How it Began
There were two brothers that lived together, alone. Ethan and Evan were fraternal twins and they lived alone shortly after they were legal adults. Their father was a drunk that left when they were very young, so the two were raised by their mother. Their mother, though, was a frail and sickly woman. It was surprising she even lived through childbirth, though as she thought she would never have children, she had dolls. The dolls always frightened Ethan. He felt as though they were watching him, but Evan, on the other hand, was entranced by their beauty. He loved his mother’s dolls, and when their mother was on her deathbed, the dolls were bequeathed to him. After her funeral, Evan decided that he would continue on the Eldridge family tradition of collecting dolls.
Ethan and Evan fought many times over the subject after their mother’s death. Ethan confronted his brother that his obsession with the dolls was unhealthy, calling him all kind of derogatory names and claiming that he just HAD to be gay. Evan retorted with a comment claiming that he was lucky to have so many lovely ladies to keep him company. Eventually they came to an agreement. The dolls had to stay in Evan’s part of the house, the upstairs. The only problem with this that Ethan even had was that he’d have to see Evan’s new “girls” when he’d bring them home. He’d carry them upstairs and spend much of his time keeping them clean and pristine; making sure not a single hair on any pretty little head was out of place.
Tonight, Ethan was worried over his brother. He hadn’t come home yet. It wasn’t unusual for him to stop somewhere after work to pick up a doll, but it was nine o’ clock. He was usually back by six. He usually didn’t nose around in Evan’s business too much, so maybe he had a date? Maybe a REAL girl would make him get over that creepy obsession with dolls. At least that’s what he was hoping. When Evan stepped in the door with (what Ethan thought) was a woman with long, curly blonde hair and fashionable makeup wearing a colorful bandana, his first feeling was relief. That is, until he realized that this was just a particularly large doll. “Isn’t she beautiful? Her name is Elizabeth.” Evan said. His eyes were alight with joy. After all the fights, Ethan tried to be supportive.
“Certainly. In fact, when you came in with her, I thought she was a real woman. Where are you going to keep her? She’s awfully big.”
“I think I’ll take her to mother’s room. I’m positive that she would’ve loved her.”
Ethan only forced a smile. When his brother scooped up the doll in his arms to carry her up the stairs, her eyes seemed to lock on Ethan. He only paused in terror to stare back. Did she just blink or was that his paranoia getting to him?
After Evan spent his time upstairs for a while checking in on his dolls, he hurried downstairs to join his brother for a late dinner. Ethan was still a little shaken over the way that doll looked at him, so he had to ask a few questions.
“So where did you get that one, anyway?”
“Well, do you remember that really expensive retail shop that opened on 21st street?”
“Oh no. How much did you spend?” Ethan was fairly sure that Evan blew his entire paycheck on that doll. They might end up eating ramen for weeks.
“Not nearly as much as you think. That place has a return policy and everyone who brought her before took her back. The clerk didn’t tell me why, but she only cost me fifty bucks. I wasn’t about to turn down a deal like that. She was just too beautiful to pass up.” Evan shot a goofy grin.
Ethan had a bad feeling about this. He could hardly eat, but he was often one to worry more than Evan did, not that doing so really said much. Evan was a goofball, really, and he could even sometimes be described as a fool. Ethan fell silent, picking at his food. Evan only watched. Ethan always went silent when something worried him, or when he was upset. He paid it little mind. Ethan also would get mad when he’d bring home a new doll, so he figured it was just that. The two went to their separate quarters without so much as exchanging a word. Both of them had work in the morning. Thump. Thump. Thump.
Were those footsteps? The sound echoed in the stairwell just loudly enough to jolt Ethan from his sleep, but after a moment, he heard nothing. It was probably just Evan coming down to get some water. He settled back down and fell back asleep. His slumber was so deep; he didn’t hear the footfalls continuing.
The doll was making her way down the stairs of her own free will. A curse placed on her ages ago forced her to be a doll by day, but she was alive when night fell, though her ability to speak had left her. The first time she saw Ethan, she was reminded of the man she fell in love with as a young woman. His hair was the same soft, dark brown. His eyes were the same gorgeous hazel. Surely, sneaking down the stairs and getting a closer look before sunrise wouldn’t be too much trouble. What she didn’t know is how terrified Ethan was of dolls.
The doorknob turned and Elizabeth’s blue eyes scanned over the young man, who she viewed as a sleeping prince. Standing in the doorway, she just watched him, enamored. He stirred in his sleep, only causing her typical to defense mechanism to act reflexively. She froze in place, her flesh solidifying into porcelain. Ethan sat up in bed and his eyes snapped open. He was staring at Elizabeth standing in the doorway. His heartbeat began to race. He was nothing short of terrified. His jaw dropped and he could only shout one thing. “EVAAAAN!”
