In this piece of speculative fiction, the narrator finds himself trapped in a torturous relationship with not only his father, but a doll that has captures his father's attention.
I wrote this story for my Creative Writing – Fiction class in the spring of 2019. I submitted it to literary journal Cow Creek Review in March 2019.
Have you ever heard the song Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin? Sure, he wasn't the first to sing the song, but he sure is the one that made it so famous. If you haven't heard it, it's primarily about the serial killer that runs around a city and serially kills people. Throughout the song, suspicion starts to rise around the character named MacHeath as he starts acting weirdly after people either go missing or die.
Anyway, when the song topped the American charts in 1959, Hasbro thought they would capitalize on the song’s success and make some toys out of it. Did you know they made a doll based on the song? Surely, Darin’s cheery voice would bypass the song’s dark content. The toy was targeted more towards adults, as a collector’s item. Once the toy was announced in the Spring of 1960, rock and roll fanatics across the states sought to get one. Only a limited number were made; Hasbro wanted to test the market since they hadn’t really made toys for adults to that point.
My father was one of the unfortunate one-hundred people that purchased the doll. He received it in the mail in the Fall of ’60 against my Catholic mother’s best wishes. She did not want anything in her house that romanticized death or a killer or anything else. She lost on that argument, however, given the times. It didn’t take too long for reports about the toy’s eeriness started to spread like the scarlet billows mentioned in the song.
The doll came with a plush jackknife that could be tucked away in the doll’s makeshift pocket on its right side. Once my dad received the foot and a half tall Mack, he put the toy in his office on a high enough shelf where I couldn’t reach it. He treasured that toy. I would sometimes stand in the doorway of his office and stare at it, as my aunt told me later. It started out innocently enough; I would walk by, look at the smooth porcelain face, and not think twice about it.
As time went on, I became enamored with the thing. The face mentioned above is framed by short cut brown hair, dark green painted eyes fixed neatly on either side of the bridge of its smooth noise. It has a smile on its face; one that hints at a devious ulterior motive. I wasn’t the only one obsessed with the doll. My dad would often stand stiff as a board in the doorway, as if he were the door, and stare at the figurine. I never reached that state of entrancement, everything went south before I could.
Mack the Doll, as Hasbro lovingly called it, is dressed in fancy gloves, a clean three-piece black and red suit, and a black top hat. Once it was put on the shelf, my dad instructed everyone in the house never to touch it. He claimed to know if ever it were touched or moved. He didn't have to tell me twice. Day after day he stood in the doorway, just eyeing Macky. It wasn’t long after that he started to whisper to himself. At first, I couldn’t make out what he was saying, despite how close I got to him. My mom threatened to leave him several times, but she could never do it, bless her heart. The Catholics aren’t fond of divorce, and that left her with a husband whose mental health was slowly deteriorating.
I was still too young to really know what had befallen my father, or why he thought he was a door. That's what I used to tell myself. That's what my mom used to say to me. She would tell me that he was just pretending he was a door. When I would ask why she typically lit another cigarette and shook her head. I was never afraid of him until the night before the incident. I never thought I had a reason to. I was content believing he was just in a staring contest with Mack the Doll. One time when my mom threatened him, he just shouted back could that someone be Mack the Knife? She yelled again. I was under my bed. He answered with could it be our boy’s done something rash?
I blamed myself for the way he started behaving. I thought I caused my parents to fight. Their only child, their only son, was tearing them apart. The night before the incident, I walked past my dad, standing in the doorway as always. He had stopped eating and drinking by this point. All he did was stand there, watch the doll, and whisper to himself. The narrow hallway to my room was not so inviting that night, and neither was the room itself. I felt like a stranger in my bedroom. It felt as though a stranger could have snuck around the corner and the room would have welcomed them in more than it would me.
