The doll watched Margaret unpack her bags. The young girl and her family brought so many possessions with them when they moved into the old house that the doll was certain that they'd never finish. Three daylights later, they appeared to be nearly done.
It was late and the sun spilled a blood orange glow over the bedroom. The child folded and stored her belongings into one of the fancy wooden boxes that man was so fond of using.
... dresser, the doll thought. That's the word.
Words were a creation of man, a foolish illusion of ownership. There was a word for everything and everything had a name.
The thing watching from behind the doll's glass eyes had no name. It was born into the darkness among others and lived as one and many, legion and union. They were drawn to the creatures of the sun out of boredom, a casual and unfeeling sadism.
It was with this dangerous apathy that the thing watched Margaret, deciding how it would slay her and her family.
Suddenly, Margaret looked at the doll. Their gaze locked in silence for a few long moments and, just when the girl was about to look away, the doll tilted its head.
Very little movement was needed. Why waste energy when a tiny gesture would open the floodgates of a child's pure, rich terror?
She was young, the doll thought scornfully. Perhaps too young to know to be afraid.
The thing behind the doll's glass eyes was young, too, although it didn't know how young. Numbers were another creation of man, a way to count the things they thought they possessed.
Man knew nothing of possession.
Margaret picked the doll up in her arms and held it there, pressing it to her body. She then lay the doll on the dresser next to some clothes and a glass of water.
The doll sat upright.
"No, no, Jessica," Margaret scolded as she straightened the doll out again. "Be a good girl."
Stunned into uncertainty, the doll remained still. It felt the care and concentration in the girl's hands as she dipped a piece of dry cloth in the glass of water and then dragged the now wet cloth over the doll's body. First was the front, then the back.
Finally, the girl washed its face and eyes.
The child, now sagging with exhaustion, took the doll to her bed. She held it above her and looked deep into its shining glass eyes.
"Good night, Jessica," the girl said, hugging it tightly.
Jessica, the doll repeated silently. The word had soft and hard noises that made it almost sound like a curse if said the right way. Jessssss-i-KA!
It accepted the name. If it decided to let the girl live, which it did just this very moment, then it had better get used to this creature calling it a name.
The child tucked the doll beneath her arm. Her breathing slowed and she began to slip away.
Jessica, for that was the doll's name now, closed its false eyelids and pretended to sleep next to its new possession.
Margaret had a brother.
Margaret also had a doll named Jessica and Jessica had a thing that watched from behind it's glass eyes. It watched as the boy, much like their father, left the house each daylight with a bag of books and papers. That was Jessica's favorite part of the horrid morning, the time when the boy went away. The doll's relief was short-lived because the boy always came home soon after the sun reached its awful peak in the sky.
His name was Tristan and he was taller than Margaret, older. Jessica never saw him bother or abuse his sister. It was quite the opposite. Whenever Tristan came home, Margaret greeted him with a flurry of what were called kisses. Jessica knew kisses well. Margaret often kissed the doll after brushing its hair or dressing it in fresh clothes.
The thing behind Jessica's glass eyes grew annoyed. That annoyance matured into resentment, which in turn became fixation.
One night, Jessica climbed out of Margaret's arms while everyone was asleep and smashed several of Margaret's newer toys in Tristan's room. The doll then laid on the pile of broken things, watching.
The boy woke first. Margaret and their parents stormed into the room seconds later. Shouts were followed by denials, but the doll learned that Margaret was unique among children, rich in a trait called forgiveness. The girl cried at the destruction of her things, but she never raged at Tristan, not the way their father did. It was a reaction worth noting and Jessica soaked in every detail.
Each night, the doll found new ways to torment the boy. It shattered his expensive things and tore at his clothes. It crawled over him as he slept and scratched his arms and legs. After every encounter, the boy entered conflict with his parents, which made each effort doubly satisfying.
One of the mornings when Tristan and his father stayed home, the whole family went to an outdoor place where many other people gathered. The sun hid away more quickly at this time of year and it was cold enough for people to wear extra layers of clothing, even on their heads and hands. Margaret bundled the doll in extra layers as well and carried it with her.
The outing was pleasant, mostly walking from one shop to another.
After a time, Margaret's eyes became heavy and her walk slowed to a stumble. Her father lifted her high in his arms and held her there. Margaret refused to release the doll, but even her resolve couldn't hold out against the march of sleep. The doll slipped from her hands and fell to the ground.
As horrible as it was to be dropped, this was the opportunity that Jessica wanted. Tristan reached for the doll and Jessica bit him on the hand. The boy's blood was more tart than it was sweet, the doll discovered, like under-ripe strawberries.
The boy screamed and ran to his mother. His father huffed, then commanded him to get the doll for his sister. When Tristan refused, the father put Margaret down and began scolding him. The boy wilted beautifully, like a flower starved for water and light.
Margaret ran to the doll and grabbed it by the arm. She then darted past her mother, between the pair of males, and clutched her brother tightly.
Being pressed between the two children, the doll considered its failure. Tristan, it seemed, could do no wrong in his sister's eyes. No matter the offense, Margaret showered him with adoration. It was then that the doll accepted the simple truth that Margaret would never turn against her brother. Tristan had to go.
The next morning, the doll broke a glass frame and hid shards of it in the boy's first meal. There was blood, followed by screaming. Lights flashed outside and concerned-looking strangers in uniforms stomped all over the house. When they left, they took the boy with them.
Times were good while Tristan was away. Margaret cried often, but talked almost exclusively to the doll, telling it her deepest secrets. Margaret had silly secrets. The ones Jessica knew were far better.
