When I was four, my mother made me a life-size rag doll with yellow yarn hair. As the story goes, she spent countless hours laboring over it, and my reaction, upon receiving the gift, was less than gracious. Rather than showing appreciation, I tossed the doll to the side and said, “Just what I don’t want.” Admittedly, this was one of my brattier childhood moments, and not one I’m proud of. It must have broken my mom’s heart because she’s never let me forget it.
In spite of that, I guess I liked the doll because I slept with her every night for years. She was big and soft like a body pillow, and comforting for a kid plagued by nightmares. Comforting, until she became the subject of a recurring nightmare.
When I got to the age where I no longer slept with dolls and teddy bears, the rag doll was retired to a corner of my room, where she sat staring blankly at my bed. Residual guilt over the gift must have found its way into my dreams. That, or the doll had become imbued with bad mojo.
One night, in the midst of one of those awful dreams that are so vivid I think I’m awake, I looked over at the doll sitting in the corner of my bedroom. She was hunched over, her head bowed to her chest.
Then she moved. She raised her head and stared back at me with her embroidered eyes. Then she moved some more. She started crawling toward the bed, reaching for me. I woke with a jolt, my heart hammering in my chest.
The next time I dreamed about the doll, I again thought I was awake. I was in bed, covers pulled up to my shoulders, and the lamp on my nightstand was turned on. I didn’t even sleep with a nightlight, so this was odd. I remember feeling groggy, looking around the room, trying to figure out why my light was on. Then I heard something growl. The noise came from directly beneath me, under my bed. I looked over at that corner, where the doll sat. She wasn’t there. That’s when I knew she was the thing growling under my bed.
When I woke, I immediately clicked on my light and looked for the doll. She was still sitting in the corner. I felt relieved when I realized I’d been dreaming, but soft as she might have been, there was no way I’d ever put that doll in my bed again.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016