Mason’s head bounced as his car bumped its way along the dirt road leading to the beach house. He wasn’t sure why he’d agreed to house sit over the weekend for his work colleague. The occasional, ‘hey mate’, in the corridor at work, was the extent of their communication. Mason knew Bill was single, surfed and played guitar.
The house, Mason was told, ‘Is awesome dude! You’ll love it! You can see the ocean from the back of the house. You can smell the sea air.’
Hmm. Mason decided it was the ocean views that played a part in his decision. Pulling into the driveway, Mason’s tummy started a small one person party of excitement. This could be a very cool weekend. He found the keys under the doormat where Bill told him they’d be.
Original, thought Mason.
On opening the front door, an Alsatian almost knocked Mason over. The dog leapt up with joy at having a visitor and Mason’s, ‘Down boyo, down!’ didn’t register with the dog one iota.
‘Woof, woof, woof!’
‘O.K, O.K, settle down big fella,’ said Mason. Walking through the house, Mason’s eyes widened at the ornaments and oddities taking up floor and wall space. An old Indian cigar box statue greeted him when he entered the lounge room. Well, that’s damn cool. One wall was covered with hats of all shapes and sizes, while another wall was covered with guitars. Hell yeah! Mason threw himself onto the lounge and rolled around in the colourful throws and blankets, before remembering his age and laughing at himself.
‘Woof, woof, woof!’ barked the dog, and leapt onto the lounge to join in the fun. Mason picked up his bag and searched for the bedroom. ‘Come on boyo, show me around,’ said Mason. ‘Woof,’ was the reply.
Finding the main bedroom, Mason walked straight to the oversized window behind the wooden bed head, and gazed at the view. Mason grabbed onto the bed head as dizziness washed over him. The back of the house was high up, with a back yard petering down into a gully. It was a tropical garden with no back fence. The boundary of where the back yard ended and the beach scrub began, was obscured by trees and palms. Over the top of the garden, Mason watched the waves roll in from the ocean. He opened the window and tasted the salt air on his tongue.
That’s it then. I’m in heaven. I’m never leaving, thought Mason.
He tossed his bag on the bed and stared at the ocean for a long while. Mason felt his shoulders relax as he took long deep breaths.
Shame I don’t have a hot chick to share this with, thought Mason. Sigh.
‘Right boyo,’ said Mason. Let’s unpack the food!
On turning around to exit the bedroom, Mason stopped. With a nervous laugh, he walked closer to the corner of the bedroom. On top of a low boy, surrounded by piles of clothes and half hidden behind the bedroom door, was the most horrific doll Mason had ever seen. He inched his way closer still, with no intention of touching the thing. It looked like a puppet, and certainly not one you would use to entertain children.
Holy shit, thought Mason. It has fangs. Cree…ee…py!
‘What the hell is that?’ said Mason to the dog. The dog looked up at Mason, gave a small wag of his tale and wandered into the lounge room. Mason shrugged and followed the dog. Mason found the kitchen, and a note on the round table caught his attention.
Hey Mason dude
Enjoy your stay. Rufus will love you. Eat and drink what you like. My home is your home. Thanks again, mate. See ya tomorrow night.
‘Hello there, Rufus,’ said Mason. Rufus responded with a wag of his tale and a wide grin.
So, eat and drink what I like hey? Hee hee.
Mason opened the fridge, freezer and pantry cupboard doors with a healthy eagerness to see what he could find. The pantry had numerous small jars containing herbs, spices, nuts and grains, and different varieties of tea leaves. A tea diffuser was sitting on the kitchen bench.
Whoa, this guy is organised.
Mason unpacked his esky, grabbed a coffee and a sandwich, after which he loaded Rufus into the car and drove down the dirt road to the beach. A few hours of surfing and beach combing returned Mason’s appetite.
‘I’m starvin’. How about we head home and cook up some pizza?’ Mason asked Rufus. Rufus looked back to the car and barked. When Mason pulled up at the house and turned off his engine, the quietness of the surrounds and the isolation of the house hit him. The last house before this one had been a few kilometres back up the road.
Not sure I could live in such a quiet spot full time, thought Mason. It’s kinda eerie.
Back in the kitchen, Mason put on the jug to make a cup of tea, while waiting for the pizza to cook. Some of the jars of tea were labelled and the rest were bare. Mason was a tea snob. He couldn’t decide between an Oolong, a black tea named ‘Sangria Punch’, or a clean green. Always eager to try new tea, he picked up the jar labelled ‘Pink Lady’ containing fine, pale pink tea leaves. When the boiling water hit the tea leaves Mason’s nose lifted to the scent. His first sip turned up the corners of his mouth into a grin.
‘Woof,’ barked Rufus. ‘Oh, sorry big fella,’ said Mason. Come on and we’ll find your bikkies. Rufus lead Mason into a laundry off the side deck. Mason gave Rufus a scoop of bikkies and checked his water bowl. With that done, he went back through a side door into the lounge room towards the kitchen. It was late afternoon so Mason flicked on an upright lamp on his way through.