That night, I dreamed about my dad's whispering. It was a dark dream, nothing but darkness for as far as I could see. All I could hear was the whispers. Yes, that line forms on the right, babe. I could feel my body tossing and turning through my dream. All I wanted at that moment was to be peacefully asleep without this demented nightmare. Now that Macky’s back in town. It took me several minutes to realize I wasn't sleeping anymore. I forced my eyes open, and I saw the wall in front of me. The bed held my left side as I lay still in bed. A slight air brushed my right ear, and it startled me. Not thinking of it, I rolled onto my right side to see my dad’s wide-open bloodshot eyes staring back at me as if I were the doll. Look out, old Macky’s back.
That night will forever scar me. The sight of my dad’s face paired with the amount of time we sat there before my brain forced my eyes closed has been the source of countless night terrors for me. But that night pales in comparison to the incident. That day, my dad left the house for the first time in weeks. He left without telling anyone where he was going or when he would be back. Seeing her opportunity, my mom took Mack the Doll and threw it in the dumpster. It was trash day, luckily enough for her. The day went on without any other hitches, and my mom waited up for my dad as long as she could. I went to bed around ten at night, and I heard stories later that she stayed awake until about one in the morning. She had fallen asleep right the same chair she sat in all night waiting for my dad.
I remember waking up around three in the morning to the sound of a record playing. To my recollection, we didn't own a record player before that night, nor did we own the record playing: Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin. I thought I was dreaming again and pinched myself for good measure. I was very much awake. Sitting up in my bed, I saw something that, in hindsight, was a sign of things to come: Mack the Doll lounging in a chair in the hallway. The doll wasn't facing me; however, it was facing down the hall. The chair was partially in my doorway, however, as if blocking me in.
Instead of rolling over and trying to forget about that creepy doll, I got out of bed and approached it. As I stood up from my bed, I noticed that the head of the toy, which was previously not visible when I was laying down due to the armrest of the chair, was not facing the same way as the body. The head and its unsettling dark green eyes were fixated on me. The song still rang out and echoed throughout the house as I neared the doll. I pushed my way past the chair and continued down the narrow hallway. As I walked, I thought I could feel the doll’s head turn to watch me maneuver in the dark, but I dared not turn to see. I walked past my dad’s office and noted the actual door was closed. The light from the television illuminated the end of the hallway, and I could see something painted on the wall, something that was not there when I went to sleep.
It was words, now on the sidewalk, painted dark on the light tan wall. I made a right upon reaching the end of the hallway. The television was brighter than I expected, but once my eyes adjusted, I could see more words above it, woo sunny morning, uh huh, painted in the same dark substance as before. I turned my head to the right, back towards Mack the Doll, and confirmed my suspicion from before: his head did turn to watch me. I brushed it off as a trick of the mind and pushed forward to try and find my parents.
I made another right and faced now the kitchen. Above the entrance, painted on the wooden arch, were more dark words, lies a body. The television light still shined bright enough for me to see the next words as I entered the kitchen. These words were painted in the same dark substance as all the rest, but these words had something unique about them. Just oozin’ life. Underneath of the phrase was my mom, battered and bloody. I rushed to her aide, but only caught her final few breaths as I wept onto her blood-soaked hair. The dark substance was blood, my mom’s blood, as I was told later.
My dad was never seen again. A warrant for his arrest was put out, but it’s now been over 30 years since the murder. Therapy, sympathy, and alcohol plagued me until I moved to a new state five years ago. The police never found out where the record or its player came from, nor did they ever see the doll again. About a year ago, it found its way back to me. I came home from work one day, and it was on my desk. I was shocked. My first instinct was to search my house and neighborhood for my dad, and I did. But to no avail. Since then, it has just sat on my desk, eyeing me with its devilish dark green porcelain eyes.
I pray to you, if you know anything about this accursed thing, please let me know. I have tried to contact Hasbro on numerous occasions, but they keep denying they even made such a doll. Go figure. Big companies are always covering their tracks when something goes awry with their products. Please contact me with any information you may have. For the time being, my girlfriend has been asleep on the couch for a while as I typed this up. I should probably go spend some time with her after I put this knife back in the drawer. Look out, old Macky’s back.