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Don’t Play with Dolls

By Isabella Sanderson


Note: This story is the result of the Anchor Newspapers "Scary Anchors" creative writing contest. This story is fictional and from the imagination of the author. Isabella Sanderson won the contest and received the opportunity for this story to be published on the website for viewers to read and

enjoy. Some content in this story may be unsettling to some readers. Continue with caution.

Photo via https://www.flickr.com/photos/39873796@N06/11863685006

Lonnie and Jessie knew a shortcut home from school, always passing through the same

clearing in the woods that nobody else knew of. This is where Jessie liked to attempt to cast

spells, while Lonnie rolled her eyes uninterested in Jessie’s obsession with magic. Usually, they

passed through during daylight, running through colorful wildflowers and tall green grasses. But

tonight, just after dusk, a dense fog rolled through town, and they had no visibility.


“I don’t like this,” Lonnie said hesitantly passing through the field. She’d never been here

at night before and the usual bright flowers she liked to pick were nowhere to be seen, the once

luscious grass felt like dewy cobwebs against her legs. She wanted to go home.


“You don’t have to like it. We have to do it tonight. It only works under the full moon,

and you promised.” Jessie said. Lonnie was always a wimp, hesitant to do anything adventurous

to tap into her magic. Jessie had been wanting to do the ritual for a while, it was the only way to

make her a witch.


“I just don’t understand why we have to do it here,” said Lonnie signaling to the thick

darkness surrounding her, as the low growl of the wind crept in, carrying the scent of a bonfire

far away. She was afraid, and rightfully so. She had witnessed what happens when people mess

with the wrong type of magic. It was the reason her father left.


“Because this is where the wildflowers grow. I have to spill my blood over a bed of

flowers. It's all in the grimoire, did you even read it?” Jessie said. For someone with as pure

blood as Lonnie, she didn’t seem to care to know her own history. It’s something Jessie would

never have, the pure red blood of a witch. She was envious of Lonnie’s magic, and her mediocre

spells that never seemed to work were getting boring.


“It’s blood magic, Jessie. We don’t know what we’re messing with,” Lonnie spoke

sternly.


Jessie rolled her eyes.


“Okay were here. I think this is the spot,” said Jessie ignoring Lonnie’s warning.

The darkness engulfed them as the fog wrapped around their 13-year-old bodies like a

blanket. Not even the light from the full moon could break through. Flowers seem to hide at

night. The crickets couldn’t sing, and a slow, steady stillness filled the air. Lonnie pulled out her

flashlight.


“What are you doing,” Jessie said annoyed. “We are only supposed to use candlelight”.

“Okay fine,” said Lonnie as she put away her light and lit the candlestick that Jessie

handed her out of her purple polka-dot backpack. “Wait, Jessie, I think I see something on the

ground”.


“Let me see,” Jessie said shoving Lonnie out of the way. She looked closer and that’s

when she saw the perfectly shaped bleach blonde curls cleverly wrapped with pink lace ribbon.

“It’s... a doll”.


All color drained from Lonnie’s face when she saw its eyes. She knew that doll. “I want

to leave right now. This isn’t fun anymore. That doll... no, seriously Jessie, please can we leave

right now. I promise I’m not just being a wimp. We have to go. I’m begging you.”


“It’s just a doll Lonnie. I admit it's weird but maybe one of the girls from school followed

us and left their doll or something. Not everything has to be a horror movie”. Jessie said as she

picked up the doll that was in perfect condition besides having a set of eyes that didn’t match.


“It’s not just a doll. I—it—it—it was my grandmother's” Lonnie whispered. “We need to

leave”.


Lonnie caught a glimpse of her friend's evergreen eyes turning a glossy steel gray right

before the wind blew out her candle and the darkness took over. Suddenly her body felt heavy,

and the back of her neck started to tickle with the unsettling feeling of eyes from afar.


“Jessie, are you there?” Lonnie whispered cautiously. She felt alone, really alone, and

filled with regret for ever agreeing to do the stupid ritual Jessie had been begging about for

months.


No response.


“Jessie, this is not funny, please, let’s get out of here,” Lonnie pleaded as she stood there,

vulnerable and exposed in the middle of the field.


Still, no answer. The dewy grass left Lonnie’s legs covered in a slime that sent a shiver to

her bone. Her eyes welled with tears, her hands began to shake, and her lips quivered. She was

genuinely afraid, so she did as her grandmother had taught her in times like this. Lonnie began to

rub her palms together and pray, though not to any God, she prayed to the trees. She closed her

eyes and whispered into her palms, praying to the trees for warmth and guidance, and soon

enough, a flame flickered in her palms. The light from the flame poked a hole through the

darkness, but once she could see, her heartbeat pulsed out of her chest. Jessie was gone, and so

was the doll.