But this, too, did not last. The boy came home many days later and Margaret still rushed to greet him with hugs and affection. Obsession festered into an all-consuming hatred, an inconsolable rage shrouded behind a porcelain face.
The house was mostly quiet during Tristan's first night back. Margaret and her father slept while Margaret's mother sobbed alone in the kitchen. Her mewling allowed the doll to climb out of Margaret's bed and creep into Tristan's room unnoticed by anyone other than the boy himself.
Tristan lay on his bed, staring at the doll as it opened his door. He was as still as stone, save for his eyes. They followed the doll's movements as it crawled up the boy's body and lay on his chest.
The thing behind the glass eyes flashed the boy a glimpse at the space beyond time. It showed him the place of its birth and death and rebirth, the place where it and others like it consumed the children of the daylight, not for sustenance, but to spite the sun.
Tristan screamed throughout the rest of that night. Morning came and there were more strangers in the house, dressed in still different uniforms. The family left with them, but returned without the boy, saying empty phrases like "they'll know what to do there" and "we'll visit him."
Margaret cried herself to sleep for many nights after that, clutching her beautiful doll.
The doll never liked strangers in the home.
It especially didn't like strangers hanging around Margaret, drawing her attention away from their necessary playtime.
One early night, just after the sun hid itself away from the moon's predatory gaze, Margaret's father and mother dressed in finer clothes and prepared themselves to leave the house together. This struck the doll as odd, since their custom was to lead separate lives.
Margaret's mother made her nightly wine habit into a full-blown ritual, complete with morose music and frumpy costuming. She no longer slept without the liquid's gentle kiss. The father argued heavily with her at first, but then a silence grew between them, something more than the mere absence of noise.
Margaret, however, was not silent with her doll, Jessica. She brushed its thin hair and talked or sang, depending on her mood. The doll preferred when Margaret was happy, but it would never snub its nose at Margaret's sad times, for that was when Margaret bared her soul most deeply. Her soul, which gave off a sweet light, was something that the doll had never experienced before, but somehow understood its specialness.
On this night, Margaret's mother and father looked as clean as a freshly wetted talon. Seeing their clothes made the thing behind the doll's eyes self-conscious. It looked down at its blue and white outfit and noticed that it was a close match with what Margaret wore. This sated the thing's worry.
There was a knock on the door and, seconds later, a stranger stepped into the house. This stranger was not a girl, nor was she a woman. She was something in between.
Anxiety overtook the doll as Margaret's parents left, but it was thrilled to discover that the girl-not-girl was pleasantly negligent. She didn't play games or tell stories. She simply turned on the machine of false light and sound, grabbed herself a canned drink, then mixed together a few things from the kitchen and served it to Margaret cold and sloppy. As far as strangers went, she was alright.
The problems started with the second knock at the door. The girl-not-girl answered it with a giggle and then there was a boy-not-boy in the house as well. They began fumbling clumsily with one another on the couch. Margaret and the doll found this fascinating, so much so that the doll spun its head around to catch every graceless misstep.
The girl-not-girl caught Margaret watching and shrieked. She and the other called her harsh things like "creep" and "reject." Margaret recoiled and the light that the doll cherished inside of her dimmed slightly.
Rage pulsed outward from the doll, chilling the air in the room. All grew quiet.
The girl-not-girl pulled her now open shirt over her shoulders, then grabbed Margaret by the arm and dragged her up the stairs. The doll shook loose from the small girl's grip and fell at the base of the steps with a hard thunk. A door slammed shut on the second floor. Margaret cried and the girl-not-girl shouted back from the hallway, urging her to be quiet.
The boy-not-boy huffed. He walked through the kitchen and into the first floor bathroom.
The doll followed.
On a shelf below the sink, there was a small bottle. During the rare times when the doll was in the kitchen at twilight, it watched Margaret's mother secretly crush and inhale these tablets as the overture to her ritual of misery. The doll retrieved it, then crushed the remaining tablets into the girl-not-girl's canned drink.
It did this so quickly that, when the boy-not-boy had finished with the bathroom and opened the door, the doll was there to greet him.
He regarded it cautiously, but then bent to pick it up. As soon as it was within reach, the doll scratched his face, narrowly missing his eye. It then climbed onto the sink.
The boy-not-boy turned and stared through the doll's fierce eyes into the mirror behind it, which was no longer a mirror but instead a window to another place. He fell through it, spiraling into an undulating blackness. He looked back into the bathroom and screamed, but his efforts yielded nothing.
The doll balled up its fist and smashed the bathroom mirror. The boy-not-boy shattered into pieces. His body lay in a wet pile in this other realm, a feast for whatever dark thing happened to pass by with a taste for uninvited strangers.
At the sound of the glass breaking, the girl-not-girl rushed down the stairs. She shrieked and called the boy-not-boy's name several times, then nervously chugged her canned drink and clicked away at her handheld machine.
She grabbed a broom and, to her credit, swept up most of the glass before her body teetered with the first signs of grogginess. She shook her head and held onto the door for balance, but the doll could tell from the look in her eyes that she knew something was horribly wrong. She lumbered from the bathroom into the kitchen and the doll tripped her. She fell against the counter and onto the floor where blood pooled around her once beautiful face.
Soon after, Margaret's parents returned home and found the girl-not-girl unconscious with the empty-and-formerly-secret bottle. They opened Margaret's door, but she chose to stay in her room with her doll, Jessica. This was for the best, because the silence between her mother and father broke and there was a great deal of noise throughout the night.
Lights flashed outside and vaguely familiar uniformed strangers asked Margaret questions. She answered what she was able to answer and they left quickly, which was good.
The fewer strangers in the home, the better.