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What I Know About Robert

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My name is Kevin. I work at concessions in the Fort East Martello Museum here in Key West, Florida. It’s a pretty unremarkable minimum wage job; I have to put up with a lot of impatient and entitled tourists from the mainland, but it does serve my life’s single purpose. Let me explain: my last name is Otto, and here in the museum we have a doll that belonged to my great-great grandfather, Robert Eugene Otto. I took this job so I could keep an eye on his doll.

My great-great grandfather, Robert, was given this doll by one of the household servants who was convicted and fired for practicing black magic. She was Robert’s favorite, and on her last day of the job, she gave Robert a doll. According to my grandmother, the servant warned Robert that if he were to treat the doll with respect, it would be a powerful friend and help him secure a vast wealth. Offend it, and both he and all of his family for five generations thereafter would suffer loss and hardship.

According to what I’ve been told, Robert became very attached to the doll, even giving it his first name and insisting upon being addressed as Gene thereafter. He would not be separated from it; sleeping, eating, and even bathing with Robert. Over the months that followed, Gene would spend more and more of his time up in this turret bedroom, door locked and alone with Robert. Finally, he refused to come out to go to school. His mother confiscated Robert and gave Gene a whipping (a normal practice for the time) but Gene became so hysterical upon being separated from Robert that he had to be restrained and admitted to the local sanatorium. Family lore states that there he soon slipped into a vegetative state until his mother placed Robert in his bed, whereupon he instantly revived. He was released back to his parents the following morning, but nurses noted that his arms and torso were a mass of fresh bruises.

Upon arriving back at the family mansion, Gene raced up the stairs with Robert and promptly locked himself in his turret. My great times three grandfather ascended up to the landing to tell him to come out for supper, but he paused to listen before knocking. He swore until his dying day, that while standing there, his hair stood on end as he heard two distinctive voices: Gene’s, and another deeper, growly voice. Through the thick oak door Gene was heard crying and saying he was sorry over and over as the deeper voice voice kept repeating something that was unintelligible but distinctly menacing.

Life was not the same; my family’s wealth was largely based on plantation sugar and tobacco, but the week following the aforementioned events a hurricane followed by a worker revolt meant that the year’s holdings were wiped out, and my great-great-great grandparents were forced to sell the devastated land at a loss. Shortly thereafter, a fire (thought to be arson, but it could never be proven) made much of the mansion unlivable but for the balmy Keys climate.Gene eventually returned to school, but allegedly insisted upon taking Robert with him. His parents tried repeatedly to separate them, but Gene would become uncontrollable and find some way to steal Robert back during the night; always appearing at breakfast with significant bruising to his face and torso the following morning. Suspecting parental abuse, the community ostracized my family.

Gene grew up, attended college on the mainland, married, and amassed considerable wealth; all with Robert at his side. By some accounts Robert even slept with Gene and my great- great grandmother on their wedding night. I don’t know how she put up with Robert, but since Gene’s wealth was growing rapidly, people must have just assumed he was eccentric. Whatever room Gene was in, Robert could be found in too; sitting on a stool specifically provided for him. At night, Robert shared Gene’s bed even after my great- great grandmother moved into a separate bedroom having given the ultimatum that he could choose either the doll or her.

Gene returned to Key West a wealthy man and rebuilt the family mansion only to have his mother die of what appeared to be knife wounds a week later. The local police believed it was a suicide; a former disgruntled servant had been allegedly blackmailing her, but my grandmother insisted that the weapon was never found and no one ever stabs themselves to death before hiding the weapon.

Unable to bear the grief of his loss, Gene’s father lost his ability to function and attempted suicide; Gene had him committed until his death two years later, his body was found one morning in his cell with ligature marks around his neck. The police reports stated that no rope was found near his body.

Independently wealthy, but overwhelmed with grief, Gene retreated into his art, turning his former turret bedroom into a studio and painting every moment from sunrise to sunset; always with Robert at his side, propped up on a stool, as if directing his work. Refusing to eat during the days while he worked, Gene’s health declined sharply as he spent his nights roaming the mansion with Robert. He could be heard carrying on endless conversations with the doll as he wandered the halls and rooms in the dark. The servants all quit, claiming the devil lived in his doll. His wife tried to get help for him, but fled the island with my great-grandfather in fear for her life as Gene’s behavior became steadily more erratic.

No one saw Gene again after my great-great grandmother left him. Passers-by would claim to occasionally see Robert in the window of the turret, looking out over the street. After several weeks, a neighbor stopped by and found the front door unlocked and slightly ajar, but no one appeared to be at home. The police were summoned and they found the house unoccupied. Aside from a thick layer of dust, the house was immaculate. In the turret room they found dozens of paintings, each one slashed repeated as with a knife. Robert was found sitting on his stool facing the door across from the windows; appearing as though he was expecting visitors. On the floor were a set of filthy pajamas, reeking of body waste.

The mansion was boarded up and all but abandoned by my family, and later it was sold to the island government for next to nothing by my great-grandfather during the Depression to ease debts. It sat for decades until the Key West community cleaned the place up and reopened it as a museum. Robert was found by a volunteer lying in a box in the attic, his carton free of dust and cobwebs as if he had been placed there just minutes before. On a visit to the island to see family, my grandmother identified Robert to the volunteers and shared our family lore with them; they found the story very amusing and saw it as a new way to attract attention to the museum. Insisting it was evil, she desperately urged them to have the doll destroyed. Thinking of tourist revenue, the curator refused and had her escorted out. That night, my grandmother’s flight back to the states became another Bermuda Triangle casualty, vanishing off the radar mid-flight in perfectly clear weather.

So I’ve moved down here and took this dead end job. I am the last of the five generations. I know my presence and belief in his story will keep Robert from directing his energies on others. The islanders still see him only as a curiosity to bring them tourist dollars. I see Robert as evil. He has killed and I believe he will kill again. Visitors have claimed to see him move in his locked glass box, so I know he’s growing impatient and will tip his hand; then I will avenge my family and destroy him. Since I’m the last of my line, he knows time is running out for him. I am waiting.

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