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Ryan’s mother pushed open the door to her daughter’s bedroom. The child lay still in her bed, her chest slowly rising with each breath. She smiled softly, taking in the moment. Her daughter slept innocently and she dreaded waking her, yet today was her daughter’s first day of second grade at a new school. She knew how stressful first days were and she wanted to make sure her daughter filled her belly and was fully prepared.
“Ryan,” her mother cooed. She placed a hand upon her daughter’s forehead. She brushed her hand across the blonde ringlets, admiring the softness beneath her fingertips. “Come on, sweetheart. It’s time to wake up.”
Ryan stirred beneath her hand. Slowly, those blue eyes opened and her mouth morphed into a sleepy grin. She brought her small fist to her eyes, rubbed them and propped herself up against the headrest.
“Get dressed, sweetie. I have breakfast waiting for you in the kitchen.”
It took a little time for Ryan to dress and eat her breakfast before they finally made their way out the door. Her mother kissed her cheek as she dropped Ryan off at the front of the school, watching as her little girl made her way inside. Ryan turned around, a smile beaming across her cheeks, and gave her mother a wave before disappearing through the glass doors. It was the first time she braved a new school on her own. Her mother’s heart ached.
Throughout the course of the day, Ryan’s mother unpacked the house. After a week of living in their new home, she finally had a day off to put the pieces together. As pickup time drew closer, Ryan’s mother decided to finish up in her daughter’s room. Within a little less than two hours, she had almost everything in place.
She was heading out the door when something caught her eye. A doll dressed in a blue summer dress with striking green eyes and black hair sat upon her daughter’s bed. Confused, she approached the toy and held it between her hands wondering where it had come from. She didn’t recognize the doll, yet Ryan had acquired so many gifts for her birthday a few weeks prior that it didn’t surprise her. She shrugged and placed the doll back on her daughter’s bed. She must’ve pulled it out of a box. She was too busy trying to get everything in order that she didn’t realize half of what she was unpacking.
Ryan’s mother’s car pulled up to the school and within seconds, Ryan was piling into the car. She slid into her seat and placed her bag on the floor of the vehicle, beaming up at her mother.
“I met a new friend,” Ryan said.
“What’s her name?” her mother asked as she pulled into the street. She was anxious to get home and continue unpacking the few boxes she had left.
“Amoël,” Ryan answered.
The rest of the car ride, Ryan replayed the events of her day. Her favorite class was music and she had met her friend on the playground during recess. Ryan’s mother was half-paying attention as she drove home, but smiled and nodded when Ryan demanded a reaction.
The rest of the evening involved Ryan finishing the little homework she had and her mother putting some more things away. Quickly, dinner approached and Ryan’s mother popped a frozen pizza in the oven for the two of them to share. Ryan waited impatiently at the table.
Ryan’s mother entered the dining room with two plates of pizza in her hand, when she noticed that doll at the table. The doll’s face was turned in her direction and those striking green eyes bore into hers. Ryan’s mother became uneasy, but brushed off the feeling when Ryan interrupted her gaze and placed the doll in her lap. Her mother sat across from her and took a bite of pizza, watching as Ryan fed her doll. Those green eyes watched Ryan’s mother and she felt a knot grow in the pit of her stomach.
“Sweetie, where did you get that doll?” her mother asked.
“It was in my chair when I got home,” Ryan answered. Her mother stopped chewing. Couldn’t she swear the doll was on her bed when the two of them had left for school this morning?
Her mother shook her head slightly, trying to get her thoughts together. “Did you get it for your birthday? I don’t remember you getting her.”
Ryan shrugged. She brushed her hand across the doll’s silk black hair, leaving behind a little pizza residue. “I don’t know. But I like her.” Her mother pursed her lips, but decided to end the conversation there. Her daughter was six and probably wouldn’t remember what she had gotten for her birthday anyway.
