Tyron pushed old faithful harder than he should have, sending blue smoke putt-putting out of the exhaust. He hated these long trips into the middle of the bloody farmlands in the back of beyond. He loved his job as a repo assessor. It appealed to his mean streak, his sadistic nature. He relished in telling a poor farmer that he would be repossessing his farm unless he paid. And he wasn’t above a bit of extortion to line his pocket or ask for favours, if the farmer was a good-looking lady. He was despicable.
Suddenly his engine made a popping sound along with a large bang.
‘Ahh dammit!’ he punched the steering wheel. ‘Why now?’ He looked around, there was nothing but forests and fields far as the eye could see. He stopped and pulled out an area map, without turning the car off in case it wouldn’t start again. His finger followed the road, noticing a turnoff up front that couldn’t be more than a few miles away. It led to a small town called Dolls Town.
‘Dolls Town it is. Just hope the townspeople aren’t all dimwits.’ Ignoring the noise in the engine he slowly drove away.
He nearly missed the road, half-hidden by brush there were no signs telling you it was there. He slowed to take several sharp corners intrigued by the steep cliffs on either side. The air seemed stale and dead and smelt funny. It wasn’t long before he pulled into town, then into the only garage. Getting out, he rubbed his numb ass, hoping that he wouldn’t have to spend the night.
‘Yo?’ he shouted to the back.
‘Yo. Coming…’ he looked around noticing, several people in the town. Two men sitting on a bench in the shade were smoking pipes and watching him with interest. ‘Freaking hillbillies’ he muttered under his breath. ‘Where the hell is the mechanic?’ He turned to shout again and saw a tall, rotund man wiping his hands on a dirty rag. He walked out of the dim interior of the workshop, into the light.
‘My car is giving me some…’ he stopped gasping. The man looked very strange. His painted face and jerky movement reminded him of a puppet. NO… a doll. Tyron stepped back, moving away from the … what? Man? He was dressed in blue jeans, a brown shirt, and suspenders. Short pants stopped above his ankles showing white socks and black laceups. Weird.
‘I’m Joe. How can I help? it asked.
‘Uh…’ it stuck out its hand and Tyron just stared.
‘In these parts we shake hands.’ The doll appeared angry, its eyebrows dipping towards its nose and its smile turned upside down. Tyron just stared, what the hell? It wasn’t human.
‘What are you?’ it sounded rude, even to Tyron. Its eyebrows dipped further and the doll took a menacing step forward, Tyron stepped back.
‘What do you mean?’ Frowns.
‘S…sorry Joe.’ Tyron staring up at it shook hands shocked. It was cool and hard, just as a doll’s hand would feel, completely creeping him out.
‘The car is making a noise, a banging sound in the engine.’
‘Pop the hood.’ Tyron did, walking backwards and keeping his distance from the doll. In jerky movements it leaned over, looking around. Sticking its hand in the engine, it pulled out a section of the electronics. Tyron stared, fascinated and frightened.
‘This is the problem.’
‘It is now. Were you supposed to just rip it out…’ Tyron stopped as the doll’s smile turned upside down again. His face looked freaky and terrifying when he was cross. Tyron stepped back intimidated by his size and raised his hands. He was after all a coward. ‘You’ll have to stay over, this is going to take time.’ Still frowning, Tyron felt the first tinge of nerves.
‘Can I use your phone?’
‘Don’ have one.’ Tyron stared in disbelief.
‘Can’t you just fix it…’ he trailed off.
‘I SAID you will have to stay OVER. I have to order the parts.’ Sulking, the doll went back inside. He turned in the darkness mobilising Tyron who was staring. He first grabbed his bag and wallet, then headed towards the two old men.
‘Hey…hey excuse me?’ he looked behind him to make sure that the doll hadn’t followed him. ‘Have you guys seen…’ he stopped. His mouth made a perfect “o”. The old men looked up – they were both dolls. Painted eyebrows, lips and the same mode of dress. Tyron felt a prickle of fear down his spine. He noticed one old man put a pipe in its lips and motion sucking.
‘Yes? What do you want?’ they asked. Their eyebrows and mouths started turning down. Tyron stepped back, he seemed to be doing that a lot.
