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The Dummy


My eyesight at seven was atrocious. I had to wear glasses that were so thick that a good shake would dislodge them. If I looked directly into the sun unprotected, under that magnification my eyes would shrivel up like dried apricots. My eyes shrink underneath the magnification of the lenses and look like they are in somebody else's head. In short, without my glasses, I can see only blurred images and it is only from a few inches that things become clear.

I am also afraid of the dark, so at seven I had a nightlight. Whether this is because of some fear of the dark itself or of things that hid in the dark is not clear. If asked, I just didn't like it dark. However I didn't know what fear was. I was just beginning to learn that it was far better to imagine what lurks in the dark than to have those things displayed.

My dad loved surprising us with special things. If we were under the weather, my Dad would always come home with something fun for us. Other times it was something silly just to make us laugh. This one time he had brought home something truly unique. However this wasn’t meant to amuse or entertain us. I’m sure that he meant only to embarrass us, thinking that we’d understand the joke right away. However, he didn’t count on my poor eyesight combined with my vivid imagination.

In our room was a near full size female mannequin. She was cut off around the waist level but was otherwise completely "life-like". My father had placed this in our room while we slept and he placed our clothes in her outstretched arms. She was also completely nude and to seven and eight-year old boys, this is not even remotely appealing.

When you are in near darkness and you can't see very well, though, she looks entirely different. In the dim light and blurred vision, she looked like my mother laying out our clothes for the next day.

Confused, I called out to her. "Mom? Mom, is that you?"

Of course, I had no response and I began to get frightened. I couldn't tell what time it was, so I didn't know how long she was there. My imagination started supplying my taxed and tired brain with explanations. What if she had died putting out our clothes? Our selfless mother, slaved to death while we slept. Maybe she had called to us for help and we didn't hear her. "Come, save your poor mother, boys!" she could have yelled and we just snored away oblivious!

I yelled louder, "MOM!" only to hear silence.

I decided to get up and see if she was all right. Perhaps she was choking and couldn't talk and could only gesture helplessly while her sons blinked in confusion mere feet away. So I stood up and peered closer until I could see clearly.

Clear, for me, of course, was about three inches away from her face. Close enough to see that the EYES WERE PAINTED ON! Somehow to me, this was the worst. A wooden head would be fine, but those blue eyes painted with only rough detail, looking more dead than alive. I was terrified and I ran back into bed, slamming the covers over my head. Yes, the covers would save me, they always had!

What IS that thing? I thought. Maybe it has taken possession of Mom and that's because it looks so much like her! Maybe its taken control of both of them and Dad's somewhere else in the house, a painted-on robot! Oh no! I gasped. Maybe it has taken control of Nick in the next bed and I'm the only one in the house ALIVE!

It was at this moment, possibly due to the excitement, that my bladder took control of the situation and told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to get up immediately. I had to obey because the alternative was too dire and humiliating to speak of. I couldn't hold out and I had to get up. But the problem was... how did I get up and get past that... that imposter of my mother?!

I decided to just run past it. I figured that maybe it had taken the others in the house unawares but that I might be spared because I was on the alert! I was wise to their game! I peeked out from under the covers and saw that IT hadn't moved. So maybe it was resting, perhaps even sated from its meal (or meals!) and I could get past. I looked ahead and saw that the door was also open. That was good, too. So far a lot was in my favor. Well, except for my family being turned into monsters, that is!

I whipped up the covers and ran past it hoping that the whipping of the covers might make it think that I was much larger than I actually was. There was, of course, no time to check this as I ran past the thing, straight across the hall and into the bathroom. As I clicked the door shut behind me, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was past it! I hadn’t heard a sound, either, so it seemed to be safe now.

I sat down and attended to business. I decided that flushing was much too risky. I didn't want to alert anyone that I was on to their game. Still terrified, I ran into my parent's room. I could hear breathing, so I knew that my Dad was in there. Good. He’s still alive. I called out in a whisper.

"Dad!" There was a tense pause in breathing, then I heard it continue in rhythm. I needed to yell louder if I was going to get his attention. "DAD!"

"Nnngh?! Hgh?"

"Dad! There's something in my room!"

Then I heard something, which chilled me even further. It froze the blood in my young veins to icewater, nearly stopping my heart. I heard giggling! Actual laughter! I was right! They had taken Dad over, too! I started to panic, thinking that this was it for me. I reached around for something to defend myself with. Bah! Nothing! Defeated, I began a few prayers. At least my soul would be safe before they got me. I only hoped that it would be painless.

Amidst the laughter, I heard spoken words and I heard my Dad regain control and he explained that things were OK. I head my Mom’s resigned sigh. "You started this one, so you can get up and make sure he can sleep."

My Dad got up and took my hand. We turned on the lights and, with the return of my eyesight, I could see that the mannequin really didn't look much like Mom at all. Afterwards, Mom was actually dismayed for a while that I had thought it looked like her but I told her that I wasn't able to see much anyway. Plus she should be flattered that I thought so. I thought that the mannequin was actually kind of pretty (but I didn’t admit this to anyone). The teasing would be murder.

My brother thought it was the funniest thing in the world that I thought this was even real and razzed me about it for weeks afterwards. “You thought that was Mom? Ha!” It was a source of amusement and derision for him and supplied him with many comebacks. However neither one of us were able to take down our clothes off of the mannequin. We dressed ourselves that day and I may have looked silly going to school, but at least I didn't have to touch a naked dummy!


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