Warning Labels

I’m Stephen. Today is my 8th birthday.

You’d think I’d be super excited, don’t you? My friends make fun of me, but I want a doll. Not a pretty princess doll. An action figure! Maybe even something scary, I don’t know.

But get this.

I got my “doll”. It must be a prank! How insensitive do my parents have to be to give me this! I’m outraged. Not only am I really smart, but really angry. You’ll never believe what “doll” they gave me.

A CLOWN DOLL.

I hate clowns. But I love creepy stuff. Why a clown doll though? I’m super mad. Anyway I guess I have to play with it.

I’m playing with my brand new birthday toy when I decide to check the box for any more accessories or instructions. As I’m looking, a small sting develops on my index finger. As I quickly lift my finger up to my mouth, I spot a small piece of white paper underneath a flap in the bottom of the box. I did miss something! I expected the paper to have official fine print as the other instructions had. But this paper had something different. It was handwritten. The black ink was slightly smudged and written in sloppy cursive, but I could just make out what it said:

Please be careful with this doll.

At night, lock it up in your closet.

Whatever you do, DO NOT open your closet until sunrise. If you do–

The rest is smudged and unreadable. A shiver runs up my back. But I’m not scared. Nope. I’m a fearless 8 year old!

You know how I said earlier that I was really smart? I think I spoke too soon. Something about that note, and even the doll, gave me a gut feeling of fear. Every part of me except my pride wanted to throw the doll out my window and run. But the adventurous part of me wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t listen to my gut for once.

“Honey, it’s time for bed.” Mama calls from my bedroom door. “Just five more minutes, please!” I beg. I wanted to spend as much innocent time with my toy before bed as possible.

“Fine, but only since it’s your birthday.”

“Thanks!” I squeal and continue playing. Sooner than expected, five minutes passed and Mama is in my doorway again. “Bedtime for real, Steph.” There was a hint of irritation in her voice, but not overpowering the loving coax.

I climb into my PJs and jump on my racecar bed. I’m so excited to go back to school tomorrow to show off to my friends all my new toys I got!

“Goodnight Steph. Love you.” Mama says as she kisses me on the top of the forehead. “Love you Mama.” I kiss her back. She tucks me in and turns on my dinosaur nightlight. She gives me one last “happy birthday,” and turns off the ceiling light.

Tired from the day of playing and celebrating, I drift easily into sleep.

**********************

I forgot about the toy! My eyelids flew open to the sound scratching at the foot of my bed. My bottom lip begins to tremble. No! I convince myself. It’s just your imagination Steph! If only I hadn’t believed myself. Then I could’ve done something.

I shake off the bad thoughts and cuddle back into my sheets. My blankets will protect me from anything and everything. Right? As soon as I could close them, my eyes popped open again at the sound of scratching. Again? My lip trembles again, and my index finger taps restlessly against my stuffed panda. The scratching sound is soon replaced my slow, soft, steady knocks. I shut my eyes tight, hoping to wake up to a new, doll free day. I know it’s my doll. What else could it be? Really? I hug my panda tighter as I open my eyes. The noise has stopped. It worked! I smile, glad this was all a bad dream. The knocks start as soon as I thought it was over. But it didn’t come from the foot of the bed. It came from under the bed. I gasp at the vibrations coming from the wood below my mattress. The knocks were louder, steadier, and seemed to be growing nearer. I gathered all the courage I had and peered under my bed. Nothing was there. With a trembling sigh of relief, I turn back onto my bed and close my eyes again. That’s when I hear the most frightening, heart-stopping, spine-chilling sound of my entire life. Yet it was just a voice.

“Play with me Stephen.”

I gasped and called out for Mama. I tried repeatedly to call for her, my voice was silent. How could my voice be silent at a time like this?! I tried over and over to call, but all I could get out was an inaudible squeak.

Click, click, click. 

The sound of wooden shoes on tile floors. I dare not look down in case my killer is waiting for me. In every horror movie I’ve seen, this is how I die. I let a hot tear stream down my cheek as I whimper. I can barely whisper, “I love you Mama,” before I turn over with my panda clutched tight between my sweaty hands. I keep waiting to be killed. Seconds tick by. Seconds turn into minutes. Minutes turn into hours. I sit there waiting, my adrenaline pumping too hard for me to sleep. I brave opening one eye to look at the silent room. I immediately close my eye shut tighter than I ever have before when I see the clown doll sitting on my bed next to my trembling body. I cry heavier now, praying to God that I live. To take this evil away. When nothing extraordinary happens, I open my eyes again fully, ready as I’ll ever be to accept my tragic fate. But the doll isn’t there. It’s standing there, on my bed, with a knife it it’s hand. The last thing I see before red and black is the doll moving closer.

And the last thing I hear before red and black, is…

~”Always read the warning labels”~