‘S…sorry. I…I am looking for a motel.’ One of them pulled the pipe out and pointed up the street with it.
‘Milly’s place. ‘Bout 2 blocks down you’ll see the sign.’ Tyron nodded and walked a few steps backwards, scared to turn his back on them too, then headed the way they had said. Thoughts raced through his brain. His breaths came quick and panicked, again he smelt the stale air only slightly aware of it now. He kept an eye on the buildings but didn’t see any other dolls.
The peeling sign creaked in the wind – “Vacancy” it said, which was ridiculous as it was a sign and couldn’t be turned off. Tyron smirked, ‘Morons.” But there was no malice in it, he was too afraid.
The reception area consisted of a scarred counter, really bad art and 2 wooden chairs. He didn’t want to ring the bell but knew he had to. He wanted to get into a room, lock the door and use the phone. Ping. Ping.
An overweight doll marched stiffly to the counter. Tyron stared – a woman doll. She was creepy as hell with thick red lips and yellow pigtails. Expressionless eyes stared at him and its mouth turned up into a strange smile. Her name badge said “Jilly”.
‘Help you?’ it enquired.
‘Can I use your phone?’ She shook her head and smiled.
‘No? Aah – how much for a room for the night?’
The ‘woman’ pointed to a sign above her head, written in a childlike hand. Tyron was relieved to see the prices were good and pulled out his card.
‘Cash only.’ It demanded. Luckily, he had cash on him, it was helpful when he negotiated discounts. Heaven knows what he would have done if he didn’t. He stopped ‘do you have a dining room?’
‘Yes. Its open from 6 – through there’ fat, doll fingers pointed to a set of double doors.
‘Cash for supper I suppose?’ Nods.
Tyron nodded his thanks and walked up the stairs following the sign that said “rooms”.
He was surprised to see it was clean and neat although rather childish in the décor. All reds and yellows with ceramic clowns on the shelf above the bed. He dropped his bags and looked for a phone. Nothing.
‘What the hell?’ The room was hot and Tyron wanted fresh air. He opened the window and breathed deeply, the air was thick and hot. He listened. No playing children, no music even the birds were quiet, it was spooky.
At six o clock he went downstairs, now ravenous having last eaten breakfast. The two old men were in the dining room and a doll family with 2 children. Mom, dad, son and daughter – perfect! What next!
‘I’ll have a ginger beer, roast chicken and potatoes. And don’t be shy – I’m hungry’ Tyron said rudely to Jilly turning its smile upside down. ‘Please’ he added quickly. It took the family’s order then disappeared into the kitchen giving him another taste of a frown while walking away.
Tyron watched the family surreptitiously. They sat staring at each other, then him then the floor, not saying a word. ‘Jeez how weird is this town’ he rubbed his hand along his face, hoping that the food wasn’t poisoned and came quickly. If it is poisoned at least I will escape this shithole he thought.
Jilly returned with the family’s food and 2 drinks for the men. They chatted a bit and his anxiety grew. None of them were eating or drinking. Was it poisoned? His stomach grumbled impatiently and he waited, not daring to upset the waitress.
Finally she came out of the kitchen heading towards him. As soon as she put the plates down he knew there was something wrong. The food was plastic. He prodded the chicken with his fork to make sure.
‘Something wrong?’ Jilly asked looking unhappy.
‘Well…I can’t eat plastic.’
‘What do you mean? This is what we always serve.’
‘Yes but no-one can eat this… its plastic.’ Tyron spat out. ‘Its inedible. Don’t you have any fruit? Ice-cream? Bloody something I can that that is ACTUALLY food?’ His temper frayed now. He was stuck in this mockery of a town, with a bunch of dim-witted dolls and there was nothing to eat.
‘I’ll bring you an apple’ it scurried away. The other diners were all looking at him with upside down smiles.
‘Ah what the hell! WHAT ARE YOU ALL LOOKING AT? You bunch of freaks. Who eats plastic food?’ he banged his fists on the table making the silverware jump.
‘Don’t you be so rude to Jilly’ one old man said pointing with his pipe again. ‘You’ll be sorry.’
