As the ominous clouds loomed overhead, Callie pulled up to the antique store. She dreaded going out in the rain, but she had promised to meet her best friend and lend her a camera for her trip the next day. They chose to meet at the antique shop because it was situated between their respective homes. When Callie looked at the building, she wondered if it was still in operation.
The faded paint on the rundown building almost blended in with the graying sky above, and the bowing roof had to be leaking. Callie grabbed her phone to call her friend, ready to suggest an alternative location. Alexia’s car skidded her small, compact car into the pebbled parking lot and stopped close to the shop’s door.
Seeing there wasn’t time to change plans, Callie grabbed the bag from behind the passenger seat of her SUV and popped out. She walked across the parking lot filled with old vintage cars, all with their tires deflated, to hug her friend.
“Thank you very much. I promise to return it in one piece.” Alexia smiled as Callie extended her hand with the bag.
The camera was Callie’s new digital workhorse, which she bought to kick-start her new photography business. Callie cringed as Alexia carelessly dropped the bag in the back of her car, hoping that her friend would actually return it. Alexia slung her arm over Callie’s shoulder and drew her into the store, promising to look for some of Callie’s childhood pop culture collectibles.
As they walked in, a scruffy man sitting behind his antique desk looked up from his newspaper and grunted. The girls laughed at his uninterested salesmanship. A dusty film filtered through the air, no doubt from years of products remaining on the shelves.
The items on the shelves sat haphazardly, with no rhyme or reason for their placement. Toys next to plates, home décor next to books. Callie picked up a grimy box containing a Strawberry Shortcake doll. A porcelain-faced baby doll with yellow yarn hair and all of its features sunken in with deep mold in the curves of its face sat next to it. The emerald green eyes stood out almost like new, while the rest of the body appeared worn and tattered. As Callie replaced the box on the shelf, the doll stared at her, almost accusingly. A shiver ran up her spine.
“I’ve always despised such dolls. They’re so creepy!” Callie exclaimed as she took a step back.
“My grandmother had a collection of antique dolls.” Alexia explained, “They all lived in the guest bedroom, so when I was little and spent the night, they all watched me while I slept. Dude, I woke up some nights thinking they came to life.”
Callie’s stomach twisted at the thought of the doll coming alive. When her grandparents gave her one as a gift when she was a youth, she re-homed it for donations at a Christmas drive. The pale white face and lifeless eyes caused the bumps on her skin to rise.
In the next booth, Alexia laughed when they saw another one of the creepy dolls for sale. “Here’s another one.” Alexia wiggled her fingers at her friend in a menacing tone. “It’s following you.”
Callie pushed her aside and proceeded around the corner to a shelf of old tin lunch boxes. Callie’s favorite type of collectible to look for in antique stores. She pulled one from the shelf to see if there was more behind it. Callie gasped as she jumped backward and came face-to-face with another of the macabre antique dolls stuffed at the back of the shelf. It took a moment for her heart to stop racing. She replaced the lunch box and slammed it into the doll, angry that it scared her but mad at herself for being frightened.
Alexia had moved on ahead while Callie found an item she wanted to purchase. A vintage collector’s glass featuring a cartoon from her childhood. She handed the item to the scruffy man behind the counter and asked him to hold it for her. When she moved past the first booth, the doll she had originally spotted had vanished. Callie looked around the store for other customers, perplexed where it went. Shaking it off, she moved on, casting a glance at the next location where she saw the second doll.
It wasn’t there yet again.
As she tiptoed forward to uncover the doll from behind the lunch box, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Her hand trembled as she slowly drew the box from the shelf and peered behind it, only to be met with bright green eyes. She exhaled a sigh of relief and laughed at herself for being so paranoid. Callie rushed through the booths to catch up with Alexia. The doll wasn’t the only item seen in multiple booths, so as Callie caught glimpses of this strange and obviously popular antique doll, she dismissed her chilling thought.
The girls made their way to the front of the hall; Callie no longer noticed any of the dolls, except when she crossed the booth with the doll behind the lunch box. She chuckled as she yanked the item away, knowing the doll would be there. A gust of wind brushed against her skin. Glancing around for the culprit, she found a fan and settled on that as the cause.
Callie hurried to the register, tossing a ten-dollar bill on the counter and taking her glass. The old man grinned with a mouthful of decayed teeth. He snickered in a raspy voice. “Take care of her or she’ll take care of you.”
The breath that came across the counter reeked of roadkill. Despite his riddle of words, Callie pushed Alexia hurriedly out the door to escape the gut-curdling stench. The stifling air before the storm didn’t clear her nostrils, even with a deep breath.
But, free from the uneasy stares of the man, Callie and Alexia said their goodbyes to each other. Callie offered a piece of advice to her friend. “Remember, my camera comes back in one piece.”
Callie crossed the parking lot to her car with a wave. Alexia exited the gravel lot as Callie opened her car door. As she prepared to drive away, she tossed a glance in the mirror. When she saw the doll in the mirror, she jumped. She grabbed her chest and looked over her shoulder, but saw nothing. She burst out laughing.
As she turned to shift the car into drive, the doll’s face met hers, opening its mouth as Callie screamed.