“I really need this.”
The woman, large in features, voice, mannerisms and choice of language, held the package containing the ‘design your own doll’ in her hands. Sheldon Ferman, proprietor and owner of a tiny, neat shop of needful items almost felt sorry for her.
Almost. He’d seen her kind, both male and female, before.
“It’s this person in my neighborhood, you see.” The customer was telling a story that had been shared for countless centuries. And Sheldon had heard them all. Stories of hatred, blood-lust, ignorance, and envy. And this particular tale had trace elements of all four.
“I’m not going to tell you my name,” The customer said, her eyes shining with vindictiveness, like gray-blue pools of stagnant water. “Cause, if this works, someone is going to be dead.” She paused, savoring the thought in a mind that was obviously decorated with vicious hallways of hatred. “But not until I’ve had a little fun.”
Because he knew the woman needed to, Sheldon let her talk. It was clear that she was the type, as large as she was, and as aggressive and dominant, who was rarely listened to. She was instead, only tolerated, and barely that. Sheldon, with his centuries of work experience in this unfortunately necessary area, could, after only a few minutes of listening, tell the woman more about herself than perhaps she knew–or would believe.
Sheldon considered her artfully. She was either the victim or the bully. The abused or the abuser. Either her parents hated her or loved her too much. She grew up in domestic violence, incest, cruelty and shame. The police were often at her door to break up the latest family tragedy. She was the sick one, overprotected; or she was the well one ignored in favor of a puny sibling. She married young to get away, or not at all, keeping that part of herself in bitter withholding from men who might have loved her.
Perhaps she had tried love with women, rejected it, returned to men. Both sexes rejected or abused her. Something changed deep down in a decaying soul. No longer the victim, she began to victimize. Her targets were the sweet, the passive, the deeply religious or the meek. She developed a mean right hook. She took a helping job as a nurse, a social worker, or a teacher, claiming she loved people. However she mostly loved to control them. Faces swam before Sheldon, of this woman’s victims, children, the elderly, the handicapped, and now there was this neighbor, a simpering little saint who did not back down.
In a mix of lust and rage, the customer felt like a victim all over again. Failure to get her needs met was a form of abuse, wasnt it? And so, to get her way, she came to visit Sheldon. Just like they all did.
“So, do you think I’m wrong?” The woman’s voice got soft, supplicating, wheedling. So badly needing affirmation, squeezing the now owned doll in its package unmercifully. Before Sheldon could reply, the soft voice was replaced by a raspy, almost masculine tone. “Damn straight it isn’t. The bitch needs to die!”
Sheldon watched her turn on one ungainly foot and thought of a German storm-trouper. He’d sold his wares to them, too. But had just as quickly sold items to the Allies. They always had came to him. In the eons that he had been in business, he’d never had to advertise.
Sheldon tucked the 100 dollars and change into the cash register and calmly waited for the next customer. They would come. They always did.
The woman customer, whose name was actually Edith Scott, got to her tiny duplex about ten minutes later. She could hardly wait. It was time to get to business, and what a business it would be! All this time, daydreaming of vengeance! Now to see the fevered fantasies that had filled her every waking hour come to fruition!
Edith was a machinist in a local factory. The work kept her frame from running strictly to fat. She was formidable and knew how to use her size to intimidate the meek. She enjoyed it. Yet, this Sonya Yelverton, this mousy little pipsqueak refused to be intimidated.
Oh, at first she was quite the lovely target. Every time Sonya spoke in a shared place–the corner market, the laundry-mat, the Catholic parrish which they shared, Edith had a devastating come-back meant to make Sonya feel and look the fool.
Edith, everything that Sheldon had surmised and more, saw the conflict with Sonya in the most concrete of terms. She was in charge, and her neighborhood trembled at the sight of her. No one controlled her–she controlled them. And that was the way it was going to stay.
Sonya, sweet, rosy-cheeked and plump, of short stature and quite popular with kids and older folk tried to stay out of Edith’s line of fire at first. Finally, Sonya got angry. She’d heard all about Edith, how she went about the neighborhood like it was her own private fiefdom, causing trouble, making explicit sexual passes at women she wanted, and occasionally men. Punishing those who resisted.
