The Dolls' House.
Copyright 2013, 2018 by Raymond Johnson. Fourth edition.
Cover photo provided by Sam Burt. (

Dedicated to everyone at the forums for giving me tips on writing soft horror.

"In my childhood, elves and fairies of all sorts were very real things, and my dolls were as really children as I was myself a child." - Annie Besant.

While up to her neck in debt a woman finds herself in a quandary about what to do until her daughter suggests that they should make repairs to the old dolls' house in the shed and spend time together playing with dolls. However, the woman doesn't have any children and soon realises the dolls will be created from her very soul.

This story is classified as a light horror, more mysterious than frightening, with the main focus upon the strange child.




Chapter 1 - Self Shame

In my own way I was successful, or so I thought. I never wanted for much, just a simple life, an undemanding career and a reasonable amount to savings for my old age, that's all I sought. It wasn't unreasonable and I was living well within my means. However I wasn't immune to the effects of the worldwide economy crisis and my reasonably paid job, as a librarian, had been badly hit. No longer was I required to work six full days per week, I was only working four and on a part time basis. It wasn't long before bills started piling up and I grew increasingly in debt.

Every day was just one money crisis followed by another, and every day I found myself having to cut back on my expenses. I couldn't even afford to heat my small one bedroom apartment and spent the evening shivering under a blanket. I wasn't eating properly either and often skipped meals causing my belly to rumble at work, which sounded all the louder in the near silent library.

I couldn't afford to go out and socialise with friends. Instead I constantly made up an excuse which caused them to think I no longer liked them, but better they thought that than know the real truth of my spiral of debt. The shame was too much to bear and I dreaded to think what they would have thought of me if I told them.

During one bitterly cold day, I decided to sit down and sort out my finances, while my tummy twinged wanting so much to be filled. I sat down at home, hunched over a desk, with a thick blanket covering my shoulders. Then with a pen wrote down on a blank sheet of paper all of my outgoings as well as my income. I worked out the bare minimum needed for food and comfort, as well as the amount needed for bills including the arrears.

I was pleased when I realised there was just enough spare, and I was able to play off the arrears too, so long as I never waned from my minimum expenditure.

However my pleasure was short lived when I realised how long it was going to take. I was going to have to live on the breadline for another six years before the arrears I owed was paid off, even then I was still going to remain relatively poor. Six years was going to seem like an eternity especially keeping the deep feeling of shame secret from my friends. I wondered if I would still have any after the time had passed.


Chapter 2 - My Daughter's Wish

It finally reached the stage where I spent every moment of my free time in bed. It was a good way to keep warm and to keep my mind off food, but it also acted as a constant reminder of my predicament. I forced myself to sleep for as long as I could trying to relax my turbulent mind, but it was a losing battle and I spent most of the night wide awake staring into darkness.

"Hush little baby don't say a word," I sang to myself in a sweet tone, "Mummy's going to buy you a..."

I couldn't finish the lullaby and closed my eyes tightly as tears forced their way out between my eyelids. I took a large breath and let out a heavy sigh.

"Mummy's going to buy you a..." I repeated the line still unable to finish it.

It took a long time, many hours in fact, but I did eventually fall asleep where I found myself ecstatically happy within a most usual dream.

There was happy laugher all around as I span on the spot in the garden while dancing on the lawn in my bare feet. The icy air of the winter night ate through my nightdress but it didn't bother me, in fact it felt pleasant and refreshed my senses. Each inhale of breath cleared my mind while each exhale let out a warming mist that moistened my cold lips. The warm tears that had formed earlier were now frozen to my cheeks forming small icicles beneath my eyes.

"... a mockingbird," I said in a childish tone of voice.

I appeared to be a young girl, around the age of ten, but I knew it wasn't me whose body I presently occupied. I was my own daughter, yet I didn't have any children in reality. The dream was one of total fantasy and I, and my daughter, were the same person. We were both filled with bliss as we continued to dance, spinning on the spot, while laughing in unison with a singular voice.

"I love you mummy," I said.

"I love you too," I immediately replied.

As I looked around we realised we were in the communal garden of the apartment block yet no one within the dream world had yet to take notice.

Smiling brightly I continued to dance allowing the freezing night's air eat through my nightdress while the cold moist grass tickled the underside of my feet. My frozen tears flaked away as I span on the spot within blissful joy.