Mason turned to the hallway at the sound. The wind had picked up and was blowing through the hallway from the bedroom towards Mason. Hmm…..damn wind is making noises. He walked in to the bedroom and closed the window. The sun was about to disappear on the horizon. An amber glow speared Mason’s eyes. Wow, beautiful. On turning around Mason thought he caught movement in the corner of his eye. Taking a good look, and shaking his head, he decided it was nothing. He glared at the creepy doll to give himself some shaky confidence, shook his head and walked back to the kitchen. Mason downed the rest of his tea and started on the pizza.
Rufus gave a low growl as he walked back into the kitchen. ‘You hearing things too ha?’ said Mason. Rufus wagged his tail, looked at the pizza and back at Mason. ‘O.K big fella, you can have one piece,’ said Mason. ‘Woof woof,’ barked Rufus. Mason took his pizza into the lounge room and switched on the TV.
This’ll do the trick. Too damn quiet here, and the noise of the ocean is playing tricks on me, thought Mason.
Rufus jumped up on the lounge and the two of them watched a couple of old reruns. Mason’s eyes started to close so he dragged himself up for bed. He put Rufus out on the veranda. Rufus whined after he closed and locked the door. ‘Sorry big fella,’ said Mason through the door. Mason threw himself on the bed, gave one quick glance at the creepy doll before he turned out bedside light, then fell instantly asleep.
Mason awoke to the sound of drums. Huh? What? He shook his head twice and looked about the room. His eyes adjusted to the light. A full moon was shining through the window. The bedroom was washed in a hazy blue. The drums became louder and Mason turned to look out the window. He was surprised to see a row of fire torches lighting the back yard. What the hell? People in robes were lined up leading to a high backed chair which reminded Mason of a throne. The throne was facing away from Mason. He couldn’t make out the faces of the people. He thought it was odd they weren’t chatting to each other. What kind of whacked out ritual is this? Mason tried to remember if his mate had told him about anyone using the backyard this night. He couldn’t remember. He decided they looked harmless. May as well have a cup of tea now I’m awake, and might mosey on down and say hi.
Mason walked sleepily into the lounge room, and surprise number two hit him like a kick in the groin. Holy crap! I must be sleep walking. There were children of all ages seated on the lounge. Mason stopped and stared.
‘Woof, woof,’ came Rufus from outside, followed by a low growl. All the children lifted their heads as one and looked towards the door. A girl of about eight years old, who had a small baby on her hip, turned to Mason.
The baby spoke to Mason as an adult. All the children looked at Mason. Only the whites of their eyes were showing. Mason tried to wipe his brow with a shaky hand, where a cold sweat had broken out. His legs began to shake.
‘Leave us alone,’ said the baby. Do not interfere. Our father is looking after us. He is restoring our sight. We’ll split you open and eat you if you stop this process.
The baby showed a mouth full of sharp razored teeth as it grinned at Mason.
Mason backed slowly out of the room, sure he must be dreaming, and decided he didn’t need a cup of tea after all. The sweat running down his face was stinging his eyes. How about that? So realistic.
Mason walked to the bed and took one more look out the window. A figure peeked around the side of the throne. It was the doll from the bedroom and he was grinning at Mason. A person stumbled away from the throne, and Mason could see that their eyes had been gouged out.
This sound had definitely come from the corner of the bedroom. Mason turned around and saw the creepy doll starting to stand up. A shudder went through the house, and Mason almost fell over. Dream or no dream, I’m outta here. I’ve slept in the car before plenty of times. This is freakin’ too freaked out for me! Mason grabbed a pillow and ran out through the lounge room. ‘We’ll come and get you soon. Our hunger is growing,’ said the baby. After fumbling to unlock the door, Mason ran out and banged it shut behind him. Rufus was right there growling. ‘Come on Rufus,’ said Mason. Actually, please come and crash in the car with me?
‘Woof, woof,’ barked Rufus and ran behind Mason out towards the car. Feeling so full of panic, Mason ran around to the front of the house, and smack, straight into a low lying tree branch. He staggered then fell.
‘Dude, dude!’ Someone was shaking Mason’s shoulders.
‘No, no, no! Get away!’ mumbled Mason.
‘Oh damn!’ said Bill. He felt the lump on Mason’s forehead, and Mason jumped. ‘What have you been up to mate?’ said Bill. Slowly Mason lifted his head and moved into a sitting position.
‘The doll, the children, the ritual’, said Mason. I dreamed the freakiest dream and that bloody creepy doll kept chuckling at me, so I decided to sleep in the car. Rufus came up and gave Mason a big, slobbery lick on the cheek. You know, hey Rufus? Mason looked at Bill.
‘Oh shit,’ said Bill. Rufus was growling right? He does every night when the possums come out of the garage roof. I don’t know what doll your rambling on about either. I don’t have any dolls. I’m sorry mate. You didn’t happen to drink any tea yesterday did you? As in, a particular pink blend?
‘What?’ said Mason. Yeah, a nice one, Pink something or other. It was sweet as. Why?
‘Oh dude, I’m so sorry,’ said Bill, who was by now having a quiet laugh. That’s my own blend, dude. I grow a special herb down the back amongst the greenery, and mix it with tea leaves. It’s still in an experimental stage. Um, I forgot to put it away before I left. Like, you’ve never seen pink tea leaves right? Why the hell would you drink it?
But, but…the doll…..