Eyes... so many, many eyes.
When I was a kid, in the center of the block between my house and that of my Great-Aunt Bess was a distinctive home...
For the sheer quantity of plastic dolls which decorated the exterior.
Big dolls, small dolls, staring dolls. The neighborhood watch, relentless... tireless... glassy-eyed... all-seeing...
The stuff of many a footy-pajama nightmare.
As long as I could remember, this house had been decorated in weather-blighted plastic children.
Dolls were strapped to chicken-wire across the front door in a layered collage like the bodies of a thousand less-fortunate Hansel and Gretels-- their dirty, faded faces appealing to passersby begging release from this infinite imprisonment.
Dolls jutted up from sticks in the flower beds, their shredded taffeta gowns gone gray, frayed ribbons blowing in the wet autumn wind.
There were naked dolls, decapitated dolls, and heads alone... Dolls with soft matted hair, and dolls with no hair at all. In between these, metallic pinwheels spun, like the rides on a traveling carnival... Reflective like a hall of mirrors.
It was enough to make you dizzy.
The old woman who lived there, her name was Grace, I recall my dad saying. And those dolls had been there as long as he remembered, too. I only caught a glimpse of her once or twice, but she didn't disappoint-- with her gray soft curls rolled under at the nape of her neck, and a black blouse and skirt.
Dad said she always wore black, but whether in mourning of some lost husband, some swept-away childhood, some beloved infant that went missing from life's path, I don't recall.
As a kid, it was enough that she just was.
So every Halloween, we kids would roam the neighborhood scouring it for treats. And every Halloween we would give the house of The Doll Lady, as she was called, a good wide berth. It remained dark, just those cool garden lights to illuminate the sidewalk... to reflect on the residents in the garden.
Until one year when I was about ten.
"Look," breathed my friend Sarah-- or rather Sacajawea-- pointing an anachronistically mittened hand from her fringed tunic. "The Doll Lady. Her light. It's on."
Passing from the House of Cocker Spaniels, to Mr. Esposito Who Worked at the M&M Mars Factory (always a primo place to stop), and on to my Great-Aunt Bess, we were forced to go past the Doll Lady's abode.
And sure enough, Sacajawea had scouted out the truth of the matter. It was Halloween. And there, displaying the Universally-Accepted Symbol of "Candy Distributed Here" was the golden porchlight glow of The Doll Lady's home.
We stopped dead on the sidewalk.
"Should we try it?" asked Sacajawea, who'd been dreaming of candy since about June, and the sugar and endorphins were probably screwing with her better judgement.
"It's gotta be a mistake," I said, muffled inside my giant Garfield head. Per the criteria of my family's Halloween tradition, (you can read about that here, if you like) I was once again head-to-toe costumed in a hand-made creation of my mother's so well-done, it had won an award at the town costume contest the night before... And so confining to my senses that I actually needed an Indian guide, just to see where the heck I was going.
"But the light is on," Sacajawea pressed. "Is it ever on at night?"
"How would I know?" I said, strained. "I'm usually in doing math homework now."
"I'm going to try it," the Indian maiden said, stepping a moccasined foot forward.
"Mr. Esposito just gave you, like, five Twix bars," I argued.
But clearly, the cacao addiction was having its effect. My friend was already moving silently down the walk.
I followed, a reluctant Lewis and Clark, peering through my styrofoam eye-ball slits to watch the plastic piked heads watch me as I passed.
In the damp light of day, the dolls held a weary forlorn appearance. Under the cold harvest night, they took on a taut, ready look I didn't like.
"She's never given out candy before," I hissed to my friend's back. "Let's go. There are plenty of other places to hit anyway."
But now that we were standing on the porch, in front of the giant chickenwire and dolly shrine, we were frozen into place.
There were so many faces. So many eyes. Some fluttered gently in the breeze. Some were faded to white, blind with years in the elements. Some had sunken clear back into their heads.
The display was trimmed with bows, once possibly pink, but now faded to a sickly orange-gray, like some macabre birthday present straight from Tim Burton's mind.
In layers of fake orange fur, I broke out in a cold sweat.
As if in a trance, Sacajawea pressed the doorbell.
Why would anyone do this to so many playthings? What was missing in the lady Grace's heart, or jagged in her mind that would craft this torture chamber of youth? This warning sign to the curious?
And what in the name of Mattel were we doing standing on the woman's porch?!
Then a squeak.
And we were down the sidewalk and all the way to Aunt Bess's before you could say Hundred-Thousand-Dollar Bar.
Looking over our shoulders, the door of The Doll Lady's home was still tight as a toy drum. The squeak? It had to have been nothing... Nothing.... Just the wind on a pinwheel...
Just the slip of a doll's reaching arm.
Today's Question: Anything in particular-- rational or irrational-- kids in your neighborhood were scared of, growing up?