I live where the Great Basin desert meets the Mojave desert, approximately. When I look out my window, all I see is sagebrush, scattered juniper trees, red cliff, and dust. Southern Nevada, and prostitution is just barely legal where I am. Government regulations can protect us from a lot of crazy shit, but it can't properly prepare us for what happens off the clock. Unfortunately, this is one of those stories.
In order to get to where I used to work, The Dollhouse, you basically must drive to the middle of nowhere. Most of us young women come from small towns and the brothel provides room and board. Contrary to those idyllic conversations of Vegas being the center of sin, prostitution is not legal in Vegas because it has too high a population. Before The Dollhouse was shut down, there were 20 legal operating brothels in Nevada. Now there are only nineteen, all located in the middle of nowhere.
The Dollhouse had been in operation from 1899 to 2009, a remarkable history, and had always maintained its theme. It had a long story of responsible treatment before the incident. We were the Dolls. When a pleasant chime rings, we line up for inspection to make sure we are fit to work that day. Dolls, of course, always look unharmed and clean. We were to be perfect women. Unfortunately, that can't be guaranteed for us. Sometimes we'd show up with bruises and hickeys, in which we were given the day off. We could socialize in the lobby with patrons, hang out in the Quarters (where the dolls live, of course) or go out into town. It was on that fateful day in 2009 when my good friend Mallory and I woke up with hickeys on our necks and decided to head out into town.
While I was waiting for Mallory in the lobby I struck up conversation with a nice young fellow named Mick. Mick told me he was a virgin and he couldn't bear it anymore. We talked small for a while; it wasn't my favorite thing, but it was something I was good at. When Mal came downstairs, we left quickly. In the car I joked about the sort of man that would maintain his virginity until he had aged. We drove off towards a strip mall, which was a good thirty minutes away by car. The Dollhouse was isolated.
Mal and I had a good time. We each bought a few items of clothing. I picked up a pair of plastic star earrings and fiddled with them while Mal got a blue bubblegum ball out of a tiny quarter machine. We spent a few hours simply doing what friends do. We stopped at the food court for lunch. We gossiped about our friends, wondered how the ones with kids could manage it.
While enjoying a large plate of fries and ketchup, I felt butterflies in my stomach and a hot feeling at the back of my head. Something felt wrong, but I wasn't sure what it was.
"Do you ever feel like something is wrong but you can't put your finger on it?" I asked, dipping a fry.
"Yeah, I felt that driving here today. But I don't trust my gut. It's not very reliable," she admitted.
"Me either, usually," I laughed.
That afternoon, around 4 PM, we began to drive home. The sun was setting in the desert, making every little rock red and shadowy. I'd had a good day, but the feeling I'd had earlier was beginning to poke at me again.
We turned onto the old dirt road that led to The Dollhouse. As we grew closer on the less-traveled route, we saw that none of the girls had yet left. It was too unusual. My heart began to race.
"Drive faster, Mal, I think something's happened."
She took me seriously, speeding down the road until what seemed like forever later we were at the front door of our brothel. All the Dolls' cars were still there, parked in their usual places. The parking lot was empty, and I heard no music or sounds coming from the inside of the Dollhouse whatsoever.
"This is weird," Mallory said to break the eerie silence. We ran to the front door and opened it up. The lobby was empty, no secretary to be found. There were no awaiting patrons ready for a late-night romp. There wasn't a sound.
"Something's wrong," I said, and reached in my pocket for my phone. It wasn't there, however; I'd left it in my room. I didn't use it much anyways.
"Hand me your phone, Mal, I'm calling the police," I ordered, but when she handed me her Blackberry it was totally dead. I sighed nervously.
"Well, we'll head upstairs and get mine then."
Just as I had finished the last syllable, an explosive BANG broke out upstairs. We dropped to the ground and covered our heads, Mal gasping loudly and I beginning to shake. I stood, and ran to the secretary's desk to see if there was a phone. No, she kept it on herself.
"Fuck," I whispered, and began looking around for a gun. It was Nevada. Somebody had to have one. I looked in the des... nada. I looked in the cash register, nothing. Finally, I looked in the janitor's closet.
There were dead bodies piled high, including our beloved secretary and the patrons I'd seen in the lobby earlier. I screamed louder than I think I ever have, and Mallory began to cry even though she hadn't seen it. I closed the door to the closet quickly, and Mallory and I quickly dove behind a couch. We waited for a sound upstairs. Any sound. None came for at least a few minutes. Not a creak of wood, not a footstep, not a running sink. I decided to look for myself.
"I think they're all dead, Mal," I stated, shaking violently. Mal promptly turned away from me and vomited. I got up and stepped away quickly, trying not to get sick myself.
"Stay put, darlin'. I'll be back for you. Hopefully."
I ran blindly up the stairs, deciding that if this was my fate I should get it over with. I was always like that. The long hallway leading to 12 different rooms and a staircase at the end was totally empty. I opened the first door.
"COME OUT MOTHERFUCKER!" I shouted, sounding more scared than anything. It was empty.
"HELLO?" I shouted into the second room, also empty. The third room I entered quietly, and kept looking around. It was just as empty as the rest.
I decided to descend the stairs at the end of the hallway that led to our living quarters.
I shouted random threats to the walls as I made my way down and into our living room. The television played some soap opera, muted. Easily the first sign of life. I entered my room first, which hadn't been touched. I grabbed my phone off its side table. In the next room, I saw blood on the floor immediately. My heart sank. The vast crimson liquid led straight to the closet door. I dreaded what I was about to see when I put my fingers upon the handle. I tried to prepare myself, but it was no use. Because when I opened it, I saw one of the dolls hanging from its bar. Again I screamed, probably scaring poor Mal to death, and gripped the door to stop myself from fainting. I clung to it, my world spinning and tears beginning to stream down my eyes.
Each room after this was exactly the same until the last. I'd see signs of a struggle and then a girl hanging... eyes lifeless. Skin discolored. Tongue poking from mouth a few times, blue. Each time I cried, but less and less. Each deserved a full scream, but soon I was hoarse and muted by shock.
In the last room, Mal's, I saw Mick laying on the bed. Everything was bloody and dripping. On the floor lay a shotgun, which he'd shot himself in the head with. Next to him was a simple note...
"They rejected me. But that's over now."
I realized I was clutching my phone as I read it. I called 911 immediately, a total blubbering and stuttering mess, then went back downstairs. I ran to Mallory and held her close, the two of us crying and shaking. When the police entered we screamed and begged them for mercy.
Sometimes I wonder if I'd returned home when my mind warned me whether or not I'd be dead now. Sometimes I think I could have saved them. But it's unlikely. The girls were found hung in the closets, including in the rooms I thought were empty, all except Mal and I. The place was shut down, but I'm still here. So is Mal. We have nowhere to go, and I know I feel like I owe it to the girls to protect the place. There's no water, heat or electricity anymore, but it doesn't matter. None of those things exist in a grave. When the place is torn down someday, we'll go with it. If it's forgotten, our spirits will mingle with our forgotten and abandoned sisters. Someday, when I see them again, I'll be able to let them know how sorry I really am.
For now, Mallory and I are exactly what we were supposed to be. Perfect, totally untouched, fully isolated. Surrounded by ever-ungroomed brush. The last dolls in the dollhouse.
Written by Am I Still Ill?