Note – This is what happens when you mix far too much (very alcoholic) eggnog with back to back viewings of Child’s Play and Jingle All The Way 🙂
Liam carefully wrapped the final and most important present to be placed under the Christmas tree, a Baby Bianca doll, the holy grail of presents for little girls this year, and the highest selling toy of the past decade. This would be his first Christmas with custody of Sarah, and nothing short of perfection would be acceptable. He swallowed down the last sip of his whiskey and placed the present with the others, taking a step back to survey the scene with some pride.
The huge pine tree dwarfed his modest living room, lovingly decorated with shiny baubles and tinsel that reflected the twinkling lights dancing merrily along the tree’s branches. A stocking bearing Sarah’s name hung from a hook on the wall next to the tree, and a small mountain of colourfully wrapped presents also addressed to the four-year-old were stacked under its lowest branches.
Liam nodded with satisfaction. This Christmas would be a memory to treasure forever with his little girl.
He awoke the next morning to sunlight filtering through his curtains and a tiny blonde figure with a cherubic face perched on his chest. A two inch razor sharp blade was clutched in both of its hands and aimed directly at his throat. Groggily flopping an arm out from under the blankets, he swiped the small figure across the room, a stinging gash appearing along his forearm where the blade slashed through his flesh.
Cursing and flinging the blankets off, he staggered out of bed, but the thing had already vanished out of his bedroom with a scuttle of little footsteps on the hardwood floor.
He ran out into the hall, his right hand wrapped around the deep slice in his left arm that was steadily dripping blood between his fingers. There was no sign of his miniature assailant.
“Sarah,” he called, glancing into her empty bedroom before rushing down the stairs. To his relief he found her seated on the floor beneath the Christmas tree, surrounded by shredded wrapping paper and torn packaging.
“Daddy.” She pouted when she saw him. “Where’s my Baby Bianca dolly? I asked Santa for one ‘specially and she’s not here.”
Liam flashed back to the angelic plastic face that had greeted him as he woke, the face of the very same Baby Bianca doll that he had painstakingly preordered along with thousands of other parents, and shuddered.
He smiled weakly, picking his way through the debris on the floor, eyeing the room warily. “I’m not sure sweetie, did you check your stocking?”
“Yep.” She picked up the empty stocking and shook it upside down for emphasis. “No Bianca.” The pout began to quiver now, tantrum imminent.
Liam thought fast. “Hey, maybe it’s at Grandma’s house, let’s go and have a look.” And get the hell out of here, he thought.
He scooped Sarah up quickly and made a beeline for the garage, pretending that he never heard the quiet, high pitched giggle that wafted through the house after them.
He turned the SUV onto their normally quiet suburban street, Sarah safely secured in her booster seat, only to find chaos had broken out on the carefully manicured lawns.
“Look Daddy, there’s a Baby Bianca dolly on the roof of that house! Santa must’ve dropped her there. Maybe that’s mine. Can we stop? Daddy?”
Liam barely heard her, too distracted by the horrifying scene unfolding in his neighbour’s yard. Mr Foley was clawing his way across the grass towards the pavement, his face contorted in pain as blood flowed from his heels where both of his Achilles tendons had been slashed. One of the dolls was steadily climbing his pyjama pants leg, blade clutched between its grinning teeth. Another of the Baby Biancas was running across the lawn towards his face, its little pink gown and plastic skin already splattered with blood.
Liam turned away and accelerated, unable to bear the pleading expression on the man’s face but unwilling to stop and risk his daughter’s safety.
Across the road and a few houses down, old Mrs Cranston, who often brought homemade meals and baked treats for them when Sarah was visiting, was lying facedown on the pavement in a spreading pool of crimson.
“Daddy, why is Mrs Cranston sleeping there? Look Daddy, there’s a Bianca running behind us! Stop the car so she can get in. Daddy!”
Liam had seen the little figure on the road behind them, sprinting for all its worth in an attempt to catch the car, tiny arms and legs pumping. He lost it after turning a few more corners, driving as fast as he dared, trying to ignore the wail of his daughter as she lost sight of the doll.
