China Doll – a short story

So, a couple of weeks ago I entered a scary short story contest, and my story won second place. Since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d share it with you tonight.

The rules were simple, the story had to be 666 words in length and had to mention a location in the South Grenville (Ontario) area.


“Rob!” Maggie pounded on the bedroom door; the light went out. “Rob!” she cried louder.

Maggie turned and pressed her back against the door and allowed herself to slide down to the floor like the tears on her cheeks.

Only a few hours ago they’d been enjoying their travels. They’d arrived at the bed and breakfast weary but happy. Their hostess, an old woman, had been accommodating.

I should have paid attention to my intuition, Maggie thought. But after her earlier experience at Fort Wellington, Maggie had believed her heightened sensitivity was more residual. After all, having the ability to sense spirits or other worldly entities needed to be tempered with logic. If she jumped at every slight temperature change or goosebump on her skin she’d be locked away.  And that mask, Maggie conjured up the memory of the strange horned mask hanging in the parlour as she continued to reconstruct the night’s events.

The old woman had told them she’d picked it up on her travels to Africa. She’d said it was used to ward off evil spirits. Finding the story interesting, Maggie had researched it herself. The old woman had been mistaken, the mask welcomed evil spirits.

Maggie opened her eyes and stared at the window at the other end of the room. The moonlight backlit a rocking-horse with a rag doll perched on top. Its hands tangled in the yarn mane. The sloped ceilings of the room drew Maggie’s eyes down to the twin beds on either side. Piled on each bed were numerous dolls. Maggie looked up at the dresser beside the door and into the glass eyes of a china doll.

A loud click brought Maggie to her feet. Her trembling hand tested the door knob. It turned in her grasp. Her heart raced as she tugged the door open to a darkened hallway.

“Rob?” she whispered.

The eerie ticking of the grandfather clock downstairs filled the black void, the only sound in Maggie’s ears apart from her thumping heart.

She tiptoed across the hall; her skin prickled. The door to the room she’d last seen Rob lay wide open and drew her forward. Maggie stopped outside the room and strained her ears. “Rob,” she managed a strangled whisper and stepped inside.

Maggie’s breath turned to vapour and billowed from between her lips. She shivered. The double bed they’d shared looked as though no one had slept in it. The chair where their suitcase had laid was empty.

Maggie’s throat ached as panic began to take hold. Had Rob left? She pushed the thought aside and left the room.

Maggie placed her hand on the ice cold railing and took a step. The stair creaked beneath her weight. As she took another, the grandfather clock struck three. Maggie jumped and grabbed the hand rail tighter.

Once at the bottom, Maggie entered the parlour; her gaze fixed on the empty space where the mask had hung.

A whisper of laughter caught her attention. “Rob?” Maggie called. She spied him sitting at a table; the old woman served him breakfast.

Maggie ran but stopped as her hands pressed against cold glass. Maggie banged on the window. The old woman stared at her. Suddenly, the whole room moved. Maggie watched as the old woman moved closer to Rob, Maggie called his name, but he did not hear her. The view of the room changed through the glass and Maggie saw the old woman once again standing in front of a mirror. Her face morphed into the mask and back again. Maggie gasped then she looked at the doll the old woman held in her hands. The woman raised the doll up and Maggie saw her reflection in the dolls eyes. She screamed. The old woman laughed and turned away from the mirror.

“This is Maggie.” The old woman placed the doll in Rob’s hands.

Maggie stared into Rob’s face. He could not see her, and Maggie would remain forever trapped inside a china doll.



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