That night, Lonnie went home with a chill in her bones. The light on her front porch

welcomed her home accompanied by the warm aromatics of a rosemary chicken roast. That

meant her mother was home, heating up dinner. That meant she had to lie about where she was.

Her mother would certainly disapprove of her traipsing through a dark field on a blood magic quest with Jessie, nonetheless. It wasn’t that her mother didn’t like Jessie, more so that she didn’t

trust Jessie. She reminded her of her ex-husband, Lonnie’s father.


If there was one recurring theme in Lonnie and her family's lives, it was that outsiders

wanted in on their powers. Those without magic wanted it in a way that led to obsessive

behaviors and got them into trouble. Lonnie’s father was a professor of occult studies at the

University, so it seemed quite a coincidence that he ended up marrying a witch. His obsession

with magic spread to unforeseen boundaries when Lonnie was a toddler. The story she had been

told was that he accidentally summoned a demon, and her mother threw him out. He never

attempted to contact her, not even for her birthday.


“Mom,” Lonnie called as she creaked open the front door. A lonely saxophone soothed

her ears while her stomach turned with the dread inside her. Her mother loved her jazz.


“There you are sweetie, Jessie’s mom called, I heard the two of you got caught in the

fog,” her mother didn’t seem the slightest bit angry.


Lonnie swallowed, struggling to get the words out, “Jessie’s home?”


“Why wouldn’t she be? Come, eat. The neighbors cooked us a chicken, and you know I

don’t like to eat so late,” her mother said. They’d been living off sorry-your-grandma-died food

for weeks. It proved the neighborhood was well versed in the art of comfort food, and Lonnie

and her mother couldn’t complain considering the alternative would be frozen pizza. Her

grandmother had done all the cooking. The two shared a meal together and Lonnie said nothing

of the events of the night. After dinner, she washed up, got in her pajamas, and attempted to go

to bed. Lonnie didn’t sleep much that night. She dreamt of grey glass eyes and dolls that came to

life.


The next day, Jessie wasn’t at school. The hours passed like pulling teeth, slow and

painful. Lonnie would have been better off staying home, considering her shifting thoughts and

churning stomach. She hadn’t been able to shake the chill she caught the night before. By the end

of the day, she had chewed her nails to the point that blood had dried over multiple times.


Lonnie planned to stop by Jessie’s house after school to find out what happened. When the bell

rang, she didn’t even bother to stop at her locker to gather her schoolwork for the weekend,

instead, she B lined it out the auditorium doors and straight to Jessie’s house while the pit inside

her stomach hollowed more and more every step.


The walk to Jessie’s was a short distance from school and it could have been shorter if

she had taken their shortcut through the field, but Lonnie didn’t dare return to the location of last

night's horrors. Jessie’s pale blue house looked darker than usual. The shades were drawn, which

was odd considering the sunny day they were having. Jessie’s mother wasn’t home, as usual. She

was a full-time neurosurgeon without time for children. She was not a warm woman, but she

always left the windows open to let plenty of light in. Lonnie took a deep breath and marched up

to the porch to ring the doorbell. No one came. She knocked on the door and still, no one came.


“Jessie? Are you home?” she called. No one answered. She decided she would check the

backyard before she gave up. She sauntered around the corner of the house, slipping out of view

from the rest of the world. Sure enough, there was Jessie. The back of her chocolate curls was

the only thing visible while she sat swinging on the swing set, humming a strange melody that

Lonnie vaguely recognized.


“Jessie—what are you—” she stopped mid-sentence when her eyes landed on the doll.

Jessie was singing to the doll all while brushing its blonde curls and swaying her feet that dangled over the ground. Jessie was dressed strangely as if she was going to church in the 1950s.

Her hair was wrapped in pink lace, just like the doll. She wore a perfectly ironed white dress and

black ballet flats that buckled neatly. Jessie didn’t even notice her. It was like Lonnie wasn’t

there, Jessie’s full attention on this doll and her melody. A dark cloud stole the sun and Lonnie

tiptoed around the swing set, not that she was afraid to make noise, she was just afraid. The

moment she was in Jessie’s view, the melody cut off and her head snapped right towards Lonnie,

locking eyes with her, Jessie smiled with her teeth. Her evergreen eyes were glossed over with a

milky grey film, and she said nothing. She smiled and watched as Lonnie retreated away from

her, pale as a ghost and terrified. Jessie’s head turned like an owl, her gaze following Lonnie as

she made her way back towards the house. The moment she was out of view, she heard Jessie

resume humming exactly where she left off. Lonnie ran.


