Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STRESSED - Begins January 18 / Ends January 25 (01/18/18)
TITLE: Apple-Head Dolls
By Maxx .
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Mom shooed the floating particles. “Now Dad,” she warned, “please don’t go filling their imaginations with any of your crazy stories.”
“Stories?” I wondered aloud. “About what?”
“Never you mind,” Mom chided.
“But I’m nine.”
“That’s right, young man. And your little sister is only six.”
I kicked at a fuzzle on the carpet.
“Don’t worry,” Grandpa winked while nudging Lissa and me to the steps. His eyes were bright, like he was about to sneak a cookie before supper.
The room was huge with a peaked roof and beams of wood crisscrossed above our heads. Tattered boxes and old trunks filled the floor and shelves, like a cave overflowing with pirate booty. Spiderwebs drooped from the corners and everything slept under a blanket of dust stretching deep into the darkness.
I took Lissa’s hand to make sure she wasn’t scared.
Grandpa tussled my hair. “The Good Book says we don’t need to be afraid, but sometimes it sure is fun.” He flipped a switch. A single lightbulb hanging from the end of a wire began to glow. “Lots of interesting stuff in here. Some from when I was your size.”
“That’s old!” I blurted.
Grandpa grinned. “It’s not so much the age, but the memories.”
Lissa pulled her hand from mine and started to explore.
“What kind of memories?” I asked.
“Some happy, some silly,” he glanced toward the ladder then leaned close to me, “and some a little scary, maybe even dangerous.”
Lissa squeaked with fright and ran to us. Her eyes looked like saucers, wide and round.
“Whoa, there.” Grandpa comforted her against his leg. “Did you find something?”
She snuffled and pointed to an ancient set of shelves against the far wall.
Grandpa led the way, knocking down old strands of spiderwebs like he was chopping a path through the jungle. He stopped past a broken rocking chair. “Is this what you saw?”
Lissa nodded, scooting half a step back.
I inched near trying to see, my skin starting to tingle. “Ah, they’re just a bunch of stupid dolls.”
“Are they?” Grandpa’s voice grew dark. “Are you sure?” He brushed away more webs, picked one up, and handed it to me. “Take a closer look.”
It weighed a lot, at least for a doll. The clothes it wore looked real, not like the glued-on scraps from Lissa’s Barbies. But it was the head that made my heart catch. I lifted it into the pale light. The face appeared to be made from shriveled flesh, actual human flesh, with a gaping mouth and gouged eyes. Like the ones in my zombie books. Like the mummies we learned about in school.
Grandpa whispered into my ear. “Some might say that’s one of your grandma’s old apple-head dolls. But who would make a toy from a piece of fruit? So, tell me, is that a doll? Or is it,” I felt his breath against my neck, “a shrunken person?”
“Wha-what do you mean?” I could hardly make the words come out.
He splayed his fingers. “What’s this stuff all over my hand?”
I swallowed. “Sp-spiderwebs?”
“Wrong!” He ground his teeth. “They’re cobwebs. Not spiderwebs.” He stared hard into my eyes. “You ever seen a cob?”
My knees trembled, “Like a corn cob?”
“Yes, yes!” He stood and waved his arms about the dimness. “Like a corn cob but old and dried out. Worthless and cast aside. Angry and hurt. You’ve found them lying in the fields after the crows are done picking at them. What do you think they do at night? Just lay there?”
“I-I-I’m not sure.”
“No. They wander about spinning these.” He thrust his fingers toward me once again. “Cobwebs!” He cackled. “To trap people, like us. And do you know why?”
I shook my head in a twitching, jerking motion.
Grandpa raised his chin, the distant light catching his nose and brow, making him appear to be an evil monster. “To dry them out like cobs and shrink them down into one of those!” He gestured to the mummified corpse in my hands, laughing deep and sinister.
I screamed, dropping the body as Lissa ran away. I followed right behind.
“What’s the matter?” Grandpa called. “You seem a little stressed.”
I flailed my way to the ladder, avoiding the cobwebs.
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