's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" What's Her Face "

Submitted by Duncan Skjaret (

“What’s Her Face”

By Duncan Skjaret


“Oh, gosh, April your makeup looks amazing today!”

“I know, isn’t it great? I didn’t do anything different this morning but it turned out perfect. I’ve been getting compliments on it all day.”

                April looked again at her smartphone’s camera. The makeup was actually heavier than it normally was, but she’d finally found an eyeshadow that complimented her, her blending was flawless, and everything stayed perfectly in place even after an hour of hauling furniture around.

                “I guess after that disaster at the estate sale the other day I was due for some good luck.” April said.

                “Oh, did that not go well?”

                “Yeah, there was a bunch of great old furniture, but all of it had fire damage. The only thing I walked away with was – actually, speaking of which…” across the large market tent April spotted a customer digging through the cardboard box of old toys, her sole pick from the sale. She walked over, leaving her coworker to continue tagging antique silverware, and put on her best customer service face.

                “Is there anything I can help you with, ma’am?” April asked. The customer started, almost dropping the doll she’d been picking over a moment ago. She shoved the doll in April’s face.

                “Was it like this when you found it?” the woman asked. April leaned backwards, blinking to focus on the neon-haired figure suddenly so close to her. Oh, the faceless doll.

                “Ah, no, ma’am, I drew the face on it. Just last night, in fact. We found this collection the other day, at an estate sale in – “

                The customer jerked the doll away from her, muttering in undisguised disgust. She licked a thumb and began rubbing on the doll’s carefully applied features. April itched at her cheek nervously, wondering why every day had to come with a customer like this.

                “Ugh, it’s no use, the ink soaked into the vinyl. Probably used technical pens or something. It’s a What’s-Her-Face doll, they come with special erasable markers you’re supposed to…supposed to…Argh!”

The customer’s rubbing became almost violent, and April struggled to keep her customer service face in place. She knew what a What’s-Her-Face doll was, her younger sister had one when they first came out in ’01. The doll she found in the bottom of the toy box didn’t have any of the erasable markers they were supposed come with, though, or even any of the clothes and accessories. It was just a skinny, naked doll with a bright neon wig on its featureless eggshell head. She’d spent the better part of last evening carefully drawing and painting a replacement face for it, colorful and big-eyed like the popular retail dolls you find nowadays. She tried to explain this to the customer, but her words barely seemed to register as she fidgeted with the doll.

“I don’t understand why people think they can just do things like this.” The customer said. “Do you know what happens to the doll’s value when you just jab at it with pens and things?”

“Well, ma’am, it would have had very little collector’s value without any of the accessories or packaging anyways, so I figured it would be nice to offer it cheaply to some little girl as an actual toy.” April’s patience was quickly wearing thin. She didn’t consider the face to be a work of art, but she was proud of it nonetheless, and she’d enjoyed using her old art supplies again. “In fact, you know what? My daughter liked how it turned out, I think I’ll give it to her as a gift, instead. Let me know if you’re interested in anything else.”

And with that, she rescued the doll from the woman’s grasp, quickly excusing herself and retreating back behind the cash box counter, rolling her eyes at her coworker. The customer stood agape for a few minutes before slinking out of the tent, back into the flea market’s crowd, her hands twitching and grasping.


                Cynthia carefully locked the door to her basement and descended the creaky wooden stairs, dumping her purse on her workbench. The bench’s lamp clicked on to reveal a dingy, bare concrete basement with a long shelf winding about at head height. On it were displayed dozens of dolls – antique bisque dolls, rare fashion dolls and artful Asian ball-jointed dolls, all carefully refurbished and posed. From their high shelf they looked down on a haphazard collection of storage bins and cardboard boxes overflowing with fabric scraps, scattered doll limbs, worn and broken paintbrushes and industrial-sized jugs of solvents and varnishes.

Cynthia dug through her purse, pushing aside the bits of junk she’d bought just to conceal the one thing she had meant to walk out of the flea market with – the What’s-Her-Face doll that woman with the ugly makeup had taken from her. She laid the naked vinyl figure on the scarred, pitted wooden surface of the workbench, staring at its hand-drawn face. She hadn’t wanted to steal it, of course, she never wanted that. But there are some things people just shouldn’t be allowed to do.

She wedged the doll’s head firmly in a small clamp bolted to the bench. To start with, she wetted a cotton ball and pressed it tightly against the face, letting the water soak into the vinyl as she dug around for some more cotton and small, unlabeled bottles. The dish soap blotted on easily. Cynthia sat over the doll for half an hour, waiting for it to finish soaking in and, hopefully, lift some of the more offensive features off. Finally she rubbed the soap off, making small, careful polishing motions with the cloth. Beneath the soap the doll’s features were unblemished. Next went acne medication, then rubbing alcohol, then vinegar, each soaked in cotton and pressed hard against her face for a time, then rubbed off with increasing irritation. The face was starting to smear. Cynthia tried nail polish remover, daubing it on the face and holding the head up to a blow drier for a solid hour. She poured on a mystery chemical she’d bought from a collector in Korea, her head swimming as its pungent fumes filled the small basement. She rubbed at it with ultra-fine steel wool, leaning most of her weight on the doll’s head as she ground it back and forth. She poured a special lacquer on it, and carefully applied a blowtorch until the mixture dried, hardened, and flaked off. She could tell she was damaging the doll – there were discolored streaks in the neon hair, and the head quickly became splotchy, turning a much lighter shade than the body, whose limbs were twisted awkwardly from the force of Cynthia’s scrubbing. But that awful face that had been drawn on was blurring, the ink coming off bit by bit, so she persevered, hands sweating, hissing through her teeth. She tried acids of increasing strength, chemicals that stung her eyes and burned her lungs, and raked a screwdriver’s head up and down the face, trying to put a dent in that stubborn nose. The workbench shook as she jammed a cloth into the head over and over, throttling it, willing the face to return to its blank, pristine form.

Finally, Cynthia dropped herself heavily into her old metal chair, out of breath. The doll stared back at her, what was left of its hair twisted and matted into the clamp that still held its head. The vinyl of the face was distorted, swollen and flaking. Its eyes had blurred into two blue-black splotches, the lower part of its mouth obscured by a grill of scratches from the steel wool. It certainly didn’t look much like that stupid face anymore, but it was still no good. The ink had soaked deep into the vinyl. It was unsalvageable.

Cynthia leaned back in her chair, looking at the gallery of perfect, pristine dolls staring down at her. Though they had no eyes to see, she knew they could tell she’d tried her best. She took some comfort in this as she unclamped the ruin-faced doll, dropped it in the trash, and closed the lid.


<Continued from Chemical Attack on D1

                …or any signs of forced entry. Police report April Hersch was discovered by her daughter upon returning home from school, who immediately called emergency services. County medical officials report she is now stable but has extensive scarring and will likely be permanently blinded.

                “We are treating this as a despicable and cowardly assault and will devote all resources to bringing the perpetrators to justice,” Said police chief John Huxton in a press release Wednesday. Police request anyone with information as to the identity of Mrs. Hersch’s assailants contact their tip line as soon as possible.