The next day, Ryan’s mother dropped her daughter off at school. Though Ryan insisted the doll come along, her mother had somehow convinced her to keep it in her room. She watched her daughter reluctantly place the doll on her chair and angrily leaving the room. Ryan’s mother rolled her eyes and eased the door shut, taking one last look at the doll. The eyes once again seemed to watch her and as she eased the door shut, it almost seemed as if the eyes narrowed, zeroing in on her.
Ryan’s mother busied herself with household chores while her daughter was at school. She tried to distract herself from thinking about what was down the hall. However, she found herself wondering for the umpteenth time where the doll had come from. She desperately tried to recall the events of her daughter’s birthday, becoming more than certain Ryan was not gifted the toy.
Before leaving to pick up Ryan, her mother carried the extra boxes to the attic, assuming she may need them again if things got too rough at school for Ryan. They had managed to move multiple times in the past two years due to Ryan’s schizophrenia. Though the teachers were made aware of her disease, they couldn’t seem to brush off the uneasiness they felt when they found Ryan in the middle of the class talking to nothing but air. They always claimed it made the other students uncomfortable, but Ryan’s mother wondered if it was more for the teacher’s sake than the students. Nonetheless, within a couple of months, the two of them were packed up and headed to another town, hoping this one would be permanent. Ryan’s mother never held onto this hope though. Many doctors they’d seen promised remission, but there never seemed to be any light shed. Moreover, she figured this time to be like the others. It was only a matter of time before Ryan’s teachers began making a big deal and demanding Ryan be taken out of their class. “It disrupted the students and their abilities to learn.”
Ryan’s mother set the boxes on the floorboards beside the ladder that opened into the attic. She noticed a small box in the far corner, but she didn’t have a chance to investigate it. She didn’t want to be late picking up her daughter from school. Instead, she climbed back down the ladder and made her way out the door. As she passed by her daughter’s bedroom, she glanced in to notice the vacant chair. A little shaken, she practically ran out of the house. She knew Ryan had set the doll in the chair that morning and she hadn’t once set foot in her daughter’s room since. Where did it go? And how did it get to wherever it had gone?
Ryan’s mother tried to think of logical explanations throughout the drive to the school. She was so far into thought that she didn’t hear her daughter climb into the car. She didn’t even notice her daughter talking to the empty seat next to her, not that Ryan’s mother paid much attention this anymore anyway.
Ryan placed her bag on the kitchen counter as soon as she had gotten home. She unzipped her backpack and pulled out a spiral that contained her homework for the night and placed it on the kitchen table before running off to grab markers from her room. Apparently, Ryan’s homework consisted of coloring and her mother rolled her eyes. What kind of homework involved a second grader coloring?
She grabbed a glass from the cabinet and turned to fill it with water from the faucet. As she brought the glass to her lips, she noticed something sticking out from her daughter’s backpack. She eyed it closely and noticed some familiar silk black strands. She retrieved the item from the bag and muffled a scream. Those emerald green eyes looked directly into hers. She dropped the doll from her hands as Ryan approached the room.
“Ryan, I thought I told you to keep that doll home,” her mother barked. Ryan looked at the doll on the floor.
“I found it in your backpack.”
“I didn’t put it there.”
“If you didn’t, then how did it get in there?” her mother questioned. Ryan pressed her lips together, glancing to the left of her. Her mother’s eyes followed her daughter’s head and the hairs began to stand on the back of her neck. The space was empty but her daughter seemed to be focusing on something.
Instantly irritated, her mother grabbed the medication in the cabinet and handed the pills to her daughter. Ryan crossed her arms.
“I don’t want to.”
“Ryan, the medication from earlier is wearing off. The doctor said that if I noticed anything strange that you needed another dosage.”
“There’s nothing strange!” her daughter roared. Ryan’s mother took deep breaths to remain calm. She understood that her daughter was having a rough time with her diagnosis. It had to be tough being a six-year-old girl, trying to comprehend that she wasn’t what society deemed normal—it messed with her self-esteem. She continued to tell herself this as she fought her daughter. After a few minutes, Ryan finally relented into taking the pills and sulked at the kitchen table as she did her homework.