He backed up into the corner, scrambling over his blankets and attempting to back up over the wall like a frightened animal. Evan arrived swiftly, realizing Elizabeth was standing in the doorway.
“What the hell…?” Evan mumbled.
“That is NOT FUNNY, Evan. Not funny at all,” Ethan was livid. “You know how much dolls freak me out. Don’t do that again, or I swear to god, I will kick your ass so hard, you won’t shit for a week.”
“Ethan, I didn’t do anything. I swear!”
“Oh really? Then did she get up and walk down here by herself?”
“There’s no way.”
“Then YOU did it. You brought her down here and set her out in front of my door and cracked it open waiting to see if I’d wet the bed.”
“But I didn’t…” Evan responded.
“Whatever, Evan. Just take her back upstairs.”
“Alright, alright… Just calm down. I’ll take her back up and lock the door if that makes you feel any better.”
Before he carried her back upstairs, he examined her face and made sure her hair was still nice and tidy. Running his thumb along the smooth porcelain, he withdrew it quickly when he felt a droplet of moisture near one of her eyes. Had she been crying? That was impossible.
That night, neither of them slept very well. Ethan was mostly pissed off at his brother, pretty sure that this was all his idea. Evan, though, was thinking of why she would’ve been brought back to that resale store so many times. Was she returned because she could actually move on her own when night fell? He sat up in bed and stared at his own door, only taking time to gather the courage he would need to look in on Elizabeth.
She was standing right where he left her, but one little detail did change. One pale hand was clutched near her chest. Evan loved dolls, but he could understand his brother’s fear of this one, now. Elizabeth was alive. He knew now that he’d either have to take her back or get a lock on that door. The latter was more likely.
Evan didn’t particularly believe in magic or the supernatural. That’s what bothered him the most. That was the only way that Elizabeth could be explained. It was Saturday, so he didn’t have to work, so the first idea that went through his head was to get a lock. Ethan didn’t want to stay home with Elizabeth, because if she appeared downstairs again, then he couldn’t blame his brother for it. Ethan was the more superstitious of the two, and after Evan’s behavior, he was starting to think that maybe the doll was cursed. The two spent most of the day away from the house. Evan didn’t want to admit it, but Elizabeth even unnerved him. He didn’t think returning her was the correct choice, though. When they got home, the lock was installed on the bedroom door after it was clear that Elizabeth was in place. The two had dinner together, but they were very quiet. The brothers both knew that the doll could move on her own. They also knew that there was no logical explanation. Only two sentences were exchanged.
“You really didn’t move her?”
“I swear on Mom’s grave, Ethan.”
The two retired to bed, only for Evan to be jolted from his sleep.
A horrid rattling was heard coming from his mother’s room. His blue eyes remained wide open. Was he dreaming? He hoped he was dreaming. The longer he listened, the more sure he was that he was awake. He threw the blankets off of himself and got up, staring at the room down the hall. The lock was shaking. It was like someone was trapped in the room and trying to get out. His knees grew weak. Maybe someone broke in? Oh, god, and how he hoped someone had just broken in. He proceeded forth, anyhow. He rapped his knuckles on the door and the rattling stopped. Opening it, he saw Elizabeth standing closer to the door. Using his flashlight, he looked her over curiously. He then realized that her pupils contracted when the light met her face, and gleaming tears were running down her cheeks. Though the idea of her being alive frightened him, he was a soft-hearted man.
“Elizabeth… I’m sorry.” He wiped the tears away with a handkerchief that one of his mother’s old dolls had on its lap. He sighed, only shaking his head. Had he gone crazy? He gently embraced the doll, only to feel one dainty hand rest on his back. His belief was only confirmed. Part of him still thought he was dreaming. “I’ll take you with me, okay? Ethan is afraid of you.” She didn’t remain stiff as he carried her away. He set her on the armchair in his room, and though he questioned himself for doing so, he draped a blanket over her. “Could you close your eyes? I can’t sleep with you just staring like that.” She simply did as he asked. All she could wonder is if he would take her back, too. Would she be stuck back in that dusty store window? Things like that had happened to her so many times that she had lost track. Though it took him a while, he managed to rest.
Evan slept in so long, that Ethan went to check on him, about to faint when he opened the door to see Elizabeth in his chair, her head leaned to the side and her eyes closed as if she was asleep. That was too bizarre. He didn’t go any further into the room, only shouting at his brother to wake him.
“EVAN. Get up!”
Evan stirred in his sleep, only sitting up after a moment. “Nn… What?”
“Why is she in here? I thought you locked the door and left her in the other room.”
