“Please, please don’t be scared of me,” the toy said to himself. He was in the corner of the attic. The house was old, with chipped siding, tickles of ivy, and a lopsided roof. Everyone he’d ever known had come and gone. Families, friends, lovers, every group and gaggle that had lived in his two story home.
Each time anyone lived there, they would eventually explore the attic. They’d find the string for the entrance dangling in the night against a shard of moonlight. They’d pull it, and stairs would lurch open in a stale ache. The jaws of a nightmare spreading apart. They’d find him, the toy, propped in the corner next to a round window overlooking a park with three swings.
If they became afraid, he’d know, and he’d live.
He was a wooden joker, decorated with white cloth and red face paint. His hat was gold and tasseled. Below his jester cap was a long nose and painted grin. He was about four feet tall. His eyes, copying that of a biting shark, were backwards in hollow, black circles. He sat in a rocking chair, which swayed by itself throughout the night
“Don’t you get scared of me,” he said to himself as they unpacked their things. He could hear their weight shifting and the trembles of boxes being stacked. It was a mother and son. They would be susceptible to him. He didn’t want to be the devil. He didn’t want them to make him the monster. He’d only work if they were afraid.
It took them two weeks to discover him in the attic. He tried not to move upstairs. The wooden floors groaned independently and mischievously. They mimicked footsteps, and weight shifting. They wanted the toy to be brought to life. They were bored and needed theater. Eventually, the mother wanted to use the space as storage. She wandered up by herself during the day. It was early winter, and she was taking advantage of the sun before the early twilight.
When she noticed the toy she jumped. He automatically winked one of his eyes at her. It had started. Soon he’d be fully alive. She shook her head in the shadows and looked again. After a few moments of stretching her eyes in the gloom, she scurried away. It reminded the toy of the bugs it would watch in the corners.
“No, don’t be scared,” the toy said. He could partially move now. The fear was freeing him.
Late at night, between the murmurs of the television and shutting doors, he began to crawl along the floor with his arms. He scratched and ripped, making those haunting echoes reverberate through the foundation. The boy and his mother eventually appeared to find him halfway across the dusty room.
“How the heck did that happen?” the mother said to herself.
“What, what are you talking about?” the boy said. He looked eight years old.
“That thing, well, it was on the chair? Oh never mind,” she said.
“What is that? Some weird doll? It gives me the creeps,” the boy said. He paused and heard a little voice, though he couldn’t separate from the midnight breeze.
And with that, the doll was fully alive.
Happy Halloween! This is more of a flash fiction piece. I wanted the tense to get sort of garbled as the story goes on to show the doll waking up. This story is from my short story collection Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere. One more Halloween story on the horizon.