Suddenly my body then stopped dancing as my daughter took over and remained still as though in shock. Her eyes dilated whilst staring ahead.

"What's wrong?" I asked within a loud whisper.

"I'm worried about the future," she replied as her voice trembled.

I instantly hugged myself which in turn meant I was also hugging her while the frozen tears upon my cheeks began to reform.

"There's no need to worry yourself," I responded, "I've sorted everything out. We're going to be fine."

The sense of shame filled me once more. How could I have let a child worry about such matters? I should have protected her. I needed to carry the burden alone and shield her from all forms of distress.

"I want it to be how it used to," she said with her voice quivering ready to burst into tears at any moment.

"Oh, it will be, it will, I promise," I said whilst hugging myself tightly trying to squeeze the promise into my body.

"But you're worrying all the time and having no fun," my daughter said, "We used to play."

I continued with our embrace holding myself, and therefore her, tightly.

"You're right," I said trying to ease her distress, "From now on I'm going to set aside some time each day for play."

My daughter parted from our hug and continued dancing around the garden while smiling ecstatically causing my frozen tears to disperse.

"Really?" She said, "Is it a true promise that you will keep forever and ever?"

"Yes, it's a true promise," I replied.

"I'm so happy!" She shouted while spinning on the spot waving her arms into the air.

We both danced merrily with joy ignoring the icy cold breeze that blew up our shared nightdress the material of which had frozen resembling cardboard.

"Do you remember when we used to play dolls?" My daughter asked.

"I certainly do," I replied.

"Do you still have them?" She asked in a happy tone, "And the dollhouse too?"

I stopped dancing for a moment to think. The dolls' house from my childhood had been made by my father who not long later had passed away. It was one of my most treasured possessions but was far from looking its best. As for the dolls themselves they were long since lost.

"I still have the dolls' house in the shed," I replied, "But the dolls are gone I'm afraid."

"That's not a problem we ourselves can be the dolls," my daughter responded.

In practically an instant she rushed into the apartment and up the stairs collecting the shed key before hurrying back outside. I couldn't believe how swiftly she moved or if in fact I imagined the entire thing, but within the dream world everything was possible.


Chapter 3 - Realisation

The winter sunshine peeked its way through the curtain into my face causing me to wake. I couldn't believe it was already morning for the night had passed so quickly. The little heat coming from the sun warmed my face while the rest of my body felt as though it was caked in ice.

I let out a yawn while stretching my body. It was time to get ready for work. My mood was one of happiness, and at the time I wasn't sure why. I felt as though something had changed for the better during the night.

The moment I flicked away my blanket I stared at my body with total disbelief and shock. The hem of my nightdress was dirty along with my feet that were coated with dried mud. There were footprints too leading across the bedroom floor.

In a flash the memory of my dream came flooding back. Could it be that I had really been outside having some kind of waking dream? Had I been sleepwalking? My heart started pounding with fear. It was never something that had happened to me before and I felt I was turning crazy.

I took long deep breaths before stepping out of bed and walking over to the bedroom door. The footprints originated from the open door of my apartment so it was clear they were mine and I had in fact been outside during the night.

My alarm clock suddenly started ringing causing me to practically jump out of my skin. I hurried over to it and switched it off then sat in silence trying to make sense of what had happened. It was clearly the stress of debt that had gotten to me and I was going to have to lock my apartment door in future, placing the key out of my own reach if that was possible.

I smiled to myself as I recalled the events of the dream. Did I really want to play with a stupid old dolls' house that had been falling apart after so many years? I only kept it out of nostalgia and as a reminder of my father, but my childhood was behind me and I had the future to think about. Playing with toys was the last thing I wanted to do while up to my neck in debt.

I hurried out of the bedroom and onto the bathroom scrubbing my bare feet with a strong urge to wash away the events of the night hoping they would never repeat themselves.


Chapter 4 - Cleaning

The events of the previous night were surely just a one off, I thought to myself, but just to be on the safe side I made sure to lock the apartment door and place the key inside the fridge out of reach of my sleepwalking body. I had already gotten into bed, soon after returning home from work, and was readying myself for a relaxing night. However, it didn't take very long before I was fast asleep and thrown into yet another strange dream.

