's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Grandmother's Doll

Submitted by James B. Davis

Its skin was made of burlap, its hair covered only the right of its head and was made of orange yarn, its eyes were two black buttons, it wore denim overalls crafted from old jeans, and it stood only 3 feet tall. Its head hung down to the left and was over sized for it's body and so were its feet. It' mouth was nothing but a piece of string woven through its head and shaped into a smile. The cloth that the doll's skin had be formed from was ragged and dirty, as were it's hair and clothes.

I kept the old ragged thing in a glass case for as long as I owned it. It stood in the corner of my office for twenty years and didn't bother me once. I would hardly notice the awful thing while writing or painting in full concentration on my work. I would never look at it, for it never truly caught my attention. I would never have even owned the ugly thing had my grandmother not passed it on to me after her death.

It wasn't till the 4th of June, 1892 that I had seen, at the base of the doll's glass case, a rat! No bigger than 4 inches long and a mangy, skinny little thing. It appeared to be starving and helplessly clawing for food at the glass case; possibly smelling the decaying cloth and mistaking it for some kind of food.

The thing was no matter at the time: simply a small vermin and nothing more. All I should have to do was sick my darling cat, Gracey, upon the dirty little thing.

Thankfully, Gracey had always been at my feet and under my desk while I wrote. I scratched the carpet next to him on the floor to lure him out of his napping place and get him to catch attention of the rat.

"Get him, Gracey." I said to him quietly, so not to disturb the vermin.

Slowly, Gracey inched toward the rat and pounced at the wretched thing. Gracey had caught the dirty creature between her jaws and snapped it's fragile neck.

"Good, cat!" I said as Gracey walked out of the room to eat her small trophy.

That night I slept in my room, next to my wife, as I always did; Gracey at our feet sleeping

as sound as cats tend to do.

However, sleep did not come easily. I was rather stressed about the current essay I had been writing and meeting the deadline within the next couple of days. I do feel that I was prepared at the time and could have gotten it finished in that period of time; but stress and worry was getting the best of me for no reason as it often does. And so, being incapable of sleep I left for my office; not write, but to paint.

Painting was one of my few late-night activities that I enjoyed and would do it quite often. It did help quite a bit in relieving stress and clearing my head. So I turned on the lamp in my office, got out my brushes and paint, and uncovered the canvas, revealing the vibrant paint and colors of a vase filled with bright sunflowers.

As I began painting I slowly felt the weight of stress and worry lift itself from my shoulders. The bright yellows and greens on the canvas filling my eyes and staining my hands is all I could feel or care about at the time; the essay did not exist and neither did the rest of world around me. It felt good.

But it was at this time, that a faint scratching sound had interrupted my concentration.

Gracey, I thought, that confounded cat.

I shook my head smiling, and started to return my painting when I heard it again; only this time it was more rhythmic.

Scratch scratch... scratch scratch scratch... scratch scratch... scratch scratch scratch...

"Gracey!" I called out the open door of my office.

Only silence.

"Gracey!" I called again, more demanding in my voice.

Scratch scratch... scratch scratch scratch...

I looked down to see a rat, at the bottom of the doll's case, scratching at the glass.

"Wretched thing!" I shouted in frustration, "Shoo, shoo!" I cried as I walked toward the awful little thing. It darted for the door before I could within 3 feet of it and was gone.

"Blasted thing!" I grumbled to myself.

"Edgar?" shouted my wife from hall.

"In the office, Annabelle," I called  back to her.

Through the door Annabelle walked, rubbing her eyes and adjusting them to the light.

"I heard shouting," she said worryingly.

"Oh nothing of mind, dear. Just a rat. Spooked me a bit I suppose," I said, resuming my painting.

"A rat?" Annabelle exclaimed, "Shall I call the exterminator in the morning?"

"No need," I said "Only a single rat. Not more than enough for Gracey to handle."

"Come back to bed, Edgar. All this talk of rats in the dark is giving me the frights," she said.

"Yes, dear," I said willingly, "go on without me, I'll be be there in a moment. Just need to cover this back up."

Annabelle turned and shuffled tiredly back to our room and I covered the canvas and turned out my lamp.

The next day, Annabelle left to visit family in Ireland. She'd be gone 2 weeks and I'd be home alone to work and relax on my own; with the company of Gracey of course. Annabelle left in the early morning and we said our goodbyes.

I returned up to my office and began writing when Annabelle was gone; finally able to write in full concentration. With the deadline now only a day away I had to burn through and work as hard and fast as possible. Sure, it wouldn't be to hard and I've done it before, but it was very stressful and there would be no painting between it to calm my nerves.

After a few hours of writing and straining my mind beyond its usual limits I decided it was about time for a deserved break (although I really couldn't afford it). I leaned back in my chair and stretched out. I leaned my head back and gave my eyes a quick rest.

It was then that Gracey entered the room; walking through the doorway and along the wall. This was the first time that I had noticed how Gracey avoided the encased doll. She would walk around it, a full foot between her and the doll, staring at it the entire time before returning to the walk's edge.

But, why? Why would she avoid the doll when the rats seemed to be so attracted to it? It made simply no sense in my mind.

Honestly, the entire thought of the doll made little to no sense to me. The more I thought about and noticed the doll, the more sinister and strange it seemed. Its decrepit and gaunt form was like an ill and sickly child. It's raggedy old clothes resembled those worn by a homeless vagrant. It had begun to make me very uncomfortable.

That night I was awoken by the sound of scratching. In my rational thinking I knew it was nothing more than a rat, however, the back of mind was soaring with horrible visions of horrid pale creatures with large teeth and oily skin. So I got out of bed with my candle to investigate; or rather to clear my very irrational fear.

However, what I discovered at the end of my hallway, was a truly terrible sight: My cat, Gracey, was laying on the ground half mutilated, her soft white fur soaking wet with blood and matted in grime.

I dropped my candle in horror as I looked down at my once living cat.  I dropped to my knees and cried as the candle's light burned away and I was consumed by the darkness around me. I cried for, Gracey. She was my only friend other than Annabelle and I had had her since she was a kitten.

It was then that I noticed the small trail of blood that led from Gracey's body and down the hall. I wiped the tears from my eyes and got up to my feet. The trail was like tiny small footprints: a fleet of small feet. When I had finally mustered up the courage I followed the terrible trail.

The trail led down the hallway and into my office. At the base of the doll's horrid case, was a writhing mass of black bodies; twisted together and climbing over one another. Even in the lack of light and utter darkness I could tell what the foul things were: Rats!

I was enraged. I ran fullforce at the terrible mass of things, frightening away some. The rats that stayed bit and clawed away at my bare feet while being crushed beneath them. I stomped down on the ground, killing any rat who dared to stay, before turning my attention to the glass case holding grandmother's doll.

I smashed the glass case to the ground and shattered it. I grabbed the awful doll in my hands.

"Foul thing!" I screamed, "You and your damned, rats!"

I grabbed my essay and matches off the table and left the room with the doll and stormed through the halls like a wild and enraged animal. I entered the living room and threw the horrid doll into the fireplace. I threw my essay on top of it and lit a match. I dropped the match down onto the doll and papers, burning it then and there.

I watched the horrible thing's burlap skin burn away and it's button eyes melt. It's yarn hair sizzled away into nothing and it's denim overalls smoked away. Watching the infernal doll burn away was like having an iron weight lifted from my shoulders.

I fell asleep in front of the fire that night and buried Gracey the next day. I did cry again for Gracey, but it felt better knowing that the doll was gone. I sat on her grave that day beneath the wild oak tree remembering her.

Then my arm itched. I scratched it... it felt like burlap...