You feel it closing in all around you. It’s down the hallway with the slanted floorboards with their warped bulbs of hardwood. You can feel it as you jiggle the handle of the doors to your daughter’s room and it jiggles in your hand like a loose tooth. There it is, all around her.
Your daughter is the picture of innocence, rocking in a tiny chair, hugging her Barbie close. You think of the way she cried when she brought Barbie into the bath and the doll’s hair clumped and pulled off at the scalp when she tried to brush it and how happy she was when you spent the next week switching that Barbie out for other’s with more hair so your daughter thought that Barbie’s hair was growing back. When you looked again, the original’s hair was longer and fuller, and the others bald. You didn’t tell your daughter, but you switched it back.
How could this thing be in her?
But as you get close you feel the air around your daughter and it’s cold, like stepping into a freezer on a summer day.
You rip the Barbie out of her hand. She cries out. You tell her this is for her own good, and see the tears in her eyes. She is too young to understand. You snap the doll over your knee, and for a second you believe your daughter is safe.
There’s a static in the way it comes out of the Barbie into you. It adjusts to its new home, in a way that you never adjusted to yours. It is you now.
Ryan C. Bradley has previously published fiction in The Gothic Blue Book V, apt, Pinball, and others. His nonfiction regularly appears in Wicked Horror, Dread Central, and Diabolique. In 2015, he won the 2015 JP Reads Flash Fiction Contest. His first novel, Friday the Furteenth, is being serialized at Channillo.com. You can learn more about him at https://ryancbradleyblog.wordpress.com/.