This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 2040 words.
June 1969. Robert buys Edna a doll.
The second hand shop in the village was always worth a look. Robert liked to collect things, all sorts of things, and he never passed the shop called Aladdin’s Cave without stopping to browse.
His wife Edna complained bitterly about what she referred to as his ‘junk’ cluttering up her house. But deep down, she didn’t really mind. He was a good husband, and had never blamed her for not being able to have children. They made the best of it, took lots of camping holidays, and spent weekends making their garden look nice too. After twenty-seven years of marriage, she had become used to his ways, and he had learned to tolerate her good-natured complaints.
He had moved the collection of model soldiers into the shed, out of her way. Then he promised to sort out all the toy cars, and store them outside too. But when he started to collect antique garden tools, she had firmly stated that he was taking his obsession a little too far for comfort. He picked up the old garden fork propped outside the shop. The metal parts were rusty, and the wooden handle wrapped in old bandages. Still, he reckoned it had some age, and walked inside with it to ask Ted how much he wanted for it.
The owner put down his newspaper as Robert walked in. He was Ted’s best customer, as well as his most regular. “What about this old fork, Ted. What are you asking for it?” He rubbed his chin as he looked at Robert, casting his eyes down to the battered fork. It had cost him nothing, as he had found it by the side of the road last week. But he was a salesman by nature.
“That fork is around a hundred years old, you know. It came from Lord Elmsley’s estate, from that grand house. They sold off all the contents last month”. Ted found lying easy. He had been doing it for the best part of his sixty-two years. “I couldn’t let it go for less than twelve, Robert”. As he waited for Ted to finish his usual sales pitch, Robert looked around. At the back of the shop, he saw a doll on a shelf. He hadn’t spotted it previously, and it’s blonde hair and wide eyes attracted him immediately. Edna would love that doll.
Ignoring Ted’s suggested price for the fork, he walked further inside, and picked up the doll. The outfit was lovely, with delicate lace, and it was in fabulous condition too. The owner spotted his interest and pounced, continuing the lie as if reading from a script. “That doll was from Lord Elmsley’s too. A rare find, Robert. It’s a real antique that one, I reckon it’s before nineteen double-o. In fact, I’m sure of it”. He wasn’t about to tell his customer that he had bought it for next to nothing from some crazy woman who had stopped outside in a car, and said she would take anything for it, as long as it was cash.
Fascinated by the doll, Robert didn’t hear a word of the continuing sales patter. When he finally turned around, Ted went for the close. “Tell you what, call if forty-five quid, and I will throw in the fork too. Can’t say fairer than that, can I?” Robert tucked the doll under his arm as he took the notes from his wallet. That was a lot of money, but he handed it over without a murmur. He smiled at Ted’s farewells as he walked out of the shop, and didn’t even remember to pick up the garden fork.
Edna adored the doll. Well at least she adored the sentiment behind Robert buying if for her. She wasn’t that keen on its fixed stare, but placed it on a chest of drawers in the bedroom, next to the door leading through to the ensuite bathroom. Her husband seemed pleased with himself, and went outside to the shed to catalogue some more of his model soldiers. When they went to bed that night, she couldn’t shake the feeling that the doll was staring at her, even when the lights were off. She turned over to face Robert’s back. Out of sight, hopefully out of mind.
That Sunday, Robert was leaving early to go to an antique fair almost fifty miles away. He believed that some soldiers he was after would be offered for sale, and he wanted to get there when the traders were still setting up. Although he tried to be quiet as he got ready, Edna was disturbed, and wide awake by the time he left at five-thirty. She was restless in the bed, trying to get back to sleep, stretching and turning. When she heard the voice, she thought at first that Robert had returned for some reason.
“Why don’t you do what you normally do? You know, what you do when Robert is out of the house, or when you are in the bath every night as he watches the news on television? Why don’t you do that? I want to watch you do it. Do it for me. Now.”
But it wasn’t Robert’s voice. It was a male voice, but not his. Syrupy, soothing, and undeniably mellifluous. Edna was a little afraid. Could someone be in the house? Despite her fears, she had to check. But her nervous sweep of the few rooms showed nothing amiss. The front and back doors were both locked, Robert had left her safe and secure. As she walked back into the bedroom to get her dressing gown, her face suddenly flushed as she realised what the voice was talking about. Her only secret.