Edith had turned over Sonya’s garbage on several occasions and put raw meat on top of it to attract feral dogs, She then contacted the landlord and demanded that Sonya be evicted. When this only caused paperwork and exasperation for Sonya, Edith repeated it and called the Health Department, then the police. Always the ‘concerned’ neighbor, always anonymous.
But Sonya, to her surprise, had some iron underneath her wimpy persona. A single mother of one, she could speak rather forcefully and eloquently for herself. Her explanations to the landlord, health department, and police not only got her out of hot water, but won her friends in all three areas.
The more Edith tried to cause trouble for her, the more popular Sonya became. Edith had long daydreamed of pulling Sonya to her in a possessive embrace, forcing her attentions on her, and then happily crushing her weak bones to gruesome bits. Anyone that positive, nice and yielding could be no more than a weakling. And weaklings were made for crushing, thought Edith.
Only, Sonya seemed to stumble, never fall. The idea electrified Edith with fury. It engorged her more than the food she constantly stuffed in her large mouth. There was only one solution now. And it did not matter what happened to the 4 year old child Sonya had bourne. Edith didn’t think that far ahead. Social Services could have it–this wasn’t about the brat anyway. This was war, and Edith was going to win. Sonya had to go.
Sonya rightly recognized that Edith was her enemy, and for a time, Sonya tried to reason with her. But finally, some primitive instinct told Sonya that it was useless. There was a mean hunger about the way Edith raked her eyes over Sonya, something primal. Edith was something like the leader of a gang in a woman’s prison block. It was about domination. Either win or lose. Sonya saw that clearly.
When Edith had done something new to embarrass, humiliate or get her in trouble with the local authorities, Sonya would turn to her quiet garden where she read her bible and prayed. Peace came to her there. More and more, when she was not at work or at worship, it became her retreat.
Back at the shop, which conveniently had whatever name the customer wanted it to have, and looked anyway they wanted to perceive it, Sheldon jerked up quickly from a deep nap. He saw, as clearly as if he were in the garden, Sonya in prayer. He saw her fingers touching rosary beads. And what, what was that? Praying for the woman who had come to his shop to purchase a voodoo doll?
His features briefly darkened. Sheldon disliked most humans, feeling them unworthy of creation. However, this Sonya, he especially disliked her type. If it came down to who should win this particular battle, Edith more resembled him than Sonya. Sheldon was rooting for Edith. He smiled widely, cleared his throat, and went back to his nap.
Edith almost lovingly removed the doll from the package. It was simple, feature-less with no hair. Just a burlap head on a burlap body, like a rag doll ready to decorate. And Edith was ready to do that. She taken bags of garbage from Sonya’s cans for weeks, poring through them for just the right objects. A broken brush with strands of Sonya’s blonde hair. An old sweater with a hole in it. Worn out shoes. A discarded lipstick and mascara. Perfect.
The directions came, as all modern ones did, in several languages. Edith was able to see that two of the languages were French and Spanish. Another language was stubbornly unrecognizable. It looked very ancient. If Edith stared at it long enough some of the words seemed to be discernible. Something about a “just battle” and “no guarantee?”
Well, that was fine, Edith thought. Hers was a just battle, and she’d take her chances. The little twerp wasn’t worth prison and if the occultist experiment worked, who could blame her? If it failed, Edith knew she would have to satisfy herself with petty torments until she drove Sonya and her perky attitude out of the neighborhood. Or at least replaced the smile that was habitually on Sonya’s face with a mask of grimness that matched Edith’s own.
Using the tiny tube of glue included in the box, Edith carefully glued tuffs of Sonya’s hair to the top of the doll’s head. Cut a tiny piece of the sweater and secured it to the chest of the doll. Tiny bit of worn leather from the shoes to the doll’s feet. With the cosmetics made a carefully drawn mouth and eyes. Then, there were the words. Strange words, perhaps not uttered in centuries. Edith studied them for some time before uttering them. “Erstanil, Peckporath, Doanil, Erstance!”
It was done.
