across the floor. She ran over 3 more as she squealed the tires driving out of the garage.
As they drove away from the school, Miss Dunsmore took a pack of cigarettes out of the glove compartment and lit one, rolling down the window to let the smoke out. This too surprised the girls. With each vice she seemed more human than Headmistress.
They drove west, straight through till sunrise, and holed up in a small but mostly clean motel room. Though the curtains blocked out the sun, none slept well that day. If at all.
Eight years later…
Willhemina Dunsmore was meticulously loading a series of clips for several firearms spread out on the bed of a Motel 6. Eighteen year old Mathilde and 15 year old Cecily were strapping on ballistic armour, checking and double checking their blades, percussion grenades, and scoping batons.
Building new identities for themselves had been hard. Miss Dunsmore, who had a timeless beauty about her, had, at times, been forced to have intercourse with a man who could either give them names of documents or arms dealers, supplies, or lessons on close combat. As soon as Mathilde turned 18, she’d done it herself sometimes, but never letting Willihemina know what she’d done. Dunsmore was their mother now. And I suppose one might say they had a family business of sorts now: Tracking the cursed dolls and burning their nests; abandoned buildings where they could wait out the daylight. The dolls operated much more efficiently under cover of darkness. They still had no idea from whence these cursed dolls came. Over the years they had posited many theories. Demons, someone with terrible knowledge of dark magic was manufacturing them, or perhaps they were crawling out of the landfills across the nation, fed up of being used and thrown away like so much trash. Nothing fit precisely though, and sometimes those with knowledge of the dolls often were unwilling to talk; afraid the dolls would know, and come after them too. But not all were so reticent to speak, or help. More who knew of the dolls were willing to help than not.
Willhemina Dunsmore, Mathilde and Cecily Megorra became Katerina, Davinia and Erszebet Jäger; a mother and two daughters. Now three of the deadliest hunters in existence. They had also discovered others like them on their travels, hunters searching for infested humans, or the dolls still seeking live bodies. Each cell was connected with all the others, dozens of them, all around the world. But finding the people whose souls had been evicted so a new, macabre, grisly, and unspeakably evil could move in we’re becoming increasingly difficult to get at because they were starting to take positions of political and financial power now.
At first they stumbled across the odd town mayor whose eyes unveiled the monster hiding inside. There were always signs. City councils passing by-laws to make dumping toys in a landfill illegal. A special facility in northern Saskatchewan had been built to take even the toys seemingly beyond salvage and turning them into new toys which were shipped worldwide and sold at a fraction of the cost when they were originally built. Another right in the centre of industrial Detroit. Another in London’s Whitechapel area. Another in Qatar. Germany. Venezuela.
The cells were gathering strength in numbers and skills, but the dolls were gaining strength in numbers and working their way into high level government.
Tonight the three of them, and four others from another hunter cell, three men a woman, had found a safe house, an abandoned mansion, in rural Connecticut for more than a five hundred dolls, a few at a time being released to take over a living body and mind of its terrified victim. Taking down the house was not the hard part. They could burn it to ashes easily, but someone, somewhere, was making these dolls. Maybe the facility in northern Canada. But security was so tight they couldn’t get close to it. And while all the hunters suspected these toys had a grander, more sinister purpose, they were all in agreement the Dollmaker, whoever she or he was, had made a terrible pact with the Devil.
Tonight the seven of them would destroy the house, but first, they had to capture each sentry, each person inside the decrepit house. They had to capture them and take them to the man who could extract the information they needed. Known only as Mr. Grey Eyes, and though he was completely blind, optic nerves nonexistent from birth, he could do terrible things to a person in order to make them talk.
Miss Dunsmore and the leader of the other cell, Benjamin Orlov, told the others to gear up as their van, headlights off and only the moonlight illuminating the overgrown driveway.
“I’m scared, Mathilde,” Cecily said quietly.
“I haven’t been Mathilde for seven years, Erszebet. We have God on our side and love in our hearts for the woman He gave us in place of our mother. Do you have your rosary?”
“Right here, as always,” Cecily said, patting a pocket on her ballistic vest. The beautiful black rosary with a solid silver cross had been their biological mother’s; and one of the only things left of her existence.
“You two are adorable,” Rusty Fairweather said, slipping on a shotgun shell belt and tossing another at Mathilde. She caught it deftly. “But I don’t think God is doing a damned thing. Every time we burn a few thousand of these fucking things, twice as many seem to come forward. And the world goes on as if nothing is happening. How can more people not know?”
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled off,” Cecily said curtly to the large, bearded ex-Navy Seal, “is convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.”
“She’s got you there, Lieutenant.” the other woman, Rosita Perez, who used to teach ballet to some of the most famous people’s children in New York’s Chelsea District until a doll took her daughter and a friend who was sleeping over. “No one can know what the future holds, but I for one say a silent prayer of thanks every time I can keep my damn gun steady when 300 soul eating dolls are walking toward me of their own accord.” She gave Cecily a high five and smiled at her, winking once. Cecily smiled back.
“All I know,” he slammed home a clip into an automatic rifle and began threading a suppressor to the barrel, “is that I prayed for years for forgiveness for all the people I killed in the Gulf. And I still dream every night that Hell is waiting for me.”
“Maybe this is His way of helping even out the score?” Cecily suggested.
Rusty shook his head as Rosita laughed quietly at him, rubbing his shoulder. “How did I get stuck with a 15 year old kid who’s smarter ‘n me?” He asked Rosita, taking her hand and kissing it. Cecily giggled.
From the driver’s seat, as the van slowed to a crawl, Ben Orlov, with his slight Russian accent said, “Maybe the girls and their mother are smart for hooking up with our group. You are best shooter after all. And you are good person. Rosita don’t hook up with scum. No?”
“Stop the van,” Dunsmore said. She pointed, “There she is. Ravenwood Manor.”
Orlov let off the gas and let the van roll to a stop. He pushed down the e-brake with his foot. “Enough talk. We take this house by dawn. And I want everyone inside alive. We can decide which ones have useful information when we get back to the compound.”
The group piled piled out of the van, guns and ammo belts slung about their shoulders; chemical bombs filled with holy water, and a few filled with acid. The acid bombs had been spray painted red since the holy water ones could detonate in front of their feet and not leave a scratch. The acid ones, not so much.
Each one wore a pure silver pendant of the Virgin Mary, even the non-believers. The Vatican knew of the dolls and was conducting an investigation of its own. In the meantime, this rag tag group of unlikely supernatural warriors had a job to do.
Cecily looked to the sky and found Perseus. “I love you,” she whispered to her parents.
Mathilde took her sister by the hand and they followed the others toward the house.
Not one of them had any idea just what was waiting inside. And had been waiting, for almost 200 years. Peering out through an upstairs window, it grinned, lifting its nose into the air and smelling the girls. The scent of a girl not yet sullied by the frenzied penetration of a mere man. Once more, it sniffed at the air, taking in Cecily’s intoxicating innocence like the sweetest perfume ever created; the most perfect, most potent, elixir known to his kind. Already, he was erect beneath his armor. He watched the group walking towards the house. On his signal, a man at the attic window, a human puppet really, fired a single shot. The tremendous crack shattered the nighttime silence.
And Willhemina Dunsmore lay on the ground, the left side of her face missing; her other eye open wide with shock. Cecily began to scream.
© 2014 Lelial Thibodeau