Saturday, December 22, 2007

Another gift from Christmas past

When Meelyn was around three years old, my brother and sister-in-law got her a cute little doll with a head full of blonde curls and a cherubic, smiling face for Christmas. This doll operated on batteries, and she was able to tell you when she needed a diaper change, a bottle of milk, a sippy-cup of juice or some food from the little plastic dish she came with. Meelyn was absolutely delighted: it would be fun, she thought, to take care of sweet dolly the way that Mommy took care of Baby Aisli.

This doll had some sort of sensor implanted within her -- a microchip that would zing into action at certain intervals so that it could say, "Baby is firsty!" or "Baby so hung-wy!" As my husband put the batteries in the doll's back, he and I had a lot of fun joking about the kinds of things we'd say if we had microchips implanted in our heads. He thought that he might say, "Evwy one be quiet! Football is on!" and I would say, "Dis compooter is mine and I won't share wif you."

The doll was supposed to go into sleep mode in the dark and she had an on-off switch for the times when you just couldn't tolerate another squeaky little voice in the house demanding to be played with. So imagine our surprise when, late one night a few days after Christmas, we heard the doll's voice speaking cheerfully from Meelyn's bedroom, which was across the hallway from our own.

"Baby so hung-wy!"

My husband, who was reading a John Grisham novel in bed by lying flat on his back with his arms in the air, suspending the book above his face (a posture which I think is very strange and painful-looking), said, "Is Meelyn awake and playing with her doll?"

I was curled up on my side holding my own book. "I don't know," I murmured, not taking my eyes from the page. "I can't see her from here."

"Meelyn!" called my husband. "If you're awake, get back into bed right now, young lady."

There was no response, so we figured that Meelyn had shut off her light and climbed back in bed. I was awakened a few hours later in the pitch dark by a little mechanical voice: "Baby so hung-wy!"

Because the house was so quiet, it sounded like the voice was close. Like, right behind my exposed back. I poked my husband with an urgent forefinger.

"Honey," I hissed. "That's in there speaking."

"Whuh? Huh?" He flailed around with the blankets and refused to open his eyes.

"Wake up," I said, prodding him again. "Honey, it's that doll. It's...speaking."

"Doll?" my husband croaked groggily. "Whudoll?"

"Baby so hung-wy!" the doll said obligingly.

"Is Meelyn out of bed?"

"No," I whispered. "Everything is dark. That doll is not supposed to be able to talk in the dark."

"Baby so hung-wy!"

My husband and I both spent a lot of time watching re-runs of The Twilight Zone when we were young, and if you've ever seen the episode with Talkie Tina -- you know, the one where the adorable talking dolly chirpily says, "Hi! I'm Talkie Tina and I'm going to kill you" and then DOES -- you will know exactly the irrational fear that seized us both.

"Holy crap," said my husband.

"Yeah," I said, fervently. "Boy, I wish I'd never read 'Salem's Lot or maybe it was The Tommyknockers, because there's this part in there where there are all these dolls this lady collected and they come alive, only they're not very nice to the lady who collected them and they all looked at her with their eyes and then they, well, they....."

"I know," my husband assured me. "I watched those Chuckie movies."

"Baby so hung-wy!"

"If this goes the way these things usually go, she's already eaten the kids' brains and she'll be in here in a minute to finish us off," I quavered. "Why don't you go get her and...take her batteries out?"

"No, that's okay, but thanks for asking," he said.

"I don't want to get up, because what if I see her run past the door out of the corner of my eye?" I said. "What if I stand up next to the bed and she grabs my ankles and bites me? What if...."

"Okay. Shut UP."

"Because Talkie Tina and Chuckie, you'd think they were gone, but they kept coming back and they usually had knives with them and...."


"Baby so hung-wy!"

"I cannot freakin' be-LIEVE this," my husband groaned and threw back the covers, hurling himself forward and landing on his feet in one leap; far, I noticed, from the edges of the bed where the bed ruffle tantalizingly concealed what was beneath.

"Baby so hung-wy," said the doll. And it might have been my imagination, but it seemed to me that she was starting to sound a little unpleasant. Like, she'd waited far too long for her next serving of warm human brains and was thinking of coming to get them herself.

My husband strode purposefully into Meelyn's room, made certain that she was unharmed, and came back to our room, carrying the doll by the hair. He rummaged in the drawer of his bedside table, found a Phillips head screwdriver and flipped the doll's dress up to expose the place on its back where the batteries were housed.

"Yippee-ky-yay, mo......" said my husband with grim pleasure.

"Baby so hung-wy," the doll interrupted. And thank heaven she was turned face downward, because if we'd had to meet her eyes when she said that, our bed would have been soaked and dripping with the contents of two adult bladders.

I dove under the blankets and my husband removed the two batteries with an energy he seldom displays in the middle of the night. And I kid you not, that insane doll mewled out "Bay-bee....sooo...hunnnn-gwy" one last time in the slurred, drunken voice of thwarted evil. She departed hastily from my husband's hands; he threw her unceremoniously into the corner of the room.

"She can't stay there all night!" I protested, coming out from under the blankets. "She'll be watching us sleep and...plotting our deaths or something."

"I'm not getting up again," my husband said flatly, lying back down and pulling the blankets up to his chin. "I'm safe. Your brain is bigger than mine is, so she'll go for you first and that will fill her up. I'll have time tomorrow to summon a priest or drive a stake through her heart or whatever. Good night."

I summoned up all the courage I could muster, climbed out of bed and grabbed the doll by the hair. On my way through the house, I took my car keys off the kitchen table, carried the doll out to the garage and imprisoned her in the trunk of the car.

The next morning, Meelyn woke up joyfully, ready to feed and change that hungry, thirsty baby. "Where is her?" she asked me in concern, finding the toy cradle empty.

"Her...I mean, she, went to go get donuts with Daddy this morning," I said and went out to the garage to retrieve the doll, barely able to cradle her lovingly in my arm without flinching, but I knew Meelyn would not be pleased if I came in carrying her by the hair.

Meelyn stretched her little arms out happily. "Her is the nicest baby," she said fondly. "Do you love her, Mommy?"

"Oh, uh...sure," I lied. "I just love, love, love her. Why don't you go feed her, honey? I think she may be hungry."

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