The Box Under the Bed
There is a box under mummy’s bed, it’s been there a really long time. Since before I was born, and I’m nearly nine now. It’s wooden and ugly, but mummy says there’s something real special in it, a doll her gran’ma gave her just before she died, just like great- gran’ma’s mummy gave it to her. It should have been given to my gran first, but she died when mummy was just a little girl, even littler than me, so now mummy has it instead. She says I can see it when I’m lots older, when I’m too old to break it.
I always knew it was special though, even before mummy told me, because it talks to me, ever since I was really little. Sometimes when I’m laying on mummy’s bed I can hear it scratching at the inside of the box. I told mummy that one day and she laughed, ruffling my hair and saying I was still too little to see it, and making up stories wouldn’t change that.
Sometimes when I used to sleep in mummy’s bed after I had a nightmare it would tell me stories, about great-gran’ma, and gran, and mummy when she was a little girl. About how they were allowed to play with her when they were little, but I’m not. It made my angry because it’s not fair, but mummy would be really angry if I opened the box, so I never did. It would get mad sometimes then, scratching on the box and saying mean things. I would wake mummy up with my crying, but she said I just had another nightmare and to go back to sleep.
Mummy’s not home right now, said she had to run down to the store real quick for milk, and told me to stay in my room and do my homework. But I can hear it, even from my room today, scratching and whispering. It wants to come out and play with me.
I go into mummy’s room and lay down on the floor next to her bed and look at the box. The scratching is getting louder and louder, and the voice is telling me to open the box. It’s sick of the dark. It wants to play.
I reach under the bed carefully, and just grabbing the box by a corner with my fingertips, I slowly slide it out into the light. It’s all dusty and gross, so I blow on it and wipe at it with my sleeve before I start picking at the latch, keeping an ear open in case mummy comes back. It’s quiet now, waiting, and as the latch finally slides free, I hold my breath as I open the lid.
The doll doesn’t look so special to me. I have plenty that are much prettier. This one is dirty and a bit smelly, and has a crack across one cheek. The painted eyes and mouth are faded and flaking, and it has all different colours and lengths of hair sticking out all over it’s head.
It’s quiet now, but I’m so busy looking at it I don’t hear mummy until she gasps behind me. I turn around and she’s standing in the doorway, looking all pale with her hand over her mouth. I thought I’d be in real big trouble, but she doesn’t look angry.
“What did you do?” She asks.
“Nothing,” I say, jumping away from the box guiltily.
She hurries over and closes the box quickly, then just stands there looking at it.
“You didn’t touch it?”
“No, mummy, I swear.” I really didn’t want to, with how dirty and ugly and smelly it was.
She nods, and slides the box back under the bed.
“That’s good.” She nods again and finally looks at me. “That’s really good.”
“Why’s that doll so special? It’s really ugly. And why is all of it’s hair different all over?”
Mummy sighs, before sitting on her bed and patting the blankets next to her. I sit down and she puts her arm around me.
“It’s special because it’s very, very old, and also because that hair is from real people in our family. Every time a little girl dies in our family, it’s our tradition to have a lock of the girl’s hair added to the doll’s head.” She sighs. “Some of my aunty’s hair is there, and some of your sister’s.”
I frown. “I don’t have a sister.”
“You did sweetie. A twin. I guess you’re old enough to know now.” Her voice and face gets really sad. “She died when you were both four. Your great gran’ma had her hair added to the doll too. It’s the short blond bit right at the front.”
“Are you okay sweetie? Does that explain everything for you?”
“I guess mummy. I always just thought it was special because it could talk and move and stuff.”
I’m already sliding off the bed as I’m saying this, but I hear mummy make a real funny noise so I turn around again. She looks scared.
“What’s wrong mummy?”
“What makes you say that it can talk and move?”
“Cause it talks to me all the time. And scratches on the box. It doesn’t like it in there. That’s why I opened it.” I frown. “I’ve told you all this before mummy, when I was little.”
She looks at me, all wide eyed and pale, hand over her mouth again.
“I thought you made that up because you were just traumatised from losing your twin. You pretended the doll was alive because she was gone. I didn’t know it was still happening.”
“It’s okay, it says it can get out by itself now ‘cause you didn’t latch the box, so it probably won’t bother me any more.”