Lonnie slammed her front door behind her, out of breath, standing in the foyer.

“What is going on?” her mother said wide-eyed coming from the kitchen, “are you trying

out for the track team or something?”


Lonnie swallowed, trying to catch her breath, “Mom—I didn’t want to tell you last night.

I was in the field. With Jessie. She wanted to do a ritual to become a witch—”


Her mother’s posture straightened “you know those rituals don’t work, Lonnie.”


“Please, let me finish,” she pleaded looking into her mother’s cold eyes. They tended to

change from a deep ocean blue to piercing ice when she was angry. “She wanted to do a ritual,

but we didn’t even start doing it when we found the doll. Mimi’s doll. She picked it up, and

everything got so dark. Jessie disappeared and I walked home alone. I swear we didn’t do any

dark magic, Mommy, I promise.”


“Which doll, Lenora?” Her mother’s face was pale, she never used Lonnie’s full name.


“The one with two different eyes and pink lace ribbons, but that’s not the end. Jessie

wasn’t in school, and I was worried, so I went to her house. She was sitting in the backyard with

the doll, singing to it. When she saw me, she didn’t say anything, she just smiled, it was so

horrible mama. Her eyes looked like rain clouds.”


Her mother mumbled a prayer under her breath. She took Lonnie in her arms; it was the

first warmth she had felt all day. “I’m afraid that wasn’t Jessie.”


“Then who, mama?” Lonnie whispered, her eyes welling with tears.


“You’d better sit-down sweetie, it’s time you know why your father had to leave.”


Lonnie made her way over to the couch in the living room and sank into its red cushions.


“You never want to talk about him,” Lonnie said. She always wondered about the details

of her father's departure. She knew her mother kept it from her with good intentions, but as she

grew, so did her curiosity.


Her mother shook her head, “Some things are best left to rest, or they come back to haunt

you. I suppose this one did either way. Your father—you know he had a fascination with the

occult, with witchcraft. It was more like an obsession. He wanted to become like us, but magic

isn’t something to gain. It’s something you are in tune with, a part of your nature.”


Lonnie nodded, “I know mama,” she’d heard it all before, her grandmother taught her

well.


“One weekend while your Mimi and I were gone, he tried a spell, but it was blood magic.

He asked for power, for magic of his own, but he summoned something evil—some type of

demon. Your grandmother was furious. I was terrified. It took all her strength to fight it. You

were just a little girl, alone here with him, he put you in danger. The thing is, once a demon is

summoned, it has reason to exist, it wants to take a host. It went into your father. You were here

for three days alone with him, only it wasn’t him. Somehow, you were unharmed, but I can’t say

the same for your father, oh God it was awful.” Her mother looked as if she were about to throw

up, her fist held to her mouth and her eyes towards the floor.


Glimpses of the past appeared in her memory. Her father, pale as paper, his ice-blue eyes

piercing through the glossy film that covered them. They were in the kitchen, he was doing

something with his hands, holding a kitchen knife. Her kitchen looked bigger, and she was

higher off the floor than normal. She must have been in a highchair. He was singing and playing

with the knife. Maybe he was cooking? Lonnie couldn’t be sure; the flashback was so hazy. She

wanted the truth.


“It’s okay mama, please, I need to know,” Lonnie said, and she suddenly felt much older.

Her mother shook her head and her hands as if trying to shake the memory out of her

mind. She continued, “When we got home, he had mutilated himself. Blood was everywhere in

all different colors, some dried over, some dripping. He slowly cut off pieces of his fingers and

left them all over the house. He hardly had a left hand. When we walked through the door, he

was joyfully humming while carving at his foot, I thought he had gone mad, then I saw his eyes.”

Lonnie was sick to her stomach. She didn’t like hearing the details, but she needed them

if she was going to have a chance of saving Jessie. This was the reality of blood magic, and it

was because of the lost details that people kept attempting to use it. “What did you do?” Lonnie

struggled to get out.


Her mother spoke fast, “Your grandmother knew instantly. The only way to get rid of the

demon and save your father was to change the host. We tried banishing it, we tried an exorcism.

Nothing worked, it was too powerful. Mimi transferred the demon to a doll; the doll Jesse has.”


“And he was okay? I know he survived, why did he leave?” Lonnie asked.


“He didn’t leave you, honey. He may be alive, but your father is gone. That demon

drained every bit of human life out of him. We had to commit him to an institution where we

initially hoped he would recover. He lost his left hand and hasn’t spoken a word since. He only

ever hums the same tune he was humming that day.”


At that moment, Lonnie recognized the melody she had been trying to place all day, the

one Jessie hummed so effortlessly. It was the same song her father had been singing all those

years ago. She couldn’t catch her breath, tears streamed down her face, and she was having a

panic attack.


