No-one knows anything about The Doll, who brought her in, and why. My guess is she was a discarded present in a Secret Santa. She’s been here as long as me, which is a complete coincidence, of course.
The Doll hasn’t got a name. She’s been called a lot of things over the years – The Thing, No Face, Heidi Horror, Nurse Hellenback and so on. Maybe a real name would bring some responsibility, an admission of ownership, but then again, maybe it would break the terms of a fiendish contract and invoke a deeper horror. I just don’t know. It’s probably not worth the risk.
It’s hard to communicate just how hideous The Doll is. She’s a cloth nurse about so-high; black curly hair spilling from under an old time nurse’s cap; a ridiculous, ruched gingham skirt with a little white pinny; stockinged legs and strap sandals. Her face is as nub and blank as a hangman’s thumb, with two pinpoint black eyes and no other features. She’s exactly the kind of nurse you’d find sitting on your bed when you open your eyes from a fever – so you’d pull out your IV lines, rush across the ward and throw yourself headfirst through the window. (Later on The Doll would be sitting back of the Coroner’s Court, listening to the verdict – Whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed… Waiting to be picked up. Look at this cute little thing? Let’s take it to the ward…)
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, The Doll is fucking musical.
Someone has vainly and urgently tried to end the horror of this particularly demonic aspect by snapping off the key, but somehow she carries on. A spindly, spiderly, trinketty blinketty little tune, the sound a glass spider would make scuttling across the floor of a morgue. The distorted tune you’d hear playing out of an Ice Cream van as it drove through Hell, a bloody knife instead of a cornet rotating on the roof. The Doll in the driving seat, staring straight ahead. No, no, no.
So The Doll is the de facto, Aeternus Malus office mascot, not because she’s loved, but because no-one’s brave enough to chuck her out. There have been attempts to lose her, of course. She was put into Alan’s bag when he left the office on a week’s annual leave (he brought her back). She was stuffed in a box when the office temporarily relocated down the hill (she walked back). She’s been shoved in every cupboard, cabinet, drawer and desk you can imagine, but somehow she manages to resurface, struggling up to some prominent spot – by moonlight – ready to shake her head from side to side when you catch her eye next morning. Did you think it would be that easy? Oh no, no, no.
What makes the whole thing worse is that we work in the converted ward of an old hospital. The Doll seems right at home here, spiritually at least. It’s all too easy to imagine her stitching herself into existence from the rotten bedding of some dreadful death here sometime around The Great War. An act of bloody revenge distilled into a stuffed toy.
For a time we tried to make her part of the team. We sat her on one of the monitors on the Coordinator’s desk, included her in conversations, passed her crumbs of biscuit. It didn’t work. She’s too ruthlessly focused on the job in hand (one thing you have to admit about demonic possessions – they’ve got great energy and a formidable work ethic).
You can’t ignore her. It’s like those innocent bathroom mirrors in spooky films, where you know you shouldn’t look but you do anyway, and something runs past in the background, and the jolt from the soundtrack is like being stabbed through the heart with a toothbrush.
There’s an aura about The Doll, too, something that goes deeper than the look. It’s like a phantom pheromone, a poisonous perfume. If I could bottle it I’d call it Miasma (her picture on the front, posing on a skull). Top-notes of Spite, Fright & Primal Fear, rounded on a base of Palpitations & Flop Sweat.
I think I made her worse by standing her on her head in a desk tidy for a while. I thought it would dilute her power. It didn’t. It made it worse. She has a new focus, which is me.
My only hope is The Rumour.
They’re thinking of tearing the old hospital down. They’ve been talking about it for years, but still, miracles sometimes happen.
The trouble is, I can imagine how it would go. The contractors walking on the site, hard hats, fluorescent jackets, rolls of plans under their arms, mugs of tea (obviously I’ve got no idea how these things work). Walking into the empty ward. One of them sees The Doll lying amongst the dead flies on the window ledge.
‘Hey! Look at this!’ he laughs.
Picks it up.
The Doll stares at him.
When he opens his eyes again, he’s sitting at the wheel of a digger. He’s an architect. He doesn’t drive diggers. It doesn’t matter. The Doll is on the dashboard. He turns the engine over, and with a strangely blank expression, advances, slowly lowering the bucket…