Sophie woke up screaming. Within seconds, Mummy was there, flicking on the big light. She sat on the bed and hugged her daughter, patting her back and stroking her sweat-soaked hair.
“There, there, darling,” she cooed. “It’s all right, it’s all right. It was just a dream.”
Sophie’s tears seeped through her mother’s nightie. She sniffed wetly and shook her head.
“No, no, it wasn’t, it wasn’t!” she sobbed. She pointed a finger across the room to the rocking chair in the corner. Propped against a cushion was a curly-haired doll, staring back implacably. One of its eyelids was jammed half-closed, giving the doll a sinister, calculating expression.
“It was Dolly! It was Dolly!” Sophie repeated, becoming hysterical.
“Ssh, darling!” Mummy grabbed the doll by its arm and presented it to her daughter. “Dolly’s here for you. It’s all right.”
Sophie screamed. The doll dropped to the floor. Its lazy eye winked slowly. Sophie screamed again.
Mummy could feel her patience ebbing away at a rate of knots. She got to her feet. “Lie down now, darling,” she snapped. “Lights out.”
“No! Mummy, please!” Sophie’s face was red, tears coursing down her cheeks from eyes wide, imploring, beseeching. “Don’t leave me with her, don’t leave me with her!”
“Enough nonsense now!” Mummy roared. “Go back to sleep, you silly girl.”
She snapped off the light and stormed out, slamming the door.
Sophie snivelled. She hugged her knees and wept.
“Good girl,” came a voice from the floor. A tiny plastic hand reached up to the bedsheet. “Keep still and it will all be over very soon.”
The next morning, Mummy barged in, bad-tempered from interrupted sleep. “I’ve told you twice,” she growled. “Your breakfast is ready. Get dressed now!”
But Sophie wasn’t in her bed.
“Oh, you are up!” Mummy’s hands were on her hips, a sure sign she was cross.
Sophie was in the rocking chair, propped up by a cushion. She was staring blankly ahead and one of her eyelids was half-closed. Behind her, the curtains fluttered at the open window.
But there was no response, and of Dolly, Sophie’s favourite toy, there was no sign.