Everything was spinning around me while I tried my best to remain upright, but it wasn't long before I took a tumble and fell flat on my face against the wooden floor. I started crying.

"Mummy!" I called out.

"I'm here, I'm here!" I quickly replied before hugging myself tightly and continuing to sob.

"I... I fell over," I said between breaths.

"Don't worry I'm here now," I responded with comforting words while stroking my own back.

It was clear that I and my own daughter were the same person again, and I was experiencing yet another dream. Glancing my eyes around to see where we were it appeared that the walls of the building we occupied were made of wood, causing me to feel relief that we weren't outside where someone could witness my sleepwalking body. However I couldn't fathom as to where we could possibly be within my own apartment.

My daughter sniffed and stood up before wiping her nose against the sleeve of my nightdress, or was it her own nightdress, it was confusing.

"I'm okay now mummy," she said in a most odd monotone voice.

"I'm glad you're okay," I responded.

She looked around the wooden room and up at the ceiling. There were spider webs in the corners as well as stains of mould. My daughter's expression appeared confused as though she was just as puzzled as to our location as myself.

"This shouldn't be like this," she said, "This used to be a beautiful place full of happiness and laughter. Why does it look like this?"

I continued glancing my eyes around the wooden walls trying to gauge where we were. A strong smell of dampness filled the air.

"I don't know where we are," I replied hoping that she may offer some clue.

"This is our happy home," my daughter quickly responded in a sudden change to a cheery tone of voice, "And it looks like it's in much need of a spring clean."

She smiled brightly before taking hold of me and dancing around with merriment and laughter. I couldn't help but join in and laugh alongside.

"It needs more than a spring clean," I said happily between chuckles, "It needs total renovation, and could do with some wallpaper too, and carpets, not to mention furniture."

"We can do all that," my daughter said as we danced.

Within a flash a broom magically appeared within my hand while sparkles of light hovered around its bristles. I started sweeping the wooden floor while my daughter whistled a happy tune.

"We'll get this place spruce and shipshape in no time," I said.

I was surprised at how fast I had swept the floor, it felt as though I had taken no more than two sweeps of the broom to rid the entire floor of dust. My pleasure exploded in a cry of joy causing my daughter to stop whistling and join in with a cheer of happiness.

"Yay!" She screamed out.

I looked up at the spider webs in the corners of the room. The broom handle was long and it would prove no problem to simply brush them away as I had done with the dust on the floor so I raised the broom and began brushing.

My daughter continued to whistle a happy tune, as she had done before, while I made good progress brushing the webs from all the corners of the room.

"Dum, de dum, de dum," I sang alongside the sounds of my daughter's whistling.

It must have been at least five seconds before I noticed the whistling had stopped causing me to desist my happy song. Something was clearly wrong so I lowered the broom and turned around.

"Stay absolutely still mummy," my daughter said slowly with a very serious tone of voice, "Do not move a muscle."

It took me a moment to see it but from within the corner of my eye I saw the creepy movement of eight legs shambling across the wall. My heart pounded as I very gradually turned my head and faced the huge spider. I was at least twice the size of my head. For a few moments both I and the spider stared at one another waiting for one of us to react. It then ran towards me.

In a flash I was awake and found myself to be standing in the garden shed, wearing nothing but my nightdress, while leaning over my old dolls' house. The only light came from a small flickering candle that lit the inside of the house revealing a very small money spider. Instinctively, in order to protect my daughter, I squished the spider with my finger.


Chapter 5 - DIY

The ghastly remains of the spider were still there, and all the more clearer, when I suddenly re-entered the dream. The blood, guts and entrails were spread over the wooden floor causing me to drop to my knees and pant heavily while trying my best to force back my urge to vomit.

I was doing well and with each deep breath I felt much better, but as soon as my daughter joined me, sharing my body, she lost all control and puked all over the clean floor.

"Ohhh, I'm so sorry mummy," she said before letting out another spurt of projectile vomit.

I had to wait for her to stop before I could respond.

"It's okay," I said calmly, "I'll clear it up, as well as the spider's remains. It'll be fine."

"Thank you mummy," she said.

I stood up and wiped my chin. Suddenly a bucket of warm water and a mop miraculously appeared beside me. I immediately started cleaning the floor filling the air with the scent of lemon bleach.

"Dum, de, dum de dum," I started to sing putting my daughter at ease who immediately responded by whistling again.