“She was crying. I felt bad.”
“You must be kidding me,” Ethan murmured.
“I’m not. I’d prove it to you if I could.”
“Then that noise that I heard last night was…” Ethan began.
“It was Elizabeth trying to open the door.” Evan finished.
Even Ethan looked like he was ashamed of the thought. That day, the locks were removed. Elizabeth was given free roam of the house.
Evan and Ethan ate dinner together as they did every night, and in conversation, Elizabeth was mentioned. To Ethan, she was no longer an “it” due to recent occurrences. Evan, on the other hand, always referred to his dolls as ladies in the first place.
“What do you think she’ll do tonight, Evan?”
“I don’t know. She probably won’t wake me. I left most of the doors open so she can go wherever she wants. Did I tell you what happened when I took her back from your room?”
“No… Should I know?”
“Yeah, I think it’s kind of important,” Evan kept his voice low. “One of her cheeks was a little wet, like she was crying.”
Ethan remained quiet for a moment, just letting his fork rest on his plate, contemplatively staring at the broccoli before finally speaking again. “Do you think it’s because of how I reacted? I mean… What was I supposed to do? Doesn’t she know that dolls aren’t supposed to get up and move around at night like that?” It sounded as though he was getting a little defensive.
Evan just shook his head. “Well, if you go to check in on someone and they start screaming like a banshee, you’d probably be upset, too.” A small chuckle escaped his brother.
“Yeah. Yeah, I see what you mean.” The two exchange faint smiles before washing their dishes and putting away the leftovers. The two kept the house clean and tidy, not being the types to let a mess pile up. Their mother taught them better than that. After that, both of them went to their quarters. Evan passed out within minutes.
Ethan stayed up reading. He started to find it difficult to concentrate on what he was reading as his thoughts started to revolve around Elizabeth. Then he had remembered that damn movie. What was it? Child’s Play? He then started to imagine what Elizabeth might’ve had planned for him. Then he was too paranoid to sleep. Though he turned off the lights and attempted to sleep, he couldn’t keep his eyes closed. He was too nervous. Would Elizabeth try to kill him? He did react in a way that could make her consider such a thing. Did she even think? Was she a puppet? His mind reeled with all sorts of concepts. Then he heard footfalls on the stairs. His paranoia only led him to think that it was Elizabeth. He then heard the sound heading to what he assumed was the kitchen. His assumption was only proven to be correct when he heard an opening drawer.
Oh god. Was he right? Was that Elizabeth collecting a knife? His eyes bulged and he leapt from his bed to lock the door. But what about Evan? Ethan mustered his courage and got up from his bed and unlocked the door, peering into the hallway. From there, he could see the living room, which was attached to the kitchen. The lights were on. Tiptoeing into the living room, he peered into the kitchen. Evan was eating some cereal. So it was him all along.
“The fuck are you doing awake?” Ethan asked groggily.
“You know, I could ask you the same thing.”
“Well, I was thinking of those Chucky movies and…” Ethan’s speech was interrupted by an outburst of snickering from Evan. Clearly, that idea made him far too amused.
“What, did you think that she was going to get a knife and cut you open because you freaked out?”
Ethan was trying to find a way to reword it so he sounded like less of a pansy, but from the look Evan was giving him, that wasn’t about to work. His brother knew him better than anyone else, so he just gave in, answering quietly.
“Yeah,” he murmured in a defeated tone.
Evan decided against ridiculing him, instead, just asking an honest question. “Do you want me to get a lock for the drawer, then?” His brother responded with a nod. Evan was about to head back up the stairs to his room when he paused in his tracks.
Elizabeth was standing at the top of the stairs, gazing down to the two of them with her misty blue eyes. It almost seemed as if she was awaiting approval. “We already know, Elizabeth. You can come down.” Evan spoke to her directly, only making Ethan a little uneasy. She gingerly took the stairs her lips fixed into a little pout. She then stood in the landing, staring to Ethan in a forlorn manner.
He couldn’t look at her for long. He clearly felt guilty. “I think she wants an apology.”
Ethan glanced to her. “Can’t she speak for herself?”
Elizabeth shook her head and motioned to her lips. She was incapable of speech.
“She’s mute. I honestly wish I knew how she became this way.” Her modest smile presented itself. She couldn’t explain with words, but she was sure the two were smart enough to at least offer her a pen and paper, if not alphabet blocks or something of the like sometime soon. One word could explain everything.
“I’m sorry,” Ethan hurriedly said. She only smiled as if she accepted such an apology. He seemed pleased with that. “I should go to bed,” Ethan said quietly. “Good night, Evan. Good night… Elizabeth.”