Ryan was quiet as the night continued. The doctors once assured her mother that it was normal. Ryan was still coming to terms with her disease and being constantly reminded of, it probably took a toll on her. But as she tucked her daughter into bed and turned out the lights, she wasn’t so sure.
As Ryan’s mother was getting settled into bed, she remembered the box in the attic. Against her better judgement, she crawled out of bed and made her way down the hall. She passed the kitchen, glancing over at her daughter’s backpack. The doll’s eyes still seemed to watch her and she felt chill bumps reside on her body. She brushed off the feeling and continued down the hall and up the ladder, into the attic.
She pulled the string to turn the lightbulb on. A faint glow lit the room and Ryan’s mother struggled to see past the small area of light. She tucked her arms against her body and inched over to the small box that rested in the corner.
The box wasn’t that much bigger up close. A sheet of dust rested on top, most likely from remaining untouched for who knows how long. Ryan’s mother brushed the dust from the top, pulling the latch and slowly opening the box. Unable to see clearly, she brought the box into the small circle of light and placed the box on the ground.
She rummaged through the contents, finding multiple pictures of different children; some in groups and some in pairs. A few pictures had yellowed over the years and as she examined closely, she noticed that none of the children resembled each other, yet they all appeared to be doing the same thing: standing center and smiling. Confused, she placed the pictures back in the box and made her way back down the ladder.
She flipped the light switch in the kitchen and opened her laptop she had sitting on the counter. She wanted to know who these children were and why their pictures were in her house. She remained at the counter for hours, discovering a series of disappearances that had taken place in the town she now lived in.
POLICE AIDE IN THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EMILY ROSE, AGE 7
FAMILY SHAKEN AFTER THE DISAPPEARANCE OF SON
ANOTHER TOWN DISAPPEARANCE
—All disappeared without a trace. She scrolled through numerous articles of parents’ frantic cries for help and unsolved police cases. Ryan’s mother couldn’t believe how many families had been torn apart. She couldn’t imagine what it was like for these parents to lose a child and never have closure. She fought back tears as she scrolled through multiple “reward if found” pages.
She closed her laptop and leaned her back against the counter. She needed to release the tension in her body, knowing there wasn’t any way she was going to get any rest tonight.
To distract herself, she washed the dishes from the day and towel dried them. She also scrubbed the stove and counters and finished by sweeping the floor. She figured that the more she did, the more time would ease her aching heart. However, no matter what she did, her mind retreated to those articles and the pictures that sat on the counter next to her laptop.
She sighed, placing the broom back in the closet and found her way back over to the box. She rested her finger tips upon the wood, feeling the coolness beneath, and slowly lifted the lid open. She bundled the pictures in her hand and slowly sifted through them. She wanted to know what had happened to these children. They just disappeared.
Ryan’s mother continued to examine the photos for an hour or so, before she started to claim delirium. It seemed the more she sorted through the pictures, the more she began to see identical children pop up in other photos. Ryan’s mother dropped the photos in the box, deciding she needed to go to sleep. She had to be up in a few hours. She wasn’t going to solve anything tonight anyway.
As she shut the lid, a colorful photograph caught her eye. She thought it was strange she hadn’t noticed it before. She studied it closer and she instantly felt the color drop from her face. Her heart started to race as she picked the picture from the box and held it in her hand. The little girl in the picture looked too familiar for her liking.
The little girl wore a blue summer dress with black hair that cascaded down her shoulders. Her green eyes shined bright, much like that of Ryan’s doll. She smiled slightly at the camera, but Ryan’s mother could tell she wasn’t paying much attention to it. Like the children in the other photos, she seemed as if she was almost looking at something to the left of her. In her hand, she held a doll. And as Ryan’s mother looked closely, the doll in the little girl’s hand resembled that of boy in another photograph she had shuffled through moments later.
Her heart racing, Ryan’s mother ripped through the pictures inside the box. Tears started to cloud her eyes as she noticed that each child held a doll like that of another child in a different picture. Every eye focused on something other than the camera before them.