There was something niggling in the back of my mind that I wanted to ask my daughter but I wasn't sure if she would know the answer anyway. There was something different to the dream I was currently having than the last one. I was sure the dolls' house felt cooler than before as though it was a colder night. Also the spider's insides were fairly dry, causing me some fair effort as I mopped them up, making me suspicious as to how much time had actually passed since I had killed it. Was this really another waking dream taking place directly after the previous or was this in fact another day? I couldn't tell. If it was the following night then why had I forgotten the events of my day?

"Mummy?" My daughter called out.

"Yes dear," I replied while still mopping the floor.

"Stop thinking too much please," she said calmly.

I turned to face her, which made no sense because of our shared body, then smiled brightly. She responded in the same fashion.

"Okay sweetie," I said.

My daughter looked up at the ceiling causing me to do the same just in case there was another spider on the prowl. Luckily she wasn't looking for that reason.

"I think the ceiling would look good in white," she said while slowly stroking her chin, "And maybe the walls could have striped wallpaper."

"Yes, I agree," I said, "And a nice fluffy brown carpet."

"Do you have anything we can use?" My daughter asked.

I continued gazing my eyes around the wooden walls and ceiling whilst in thought. I clearly didn't have the money to purchase anything new so we were going to have to make do with what I already had.

"Erm," I said, "I think there may be an old tin of white paint with a little left over still in it. I'm not sure about a brush though so we may have to apply it using a different method. As for paper I have plenty and we can use felt tip pens to paint on the stripes."

A tingle shot down my spine as I grew increasingly excited at the thought of decorating the dolls' house. It was like I was reliving my childhood again.

My daughter had a happy grin upon her face.

"When can we start?" She asked.

"Well there's no time like the present," I replied as I clicked my fingers and woke myself up.

I found myself to be standing inside the garden shed once more leaning over the tatty old dolls' house in the middle of the night. For a moment I half expected my daughter to still be standing there looking up at me, but knew that wasn't possible.

With only candlelight to see I retrieved one of the half empty tins of paint from the shelf and prised it open using a screwdriver. I then wondered how to apply it, I was going to need some tissues from my apartment.

In nothing but my nightdress I left the garden shed with the intention of retrieving the tissues as well as some sheets of paper and felt tip pens, however it was then that I noticed the snow upon the lawn as I trampled across it in my bare feet. It certainly hadn't been cold enough for snow and my suspicions increased as to how long I had been within my waking dream.


Chapter 6 - A Very Fine House

Imaginary music filled the air as me and my daughter danced with happiness. Joy filled our hearts while our smiles shared our feelings. It was the happiest moment of my entire life and I wished it would never end.

It seemed to have taken next to no time to decorate the entire dolls' house restoring it to its original glory and I was sure my father would have been proud if he had seen it. We had even created furniture out of odds and ends I found laying around my apartment. The centre of the dolls' house adorned a large dining table with two chairs either side, made of a cotton reel, two matchboxes and a lid from a tub of butter. We had even created a staircase, from a piece of cardboard, leading up to another floor above.

Our dolls' house was finally complete with the only thing amiss being the dolls themselves. But they weren't really necessary due to myself and my daughter taking on that role ourselves.

"You're the best mummy in the whole world," my daughter said with joy, "You really do love me."

I smiled brightly.

"Yes I do love you," I said while resting my palm against the centre of my chest, "With all my heart and soul."

My daughter gazed her eyes around at the wonderful spectacle of the beautifully decorated house. The soft brown carpet had been torn from the front doormat of my apartment trimmed down with scissors.

"You've no need to fear the future," my daughter said calmly, "You have proved your worth and can now get on with your life."

I stopped dancing and stared at her.

"But I want to stay and live here with you," I said.

My daughter looked solemn.

"Don't worry," she said, "I'll always be here whenever you need me. You can now get on with your real life knowing that this place is here whenever you feel down or need to have some fun. You can even share this dollhouse with your real daughter one day."

"But I still need you!" I pleaded with my daughter wanting to stay for a least a while longer.

"The six years are up and you're out of debt," she said as she approached me.

"But... how?" I asked.

She put her arms around me and whispered goodbye. I awoke to find myself in the garden shed hugging myself while birds sang outside on a bright summer morning and the memories of my real life came flooding back.



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