De Bianchi Manor resembled the head of a concrete giant buried up to its chin in the center of acres upon acres of manicured lawn. It had two round windows for eyeballs, and its porch was a hungry mouth with columnar fangs.
Mom stopped the car in the De Bianchi’s circular driveway, but I didn’t step out.
“Having second thoughts about the sleepover?” There was hope in Mom’s voice.
“Nah,” I said, “just thinking that Natalia’s house looks hungry.”
“Wave at me from the left eyeball, so I know the maw didn’t chomp you.” Mom’s tone was a mixture of creepy and dreamy.
“What?” I turned on my seat to look at her.
“It is…” She shook her head. “It was something Dakota used to say.”
I wanted to ask for details, but Halloween wasn’t a good time to ask Mom about the girl who had been her best friend before I was born. That would only make her act more afraid for me, and guiltier about the past. My mom and Dakota were supposed to go to a Halloween party, but Mom fell asleep and stood her up. Dakota was killed in a car accident on the way home. Mom has always said that things would have been different if she had been with her best friend that night.
I leaned over and kissed Mom’s cheek. “Tomorrow at ten?” I said.
“Unless you would rather come back home now, and…” Mom closed her eyes, sucked in some air and let it out loudly. “I blow at this. Sorry, Blake. Go have fun. Your dad and I will celebrate, too.”
“It will be all right, Mom, I won’t vanish.” The last word was still hot in my mouth when I realized my mistake. She turned away to hide the tears, but I could see her reflection on the car window. “Mom, I didn’t—”
“Look.” She cut me off. “Dax is here.” When Mom turned to look at me, the tears were gone. “Take pictures. Lots of them.” She kissed my temple.
I hugged her, grabbed my overnight bag and got out of the car.
Mom drove away. She waved at Dax and blew the horn a couple of times as she went by him.
Dax did a little dance and waved back. “Are you ready to party until I drop, sister friend?” he said.
I laughed. “You are a lying piece of man-goof, Dax Wilson. I hope you don’t think Mom really believes you’re gay.”
“Your mom’s too awesome to be blind or stupid,” he said, heading towards the front door.
Since we were kids, Dax had hung out with the girls. He had great taste in clothes, wore his hair long and perfect, danced like a professional, and loved to paint his fingernails red and black. Most parents and half our high school assumed he was gay. He was the only guy invited to every girl’s slumber party. Dax was also my best friend.
He lifted a hand to ring the doorbell, but stopped at the sight of a note nailed next to the button: You enter my dwelling of your own free will. Walk up to the third floor. I wait in the attic.
“Natalia de Bianchi de weird,” I said.
“I think it’s called eccentricity when they’re drowning in this much money,” Dax said. “Besides, it’s Halloween. Natalia’s setting the mood.”
“You still want to get in her pants.” I laughed.
“Minute details.” Dax opened the door.
We got in. The foyer was quiet and dark. Dax and I walked through the house holding hands until we reached a spiral stairwell at the end of the living room.
“After you,” Dax said.
“A liar, a coward, and a gentleman.” I began walking up the stairs, slowing down when I reached the attic.
Dax ran into me. “Oh,” he said.
“Yes,” I nodded, slowly. “Oh about covers it.”
I knew about the doll collection at De Bianchi Manor, but I had never seen it before. Dax and I were standing at the main entrance of an open attic. There were hundreds of dolls lining every inch of available wall: antique china dolls, Russian matryoshka dolls, Amish faceless dolls, plastic skinny dolls with boobs as huge as their heads, corn dollies, beautiful dolls, complex dolls…
“Weird,” Dax whispered, “even for millionaires.”
I pointed at a small door at the opposite end of the attic.
We walked to it. The sound of a chant made us stop and look at each other.
Dax opened his mouth to say something, but I shushed him.
“Listen,” I said.
Someone on the other side of the door was singing softly. No, not singing, chanting.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, take his breath to the Dark Doll. I give song and also blood, she’ll give flesh mixed with bone. Mirror, Mirror on the wall, let her be, so he’s no more.
The chanting stopped midway during the third repetition.
The door opened.
“Blake, Dax, thank god.” Trixie Petersen, Natalia’s best friend, was grinning from ear to ear as usual. “I was hoping you guys would come as early as Nattie asked. Wait until you see this.” She stepped to one side of the door and gestured us into the room.
I looked at Dax.
He shrugged and went to meet Trixie.
I walked behind him, feeling uneasy.
The small attic room was circular. Its walls white and bare, except for the two round windows I had seen from the driveway. Natalia was dressed in white, standing at the center of the room next to a mirror that was as big as a door. She was holding a small battered book. Four dolls had been laid on a pillow in front of the mirror. Three looked like they had been taken out of a Goth fairy tale; the third was wrapped in white fabric, like a mummy.
“This is… different,” I said.
“I know.” Trixie giggled. “And terrifying. It’s going to be too perfect for the party.”
“Tell her it’s going to be a dud, Blake.” Natalia sighed. “Trixie is afraid of everything, but no one else will care about this. My first party and it’s going to suck.” She put the little book next to the dolls and walked towards the door. “Let’s go downstairs. We still have time to set up a spooky kissing closet, maybe drop some apples in a bucket.”
I was already out the door, when Dax said, “Let’s try it. If it sucks we try something else, okay? Don’t cry, Natalia. Blake, tell her how scared we were when we came up.”
