“Oh, but they’re so cute, can’t I take just one? Please Jake, please?”

Jake shuddered as he looked at Zoe’s collection of porcelain dolls. He would swear their creepy glass eyes were following him wherever he went. He had to admit, though; Zoe did an artful job of organizing them in their ornate glass showcase. The top shelf displayed the tall fashionistas with their elegant gowns and stylish hats; next came the baby dolls, adorable and realistic in their newborn onesies; then the miniatures, tiny and delicate; and finally the Disney princesses, the dolls that got Zoe excited about collecting in the first place. Jake asked, “Zoe, how many dolls do you have?”

Zoe mumbled, “Well, let’s see. I have collected two a year since I was five, so forty dolls. Jake, I’ll be happy if I can take just one.”

“Zoe, you know your porcelain dolls give me the heebie-jeebies; they are so creepy. Look, I am not proud I have pediophobia, but I just do.”

“Pediophobia? Is that a real thing?”

“Yes, Zoe. My fear of dolls is real. I developed the phobia after my brother took me to see the Chucky movie when I was six years old. I had nightmares for months. So, how about you leave your dolls at your parents’ house and you can visit them whenever you go there?”

Zoe’s chin began to quiver as she made her final plea. “How about this instead: I just take my Anne of Green Gables doll? Look how cute she is with her little red braids and her little green pinafore dress and her little straw hat. My grandma bought her from a shaman on a small island in Canada and it was the last gift she ever gave me. Can’t I take just this one?”

Jake sighed; how could he say no? Zoe was the love of his life and he was so happy she had finally agreed to move in with him. Plus, she never complained about how much space his baseball collection took up, so how could he deny her that one doll? He would just have to suck it up and deal with it. He said, “Okay Zoe, but please don’t put it anywhere that I can see it at night. By the way, I’m glad you picked the Anne doll. She really is the least creepy of all your dolls.”

Zoe planted kisses all over Jake’s face, and together, they packed up the rest of her belongings and she officially moved in with him. When Zoe walked into their bedroom, she told him, “I am putting my Anne doll on my night table behind the lamp. You won’t even be able to see her.” Jake glanced over and saw just a tiny bit of red hair sticking out of one side of the lamp. He felt fine. This doll was not going to be a problem at all.

The next morning, Jake woke up to the smell of fresh coffee and blueberry pancakes wafting through the air. He jumped out a bed with a huge grin on his face thinking that having Zoe move in was the best idea he ever had. After breakfast, Zoe left for work and Jake started setting up his work station at the kitchen table. Ever since the pandemic began, he had been working from home and he was still trying to get used to it.

As Jake was opening his computer, he heard a voice, in sing-song, coming from the bedroom. It sounded like, “Oh Ja-ake, Jakey-poo, come on in here, handsome.” His first thought was that Zoe forgot to turn the radio off before she left. Or perhaps it was the echo dot responding to a perceived question. He crept into the bedroom very slowly and heard the voice again. It said, “Hey, handsome, thanks for picking me to come to live with you. You made the right choice. Those other dolls are so boring. I waited years for someone like you to come along, so don’t worry, Jakey-poo, I will do whatever it takes for us be together.”

Jake’s heart began hammering in his chest; the voice was coming from the doll. He raced out of the room and called Zoe. He said,”What the hell is wrong with your doll. You didn’t tell me it was a talking doll. Is this a joke? It’s not funny, in fact, a heart attack would be funnier than this.”

Zoe wrinkled her forehead in confusion. She said, “Jake, what are you talking about? Just close the bedroom door and we will discuss this when I get home.” Zoe was becoming alarmed. She hadn’t realized Jake’s phobia was so severe and made a mental note to look up therapists when she got home. The thought crossed her mind that maybe she didn’t know Jake as well as she thought.

After speaking with Zoe, Jake went out for a run to clear his head, and when he came home, the house was silent. He spent the rest of the day trying to convince himself that he had imagined the whole thing, but part of him was worried he was becoming unhinged.

That night, as Zoe was getting ready for bed, Jake heard a loud scream. He raced into the bedroom and saw Zoe sitting on the floor with a bloody foot. She yelled, “Jake, one of the tacks from your bulletin board was on the floor and I stepped on it. Get me some antibiotic cream and a band aid. You need to be more careful where you drop those tacks. It really hurts.” Jake came back with the band aids and took a quick peek at the doll. No, it couldn’t possibly have been her.

The next morning, Zoe told Jake that she had buried Anne in her sock drawer. Her foot hurt, and she was feeling annoyed, so she left in a huff. She hoped hiding the doll would put an end to Jake’s irrational fear.