“Breathe, Lonnie, breathe,” her mother sat beside her on the couch, rubbing her upper

back.


“I don’t get it, why now? After all these years, it comes back and possesses my friend?”

Her mother couldn’t stop shaking her head, “it's never been able to move or possess, all

the years we kept it, it’s been inactive. I think that when Mimi died, the spell grew weak. I’m

out of practice, and you're just a child. Our household isn’t as strong as it used to be. See, these

entities are patient, time is a commodity to them. While we forgot, while we got comfortable, it

waited. Mimi died, and it took its chance. All it took was Jesse’s interest in gaining power, her

obsession with magic is just like your father's and that’s why it was always hard for me to trust

her. Her desire acted as a magnet and it latched onto her, that’s why you found it in the field—

I’m so sorry honey,” she said, eyes glued to the floor.


Her mother looked exhausted, more than Lonnie had ever noticed. Her forehead was

creased, and her concealer did little to hide the puffy black bags under her eyes. Her fiery hair


had begun to gray, but still, her mother was the most beautiful woman she knew. Lonnie’s heart

sank into her chest. There had to be something she could do. “We have to try, mama.”


Her mother sighed.


“We can try the same spell that we did before, I remember it well.”


“And this time, let’s destroy the doll,” Lonnie said with confidence.


The corner of her mother’s mouth lifted into what almost looked like a smile, “I’m afraid

it doesn’t work like that, honey. If we destroy the object that traps it, the demon is free. There’s

no way to kill it, and it’s too strong to be banished by just the two of us. I don’t know of any

other witches around here.”


“Then let's trap it, before it's too late, and bury it so deep in the ground that nobody ever

finds it,” said Lonnie.


The next morning, Lonnie and her mother created bundles of lavender, dill, oregano, and

parsley from their garden for extra protection and headed over to Jessie’s house. It appeared her

mother was out of town for the weekend, and Jessie was all alone. They tiptoed around the house

and tied their herbal bundles on every doorknob. They had Mimi’s grimoire, holy water, a cross

(for they needed all the help they could get), and an old silver jewelry box covered in

engravements of Hecate, the moon, and the trees. It was a simple transfer spell if they caught

Jessie off guard, but they had to get close enough for it to work. Jessie lived across from the

church, ironically enough, so they planned to bombard her at noon, just as the church bells rang.

The ringing of the bells would hopefully give them enough time to begin the transfer.

Upon entering, their ears filled with the soft sound of Jessie humming the same haunting

melody that echoed through the house due to its tall ceilings and blank walls. Jessie’s mother kept the house in pristine condition, white and grey being the only color palette. The melody

grew louder as Lonnie and her mother neared the living room. Jessie was sitting on her knees in

the center of it, brushing the doll's hair as if no time had passed. The first church bell rang, and

her humming stopped. Jessie appeared frozen in time, paralyzed, the demon must not have liked

the sound. Lonnie and her mother began the spell, drawing their power from the trees. They

encircled Jessie in flame. The demon was awake. It didn’t scream, it didn’t speak. It hardly

moved. In the form of Jessie, it patiently walked over to the edge of the fire that encircled it and

looked right at them, its smile morphing with the flame. Jessie stared at them until the spell was

complete. Lonnie stared right back; it was not the first time she’d stared into those eyes. But

these weren’t Jessie’s sharp evergreen eyes, they were endless and black, timeless and old,

bottomless holes that held no soul. Lonnie felt in her bones that it was not the last time their eyes

would meet. Remember me, something whispered in her ear as Jessie dropped to the floor.


The transfer spell had worked, and they saved Jessie, all before her mother got home.

Jessie was a bit shaken up, and it would take her years to sleep through the night without fear,

but she ultimately made it through without a scratch. Unfortunately, she would never forget the

haunting melody the demon had taught her, though it served as a good reminder of what blood

magic could do. Jessie promised Lonnie she would never mess with any dark magic again, and

Lonnie’s mother promised to teach the both of them everything she knew about healing herbs

and protection spells. The two girls went back to being friends, to being sassy teens, and their

bond lasted a lifetime. They had successfully trapped the demon in her grandmother's jewelry

box, tied it with rocks, and sank it to the bottom of the nearby quarry. All was well, and the two lived out their lives in the same small town they grew up in. They were happy and life was

simple. It wouldn’t be until years later, long after Lonnie and Jessie had grown old and had

grandchildren of their own, when one day the quarry dried up, and a young girl who happened to

be Lonnie’s grandchild, stumbled upon a sparkling silver jewelry box engraved with the image

of a goddess, the moon and the trees.


The End (for now).

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