“No, this can’t be,” Ryan’s mother stated. “This can’t be real.”
Ryan’s mother rushed over to her laptop and opened the browser. She Googled any information she could about a black haired, green-eyed little girl’s disappearance. Instantly, she was hit was articles. A little girl missing. A girl that went by the name of Amoël.
Her parents had gone into their daughter’s room one morning to find it completely empty. Everything was how it should be. There wasn’t any signs of forced entry and struggle. However, they mentioned that Amoël’s doll, who had been named Xavier, sat against the headrest of her bed almost as if it were placed on purpose. They mentioned a picture, but didn’t go into detail and Ryan’s mother couldn’t believe what she was reading.
Demanding to know more, she researched the name Xavier and came up with a similar story:
PARENTS ENTER BEDROOM TO FIND SON MISSING
Last night, a local boy went missing from the comfort of his home. Police reports claim there wasn’t any sign of forced entry and are currently in search of any leads towards this case. “It’s always a tragedy when something happens in a small town,” Deputy Maxwell states. “The whole town grieves with the family.”
As she continued reading on, she came across names upon names each referring to a case from before. A child gone missing without leads. She glanced over at the pictures on the counter, her eyes moving towards her daughter’s backpack. It was then she realized the bag to be empty.
Ryan’s mother slammed her laptop shut. After everything that she had just read, she was now certain that the doll was in her daughter’s bag earlier that evening. Her heart was racing as she realized her daughter was asleep in her room and the doll was missing.
She sprinted down the hall, knowing there was no way in hell she was going to let her daughter anywhere close to that thing. The minute she got her hand on that doll, she was going to burn it or whatever she had to do. She didn’t care. She wasn’t going to let her daughter fall into whatever the hell it was that was going on. She could feel her heart pounding inside her chest as she crept closer to her daughter’s bedroom door. Each second wasted was a second that could be taken away. Oh God, please don’t have let anything happen to my daughter. Please. Please.
She was instantly relieved as she approached. She could hear her daughter on the other side. With her ear to the crack, she tried to listen to what she was saying, but jumped when Ryan’s laugh splashed into the hall.
“Why?” Ryan asked.
There was no doubt in her mother’s mind that she was talking to the doll and Ryan’s mother knew she had to get it out of there. She swung the door open.
Ryan’s room was completely empty.
Her mother immediately broke down in sobs. Everything was how it was left this morning when her mother had taken Ryan to school. Everything except the doll that sat on her bed. Those green eyes watched as Ryan’s mother fell to the floor, clutching the air. She could practically hear its laughter as she clutched the rug on her daughter’s floor. Her whole life was ripped out from underneath her.
The police arrived a short time later. They searched the house for any signs of forced entry, remaining at the house for hours. They sympathized with Ryan’s mother and said that they would do all they could to find her little girl and that she shouldn’t lose hope. But Ryan’s mother had seen the articles and she knew there wasn’t any.
As the police made their rounds, asking neighbors and onlookers that had arrived at the scene, one officer stopped by the kitchen table. Ryan’s mother sat motionless, unable to comprehend anything anyone was saying. The officer sighed, not knowing how this was going to sit well with her but he figured she’d like to at least have a little something to hold on to.
“Ms. Parker?” the officer said. Ryan’s mother turned towards the officer and he could see her sunken eyes. He pressed his lips together and walked closer. “I figured you’d want this. We found it on Ryan’s bed as we rummaged around her bedroom.”
He held out the photograph he had in his hands and she reluctantly took it. She broke down in tears as she looked at the picture between her fingers. The officer placed a hand on her back.
“We’re not exactly sure where this came from, and we’re going to do everything in our power to figure out, but at least it’s a little something to give you hope,” he stated and bided her a goodnight. Ryan’s mother glanced down at it and crumbled the picture in her hands, chunking it to the ground.
The picture showed Ryan, looking off-center. Her eyes were barely focused on reality as she smiled, in her own little world. In her hands, she held Amoël.
An entity onto the next victim.