Matilda sat next to a bookshelf in the library, light flickering across her face from the fireplace. She carefully lined up each of her dolls: one with no head, another with no hair, and finally, one brand-new doll with long hair, sparkling eyes, and a soft, cuddly body. She felt a twist of shame in her stomach—what would this new doll think of the others? They suddenly looked so sad and scary next to the perfect new doll.

“It’s okay, darling dolly. Are you afraid?” She tilted the pretty new doll's head to make it look like it was nodding. She frowned and cradled it against her chest. "Oh, it's okay, darling dolly," she murmured, gently stroking its long dark hair. She then held it at arm's length, looked at it, and smiled like a mother with a newborn child. "Oh, my darling, I love you, too," Matilda said, squeezing the doll up against her shoulder. Then she turned its head so she could kiss it on its soft, blushing cheek. She recoiled suddely, staring at the new addition. The doll's cheek... it was warm. Then she felt ashamed. The doll was obviously hurt, scared, and upset by Matilda's harsh action. Hot tears forming in her eyes, she cradled it her arms and kissed it again on its hot forehead. "I'm sorry, dolly. I was just sad, because you seemed like you were sick. Come on. Let's get some nice warm milk." Matilda rose to go to the pantry to retrieve some warm cow's milk.


In the silence of the night, a tall, broad figure was standing behind the bookshelf holding Matilda's dolls. There were now only three of them, but she was obsessed with these. Matilda was eating less, sleeping less, all to take care of her dolls. The man shook his head. His daughter was slowly going insane. He stepped from the shadows and into the firelight. He tried to be even quieter than a sneaky mouse as he wrapped his hands around Matilda's older two beat-up toys and pulled them from the shelf. Then a sharp, young voice called from the doorway: "Daddy, what are you doing?" Matilda's father, Bartholomew Larkspur, turned to see his daughter standing with her new doll and a small baby bottle filled to the top with the cow's milk from the stable in the vast backyard. "My sweet, I was just brushing the dust off of them," Bartholomew stammered. Though she was barely eight years old, Matilda's presence was commanding and powerful. Just like her father. "They seemed sad you were gone." "But they're my dolls," Matilda said, her girlish voice rising. "They know I'm always going to be there for them." "I know, sweetie, but- well, I- you've been spending too much time with these dolls," Bartholomew blurted. "Too much time?!" Matilda whispered. Bartholomew's expression turned to one of sorow. "Sweetie, you're not healthy, this whole doll obsession isn't healthy-" Matilda slowly walked to the bookshelf and placed the new doll and milk there. Then, grunting like a wild beast, she charged at her father and tackled him. He expected that, as she was just a young girl, she would barely mae him stagger. But she obviously was burning inside, because he fell flat on his back on the shag carpet, and the two dolls sailed over his head... and into the fireplace. Bartholomew got up and watched as Matilda's eyes darted to the two burning dolls. Then she let out a primal scream and made an unearthly attempt to rip her father apart. Bartholomew darted out of the way just in time, expecting Matilda to stop and keep coming at him. But Matilda was too fast and too angry to stop. She tried to halt herself at the edge of the fire, but her stocking feet snagged the bottom of a piece of firewood, and she sailed into the flames. "Matilda! Bartholomew barked. He jumped up and bolted to the front of the fireplace to look at his daughter's burning body. "My dolls..." she growled when she saw him. "My dolls..." Then her face melted off, and her bones burned. Bartholomew didn't know what to do. Panic controlled him. Matilda... dead! He ran around the library for a few minutes, ten crumpled on his knees. "Oh, Matilda..."


                                                                                         YEARS LATER


Halloween night. Matilda's ghost roamed the halls of Larkspur House, relishing the old details of the home she had lived in for hundreds of years. Now it was her night. The local kids were going to come in tonight, searching to vandalize the house... And she would get new dolls.

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