This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 1400 words.
March 2019. Phoebe tells all.
For the first year, he had lived inside the doll at the front of the window. Many came in to ask how much the beautiful doll cost. Most were unable to afford it, though some seemed to sense there was something unpleasant about it. The shopkeeper moved it inside, above the counter. He was worried that the clothes would fade. Besides, more people might see it, as they browsed the interior.
Rudolf spent the time well. Without having to try too hard, he discovered that having a voice didn’t matter in the least. He could make anyone he chose hear the doll. And they heard whatever voice he decided to use, whether his own, or one from their past memories. And he didn’t need real eyes to see.
It was all still there, visible though his spirit consciousness, and focused through the wide glass eyes of the doll.
He enjoyed driving the first shop assistant insane. He would whisper to her with the voice of her husband. He said the vilest things, and delivered home truths she herself had suspected. The first time she turned and engaged the doll in conversation, Rudolf had a revelation. He didn’t need to move out of the doll. It was the perfect host, and would provide him with centuries of amusement.
When the new shop girl came to work there, she put the doll back in the window. One summery day, Rudolf spotted a man eyeing him through the square panes of glass. He knew immediately that he would come in and buy the doll, and he knew the dark secret as to why he would too.
Over the next one hundred and eighteen years, Rudolf developed his powers to perfection. The doll changed hands many times, and he was able to make many suffer for the ownership of Claudine. There were calm periods too, times when he wanted to stay with an owner, and bide his time. He liked Agatha, and spent many happy years talking to the interesting woman. He would tell her what he had seen over the centuries, and regale her with gossip about the lives of famous people, and ordinary ones too.
And all in the voice of her beloved Beatrice.
But when she had died, and the doll had been bought once again, the old Rudolf resurfaced. Time to have fun, after that long rest.
England was a good hunting ground. Less fear of the unknown, and lacking people who believed in the old ways and superstitions. But mainly because behind their respectable exteriors, dark things lurked in the memories of the families the doll went to live with.
And now he was owned by Anne. The girl was surely innocent thus far, but her parents both kept terrible secrets close. Jane Boyd was guarding the destructive secret that her husband was not the father of her daughter. As for Roger, his suppressed secret was much worse. Rudolf was delighted to be there, as he could wreak havoc through this child.
Although young Anne could never have met her late sister, Phoebe was easily found inside her mind. She had chosen to inhabit a space there, waiting for the right time. Now was that time, and she was happy to let Rudolf carry out her revenge. He used her voice to talk to Anne, and even though she had never heard it before, she was happy and ready to believe that it was the voice of the sister who had died years before she was born. He told her the shocking truths behind both secrets, and made her understand the implications of revealing them.
They took their time, waiting until they were sure that Anne could sound convincing, once she knew all the facts. Every night when her bedroom light went out, she would cuddle her doll, and listen to the voice of her sister telling her what had happened before Anne was born. For many girls of her age, it might have been a forbidding prospect, revealing such things and facing her future afterwards. But she was made of strong stuff, and agreed that Phoebe should have justice.
They chose a Sunday, the one day when the family always ate together. Anne was told to leave the doll in her bedroom, so as not to antagonise her father before she got a chance to speak her revelations. Just before two in the afternoon, Jane called out to her husband and daughter. “It’s on the table”.
It was roast beef, with all the trimmings. Anne always found it too chewy, but it was Roger’s favourite.
Except that today, he would get no chance to enjoy it.
As soon as they were all sat down, Anne started to ask her questions.
“Mum, how did Phoebe die?” Jane raised her eyebrows at the strange dinner-table conversation.
“We have told you, luvvy. She was born with lung problems, and spent a lot of her life in hospital. Her breathing never got any better, and one day when I was out with my friends from work and Dad was looking after her, she just stopped breathing. He called the ambulance, but it was too late”.
Anne nodded, then turned to her father.
“Dad, why do you think I am not your child?” Roger’s fork stopped in mid-air, a spot of yellow mustard dripping from the slice of beef speared on it.
“I don’t think that. That’s a stupid thing to say. Why are you talking such rubbish? Eat your dinner”.
Jane’s face was getting red, blushing from the neck up. Roger avoided her eyes, and stuffed the beef into his mouth, chewing silently.
Anne left a nice pause, like when they waited to announce the winner in the talent shows on TV.
“So Dad doesn’t know that you used to have sex with Alan from your work, even when Phoebe was alive? And he doesn’t know that’s who you were with when she died, lying on your back in his car?
And he doesn’t know that you kept on seeing him after that, then got pregnant with me? And he doesn’t know that you only had sex with him the day you found out, so you could try to fool him into thinking I was his?”
Roger dropped his fork onto the floor, and for the first time since she had given birth to her, Jane slapped her daughter across the face. Before either of them could move, Anne turned to her father.
“And Mum doesn’t know how much you hated the fact that Phoebe was ill? How you resented having to care for her, the nights when you got no sleep, the constant trips to the hospital? And she doesn’t know that you finally had enough that day, and put your hand over her mouth and nose, to put an end to all that?”
When her Mum started screaming, Anne left the table and ran upstairs, to where Phoebe was waiting for her inside Little Annie. She had never found out it was really Rudolf.
The big carving knife used to slice the beef had still been on the serving dish, in case Roger had wanted more meat. Jane plunged it into the belly of her startled husband before he had time to realise what had happened. As his wife raised the knife a second time, he punched her as hard as he could. She fell to her right, her head connecting with the sharp corner of their heavy washing machine. Roger tried to stand up straight, but his legs gave way, and he sank to his knees next to Jane. The knife had severed the artery supplying blood to his liver, and he faded fast. As for Jane, her skull was fractured, and blood was pouring from the jagged wound on her head.
The Children’s Home was actually quite a bright and welcoming place. Anne had of course been allowed to take her doll, and she clutched Little Annie tightly as they walked along the corridor to the room she would share with another girl. Rudolf was very happy with their new home too. He had been able to see into the staff as they talked to the girl, or walked past in the waiting area. Oh, the things they had done to these children. Such secrets to be revealed.
He was going to enjoy it here.