‘Sorry? I’m already sorry! Sorry I stopped in this damm shithole of a town. What the hell are you, you bunch of freaks?’ The dining room door opened and the Sheriff walked in followed by Joe. Joe was big but the Sheriff was huge. Sheriff hitched its belt up making the toy gun click against its belt. Tyron had had enough and burst out laughing.
‘A toy gun? A toy gun?’ The Sheriff looked furious, its brows merging on top of its nose and its hands sitting on wide hips.
‘Is this a joke? Am I stuck in a nightmare? What the hell is going on? Are you all dolls?’
The dolls turned and looked at each other confused.
‘What do you mean?’ They all advanced towards him menacing frowns on their faces, but Tyron had had enough. He pushed his way through them arrogant and angry.
‘Just get my bloody car ready so that I can get away from this hell…’ All the dolls stopped and stared at him, it was unnerving.
Tyron shoved his hands into his pockets and stomped out of the dining room. Ha! Dining room my ass he thoughts to himself. Lying on his bed his thoughts wandering through the afternoon.
How did they function? What were they? Where did they come from?
He fell asleep ignoring his growling stomach, hoping that his car would be finished early.
Something woke him up. Reluctantly he pulled his eyelids open. His heart started hammering and cold fear trickled through his veins. Every doll, plus 3 hadn’t seen before were standing around his bed.
‘What the hell. I have paid…’ The Sheriff and Joe reached down each grabbing an arm.
‘The Doll Master wants to see you.’ Tyron struggled. ‘I don’t want to see him.’
‘Him is a her and we do what she wants. Right now – she wants you.’ Bucking and shouting they dragged Tyron out of bed, out of the motel and down the road. He barely noticed the cold, or the scratches to his feet as he struggled. He couldn’t believe how strong they were.
‘Let me go! This is kidnapping – I’ll call the police on you.’
‘I’m already here.’ The Sheriff laughed, it sounded tinny and false. Tyron’s heart sank and he hoped that someone would react to his shouting. But no-one did. Or at least no-one came to his aid. Several more dolls walked into the street in various states of undress. It was like a nightmare.
‘WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU?’ he screamed but they kept walking him up to the old warehouse at the end of the street. The Sheriff knocked ‘Master? We are here.’
‘Come’ a soft voice answered. Tyron was horrified and curious and they all walked in.
A tiny Oriental lady sat in front of a fire, Tyron stared.
‘Expecting the devil.?’ she laughed. ‘I am Iha.’
‘Well…yes. I’m Tyron.’
‘Come. Come closer. Sheriff I am sure you can let him go, he won’t do anything to me?’ she raised an eyebrow. Tyron shook his head and put down his hands when they stepped back.
‘How do you like my family?’ Tyron usually didn’t care about offending anyone but didn’t want to offend Iha, he wanted to get his car and get away. He didn’t answer.
‘I took over this little town with my lovely family 3 years ago. There were more of us…’ she looked into the distance. ‘But some got lost, broken or we had to take care of them.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, when you have the privilege of joining my family, you are always a part of my family. You cannot leave Dolls Town. Its forbidden.’ Tyron stared at her, the fear back, trickling again.
‘We want you, no, we need you to stay and join our family.’ Tyron started to shake his head but she carried on.
‘We have lost 17 of our family members who are now dead.’
Tyron watched her eyes turn black and hard, he licked his dry lips.
‘Thank you so much Iha, I am truly grateful but I have a wife and 2 chil…’
‘DON’T LIE! Don’t ever lie to me. I know you are alone. I know you are mean and greedy. You will stay.’
Tyron jumped up to run but the Sheriff and Joe were back, they held his arms as Iha reached under her chair for a large knife. Tyron screamed as she leaned forward and slit his throat with an expert switch of her wrist. As the blood tapped slowly onto the floor, humming, she reached over and placed a mask over his face. He couldn’t talk, could barely breath and was silently screaming.
The next morning a new family member waved.
‘Hi Joe, hi Jilly, lovely morning.’ Tyron lifted the paint bucket with his plastic hand and whistling, repainted the “Vacancy” sign, a bright, cheerful yellow.