As he started to head back to his room, Elizabeth swiftly left Evan’s side to follow after Ethan. He stopped in his tracks. He felt one petite hand grasp his shoulder. She was close behind. He turned to look at her, unsure of what to say. The only thing that disturbed him about her currently was that she felt warm, so she was very much alive. She was just as alive as he was. As he stood there in bewilderment, she pressed her lips to his cheek. They were warm and soft, unlike the porcelain he was fairly sure she had been made of. She then drifted away from him, that mild smile in place. She had looked so sad before when she was in the form of a doll. As Ethan left the hallway and lay in bed, he stared to the ceiling. Was that all just a strange dream?
Footsteps were heard going up the stairs, the louder and heavier ones being his brother’s and the quiet ones most likely being Elizabeth’s. He started to drift off, his fear having left and replaced by comfort.
It was Monday morning, and both Ethan and Evan dreaded Mondays. The door to their mother’s room was left open and Elizabeth was lying in the bed, her skin hardened to porcelain as it always was once the sun rose. Over breakfast, the two discussed her stay. It was decided. She wouldn’t be returned to the resale shop. She would stay with them. After all, who didn’t just love the idea of a beautiful woman living in their house that required no food, drink, or toiletries? Even if she was nocturnal and mute, she didn’t seem dangerous in the least. The two went to work, Ethan heading off to his usual bit of selling used cars and Evan hopping into his sporty car to drive to the nearest toll booth, where he made his own salary. Elizabeth was left at home, as when the sun was up, she was frozen in place.
On the way back home, Ethan had an idea. Stopping at an office store, he picked up a dry erase board and a couple of markers. He had to find out more about Elizabeth before he would trust her fully. After all, now that it was proven that she was really alive, he wanted to know what exactly she was and why she would (basically) turn to stone the moment sunlight touched her. If she couldn’t speak, maybe she could write.
When the two were both home, they discussed the idea. Ethan would leave a question on the board and place it in what was now Elizabeth’s room with a marker so she could answer. He set it up in the room while it was still daylight outside. The question read: Why do you turn into a doll at daytime?
He was unsure of whether or not he would get an answer, but as soon as dusk came and darkness fell, both Ethan and Evan heard the footsteps in the room. Evan turned down the volume on the TV. Ethan went upstairs and cracked the door, seeing Elizabeth write. She froze at first, seeming unused to the companionship of her housemates, but calmed and continued.
Fancy and somewhat old-fashioned cursive was scrawled beneath his question. “I’m cursed.” Her sorrowful gaze fixed on Ethan. Evan came up the stairs after him. At this point, the two had even more questions. “Were you first human or a doll?” She circled the word “human”.
“Are we in danger?” Ethan asked aloud.
“No.” Both men let out deep sighs of relief.
“Who did this to you?” Evan asked.
“Voodoo Queen Marie Chouteau.” She scrawled this on the board hastily, a look of distress coming to her face.
“Why?” The two asked in unison, only to look at each other, stunned.
Tears started to stream down Elizabeth’s face and she sobbed soundlessly, but she refused to put down the marker. “She loved Antoine, but Antoine loved me. She cursed me so he would marry her.”
The two stared to the board. Ethan looked to Elizabeth, only frowning.
“Can the curse be broken?” Evan piped up.
Elizabeth bit her bottom lip and shook her head. It couldn’t be reversed or undone.
“We won’t take you back, you know,” Ethan quietly murmured. She seemed rather happy.
“You are one of us, now. We shall call you Elizabeth Eldridge.”
She was accepted into the family. That night, at dinner, she joined them. Though she didn’t eat because she didn’t need to, her acceptance into the family was more than enough to sate her troubled heart. For the rest of the night afterwards, she sat on the foot of Ethan’s bed, watching over him.
Ethan was getting a little nervous about the entire situation, so he simply handed her a pen and a notebook. In the dim lamplight, he could make out what she wrote.
“Marie won’t have you again, Antoine. She is dead, but I’m still alive.”
Ethan stared to the paper, unnerved. He never believed in reincarnation, but the familiarity in her blue eyes was far too extraordinary. One delicate and pale hand cupped his face and he realized that he understood.
The Eldridge family kept their home, and now Ethan no longer feared dolls, most likely due to Elizabeth’s mannerisms. She often helped with tending them after nightfall, and though no official marriage occurred, she and Ethan remained together until he died of old age. Afterward, she owned the household, looking after the dolls and the descendants of the men who had taken such good care of her.
But who knows? Perhaps the next time you see a doll, they won’t be so different from Elizabeth. The intentions of the cursed often vary. Be careful of who you take home with you.
Written by Shinigami.Eyes. Idea contributed by Koggeh.