Despite being a loyal and caring man, Robert had never satisfied Edna in the bedroom. He was inexperienced when they met, and didn’t seem that keen to learn more than he already knew. For a good number of years, he had stopped paying her any romantic attention at all, and rather than cause friction in the marriage, she had let it go, and satisfied herself instead. Always in private, usually in the bath, and sometimes when Robert was off on one of his buying trips. It kept things stable, and stopped her becoming frustrated. But how could that voice have known, and where was it coming from? Edna thought she must be imagining it, and resolved to laugh it off as a waking dream. But as she picked up her dressing gown, she heard it again, more insistent this time.
“If you don’t do what I ask, I will tell Robert. I can make him hear me, if I want to. I can tell him all sorts of things. Some of them will be lies, but not all. You know he will believe me. Just lie down on the bed and do it while I watch. You know you want to”. Edna felt the chills run up her back as she identified the location of the sound. It was coming from the doll. That didn’t seem possible, but it was happening. Despite all her senses telling her to just open the window and throw the doll outside, she felt entranced by the voice. It was still soothing, and strangely enticing. And it was right, she did want to do what it asked. Staring at the doll on the chest of drawers, she lay back onto the bed, and lifted her nightdress.
But her red-faced display didn’t satisfy her tormentor. “Again” it had insisted. And after that second time, “Again”.
By the time Robert returned that evening, excited to show her his purchases, Edna was exhausted. It had taken ages to escape the demands of the doll, and part of her was ridden with guilt for not only acceding to its demands but enjoying it too. She hadn’t even got washed and dressed, let alone started on any preparations for dinner. Robert just wanted to be reassured that she wasn’t ill, and once he was happy with her explanation of being woken up early and not being able to get off again, he guiltily agreed to prepare some sausages, eggs, and bacon. As he put the plates down, he cheerily announced, “Breakfast for dinner, and why not?”
During the weeks that followed, the demands of the doll carried on increasing. It spoke about things in the deepest, darkest recesses of Edna’s mind, revealing knowledge of her most intimate fantasies. Filled with revulsion, she nonetheless became addicted to complying with its filthy and degrading demands, as it released something inside her that she had suppressed since her teens.
The weeks became years, and they started to take their toll. At first, Robert hadn’t noticed any change in his wife. She seemed happier about his collecting trips, urging him to go on more of them, even an overnight stay to one exhibition in Scotland. There were no more complaints about his accumulation of models, or anything else he bought.
But she was looking thinner, and had dark circles around her eyes. He started to worry about her health.
Her job suffered too. Many days skipped, with flimsy excuses about headaches, or emergency trips to the dentist. She began to resent being away from the doll, eager to listen to its next demand, and ready to willingly comply. Eventually, she lost her job. When she told Robert, he was so understanding, she burst into tears. He patted her shoulder, and spoke softly. “Never mind, Edna love. We will manage. I have a bit put by, and I will stop buying things for my collections. That’s a promise”.
At home all day, things began to descend to a new level. The doll instructed her to do things that she had never heard of, let alone imagine herself being happy to carry out. But she was, as she soon discovered. Then one balmy afternoon, she found herself drawn into the bedroom, as Robert was out at work. She had never actually spoken to the doll in all this time, but today she did. “So what have you got for me today? Robert will not be home until at least six”. Her eyes were wide with anticipation, her skin tingling.
The voice washed over her like the warm waters of a tropical sea. But as it laid out its demands, Edna’s eyes widened at the sheer enormity of what it was suggesting. Despite the years of willing debauchery that she had happily carried out at the behest of the doll, this was too much, Just unspeakable. She couldn’t even reply, just shaking her head in a ‘No’. As she walked out of the room still shuddering at the thought, the voice called after her. “Very well then. I will tell Robert. I will tell him as soon as he gets home, and comes in here to change his clothes”.
As he pulled his car into the driveway, Robert was surprised to see Edna standing in front of the garage. As he got out, she walked up to him and grabbed his arm. “I need to talk to you about something, Robert, come with me into the garden for a moment”. He smiled weakly, hoping it wasn’t anything serious. They sat on two metal chairs around the patio table as a white-faced Edna blurted out the whole story, her voice a hoarse whisper. At first, Robert was smiling, sure his wife was playing a trick on him. Twenty minutes later, and he was fearing for her sanity, as he had not believed a single word of the bizarre story she had just related. He decided to be reasonable, at least until he could have a word with their doctor. “Well then, let’s just get rid of the doll. I could burn it in the garden incinerator, or just throw it away somewhere.
Edna panicked. “No, you mustn’t let it speak to you. I will do it. You stay here while I get rid of it”.
Fifteen minutes later, she stood the doll in the village phone box, just at the side of The Green.
Turning for home, she was relieved it hadn’t said a single word.