Throughout the majority of my life, my sister has been the pride of the family. Daddy’s little princess, Mommy’s little star, Nanny’s little angel. She was a dancer, a good dancer, I’ll give her that much… But it was precisely the dancing that led to the events that I am about to recollect.
My parents were busy individuals, meaning me and my sister spent a lot of time at our grandmother’s house. This unfortunate arrangement seemed to benefit everyone- everyone but me- my grandmother was the one who made all of my sister’s costumes, therefore all our time there was spent dedicated to her. Measuring, sewing, crafting, decorating and miniature performances, courtesy of my sister, were how we spent our time there; sometimes I was dragged into the activities, and sometimes I was pushed to the side-lines. I didn’t particularly enjoy it either way. I wouldn’t say I was jealous as such, maybe a little, but mainly I was just overcome with boredom due to my exclusion.
Anyway, when my grandmother designed these costumes for my sister she would pin them on her mannequin. For years she used the same one, it was a dismembered torso, consisting of a hard plastic skeleton and blue velvet flesh. It was covered in odd black tags which could be loosened or tightened to adjust the dimension of the thing, I always though they looked like rotten scabs or skin tags. To top it off, there were several hundred pins that had been jabbed into the body, as if it were some giant voodoo doll. I hated that thing, it freaked me out beyond comprehension, but then again, I was only young. Maybe it was because it was lacking limbs and a head, maybe it was because it had furry, blue skin, or maybe it was simply because it stood in solemn, perpetual silence.
I should say, my sister was quite a few years older than me, and she was in her mid-teens by the time I was seven years old. That was one of the reasons my grandmother abandoned her old mannequin; my sister had grown beyond the dimensions the mannequin could reach. Not only that, the wretched thing has become so battered and torn that she had little choice to get rid of it, or rather, replace it. The new model could not have been more different to its predecessor: it became the object of my obsession.
The first difference- this mannequin was full bodied and its flesh was the colour of- well- flesh. It had been specifically crafted to be the exact proportions of my sister, but that was where the similarity between the two ended. Her face was brighter, kinder, she always had a smile fixed upon her face, her hair was golden, and her eyes were a luminous, glorious green. She was less of a mannequin, and more like an oversized Barbie doll.
The second difference- this mannequin did not stand in solemn, perpetual silence.
At first she was just another figure, albeit an extremely well-crafted one, but it wasn’t long before that changed. She was extremely lifelike; she had all the features required of a human, she only lacked that spark of life which would make her a living soul, like myself. Her eyes were beautiful, but ultimately, they were dead- but that didn’t stop them from following me across the room.
That was how it started.
At first I didn’t notice, but over time it became more and more apparent. It filled me with hope, but I never approached her, for fear that she would retreat if I did.
One night I was lying awake, stuck at my grandmother’s house once again, bored out of my skull. The darkness seemed heavier than usual, I assumed it was because I was tired, but not tired enough to sleep. I heard something shuffling through the untrimmed grass in the back garden. I pulled myself out of bed and peered cautiously out of the window.
And there she was.
Stood at the end of the garden, her plastic flesh gleaming in the moonlight: my sister’s mannequin.
Her lifeless eyes gazed at me, looking into my own eyes and into my soul. Although they were unmoving, and blank, I swore I could see a glimmer of happiness inside her retinas. She waved at me, stiffly, and smiled. I was in shock, she seemed so please to see me- why? It was only me. I waved back enthusiastically, smiling just as wide. I don’t know how long I spent gazing out of the window at her, but when I turned away- just for a second- she was gone.
Things were uneventful for some time following that night. Several months passed, with nothing out of the ordinary occurring. Although there was one thing I found peculiar, my grandmother took more interest in me, nothing extreme of course, my sister was still her pride and joy- the apple of her eye- but I wasn’t as excluded as I once was, on some occasions she even went out of her way to ask me question about school and my friends. My sister remained as ignorant as ever.