The instructions said to wait 23 hours and 43 minutes to allow the doll to absorb some of the soul of the intended prey. Though impatient and hungry to get started, Edith forced herself to wait. Besides, she had to work. The day was long and difficult, and she nearly cut off her hand due to inattention at one point. Her mind was full of the pleasures she would have with the doll (and with Sonya) when the time came.
7:29 p.m. Edith sat in her dank, dimly lit kitchen and held the doll. Beside her, there were needles, and a sharp knife. There was also a plastic ice cream container full of hot water.
Sonya was in her garden. She was reading Psalms. About the wicked who lie in wait for others. And how they fell into graves that they dug for their prey. Edith’s face popped into her mind. Sonya closed her eyes.
She was in a cool valley, with an ancient well. A hooded individual beckoned to her, and she came up to him. Inside the hood there was no face. Sonya was not afraid, however. “Erstanil, Peckprath, Doanil, Erstance” the faceless figure said. Sonya realized he wanted her to repeat the words. She did.
She awoke in her small garden, feeling rested and secure.
Sheldon, in his shop, sprang from his chair, the mask of the genial old man brieifly dropping and a more ancient, poisonous set of features visible. A cry of unfathomable pain and fury came from his lips. “No!” He screamed.
Then he and the little shop vanished from sight.
Edith was enjoying herself. She had poked the dolls arms countless times with the needles. She had made several shallow cuts to the material on the arms and legs. Enough to cause bleeding and suffering, but nothing more. She imagined Sonya, writhing in agony, bleeding, wounds opening up before her, but unable to explain the cause. The fear, the anxiety. In minds eye, Edith could imagine Sonya screaming.
The thought of Sonya suffering caused nearly orgasmic excitement within Edith’s great body. Sonya couldn’t stop any of this now. She couldn’t talk sweetly out of any of it. Edith was in control.
Now, it was time. Edith, with mean joy, picked up the doll and began to slowly lower it into the hot water. Oh, how she wished she could be there. To see her foe drown, slowly, without a drop of water in sight!
Then, Edith felt a tiny pain in her foot. Something very subtle like when she ran into something in the dark. Now, more of the pains, though not tiny. Growing in intensity, burning. Edith looked down, and to her horror she saw her skin opening up before her. Blood, so much blood!! And now, a choking feeling. What was happening?
Edith got up, forgetting the doll which sank to the bottom of the container. She ran into the bathroom, the floor becoming slick with her blood. She saw that somehow, the tub had been drawn, full now of steaming water. Who had done this? Then, she remembered, she had planned to use the tub, not the bucket to drown the doll. But why was she bleeding? Why was she in agony?
Edith began to choke, gag, gasp. She’d almost drowned at the beach once, as a child. Her father had rescued her. But in the moments before he’d gotten to her, the water had seemed to assault her, fill her up in ways that were worse than taunting or even molestation. Only this seemed to go on and on. Slipping on her own blood, she fell backwards into the tub.
As she struggled to get out, she saw the doll on the floor. It no longer looked like the doll she’d put to torture moments before. And in the moments before the tubs water covered her eyes and ended her life, Edith understood.
When Edith did not report to work for three days, police were sent to her duplex to do a safety check. They found her, quite dead, submerged in a bloody tub. Her body full of puncture and slicing wounds. Her eyes open in abject terror. A renowned Detective, Ted Greene, looked around at the crime scene, shaking his head. He thought he’d seen everything, but nothing like this.
He carefully picked up a little burlap doll that was sitting on the tub next to her. “What the hell?” He asked out loud.
Seth Allen, a new police officer with an interest in the occult, came up and looked at the object. “It looks like a voodoo doll. Looks just like the deceased. But why would someone go to so much trouble? Most dolls are just like rag dolls without features. People just put something that belongs to the person they want to harm on it…”
Det. Greene shook his head. “Yeah, I don’t know….wait here’s something. Instructions. “Only to be used in just battle.” Just battle? What does that mean? Oh, there’s more. “There is no guarantee to whom the spoils of battle will come.”
If Edith or Sheldon could have spoke, in the far off regions of eternal torment, they would have agreed.