"In the imagination of a child live both our darkest fears and our greatest hopes" Jaja Toff.
The child sat propped up on his bed, illuminated only by the weak green of the nightlight plugged into the floor socket. It was too weak to cast strong shadows but those it did seemed all the more menacing for that. And there was menace.
Had anyone entered the room, they might - in the faint light of the nightlight - have observed the child sitting up in bed. They would not, however, have been able to see the pyjama chord which bound his feet together. His hands, similarly bound although this time with a dressing gown belt, were securely tied behind his back. They would not have seen that either. Perhaps, after accustoming their eyes to the darkness, they might have noticed the gag made from several tied handkerchiefs that cut deep into the sides of his mouth and kept him silent. They would certainly not have seen his eyes, open wide and staring in abject terror. It is certain, though, that they would have been instantly aware of the sickening smell of fear and the unmistakable stench of evil.
But no one came in. They slept - his parents in their room down the hall, and his younger sister next door - dreaming of faeries, butterflies and songbirds, clutching her Roly-Poly Gladioli Diva doll.
Only the boy did not sleep. Wide eyed, he was watching a doll - a doll walking slowly, almost painfully, towards him. The hideous painted face grinned at him and its eyes glistened with the pleasure of anticipation. It was too dark to see what it held in its tiny plastic hand, but the boy could guess.
When the doll had been bought at the garage sale, it had looked quite innocent. The smile had betrayed little of its true nature. Dressed as a confederate soldier in the American Civil War, it would make a good addition to his collection of memorabilia. It's grey uniform had looked enticingly authentic - only the painted smile on the plastic gave it away as a cheap Chinese import.
So he'd bought it for a dollar and placed it with some of his other soldiers a few nights ago where it looked very much at home. True, it was nearly three foot high whereas the others were only twelve inches, but that only seemed to increased the impressiveness of the piece. Yes, it had been an excellent addition to his military collection.
Only perhaps it hadn't.
The doll edged closer, agonizing step by agonizing step until it was only a matter of inches from the boy. Drool dribbled slowly from the painted mouth and hung like a jellied stalactite for a moment until falling to the floor with a plop. Its eyes, no more than two black dots in two black ovals, seemed to glisten with excitement.
As slow and painful the approach to the bed was, not so for the attack. The toy-formed demon swung its plastic arm upwards with a lightening speed to reveal the glint of a long, fine, sharp knife. The boy whined and shook, and the smell of sweat and bowels filled the room as the knife swung down with a terrifying and complex combination of lightening speed and - yet - slow motion, towards the boy's stomach.
Into the stomach it plunged and with a deft turn of the plastic wrist the living intestines were plucked from the boy.
Or, at least, so it would have been, had it not been for the teddy.
As the knife swung down, Theo the Teddy Bear swung into action. If the doll moved now with the speed of sound, then the Teddy moved with the speed of light and using the shepherds crook from the boy's younger sister's 'Little Bo Peep' set, knocked the knife from the hand of the pestiferous polypropylene ponce. The painted eyes betrayed a look of surprise, but it scrambled with astonishing speed to where the knife had landed with a clatter on the floor a few feet away.
No sooner had it picked up its sinister weapon and turned when there was Theo, standing resolutely between the boy and the doll. Good versus evil with a child's life the prize. The smile on the doll seemed to widen with the joy of promised violence and the anticipation of its prize and the additional horrors that it now promised in its dark, demonic mind.
The knife cut the very air as the doll swung it from side to side. The bear deflected it, time and again, using the crook - striking this way, then that, first tarrying, then twisting, then jabbing - but losing a little ground each time. The bear was good - very good - but the doll was better.
The bed pressed hard against the bears back, but still the slashing of the knife came, and came, and came. Then, a cut to the arm - small but a cut never-the-less. Then a jab to the chest. Bit by bit the bear's defenses and strength wore down, as the doll cut further and further into it. The battle neared it's finish and the doll grew even stronger in it's victory. Finally, scarred and marked, the crook broke in two and the bear was left holding only a jagged end.
The dolls knife drew back with a vicious sideways jerk and was about to arc through the bears neck for the final kill before the ultimate thrill, when there came a piercing scream from behind it. It turned it's hideous painted plastic head in an instant to see Roly-Poly Gladioli Diva standing at the door - with the force of La Donna est Mobile projecting from her electronically operated Japanese mechanism. Theo the Teddy Bear took his chance and plunged the broken end of the shepherds crook straight into the head of the doll. It collapsed on the floor and the evil that had powered it, fled.
It was over.
The Fat Lady had Sung.