“It’s okay sweetie, I’m sure yours is waiting at Grandma’s.”
He felt a little guilty for lying, but in this case he figured it was justified. None of the ‘How to be a Great Single Father for Your Little Girl’ advice books had exactly covered this scenario. He briefly considered checking on his ex, before realising he had left his phone and wallet back at home, along with his clothes. He was still dressed in his pyjama pants and singlet, Sarah in her pink daisy pyjamas, which were now adorned with several bloody handprints where he had picked her up. His own pyjamas were smeared with blood, as was the car’s interior, the wound on his arm now crusted over with dried blood, painful and itching at the same time. Both of them were barefoot, hair sticking out at all angles. He sighed. This was going to be fun to explain to his parents. They’d probably be on the phone to Donna to come and pick up Sarah before he could get two words out.
His hands clenched on the steering wheel. None of that mattered right now, except getting Sarah to the relative safety of his parents’ farm. There was just one more turn to go and they would be on the open highway.
As they approached the corner a familiar little blonde shape raced into the centre of the road, bracing as though to leap onto the car as it passed. Without a second thought he swerved and ran it over directly, crushing it under the car’s tyres. Checking in his rear view mirror he saw that its head had popped off and was rolling across the road, still grinning maniacally, the crushed body a mangled heap.
Ignoring Sarah’s horrified screams, he swung the car around the corner and accelerated down the highway.
Later that evening, after Sarah was finally asleep, somewhat pacified by the inferior doll that had been provided by Grandma (“NOT my Baby Bianca, Daddy,” she had whined, glaring daggers at him) he flopped in front of his parents’ TV and turned on the news. Several of the channels were blank, with many of the major stations not reaching this far into the countryside, but he finally found one channel which was still operating. The reception was poor, but snatches of sound and images were painting a clear enough picture.
Mysterious deaths…thousands of families found slaughtered…throats slashed…multiple stabbings…authorities overwhelmed as panic spreads…
No mention of the dolls, noted Liam. They must know it’s the dolls, right? He couldn’t really be losing his mind, though it was obvious his parents thought so. He winced, remembering the earlier conversation as he had tried to explain what happened while his mother consoled a still-sobbing Sarah. Donna would no doubt be on the way to the farm to pick up their daughter right now if his mother had been able to reach her on the phone.
He flipped the TV off and got up to check the windows and doors, more grateful than ever before that his parents lived in a remote farmhouse. He turned out the lights as he made his way up the stairs to the bedrooms, stopping at the first door to check on Sarah before he went to sleep.
Her bed was empty. In the dim illumination provided by her nightlight, Liam hurriedly checked under the bed and in the closet as well before running back out into the hall, his breath coming fast. No, this can’t be happening. Where was she?
He was drawing in a breath to yell her name when he heard it. The sound of a soft giggle and Sarah’s voice coming from behind the closed door of his parents bedroom. He released the breath in a huff of relief and opened the door, expecting to find Sarah playing with her grandparents.
He is surprised to find the room in darkness, and fumbles for the light switch. The sudden brightness blinds him for a moment, and when his vision clears all he can see is red. The bright red of fresh blood has soaked through his parents’ comforter and pillows and is dripping slowly onto the floor. His parents’ faces are a stark white contrast, mouths agape in shock and eyes staring into nothing, their throats a gaping red mess of mangled flesh and blood.
In one of the expanding puddles of blood on the floor by the bed, Sarah is sitting with her legs crossed, playing patty cake with a Baby Bianca doll.
“You were right after all Daddy, she was waiting right outside for me to let her in.” Sarah beamed at him, her face covered in tiny splatters of her grandparents’ blood.
The doll’s head swivelled slowly to face him, the crazed grin on its blood-stained face seeming to widen impossibly. Too late, Liam heard a high pitched giggle and scuttling footsteps behind him.
Happy Holidays everyone 🙂