Jake climbed out of bed in a sour mood, mad that Zoe left early. He dragged himself to the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. As he was taking his first sip, he heard the voice again. It said, “Jake, get me out of this sock drawer. I am so cramped in here. I can barely breathe. Hey, how did you like that thing I did to Zoe last night? Pretty good, huh? Tonight, there will be another surprise. I love you Jakey.  Soon we’ll be together, just the two of us.”

Jake could not deal with this on his own. If this was some kind of joke, he would have to ask Zoe to move out. He packed up his computer and went straight to his parents’ house for the day. He was sweaty and agitated when he arrived and told his mother he needed a break from his own apartment.  She said, “I told you it was too soon to ask Zoe to move in with you.”

At the end of the day, Jake drove to their apartment and waited in his car until Zoe came home. As she got out of her car, he ran up to her and stammered, “I know I said you could keep Anne, but please get rid of that doll. She is so creepy! I feel like I am losing my mind. I promise I will go to that therapist we talked about last night if you just get rid of that devil doll.

Zoe nodded in agreement. She said, “Okay, Jake. I didn’t realize how much it bothered you. I will bring the doll back to my parents’ house this weekend, I promise.” Jake gave Zoe a grateful smile, and together, they sat down to dinner. Shortly after they finished eating, Jake heard a loud crash in the bedroom. He ran in and saw Zoe sitting on the floor holding her ankle. She bellowed, “Jake, how did the floor get wet? I could have killed myself slipping in that puddle.”

Jake sputtered, “It wasn’t me. Zoe, I think it was Anne. I swear it wasn’t me. I don’t know how she did it, but it was her.”

Zoe growled, “Just get me some ice for my ankle. You are really scaring me Jake.  You can sleep on the couch tonight.”

The next morning, Zoe left early again, and Jake decided he wasn’t even going to try working from home. As soon as Zoe left, he put on his noise cancelling headphones, turned on some music, and cranked the volume up high. Instead of music, though, what he heard was “Good morning handsome. I’m getting tired of the sock drawer. Please get me out. Great news. My plan for getting rid of Zoe is working. Tonight will be the piece de resistance.”

Jake ripped the headphones off his ears and tossed them out the window. He ran out of his house without his computer or jacket and he drove to his parents’ house. He was shaking so badly when he arrived that his mother brought him straight to the emergency room. The psychiatrist on call wrote him a prescription for anti-anxiety medication and recommended that he begin therapy two times a week. She cautiously let him go home and told him to call immediately if he has any more hallucinations.

When Zoe heard what happened, she left work early to be with him. She said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you. I don’t care about that stupid doll. I promise I’ll do whatever it takes for you to feel better. I thought you were  just playing a joke on me to  get rid of my doll.”

That night, as Zoe was getting into bed, Jake heard a scream. He couldn’t take much more of this. He darted out of the bathroom in a panic yelling, “Zoe, what’s wrong? What did Anne do to you this time?” Jake looked down and saw Zoe laying in bed in a pool of blood with a knife sticking out of her thigh. She screamed, “Jake, what is wrong with you? Why would you put a knife in the bed? You could have killed me. Get me to the hospital; I am going to need stitches.” She added, “I’m sorry Jake, I don’t think this is working out. I am going to move back home tomorrow, and don’t worry; I will take Anne with me. And just as she was breaking his heart, they both heard a voice bellowing from the sock drawer. It said, “No, I don’t want to go home with you, Zoe. I want to stay with Jake. I love Jake. I will do anything to be with him, even if I have to kill you. Go home Zoe. Jake and I don’t want you.”

Jake’s face turned crimson as the adrenaline soared through his body. In a fit of rage, he grabbed Anne out of the sock drawer and began screaming, “You will never hurt Zoe again.” He began to bash her head on the floor, hitting it over and over again until the porcelain head and body were nothing more than shards of glass. He got the broom and swept every piece of her into a bag and put it in the garbage bin outside. Then he set it on fire and watched it burn, making sure there was nothing left of Anne but ashes. As he and Zoe started walking to the car to go to the hospital, they heard a low moan coming from the garbage, “Help me, Jake, I love you, I love you.”

In the emergency room, Zoe received twelve stitches, and that night she and Jake slept in a hotel. They both took the next couple of weeks off from work, staying at Jake’s parents’ house.  When they felt ready, they moved back home determined to look for a new apartment. Both Zoe and Jake had PTSD and it would take a long time for them to feel normal again. The worst part was that they couldn’t even tell anybody. Who would believe them? They sounded insane.

As things began to normalize, Zoe returned to work and Jake cautiously set up his workstation. He slowly opened up his computer, relieved not to hear any voices coming from the bedroom. When he began reading his emails, he was shocked to see one that didn’t have a sender. He tentatively opened it up and there was a video of Anne. She said, “Hey, handsome. You can’t get rid of me that easily. Oh, silly Jake, you made it so much harder for us to be together. Don’t worry, though; I will figure it out.”