Last Friday, Chuck Wendig posted a flash fiction challenge on his Terrible Minds blog. The challenge can be found here. I chose one of the sentences at random and began a story that ended up being over 1700 words. If you like flash fiction challenges or prompts in general, I recommend checking out his website. Without further ado, here is “Eyes Shut Against the Darkness.”
“Eyes shut against the darkness, counting back from ten. I hope to god it’s gone when I open them again,” Annaliese prayed to herself.
She stood in the middle of her room, surrounded by cotton candy walls. Grey shag carpet cushioned her tiny feet. Posters of princesses and furry animals bedecked each wall. In one corner stood a cedar chest. It was supposed to be her hope chest, but instead it was filled with nightmare creatures disguised as her dolls.
“Eyes shut against the darkness, counting back from ten. I hope to god it’s gone when I open them again.” At age six, she was barely 44″ tall and weighed just over 40 lbs. She was no match for the monsters in her room. She made up a mantra, a prayer, the only one she knew. She was still standing in the center of the room, eyes squeezed shut and hands gripping the neck of what appeared to be a clown. She heard screaming and she continued to pray her mantra, hoping they would go away.
At long last, she heard what she hoped was a normal silence. She allowed herself to open one eye just slightly. She looked down at the clown in her hand. It began gurgling, “You useless bitch! Put me down!” while gasping for breath between her tightly laced fingers. Annaliese screeched and threw the doll across the room. Her haven, the one place she was safe without her mother, was her closet. Looking to her left, she spotted its gaping door, welcoming her inside. She had to get there.
Sweat poured over her brows and stung her eyes. The dolls were getting closer. They were crawling toward her, grabbing for her ankles and yelling at her.
“You useless child. Get back here!”
“Find her! Kill her!”
“We will find you, you little bitch! You can’t hide!”
They sounded like rioters. She could picture them with guns and protest signs, looting the various corners of her room. It would have been funny had it not been so frightening. Soon they began chanting, “Kill the bitch!” It really was a riot. She had to get to her closet and fast. Where were the police? Where were her parents? Couldn’t somebody help? Anybody?
She wasn’t going to make it! They had her feet grounded to the shag. Tears streamed down her face, mixing with the sweat and running into her mouth in a salty stream. The wanted to kill her. She didn’t understand why. She had never done anything to them. She looked down. The one on her left ankle was the clown she had thrown across the room, probably Rags. The one on her right foot was a baby. She could tell by the diaper on its bottom, but it’s face glared up at her pinched in pure hatred. More are crawling toward her–stuffed animals, baby dolls, adult dolls, little girl dolls. The Barbies sashayed toward her, fists raised in anger, protesting their clothes, their shoes, their car, and worst of all, her. Annaliese didn’t understand any of this. All she had done was play with them. She didn’t think she had ever treated any of them harshly.
“Come on, you batshit crazy kid. Lie down already. Face us! Face your fate!”
“No one will help you. You are a worthless little girl.”
“Your so ugly, no one will miss you.”
Annaliese clenched her fists. She didn’t know if she had enough fight left in her to get to the closet. Their insults were weighing heavily on her. They were right. No one cared to save her. Otherwise they would be here right now. She was a worthless little girl. She sobbed and collapsed onto the floor. She began to kick her feet and pound her fists in anger and despair. The dolls on her feet flew off toward the cedar chest. She almost didn’t see her chance. She almost missed the opportunity to make it to the closet. She felt like great weights had fallen off of her. Crawling, she reached for the closet’s doorway just as the dolls caught up with her. They grabbed at her socks and pulled one off as she pulled her legs into the closet and slammed the door behind her.
Eyes shut against the darkness, counting back from ten. I hope to god it’s gone when I open them again.” Anna kept her eyes squeezed shut and clamped her hands over her ears to block out the screaming. She braced her feet, one socked, one bare, against the door in case they tried to open it. She allowed one hand to leave her ear in order to pick up a shoe and place it in her lap to use as a much needed weapon should the dolls force the door. She placed her hand back over her ear, rocking quietly in the darkness and praying her prayer in a sing-song voice to calm herself. She silently counted back from ten, but she was asleep by the time she reached 4.
