When I was younger, my best friend had dozens of American Girl Dolls. They lined the shelves in her canopied, bubble gum pink bedroom. I always wanted one of my own, but they were expensive, so it took me a while to convince my parents to surprise me with one.
Then, on my eighth birthday, they gave me the greatest present of my young little life. I can’t remember ever being more excited than I was on that August day. My doll was blonde and blue-eyed, like me, a miniature version with the same set of freckles.
For months, I brought her everywhere with me. I carried her around in a toy stroller, and when that wasn’t acceptable, she was stuffed in my backpack. I refused to leave the house without her.
But then something weird happened. My friend came over to my house one day to play with our dolls. I don’t know if she was jealous of mine (it was a customized version my parents had ordered special, while all of hers were pre-built with generic names millions of other girls had) but she started acting strange. She put my doll’s mouth to her ear like it was whispering a secret to her.
Then my friend looked me dead in the eyes and said, “She told me she wants to kill you.”
I didn’t laugh. Didn’t smile. Didn’t respond. My friend went right back to playing like normal, as if nothing creepy had happened, but I never forgot those words she said to me.
After that, I started to get paranoid. I would place my doll’s glasses on my dresser, and the next morning, they would be perched on her nose. Or I would put her hat on her head, and the next time I looked, it would be on her lap.
I figured my friend was playing tricks on me somehow, or maybe my parents were just moving things around while I was asleep, but just to be safe, I packed my doll away in the closet. My parents didn’t understand my sudden change of heart. They knew how much I loved the doll, how long I’d begged to have one, but I never told them the problem. I felt too silly. Too psycho.
Fast forward to 2020.
I’ve been bored out of my mind lately, so I decided to go through some old boxes my parents gave me when they sold my childhood home. I dug through old Nickelodeon Magazines and Magic 8 Balls, Tamagotchis and Furbies. Then I found my doll.
All of my worries about her seemed even more ridiculous now that I was older, so I placed her on my bedside table for decoration. I never thought it would be a problem. I never thought it would put me in danger.
But the next morning, the doll was sitting at the foot of my bed. Watching me.
I had a few beers the night before, so I assumed I had moved her for some reason and forgot about it. Or maybe she fell off my table and rolled onto the bed somehow. There was obviously an explanation.
But the next night, it happened again. She moved to the kitchen this time. Close to the knife block.
I was living alone, so there was no way anyone else could have touched her. I started freaking out. I stuffed her back into her box. I sealed it with duct tape. I planned on bringing her to the dump myself, once the quarantine was over and it felt safe to go outside again.
In the meantime, I tried to forget about her. I wiped her from my mind. Until I noticed a chunk of duct tape hanging from my refrigerator. The same kind I had used to wrap the box.
I stepped closer and slowly opened the freezer. Inside, there was my doll’s head. Her eyes were cut out of her skull with a blade, holes poked through the center of her flesh. Her mouth was scribbled over with marker. Her body was missing. No torso. No limbs.
I screamed and slammed the door shut. It took me a while to gain the courage to step near the fridge again, and when I did, I realized there was writing on the duct tape. In the same marker that gratified the doll, it said, “You’re next.”
It was signed by my best friend.