During that period, the mannequin remained still. For some reason, after that night, she became extremely shy. I would sometimes go up to her during the day and ask her why she didn’t move, why she wouldn’t talk to me, but I never received an answer. Eventually however, she did move again, and like the time before; it was at night that she came to life. Apparently she wasn’t shy when it became dark; I thought maybe she was self-conscious.
I don’t remember much from that first night, It is hazy now, I just remember seeing her standing still outside my door, peering in, studying me. Her hand, with her fingers all stuck together, opening the door just a fraction more. I invited her to come in, but she shied away at the sound of my voice. I was so bored, and so lonely at my grandmother’s house, I just wanted a friend to play with, just someone to relieve the monotony of each day spent there, and she was unwilling to come and play with me. Eventually, however, I coerced her into the room.
I guess the reason I loved her so much, was because whenever I was in that house I felt unloved, and uncared for. When she was around, it was all about me, which is selfish I know, but for a brief amount of time, it was what I needed, because I wasn’t getting that kind of attention anywhere else.
After that first night I would look forward to visiting my grandmother’s every week. Me and the mannequin would play almost every night, once everyone had gone to sleep. We played lots of games, but out favourite was always hide and seek. Sometime she would be lying under my bed with her motionless hand sticking out, or she would be hiding in my wardrobe with the door open just a crack so her inanimate eyes could peek to see if I was coming. It was more fun than usual because we had to be extra quiet, so we didn’t wake anyone. This went on for some time, until one night we made a little too much noise.
We woke my sister.
She emerged from her bedroom, and her mannequin ran away and hid. She asked me what the hell I thought I was doing, and I told her everything. Needless to say she didn’t believe me, she told me I was being stupid and that I should go back to sleep. I insisted that I was telling the truth, but she refused to believe me, eventually however, after some persistence, she agreed to let me show her.
We ventured down the stairs and into the front room where the mannequin stood, still and lifeless. However, no amount of convincing or coercion could wake her from her slumber, and eventually my sister returned to her room, and I returned to mine, confused and disappointed.
I knew she was shy, but I didn’t understand why she did not want to play with my sister as well as me.
I was determined to prove it to her, not matter what. The next time we stayed at my grandmother’s house, I told my sister to hide in the wardrobe, so she would be able to see that I was telling the truth when her mannequin decided to visit me that night. She reluctantly agreed, stating that she was only doing it to ‘prove me wrong’ so that I could give up my ‘stupid story’.
Night came, and I settled into bed as usual. Time passed slowly, and I soon became fearful that she wouldn’t show. I came close to admitting defeat, maybe I had in fact, imagined it all, but just as I was about to tell my sister she was right and that she could leave, I heard a familiar creak sound from the stairs. I was overcome with excitement as she appeared at the door. However, she wasn’t smiling like usual, something was wrong.
She entered without hesitation and sat on my bedside. She was silent, and wouldn’t look me in the eye.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Your sister- she can’t know about me- about us.” Her voice sounded tired, and hoarse.
“She wouldn’t understand.” That was all she said to me.
I remember beginning to cry and the mannequin holding me in her cold, solid and unmoving arms. The rest has faded from my memory.
When my sister emerged from the wardrobe, once her mannequin was gone, she didn’t speak a word, instead she simply left the room in silence, her eyes wide, and went to bed.
The next day our parents picked us up. When we arrived home, my sister asked to speak to them in private- without me. She’s excluding me again! I thought to myself. I don’t know for certain what she told them, but I can imagine it was about what had happened the night previously, because when they came back there was a lot of crying and hugging- from my mother at least- from my father; there was only anger.
I didn’t see my grandmother again after that day. We never stayed the night, or even visited, I didn’t really understand why. My main reason for returning of course was for the mannequin, but my parents would never let me go back. According to my mother, my grandmother had done something extremely ‘bad’ and according to my father she was a ‘monster’
I don’t remember a monster, I only remember the mannequin.
It became clearer to me in time what had truly happened in that house. I cannot remember the reality, but honestly I don’t think I want to, I much prefer to recall the mannequin.
Although it is no longer a source of obsession, not anymore, now she simply haunts my dreams, my nightmares, and I cannot remove those apathetic eyes from my mind.