“Very,” I said, glaring at Dax.
He chose to ignore my disapproval. “See?” he said to Natalia. “Told you.”
Natalia wiped her eyes with the long sleeve of her dress. “Okay,” she said. “But you have to be honest if it sucks.”
“Come,” Trixie said, running to sit cross-legged in front of the mirror and beckoning Dax and me to follow.
She extended a hand and Natalia gave her a doll.
Dax and I got dolls, too.
Glancing back and forth between my reflection and Dax’s, Trixie said, “Nattie explained it to me. It’s real easy. You recite the ‘Dark Silver’ poem from that little book, and ask the mirror to send a spirit into the doll. Then the doll will—”
“That’s crazy,” I said.
“It’s not like that,” Trixie looked sad. “These are minor spirits of mischief. They are always trapped behind the mirror. They like to come out and play, and they only get to do it on Halloween.” She looked at the floor. “I thought that was sad. They have to be there forever.”
“Mom told me that your mom and their friends used to do the Dark Silver Call every Halloween when they were young,” Natalia said to me. “We can tell the spirits to do little things, like hide people’s hats or untie their shoelaces. They can’t do big things, but they like to feel useful.”
I looked at the doll in my hand. She wore a purple and black dress that made her look like a fairy. Her hair was dark brown. And her expression mirrored my current state of annoyance.
“If a spirit comes out of that mirror,” I said, still looking at the doll’s face. “A big spirit or a little one, I would want for it to be fair and to be free. To be able to defend itself and to have the power to say no if it didn’t want to come out or do something.”
“Spirits are servants.” Natalia sounded angry. “You give them tasks or they won’t know what to do with themselves. They have no will, no power, no life. They want to be told what to do, like servants.”
“I’ve never had servants, Natalia.” I looked at the mirror, and said, “If you send anything my way, let it be itself. Servitude is scary. It would make any party suck. I won’t—”
I tasted blood. Natalia had slapped me, but I hadn’t even seen her move. She was standing in front of me dabbing at my lips with the cuff of her sleeve; her face expressionless. I tried backing away, but my feet were stuck to the floor. My entire body was stiff. I couldn’t breathe.
Looking past Natalia’s shoulder, I saw that Dax and Trixie were as immobile as the dolls that had fallen next to their open hands.
Natalia went to the mirror and smeared my blood on its surface. She pushed Dax’s face against the mirror and he didn’t fight her. Trixie also stayed still as Natalia kissed her. When the kiss ended, Natalia’s mouth was dripping blood.
I tried to scream, but my throat was full of clay.
Natalia spat the contents of her mouth into the mirror. Everything—the chunks she bit off Trixie, the blood she took from me, and Dax’s face—was being absorbed by the mirror.
In a gravelly voice that tightened my stomach, Natalia began to chant: “Mirror, mirror of my soul, take his breath to the Dark Doll.” She picked up the mummy doll and held it in front of the mirror. The surface blurred before swallowing Dax’s head, neck and shoulders. Natalia continued. “I gave song, and their blood, gave their flesh mixed with bone.” She moved the doll closer to the mirror. The white fabric began to uncoil. Slowly, she removed her hand from the doll. The thing remained uncoiling in midair. “Mirror, Mirror on the wall,” Natalia spread her arms, “make me stronger, for they are no more!”
The surface of the mirror rippled; a dark orb, followed by a tail of bright light, burst out of the mirror and slammed against my hand.
I heard myself scream as my legs gave out and I collapsed to the floor. The sound of an unfamiliar voice made me look up.
The doll I had been holding, just a minute ago, had knocked the mummy doll down. She was straddling it, her small hands squeezing the mummy doll’s neck.
Natalia was next to them on the floor, convulsing, her hands clawing at her own neck.
“Throw the book into the mirror,” the fairy doll shouted. “I can’t hold stinky face here forever.”
I searched for the book. It was next to Natalia. I crawled to it, and screamed when I saw Natalia de Bianchi’s rotted face.
“If they come out a lot of people will die,” the fairy doll said.
I ignored the lurching of my stomach, grabbed the book and hurled it at the mirror. The impact ripped a cacophony of screams out of the mirror’s entrails. I covered my ears, but my eyes were fixed on the swarm of ghostly faces trying to push their way out before the mirror exploded.
The sun forced my eyes open. I woke up to the scent of cinnamon pancakes. “Thank the gods,” I said and breathed deeply.
“The gods have little to do with this, Blake Casatelli.”
I followed the voice to the source.
The fairy doll was staring at me. “You look just like your mom when she was seventeen.”
I didn’t scream. “Dax and Trixie?” I said.
She shook her small head. “Their parents will probably call soon to say they had an accident.”
I covered my mouth and sobbed softly into my hands.
“Can you open the door for me, Blake? I haven’t seen or felt the sun in almost eighteen years.”
Opening the door to the terrace, I said, “What should I call you?”
“Dakota might be creepy around your mom, if I’m to stay with you.” She looked at me expectantly.
I walked outside and sat on the wooden floor. “That would be creepy,” I said. “It would freak Mom out.”
The fairy doll stepped out to stand by my hand, and said, “Then call me Silver.”
“Bad Fairy” by Rhissanna Dollmaker
Fly over to Tabitha Lenox to delight in an artufl world of Haunted Halloween Dolls