|Photo courtesy of Moyan_Brenn via Flickr|
"I think you'll like this piece." The shopkeeper led Nick into the dark recesses of the antique store. "It was from an estate sale. Took us forever to find the key for the cabinet. It was in a sealed vase. Even so, we never could get the lock to open."
He pulled a threadbare quilt aside. A worn, wooden cabinet stood. Inside the cabinet, was a plethora of dolls. Naked bodies were missing their appendages; the ripped-off arms and legs in savage disarray. Eyes stared lifelessly through the glass. Tufts of hair littered the corners. Plastic skin had been flayed from several skeletal structures. It was if the dolls had been cast aside by some masochist child. Or they had been stacked and put on display; the unfortunate trophies of a serial killer.
"My wife says it's 'objet d'art.' " The shopkeeper gave a tired shrug. "I think it was just someone's collection. But they'd be a good start if you're looking for toys to fix and resell."
"Not resell," Nick corrected. "To give away as gifts."
There was a small rustle from within the cabinet. The doll heads turned to face him, their lips moving in a silent plea. Let us out, Nick. Let us out.
Nick stepped back, his thoughts in disarray. The doll parts continued to twitch and shudder. Bent legs kicked at an invisible assailant. Clasping fingers were frozen in supplication.
"Did you want to try the key yourself?" The shopkeeper reached into the pocket of his over-sized sweater. "Maybe you can get it to work."
"No." His strangled reply barely escaped his lips.
Let us out, Nick. The glass on the cabinet shook, as if the dolls were seeking escape. Please!
Nick glanced at the shopkeeper, who seemed unmoved by their pleas. Maybe he doesn't see. But how can that be? He's looking right at them.
Only you can see, Nick. The doll's child-like voices whispered desperately against the glass. Their torsos shifted, spines twisting this-way-and-that. Dismembered arms and legs rolled to the sides. Fingers scratched against the wood of the cabinet in an attempt to escape. Let us out.
"You seem like you're a nice guy." The shopkeeper pursed his lips thoughtfully as he eyed the cabinet. "Let's say...fifty even. Clean them up, snap them back together, a little plaster to cover the damage. Good as new."
Nick turned and fled. The doll voices followed him, worming their way into his brain like beetles.