Anna’s mother, Maryann, crept into her room. Dolls were strewn about, but otherwise it looked like always. She’d heard her crying and pounding her fists. Things had been strange with little Anna lately. Ever since she went to the theater 6 months ago with her little friend, Emma, she had been acting weird. She didn’t know if something happened with Emma or the movie or Emma’s family, She had talked to Emma’s parents, but they hadn’t noticed Emma acting any differently. The strange thing about Annaliese’s behavior is that she seemed scared of her room, cried when she was supposed to be playing, and was often found in the closet sound asleep with her hands over her ears and her face stained with tears. Maryann wondered what kind of terror-filled world she was living in, but whenever she asked any questions, she didn’t get any answers. She wanted to help, but couldn’t help until her daughter confided in her.
“Anna, time for dinner,” she said, trying to gently rouse her daughter from sleep.
Annaliese sat up with a start. Panicked eyes darted around the room. Seeing that the dolls had normal faces and that there was no shouting, she allowed her mother to help her up.
“Can you pick up your toys before coming to the table?”
Annaliese froze for a moment. Maryann saw panic slide across her face once again. “I will help you,” Maryann offered. Together, they tidied the room before heading down the hall to the dining room.
Outside of her room, Anna acted like a typical six-year-old. She played with her three-year-old brother, Colton, asked to watch TV, begged for sweets, and skipped around the table. It puzzled Maryann a great deal. She played with the toys in the living room, but seemed terrified of the toys in her room. Something didn’t add up.
Anna got into a wrestling match with Colton and slammed his head down onto the hardwood in the dining room.
“Annaliese! That is careless. You know better. Apologize to your brother and march to your room right this instant!” Maryann said, pointing down the hall.
“Noooooo!,” she cried. “Please, I’ll be good. I am sorry I hurt Colton. Please don’t make me go in there.” Anna collapsed to the floor, refusing to move.
“You are a big girl, Annaliese. You have a big girl room. You can go in there for awhile and think about what you have done,” Maryann said, tugging on her elbow and pulling her across the floor.
“I already did think about it, Mommy, and I am sorry.”
“You should have thought about it before slamming Colton’s head into the floor. Now march!”
Anna began rocking herself and mumbling her prayer. She clamped her hands over her ears and squeezed her eyes shut, just as she did in the closet. Maryann stopped tugging on her elbow and watched her, trying to make out the words. Colton was still crying on the other side of the room. She knew she needed to go to him and check his head for injuries. But there was something about Annliese that made her stop dead in her tracks. Something was disturbing this child.
Sitting down beside Anna on the floor, Maryann took her in her arms. “What are you saying child? Can you tell me? I can’t make it out. It must be important to you because it seems to be calming you. What is it?”
“Eyes shut against the darkness, counting back from ten. I hope to god it’s gone when I open them again,” she whispered, so quietly that Maryann had to put her ear near Anna’s lips in order to make it out.
“You hope what is gone, darling?” Maryann asked with growing concern.
“Them. The clown, the Barbies, the babies. All of them,” Anna said with a matter-of-face demeanor. Her eyes were still closed. Maryann wondered if she was grateful to tell someone at last about the horrors in her room.
“Do they hurt you?” Maryann ventured to ask, unsure of what to do or say other than call a doctor in the morning.
“They want to kill me and they call me a bitch.”
“Oh, baby!” Maryann said, squeezing Annaliese tightly.
Releasing her only slightly, Maryann asked, “When did they start talking to you?”
“I don’t know. It’s been awhile. Feels like forever,” she said with little to no emotion in her voice.
“You and Emma went to that movie. That toy movie where the toys talk. Is that when this started?” Maryann asked, desperate for an answer.
“I don’t know,” Anna shrugged.
“Come on, baby, let’s get you to my room so you can rest and be comfortable,” Maryann said, struggling to get to her feet. “It’s okay. There aren’t any dolls in my room.”
Maryann brought Annaliese into her own room and settled her on the flowery comforter that smelled of lavender. Anna fell back into the plush pillows as her mother drew a blanket up over her body. Maryann went to tend to the still sniffling Colton and Anna nestled deeper into the bed. Just then, she heard a shuffle in the hallway. She opened her eyes and looked across the hall to her room door. There, in the doorway, was a Barbie. She looked angry, but she was silent. Raising one arm into the air, she shook her fist before she disappeared.
I hope you enjoyed this little story. It is based on true events. When I was a little girl, I used to hear my dolls talking about me. They never came after me, but I did have the audio part of the hallucinations. Thankfully, I haven’t had audio hallucinations in about 6 or 7 years.
Have a great day, all, and stay safe!